Our view of the Galile

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Work or Learn?- Vayeitzei 2016/ 5777

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

December 9th 2016 -Volume 7 Issue 7 9th  Kislev 5777
Parshat Vayeitzei
Work or Learn?
Sixty years ago this was never a question. Pretty much everyone went to work. Back in pre-war Europe and early America as well I don’t think it was ever more than the elite, the selected few that showed promise of becoming great Rabbis, leaders or Talmudists that ever even considered the option of dedicating their lives to the full-time study of Torah. The average Yankel though was already working at a very young age. He was peddling stuff, working in the fields, schlepping water, wood, cleaning and cooking. It wasn’t fun to be a kid back then. They hadn’t invented Gameboys yet. (Do kids still play with those things or am I dating myself here?) On the other hand it was quite accepted in Orthodox circles that everybody pretty much got up early and studied a bit before services, or recited psalms, people were knowledgeable in Torah that they studied at night. They attended hours long classes and sermons. Cable TV hadn’t been invented back then either. But times changed, and the religious Jewish world did as well.
With the prosperity of America and the baby boomer generation Jews became more affluent. The post-war generation got “edjumacated”. They became Doctors, Lawyers, and Accountants. Jewish day schools overtook the after-public school Jewish education system.  The next generation had the luxury and the inspiration that they were charged with by many of their Holocaust survivor Rabbis to rebuild Torah in the new “guldeneh medina”. Although secular education was always taught through High School, yet it became mostly a secondary course of study. The primary thrust and objective was to produce torah scholars. It soon became the norm- in the black hat circles in which I was raised, that after completing High School we would enter into a full-time rigorous Beit- Midrash Yeshiva Torah study program. There were some who went to college after a year or two, but even then it was in some type of Yeshiva framework. Studying most days and attending night school. But certainly I believe most of my friends and myself as well. Getting a ‘real job’ acquiring skills to support my family were not values that we were instilled with in our schooling. And I- nor were any my friends for that matter, planning on becoming Rabbis. We figured we’d study a few years in Kollel and then figure it out from there. It’s what we were taught. It was “the system” and truth of the matter is for the most part it worked. Except for me who ended up becoming a Rabbi J
Looking today at the majority of my former classmates and the Orthodox Jewish world in general. I see a lot of success. Many of them became successful business man, entrepreneurs and professionals in various fields. For the large part most of them also are serious about their Torah studies and its centrality in their lives. They go out each night and each morning to study, they attend classes, listen to them on the internet although some just satisfy themselves with one really long weekly E-Mail that contains insights and inspiration by the guy who didn’t make it and is a tour guide in Israel. The system has changed since I was growing up though. From what I understand there are many yeshiva High Schools that have entirely cut out secular studies. Guys that “go to work” or college or are not cut out for full day Torah study-which truth is at age 14 or 15 I have a hard time wrapping my brain around how any kid is- have a harder time finding a girl that was raised in the Bais Yaakov girls system were they are pretty much trained that a ‘learning guy’ is the greatest ideal to marry. I think we are losing a lot of kids because of the system that is certainly not for everyone. But the truth is we lost a lot of kids from the pre-yeshiva system as well. So who am I to comment?
In Israel the system interestingly enough pretty much went the other way. The original old Yishuv here pre-State Israel consisted of many Jews that had moved here merely to wait and represent their communities in Europe until the certain imminent arrival of Mashiach. Most of them studied Torah all the time. Sure they worked to support themselves and provide for themselves but they were mostly supported from Jews and communities from abroad. When the secular Zionist movements started in Israel and introduced schooling and ‘higher’ education their agenda for the most part was to secularize these old-country ghetto Jews and their ancient restrictions and values. For that reason all forms of secular non-Jewish education was frowned upon. It was viewed as an anathema a step towards entirely losing and giving up your faith and traditions. A walk over to the Dark Side. Much of that attitude has remained in the black hat Chareidi world until today. Most kids finish their secular education in elementary school and begin what for most of them will be a lifetime of fulltime Torah study at age 13 or 14. However over the past few years literally things have started to change here in Israel. Perhaps it is the influx of Anglos that don’t view a secular education as a threat to ones living a spiritual Torah life. Perhaps the system where the majority of chareidi men with large families studying all day and only a hard overworked but dedicated and committed mothers being the sole income is becoming more and more untenable. Or maybe it’s because many Chareidi children who are not cut out for the life of full time study and lives of material sacrifice as the communities are growing are finally a significant enough mass to create alternate institutions and opportunities to help them realize their goals and potential. But regardless there have been a plethora of yeshivas that have opened up for students like that as well as all types of vocational and degree programs for high school students and young married adults that are assisting and training a generation to have skills that will provide for their families in a meaningful way.
On a personal level having experienced all these different tracks and truly sympathetic to all the different perspectives it has been fascinating to watch what I call the evolution of the Orthodox Jewish world both here and the Diaspora. Personally I went the black hat 15 year in Kollel route, although I did get a degree at night while in Brooklyn in Finance-which taught me the principles of why I have no money. Now my Kollel life was mostly in the Jewish outreach world teaching and giving classes all over, besides my daily study sessions with my colleagues. Most ‘real’ hard-core Kollel guys would call that working though so I don’t know if that counts. On the other hand my son, Yonah, attended the Torah only Yeshiva Ktana system here for 9th grade, but then switched to a program that had 3 hours a day of secular study where he got his diploma from (Valedictorian if I might add and kvell a bit…). He is now in a full time Beit Midrash program and will probably continue there till he’s married. We’re not looking yet but you can start lining up. My Son-in-Law Yaakov though went through the entire system without any real secular education. He’s the sweetest guy in the world, but not someone who is going to sit and learn all his life and in fact woke up and realized that he doesn’t really have the skills or training to make a living for himself. Maybe he was hoping for a Father-in-Law that would have lots of extra money. But the truth is he wasn’t. He knew there were programs available and he has already begun part-time night programs after his Kollel studies to learn a trade. It’s certainly and interesting world. The way Israel is going, the way America is going. Kind of makes you wonder, what should be the right way. Are there any clues in the Torah? What is the Torah view of work VS learn question?
There is a beautiful insight in this week’s Torah portion by the ChiD”A, the great 18th century Jewish leader Rabbi Chaim David Azulai, who incidentally dedicated much of his life raising money for the torah scholars in Israel traveling the entire world, that finds this particular question addressed in the first words of parsha.
Parshat Vayeitzei begins with Yaakov leaving his home by his fathers command and out of fear for his life from his brother Esau who had decided to kill him for taking his birthright and blessings. It begins
Bereshit (28:10) And Yaakov left from Be’er Sheva and went to Charan.
Simple enough of a verse right? Wrong. The ChiD”A notes that Rashi at the conclusion of last week’s Torah portion and our sages note a discrepancy in the timing of Yaakovs life. He was 63 when he left his father’s house 20 years by Lavan 14 before Yosef was born and 6 years afterwards. And Yosef was 39 when Yaakov came down to Egypt (7 plenty years and 2 famine). Yaakov at that time tells Pharaoh he is 130 years old. If you crunch the math. 14+39= 53 plus the 63 is 116 meaning there are a missing 14 years. I can do this because I had a secular education in math, as did Rashi.-Sorry I couldn’t resist. So our sages suggest that Yaakov spent 14 years studying in Yeshiva, of course; The great schools of the time of Shem, the son of Noach and Ever. The Chi’Da however asks the question though, why does it not than say in the beginning of our parsha that he left Be’er Sheva and went to Shem and Ever. Charan was 14 years later. Why not mention the Kollel years. Rav Moshe Feinstien explains at least why the Torah doesn’t mention these years explicitly and his yeshiva experience to teach one that you should be modest about your learning. In the words of the great Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai “It’s what we were created for”. It is not something we should be proudful about and blast all over the place that you studied in Kollel for 15 years. So please delete the first part of this E-Mail as soon as you’re done. Yet that still doesn’t answer the question of seemingly the fact that it’s not really true that Yaakov headed out to Charan. He didn’t he headed out to the yeshiva. Wherever it may have been in Israel. No it wasn’t in Charan, or in Lakewood or Boro Park.
To answer the question the Chi”Da quotes the famous Talmudic question that relates to our fundamental question. The Talmud on Kiddushin 29b brings a disagreement on the question of what comes first marriage or Torah study. Rav Yehudah quotes Shmuel as ruling that a person should first get married, and can study Torah later; Rabbi Yochanan objects, arguing rehayim be-tzavaro ve-ya'asok ba-Torah!?-With a millstone - i.e. the responsibilities of supporting a family - on his neck, how can he study Torah!" He concludes that a person should study Torah first and get married afterwards.The Gemara concludes that there is really no disagreement between Rav Yehudah and Rabbi Yochanan - ha lan ve-ha lehu - we must recognize the differences between the communities in Bavel and Israel. It seems that even back then there was a difference between Diaspora Jews and their Israeli counterparts.
What is the difference between the two communities? So Rabbeinu Tam explains that the community in Israel was wealthier. So I guess some things do change and so the people in Israel that did not have to worry about making a livelihood and supporting their families right away should get married right away in order that their Torah study be in its purest form without any of the temptations and distractions that bachelorhood might bring. The Jews in Babylonia on the other hand should learn Torah first as once they get married they would not have the same opportunities as they will be busy trying to make a living. The Chi”Da then brilliantly uses this Talmud and qualification to explain the verse in our Torah portion and Yaakov’s journey. See when Yaakov left his father he was fabulously wealthy. His father had quite some money and he sent him off with it to go find himself his bride. Got money, get married right away as per the dictum of our sages. Thus when Yaakov left he was heading to Charan where he would find his bashert. However along the way our sages tell us that Yaakov was robbed, by none other than Esau’s son who was sent to kill him but instead took everything he had leaving him “as dead” for a poor man is compared to a dead man. Thus Yaakov changed his plans. Being that he now had no money and he knew that he would have the burden of working around his neck, he knew this was the only chance he would have. So he stopped off at yeshiva. He sat and learned for 14 years; which incidentally was the same amount he had to work for his two wives initially. Pretty amazing!
There are not too many of our forefathers that had the difficult life that Yaakov did. Hunted by his brother, cheated by his uncle and father-in-law, tzoris with his kids and man did he have to slave and work night and day in bitter cold and blazing heat. Yet through it all Yaakov remains the pillar of Torah for all eternity; Abraham being chesed- kindness, Yitzchak being avoda-service and prayer. Yaakov is a symbol of Jews throughout our history of the Jew that is trying to balance the job of filling the world with light of Torah and its wisdom and struggling through all of the challenges and darkness of working and living in the physical world; making ends meet. We are named for Yaakov and we are named for his name Yisrael. We have both roles in this world. Work or Learn, Learn or Work is not a question, it’s not an either-or, not a this versus that. It’s our jobs to straddle both of those fences. We all have to learn. We all have to support our families. Some of us may take one role upon themselves more than the other. Some of us may try to achieve the balance of two of Yaakov’s sons Yissachar and Zevulun that entered into a partnership where one studied full time and one supported the other each one equally splitting their cut and their rewards. But at the end of the day all of us have that special light that we are meant to reveal. For as Reb Moshe taught us it’s the reason we were created for.o

 Have a smashingly great Shabbos!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://www.facebook.com/preserveramapo/videos/341659449545717/  -Agudah Convention Rabbi Zwiebel on the challenges facing the Jewish school “system” they are fighting on behalf

https://youtu.be/iWyRSGmzCxc   – Chai Lifeline Mannequin Challenge! Who can find my sister Rivky?

https://youtu.be/bIesBKGH4bM    Pretty funny song and video- Mitzva Boi Yoseir MiBaShleechoi?

https://youtu.be/6d4RuXauXP8  And of course in honor of this weeks Parsha nd the promise of Hashem Lipa’s Mizrach Mariv Ufaratzta


“Dos hitl iz gut nor der kop iz tsu kleyn..”  The hat is fine but the head is too small.

answer below at end of Email
Q. An architrave is:
A. The beam on top of the pillars
B. The pediment in the fa├žade of a temple
C. The room where the statue of the God is positioned
D. The upper part of an aqueduct

As I’ve said many times, the only really way to truly appreciate the actual text of the Torah and its nuances is through the study of Rashi. However even the study of Rashi won’t reveal at first glance what the text is trying to say if it is read perfunctorily. Rashi is not coming to share insight or midrash. He’s coming to teach us how to read the text. Sometimes we need a great mind like the Gaon of Vilna to reveal that to us in Rashi.
In the naming of the children in this week’s parsh the Torah tells us
Bereishit (29:32) And she (Leah) called his name Reuben as she had said “Because Hashem has seen (ra’ah) my humiliation, for now my husband will love me.
Seems fairly simple, right? Why he was called Re’uben- translated as see my son. Because Hashem saw and gave her a son. Rashi however quotes a different reason.
Our Rabbis explained that she said “See what the difference is between my son and the son of my father-in-law{Esau) who sold the birthright to Yaakov and this one Reuvein did not sell his to Yosef and he did not protest {when it was taken by Yosef from him} but rather he took him out of the pit and saved him.”
Certainly an interesting explanation, yet seemingly it does not seem to be the reason the Torah says why he was given his name. Why does Rashi who is there to explain the text throw in this seemingly midrashic interpretation of the sages? The Gaon of Vilna explains that Rashi notices an anomaly in the naming of Reuvein that we don’t’ find by any of the other tribes and children named. For usually it tells us that she made a statement and then she named him see the following verses
And she conceived and gave birth to a son and said “For Hashem has heard that I am unloved and he has also given me this one. And she called his name Shimon
And she conceived and gave birth to a son and said “This time my husband will become attached to me therefore she called his name Levi
And She conceived and gave birth to a son and she said “This time I will thank Hashem therefore she called his name Yehuda.
See., the reason for the name is always given before the name except by Reuvein. Rashi therefore notes that the reason for naming him Reuvein is not what is stated in the verse. Rather it is for a different reason. The reason of the sages. The Torah tells us that she said the reason was for the hope that her husband would love her-seemingly the theme in most of the names. Yet the real reason she called him that was because prophetically she saw that he would create a new and better type of first born then Yaakov’s brother. She probably didn’t say this out loud because it was a prophecy that she had. But ultimately that was the true reason.
See what I mean. Rashi teaches us how to read a text. The Gaon teaches how to read Rashi and here I am making sure you get this information weekly. Thank You!

Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer of Vilna- the Gr”A (1720-1797) - The movement of Chassidus spread rapidly throughout Eastern Europe and it adherents eventually outnumbered the non-Chassidic population of observant Jewry. The Chassidim called non-Chassidim the “Misnagdim,” which means “opponents.” Their strongest and greatest opponent was Rabbi Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer, otherwise known as the Vilna Gaon or by his Hebrew acronym, the GRA (“Gaon Rabbenu Eliyahu”). He is the father of many of the coming changes in Jewish life – yet the protector of Jewish tradition. More than anyone else, he did not allow the Chassidim to fall into excesses which would have driven them eventually out of the mainstream of Jewish life.
He was undisputedly a genius among geniuses. As a young child, his fame already spread as a prodigy of note. By the time he was in his early twenties, he was renowned to such an extent that when one says, “the Gaon” (“the great one” or the “incredible genius”) it refers to only one person: the Gaon of Vilna.
The Gaon’s genius began with an incredible photographic memory. It is said that he had “no memory” because everything he ever learned was as fresh as if he had just learned it. From the age of maturity—some say from the age of 20, others say from the age of 30—until at the age of 70 (for at least 40 years of his life), he never slept more than 2 hours out of 24, and he never slept more than 30 minutes consecutively. Combine such diligence with a mind of the ages and it gives us some inkling of what type of person we are talking about.
Born in 1721 in Vilna, the capital of Lithuania the Gaon was the crown of Vilna. In fact, after the death of the Gaon the city never again took anyone officially in the position of Chief Rabbi. One of his first major accomplishments was establishing corrected texts for all the major works of Jewish scholarship. We have since found many of the old, original texts in libraries throughout the world, and we have seen that the Gaon was unerringly correct in changing the extant text at that time to what the real text was.The Gaon’s range of knowledge was absolutely breathtaking. There was no subject he did not know intimately. Besides the entire corpus of Jewish writings, he knew mathematics, astronomy, science, music, philosophy and linguistics. He did not study the mathematical texts of his day, but from the mathematics of the Torah and the Talmud he deduced mathematical principles and formulas. The Gaon’s interest in all of the sciences was based on his hope to gain Torah knowledge. He said if one did not know mathematics, astronomy, science, etc., then one could not fully appreciate the Torah.
The Gaon was not only well grounded in all fields of revealed knowledge, but he was also the greatest Kabbalist (mystic) of his time — even though he spoke out very strongly against the study of Kabbalah and one of his main objections to Chassidism was its reliance on Kabbalistic ideas.
The Gaon was also the father of what we would call today the Yeshiva Movement. Beforehand, the “system” was that people learned on their own with a rabbi of their community in the synagogue, and those who showed promise traveled to other great rabbis and continued learning with them. There was no formalized type of higher education.Formalized higher education began with Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, and it had been the Gaon’s idea.
In his lifetime, the Gaon wanted to leave Lithuania and travel to the Land of Israel. Legend has it that he set out more than once, but every time he did, something happened that prevented him. He is purported to have said that he saw it as a sign from heaven that they did not want him to go to the Land of Israel.
Nevertheless, his disciples left and made it. The Ashkenazic Jewish community, especially in Jerusalem, was founded by the disciples of the Gaon of Vilna. In Jerusalem today most of the customs in Jewish law and prayer follow those of the Gaon. The Gaon died on the intermediate days of Sukkos 1797 and was buried in Vilna.


Seminary Girls– Every year in Israel and particularly in Jerusalem around the beginning of the school year there is something new that takes place the country just comes off from summer vacation and is returning back to their homes finds that there are thousands of these new bright eyed young women that have come to spend their year in Israel. You notice them when you get on the buses as they are chatting away nosily in English every third word being Baruch Hashem. They are breaking their teeth quite humorously on Hebrew as they are asking directions as they get on the bus of “Eich Ani Holeich L’_____” – how do I walk to ___________ not realizing that holech means walk not ‘go’ and doesn’t really make sense when you are on a bust trying to travel somewhere. But they are truly an incredible part of the spectra of Israel society. I would estimate that close to 70% of Orthodox girls do their year in Israel after High School. Some are here to grow and learn, some are here for the “Israel Experience”, and others to bolster their dating resume’s. Their parents have truly paid out an arm and a leg for this year as seminaries charge upward in the 15-to 20 thousand dollar range. But for many of them this will be the most transformative year of their lives. Away from their homes for the first elongated period of time these girls besides delving full time into Torah classes on text and ideological and theological and halacha subjects, also connect to the land of Israel on their weekly tours, by fending for themselves for most Shabbosos and meals that are not provided for by their schools. The seminaries for a large part also have a chesed requirement (is it really chesed then?) where they help out needy families in all types of ways generally with household activities and babysitting. Many of the seminaries of course try to inspire the girls to marry and dedicate themselves to ultimately marrying Kollel Rabbis but certainly all of them focus on inspiring these young women on the primacy of Torah study in any home that they ultimately build. In the alteh heim seminaries were almost unheard of. A girl learned by her mother, who had time and money for such a consideration. But as we said times hae changed and the seminary phenomena is certainly here for good and truly serves an important purpose in building the next Torah generation. We Schwartzes are always fortunate to hsot many of these young women over the year (if you have any kids here-feel free to have em contact us) and it always impresses me how much these girls grow and change over the year.
Why is a Rosh Kollel  (Dean and generally fundraiser of he Kollel) like the moon? He stands over your head all month, and disappears Rosh Chodesh (when pay is due…)

 Why is each session in Kollel called a ‘seder’? Simple! You drink four kosos (cups), eat a coupla kezeisim (measurements), ask some kashes (questions) and tell stories. In some places they even eat b’heseibah (reclining)!
The world stands on three things Torah, Avodam Gemilut Chasadim; torah-the man sits and learns in kollel all day avodah-the women works in the kitchen, gamilias chasadim- the parents support them

How many Kollel guys does it take to change a light bulb? none, the light of torah keeps them going

Yankel, the Kollel guys with big aspirations mentioned to his wife that for his birthday day he wanted something that went from 0-160 in 6 seconds! The next day, he woke up excited, as she told him his new gift was in the garage. In there he found his old clunky yeshiva car and on top of it a box. He opened it and found a brand new bathroom scale.

A childless Kolle couple went to visit a gadol ( a great Jewish Rabbi) for a blessing for children. The gadol said he would put a kvittel/note into the Western Wall/Kotel for them, and the couple left, satisfied.
Five years later, they were back in Israel for a holiday and the wife met the gadol again. He remembered her and asked how they were. She replied that they were doing fine: Thank God they'd had twins ten months later, then triplets a year after that, and then another child and one more set of twins very close together.
"Baruch Hashem!" the gadol said. "And where is your husband?"
The wife replied, "He's gone to the kosel to find that piece of paper!"
Answer is A – OK from wildlife we have moved on to another exciting topic-not… Ancient architecture. So I did this one by process of elimination. Arch is and arch the top part of something which knocks out the two middle ones. I don’t think that an aquaduct has a name for the top part which is really not an archway but rather the channel the water flows on so I went with two pillars and was right? The pediment by the way in case you cared-which I have yet to find tourists who do- is that big triangular piece on top of the architrave like a roof type of thingy in Hebrew it’s called the gamlon. The room where the avoda zara/ idols were kept was called the naos. Now you can play archeological trivial pursuit.

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