Our view of the Galile

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Our Holiday- Vayeishev 2016/5777

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

December 23rd 2016 -Volume 7 Issue 9 23rd Kislev 5777
Parshat Vayeishev/ Chanukah
Our Holiday
When it comes to Holidays we have the Goyim/gentiles beat. I mean we’ve got only one month a year pretty much when we’re not celebrating or commemorating something. And we don’t just celebrate, we go all out. Pesach with all it’s laws, rituals getting the house ready, the seder- no competition there. What fo they do hide an Easter egg…Really? Sukkos we head out of our house for 7 Days. We decorate we shake our Lulav and Esrog. Simchas Torah-fuggedaboutit, do goyim even know how to dance. Purim- yeah they might be able to drink us under the table, but the simcha , the joy and euphoria of celebrating our survival our eternality, the groggers, Haman even the Shalach Manot and costumes. So what do they do? Huh dress up like witches and shnorr some nosh. Very very lame. Yeah we win the holiday Olympics any day. It’s one of the benefits of having a religion that is given by God and traditions that have been established by the greatest sages with Divine spirit. We are the Kings of holidays. Well almost all of them that is…

Yeah it’s Chanuka time. And we’ve been putting up a good fight to win this holiday playoff as well. We got eight and they only have one, that’s true. I’ll take Latka’s and doughnuts over eggnog, nutmeg and roasting chestnuts as well. We always win the food and the amount of days categories hands down. See even when they try they really can’t celebrate as long as we can and certainly they can’t eat as well as we do and make it feel symbolic, ritualistic and spiritual. Who would’ve thought we could make a potato or a doughnut into holy food? But when it comes to PR though they have been putting up a pretty good fight. In fact it seems like this holiday season is the one where they put all their energy into one-upping us. Huge trees, big lights, TV specials reindeers and fat white bearded (Rabbis?) dressed in red on sleighs in every mall handing out gifts and granting wishes. We got? A little menora and 8 small candles. Hmmm…It’s a rough sell. I still think we have them beat though. But I do find it interesting and not too coincidental that it is over the holiday of Chanukah that they kind of threw down the gauntlet.

See Chanukah is different than all of the other holidays that we celebrate. It is the last one that was established historically. (We’ll leave Lag Ba’Omer, the Israeli holidays of Independence and Jerusalem, the various Chasidic holidays when the Rebbes got out of jail and other customs that cropped let’s keep this as holidays that have been celebrated for more than 2000 years.) For the holiday of Chanuka was in middle of the second Temple over 2100 years ago. So it is certainly a late bloomer. But more interestingly is that Chanuka is the only holiday that takes place and is established here in the Land of Israel. Pesach is in Egypt, Shavuot in the Sinai desert where we received the Torah, Sukkot 40 years in the wilderness and Purim is in Persia. Yup, Chanukah is Made in Israel. Maybe that’s why they are out to get us.  See all the other holidays are not necessarily so scary to the world. Hey, we’re exiled. The Jews wanna celebrate. Let em do it. Let them build their huts, eat their mtazahs blow their Shofars whatever keeps them busy and happy. But when it comes to celebrating a holiday that celebrates our rededication of the Temple. Our Beit HaMikdash on that mountain of Hashem. Uh Oh. We better outshine that. Turn on the flashy blinking lights. This is serious. This is for real.
I read a fascinating story/anecdote this week of the great Rabbi Yisroel Mishklov. Reb Yisrael, one of the last students of the Gaon of Vilna who lived his Rebbe’s dream of moving to Israel in 1808 found a country that was full of trials and tribulations. Poverty was rampant, plagues broke out in every city that he moved to Tiveryam Tzfat, Jerusalem and other places. The arabs were attacking Jews, the Turks were taxing them heavily. There were earthquakes. His wife and children perished in a plague. It was not a fun time to be in the holy Land.  {And yet, I want to point out they still came…Can you imagine anyone of the leaders that dreamed of Israel not coming and moving to Israel to today when there are not nearly any comparable challenges in a time and era when Hashem has given us all the blessing and ease we have of living her today? Oh yeah I forget you still can’t get Ziploc bags and good sour pickles here yet… But I digress} As the leader of the community Reb Yisrael was sent back to Europe to raise funds for the communities in Israel. His first stop was to the primary student of his Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, the leader and founder of the Yeshiva movement.
When Reb Yisrael sat down with his Rebbe, tears poured down his face as he relayed to him all of the struggles life in Eretz Yisrael his people were suffering through. His Rebbe however was not too sympathetic. Rabbi Chaim told him that when Moshe prayed to Hashem to allow him to pass over the Yarden and let him just see the Eretz Hatova- the good land, it was all Moshe wanted and saw. He didn’t care or see anything bad. He only see the good.
His Rebbe then shared with him an idea from this week’s Torah portion. The Torah tells us the story of two of Yosef’s brothers and our sages share with us the seemingly contrary outlook we should have of them. On one hand we have Reuvein, the first-born, who although is not part of the plot to kill Yosef by acutally murdering him, he is the one that convinces the rest of the brothers to throw him into a pit. But not just a pit, rather one that is full of snakes and scorpions. Ouch. That doesn’t seem to friendly and to a large degree it would seem that all that Reuvein has done has absolved the brothers of physically killing him by just indirectly causing what should have been a certain death. Yet the Torah tells us that Reuvein is credited with saving Yosef’s life. Hmmmm
On the other hand we have Yehudah, who gets up before the rest of the other brothers and presents an argument that Yosef is our flesh and blood and how we can murder him. Instead, he suggests and ultimately convinces them, we should sell him down to slavery. This seems to be a good thing. Certainly better than letting him languish in the pit with the snakes. Yet our sages tell us that anyone that blesses Yehuda- for this act is in fact wrong and is making a immoral mistake. What is the difference, Rav Chaim asked his downtrodden student from Israel. What are we missing?
The answer, he told him is that Reuvein threw him in a pit, a dangerous scary pit. But you know what? That wasn’t the worst or scariest thing that could happen to Yosef. For the pit was in Eretz Yisrael. Yosef, was still in the Holy Land. In God’s country, in the land of his forefathers. It is the land that Hashem watches all day. There’s a special protection in our country, Reb Chaim told his student. There it is all good. Yehuda on the other hand sold him down to Egypt. He forced him to leave Eretz Yisrael. That is a fate worse than death. That could be the end of the Jew. In the Diaspora there is none of that special protection. We’re not in our home. We play by their rules. We are subject to the laws of nature, the laws that govern the rest of the world. We can get outshined and out flashed by their big bright lights on their tall wintery trees.
Chanuka is historically the last of our holidays. It is the holiday when we fought and won to rededicate Hashem’s Temple in its proper place. That light lasts forever. That dedication lasted forever. We may have lost the building but the holiness has never left that mountain since we built that 2nd Temple. It took us close to 2000 years until Hashem started letting us come back. It started slowly, with the Exiles coming home from Spain in the 1500’s from Europe slowly with the students of the Gaon, the students of the Baal Shem in the 1700’s and it has continued growing and growing with the early Aliyot and the 600,000 Jews that were here in 1948 when we were granted our independence. And we are still returning. Because the light of Chanuka calls and beckons us like no other holiday to set our sights on Yerushalayim, on a temple rebuilt, on the songs of praise that we wish to sing each day accompanied by the choir of the Levites. It calls us to turn our eyes and yearn for our Father as well to come home. Is it any wonder, why the world is trying to cover up and dim that light. But they can’t. It shines forever.  We’re winning that competition too. Now it’s time to celebrate.

 Have spectacular Shabbos and amazing  Chanukah!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://youtu.be/k60wCmxTiHs    -I won’t miss Obama but he certainly got this one right in honor of Chanuka Funny.

https://youtu.be/u3UubcYj49k  annual Chanuka Maccabeats video Hamilton

https://youtu.be/qWcd-K8_X34  And it seems that Hamilton is in with 613 Acapella doing their own version
https://youtu.be/3-lnLd2RB70   How to eat a Sufganiya with my good friend Rabbi Pepper!


“Vegn a bisl boyml makht men aza groysn yontev?.”  Because of a little oil we make such a big holiday?
answer below at end of Email
Q.  Biblical sites in the Judean Lowlands (Shephela):
A. Ebenezer and Azeka
B. Tel Gezer and Tel Beit Shemesh
C. Kiryat Yearim and Tel Socoh
D. Tel Qasile and Tel Lachish

I will diverge from our usual Rashi style and column this week to share with you another aspect of Rashi that is mentioned in this week’s Torah portion by none other Tan the CHID”A who in his work Shem Gedolim shares a story and insight about the greatness of Rashi. He writes as follows.
“I heard from the holy mouth of a great Rabbi that Rashi would fast 613 fasts before he wrote his commentary on the Torah. His grandson Rabbeinu Tam wrote that what his granfatehr Rashi elucidated the Talmud he could as well do that however his commentary on Chumash I am not able to do.
And now- the CHIDA continues- I saw written in a great work where he brings the testimony of a great known Kabbalist who describes how the greatest mystical secrets can be found within the words of Rashi and how when he fasted his fasts and wrote his commentary Moshe Rabbeinu himself blessed him and told him how fortunate he was. And the Kabbalist was none other than Rabbi Nachman Bar Shmuel who personally went to the grave of Rash and fasted and cried underwent great tribulations all to understand the Rashi (in this week’s portion that I will share with you) until a fire came up from his grave and the great secrets that lie in these words were revealed to him.
Wow! I can’t explain to you what the secrets are myself. I tried figuring it out but to no avail. I got lost when it was getting into fights between God and angels, Mashiach, and Purim I was getting dizzy. But I’ll share with you the Rashi and hopefully you can figure it out.
The verse is in Chapter 37:18 where it talks about how the brothers saw Yosef coming and it says
And they say saw him from a distance and when he had not yet approached them and they conspired toward him-oto to kill him
Rashi on the word oto-toward him writes
Like eeto which means eemo- with him as if to say eilav- toward him
Seemingly Rashi is troubled that the word oto normally would be read and they conspired him. Which doesn’t make much sense. So Rashi therefore translates the word as eeto which would mean they conspired with him as if to say toward him. The words thought still seem troubling in Rashi because with him doesn’t seem to mean towards him. It would in fact seem the opposite. They conspired with Yosef to kill Yosef. Hmmmm…
The Maharshal Rav Shlomo Luria explains what Rashi is saying is they in fact conspired with him meaning that Yosef also understood their conspiracy. He knew that they meant to kill him. Yet he still went toward them in order to fulfill his father’s command and the mission that he was sent on to check on his brothers. So in a way both of Yosef and his brothers were technichally in on the conspiracy for his death. The Seforno takes another approach different than Rashi and suggests that perhaps the text means that they conspired about him that he was planning to kill them. That was how they were able to convince themselves that he was deserving of death. It’s a rough verse and even rougher Rashi personally I think I”ll go with the ChIDA and wait for Rashi to reveal some type of mystical revelation in his incredibly holy words.

Rabbi Shlomo Luria the MAharShal (1510-1573), The Maharshal was born around the year /1510 in Brisk which was then part of Poland.  Famous for his brilliance and humility, Rav Shlomo Luria known as the Maharshal lived in Europe at the same time Rav Yosef Karo was writing his Shulchan Aruch, and the Maharshal's own relative, the Rema, was writing his own glosses on the Shulchan Aruch.  Despite being one of the most respected Gedolim in his era, the Maharshal employed a magid who would accompany him and give him mussar.  The Maharshal would sit like a child before his master and listen to this mussar.

The Rema wrote about him, "he is great like Shammai and modest like Hillel.  Any bird that flew over him while he was learning burned up like Yonoson ben Uziel."

The Maharshal was a fiercely independent thinker and did not hesitate to criticize both the decisions of his colleagues and their decision making process.  He was staunch critic of the Rav Yosef Karo's landmark work because it relied primarily on the psak of only three gedolim (Rif, Rambam, and Rosh) and did not draw its own conclusions.  The Maharshal also openly criticized the pilpul method that had become popular at the time.  The Maharshal had a strong bond of love for his relative the Rema, but it did not stop him from criticizing the Rema for studying philosophy and secular subjects, as well as the use of incorrect grammar in his writings.

The Maharshal's two most famous contributions are the Yam Shel Shlomo which was a essentially a halacha sefer written the way he thought halacha should be written.  It takes each sugya and then brings the varying opinions of the poskim of previous generations.  He then evaluates each of these opinions based on the gemara itself and drawing his own conclusion. 

His second important contribution is his edits to Shas called Chochmas Shlomo.  The text at that point was full of inaccuracies introduced over the years by misguided publishers.  In his opinion this was the root cause of many of the errors made by other poskim.  The Shas we have today is in great part thanks to the work of the Maharshal.  He also wrote a commentary on Rashi on Chumash called Yerios Shlomo.

Many of the leading gedolim of the next generation were talmidim of the Maharshal including Rav Chaim the famed brother of the Maharal MiPrague, the father of the Shela, Rav Moshe Mos (Matteh Moshe), the Masas Binyomin, the Olelos Ephraim, the Sm'a, and Rav Mordechai Yafeh who was also a talmid of the Rema.

The Maharshal was niftar in Lublin on 12 Kislev 1573


Hilltop Youth– These are probably one of the most maligned and hated groups by the left and peace now people in Israel and the States and probably the UN as well. And they relish in that distinction. The concept of Hilltop youth was started in the late 90’s after Bibi Netanyahu then Prime Minister created the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.Ariel Sharon interestingly enough  was the one who encouraged the settlers to move out to the empty hills in Yehudah and Shomron and occupy them stating  
“Everyone that's there should move, should run, should grab more hills, expand the territory. Everything that's grabbed will be in our hands. Everything we don't grab will be in their hands.”
Today there is estimated to be over 800 of these young men with their families- not just the youth misnomer that they are painted as who live out their vision of truly settling the Biblical promised land and living as our ancestors did. The land that they live on has been unoccupied and barren for decades. Most of it is Government owned land that was conquered in the 6 Day War however unlike the “settlements” they have yet to have received their permits to live and build on those lands. But this is Israel. It takes a long time and a lot of bureaucracy to get any types of permits. So the rule is build and settle first get permission later. So all along many of these hilltops located more than a 100 meters from nearby settlements the hills are alive with the sounds of music played by theses shepherds, farmers and builders who are settling these hills. Most of them really are not radicals and certainly have no desire for war or anything but to be left alone in peace. Peace with their neighbors, Peace with their government and even peace with the arabs. The ones that I have met are pretty humble and modest people. Scribes, teachers, nurses and shepherds. They love the freedom and biblical nature of their lives. They raise their children with a sense of meaning and purpose and pride and love of Israel. I find them inspiring. There are about 1000 or so of these modern day Maccabees in about 100 outposts around the country. Take a trip out to visit one of them. I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised and inspired. Maybe even a bit jealous of their incredible lives.

Many people have been asking me about the Halachos of Chanuka and I feel it's important to calm everyone down. 

1. Starting today you should start  eating at least 2-3 donuts a day to get your body ready.  

2. Once Chanuka starts you must eat as many donuts a day as you light candles. So day 4 would be 4 donuts,  day 7 would be 7 ..... etc ........ 

3. If you don't remember how many you ate, you eat  as many as possible to eat the Shiur Hayom. 

4. Baked donuts are not counted and should be avoided like Trayf. 

5. At least one donut a day should have jelly. 

6. Most Rishonim agree that custard and jelly donuts are Mitzvha Min Hamuvchar.

7. If you are in middle of eating donuts and you didn't have in mind that it's Lshem Mitzvahs Chanuka. You're NOT YOTZE! And you start over again.  

8. If you had triple bypass and are told by a physician to avoid donuts, some Poskim hold you should eat the donuts, and it's your opportunity for  Mesiras Nefesh Mammosh.  

9. Avoid physical activity on Chanuka. We want the miracle of oils to be visible on you.

 It was Hanukkah and the tiny village outside Budapest in Hungary was frightened that they may not have any latkes because they had run out of flour.
Rudi, the Rabbi, was called upon to help solve the problem. He said, 'Don't worry, you can substitute matzo meal for the flour, and the latkes will be just as delicious.'
Sarah looks to her husband and says, 'Samuel, you think it'll work?'
'Of course,' Samuel replies, 'Everybody knows Rudolph the Rab knows grain, dear.'

Chanuka the one time a year that you can walk around with white powder under your nose and a police officer wishes you a B’Tayavon with a hearty appetite

Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy. There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal. He’d have a religious debate, a disputation, with a leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they’d have to convert or leave. The Jewish community met and picked a wise, aged rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian or Latin, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, both sides agreed that it would be a "silent" debate.

On the chosen day, the Pope and the rabbi sat opposite each other for a full minute before the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers.
The rabbi looked straight at him and raised one finger.
Then the Pope waved his finger around his head, and the rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat.
Next, the Pope then brought out a communion wafer and signaled to a bishop, who brought him a chalice of wine. The rabbi reached into his pocket and pulled out an apple.
With that, the Pope turned white, stood up, and declared that he was beaten, that the rabbi was too clever, and that the Jews could stay.
Later, the Cardinals met with the Pope and asked what had happened, why the Church had lost.
The Pope told them, "First I held up three fingers to show that I represent the Holy Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs. Then I waved my finger around my head to tell him that God was universal, that He was all around us. The Jew responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. So, I showed him the wine and wafer to prove that God absolves us of all our sins. But the rabbi produced an apple to remind me of our original sin. He had beaten me at every move and I could not continue."
Meanwhile, the Jewish community were celebrating and gathered around the rabbi.
"What happened?" they wanted to know.
"Well," said the rabbi, "First he said to me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I said to him, 'Up yours.' Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I said to him, 'Mr. Pope, we're staying right here.'"
"And then what?" asked a woman.
"Who knows?" said the rabbi. "He took out his lunch, so I took out mine."
Answer is A – This is not an easy albeit a truly legitimate tour guiding questions. You need to know three things to answerers of the shefela B) Where the sites are located and C) from what period are they- or are they biblical or not. So let’s go through them starting from the third question Even Ezer is the biblical site where the Jews lost the ark to the plishtim. Azeka is where Yehoshua fought of the Emori who were killed by heavenly hailstones. It’s also where the plishit army gathered to with Goliath and where david slayed in him in the valley between Azeka and Socho- So those are both biblical. The only thing is Evenzer is not in Shefela it’s near Rosh Ayin in the portion of Ephraim or in the Sharon region. Kiryat Yearim which is telz stone today is where the Ark was returned to Jerusalem from so it’s biblical but its also not in the Shefela but right outside of Jerusalem or the Judean hills. Tel Lachish is certainly biblical being the largest city outside of Jerusalem at the end of the first Temple by Nevuchadnezzar. Tel Kasile is a philistine city that cane be explored in the Israel museum in Tel Aviv which is certainly not the Shefela but coastline. Which leaves the correct answer Beit Shemesh where the ark was returned to from the terrified Philistines and Gezer which is mentioned a city Yehoshua conquered and it is a major city that was rebuilt by Shlomo Hamelech along with Chatzor and Megiddo. Both of those are in the Shefela. Whewww. Rough question.

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