Our view of the Galile

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Conspiracies are Flying- Yom Kippur 5778/2017

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

September 29th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 46 9th of Tishrei 5778!
Yom Kippur
Conspiracies are Flying

I go flying every year. Not in a plane, not para-sailing, or wind surfing. No I mean flying like a bird, soaring into the heavens, up there with the angels, high up in the clouds, I become one with Hashem. What’s really amazing is that I do all of this without ever leaving the ground, at least my body doesn’t, my soul is way up there though. I had a great flying instructor. He was my Mashgiach-our spiritual mentor- in the yeshiva that I studied in Israel when I was a student; Reb Menashe Donut. No snide remarks about his name being the reason I liked him, OK. He was a holy man and he taught me how to fly.
The truth is I really was never that inspired by his lectures. Works of mussar and learning how to develop holy, spiritual character traits was not my thing back then. I enjoyed the give and take and intellectual challenges of Gemara/Talmud learning were much more exciting to me and that was the reason I chose the yeshiva I did. To learn at the foot of one of the great leaders of our generation who himself had sat by the great masters in Europe prior to the war. Yet when it came Elul time, I started to pay a little bit more attention to some of the words of our simple unassuming mashgiach. His lectures took on more of an intensity. The King was in the field, we would soon be declaring Hashem’s kingship on the world, Teshuva/repentance, returning to Hashem all of the traditional themes of this past month and the High Holidays were repeatedly earnestly with his eyes closed as he spoke with reverence from the pulpit. The pinnacle of course came was when he would fly.
The Rosh yeshiva, Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, himself a baal menagen- a master of songs, composing and singing, would lead many of the tefilos on the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. They were beautiful, uplifting, melodious and intense. But the final prayer at the end of Yom Kippur- Neila- the closing of the gates of heaven, that prayer was led by the Mashgiach. And it was then that I learned how to fly.
See the Mashgiach by that point of davening was already in another world. As he took his three steps forward, I can almost swear they were not touching the ground, he was floating. Every shuckle every sway that he took as he recited and sung out each piyut, each prayer, each request he literally lifted his whole body up. You could feel him going up with his prayer. King David in his psalms describes his prayer as Va’Ani Tefilati- And I am my prayer. The Mashgiach was a human embodiment of prayer. When he asked Hashem to write us in the book of life, of redemption, of merits, of healing, of forgiveness, we felt that he was jumping up to God grabbing the book out of his hand and stamping and sealing it himself. By the time he reached the final 7 times of Hashem Hu Elokim- Hashem is our God and the Shema we were all up there with him. We were one with our Creator. It was absolutely awesome. I learned how to fly.

Since then I’ve led many prayer services on the High Holidays. It’s one of the perks of having congregations where most of the shul couldn’t read Hebrew. But even here in Israel where it is not difficult to find Baaalei Teffilos and Chazan/Cantors to help out and lead the prayers. Neila- that final prayer on Yom Kippur is mine. It’s when I fly. It is my annual experience of soaring above this world and making it up to the heavens. I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
It is an incredible prayer Neila, the time of the closing of the gates of heaven. When all our prayers are done all our confessions are said already. It’s just us and Hashem. Everything is riding on this moment. Our brothers, the sefardim, start off their neila with a beautiful poem that was written in 11th century by Rabbi Moshe Ibn Ezra it is called El Nora Alila- The God of an awesome plot. According to Wikipedia some Ashkenazim recite it as well, but that’s the Birnabaum Machzor. Artscroll doesn’t have it so it doesn’t count. The piyut is truly a beautiful one written by one of the great rishonim. The refrain is as follows
El Nora Alila,-Awesome God of plot
 Hamtzeh Lanu Mechila- Bring out for us forgiveness
 Bshaat HaNeila – during the time of the closing of the gates
Here’s a link to the song and the lyrics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nora_Alila
The question and mystery is of course what does this mean that Hashem is the God of plots? {Wiki’s translation of the mighty God is really not an accurate translation of the word alila, which means more like cause, conspiracy or plot.} And why are we utilizing this to enter into our holiest prayer?
There is a fascinating Midrash Tanchuma in Parshat Vayeshev that discusses this verse at length and in general explains this major conspiracy of Hashem. It’s long so I’ll just paraphrase it through for you, but it’s really worthwhile to see yourself inside. The Midrash begins with Rabbi Yehoshua ben Karcha who notes that Hashem carries out circuitously in his dealing with man. For we know that the angel of Death was created on the first day of Creation as it says
and darkness was on the face of the deep”.
Yet when Adam sinned Hashem told him that they day that he eats from the tree he shall die- as if he was the one who caused death to come to the world.
The Midrash compares it to a man who writes out a divorce document to his wife before he gets married. When they get to their house he asks her to bring him a drink. When she hands it to him, he gives her the Get. When she asks why he is giving her a Get, the man responds because she gave him a warm drink instead of a cold one. She responded however, that you must have planned to divorce me beforehand already as you had the Get already pre-written. The drink is just the excuse to carry out your previous plan. Similarly Adam told Hashem, you created the world by looking at the Torah. And in the Torah it says
“If a man shall die in a tent”
Obviously You knew that man would die. That was part of your original plan.
The Midrash gives more and more examples of this concept. Moshe who wasn’t allowed in the land points out to Hashem the same concept. Your‘re are blaming it on the fact that I hit the rock, but you already had this plan from before when you stated (after the sin of the spies) that
No man of this evil generation shall see the good land”.
 Similarly it says by Yosef going down to Egypt that on one hand it says that the brothers sold him down to Egypt. It was Yaakov’s fault for favoring him, the brother’s for being jealous, Yosef’s for inciting them. But The Midrash tells us it was also part of this divine conspiracy. Hashem had already told Avraham that his children would descend to Egypt. So Hashem “made Yaakov love Yosef more, so that the brothers would hate him and sell him down to Egypt and ultimately Yaakov himself would have to descend to fulfill that Divine will. That is what it means when it says Hashem acts with conspiracy to his children; El Nora Alila.
The truth is the entire day of Yom Kippur and the concept of this incredible day of Teshuva is premised on this notion. Rashi teaches us that the reason Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement is because it was the day that Hashem forgave us for the sin of the Golden Calf and the second tablets were given. Now Hashem had already forgiven the Jewish people 40 days after the 17th of Tamuz, on the first of the month of Elul. Yet that forgiveness wasn’t good enough for Moshe. Hashem said that He would not destroy us, but at the same time He would not dwell amongst us anymore. Rather an angel would lead us into Israel instead. Moshe said that’s not good enough. I want it to be back just the way it was. Even better. That was the month of Elul.  40 days later, Yom Kippur was the day when Hashem agreed, with love, that he would once again dwell within our midst.
If you think about it it’s quite chutzpahdik of Moshe. Let’s put it into modern thinking. Someone close and dear to you betrays you in the worst of ways. Or better yet, you betray someone close to you in the worst of ways. You humiliated them in the most personal and public of ways. You basically destroyed them and everything that the two of you had together. You did it maliciously and really without any reason. You messed up big time. You wake up the next morning and you realize what you had done. You regret it. You feel terrible. You can’t sleep at night because you threw away this most special relationship. You want to apologize but you don’t even know how. You think about writing a letter, because you don’t want to mess up your words. You don’t even have the courage to look them in the eye. But you know a letter is not enough. You’re gonna face the heat. You apologize, you express your heartfelt regret, you swear you’ll never betray them like that again, and you beg their forgiveness. Surprisingly it works they say they forgive you. They’re moichel you. Amazing! Miraculous.
But then you do something absolutely crazy. You ask them if they will come out to eat with you for a nice romantic dinner. If they will hang with you like before and go have a few beers and party together. Like nothing ever happened. What!?! That’s insane. It’s one thing to forgive you, imaginably the person will tell you, but wipe it away like it never happened. To be just as loving and trusting as before. No, you say. I want it even more than before. Could that ever happen? That’s essentially what Moshe was asking Hashem for. The truth is that is essentially what we are asking Hashem for. But for us it’s even worse. We keep asking forgiveness and doing it again. We’re perpetual sinners, and betrayers. Where did Moshe and where do we get the chutzpa to make that request?
The answer is Nora Alila- Hashem we tell God, we know that You were behind every sin that we did. You put us in situations where we might inevitably fall- for precisely this reason. For us to return to You. For us to raise You up from the depths that we have fallen to. It’s why Adam sinned, because You structured a world that You wanted there to be teshuva, where we would sin and return and raise it up even greater. It’s why You arranged for us to go down to Egypt. You wanted us to fall to the lowest level and then raise it back up again to the 49th level of holiness where we would see Your presence, hear Your voice, receive Your Torah. And it’s why we fell again so fast and betrayed You. It was Your conspiracy. El Nora Alila.
And it’s why we come before you at these final moments each year on that same day to once again hear those words. Salachti Kidvarecha- You have forgiven us as You said You would. We are now naul- We are locked together the two of us. We are one. We have risen from the pits that we have fallen. We can fly. We can join you. We can bring the whole world with us. Hamtzei Lanu Mechila. Bring us once again forgiveness. Return us to You and we will return to You. It’s not chutzpa if this was the original plan. This is the day You have been awaiting for.
Are your feet lifting up from the ground yet? Do you feel yourself starting to levitate? Flying could be a scary thing. But Hashem is the wind beneath our wings. May he grant all of us a Gmar Chatima Tova- May we all be sealed and signed in the book of life and may all His wishes for us finally bring us to the ultimate fulfillment of the world, when all will see Hashem is one and His name is one.

Gmar Chatima Tova,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


“Di vegen fun teshuveh zeinen nit vainiker farborgen vi di vegen fun zind”. The ways of repentance are as much hidden as the ways of sin.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE2VfDEmVYY   Deaf Man in the Shteeble-most moving Kol Nidrei song ever!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUvrINuGBKc      – MBD’s new Yaaleh sung Chasidish style

https://youtu.be/LsT7r7F5jjI  Another favorite Neila song of mine Yehi ratzon by SYR

answer below at end of Email

Q The inspiration for the design of the dome on the Shrine of the Book was:
a. The Dome of the Rock
b. The lid of an urn
c. A dome that was located in the Temple
d. A man’s head covering (“kippa”)


Yom Kippur Acharey Mos 2017- I know it’s a holiday and who has time to review the holiday readings with Rashi? Yet this with Yom Kippur falling out on Shabbos, so it becomes our Shabbos reading as well. If that’s the case then it is certainly worthwhile to review the Rashis as it can give us extra insight into our YK davening and inspiration as well.
The reading is of course about the service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur. The Torah tells us that Aharon and his descendants, the High Priest that will follow him are warned
Vayikra (16:2) And he shall not come to the Holy at all times… Because in a cloud I shall appear upon the Paroches- Ark cover.
This warning is given after the death of Aharon’s two children for doing precisely that and lighting a foreign fire. Rashi on this verse explains the raison d’etre
For I always appear there with my pillar of cloud. And because the revelation of My Shechina is there, he should take care not to come there regularly. This is the simple meaning.
Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz notes that Rashi is pointing out something incredible over here. Imagine we are speaking to Aharon ,the High Priest, we are speaking about the Holy of Holies, we are speaking about Yom Kippur the holiest day of the year and yet there is still a concern and a necessity to warn him about not coming regularly, because if he does he might forget about the sanctity of the place. This is an incredible lesson. Perhaps the greatest reason why we sin, despite our deepest inner desire to the right thing, is because we just get used to doing the same old-same old. Our mitzvos, our daily prayers, our Torah study even though we all know and are aware of the incredible significance of all it, just becomes rote. Something we take for granted. Even the holiest things in the world can become mundane if we are aware of the perils of doing something monotonously. He notes that the law is that when one would come to Temple on the Holidays would have to switch up his entrance and his exit. The people from the North must leave through the southern gate and the ones from the south would leave through the southern gate in order that they should not get used to coming and going in and out of the same place as they do in their own home. The Temple is special. Yom Kippur is special. Each day our service is special. Rashi is pointing out this is reason why Aharon couldn’t come in. And if this is true for Aharon, how much more so for us. As Rashi says… this is pretty simple.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz (1902-1979) – To any Mirrer when one talks about Reb Chazkel there is a sense of awe. He led the yeshiva through its stormiest years during the war years, in Shanghai where the yeshiva fled, and he planted the seeds here in Israel of what is today the largest yeshiva in the world. He was born Shmuelevitz was born on the second day of Rosh Hashana  1902 in Kovno, Lithuania, to Rabbi Refoel Alter Shmuelevitz and Ettel (née Horowitz), a daughter of Rabbi Yosef Yozel Horwitz, known as the Alter of Novhardok. The sandek at his bris milah was Rabbi Yitzchok Blazer ("Reb Itzele Peterburger"), a Torah and mussar luminary of the time, who was one of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter's greatest disciples.
In Chaim Leib's youth, his family moved to Stutchin. Until the age of 16, he was educated by his father, who was one of the leading yeshiva lecturers in Lithuania. In 1919 Rabbi Refoel Alter, who was then the rosh yeshiva of Shaarei Torah in Grodno, died suddenly. Within a very short time, his mother died too, orphaning Chaim Leib, his younger brother Shlomo, and two sisters.
Rabbi Refoel Alter's position at the yeshiva was taken up by Rabbi Shimon Shkop. Chaim Leib developed a close bond with Rabbi Shkop. At the age of 18, Chaim Leib's mentor invited him to deliver the third-level shiur in the preparatory academy at the yeshiva. He held this position for a few years before transferring to the yeshiva in Mir. Many of his students of those years later became great Torah leaders, and his own four years in Grodno with Rabbi Shkop had a profound influence on his approach to Talmudic analysis.
At the age of 22, Reb Chayim headed a group of students who transferred from Grodno to Mir. The Mirrer rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, set his sights on Shmuelevitz as his eventual spiritual heir. He set the seal on this future appointment by offering his student the hand of his daughter in marriage.
A scant few years later, at the relatively young age of 31, Shmuelevitz was appointed as a maggid shiur, delivering regular lectures. The hallmark of his lectures was depth combined with a fabulous breadth; it was not uncommon for him to cite 20 or 30 different sources from far-flung corners of the Talmud and its commentaries during a single shiur.
With the outbreak of World War II, Mir Yeshiva was forced into exile Rabbi Shmuelevitz's shiurim continued virtually without interruption throughout the early period of World War II, while when the yeshiva was continually in transit. In late 1940, hundreds of Mir yeshiva students obtained visas to Japan.
The yeshiva stayed in Kobe, Japan, for about six months, and then relocated to Shanghai for the next five years. Although living conditions were extremely difficult, the yeshiva prospered. Rabbi Shmuelevitz and the mashgiach, Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein, assumed responsibility for the day-to-day running of the yeshiva.
Somehow, Rabbi Shmuelevitz became responsible for the financial needs of all Jewish learning institutions in the city, not just his own. These included contingents of the famed yeshivas of Kamenetz, Kletzk, Lubavitch, and Lublin. This was despite the fact that exchanging foreign currency in Shanghai was fraught with danger and Rabbi Shmuelevitz lived with a perpetual fear of being apprehended by the authorities.
A short while after arriving in Shanghai, Rabbi Shmuelevitz received American visas only for himself and his family. He refused them, saying that he would leave only when all the students had received their visas. This ultimately meant staying in Shanghai for five and a half years.
In 1947 the yeshiva moved again — as always, as a single unit — this time, to the United States, where Rabbi Shmuelevitz spent six months before rejoining his father-in-law, Rabbi Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, in the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem. For the next 32 years, until his death in 1978, Rabbi Shmuelevitz remained in Mir-Jerusalem, disseminating his unique wisdom and insight to thousands of disciples.
He became active in Agudath Israel in Israel, and its Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages) on which he served. Rabbi Shmuelevitz was well known for his ability to become totally engrossed in his Torah study for hours at a time. His ethical discourses, many of which have been published in English, are considered classics. They offer novel interpretations and reveal his penetrating insights into human nature.
His greatness in Torah was matched only by his sterling character. Possessing an all-encompassing concern for his fellow Jew, his constant preoccupation with the well-being of others was a manifestation of the love that poured forth from his great heart. 
A few days after Sukkot 1978, Rabbi Shmuelevitz was rushed to the hospital and, for the next two months, his life hung by a thread. Even during the weeks of semi-consciousness his lips moved, and from time to time he could be heard mumbling words of Torah. Jews worldwide prayed for his recovery, but it was not to be. Two months later on the third of Tevet, Rabbi Shmuelevitz died at the age of 76. Nearly 100,000 mourners attended his funeral. He is buried on Har HaMenuchot.
During his lifetime, Rabbi Shmuelevitz committed to paper his every lecture and public address, leaving behind at his death thousands of handwritten pages, including chiddushim on every tractate of the Talmud
Kohanim – Unlike most of the other types of Jews that we have listed throughout our journey this past year in this column, the Kohanim are not identifiable by merely looking at them. They can be Ashkenaz, Sefard, Chasidic, young, old, religious or secular. They are identifiable though if you are really interested by use of a microscope though as they all share the same common DNA gene marker known as the Kohen gene. That is a fact that in the words of Dr. Karl Skorecki in the New York Times, (January 7, 1997)-
“The simplest, most straightforward explanation is that these men have the Y chromosome of Aharon. The study suggests that a 3,000-year-old tradition is correct, and has a biological counterpart.”
As well Dr. David Goldstein, Oxford notes in the Science News (October 3, 1998)
 “For more than 90 percent of the Cohens to share the same genetic markers after such a period of time is a testament to the devotion of the wives of the Cohens over the years. Even a low rate of infidelity would have dramatically lowered the percentage.”
In the times of the Temple Kohanim were the most important people of our nation as they were the serving intermediaries between Hashem and his people. They lost their way and became corrupt at the end of the second Temple, but for many of them that badge of Kehuna was kept in their family as a source of pride and tradition as they await for the day when they will be returned to their service with the building of the Beit Hamikdash.
In Israel the Kohanim play a larger more practical role than they do in America where all they do is receive the first Aliya to the Torah, as should be the case. See in Israel the custom is for the Kohen to belss the people by davening every day, unlike outside of Israel where it’s only on holidays. For the past few decades here by the Kotel the highlight for many people is to come and get blessed by the thousands of Kohanim that gather there. It is truly an awesome experience. The most common Kohen names amongst are of course Cohen, Shapiro, Katz and Rappaport, Azoulay is also a common Sefardic name. Now just because your last name is one of those that doesn’t make you a Kohen, one has to have a tradition that dates back to seal that deal. But you never know. God willing, Eliyahu Hanavi ,who will herald in Mashiach, will tell us and clarify who ultimately has that heritage. May it be this year!

A group of 9/11 conspiracy theorists were killed in a bad accident and they all ended up together in heaven. Once let in through the Pearly Gates they decided to try and meet with God himself believing only he could answer their big question: Who was responsible for 9/11?
God decided to meet with them. When assembled he told them they could ask him one question about 9 /11 and he would answer it truthfully having perfect knowledge of everything. So the leader of the group stood up and said, "God, I need and my fellow friends who feel the same way about 9/11 as I do would like to know if in fact 9/11 was an inside job? Can you finally tell us this truth?"
God looked at the group of conspiracy theorists and said, "I know you may not want to hear this but 9/11 was NOT an inside job...it was a terrible tragedy caused by radical and mostly Saudi Islamic fundamentalists who wanted to send a message to the United States and make you afraid of them."
The leader looked dismayed with God's answer and turned to one of his cohorts and said, "Wow, God must have been in on it too."

I, too, have a conspiracy theory. I believe that Einstein was killed by the mafia because he knew too much.

Two Jews meet on the street.
"David, how have you been?"
"N-n-not so good. I was just turned down for a j-j-job."
"At a r-r-radio s-s-station. Anti-S-S-Semites!!!"

Shlomo is on the train reading a newspaper, when his friend Mendel walks in. 
"Shlomo, why on earth are you reading an Arab paper?"
"When I read the Jewish papers, all I find is Jews under attack, synagogues under attack, Israel under attack. But when I read the Arab papers, what do I find? Jews control the media, Jews control the government, Jews rule the world. Mendel, the news is much better!"

Answer is B– OK how many of you know what the shrine of the book is? I thought so… Yeah if you haven’t noticed the past few weeks questions have been architectural questions; another one of those exciting topics we have to cover in our tour guiding course. Next question is the shrine of the book Jewish, Christian, Muslim or secular? See if you knew the answer to that you might be able to answer the question. So the shrine is actually the part of the Israel Museum that hosts the Dead Sea scrolls. They say that Ben Gurion or one of the Prime Ministers once took a US president and explained him the difference between us the Jews and other countries. In the US the most important museum hosts is perhaps the Smithsonian with all types of artifacts, In France it is the Louvre with all its art. In Israel the most important museum has old scrolls and books. That is what defines us. So now that you know that what, you can easily figure out that the correct answer is of course the most unlikely one if you did not know what this was which is the shape of the lid of the urns in which they were found.

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