Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 21st 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 37 27th Tamuz 5777
Parshat Matos/ Maasei
Where are you coming from?
“There is so little bureaucracy in this country” my friend who was a new Oleh was telling me. “You go to the government offices, or the banks and it only takes a few times until everything you need gets taken care of”.
“Actually what I like best here is the weather” my other Oleh friend told me- as I was wiping the 90 degree heat off of my brow-“I find it very pleasant here”.
Chaim, our newest Oleh, though had the best take- he couldn’t believe how wonderful the roads were and the lack of traffic, that he was so accustomed to fighting in his old home, made driving here in Israel just a Mechaya- a true pleasure.
“Are we talking about the same country I’m living in?” I thought. But then I remembered. You see, Chaim was from San Paolo, Brazil- home of the world record of 166 miles of backed up traffic out of 522 total miles. Nati, my heat loving friend from India was used to regular 105 degree months of summer. Boruch- or Boris, as he used to be called back in the former Soviet Union, never thought that he would live in a country where he didn’t have to wait in line for 2 weeks and then wait for another few months until he received a response. For him the Misrad Ha’Pnim-Israel’s infamous red tape capital was just a walk in the park. Isn’t it fascinating how much your point of departure reflects on how you see the world.
I had a Rebbe that once asked us, if we could change places with the wealthy Baron Rothchild if we would be willing to do it. He then proceeded to show us how the great Baron lived without running water, without air conditioning, he traveled by a bumpy horse driven wagon- without music. He lived without electricity, television, internet and would you believe cell-phones. Not even the poorest Kollel Rabbi lives in such conditions. If he were living today like that, we would probably start a collection for him. Yet we still feel we’re lacking and still find no shortage of things to complain about.
This week’s Torah portion, Ma’asei is the final one of the Book of Bamidbar. In truth it is really the final Parsha of the story of the Jewish people before they enter the land of Israel. The Book of Devarim for the large part is Moshe’s last sermon to the Jewish people before he dies. It is with that understanding that we can appreciate the first part of the Parsha that recounts for us a review of all of the travels of the Jewish people for the past 40 years. The traveled from…and they camped …. Over and over… 42 times the Torah tells us the names and hints of the various things that occurred along the way. Some places we had highs and some places unfortunately we sinned and were places of tragedy. The commentaries all struggle to understand the point of this list of names. Yet perhaps the reason is to give us the most important lesson of all before coming to Israel. Know where you’re coming from. Understand from where your perspective is built upon and it is important to take that in to consideration for it will affect your outlook on the country you are approaching and are charged to make holy.
Reb Moshe Feinstien elaborates on this point. He explains how it was, that this great nation that witnessed all the miracles of Egypt, the splitting of the Sea, The Revelation on Sinai, the Manna and the clouds of glory could have sinned so many times repeatedly. He explains that it is precisely because they were so accustomed to seeing so many miracles and the open hand of Hashem in the world, that they were challenged to see it when it wasn’t so revealed. Like a child whose parent is always there and then one day isn’t. Ma’asei, the review for the next generation before they will come into the land of Israel is to recognize that their previous experiences are the baggage and at the same time the tools for growth that they come into Israel with. If they want to have a successful Aliyah they have to consistently recall from where they came and be cognizant of the things that will influence their views as they approach a new life; one where Hashem’s hand will most certainly be more hidden than it was in the wilderness. Yet at the same time know that it is always there for them.
We enter the month of Av this week as we increase our level of mourning as we approach Tish’ah B’Av the day when our temple has been destroyed and even more tragically not yet been rebuilt. The increased mourning for men entails no shaving- so our face and beards scratch a little more. For others (who’s gender shall remain nameless.. JJ) it is the prohibition on shopping for new clothing or significant purchases that shakes us out of our regular existence. For some, like my teenage daughter, unplugging their I-Pod and not listening to music for three weeks has been a life changing experience. The point is that we are meant to pause and think about our lives. There is meant to be something different here that is missing. Hashem’s Temple, his presence in our country…our people… our world, is meant to be here with us and it’s not. Why aren’t we mourning more? What are we doing to change it? Has our 2000 year “temple-less” existence made us so cold that we can’t even appreciate how lacking our existence is? This is meant to be a time to reflect and to review. To think. As we scratch our chins, sit music-less in our cars and homes and we are meant to contemplate about what has caused us to be so cold and so distant. We need to think about how as distant as we are, it is even more painful for the Shechina to be distant from us. How it must feel for the Father who goes away and how the children didn’t even notice he was gone. Didn’t cry… Didn’t mourn... Didn’t miss Him.
May Hashem help us as we try to get closer to Him during this time. May he see our efforts as minimal as we can muster up to be sufficient to return once again to us. To return to our Home and once again may we finally merit to complete that journey our ancestors began so long ago in building an Eternal home for us and Hashem forever.
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Vibald du farshtaist dein narishkeit, bistu a kluger.” As long as you understand your foolishness, you are smart.
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
https://youtu.be/dibf9li1HiA?list=PLTOCZ-DLMausvvU5Ba-8C1INQUSED6Jre – Salaam Acapella for peace
https://youtu.be/qRG7XqqG0aA?list=PLTOCZ-DLMausvvU5Ba-8C1INQUSED6Jre – Eli Beer Ani Bochiya vocally
https://youtu.be/fHuzLmbcobo?list=PLTOCZ-DLMausvvU5Ba-8C1INQUSED6Jre – Dovid Dachs I am ancient wall ahavs chinam beautiful!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q. The 19th century Templers originated from:
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ILLUMINATING RASHI OF THE WEEK
Matos- The problem with Rashi is that its sometimes so easy to read what he writes and continue and move on without actually thinking about what he writes and one then misses the perplexing questions tht need to be asked and that once answered reveals a powerful insight into a Torah teaching.
In this weeks Torah portion the verse tells us that (Bamidbar 31:5) a thousand from each tribe were given over to fight in battle. Rashi notes that the Torah uses a term that seems to mean they were given over against their will
“In order to teach you the praise of the shepherds of Israel how dear they are to Israel. Until they heard that Moshe would die (as part of the aftermath of the battle with Midian) what did he (Moshe- say about them) ‘A little more and they will stone me”. Once they heard that Moshe’s death would be connected to the vengeance of Midian they did not want to go and they had to be forced.”
If one thinks about this Rashi for even a second, the question is why did Rashi have to bring up the dirty past to tell us that we love our leaders and Moshe? Just say that we didn’t want to be given over if we knew that Moshe would die. Why does Rashi have to tell us that previously we wanted to stone him?
The Steipler Gaon, explains based on a concept of Rabbi Yisrael Salant explains that the love Israel has for its leader is so deep that even when we are holding externally by stoning him deep down the true love will come out ultimately. He brings an example of a parent of a difficult child who he constantly fights with, at the same time that parent might be a teacher who has a student who he loves and always treats with pride and praise. However in time of danger, the parent’s internal love for his child would come out and if given a choice he would save the child first, despite all of the trouble he gives him. It is almost unexplainable. It is just a deep-seated natural love he has for his child. That is what Rashi is trying to convey about our connection with Moshe. This can only be shown this internal love by contrasting it with the external strife. That is the depth of the love and connection we have to Moshe.
If that is true about us and Moshe- the shepherd of Israel, how much more so is that true about our love for Hashem who is our shepherd. Despite how much we might rebel, under it all we are faithful and would give our lives for Him and our belief in Him. That is the history of the Jewish people from even the least observant of our people, when given a choice or threat of life they will martyr themselves before denying God.
What an amazing Rashi and lesson.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TYPES OF JEWS IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEKTemple Mount Faithful – I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that during the week that we are meant to be thinking about life without the Beit Hamikdash, our Temple, that has been destroyed that the entire world is talking about who’s sovereignty it really falls. Since the times of the earliest pilgrims some of our greatest sages describe having gone up to the Temple Mount to pray and worship before Hashem. Obviously these great Rabbi took necessary halachic precautions and only entered into places that were permitted to walk, immersed themselves in a Mikva or better yet a fresh water spring, and did not wear leather shoes or bring anything with them besides their awe of Hashem and his Home and their heartfelt prayers. Upon the miraculous return of the Temple Mount to the Jewish people in the 6 Day war in 1967. Rabbi Goren, the chief Rabbi led Jews up there to pray as well. That all ended on Tisha B’Av that first year when they tried to bring up an Ark and blew Shofars after which the Jordanians and the Waqf whom we had handed over the keys to the administration over to, protested and forbade Jewish worship over there, making it ironically and tragically the only place in the world where Jews are forbidden by law to pray. Yet each years thousands of Jews go up to the Temple Mount. This past year over 14,000 and last week over 600 Jews went alone. The Jews that go up there really range the gamut from radical right wing religious Zionists that wish to show our sovereignty over it. Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews that wear black hats and affiliate with Chareidi Judaism, despite the overwhelming rulings from Chareidi Rabbis and accepted halachic authorities that for various reasons object. There are secular Jews and tourists as well that go up just to see the place where the Shechina once resided. It is interesting as well that many of those that are in the forefront of this Temple Mount faithful group are American Olim that having made the bold ideological move to the Land of Israel want to be part of the next stage of our redemption by being part of the Jewish presence returning to Har HaBayit as well. Personally I do not go up to the Temple Mount. I avoid what I call dangerous places, both to my life and to my soul as many of my Rabbis oppose going up there. I do however feel that the big golden pimple up there should probably be taken down if we truly we believe we are a Jewish State. Because just because we can’t pray there doesn’t mean we should be participants in the greatest sacrilege to our holiest place. But I feel the same way about churches in Jerusalem as well-maybe even more so… So don’t pay much attention to me.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JOKES OF THE WEEK
It’s the 9 days this week. sorry no jokes!
Answer is C– The Templer- not to be confused with the knights Templar of the Crusaders that guarded the Temple Mount…Hmmm wonder if they had metal detectors back then…- Were German Protestants from Wurtenberg that were pretty much seemed to be too radical and Messianic for even the Protestants and they moved to Israel to realize the coming of Messiah and the rebirth of Palestine. They pretty much get the credit for building the “German Colonies” all over Israel. In Haifa primarily and initially but also Jaffa and Emek Refaim in Jerusalem. With the advent of Nazism after WWI many of them were rounded up by the British and some were even traded with the Nazis in exchange for Jews.