Our view of the Galile

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Treading Lightly- Eikev 2017 / 5777

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

August 11th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 40 19th Av 5777
Parshat Eikev

Treading Lightly

Coffee is an essential part of yeshiva boy’s existence. As a child I never drank coffee. It was a grown up drink. My mother told me that it would stunt my growth. Now that I am a towering 5”10.- stop smiling and winking Aliza and siblings of mine- 5’10 or almost 5”10 OK, I thank her for that. We did have coffee on Pesach with broken matzos for breakfast though. It seems that was alright. It was to get in the spirit of the Maxwell house Hagadda, I guess. But it really wasn’t until I went to High School in Long Beach that I really started drinking coffee. I was a grown-up. We needed it for the late hour learning sessions and early morning prayers. And even if we didn’t learn late or daven early, the coffee drinking ritual was still required. In fact I saw that the great Munkatcher Rebbe used to tell his chasidim that if they didn’t have a Mikva to go to before their early morning prayers than they should drink coffee with milk instead. Because milk or chalav as it is translated in Hebrew is the gematria/numerical value of 40, like the letter mem. And mem kaveh (coffee) spells mikva. And there you have it.
Now the coffee was always available in yeshiva. There was coffee, sugar, cups, spoons and hot water always available. Milk on the other hand, which needed to be refrigerated was only available when the kitchen was open. We had a separate fridge though by the coffee room, however that was for everyone’s private food. You know like the hot chopped peppers that we used to use a relish to drown out the flavor of most of the food, or people’s home-cooked food that their parents sent them. And of course people had their own special stash of milk for when there was no kitchen milk. Now generally one would hope or assume that in a yeshiva, where people studied Torah all day and were focused on becoming better Jews, that if someone left private food in the refrigerator it would be “safe”. Not so much. You see Yeshiva guys also assume that since their friends and the owner of aforementioned food was also studying Torah and trying to become a better Jew than he probably would be happy to share it with another. He also learned and studied Maimonides which suggests that the highest form of charity and kindness is when the benefactor does not know who the recipient is. So in order to further his friends spiritual growth many people would more often than not feel free to helping themselves to some of that fridge food in times of crisis- crises like I made a coffee already and I don’t have milk, and I would have to waste and pour this in the garbage which would of course be sinful unless I “borrowed” some of that milk sitting in the fridge. As well I’m sure my friend wants me to learn Torah and it is obvious that I couldn’t do that without a coffee- see above- so he probably won’t mind sharing some of that milk with me. See yeshiva guys are really clever about this kind of stuff. Our sages tell us that the greater a person is the greater his yetzer hara/ evil inclination is. And it seems that in yeshiva our yetzer hara was particularly skilled at justifying anything.

I remember once there was a yeshiva student who was getting annoyed that day after day his milk was being “borrowed”. It reached a point when he didn’t even have milk for himself and he was everyday having to buy a new carton. Finally he decided enough was enough and he wrote on the milk carton in large letters “PRIVATE MILK”, hoping that would dissuade anyone who assumed that they could just take it or that it belonged perhaps to the yeshiva. However sadly the next morning, the milk as gone. Oh well, he thought, maybe he wasn’t clear enough. Perhaps they assumed that I wanted them to know it was private and that they were free to take it. So the next day he wrote on the milk “PRIVATE MILK-BLI RESHUS (no one has permission to take this). Much to his disappointment though the milk was gone once again. So the next day he upped the ante a bit and wrote “THIS MILK IS PRIVATE, THE TORAH SAYS LO TIGZOL- (Thou shall not steal) HE WHO VIOLATES THIS WILL HAVE TO GIVE JUDGEMENT”. Certain that this would solve the problem, he was once again shocked to find that their must be some blatant thief in the yeshiva that didn’t care as the carton was empty once again. Still trying to find some excuse for this person, perhaps he thought that I was just writing this and would forgive him for it, the next day he put up a new sign. “THIS MILK IS PRIVATE IF SOMEONE STEALS IT I WILL NEVER FORGIVE HIM, EVEN ON YOM KIPPUR, EVEN IF HE DIES.” Yet sadly, lo and behold, he awoke the next morning looking forward to his cup of brew and whadaya know the jug was empty. Realizing there was no other solution he finally came up with the perfect plan. He had solved the problem. The next morning and from then after no one touched his milk. What did he do? He wrote two words on his carton- “CHALAV STAM” and no one had touched it.
{For those not familiar with the concept milk is kosher when the cow is observed to be milked by a Jew- that can insure that no other non-kosher milk was mixed in. Many people rely on a leniency that milk that has USDA supervision suffices. That milk is called chalav stam- or plain milk as opposed to the more stringent milk which many in yeshiva were strict to only drink called chalav yisrael-Jewish milk}
Yup, sadly one of the chronic maladies of the Jewish people is that we find ourselves being stricter and more diligent about keeping Jewish customs and stringencies than the actual law. The Kotzker Rebbe is said to have ruefully once remarked to one of his students that it’s a shame that Hashem wrote Thou shall not Steal in the Ten commandments if he would have just said it’s a minhag- a custom or a hanhaga tov- and extra-special act or even better yet a segula- a good omen than people might be stricter about it. One of the great signs and the best stories of some of our greatest leaders are when they ignore the less important custom or law in order to fulfill the more important and critical commandment.
I recently saw a story about one of the great Rabbis who would help and counsel a poor widow regularly. She was a holocaust survivor and he would always spend time comforting her and lifting her spirits. One year right before Yom Kippur she lost her son. She was grieving and she was mourning. Reb Zelig did his best to talk to her and console her as he wished her a good year before the holiday. Yet as he walked to shul and the services he led prayers for, he began to think that this woman would be all alone and it would be too much for her to be so. So after consulting with Rav Pam in middle of prayers he got onto a train and went uptown right over to her house to spend the rest of the day with her. Yom Kippur davening is at best a rabbinic commandment as is riding on a train. Taking care of widow, an orphan, making sure that they don’t god forbid feel dangerously forlorn is the greatest mitzva. That is sign of great Rabbi.
Another story is told about Reb Chaim Ozer Grodszenski who was once invited to a Shabbat meal by the Baron Rothchild. There was a tremendous feast with all of the fineries prepared. The meal was set up with elaborate candelabras. The Shabbat Tish was ready to go. Reb Chaim Ozer came in and set at the head and looked around for the seemingly missing Kiddush cup. All of a sudden with much fanfare the waiters came out and revealed on a golden tray a magnificent glistening Kiddush cup made out of…. challa. It was twisty windy, golden and in middle was a goblet filled with wine. Reb Chaim Ozer took the goblet and paused for a minute before making Kiddush as he had a troubled look on his face. He quickly wiped it off however and recited his Kiddush in his beautiful and melodious voice. He complimented the Baron on this beautiful and original goblet and proceeded to eat the meal.
It was only afterwards that he revealed to his students what his hesitation was. He explained that the law is that we always cover the challa when we make Kiddush in order not to “embarrass” the bread. The shame of the bread is that we are making a blessing on the wine, whose blessing generally is less important than the breads and follows it-except when we make Kiddush which pushes the wine to the front of the line. So, Reb Chaim continued, I wasn’t sure what to do here as the goblet was made out of bread and I couldn’t cover it up. But I quickly realized that the reason why I am meant to be “sensitive” to the bread is to ingrain in myself how much more so I should worry about the feelings of people. And the Baron would certainly be embarrassed if I didn’t make Kiddush, so obviously I then quickly preformed the greater mitzva of worrying about the sensitivities of others.
This week’s Torah portion, Eikev begins with the mitzvos Hashem commands us to fulfill and the great rewards that follow if we observe and guard them. The Torah utilizes this strange word Eikev- which means “because you will fulfill” to teach us this promise. Rashi notes that the mitzvos referred to in this mitzva are the “light mitzvos” that people tread on with their feet.  Rashi seemingly focuses on the double meaning of the word eikev which also means heel. Yet something doesn’t feel right, the Imrei Shefer asks. Aren’t we told that there is no real reward in this world for doing mitzvos and fulfilling the commandments of Hashem. “Schar mitzva b’hai alma leika- our reward is in the world to come.
He thus explains that the mitzvot the Torah is referring to are the ones that people tend to tread on.. It is so easy to fall into a system of “Jewish law” and “observance”. I’m shomer Shabbos. I keep kosher. I learn Torah. I’m a good person. I’m a kind person. You know the big picture stuff of Judaism. Sure nobody is perfect. Someone might get treaded upon here and there, some laws might be broken, and someone might miss a little milk. But in the big picture I can maintain my religious status.
There is something to be said for that. I’m not negating that tremendous work and dedication to live an observant lifestyle or the significance of the actions of these tremendous deeds. And there is reward in the world to come for all of that. But you know what, Hashem says in this Torah portion? If you will focus on the seemingly smaller sensitivities and mitzvos then you will be rewarded in this world as well. For it is these little acts that reveal how much we want to protect our mitzvos. We want to be doing them for the right reasons, not the social accepted norms that we were raised to just follow and to aspire to, but because we want to make sure our actions are truly divine and holy. If we pause in our regular mitzvos and watch for the moments within them that don’t just get treaded upon, that no one gets hurt because of my observances, then Hashem says He will as well make sure that anything that might prevent us from fulfilling His will, will also be removed from us. We won’t suffer poverty, sickness and tragedies. We will have blessing, prosperity and all we need as well in order fulfill our mitzvos in the ultimate fashion.  It is not a reward for the mitzva, it is quid pro quo for us showing and considering how important it is for our actions to be done at the upmost level.
Following this promise Moshe exhorts us to remember the sin of the golden calf. To never forget what led us to that fatal sin. It was the fact that we felt that we needed an intermediary to Hashem in order to fulfill our commandments and follow the Torah. We forgot about the Godliness of our actions and we just were occupied with doing the law, bringing a sacrifice and in the process we didn’t consider that perhaps we might be breaking the law and worshipping a false god; One that had lost connection with our Father in heaven. We drank coffee that wasn’t ours, we prayed fervently while widows and orphans needed us, we made blessings on bread perhaps in a halachically correct manner while someone was shamed. We tread on commandments because it was a false golden calf of “Torah observance” we thought we were fulfilling, when in fact it was just a god made in our own “cow”-ardly image.
It’s not easy to pay attention to these little nuances, but it is the little things that in fact reveal what the essence of our observance is truly about.  As we get close to the month when the King will soon enter the field and come greet us of Elul, let’s start to clean that field up a bit. Little weed by little weed that we have let grow over our observances, so that from now on we know it is His holy ground we are treading upon.

Have a enjoyable Shabbos vacation,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Besser gut un a bissel aider shlechts un a fuleh shissel.” Better good and a little rather than bad and a lot of it.


https://youtu.be/H6OMnueH0QU     New Lev Tahor Halelu

https://youtu.be/ZaTlMPPWwdk    – Leiner Vachalta VSavata this weeks Torah portion

https://youtu.be/LxLbzolGxr4  Skinny Pinny

answer below at end of Email

Q. The Sakhnin Valley is located:
A Between the Nazareth and Tur’an ridges
B. Between the Tur’an and Yodefat ridges
C. Between the Shaghur ridge and the Tsurim escarpment (slopes)
D. Between the Yodefat and Shaghur ridges


Eikev- Rashi is not a translation of the Torah. Buy an Artscroll if you want that, or learn Aramaic and read the Unkelos-which isn’t a bad idea regardless. Rashi is a commentar. He’s explaining the simple pshat and pointing out things that you might miss if you just read the verses. So when you see him telling you something that seems like an obvious explanation, ponder it. There’s something he’s trying to tell you and it’s not necessarily the definition of a word.
In this week’s Toprah portion when Hashem promises us if we follow His commandments then we will be blessed and not cursed one of the things He tell us is
Devarim (7:14) And there shall not be amongst you an infertile man or an infertile woman.
Seems simple enough. We know what infertile man and woman means. Yet for some reason Rashi on this verse tells us
Infertile- she’eino molid -That cannot father children
As my kids might say Ummmmm Duhhhh?! I mean isn’t that obvious?
Reb Yonasan Eibishitz gives a beautiful interpretation He answers that we have a tradition that all of our Matriarchs were barren. The Talmud tells us this is because Hashem loves and desires the heartfelt prayers of the righteous. So the fact that someone is barren or infertile is itself not necessarily a bad thing. Those prayers, those heartfelt tears that the mother sheds can be the most powerful thing in the world. It is only if the barren or infertile person does not give birth in the hand, does not father children, than it is a tragedy and curse. Thus Rashi here is explaining that when it says akar-infertile it doesn’t mean someone who’s prayers Hashem’s desires and is in a temporary challenge of infertility. Rashi is saying it is referring to someone who ultimately does not give birth. The lesson, if you ponder what he is saying, is  that the challenges and difficulties are not a curse, it may even be a blessing. Rather the only curse is ultimately in the end if we are not able to produce and give birth to blessing. May we only see blessing in our lives.

Rabbi Yonasan Eibishutz – (1690-1764) – Rabbi Yehonosson was born in Cracow (Poland) in the year 1690. His father, Rabbi Nosson Nota, was Rabbi in Eibenschitz (Moravia), where he died, leaving Jonathan a young orphan. A wealthy Jew in Vienna took the young lad under his wing. However, the widow feared that the boy might be distracted from his Torah studies in his new surroundings. She took him back with her to Prossnitz, where she came to live. There, Yonasan studied Torah in the Yeshiva of Rabbi Meir Eisenstadt, author of Panim Meiroth. Soon also his mother died, and Jonathan found a foster-home with Rabbi Yitzchak Schapiro, chief rabbi of Prague and Bohemia. When he became of marriageable age, Rabbi Yonasan married the chief rabbi's daughter.
For several years, Rabb Yonasan lived in his father-in-law's house and concentrated on his studies quietly and peacefully. He became known as a brilliant Talmudic scholar. He was only eighteen years old when he was invited to become rabbi of Jungbunzlau, Czechoslovakia. Three years later he returned to Prague to head the famous Yeshiva there. He also excelled as a very impressive and inspiring preacher. He established his own Yeshiva then in Prague and attracted many young scholars, for his reputation as a Talmudic authority and excellent teacher had spread far and wide.
Rabbi Yonasan 's keen intellect sought knowledge in other fields as well, particularly in the inner mystical wisdom of the Torah, the Kabbala.. In 1741, he was elected rabbi of Metz. That was the time when war broke out between Prussia and Austria, and the French army, in support of Prussia, invaded Bohemia. Rabbi Yonasan found favor with the French and he received safe conduct to Metz. Rabbi Jonathan Eybescbutz was greatly esteemed in Metz and he could have led a peaceful and productive life there. But the trouble that befell his brethren in Bohemia and Moravia made him very unhappy. In 1745 the war between Prussia and Austro-Hungary broke out again, and the Austro-Hungarian troops who had overrun these provinces considered the Jews fair game to rob and pillage. To add to the Jews' misery, the Austrian government ordered the expulsion of the Jews from the said provinces.
At this time Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschutz tried all he could to ease the plight of his brethren. He enlisted the aid of the Jewish leaders in Rome to plead with the Pope to use his power in behalf of the persecuted, defenseless Jews. He appealed to the Empress of Austria to rescind the expulsion order, and he turned to various Jewish communities in the south of France and elsewhere to raise funds for the hungry and needy.
In the very first year of Rabbi Jonathan's taking up his position, there was a sudden rise in the number of deaths in childbirth. Having the reputation of a saintly kabbalist and miracle worker, many Jews turned to their rabbi for help. One of the ways to counteract the danger, which had often been practiced among cabalists and miracle men, was to write special amulets (kameoth), and Rabbi Jonathan wrote a number of them to be worn by expectant mothers, as he used to do also in Metz. An amulet which was supposed to have been written by Rabbi Jonathan was brought to the attention of Rabbi Jacob Emden, an outstanding Talmudist and kabbalist in Altona. The latter deciphered the mystical writing and found in it a hidden invocation to Shabbatai Tzevi. Rabbi Emden accused Rabbi Eybeschutz of being a follower of Shabbatai Tzevi. The leaders of the community rushed to the defense of their rabbi. They proclaimed a boycott of Rabbi Emden's synagogue and ordered Rabbi Emden to leave town within six months. In the meantime the controversy spread to other cities in Germany and Poland, as some of the most celebrated rabbis took part in support of one or the other of the two sides in the controversy. Rabbi Emden saw himself compelled to leave Altona, and he secretly went to his brother-in-law Rabbi Arye-Leib, rabbi of the Ashkenazic community in Amsterdam. From there be continued his fight, writing to the Council of Rabbis of the Four Lands meeting in Constantine, and pressed his charges.
Finally Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschutz decided to bring his case before the Council of the Four Lands which convened in Jaroslav for this purpose in 1753. Rabbi Jonathan's innocence was then established, and the dispute which had caused much disunity and disrespect in many a Jewish community and which had involved also the king of Denmark came to an end. Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschutz was again confirmed in his office by the Hamburg Senate in the month of Kislev, 1757) and he was not troubled any more.
Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschutz spent the rest of his life peacefully, concentrating on his books, which represent an outstanding contribution to Rabbinic literature. His main works on Halacha are his Urim Vetumim, a commentary on Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, and Keretbi Ufelethi, on Yore De'ah. Other works such as Binah Ittim, dealt with other sections and subjects of Halacha. Very highly regarded and popular are his works in drush(homiletics), especially his Yaaroth Devash, in two volumes, and Tifereth Yehonathan. Most of his works were published and reprinted many times. He also wrote several works on Kabbala, of which one, Shem Olam, was published (Vienna, 1891). In connection with the dispute with Rabbi Emden, Rabbi Jonathan wrote a special volume of defense, Luchoth Habrith (Tablets of Testimony), in which he describes the whole dispute and refutes the charges against him. It includes also the letters of recommendation which he had received from leading rabbis who came to his defense. It is a masterpiece of restrained and wise writing, which proves that he had been a victim of an overzealous, though well-meaning, defender of Judaism.

Musicians –From the early roots of the Jewish people’s return to our country music has always been the expression that was utilized to marshal the 2000 years old longing into the realization of that dream. The early settlers and kibbutzim would sit around a fire each night and sing and dance the hora. As immigrants came from all over the world they brought with them their songs with of course their countries of origins musical influence and “hebrew-ized” it they made it Jewish and thus Israeli, meshing the tunes and words with some of the middle eastern flavor and words that would reflect uniquely Jewish and Israeli experiences. You have Yemenite, Greek, European, African, Russian, German, South and North American Israeli music. What I find special about Israeli songs are that lots of them are about longing and love for Eretz Yisrael, family, and even for Hashem- and that’s even by “secular” singers. You also have many songs-too many if you ask me- about war and loss and tragedy. We are a musical people. One of the nice things about Israel is that throughout the summer there are concerts in most cities that are paid for by the city in the parks for people to come listen to and enjoy. As well a walk through tourist streets and popular hangouts will reveal lots of street singers and musicians. Many of them unlikely and beautiful scenes. Some of them playing unique ancient instruments, Rabbis with beards that can be found strumming “Stairway to Heaven”- and really meaning it. Random harp players in the gates of the Jerusalem and in the shuk late at night. Israelis love to sing, they love our music and in fact we have won many international awards for some of our songs and performers. We’re back home again and if music is an expression of the soul, than there certainly is no better country to express that soul.

As a young child, Yankel told his mother "When I grow up I'm going to be a musician." His mother responded "Well honey, you know you can't do both."

What do you call a musician with problems? a trebled man.

Q: What do you call a singing vegetable? A: Elvis Parsley.

Q: What do you call a successful musician? A: A guy whose wife has 2 jobs. 
What did Beethoven do when he died? He decomposed!

A guy walks into the doctor's office and says, "Doc, I haven't had a bowel movement in a week!"
The doctor gives him a prescription for a mild laxative and tells him, "If it doesn't work, let me know."
A week later the guy is back: "Doc, still no movement!"
The doctor says, "Hmm, guess you need something stronger," and prescribes a powerful laxative.
Still another week later the poor guy is back: "Doc, STILL nothing!"
The doctor, worried, says, "We'd better get some more information about you to try to figure out what's going on. What do you do for a living?"
"I'm a musician." The doctor looks up and says, "Well, that's it! Here's $10.00. Go get something to eat!"

Answer is D– Come on, really?. I mean who needs to know the names of all these ridiculous hills and valleys. There’s just tons of them all over the country. So how am I supposed to remember them. Does anyone that I am taking on a tour really care? See Saknin I know. It’s an  arab village just south of Karmiel. My wife has to pick up our shower head over there one of these days. I probably could’ve figured it out because I live here. But I have a hard time believing someone from the Merkaz. Center would know the answer to this question. What we did to remember the names of these hills and valleys is create mnemonics. So Beit Kerem, Sajur, Saknin, Yodefat, Beit Netofa, Turan, Nazareth and Ksolot the hills of the lower valley stood for- Because Someone Said You Better Teach Nonsensical Knowledge. It’s an old high school trick, but you know what? It works.

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