Our view of the Galile

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Only in Israel- Tazria / Metzora / Yom Ha'atzmaut- 5777/2017

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

April 28th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 27 2nd Iyar 5777
Parshat Tazria / Metzora
Only in Israel
So he called me up for a tour this summer. He was a really nice guy. He was coming with his family for the first time. He was excited. He had heard wonderful things about my guiding skills. I was funny, inspiring, flexible and most importantly I knew where all the good restaurants were. He had one hesitation though, before he agreed to expose his family to a week of an Ephraim Schwartz tour in the Holy Land. He wanted to know if I would try to convince him and his family to make Aliya, as that was clearly not their objective on this trip… if ever. I reassured him that I certainly did not feel it was my place to ever convince anyone to make Aliya. I believe that is a personal decision that each person, who knows and understands their family best should make for themselves, or perhaps in consultation with someone that they respected to advise them. I did however tell them that one thing I can guarantee them… They will certainly feel miserable about living in the States and not being privileged to be able to be live here. J What they choose to do with that information is up to them. But they certainly will never again feel that they really should have a home or live anywhere else besides in the land that Hashem has promised us is the only place we should ever call home. Whadaya know? I still got the job.
Israel is different than the States. For many Americans the concept of Eretz Yisrael is either a biblical one or a Messianic one. Many recognize that they are in Galus still in the States, just as we in Eretz Yisrael recognize that we are in Exile still as long as that ugly golden pimple still sits where Hashem’s palace should be sitting. Yet, I find that many of them don’t get that there is still a fulfillment of a biblical mitzva by living in Eretz Yisrael even today without the Temple; every single minute, every single step, every single breath we take and every single falafel we eat here. When I talk to people and extol the incredible spiritual nature of the country, they look at me puzzled. What does that mean that the land is holy and that it is the best place in the world to tap into spirituality and one’s soul? They don’t seem to be able to comprehend the concept of a holy land, although, they seem to believe in the concept of a holy place when it comes to going to visit some Rabbi’s graves in the Ukraine, Uman, or anywhere in god forsaken Eastern Europe.
Sure there are challenges in Eretz Yisrael. Yeah it’s not America. But really? Doesn’t being a religious Jew concerned with growing spiritually and living a life that affords me the best opportunity to follow the mitzvos that Hashem commanded us, mean living a life that is not the same as everyone else.  A Life that will entail challenges? We don’t eat wherever or whatever we want, we don’t work on Shabbos, on holidays despite the inconvenience and even financial hardships that entails. We stretch ourselves to make sure we have a nice Etrog for Sukkot, a plentiful Shabbat and holiday meals, we take out time each day to daven three times a day and put on a not so cheap pair of teffilin. We understand how important a Jewish education is so people literally put themselves in hock to pay tuition, when public school would make our lives so much easier and affordable. So why is the concept of Israel so scary, so foreign?
I recently saw a list of things that were “Only in Israel”. Some are funny some are inspiring and of course the list is not nearly complete. Here’s a shortened version of that list. {The rest are down below in the Jokes section)
1. Israel is the only country in the world where anyone can read the Torah in its original and understand it.
2. Israel is the only country in the world where, if someone calls you a "dirty Jew", it means you need a bath.
3. Israel is the only country where you cannot buy Pizza and Falafel in the same stores, usually not even Pizza and French fries.
4. Israel is a country where the same drivers who cuss you will immediately pull over and offer you all forms of help if you look like you need it.
5. Israel is the only country in the world with bus drivers and taxi drivers who read Spinoza and Maimonides.
6. Israel is the only country in the world where you dare not gossip about other people on the bus in Mandarin, Russian, Hindi, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Polish or Romanian, lest others on the bus understand what you are saying.
7. Memorial Day in Israel is actually a day for remembering and not for buying pool furniture at the mall.
Now I don’t think any of the above reasons would inspire anyone to get on a plane and move here, yet this week’s Torah portion shares with us another significant thing that only happens in Israel. Maybe that will do the trick.
The Torah portion this week mostly discusses the laws of tzara’as, a spiritual malady that befalls a person as a result of some type of spiritual failing on his part. A person can break out with what looks like a form of leprosy. It can show itself on one’s clothing or even on the walls of one’s house. The remedy would be approaching the Kohein who would identify it, and then one would be secluded if it fell on one’s body and bring a series of offerings when he was purified. If it fell on one’s clothing or house they would have to be destroyed.  In fact our sages tells us that when they came into the land of Israel, all the non- Jewish homes that they conquered had this tzara’as and the houses were destroyed revealing treasures that the Canaanites hid in the walls.
Now this concept of having a warning sign from Hashem actually reflect itself in the physical world based on our need to improve something we may be failing in is definitely amazing. Can you imagine what life would be like? A person who is a little too stingy, too much of a gossiper, maybe a little too full of himself. Now we don’t recognize our own faults too easily. Maybe we don’t even pay attention to the tell-tale signs that are effecting our relationships. We schmooze in the back of the shul or doze during the Rabbi’s sermon, believing that he certainly isn’t speaking to meeee... But imagine, no let me correct that, think back to the time, when Hashem would just let you know Himself via a little white tell-tale growth on your house or clothes that you needed a bit of a wake-up call. I would have to leave my house, my family, my community and reflect. Pretty awesome isn’t it? Not a bad trick to have for someone who’s life goal is becoming a better, holier, more-godly person. But there’s one catch. It only works here.
The Torah introduces the law of Metzora as it relates to the tzara’as of ones house with the verse
Vayikra (14:35) When you will come to the land of Canaan which I give you as an inheritance and I will place a tzara’as blemish in the house in the land of your heritage.
The Ibn Ezra notes over here that this law is only in the land of Israel because of the superiority of the land as the Temple is in it and the glory is in the Temple. The Ramban (ibid. 13:47) as well notes by the laws of the tzara’as on clothing that this will only happen in the land of Israel because it is Hashem’s chosen portion. Shouldn’t everyone have this wake-up call? Why is it only in Israel?
The Ramban later on in Vayikra (18:25- worthwhile to see the whole thing there it’s truly amazing) notes the difference between Israel and every other country. When Hashem created the world and the nations, each one had its own specific place and its own heavenly sar or angel that would be the method with which Hashem interacts with it. It is why, he explains, that the nations strayed and worshiped idols, stars and alternate forces. Eretz Yisrael which is the special portion of Hashem is directly controlled by Him. It is His home. It’s all he has on his screen 24/7. It is completely pure. The other countries and place in the world “their purity can never be complete, as the angels and intermediaries create a barrier.”  It is for this reason seemingly why tzara’as which is a blemish as a result of one’s spiritual failings only shows up in Eretz Yisrael. It’s like someone who is a painter and he comes home with stains all over his clothing. It doesn’t make a difference. It’s not even noticeable. On the other hand if someone is off to a wedding and is dressed up in their very finest and some coffee spills on their white shirt or even worse, if some wine spills on the brides gown. Man, is someone in trouble. That’s the difference. In one place your spirituality really makes a difference, in the other place your wearing a dirty shirt anyways. Ouch!
We are living in historic times. We are living in a period that our ancestors only dreamed of. This week marks 69 years since the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael. Three years prior to that our people were on the cusp of destruction and annihilation in the Shoah. Yet from those ashes Hashem has returned his people to His land. Over 6.5 million Jews live here, over 200,000 babies were born making this the youngest country in the world. If one thinks that in 1946 there were less than 600,000 that’s even more mind-blowing. There are more Jews living here than there were the entire 2nd Temple. Torah study has flourished, agriculture, jobs, hi-tech, breakthroughs in medicine and technology, all of this was as unfathomable a mere 50 years ago. It’s wild, it’s amazing, dare I say it’s absolutely Messianic. The only thing we are missing is Hashem, our Temple and those of you that haven’t come home yet. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling anyone to make Aliya. That’s not my place. It’s a personal decision that each person, who knows and understands their family best should make for themselves. But have I succeeded in making you feel miserable yet?
Have a uplifting Shabbos wherever you are and a festive Israel Independence Day
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Di ergsteh rechiles iz der emess.”- The worst libel is the truth


https://youtu.be/wq0ChEGkdFs    - Ari Goldwag V’Ahavta Acapella

https://youtu.be/b86cGVa8HME   – Simcha Leiner VHinei Nishama car wash acapella

https://youtu.be/nEp_-FN4SSQ  Jeff Seidel A Time for Israel Waka Waka

answer below at end of Email
Q Settlements in the Binyamin Region:
a. Elazar and Itamar
b. Efrat and Kedumim
c. Shiloh and Psagot
d. Ariel and Shoresh

Particularly when Rashi choses to share with us a Mussar teaching it is worthwhile to think about precisely what he is saying. How he sees it in the text and what greater lesson we can take from that. In this week’s Torah portion in regards to the purification process of the Metzora the Torah tells us
Vayikra (14:3-4) And the Kohen shall go to the outside of the camp. And the Kohen shall see him and behold the tzara’as has healed from the afflicted one. And the Kohen shall command and he shall take for the one being purified two live pure birds and a cedar branch and tola’at (crimson) dyed wool and hyssop.
Rashi on the latter part of the verse notes-
Tola’at (crimson) dyed wool and hyssop- What is his remedy that he should be cured? He should lower himself from his arrogance like a tola’at (literally a) worm and like hyssop.
The Shem MiShmuel of Sochatchov asks why does this man need to be healed seemingly the Kohen already saw him by this point and as the previous verse seems to say “Behold the tzara’as was healed”. Additionally one can ask where Rashi sees this in pshat and why he feels it necessary to share with us the symbolism of these items- as profound as it may seem.
He suggests a very deep insight into human behavior and our ability to rectify something. There are two ways or factors that may humble a person. One is if one ponders and recognizes the awesomeness of Hashem and how little one can and has accomplished as Hashem is the one that allows and gives us the ability to do anything. The other is when a person suffers from illness or tragedy or is at a point of danger or threat. Then one realizes that everything is in the hands of Hashem. That we truly do not have any power without Him. Both ways will inspire and humble a person and remove any semblance of arrogance. The difference is when the sickness or danger passes, generally people will return to their old ways.
He points out that the first verse merely says that the tzora’as was healed. Not the person, as Rashi here says. Merely the malady and any remnant of arrogance has been removed by the trauma and awakening the experience of being afflicted and being sent out of the camp has caused. But that is not permanent. Thus the Kohen comes to him and he brings these items for the ritual of purification. Rashi therefore explains this is so that he, the metzora, will have a permanent tikkun. He should lower himself always like the worm and the hyssop. He should always reflect and thing about how small he is in creation. That way not only will the tzora’as be healed, but he will as well.

Rabbi Shmuel Bornstain –Shem MiShmuel (1855-1926) – Reb Shmuel Bornsztain or the Shem Mishmuel as he was known by his monumental work, was the second Rebbe of the Sochatchov Hasidic dynasty. His work Shem Mishmuel is a nine-volume work of Torah and Hasidic thought. He was a leading Hasidic thinker in early 20th-century Europe and a Rebbe to thousands of Hasidim in the Polish cities of Sochatchov and Łódź. Reb Shmuel was the only son of Rabbi Avrohom Bornsztain, author of Avnei Nezer and the first Sochatchover Rebbe. Through his father's line, he was a descendent of the Rema and the Shach. His mother, Sara Tzina Morgenstern, was the daughter of the Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern. Shmuel was born in the home of his maternal grandfather, the Kotzker Rebbe, in Kotzk during the time that his father was being supported by his father-in-law, as was the custom in those days. He spent his childhood in the towns of Parczew and Krośniewice, where his father held positions as Rav. His Father was his primary Torah teacher throughout his childhood, and a close and long-lasting bond developed between the two. Even later in life, as the father of a large family, Shmuel regarded himself as his father's talmid (student) and learned with him every day. In his writings, Shmuel synthesized the values and insights of Kotzker Hasidut—as taught by his grandfather, the Kotzker Rebbe—and Peshischa Hasidut, synthesizing them into the unique style that became Sochatchover Hasidut. He was crowned second Sochatchover Rebbe following the death of his father in 1910 and was accepted by all the elder Hasidim of his father's court.
At the outbreak of World War I, he was visiting a spa in Germany and was arrested as a Russian citizen. Only after much effort did he succeed in returning to Poland with other Rebbes who had been similarly detained. Due to persecution of Jews by the Tsarist government, he could not return to Sochaczew, but resettled in Łódź with his family. Here he acted as a guide and advisor to his own Hasidim as well as Hasidim of other dynasties and non-Hasidim seeking encouragement and support. In 1919, Bornsztain chose to leave the tumult of the big city, which was taking its toll on his health as well as his ability to concentrate on his holy work, and relocated to Zgierz, a small town near Łódź . Here he established his yeshiva and led his Hasidic court. His health worsened in 1926 and, upon the advice of his doctors, he moved to Otwock, a resort near Warsaw. There he died at the age of 70 on 8 January. He was brought to burial in the same ohel (covered grave) as his father, the Avnei Nezer, in Sochaczew

Daati LiUmi/ Mizrachi/ Srugim – The largest representatives of orthodox Jews in Israel are probably the Daati Liumi- religious Zionists. Certainly they are the most influential. Numbering close to 800,000 today they make up almost 10% of the Jewish population of Israel. The religious Zionist movements which is really the evolution of what was the former Mizrachi movement are defined by their two primary ideals. One that the State of Israel is the beginning of the ultimate redemption and it is the obligation of its constituents to participate fully in bringing that to its ultimate goal. The second is that the Torah and it’s laws should be observed and through the democratic process ultimately be implemented into bringing Israel to the point of a Jewish state that is ruled by Torah law. This ideology is generally reflected in the view that it is a privilege and obligation amongst the DL’s to serve in the army, to recite the prayers on behalf of the State and to establish schools and programs that will imbue the next generation and even those that are unaffiliated with a love and passion for Eretz Yisrael as well as for the Torah and it’s study and mitzvos.
Reffered to as Srugim because of the knitted kippas that they generally wear, the DL are certainly inspiring in the way they transmit their passion of Eretz Yisrael to their children. There are hundreds of them that learn in Hesder Yeshivos where they study a few years while training and serving in the army. In fact almost 40% of the officers in the army are religious Zionists. As well many of them have very high birthrates, certainly more than their modern orthodox American counterparts, as they see and understand the need to populate the land. In recent years as well, many programs have opened for outreach to secular communities in Israel and many of them as well go on shlichut abroad with bnai Akiva and camps to share their love of Israel with Jews in the Diaspora. Yom Ha’Atzmaut this week is certainly the highlight of the year for many of them with parades and fireworks but as well special prayers and Hallel is recited as unlike both their secular and Chareidi counterparts, for the Srugim this is a religious as well as a national holiday.

An Israeli man's life was saved when he was given a Palestinian man's heart in a heart transplant operation. The guy is doing fine, but the bad news is, he can't stop throwing rocks at himself.
On the sixth day, God turned to the Angels and said:  "Today I am going to create a land called Israel, it will be a land of mountains full of snow, sparkly lakes, forests full of all kind of trees, high cliffs overlooking sandy beaches with an abundance of sea life."
God continued, "I shall make the land rich so to make the inhabitants prosper, I shall call these inhabitants Israeli, and they shall be known to the most people on earth."
"But Lord, asked the Angels, don't you think you are being too generous to these Israeli's?"
"Not really, God replied, just wait and see the neighbors I am going to give them."

Benny from Haifa passed away and was sent ‘below’. He was amazed, however, to discover lush vegetation, running streams, waterfalls and beautiful lakes everywhere. Everyone seemed happy.
“You look surprised,” said a resident.
“Yes, I am,” replied Benny, “I expected hell to be very dry and exceedingly hot. Like a desert. But all I can see are trees full of all kinds of fruit, beautiful flowers, lots of vegetables, lush grass and water everywhere. This is not hell”
“Well,” said the resident, “it used to be like you thought, but then the Israelis started to arrive and they irrigated the hell out of the place!”
Israel is the only country where in addition to the signs telling you not to play loud music or smoke on a bus it also asks you not spit sunflower seeds.
Israel is the only country in the world where formal dress means a new clean T-shirt, sandals and jeans.
Israel is the only country in the world where one need not check the ingredients on the products in the supermarket to avoid ending up with things containing pork.
Israel is the only country in the world where reservists are bossed around and commanded by officers, male and female, younger than their own children.
Israel is the only country in the world where "small talk" consists of loud, angry debate over politics and religion.
Israel is the only country in the world where the mothers learn their mother tongue from their children
Israel is the only country in the world where the news is broadcast over the loudspeakers on buses, where people listen to news updates every half hour.
Israel is the only country in the world where, when people say the "modern later era", they are referring to the time of the 2nd Temple.
Israel is the only country in the world whose people eat three salads a day, none of which contain any lettuce, and where olives are a food and even a main course in a meal, rather than something one tosses into a martini.
Israel is the only country in the world where one is unlikely to be able to dig a cellar without hitting ancient archeological artifacts.
Israel is the only country in the world where the graffiti is in Hebrew.
Israel is the only country in the world where the "black folks" walking around all wear yarmulkes.
Israel is the only country in the world where the ultra-Orthodox Jews beat up the police and not the other way around.
Israel is the only country in the world where inviting someone "out for a drink" means drinking cola or coffee.
Israel is the only country in the world where bank robbers kiss the mezuzah as they leave with their loot.
Israel is the only country in the world where everyone on a flight gets to know one another before the plane lands. In many cases, they also get to know the pilot and all about his health or marital problems.
Israel is the only country in the world where no one has a foreign accent because everyone has a foreign accent.
Israel is the only country in the world where people cuss using dirty words in Russian or Arabic because Hebrew has never developed them.
Israel is the only country in the world where patients visiting physicians end up giving the doctor advice.
Israel is the only country in the world where everyone strikes up conversations while waiting in lines.
 Israel is the only country in the world where hot water is an event and not a condition ("in" joke; you have to live in Israel to figure it out).
Israel is the only country in the world where people call an attache case a "James Bond" and the "@" sign is called a "strudel".
Israel is the only country in the world where kids read Harry Potter in Hebrew.
Israel is the only country in the world where there is the most mysterious and mystical calm ambience in the streets on Yom Kippur, which cannot be explained unless you have experienced it.
Israel is the only country in the world where making a call to God is a local call.
Answer is C – This one is pretty easy. At least I thought so. Truth is anyone that drives around this country or even follows the news a bit should be able to use process of deduction for a lot of these. Elazar is in the Gush Etzion area, where my uncle David lives and Itamar is in the Shomron-for those that remember the tragedy of the Fogel family massacre a few years ago there. Kedumim as well is in the Shomron and Efrat is the largest city in Gush. Ariel is the center and largest city in the Shomron and Shoresh the only city on this list that is not in “occupied territory” or pre-67 Israel borders. So of course the right answer is Psagot and the yishuv of Shiloh built right next to the biblical city of Shiloh where the Mishkan.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Blessing on your Head- Shemini 2017/5777

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

April 21st 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 26 25th Nissan 5777
Parshat Shemini
A Blessing on your Head
In Seattle I never had this problem. Most of my congregation were Kohanim. In fact there was even a time when it was the opposite problem. There were no plain old Israelites, like me to receive the priestly blessing on one of the holidays (my associate Rabbi at the time, Rabbi Fredman-himself a Kohen was running the service, while I was away for the holiday), and the question was do they still give the special blessing even when there was no one standing in the congregation. The answer incidentally is yes, as they bless and have in mind the other Jews in the fields. But we always had a Kohen in the West Seattle TLC. Here in Karmiel though we’re not always so lucky. We’ve had our regular Kohanim over the years, but many have come and gone. Quite a few have actually moved to Jerusalem. Maybe they want to be close to the action as soon as Mashiach comes. I told them that if and when he does come hopefully soon, we get first dibs on them arranging us a little Temple sacrifice action.
But it was a little depressing the first days of the holiday without the priestly blessing from the Kohen. In some ways it’s not as bad as it would have been in the States. Because after-all there they only do the blessing on holidays, while here we do it every single day by morning services. In fact it was one of the jarring things about my trips back to the States that davening and my day does not nearly feel as complete and blessed as it does when I’m in Israel, without that special daily boost from the Kohein. So even though we missed it on the first day, I knew that ultimately we would get the blessing on one of the upcoming days. Sure enough the last days of the chag the Kohen showed up and we got blessed. I felt uplifted. Holiday blessings feel more holy than the weekday ones. Even in Israel we sing in between each one of the three verses. It feels like the Temple. I close my eyes and imagine myself back there…back in the Yerushalayim, on our special mountain, seeing Hashem in his magnificent home. Receiving His blessing. Forever.
This week, the Torah portion begins with the eighth and the inaugural day of the Tabernacle the first of the month of Nissan. It was a busy day. A lot happened. It was the day the Jewish people had been waiting for since we had sinned with Golden calf a little less than year. There was a huge fundraising campaign, building campaign, each Jew contributed not only money, but by bringing whatever skills they had to help work. The Kohanim had all been dedicated and purified, the vessels all anointed. The work was done, the service was about to begin. Aharon the High Priest got up and blessed the nation. Rashi, tells us this was the priestly blessing. Our sages tell us in fact it was the first time this blessing was given.
Yevarechecha Hashem V’Yishmerecha- May Hashem watch over you and protect you
Ya’eir Hashem Panav Elecha Vi’Chunecha- May Hashem shine his countenance upon you and show you grace
Yisah Hashem Panav Elecha V’Yaseim Lecha Shalom- May Hashem uplift you with His countenance and grant you peace.
This is the blessing that the Torah will later tell us that the Kohen is meant to give the people. It is the traditional blessing parents give their children, in our home each Friday night. On major holidays in Israel, like this past Pesach tens of thousands of people gather to the Kotel to receive this blessing from the hundreds of Kohanim that attend the service. It is truly awesome. The Talmud tells us that when the Kohen gives this blessing Hashem’s Divine spirit rests between the Kohen’s hands and He personally brings the blessing to the people. The Zohar and the more mystical commentaries see in this blessing the pathway to bringing down all different Divine blessings that one can experience. The Midrash in Shir Hashirim describes the blessing perhaps the best referring to a verse in Song of Songs
Shir Hashirim (3:7-8) Behold the bed of Solomon; sixty mighty men are around it, of the mighty men of Israel. They all hold the sword, skilled in warfare; each one with his sword on his thigh because of fear at night-Rav Bibi in the name of Rebbi Elazar the son of Rebbi Yosi explains this verse as a reference to the blessing of Kohanim.
60 mighty men- are the 60 letters of the blessing
From the mighty of Israel- for they make Israel strong
They hold swords- matters that are blessed with strength
Skilled in war- for they fight against all the troubles that are in the world
Each one with his sword on his thigh- that even if a man sees in a dream a sword cutting into his thigh what should he do- go to synagogue recite the Shema, pray and hear the blessing of the Kohen and respond Amen and nothing bad will harm him.
Now you can see why I feel pretty attached to this bracha and why when I was in the States I felt I was missing my daily vitamins to make it through the day.
It all started in this week’s portion. It all starts with that first dedication of the Mishkan. What is however sometimes overlooked though, is that this blessing given by Aharon didn’t seem to work for his own two children who were killed just a few minutes later when they brought in a foreign fire to the incense that they weren’t commanded. Wow… Here it is that incredible blessing which becomes the trailblazer for all other blessings. Which Aharon seemingly recited on his own at that highest moment and that Hashem chooses to utilize for all future blessings and yet it was literally the harbinger of catastrophe and tragedy. What is the lesson in this? In addition what is the whole concept of this blessing that on the one hand seems to come from Hashem, but yet on the other hand can only be given via the Kohen?
In Hebrew to understand a word one has to go to its source, its root word. Unlike other languages where words are just arbitrary terms to refer to something, in Lashon Hakodesh- the Holy Tongue the word identifies the essense of word. The root of bracha- blessing is berech which one’s knee. In Bereshit when Eliezer, the servant of Avraham goes to find a mate for Yitzchak, the pasuk tells us
(24:7)“Vayavrech et ha’gamalim- He made the camels kneel ( by the water, at the time when the people went out to draw water)
In fact the word pool is also breicha, because one has to kneel to draw water from it. In the Talmud in regards to agriculture the process of replanting a tree’s branches by bending them back down into the ground so that they will grow a new tree, this is called Havracha. Again the same ‘root’ word- excuse the pun.. What is a blessing? A blessing is the redirection and reconnection of something to its source of growth, its’ source of nourishment. The Kohen is the one that does this job. He is the one that redirects us to our source of blessing. He does this and the commandment and blessing describes the mechanics of the process with one word. Love.
 “Blessed are You Hashem our God , King of the World who has sanctified us with His commandments and He commanded us to bless His nation Israel with love.”
The love in fact is that if a Kohen bears ill will against the people he is obligated to remove it before blessing the people and is forbidden to bless until then. If the people bear a grudge, even a rightful one against him, they must reconcile. The only way he can reconnect us with the roots that we receive during this blessing is if it full of love. Without love it’s like trying to plant something in poisoned earth. In fact there are only two sins that prevent a Kohen from blessing the people; murder and idolatry. The first prevents the connection between the Kohen and the nation the other between the Kohen and Hashem. He need to be the full conduit without any interference. When that connection is made heaven meets earth, all bad forces disappear, we are reunited with our source. Aharon initiates this blessing at the perfect moment. The Mishkan is built Hashem has forgiven us and we will always have a place to connect. The Kohen will be the one who places, the countenance of Hashem upon us. Just like when someone places the roots back into the earth. It’s perfect. It becomes the eternal process. It is the blessing that we give to our children. As we try to direct and return them to their source.
Yet for two of Aharon’s children it doesn’t work. They received the connection as well. Yet it seems they only got the first part of the blessing. Half of the mighty warriors. The first but not the second half. As readers of the second part of my weekly E-Mail know, I like Rashi. Reading his insight precisely leads to a greater appreciation of the text. Rashi on this blessing notes that Aharon blessed the people the priestly blessing Yevarecha, Yae’r and Yisah- And Hashem should bless you, and should shine upon you and should uplift you. Now seemingly, this was extraneous. We know what the priestly blessing is. Yet perhaps Rashi is telling us that Aharon really only was able to affect the first part of the blessing. The Ramban explains that each sentence has two parts to it the blessing and the almost opposite protection for the blessing. The replanting and the sprouting of the roots.
The first sentence is that Hashem should bless us. Too much blessing can be dangerous. It can lead to jealousy, to arrogance to a lack of appreciation of where it comes from. We can become drunk with overabundance. So Hashem adds the second part and He should guard you; Guard and protect us from the pitfalls of the blessing. The second sentence Hashem should shine his presence upon us, also can lead to a negative situation. One who feels and has Divine inspiration, can feel holier than thou, can be shining so bright that people can’t connect with him. Can feel he is above everyone else. We therefore receive that blessing that Hashem should show us grace. He should always make sure that we never get disconnected from everyone else. That when our roots grow up into a tree we should be part of a beautiful forest that sings the praise of Creation together to our Creator.  Finally the last blessing that Hashem should lift us up as well is wrought with the greatest sense of displacement that one can feel. I am soaring in the heavens and have nothing to do with the earth. What do I need this world for? Why should I be so dirty buried under the with my roots deep blow when all I want to do is soar and stretch out to the heavens that are uplifting me. So Hashem blesses us with Shalom. With completion, with peace, with serenity, with the upper realms and lower world all being connected and unified. With the harmony necessary to flourish and prosper.
Nadav and Avihu got the first part of the blessings, but they didn’t get the second part. In fact all of the dangers and factors I mentioned are found by our sages as being the sins that led to their deaths. They were jealous of Moshe and Aharon and thought they were greater than them, they felt they were to holy to get married, they drank too much wine of blessing. Their souls literally flew out of this world because they were too “holy” to remain here. The first part of the blessing rested upon them, but not the second. It is interesting and again precise to note that in America when the blessing is recited by the chazzan, who leads the service (and in Israel as well, when there is no Kohen) we say an introduction
Our God and the God of our Fathers bless us with the three-fold blessing of the Torah that is written by Moshe Your servant, and that is from the mouths of Aharon and his children, the Kohanim as it said...”
We are very precise about the bracha that we want. We want the one that is written in the Torah. The full blessing. The one that not only connects us to that love of Hashem, but allows us to bring that back into the world with us and shine it out to the rest of the world. In Eretz Yisrael, the only place on earth, the only soil that is truly ripe and ready for our plants to flourish we need and get that blessing every single day. The rest of you, have it much more challenging. But don’t worry. Spring is here. The crops are starting to grow, the trees are blooming and we are counting each day until we can bring the new wheat to Yerushalayim. God willing this year we’ll all be there to get the priestly blessing together.
Have a blessed Shabbos and a Chodesh Iyar Tov!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


“Ver shemt zikh fun zeineh mishpocheh, oif dem iz kain brocheh.”- Whoever is ashamed of his family will have no blessings.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVi0NNZIEu4   - Birkat Kohanim by the Western Wall this past Pesach

https://youtu.be/u57jx8dyFgE  – Pretty Funny- my friend SYR’s Im Hashem Lo Yivne Bayit in English by some group in Indiana….OY…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r81POtmNtBI Ilan Gold Jewish comedian at the UN pretty funny

answer below at end of Email
Q A settlement associated with Yitzhak Ben-Tzvi is:
a. Beit Keshet
b. Kefar Hanasi
c. Mesuot Yitzhak
d. Be’erot Yitzhak

Rashi does point out “no duh” questions. A “no duh” question is one which is obvious. Like when I tell my children that they have to wash before the eat bread… They of course say “no duh…” exasperatedly, of course with the accompanying rolling of the eyes. Like, I know this already. What the word “like has to do with the previous sentence, I have no idea. But that’s what they say. Like, “No Duh”. Anyways If Rashi is telling us something that we think might be obvious, think about it for a second, he’s trying to point something out to us.
This week the first Rashi of the parsha begins
And it was on the eighth day- Rashi says, profoundly of course, the eighth of the miluim-innauguration of the Mishkan.
No of course our knee-jerk reaction would be to say “no-duh”. I mean the entire chapter and verses that preceded this Parsha are talking about the 7 days of the inauguration. The Kohanim stay in the Mishkan, they bring sacrifices, they are anointed. Obviously this is the eighth day of the miluim. What is his chidush? What else was it the eighth day of circumcision, for those who answered that “Who know Eight” question correctly by the Seder?”
Now if you thought about this for a second the truth is you would find this a very strange name for the day. The truth is as Rashi continues to say, this is the first of Nissan, It is also the day when 10 “crowns” special divinely royal occurences took place. Including the creation of the world, the day the Mishkan was erected and established, the priestly blessing first recited among a few of them. So why in fact does the Torah call the day the eighth day? Why doesn’t it instead refer to it as the first of Nissan as it generally does, giving the month a day when something significant happened?
The Sefat Emet notes that although all of the crowns that came down are huuuuge and important, yet all of that pales in face of the truly momentous thing that took place. It was the eighth day of the inauguration. For seven days the Jews and the Kohanim and Moshe all prepared themselves. They prepared the world. They were miluim- they filled up the void and set the platform for which all of these crowns could land. Our work is so much more significant than the crowns coming down. They don’t and can’t come down without our seven days of preparation first. They can only come down because this is the eighth day. That’s what Rashi wants us to notice. Now you can’t say “No Duh” to that!
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter-Sefat Emet (1847-1905) – The Sefas Emes, created the largest Chasidic following in Poland prior to WWII. Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter was the son of R' Avraham Mordechai zt"l, the eldest son of the Chidushei Harim of Gur. He was born on erev rosh chodesh Iyar 1847 and as a boy of only two, he was orphaned of his mother. When he was about nine years old, his father too was passed away and he was brought up by his holy grandfather who treated him as a son, The Sefat Emet slept the bare minimum and ate very little throughout his youth, but when he became weak in his later years he admitted. "I feel that my body is weak probably due to my minimal sleep and food when I was young. I don't regret the missing sleep because a minimization of sleep is one of the ways with which Torah is acquired but I do regret not having eaten properly for now I am suffering the consequences."
 After his bar mitzva he married the granddaughter of R' Boruch Taam, and continued living in Gur with his grandfather. After his grandfather passed young Yehuda Leib was appointed av beit din. He refused however to act as rebbe and travelled together with the chassidim to R' Chanoch Henoch of Alexander until the latter's passing 4 years later.
On Shavuos, when he saw the massive crowd which had gathered around him, he agreed to join the chassidim in "giving ourselves chizuk" but still did not say divrei Torah in public until Succos the following year. Even then he refused to sit in his grandfather’s seat at the head of the table and sat in the middle of the table-which remains the custom of Ger until today. Finally, when he started giving forth his pearls of Torah wisdom, the world was astounded. These divrei Torah were printed in his famous sefer Sefat Emet al hatorah. His seforim on Shas were also printed many times.
During the Russo-Japanese War, many of his young followers were drafted into the Russian Army and sent to the battlefields in Manchuria. The Rebbe was very worried over these devotees and would constantly write to them. During the entire period of the war the Rebbe would sleep on the floor, rather than in his own bed and would cry bitter tears each night on the fate of his students. Unlike the custom of many of the Rebbes, the Sfas Emes refused to take money from his Chasidim that wished to support him and instead sufficed himself from the income his wife’s store would bring in. In fact he encouraged all of his chasidim to learn a trade rather than to make a living off of their Torah study or even seeking rabbinic positions.
 On Sunday 24th Teves  (1905) a rare illness poisoned his body and at dawn of the 5th of Shevat he returned his pure soul to its Maker. At his funeral there were 10’s of Chasidim that attended and mourned. Today Gerrer Chasidim is alive and well carrying out his legacy and the largest Chasidic group in Israel numbering 15 thousand families.

Avreichim/ Kollel Guys – Perhaps one of the most significant changes in the State of Israel, one that Ben Gurion and the early secular Zionists never dreamed of was the explosion of Jews studying Torah full time. They had thought that the old concept of the “shtetl yid” who would get up early and study and learn would disappear and give way to the new, “enlightened”, modern Jewish fighter, farmer, politician. BG was wrong. Torah study as a full-time occupation in Israel is growing by leaps and bounds. This is not only true in the Hariedi world, but in the religious Zionist world as well. In the Chariedi world there are over 110,000 men ages 18-67 learning Torah full-time of them are about 75,000 married men and 35 thousand single young men. In the Dati Le-Umi world there are over 12.000 more students studying full time in over 75 institutions around the country. Altogether in Israel there are over 1600 Yeshivas and Kollels where people study from morning through night our three thousand year old tour and that number is increasing each year, as the population is. What is perhaps most remarkable about this number is to think that in 1948 in Israel when the State was declared there were 62 yeshivos and a few hundred students in all of Israel.
The majority of the Chariedi Kollel Rabbis, in fact about 76% of them have exemptions from army service. They could go to work and get a “real job” without any worries about serving in the army- so this not merely a ploy to get out. They are there because this is what their life service is all about. Studying, teaching, learning and keeping our people and nation alive in the holiest of ways. Many of them live sadly in tremendous poverty. Meat or in some homes even chicken is a delicacy saved for Shabbos or chagim. They live in small apartments, may with lots of kids. They truly live a life of the frugality that our sages describe of “bread and salt they shall eat and water they drink”, yet many of them wouldn’t trade their portions and what they consider their fortunes, for the world. When one sees the joy and ecstasy in the beit midrash of their learning, their new understanding in the millennia old text, you can start to fathom why it is they do what they do. On Simchat Torah watch how they hold the Torah scroll close and sing Ashrainu Ma Tov Chelkaynu- How lucky we are. I believe that it is for these heroes that the State of Israel was truly divinely meant to be built. To restore the glory of Torah study to the Jewish people after the holocaust and to lay the framework for the Messianic world when the world will fill with the wisdom of Hashem.

The Goldberg family was having Friday night dinner at their grandmother’s house – Bubbie Adella. Seated around the table little Moishie Goldberg dug into the food immediately.
"Moishe!” his mother exclaimed. “You have to wait until we make the blessing."
"No I don't," the little boy replied.
"Of course you do," his mother insisted, "we always say a blessing before eating at our house."
"That's at our house," Moishe explained, "but this is Bubbie's house and she knows how to cook."

One day there was a knock on the Pope's office door.
When he answered it, the salesman said, "Hello, my management team would like to discuss a proposal with you." After taking a seat in his office, the salesman said, "I am with Kentucky Fried Chicken. We would like to offer you a contract to the church if you can change the Lord's blessing from 'Give us this day our daily bread' to 'daily chicken'."
The Pope said, "I'm sorry we just cannot do that." The salesman went back to his office where he discussed the outcome of the meeting.
He returned to the Pope's office a week later with the same proposal, only he had upped the bid to 4 million. The Pope gently declined, again.
The next week he came again and offered the Pope an offering of 10 million.
The Pope said, "Let me think it over."
The Pope then called a meeting with the elders of the church and said, "Well gentlemen, I have good news and bad news. Kentucky Fried Chicken has generously offered us 10 million dollars to change the Lord's Prayer from 'daily bread' to 'daily chicken'. The bad new is that we will lose the Wonder Bread Contract.

A priest and a rabbi operated a church and a synagogue across the street from each other. Since their schedules intertwined, they decided to go in together to buy a car.
After the purchase, they drove it home and parked it on the street between them.
A few minutes later, the rabbi looked out and saw the priest sprinkling water on their new car.
It didn't need a wash, so he hurried out and asked the priest what he was doing.
"I'm blessing it," the priest replied.
The rabbi considered this for a moment, then went back inside the synagogue.
He reappeared a moment later with a hacksaw, walked over to the back of the car and cut off two inches of the tailpipe.

A couple invited some people to dinner. At the table, the mother turned to her six-year-old daughter and asked her to say the blessing.
"I wouldn't know what to say," she replied.
"Just say what you hear Mommy say," the mother said.
The little girl bowed her head and prayed, "Dear Lord, why on Earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"

Answer is A – Yeah no clue about this one either. I knew that it wasn’t Masuot Yitzhak the yishuv in the Gush which was named after Rav Hetzog. And of course I knew that Ben Zvi was the second and longest serving president of Israel. But I had no clue of the story of his son being killed outside of the kibbutz by an arab ambush there in the war of independence and that he dedicated a national heritage site for him there by this small kibbutz near Nazareth. Now I do… Which is one of the reasons why I have this section in your weekly E-Mail.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Imaginary Worlds- Tzav/ HaGadol/ Passover-5777 / 2017

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

April 7th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 25 4th Nissan 5777
Parshat Tzav-HaGadol/ Pesach Edition
Imaginary Worlds
It would have been nice to wake up to an imaginary world this morning. I lay in bed thinking about it. In this world, our house would have been cleaned already for Pesach. I would have had a check next to the hundred things my wife had on my list for me to do. All our shopping would have been done. The dishes are all tovieled  (that’s the act of sticking new dishes and utensils in the Mikva before using them) and put away. The Chametz dishes are gone. The car is clean. I can even smell our Kosher for Passover Shabbat meal starting to cook in our already Kosher for Passover kitchen- is there anybody that has the guts to have a non-kosher for Pesach home our chulent this week. If so invite me over for some real chulent J. The Table is even set for the Seder. I can just sit down and open up my Haggadah and start preparing for the Seder.
Back to reality….sigh…
Yeah there is no imaginary world. Right? I don’t know, take a little bit of the world we are living in today. How much of it is real. Everyone I know has imaginary “friends” that “like” or “unlike” things about them in a virtual world. The entire world is connected all day and night to these little electronic devices that beep them things that are happening all around the world. We communicate via little things that we type into these little devices and the things that we write on them literally run the entire world. Hundreds of millions of dollars exchange hands via the few words that we type. Well not what I type, but other people, I exchange a few shekels and E-Mails sponsor donations. Relations can be made and broken via  a few texts. The President of the United States can and might even practically declare World War or Peace with the 140 allotted characters of a “tweet”. A “tweet” can bring down world markets, can get the entire world media sending off tweets of their own, can literally change regimes. And in the real world nothing has changed. Just a few taps on a screen. What makes this a real world?
I hate to sound like an old fogey, I’m not, despite what my kids think. But there was a time when we had to write letters to communicate with people. When we had to switch tapes or CD’s to listen to music. When friends were people who we were there for, who we spent time with who we enjoyed each others company and space with. Going to work meant actually doing precisely that not just sitting in front of a screen and tapping away. We carried around money to pay for things, if we didn’t have any we didn’t buy it. We thought twice about wasting film when we took pictures. And when we developed them and got them back it was really exciting to see them. We would think about who to send them out to, who to share them with. It was a different world. It felt more real.
Now the truth is to be fair, my grandparents probably would tell me about entirely different world. One where you didn’t drive everywhere. One where work meant manual labor. Where there was not even time for a notion called entertainment, or energy for that matter. It was a time when a chocolate bar was a luxury for a birthday present. Friends were people that you ran with, jumped and rode with and even worked with. World leaders were people that had earned that right and were respected, authority was respected. People had a different sense of respect for themselves, for the way they presented themselves, the clothing they wore, the way that they spoke. The things that a decent person wouldn’t talk about because it was inappropriate. I was a 70’s-80’s child and it was an entirely different world then what my grandparents less than year prior had experienced in their world. If someone would have described my world to them they would have thought it ridiculous. Imaginary. The same way that I think anyone of my generation if they actually stopped and though about it would think about today’s world. What will tomorrow’s look like?
Virtual friends, disposable houses, driverless cars, no more shopping stores- as everything is drone-delivered to your house, ordered online by just opening your fridge and talking into some headset. There will no longer be any written media or books, they will have gone the way of 8 Track tapes and record players. There will be no more news outlets as we will automatically be updated regularly of what we want to know as it happens. Food will cook itself or 3D bake itself, even chulent. There pretty much won’t be any sickness as all organs will be able to be reproduced, probably by popping a pill or two. The state of marriage or relationships or entertainment I don’t even want to think about. But we are not on a pretty trajectory. Sounds crazy and imaginary? I’m not sure. One thing is certain. It will be a very different world than what we are living in.
Why do I ponder all this now? Because we are getting ready for Pesach and it will be a night to imagine ourselves in two different worlds. Not just imagine but actually feel, understand and even experience and taste each of those worlds. Literally taste them. The first world with the Matzah and Marror and the second world with the Matza and wine and reclining. The world of slavery and the world of freedom. The world that literally changed for us over night pretty much. That will change for us in our seder night.  That’s what Pesach is all about. In fact it’s why it’s called Pesach. To skip-over, which you have to admit is probably the strangest name for a holiday. Seemingly it’s a minor detail that Hashem skipped over the house of the Egyptian and saved our first-borns. But the truth is that in that moment, the entire world changed. The world skipped from a world before the Jewish nation as the first-born connectors to our Father in Heaven, to a world that would be led and guided by our nation. It would be a world that would forever have us as their conscience, as their soul, as their compass and as their light. One skip of a door-post and it changed. There would now be a voice in the world that would decry slavery and the subjugation of another human being. There would now be a people that would charged with pushing mankind to make a better world, to recognize its Creator, that would shatter the pagan and hedonistic idols and lifestyles and lead the world to its ultimate created purpose. That’s what we do on Pesach. It’s what we remember happened and can and will happen once again. In a hop, skip and a jump. With one tweet, for those that are skeptical.
The world is moving so fast, changing for better and for worse so fast. Pesach is the night for us all to get on the train, to get in our rightful conductor’s seat and start riding it in the right direction. It is amazing when you think about what we do to prepare our house for this holiday. Less than a month ago, on Purim our house was full of nosh, snacks, cakes and Hamantash. Our kids hid their little nosh things all over the house. If someone would tell us that in one month, there wouldn’t be a crumb left in our house. That it would be spotless eat off the floor clean. That we would go a week straight eating three meals a day, big meals without one bit of Chametz, that our fridges and our cabinets would be stocked with all types of strange potato starchy food and weird condiments if any, we would think them insane. But yet we did it and do it every year. We transform our entire house and lives for one week. Even the most secular Jews, at least here in Israel, overwhelmingly participate in some way in this Passover world-changing and certainly lifestyle changing activity. Its wild, it’s amazing. It’s almost imaginary. Now imagine if every Jew did this. Imagine if every Jew lived in Israel, where we are supposed to live. Imagine if we were all heading to Jerusalem to eat our Pesach Sacrifice BBQ and visit our Beit Hamikdash. How unreal does that seem. More or less unreal than you think our world might’ve looked to your grandparents? Or how our grandchildren’s world might look to us?
Yes it might seem imaginary, but on Pessach we realize and remember how imaginary and unreal the world of a destroyed Egypt, a humbled Pharaoh and how a nation, persecuted for centuries, of slaves were within one night redeemed, became fabulously wealthy and stood at the foot of Sinai and witnessed and heard Hashem speak to us. How in one night a people that were on the 49th level of impurity, of assimilation, of idol-worshippers, were able to find the strength to turn it all around. How we slaughtered the sheep, that symbol of the lives before and put that blood on our doorposts, declaring we are the first-borns of God.
This Shabbos is Shabbos HaGadol. It is the day and the Shabbos is that is bigger than any other. When something is big it stands above everything else around it. Picture all the Shabboses of the year in a line, or on a calendar. This one stands above the rest. This one is in bold letters. BIG BOLD CAPPED LETTERS. Its different, it’s a new world it’s a world and a Shabbos that we recognize has the power to change the entire world, just as we’ve changed and cleaned our house. Just as we are getting ready to make our Seder, to sit with our family, to tell our seder and to skip between worlds. Not between imaginary worlds but to the realest world. The world that Hashem has been waiting for since the Beginning to see us realize. It will be the ultimate and only real world.
Have a huuuuuge Shabbos Ha’Gadol and Chag Kasher V’Samayach
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Zingen ken ich nit, ober a maiven bin ich”.- I can’t sing, but I’m an expert on it


https://soundcloud.com/ephraim-schwartz/eliyahu-hanavi   In honor of Pesach my latest composition hot off the press..ELIYAHO…YAHOO… HANAVEEEE * warning this song is addictive and you will sing it by your seder

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9Ng9-MZoxgShlomo Katz Eliyahu Hanavi also an amazing version

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8c-iuwpkD0   -My absolutely favorite Pesach song from Rav Nachman Seltzer and Shira Chadasha choir! Chasal Siddur Pesach, beautiful

https://youtu.be/5kgbRusmqjs  Awesomely cool Korban Pesach reenactment of Temple institute. Wow! Can’t wait to do it..

https://youtu.be/rO7MdSIk_uc - Annual Technion Pesach story in one minute cool!

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK                                      
answer below at end of Email
Q The remains of a 19th century winery were discovered in Tel-Aviv in:
A. The Tel-Aviv Port
B. Neve Tzedek
C. The Train Station Compound
D. Sarona


You know that famous story or line about that man that asks his Rabbi why God didn’t answer his prayers. The Rabbi tells him that Hashem did answer. “No” is also an answer. Well this week we learn another lesson from Rashi, about another unlikely answer. It’s one that Rashi teaches us numerous times in the Torah. “I don’t know” is also an answer.
At the end of this week’s Torah portion a week before the month of Nissan when the Tabernacle/ Mishkan was erected, Hashem commands Moshe to gather all the Jews together and sanctify and dedicate Aharon and his children and make them Kohanim. For most of us that’s pretty much all we can absorb and care about in the reading. But as we know Rashi is a details person. Each word counts. He notices that as the Torah describes the ceremony with Moshe pouring anointment oil all over them, the Torah says
Vayikra (8:11) And he sprinkles from it (the oil) 7 times upon the Altar
OK, no big deal. Right? Wrong.
Rashi says- “I don’t know where Moshe was commanded about these sprinkles”
I promise you if Rashi had not said anything I wouldn’t have noticed anything. There was no reason for him to go out of his way to tell me that he doesn’t know something. To spend time, money and ink on letting us know that he didn’t know this one. But Rashi, the ultimate teacher is teaching us something in this as well. “I don’t know” is also an answer. It’s important to point out something troubling you and the text when you don’t know something as well.
The Rama of Pano notes that this text is in fact one of the most important texts in the Torah for it testifies to the fact that there was an oral tradition as well as the written law. For Moshe a few verses back (8:5) states that “This is what Hashem has commanded to be done.” And since it does not say this commandment anywhere, this verse becomes the ultimate proof that there was an oral command that wasn’t recorded in the written Torah which we have through tradition.
It is precisely that which Rashi is noting for us. Hey, there’s no command for this? I don’t know any at least… So what does it mean that this was commanded? It must be there is an oral tradition.” See what one simple humble “I don’t know” can lead to. One of the thirteen primary principles of faith.
An important lesson for us to have the week before the night of questions from our children and family. We don’t necessarily have to have an explanation for everything that is asked of us. But we need an answer. And “I don’t know” is a perfectly legitimate one. Even ask Rashi.
Rabbi Menachem Azariah( The RaMA) of Pano  (1548-1620) – Rabbi Menachem Azariah was one of the outstanding rabbis and poskim of his time but he is even more well-known as one of the leading Kabbalists. During the lifetime of Rabbi Menachem Azariah, which was about three hundred years after the Zohar appeared, Kabbalah was studied and taught by a school of Kabbalists in Safed in the Holy Land, It was no small accomplishment to be an outstanding personality at a time when such great names became famous in Jewish life.
Rabbi Menachem Azariah's teacher was Rabbi Ezra de Fano, the Chief Rabbi of Mantua, who had gained fame as a great Kabbalist. Like his teacher, Rabbi Menachem Azariah became a devoted follower of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (the Ramak), whose teachings and writings had blazed a new path in the study of the Kabbalah. Later on, Rabbi Menachem Azariah studied Kabbalah under Rabbi Israel Saruck, who came to Italy to teach the Ari's system of Kabbalah and he became an ardent follower of the Ari. He considered the Ari's system to be a further development of Rabbi Moshe Cordevero's system. He wrote an important work called Asarah Maamaroth ("Ten Statements") based on the Ari's Kabbalah. This work was published in Venice in 1597.
Altogether, including the ten of Asarah Maamaroth, we know of twenty-four Kabbalistic treatises authored by Rabbi Menachem Azariah. The following deserve special mention: Yonas Illem, Maayan Ganim, Kanfei Yonah.
Rabbi Menachem Azariah was not only a great Kabbalist but also a great Talmudist and posek. For a time, he was the head of the yeshivah in the Italian city of Reggio and many scholarly young men flocked to study under him. Later he was elected Rabbi in the famous Jewish community of Mantua. He received letters from near and far soliciting his opinions on legal matters. His Responsa were later pub­lished. He also wrote Alfasi Zuta ("Small Alfas"), an abridged form of the great Tal­mudic compendium, the Alfas, by Rabbi Isaac from Fez (the Rif).
Despite his preoccupation with his studies, his teaching and his writing, Rabbi Menachem Azariah de Fano was a man of extraordinary humility and he was most generous with his wealth. Beside the large sums he spent to publish the writings of the great masters of the Kabbalah, when he was a young man of twenty-six years of age, Rabbi Joseph Karo entrusted him with the printing and editing of his work, the Kesef Mishneh, a commentary on the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam). The Kesef Mishneh was first printed in Venice in 5334 (1574). Rabbi Joseph Karo sent it to him to have it printed in Mantua.
Rabbi Menachem Azariah was a man of noble character, of unusual modesty and charitableness. He never sought honor and did not get involved in any heated controversy with anyone who disagreed with his views. He took a keen interest in communal affairs and rendered valuable service to various Jewish communities in Italy, where his authority was widely recognized. He instituted certain regulations in regard to the daily prayers, especially insofar as the nusach is concerned, and it was he who intro­duced the custom of early rising for selichos. This custom started in Venice and later spread to other communi­ties, including those following the Ashkenazic order.
Rabbi Menachem Azariah died on the 4th day of Menachem Av, in the year 1620), at the age of seventy-two.


Protesters – Two identifiable features of Jews. 1) We have opinions and 2) we don’t keep them to ourselves. There was never any question that this was going to be a country with freedom of speech, the right to civilly express your opinion and to gather and to protest and strike. And there are almost no Israelis that can claim to have never been in one type of protest or another. It’s a way of life, here. From the beginning there were protests in this country. Whether we should be democratic, religious, socialist. Whether there should be one, two or even three states here. Whether we should take reparation from the Germans, And of course the famous Shabbos protests in Jerusalem. There has not been any issue in this country that hasn’t elicited some form of organized protest.
In the past few months alone, I can count at least ten different protests and strikes that have wreaked havoc on this country. From most recent and vocal crazy bored yeshiva people protesting the army draft, to disabled people protesting lack of services, to farmers that their crops are not being supported and taxes are too high, to defend the right of soldiers to kill terrorists, to pray egalitarian by the Western Wall, Ethiopians aren’t getting enough support, Communities in the West Bank shouldn’t be knocked down, synagogues shouldn’t be. The courts strike, the train strike, the airport and airlines strike, the garbage trucks strike….I am not exaggerating here all of this in the past few months. And I’m sure I’m missing a bunch.
Now most protests are peaceful, they’re just a hassle. If you’re an American you’re not used to this, you get frustrated and angry at this change in your life, your schedule, your plans. If you’re angry about protesters just organize a protest against them J. Israelis are used to this already. It’s why most of them don’t really make plans. It’s also a great excuse to not being on time for something. “Sorry I was held up at the protest”. It really works and is totally acceptable. The truth is is though as much as I wished these protests would get a life and stop already and everyone would just get along. And as much as I disagree with the majority of the things that people are protesting...It's nice to know that the innate spirit and sense of Jewish outrage and perceived injustice is alive and well no matter how misdirected or distorted that may be... The greatest enemy is complacency in my book. And if there is a soul screaming to get up and make a fuss then there is a Jewish soul that is still alive and seeking the truest tikkun Olam and that is a good thing.


(Only for those old timers like me that remember Manishevitz, Concord Grape and Malaga days)
Pharaoh told Moses the Jews were free to leave Egypt. So the Jews packed their carts with their belongings and tried to leave. The problem was, with all the dead Egyptians, the funeral homes could not handle the
demand. The end result was streets littered with coffins. With the streets impassable, the Jews couldn't get there carts out of their driveways. They complained to Moses. "We can't get out of Egypt unless you
do something about these blocked streets". Moses in turn, called out to G-d. "Lord, please do something about this coffin problem." Understand with all the commotion it was hard for G-d to hear what Moses was saying.He thought Moses said 'Coughin" and responded by turning all the wine into cough syrup. And that is why, to this day, we drink Passover wine that resembles cough syrup.
At Passover, we read the story of Moses and how God brought 9 plagues onto the Pharaoh and the Egyptians. And we read that because the Pharaoh was stubborn and still wouldn’t let the Jews leave Egypt, God had to unleash Plague number 10, despite his previous warning. This was the death of the first-born of every Egyptian family. Only then, after this greatest of terrors, did the Pharaoh release the Jews from slavery and let them leave Egypt to journey to the Promised Land.
But in the face of such convincing evidence that something really bad would happen, why didn’t the Pharaoh release the Jews after the first nine plagues? It took years of research by leading Israeli scholars studying the Dead Sea Scrolls to find the answer. “The Pharaoh was still in deNile”.

Did you know that the horseradish root goes back in time as far as the matzoh does? The horseradish root also crossed the Red Sea with the fleeing Israelites. The Israelites were slaves at the time and only had access to a few vegetables. The hard and woody horseradish was one of them and was a household staple.
Nearly all the fleeing Israelites took horseradish with them. Moshe and Sadie, however, while gathering up their scant belongings, found to their dismay that they had run out of horseradish. Sadie immediately sent Moshe into the field to dig up a large horseradish root to take with them. However, because it was dark and everyone was running around in panic, Moshe dug up a ginger root by mistake.
After forty years in the desert, the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land – all, that is, except Moshe and Sadie. It took them forty-one years to arrive. When asked where they had been, Sadie, now grown old, shrugged her shoulders and replied, "Moshe insisted on taking an alternate root."

And a Seder Song for you to sing
These are a few of our Passover Things
(sung to the tune of "These are a few of my favourite things")
Cleaning and cooking and so many dishes
Out with the chametz, no pasta, no knishes
Fish that's gefillted, horseradish that stings
These are a few of our Passover things.
Matzoh and karpas and chopped up charoset
Shankbones and kiddish and yiddish neuroses
Tante who kvetches and uncle who sings
These are a few of our Passover things.
Motzi and maror and trouble with Pharoahs
Famines and locusts and slaves with wheelbarrows
Matzoh balls floating and eggshell that cling
These are a few of our Passover things.
When the plagues strike
When the lice bite
When we're feeling sad
We simply remember our Passover things
And then we don't feel so bad

Answer is D – I would’ve skipped this one had this been on my exam. (This exam was from winter of 2015). You’re allowed to skip like 5 questions out of 50 I believe. If pressed  I probably would have guessed the right answer. As the train and the port were not really wine places and were at end of 19th century and early 1900’s. Neve Tzedek, the first neighborhood outside of the walls of Yaffo was late 19th century, however it was also not really agricultural just a nice neighborhood. Which leaves Sarona, the German Templar neighborhood which was agricultural. But like I said I would have skipped this one, so it’s certainly alright if you got this one wrong.