Our view of the Galile

Thursday, February 16, 2017

One Opinion- Yitro 2017 / 5777

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

February 17th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 17 21st Shevat 5777
Parshat Yitro
One Opinion
Two Jews, Three opinions. It’s the old joke. It seems we can’t ever seem to agree on anything. We are a divisive people. We are opinionated. No, opinionated is the wrong word. We are ideologues. We are vehement and vocal about the things that we believe. It can be about politics, Israel, the Rabbi of your shul or which is the best shwarma or sushi store to eat at. Not only do we have an opinion but generally speaking we believe our opinion is really the only one that is right. We’re experts. We know better. What does the other guy know anyways? More often than not we really do not even believe that anyone else is really even qualified to have another opinion. Many will get outraged that others might have the chutzpa to even express a dissenting opinion. We see things pretty black and white. Except of course when we see things grey or colored, but then everyone else should see it that way as well. We act as if the opinion we are sharing is as if God Himself told us so on Sinai. And even if we are the only ones that remember it. It doesn’t make a difference. After all, we probably had a better transmission and connection than anyone else. And that’s the Jews. At least in my opinion.

Now what makes this even more fascinating is that we at the same time are the only people in the world that have a mitzva and a tradition of studying Torah and the word of God. Every single Jew for the past three millennia since the Torah was given have a mitzva to study, explain, understand and delve in the words of our law. The ironic thing is though, that there are tens of thousands of opinions, commentaries, debates and arguments over what the law is, what the explanation of the words of the text are, how it is meant to be derived and even how it should be practiced. Meaning that ultimately every Jew is obligated and meant to study the entire plethora of opinions, knowledge and debates of what the word of Hashem really is and was. The greatest Rabbis and Talmudists know that the only way that we can truly understand anything in how to practice and live Judaism is by understanding all of the varied and differing opinions. The practical law will ultimately follow the majority. But the study of the practical law, without the background and sources that led up to its conclusion is like buying chulent out of can (god forbid-painful for me to even write that) as opposed to a fresh crock-potted cooked overnight fresh meat, potatos, beans and barley chulent that has been simmering, stewing and percolating until Shabbos lunch. It’s no good and a cheap sinful imitation-if you didn’t get the metaphor. In my opinion, of course J.

So on one hand we each have our own opinions. On the other hand Jewish tradition is that the law and practice of Judaism can only be achieved with the constant, truly lifetime study of all of the other opinions. To make this even more fascinating. The Talmud tells us rather cryptically that many of the debates in the Talmud and about the words of the Torah are “Eilu V’Eilu Divrei Elokim Chayim”`These and these are both the words of the Living God. Meaning they’re both right. Shammai and Hillel and sages that have debated points in our Torah for the sake of heaven are both right. They are both the words of Hashem. They were all revealed on Sinai. There is only one way that we practice. We are obligated to follow the rulings of the recognized leaders and the majority of their opinions which has been based upon the knowledge and rulings and same criterion of the previous generation. But all of the opinions are truth. In the words of the Ritva the great 13th century sage
When Moshe went up to heaven Hashem showed him each topic with 49 ways to permit it and 49 ways to forbid it. When Moshe requested from Hashem to explain, he was told that it is given to the scholars of each generation to determine and the ruling will follow their decision.”

Rabbi Tzadok HaKohein of Lublin explains this on an even deeper level. So hold on to your hats or sheitels here. We are told that Hashem created the universe and the Torah was his blueprint. He also notes that the universe is in a perpetual state of creation. It is fluid, it is expanding, it is changing. The reason for this he suggests is because the Torah itself- the word of the “Living God” which is the DNA- so to speak, of the world is also in constant flux. Each day a Jew studies and is mechadesh- he innovates, he brings to light a new understanding of the Torah he is transforming the world with it. Our sages tell us that any Torah scholar that rules properly in Halacha is a partner with God in Creation. That is not just a metaphor, suggests Reb Tzadok. We are literally changing and creating new realities in the world.

There is an amazing story that really brings this concept to light.  Rav Yechiel Michel Gordon zt"l of Lomza related that an individual in Volozhin suffered from a certain form of lung disease. The person intended to leave the city and move to a place with better air. The individual's father appeared to him in a dream and told him that his specific form of lung disease was the subject of a debate between the R”MA- Reb Moshe Isserlis perhaps the most basic halachic decisor for the Ashkenazic world from the 16th century. and the Sha'agas Aryeh the Rav in Volozhin in the 18th century.. The Rema held that if this particular form of lung disease occurs in a cow, then the animal is considered not Kosher, as it is incapable of living for another year. The Sha'agas Aryeh, however, had ruled that an animal with this disease was nonetheless kosher. The father therefore warned his son to remain in Volozhin. His rationale was that in Volozhin, the Sha'agas Aryeh's town, the ruling- and therefore the Will of Hashem - followed the ruling of the Sha'agas Aryeh. The disease would not threaten this person's life as long as he remained there. Were he, however, to leave Volozhin, he would fall under the ruling of the Rema and would be at mortal risk. See what I’m saying here? The realities of the world, and even the specific way that things will play out in specific locales all follow the constant readjusting and power of Torah being formulated.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Parsha that tells us of the giving of the Torah, I find it fascinating that the beginning of the portion seems to be out of chronological order, as it is talking about court cases and debates on how to determine the law and establishment of the legal system, which would seem to follow the giving of the Torah and the law. The Torah is seemingly setting up the giving of the law with the corollary that qualifies it, that there will still be debate, there will still be different opinions. The Torah is not static. It is as living and breathing as the world itself. 

The Torah tells us that when we came to Sinai
Shemos (19:2) “And they came to the wilderness of Sinai vayachanu-and they -camped in the Wilderness. Vayichan- And Israel camped there opposite the mountain.

Rashi there noting the seeming inconsistency in the singular and plural tense, where the verse begins and they camped and then uses the singular vayichan and he camped states.

Vayichan Sham YisraelLike one man with one heart, however all other encampments had complaints and arguments.

Arguments, debates and disagreements are natural to the Jewish people. More than that. They absolutely are an essential part of who we are and our critical part in expressing our partnership with Hashem in Creation. Each one of has a unique role to play in that. It is the reason we were created. Yet at Sinai for the first and only time we realized and appreciated that all of the other and differing opinions were all part of that one glorious revelation. They were all true. They were all the word of Hashem. The Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel notes that when the verse tells us that the Jewish people saw the sounds emanating from Hashem and the mountain, which seemingly is impossible; for how can one see sound. He explains thus that

[Shemos 20:16]." And the entire nation saw the sounds: "And the entire nation saw the voices, how they changed as they were internalized by every individual”

Each Jew perhaps for the first time appreciated the incredible music of the Torah. It is one song and each Jew has his own solo. The highs, the lows, the baritones, the bass, the treble and the precussions and horns. But we saw the whole orchestra and how it is played by each and every one of us. We saw it in one another. We saw their instrument and their chorus. Some of those tones can contradict and muffle out others. At different times during the song and the performance some may be heard more loudly and be the lead and some might be quiet background music. Yet each piece has its own role and part to play. That is the moment when we saw that Yisrael, V’Oryasa, ViKudsha Brich Hu Chad Hu- The Children of Israel, the Torah and Hashem are all one.

The Zohar tells us on the verse that says “Who is like you nation of Israel-one nation on the land.” That the angels in heaven are all capable of each singing out the praises of the oneness of God in heaven. But here amongst “the hills of diversity, of conflict, of contradictions” only Israel is the nation of “one”- that can declare and bring to light the oneness of Hashem. The unifying aspect of His creation in this world. So in light of all of the above perhaps it would do us all well to change that opening phrase and idea of this E-Mail, or at least bring it to its truest conclusions. Two Jews, Three opinions, but all of us are like one man with one heart that are all expressing the love and the Creation of our One God.

Have unifying and Torahdike Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://youtu.be/aii3fDdZnrM -Benny Friedman Ivri Anochi cool new video

https://youtu.be/kjLygOK7V3I  Very strange Ten Commandments rap

https://youtu.be/fCV8j3VSsXs  - Funny albeit a bit heretical Ten Commandments-the Jews and Moses


“Tsvey kluge kenen nit shtimen.”- Two smart people can't agree.

answer below at end of Email
Q.  Rabbi Akiva is connected to:
A. The War of Varus
B. The Kitos War
C. The Bar Kochba Rebellion
D. The Great Revolt

Lessons, lessons, lessons, that’s what we get each week from really taking a harder look at Rashi’s timeless commentary on the simple explanation of the text of the Torah. This week the Torah tells us how Moshe tells his father-in-law Yisro about everything that had happened them and how Hashem had saved them. Yisro’s response, the Torah tells us seemingly is one of joy.
Shemos (18:9) Vayichad Yisro- and Yisro rejoiced.
Yet Rashi seemingly noting that the typical word for rejoicing in the Torah is samach brings an alternate midrashic explanation.
His flesh became chidudin- chidudin prickly (gooseflesh) he was troubled over the destruction of Egypt. This what people say ‘A convert up to ten generations do not disgrace and Armaean in his presence.”
The Gaon of Vilna notes a fascinating mathematical calculation on the ten generations number noting that the law is that Mamzer-illegitimate child born out of wedlock or an incestuous relationship cannot marry for 10 generations with a regular Jew. The reasons is he suggests is because there remains the taint of the sin in the DNA literally throughout the generations until it becomes less than 1/960; the amount given in halacha for a beryia – a complete being like an insect to become nullified in a kosher cooked item (a non-complete one as most non-kosher items is 1:60). This being the case the 1st generation is ½ the 2nd generation is ¼ that remains, the third is 1/8th the 4th would be 1/16th the 5th generation would be 1/32nd the 6th would be 1/64 the 7th would be 1/128th the 8th would be 1/256 the 9th would be 1/512 and by the 10th generation where there is only 1/ 1024 left it would be already nullified and would be permitted to be married into the nation.
The Rav of Ponovizh noted during the war years that we see from this that the connection one has to one’s nation and people is something that is in the genes. It is physical and hereditary. Thus despite whatever disdain Yitro would have for the Egyptians who persecuted the Jewish people and despite the fact that he rejected paganism and idolatry and joined the Jewish people there is a natural connection that his flesh literally crawled when he heard of their downfall. If this is the case, the Rav said, so when we hear about the tragedies, the troubles, the murder and pogroms against our own people and if we don’t literally feel it in our bones, this is not merely a failing in our empathy for our fellow Jew. There is something missing in our basic human nature. This can only be as a result of our sins and callousness that has deadened us to this basic human emotion. Wow! See what you can learn out of one Rashi.
Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman The Ponovezher Rav (1886 -1969) Born in Kuhl, Lithuania at the age of 14 he went to the Telshe Yeshiva, where he learned until he was twenty (or 21) under Harav Shimon Shkop and became close to Harav Eliezer Gordon, the yeshivah’s founder. In 1908, Reb Yosef Shlomo went to learn mussar from Reb Yosef Yoizel, the Alter of Novardok. While there, Harav Yechiel Michel Epstein, the Aruch Hashulchan, taught him the necessary skills for Rabbanut, after which he spent three years in Radin under the Chafetz Chaim.
He married the daughter of Harav Leib Rubin, the Rav of Vidzh. In 1911, Reb Leib was offered the Rabbanut of Wilkomir; his position in Vidzh passed to his son-in-law, who also opened a yeshivah there.
After Rav Kahaneman’s impressive eulogy at the levayah of Reb Itzele Rabinowitz of Ponevezh in 1919, the community offered him the position of Rav. He became Rav of Ponevezh (at age 33) and opened a yeshivah there which attracted many of Lithuania’s best talmidim. Rav Kahaneman guided his flock with wisdom and fatherly love. He was appointed as the Jewish representative to the Lithuanian parliament.
After 20 years, when the Nazis conquered Lithuania, Rav Kahaneman was on a mission abroad when World War II broke out and was unable to return to be with his family and his students. In 1940 he settled in Eretẓ Israel and from there directed efforts, in vain, toward the rescue of Lithuanian Jewry from the Nazis. Most of his family perished in the Holocaust. Thereafter, he devoted himself to reestablishing in Ereẓ Israel a network of Torah institutions. In 1943 he established Batei Avot, an orphanage for refugee children.fled to Eretz Yisrael, (1940), then under the British Mandate, and became a leader of chareidi Jewry.
Although broken and distraught over the fate of Europe’s Jews, he decided that he had been spared to bemekadesh Shem Shamayim-sanctify the name of Hashem. In 1941, Rav Kahaneman set the cornerstone for the new Ponevezher Yeshivah on a hill overlooking Bnei Brak.
Despite general skepticism, Rav Kahaneman, with his powers of persuasion, collected enough money to build what became the largest yeshivah yet in Eretz Yisrael and one of the largest in the world.The Ponevezher Rav’s ambitions were not limited to his yeshivah. He founded and supported dozens of other institutions, especially for the “yaldei Tehran,” orphans rescued from the Holocaust and brought to Israel (Batei Avot orphanages).Reb Yosef Shlomo was niftar on 20 Elul 5729/1969, at the age of 83. He was buried in the Ponevezher beit hachaim on the outskirts of Bnei Brak.


Baalei Teshuva or BT’s – The return to the Land of Israel is just part of the fulfillment of the prophecies that we merit to live and see that foretold of the advent of the Messianic Era. The final prophecy in the book of prophets tells of the return of the hearts of the children and the parents to the ways of Torah. That incredible prophecy is certainly as well one of the most amazing phenomena we are witnessing today as well. According to a 2008 study-which is certainly outdated over 200,000 Jewish adults in Israel consider themselves Baalei Teshuva- Jews that have returned to the faiths of our ancestors. Even more fascinating that 22% of the chareidim interviewed consider themselves BT’s. The reasons given for the changes they saw fit to make in their lives almost half of them state it’s because of exposure to religion that they never studied or heard before and the attendance of Torah classes and religious events and experiences from the myriad of  organizations and classes that are all over the country. 25% state it is as a result of the influence of family members and communities, while the rest state it was personal events or situations that led to their exploration of the traditional Jewish observant roots. The outreach work that is returning thousands of Jews to our heritage crosses all segments of the Jewish landscape. There is Chariedi outreach organizations that go around throughout the country and offer classes, study partners and seminars. The religious Zionist movement as well as its outreach arm, generally around holiday times offering community events, Seders and other opportunities as well as outreach in the army and other areas. The sefardic world through Shas has schools systems and Rabbis that interact and reach out to their generally traditional community although not necessarily observant. And the Chasidic world as well move and live in various communities where they offer outreach and all types of chesed to Israelis from across the spectrum, most notable is certainly Chabad and Breslav that reach Jews truly on the fringes and welcome them with love, warmth and joy in the most non-judgmental and non-intimidating ways, returning thousands to the faith of their fathers. It is truly amazing to be part of this phenomena and witness this incredible fulfillment of that ancient prophecy-one that Ben Gurion and many of the early Zionists never dreamed would ever occur- as they thought the “old Jew” and Ghetto European practices would become a relic of the past. Lesson being never bet against the eternity of Torah and the prophecies of old.
There was once a man. He was very poor and his life was in shambles -- his wife left him, took all the money, kids, car, and even his dog. He didn't know what to do. So, he went to his Rabbi, and asked, "Rabbi, my life is in ruins. My wife left me, took all the money, kids, car, and even my poor little dog. PLEASE help me." The wise Rabbi replied, "open up the Bible to any page and point to a sentence on that page. Whatever it says, you do." So, skeptically, the man went home, took out his dusty Bible from the attic and opened up to a page and pointed to a word. A few months later, the same man, now rich with a new wife, and new dog walks into the Rabbi's study and says, "Rabbi, thanks for the advice. You changed my life!" The Rabbi asked, "what did I do that helped so much?" So, the man answered, "Well, remember when you told me a couple of months ago to take my Bible, open up to any page, and point?" "Yes," replied the Rabbi, "what did you point to?" So the man replied, "chapter 11"

Sam and Joe are taking a walk, when they come upon a church. A sign says "CONVERT AND RECEIVE A THOUSAND DOLLARS". Sam says "You stay here. I'm going in to convert. "Some time later, he comes back out. Joe says, "Well, did you get the thousand dollars?” Sam says, "What's the matter? It that all you people think about?"

A old Jew was refused service in a restaurant. "We don't serve Jews here," said the waiter. "Don't let that bother you," replied the old man. "I don't eat Jews!"

A rabbi and his two friends, a priest and a minister, played poker for small stakes once a week. The only problem was that they lived in a very conservative blue-law town. The sheriff raided their game and took all three before the local judge. After listening to the sheriff's story, the judge sternly inquired of the priest: "Were you gambling, Father?" The priest looked toward heaven, whispered, "Oh, Lord, forgive me!" and then said aloud: "No, your honor, I was not gambling." "Were you gambling, Reverend?" the judge asked the minister. The minister repeated the priest's actions and said, "No, your honor, I was not." Turning to the third clergyman, the judge asked: "Were you gambling, Rabbi?" The rabbi eyed him cooly and replied "With whom?"

Answer is D – The great Wars against the Romans certainly surrounded perhaps to the development and leadership of Rabbi Akiva. To calculate his age though one has to do a bit of math. He was certainly alive during the great revolt and the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and if he didn’t become religious until the age of 40 then he must have been at least that during the year 70 CE when it was destroyed as our sages tell us the famous story that he was laughing while others were crying for he saw the fulfillment of the prophecy as being the harbinger of the redemption that must come as well. On the other hand he was barbarically executed on Erev Yom Kippur by the Romans during the Bar Kochva revolt which was in the year 132-136 CE. We are also told that he was 120 years old when he was killed. Which would mean he was born in the year 16 CE or so making him 54 by the destruction. So he was certainly a sage during the Kitos wars which were revolts throughout the Middle East against the Romans, and he was not alive during the Varus wars which were at the end of the Chasmonaim period after the death of Herod against the Romans. But the correct answer is certainly the Bar Kochva revolt, as Bar Kochva was his student and Rabbi Akiva declared him to be Mashiach and was an “armor bearer” in his battles and sent his students to join his army. Sadly Bar Kochva failed in his mission.  

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