Our view of the Galile

Friday, June 30, 2017

Jewish Warriors- Parshat Chukat- 2017 / 5777

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

June 30th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 34 6th Tamuz 5777
Parshat Chukat

Jewish Warriors
 I don’t like to tell my tourists where I am taking them before we go there. Certainly not the kids along the trip. I find that if I tell them, then it just leads to more questions and more questions and ultimately I can never describe it as amazing as it will be. For example if I tell them we are going to Rosh Hanikra. The next question is “What’s there?” So then I tell them grottos.
“What’s that?”
Natural water caves”
Sounds boring…”
Well there’s a cable car”
How long is it? Anything else there?”  
“Ummm the Lebanese border”
“Cool! Is it dangerous?” No.
“Oh so it’s also boring….” See what I mean. Now anyone that’s been to Rosh Hanikra knows that it is truly one of the most amazing and beautiful sites in Israel. But if the introduction to it is this interrogation it is  bound to be a downer. I therefore prefer to say to the initial question of where we are going, that we will find out when we get there… End of story. But…but… but… doesn’t change my mind. I’m not saying. We’ll find out when we get there.  If they really put pressure on I just tell them that there’s ice cream there that’s usually enough to hold them off.
Once in a while though in order to build up the enthusiasm I’ll give them a hint, or maybe even distort the truth just to surprise them afterwards. Like the time that I had this family and I told them that I was taking them to the most important and powerful Navy base in Israel. This was where the real navy seals do their exercises. This was a pretty secretive unit and most Israelis were not even aware that they were the force that won most of the wars of Israel. I told them that we were going to be getting there right in the middle of their daily exercises and that we would be able to participate. When they saw that we were arriving in Bnai Brak they began to be a bit skeptical. After-all this was one of the largest and most intense Ultra-Orthodox cities and everyone knows that Chareidim don’t fight. When we pulled up to Ponivizh yeshiva they were even more aghast. This is the Navy base I was talking about?! I told them to just hold their questions and they would appreciate it when we came in.
 Sure enough we walked into perhaps one of the noisiest study halls in Israel. Young men and old Rabbis were literally standing up one across from another and yelling and screaming at one another. They were fighting for truth. They were waving books. They were jumping up and down and waving their hands as they spoke about oxen goring one another, the laws of a levirate marriage and the fine details of which blessing to make over chulent (you knew that I had to sneak that in somewhere J). I explained to my tourists that we were in fact in the Yam Shel Talmud- The sea of the Talmud. These were our soldiers. These arguments and debates over the minutiae of our laws, our traditions our teachings are the secret of what keeps the Jewish people going over the millennia. We are charged with preserving, transmitting and applying the truths and Torah that were revealed to us millennia ago on Mt. Sinai. One could go back for thousands of years to all different societies, countries and exiles that we have sojourned and the one and only constant thing that we would find is this elite group of Rabbis, fighting arguing, defending and refining the eternal teachings that are the soul of our nation. It is in the merit of these boys and young men who truly dedicate their lives to this cause, generally at the expense and with much sacrifice of what many might consider achieving “success”, comforts, and a higher quality of life and livelihood. It is due to their heroic dedication that Hashem has watched over us and provided us with miracles daily here in our fledgling state. Hashem doesn’t need a democratic state for Jews in the Middle East. It’s not why we’re here. He’s looking is for a country that shines out the light of the Torah to the rest of the world. And these guys are our light-keepers.

But why do they scream so much? Why can’t they just talk quietly and nicely to one another? I remember when I first got married and, as is customary, the first year I would be home in the evenings. As opposed to after the first year when I returned to my Kollel for night time studies. Yeah being a Kollel Rabbi is not a 9-5. We went from 8:30 in the morning until 10:00 PM with breaks for lunch and supper. Now being home in the evening wasn’t just chilling out with the wife and watching TV with popcorn. I would still study with my study-partner, but he (a single guy) would come over to my house and he would learn with me there. Now I was one of those really strong Torah fighters. I was the Rambo of the Talmud and I didn’t suffer anyone and took no prisoners. I was fighting for Truth and the Torah way. My wife on the other hand was aghast. As she peeked out the kitchen door, she was aghast as she saw her normally quiet and even mannered husband- OK maybe I’m getting carried away here, yelling, and screaming at my partner.
After he left my wife came over to me with trepidation and asked my why I was so angry at him. I didn’t know what she was talking about. But you were yelling and screaming? I was…? That’s not really yelling and screaming, I told her. Then she got really nervous. No, I reassured her. Nobody takes this personally, and none if it is meant personally. We are both fighting for truth. We respect one another. It’s just the way we hammer things out in yeshiva. She told me that she would probably cry, if she was in yeshiva. And I laughed. Maybe that’s why women aren’t Kollel Rabbis. She corrected me and told me that the reason was because men couldn’t handle being Kollel wives… I started to cry…J
But really what is this fight all about? This week’s Torah portion Zot Chukat Hatorah-which literally means this is the laws of the Torah proceeds to tell us the laws of the Red Heifer that was used to  off  purify the nation from the impurity from coming in contact with death. At the conclusion of this discussion the verse tells us.
Bamidbar (19:2) Zot HaTorah adam ki yamut ba’ohel…- this is the Torah- a man who dies in the tent…
Our sages though read this verse homiletically.
(Brachot 43:) Reish Lakish taught, from where we know that the Torah will only withstand in someone who ‘kills” himself over it? As it says ‘These are the laws of the Torah- a man who dies in the tent.”
See our Rabbis understood and were conveying to us that Torah is different than any other area of study and knowledge. One doesn’t have to kill themselves over math, science, geography or literature. Yet Torah requires the passion and commitment as if one understands that his very life is on the line when one opens up our sacred texts. It’s not something to be studied or read lounging back sipping a martini by the pool on a nice sunny day. It’s in the trenches, it’s revealing the truth it’s connecting with the Divine and bringing His word down to earth.
Perhaps even more revealing is the message that our rabbis find in the end of the Torah portion. When the Jewish people are miraculously saved by Hashem wiping out our enemies without us even knowing about it. The story as told by Rashi is that the Emorites were hiding up in these two huge opposing cliffs with the intent of ambushing the Jewish people as they came through the valley below. Hashem made a miracle and the cliffs were pointed at one end and opened in the other moved to one another, like a hand in a glove, and crushed the Emorites in between. We only found out as we crossed over the pass later and saw their blood rushing through the stream below. We then realized the great danger that Hashem had averted for us. The Jewish people break out in song and the text tells us a very cryptic verse
Bamidbar (21:14-16) Thus it will be said in the book of the wars of Hashem-Et vahav b’sufah ve’et ha’nechalim b’Arnon- that which was given at the Yam Suf-sea of reeds and the streams of Arnon.
Rashi explains that this refers to the miracle that took place at both places the splitting of the sea and the miracle of the mountains here crushing our enemies. But our sages note the strange wording of the word vahav, and the strange book of the Wars of Hashem that this is a reference to the battle of Hashem over Torah-
(Kidushin 30:) Rabbi Chiya Bar Abba taught that even a father and his son, a rabbi and his student that are delving into Torah become like enemies to one another. However they don’t leave from their place until they become beloved upon each other as it says Vahav BSufa- Vahav is from the word ahava- love and sufa meaning in the end. Love comes at the end when you are engaged in the battle of Hashem.
Rabbi Shimon Schwab notes that the reason the Rabbis and the Torah bring this teaching to light over here, seemingly this song has nothing to do with the study of Torah, is because Torah study is in fact exactly like these miracles. The regular flow of the water of the red sea was changed because of the merit of the Jewish people and it split. The Egyptians died however when it returned back to its natural flowing state. Similarly here. The mountains cliffs here as well, were originally connected one to the other, they were separated and the Emorites were killed when they moved back together to their natural state. He suggests that is precisely what happens when a father and son, a Rabbi and student or even a Kollel guy and his study partner engage in that oldest of Jewish pursuits. We fight, we argue as if our life depends upon it, we are willing to die for it, but ultimately we come together again with love with an even greater appreciation of the bonds of love and Torah that unite us.
It is strange, it may even seem disconcerting. It doesn’t seem logical. After-all why fight to make peace. Perhaps it is why these lessons are taught in the Torah portion of Chukat. The inexplicable laws of Red Heifer. The portion that even King Solomon didn’t understand. Rashi tells us that this is a law that the process to get purified from death is by the Kohen himself who sprinkles the ashes himself becomes tamei- impure in the process. We have to become tamei- to become tahor-pure. We have to fight to become beloved once again. When we see death, we are meant to contemplate that there is really eternal existence. These are the laws of the Torah of life that can only be acquired when you are willing to die in the tent over its study. That’s what they taught us in military school of Yeshiva. It’s not much different then what they teach you in any military academy. You’ve got to be willing to give your life to fight for what’s important. You battle and plug away until you reveal the strategy that will insure that your way of life will succeed. That your light will continue to shine bright. For young soliders, or baby SEALs it may not make much sense. But that’s why it’s a chok- an inexplicable law. Follow orders, don’t ask questions. Ultimately the war will be won and peach and love will reign forever. What will be when we get there? Remember I don’t answer that question. But it will be a lot better than ice cream.

Have a stupendous Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


“Ver es kon kain pulver nit shmeken, der zol in der malchumeh nit gaien.”- He who cannot stand the smell of gunpowder should not engage in war.


https://youtu.be/iUz3xuT_0gA    Incredible, fun and inspiring welcome to Camp Simcha 2017 Kol Hakavod to my sister Rivky the heart and soul of this incredible girls camp for children with medical challenges.

https://youtu.be/tXMys2NLXjQ    - I Love this song! Composed by Shlomi Shabbat it is called Bereishit Olam- really amazing.

https://youtu.be/seAUU2K3BYk   Koreans coming to Ponivizh Yeshiva to see yeshiva learning and understand the secret of our eternality.

answer below at end of Email

Q. A festival not emanating from the Torah is:
A. Tu Be’shvat
B. Shavuot
C. Shemini Atzeret
D. Passover

There are so many amazing things in Rashi. His commentary despite its limitations as being only a simple pshat commentary on the text. One just has to think about the ramifications of what he says and one can find some of the deepest and most amazing insights that relate aspects of Judaism. In this weeks’ Torah portion when Moshe sends a message to the nation of Edom in his attempt to persuade them to get over their enmity to us. He “catches them up” on our history since their ancestor Esau last departed from our forefather Yaakov centuries before. He tells them up about our slavery in Egypt and he describes our situation there.
Bamidbar (20:15) And they did evil to us and to our forefathers.
Rashi highlights for us an interesting side point that Moshe seems to feel it is important to mention here.
From here we that our forefathers are pained in the grave when tribulations come upon Israel”
Meaning Rashi is noting that Moshe says to Edom that not only did the Egyptians do bad things to us, but even our forefathers who were in the grave were pained by what was happening to us. This in of itself is an incredible idea about the connection the dead and particular the Patriarchs have with us even after they are no longer in this world. Reb Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, the great Chasidic Rebbe and author of the Bnai Yissaschar writes in his work Igra DiKalla, who obviously incorporated this message in his life, asks why it was important for Moshe to share this information with Edom. After-all why should they care if our Patriarchs are pained in the grave? He answers that Edom was confident that they would win any battle against Israel as their forefather Esau had the great merit in that he excelled in the Mitzva of kibud av- honoring their father Yitzchak, even more than Yaakov who was not around for many years when Esau took care of him. So Moshe therefore told them, that if they would harm the Jewish people than Yitzchak our “mutual” patriarch would be pained when any tzoris happen to Bnai Yisrael. What an important message, I feel for us to be aware of whenever we deal with our enemies. The best and appropriate response and approach that we should have is by unabashedly mentioning our biblical roots, the merits of our forefathers. It is our job to enlighten the rest of the world to our claim and to Hashem’s promise to us. And it is important to know that our ancestors are rooting for us in their graves as we live out their dream.

HaRav Tzvi Elimelech Shapira of Dinov (1783 - 1841)- When Tzvi Elimelech was a child, his uncle, the chassidic giant Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, foretold that his nephew would grow up to be an outstanding Torah personality. His prediction came true. R' Tzvi Elimelech was a scholar of eminent stature who applied himself to his studies with phenomenal diligence. When he studied Chassidut under the Chozeh of Lublin, the Maggid of Koznitz, and Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanov, his erudition embraced both Halachah and Kabbalah. The Chozeh of Lublin told him that he was a reincarnation of the great early Torah sages of the tribe of Yissaschar.
A prolific writer, he became best known for his work Bnei Yissas'char, discourses on the Torah and Festivals as viewed from a kabbalistic prospective; Derech Pikudecha, exposition on the 613 mitzvot of the Torah; Igra DeKallah, a commentary on the Torah; and Hagahot Mahartza on the Zohar. He served in the rabbinate of several communities, including Strizhov, Dinov and Munkatch. Known for his ardent love of the Jewish people, he promoted the study of Kabbalah in Yeshivot and led the fight against the leaders of the maskilim, the "enlighted" secularists who threatened to undermine traditional Judaism. His repute as a miracle-worker gained him thousands of chassidim, and his mastery of Torah has earned him the admiration of all contemporary Torah scholars
 Rav Tzvi Elimelech is the patriarch of the Chasidic dynasties of Dinov, Munkacs, and Bluzhev.  He was niftar at the age of 58 on 18 Teves 5601/1841 the same year as the Yismach Moshe and just a year after the Chasam Sofer.  Yehi Zichro Boruch! 

Chabad – The old joke they say that there are two things you can find anywhere in the world. Coca Cola and Chabad. With close to 5000 thousand shluchim-emissaries all over the world and about 3500 institutions in over 92 countries it certainly is not anything to sniff at. In Israel alone Chabad is certainly all over the place. They have over 600 active full time emissaries and 325 chabad houses in our tiny Jewish country alone. But more than that there are not too many streets one can walk around in this country without bumping into a Chabad guy asking you if you put on tefillin yet, or have a set of Shabbat candles, or any other mitzva that they might engage you in. The smile on their face if you haven’t and are willing to join them in filling a short mitzva will absolutely make their day. Particularly holiday seasons one feels the presence of Chabad in Israel. On Sukkot they have Sukkah mobiles they run around in with Lulavs and Etrogs for you to shake. Almost every city has public Menora lighting ceremony led by Chabad and each holiday has its own particularly commandments that they see it as their mission to help their fellow brothers and sisters fulfill. The major solely Chabad communities in Israel is by Lod called Kfar Chabad. It has about 1500 families with over 5000 residents. There are other large communities in Kiryat Malachi, Tzfat and Neve Yackov in Jerusalem. Many of them have central buildings that are replicas of the Chabd headquarters in Crown Heights on 770 Eastern Parkway. As much as I love and appreciate Chabad and their tremendous work around the world, certainly one of the more controversial and frightening aspects of the movement is the Messianic bend that it has picked up since the passing of the Rebbe, 23 years ago this past week, where many of chasidim who had felt that he might be Mashiach continue with that belief that borders on Christianity of him coming back. There are not too many places that once can go in Israel where you won’t see the pictures of the Rebbe heralding him as Mashiach. It certainly has brought Mashiach awareness to the world and it usually doesn’t prevent or even detract many of the non-religious world with connecting with them. Yet at the same time the majority of the Orthodox world has kept their distance from Chabad because of this controversial position. May Hashem bring  Mashiach soon, to bring us all together,

General Marshall is in charge of the American Army, and he is visiting his colleague General Goldstein, who is in charge of the Israeli Army. Marshall arrives at the military camp and is greeted by Goldstein. They both walk around the place, and Marshall asks: "So how are your men?"
"Very well trained, General."
"I hope so. You see, my men over at the United States Army are so well trained, you see, they're the bravest men in the world."
"Well, I'm not so sure about that General," replies Goldstein. "My men are very brave, too."
"I'd like to see that," says Marshall.
So Goldstein calls private Barak and says: "Private Barak! I want you to stop that tank simply by standing in front of it!"
"Are you crazy?" says Private Barak. "It would kill me! Are you some kind of fool?"
Goldstein turns to a Marshall and says, "You see? You have to be pretty brave to talk like that to a general."

A group of British MPs are visiting Israel for the first time and are taken by their host to see all the sights of this wonderful land. On the very last day, they visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. But when they go over to the headstone, on it they read the following inscription: -
One of the MPs can’t really believe what is written on the headstone, so goes over to his host and says, "I don’t understand why this is the grave of an unknown soldier. Surely, if the person is known by name, how can he be an unknown soldier?"
"I understand your confusion," the host replies. "However, take my word for it that as a soldier, he really was unknown. But as a falafel maker, he was the greatest."

The commanding officer at the Russian military academy (the equivalent of a 4-star general in the U.S.) gave a lecture on Potential Problems and Military Strategy. At the end of the lecture, he asked if there were any questions.
An officer stood up and asked, "Will there be a third world war? And will Russia take part in it?"
The general answered both questions in the affirmative.
Another officer asked, "Who will be the enemy?"
The general replied, "All indications point to China."
Everyone in the audience was shocked. A third officer remarked, "General, we are a nation of only 150 million, compared to the 1.5 billion Chinese. Can we win at all, or even survive?"
The general answered, "Just think about this for a moment: In modern warfare, it is not the quantity of soldiers that matters but the quality of an army's capabilities. For example, in the Middle East we have had a few wars recently where 5 million Jews fought against 150 million Arabs, and Israel was always victorious."
After a small pause, yet another officer - from the back of the auditorium asked, "Do we have enough Jews?" 


Answer is A– If anyone guessed Passover. Your really need to start taking some classics in basic Judaism and should certainly be disqualified from being a tour guide. Now in Israel it’s interesting that many Israelis might be more familiar with Tu B’Shvat, the correct answer than Shemini Atzeret, the 8th day of Sukkot which is really a holiday within itself, or Shavuot, the day that the Torah was given, both which are biblical of course. Tu BiShvat which is mentioned in the Mishna as being the day when the counting of new year for trees in regards to the tithing years and seasons of which a tree of one year cannot be tithed for another year. Although I imagine many of them don’t know that significance of the day. Rather they are familiar with it because in the 1500’s that ARI”Zl that great Kabbalist of Tzfat made it into a holiday for the celebration of the fruits of Israel and other mystical ideas. Today in Israel it is celebrated as an environmental as well as one that celebrates the land and crops of Israel. So there are probably some Israelis that believe that this is biblical. They probably should also not be tour guides. One really should know the basic Jewish holidays and their status if you want to inspire people about the land. In my opinion that is.

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