Our view of the Galile

Thursday, May 25, 2017

May Showers- Bamidbar Shavuot- 2017/5777

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

May 19th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 31 23rd Iyar 5777
Parshat Bamidbar/ Shavuot
 May Showers

If April showers bring May Flowers, what do May flowers bring? Oh come on? You know this one, you are already groaning when you here this riddle. It is like the first one we ever had in when I was a kid. Mayflowers bring pilgrims, of course. Now I’m not sure if kids today still know what the Mayflower is. Sadly my younger kids probably don’t. But hey they do know about 4000 years of history which includes,Babylonians, Romans, Crusaders, Turks as well as of course the entire Jewish history of Israel, which most American who think that Hashem created the world in 1776. So I’m not complaining if they don’t know the name of the boat that brought the early Americans to this country. After this week if I asked my kids how the first Americans got there, they would probably say Air Force One. But anyways I’ve been thinking about this April showers think because, I had another question. What do May showers bring?

See I’m in the States right now and it’s raining. I was about to complain and say this is annoying because, after-all in Israel it is clear beautiful and incredible. Our rainy season ended Pesach time. Now we’re just enjoying the plentiful water that we have, as I have already done a fair amount of water hikes and even rafted down the Jordan and did not scrape my backside as I have been doing the past few years when the water level has been very low. But despite how much I enjoy kvetching and complaining and pretty much putting down the American experience whenever I come here. After-all I want ot appreciate Eretz Yisrael even more when I come back. I can’t really do that this time, or at least not about the rain. See it’s been raining in Israel in May as well. Not a lot, don’t get me wrong, but certainly quite a few very unseasonal ‘scattered showers’.
 It’s is weird seeing rain in Israel in May. Our rainy season is barely even in April. Mostly it’s in December- March at latest. You know when you guys have that white stuff called snow that falls down. In Israel snow is something we see on the top of the Chermon for a few months, and once every years it will shut down the city of Tzfat. But not in the winter. Just rain. But Rain in May? Certainly not something that happens often. In fact I tell my tourist when we are in Tzfat about the incredible miraculous rainfall that happened in 1948 in the War of Independence when the Jews shot off their loud and smoky Davidka mortar. I say loud and smoky because it didn’t really do much damage. But when you shot it off it was heard miles away and a huge mushroom cloud rose up. Because the Jews described it as their secret weapon and it started to unseasonably rain right afterwards, the Arabs fled the city assuming that it was a nuclear shower that followed an Atomic blast. See that happened because it doesn’t rain in May. The story does not go over that well though when it is raining in May outside as you are telling it. So I just did Masada instead that day. A Tour guide has to always be flexible and make things us as the circumstance present themselves. It’s our sacred duty J.

Now if Hashem is sending us rain in May then there must be some message in it for us. Obviously there has to be something there for my weekly E-Mail. It’s always about the E-mail, right? SO I opened up my Chumash and it’s a new book this week. Whadaya know? Bamidbar- the Desert or wilderness. Hmmm… That doesn’t seem like a water oriented place. In fact in my tour guiding program they taught us that in fact the defining aspect of a midbar is that it is lacking in water. Less than 200 mm a year if I recall. Not that I know how much a millimeter is yet. But it’s a little as opposed to the north which has like 800 mm’s a year. So that may not be the connection. Or maybe it is? Come to think of it, this would seem to be a strange name for a book of the Torah. I mean all of the other books really define an aspect of the Jewish people and our story. Bereshit- in the beginning. Shemot- our name, our essence, Vayikra- the personal call that Hashem has to the Moshe in each of us and Devarim- the words, perhaps the most important aspect of who and what we are, the bearers of the words of Hashem and the teachings of Moshe. But midbar? Desert? That seems to be just where we hung out for forty years. Is there something deeper perhaps?
Our sages tell us that there is no coincidence that the Torah was given to us in the midbar. In fact the Torah was specifically given in the midbar to teach us that Torah can only be acquired if one makes oneself like a midbar- a wilderness.
Midrash Rabba (1:6) Why was the Torah given in the Midbar? Our rabbis taught that the Torah was given with three things fire water and wilderness. Just as these things are free to all those that come so to Torah is free for everyone.
Now this certainly needs some explanation. For I don’t know if you saw your children’s tuition bills lately but they certainly are not free. In addition either is water or tours of the desert. At least not my tours. And why is it so important to teach us that the Torah is free. Fire is free though. That’s one thing they can’t charge you for. The Eitz Yosef explains that the things that we need for basic living Hashem gives us in abundance of and should not cost money. Fire is free we need it for cooking, we need for warmth, man can’t exist without it. Water is necessary as well and if one truly needs it they can get it for free. In the olden days everyone had a water cistern where they would collect the water, it was straight from Hashem and it didn’t cost a nickel. The wilderness/ desert is also free. Ask the Bedouins that live there. They’re not paying a nickel in property taxes and they have some of the most amazing views in the country.
But the truth is we are not Bedouins. We weren’t meant to be Bedouins. We want planting agricultural lands. We want lands that will grow, that our animals can graze, that we can build our houses, cities, shops, malls shuls and Yeshivos- not necessarily in that order. Hashem didn’t promise us a midbar, He promised us a beautiful country. But he spoke to us in the midbar to let us know that the Torah is like the midbar. To learn Torah is a basic necessity of life, it’s like water. It needs passion and fire to warm our souls, and it can be done and we can flourish in even the most simple conditions, we can take it wherever, we go, wherever we may be exiled to. It can never be taken away from us. The Kotzker Rebbe suggests on a an even deeper level, that the Torah is free because each Jew has his own specific portion of the Torah, his only letter, his own holiness, his own spark of Hashem that only he can reveal. No one else can ever infringe on that. It is his and our gift from Hashem.
There is another connection that directly connects water, the wilderness and Torah that the Baal Shem Tov shares with us. In the psalms of King David he writes
Psalms (63:1-3) A Psalm for David when he was in the Midbar Yehuda, Hashem you are my God,
    earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Dovid Hamelech is in the Judean Desert. We see a barren thirsty land that looks like a desert. King David on the other hand sees a land that is turning upward to Hashem and is longing with thirst for the great flow of rain and benevolence from Hashem. That is what a midbar is. A place that is always thirsty, that is never satisfied. That is always turning to Hashem with longing. The Baal Shem Tov suggests that is the conclusion of the statement that the psalm describes. That as much as we dream about seeing the mikdash and Hashem’s presence that is best described the feeling of a parched earth waiting for Hashem. The Torah was given in the midbar to teach us that unlike anything else in Creation, this life that we have should always be filled with a longing and connection to Hashem. The Temple, the Mishkan and yes even the heart of the Jewish people was formed in the midbar. Because it was the place that we most longed and hoped for Hashem and to see and connect heaven to earth when we would arrive in the land of Israel. It is perhaps the most fitting title for a book of the Torah because it is the essence of our nation.
There are other allegories that connect Torah and water. Water flows to the lowest point, Torah flows to the most humble. The Torah was given on Mt. Sinai, a low mountain that is humble. I think about the midbar in Eretz Yisrael and how in the summer it looks desolate, hot an expanse of brown and yellow, and yet how in the winter right after it rains it is all green, flourishing and beautiful. Rain and water are similar as well. When it is raining it is wet, soggy, cloudy and dark, yet that water collects and becomes beautiful lakes, wondrous streams and waterfalls and of course it makes everything grow.
There’s a lot to be said about May showers. Particularly if it falls the week before Shavuot, the day that we remember the day we received the Torah. Our sages tell us it is the day that we are as well judged on the Torah that we will be granted for the coming year, for it is the day of judgement or Rosh Hashana for trees-{Tu Bishvat is the date that we count the year od fruit from, but Shavuot is the judgement day}. Our sages explain that man is like a tree and Shavuot our fruits, our Torah study, how much we will merit to reveal is judged. I listen to the water rushing beneath my feet in the sewers of New York and I imagine the flourishing of the trees in Eretz Yisrael. The fruits and Torah that are yet to come forth. The rain has fallen, the sky is turning blue. May the showers of May this year bring millions of ‘pilgrims’- Jewish ones of course to Eretz Yisrael may we all reveal the light and beauty of the day when the entire world will sing the songs of Hashem in the Beit Hamikdash rebuilt.
Have a bountiful Shabbos an amazing Rosh Chodesh and a Chag Shavuot Samayach,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Fun ain tifeh grub hot men mer vasser vi fun tsen flacheh.”- From one deep ditch comes more water than from ten shallow ones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ugvJSYnXXI    Shavuot shtei halechem offering reenactment

https://youtu.be/jy295taH08Q    - Gershon Veroba Let Me Be- new cool video!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f50wbHmycjkShlomo Carlebach on the song Lord Get me High… the backstory

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=il4dtzUaMwM – Ayal Golan Beautiful song about planting flowers in the Midbar- a great metaphor for Hashem and us

answer below at end of Email

A site where a boat stands commemorating the ships of the clandestine immigration (“haapala”):
a. Atlit
b. The Caesarea Beach
c. The Kefar Vitkin Beach
d. The Palmachim Beach

Always check the facts that Rashi brings down. Many times in doing so you will notice something that may not be the way you remember it. When that happens take a second look at Rashi. Read his words again. Generally if you do that then you might reveal something new, an idea he wanted to point out. Maybe even something that will inspire you.
In this weeks first Rashi of the Torah portion and the book of Bamidbar that we commence this week, the Torah begins with a recounting of the Jewish people. ‘Recounting because it seems that the Torah seems to be doing a lot of this counting us business. Rashi notes that and brings down the Midrash that describes the Torah or Hashem’s obsession with counting us.
Bamidbar (1:1) Because of their dearness before Him He counts them at all times. When they left Egypt He counted them, when they fell by the eigel-golden calf He counted them to know how many remained and when He came to rest his shechina-divine presence upon them He counted them. On the first day of Nisan the Mishkan/Tabernacle was erected and on the first of Iyar (the second month) He counted them.
So Rashi in of itself is a fantastic as is the Midrash he quotes. Hashem always counts and loves the Jewish people. When we first became a nation-when the excitement is still fresh and we are brand spanking new, He counts us. When we fall to the lowest point, Hashem is still counting us, He finds the good, what’s left of us. And finally on the day to day basis when He finally moves in and rests His presence amongst us He counts us as well.
There is one problem though if you think about it for a moment. As far as I recall the book of Shemos which concludes with the erecting of the Mishkan before the interlude of Vayikra with all of the laws of sacrifices and the Tabernacle, tell us that the cloud of glory and the Shechina descended with the erection of the Mishkan in Nisan already.
Shemos (40:35) And Moshe could not enter the Tent of Assembly because the cloud had descended upon it and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan.
This seems to be a little bit of a fact check on Rashi, who we know never tells us ‘fake news’. Why over here does he say it didn’t happen until the first of Iyar? Reb Chaim Kanievsky suggests taking another look at Rashi. Rashi here says that on the first of Iyar the Shechina ‘rested upon them’. Yes, it is true the Shechina came down in Nisan on the Mishkan. But it still did not fulfill ultimately the purpose of the Mishkan which is that the Shechina should reside B’Tocham- within each and every one of the people as Rashi notes in the beginning of the commandment to build it. The Shechina was in the Temple, but it wasn’t until the first of Iyar when they assembled each family according to their tribes, their families, their flags and their banners. Then the Shechina entered each and every Jew. Why did it take a month until that happened? Why only now a month later? I’m not telling you. I have some ideas. But I want you find your own pshat and inspiration. So think about it. That’s what Rashi would want you to do J.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky (1928-till Mashiach comes J) – I believe it is non-debatable that Reb Chaim is the unchallenged Gadol HaDor- leader of the Jewish people today. This is certainly true of the Yeshiva world, but even in Chasidic and modern orthodox world the name Reb Chaim requires no last name to identify him. It is hard to argue about a man who is literally a walking Torah scroll, who completes the entire Torah (Mishna, Talmud, Midrash and all other accompanying early works of the Oral tradition). Yet at the same time sits hours each day and greets and blesses and guides those that seek his leadership and guidance from all over the world in his tiny little apartment in Bnai Brak.
Born of an illustrious Torah home Reb Chaim Kanievsky was born in Pinskto Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky as the Steipler Gaon and Rebbitzen Miriam Karelitz, sister of Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz or the Chazon Ish. He married Batsheva Elyashiv, daughter of Rabbi Yosef Sholom Eliashiv (grandson of Rav Shlomo Elyashiv, also known as the Leshem) and granddaughter of Rav Aryeh Levin the "Tzaddik of Jerusalem. It doesn’t get more prestigious than that.
A fun fact that you may not have been aware of though was that during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, Rav Kanievsky, then a student at the Lomza Yeshiva, was conscripted for temporary army service in the general mobilization. He was assigned to stand guard on a large hill near Jaffa.So one could say he was a soldier as well.
Perhaps one of the most incredible things that Rav Chaim has been pushing over the last few years, interestingly enough, I have heard from many that have visited him, is that Jews should move to Eretz Yisrael. He feels strongly that Mashiach is literally around the corner and has said as much, and feels it would be good for all of us to be here already for the time is now. May his words be readily fuflfilled.

Jeep Guys – Yes this is a legitimate type of cool guy in Israel. Jeep Guys are a type. The longish hair, terrible Eengleesh, funny floppy green dirty hat and pants and usually a bit of a corny sense of humor. They are rugged, Israel’s Marlboro men. They love the outdoors and they try to share that love and passion of it with their tourists. See, there are so many magnificent places in Israel that can only be seen of-road. Viewpoints overlooks, and even holy places that are just in the middle of the mountains or hills. The jeep guy’s job is not only to give you a fun thrill ride. It’s also to share with you a part of Israel that only they can. I can’t think of any regions that one can’t do jeep riding. The hills of Eilat, the Dead Sea and Sodom Mountains, The Negev, Jerusalem and Gush Etzion/Hebron hills, The lowlands, the coastline, the Golan and the Galile. Yup. I just went through all of them in my head and have done jeeping in all of them, and each one the jeep guy is the same type of guy-although some religious and some not. But the same rugged type of guy. Unlike Americans, most Israelis serve in the army and have all driven jeeps there. Many of them have kept those habits on the  streets as well in their driving practices. But for American tourists there is certainly not a lot of things more fun than ripping around with these guys in all of the different terrains. They are the ambassadors of the off-road experience, because for them it is not just a thrill ride it is their way of sharing the beauty history and their incredible love of Eretz Yisrael with those that come to visit. I believe there is truly a special place in heaven for these amazing people, and its not just because of all the prayers to Hashem that take place in the back of their jeeps as they rip around or down the edge of cliffs and mountains just to make sure you really are connecting to Hashem.

Q: When does it rain money? A: When there is "change" in the weather.
. Q: What do you call it when it rains chickens and ducks? A: Foul (fowl) weather.
 Q: What did one raindrop say to the other? A: Two's company, three's a cloud
Q: What's worse than raining buckets? A: Hailing taxis!
 Q: How can you wrap a cloud? A: with a rainbow.
Q: What goes up when the rain comes down? A: An Umbrella.
Q: What do you call two straight days of rain in Seattle? A: A weekend.
Q: What is the Mexican weather report? A: Chili today and hot tamale
 Q: What do you call a wet bear? A: A drizzly bear
Q: What does daylight-saving time mean in Seattle? A: An extra hour of rain.
Q: Why was the blonde standing outside the department store in the rain? A: She was waiting to cash her rain check


Answer is A – Atlit is really a great and fascinating place to visit. It was a camp where the British who did not allow Jews to immigrate to Israel during the pre-State British mandate, would keep Jews that had smuggled into the country. A visit there will give you a sense of what life was like back then, how they would shower them and fumigate them when they first came- a frightening thing for a people that just were released from concetration camps. As well there is a great audio visual display there on a boat that smuggled Jews in. The Hagana led by Yitzchak Rabin ultimately stages a breakout from the camp and released the Jews. It makes you appreciate how easy it is to come to Israel today and the great sacrifices and struggles our ancestors had just to be able to step foot in Eretz Yisrael..

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