Our view of the Galile

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Us and Them- Toldos 2017 / 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
November 17th 2017 -Volume 8 Issue 5 28th Cheshvan 5778
Parshat Toldos
US and Them
It was a hot topic. They were waiting for me. Like a school of piranha circling their prey, like a flock of vultures descending on a carcass, like a bunch of my congregants after a long davening and sermon waiting for the chulent to come out for a Kiddush, they were ready to eat my alive. But I had no fear. I was good at this. Hashem somehow seems to put the right words in my mouth and generally I walk out unscathed. This was after-all the weekly ‘Hot Topics in Judaism’ class, and these were college students. They had come to stump the Rabbi and the Rabbi was ready to take them on. I miss those weekly classes that I gave at ODU -Old Dominion University-( although when I first came there I thought they were saying Older Minyan and I asked them where the younger Minyan wasL) They challenged me. They opened me up to new ideas, questions and perspectives that my more sheltered yeshiva upbringing didn’t afford me. It also gave me an appreciation of how incredible our Torah, tradition and wisdom is. For it seemed that no matter the question or hot topic, our Torah, our sages, our books of wisdom for millennia always had an insight and pathway that would enlighten and really penetrate the murky darkness to get to the core of any modern day ethical and moral dilemma that was on the table. So there I was. There they were. We were ready to rumble.
“So Rabbi, what do you have to say about this new amendment that they are trying to pass in the State Senate, defining marriage as only being between a man and a woman? Do you think that is fair? Do you believe that marriage and true love between two consensual adults should be legislated by the State? Do you feel comfortable that a good part of our population, our friends, and our neighbors should never be afforded the same rights to actualize their alternative relationships the same way that everyone else can? Huh Rabbi, what do you have to say?”
Now one thing I learned about answering questions, particularly questions from college students or other people with similar “stump the Rabbi” agendas, is that they think they know what you are going to answer before you even open your mouth. One of the clues of course that you are dealing with people like that is when they end of their question with the ‘Huh Rabbi what do you have to say..’ at the conclusion. They are not looking for your insight. They think they know what you are going to say already and this is just the feint before they drop the right hook to your jaw. But I know never to step into that punch. Rule number one, never say what they think that you are going to say. Throw them off their punch. Generally I found its even best to lean into their question. Like you’re going their way. That will usually grab their attention. Then you can knock them off their feet.
So I turned to my group of students and told them that I had two answers and two opinions on the issue that they had raised. I had an answer and opinion as an American, and I had my Jewish answer and opinion. As an American, I explained, I felt very strongly that the amendment to define marriage as being only between a man and woman should be passed. In fact I felt that was essential. On the other hand as a Jew I did not feel that this would be a good amendment to pass and could even possibly be very bad. I loved the puzzled look on my students face as I gave them that response. See what I did there, I stepped into their punch. I threw them off their game. They thought that I had mixed it up. That as a Jew, as an orthodox Jew, as a Rabbi with a big black Kippa, I would certainly only define marriage the way the Torah does. But I told them, that I meant what I said and I said it precisely the way I feel.
“You see” I Rabbsplained them, “I really do not have a good personal and even perhaps moral reason why marriage should only be between a Man and a woman. Why a man can’t marry another man, or a woman can’t marry another woman, or a man can’t marry his mother, daughter, sister. For that matter I don’t see why a woman can’t marry two or three men, or why you can’t marry your dog, your goldfish, your shwarma or your bowl of chulent if you’d like. I personally have been in love with my chulent for quite a while, although I don’t think I would term it a healthy relationship…
But jokes aside. Obviously the reason is not because marriage should only take place where “healthy” procreation can happen ergo between a man and woman who are not immediate relatives, because if that were the case then only people that and have children should be able to get married, and that is certainly not true.
No, the only reason why I believe that a man should only marry a woman is because the Torah tells us so. The Torah is the word of God. I believe that fundamentally. My ancestors heard Hashem Himself say so on Sinai only a mere 70 or 80 generations ago. It’s what God who created this world, and who I believe wants what’s best for us to do and the way He wants us to live our lives.
I live my life with that belief. If I didn’t I would probably be eating a cheese burger right now and be chilling on the beaches of Cancun rather than sitting here talking to you guys.
Now as an American who loves and appreciates this great country and truly wants what’s best for it. And as someone who has some knowledge of world history. I think that even someone with a rudimentary idea of world history can attest, that a country or nation that didn’t live the way God told us and them to, generally didn’t last very long. They usually pretty much went down the tubes very quickly. So as an American, I think that it would be a good thing for the United States to pass an amendment that defines marriage in the way that Hashem tells us that it should. I think that it would be a big mistake not to, certainly in the big picture for this great country.
On the other hand as a Jew, I kind of get nervous when goyim, our gentile host nations that we live under for the past couple of thousand years, start to invoke “God” and his laws into their legislature. It usually doesn’t bode well for us. Not under the Christian nations, not under the muslim nations and not under pretty much any other country or religion that we have lived under. Their ‘god’ and their feeble distortions of what He wants them to do usually ends up with them somehow thinking that we should be persecuted, thrown out, killed or forced to abandon our Torah. So as a Jew I really don’t think it’s a great thing for us when laws are passed because it is the will of the Almighty, Allah, the Saviour, Harry Kishka or anyone else.
Now how do I vote? As a Jew or as an American, you want to know? I’m not telling J. But one thing is certain, the only one that can make a real good Jewish chulent, is a yiddishe baalabusta and that will always have my vote!
And there you have it another one bites the dust. The Rabbi walked out unscathed and the next week there were four more students joining Rabbi Schwartz and his merry band for a Shabbos meal.
This week’s Torah portion tells us about this special relationship that we Jews have shared and should share with nations of the world. Perhaps even more significantly of the relationship they should have with us. We started out as brothers, twins in fact.; Yaakov and Esau, The nations that ultimately became Israel and Rome. Rome is western civilization. Rome is the Christians, Rome is Europe. Rome is the Crusades, is the inquisition, is the Cossacks, the Communists and the Nazi’s. And yes Rome is the good ole US of A. The endless cycle of our relationship with Esau/ Edom is all foretold in this week’s parsha where it all began. ‘Two great nations will rise up from your belly’ Rivka, our Mother, is told and thus we have become. Yaakov/ Israel just wants to stay in his tent. He wants to learn, he wants to study, he loves his books and he loves the word of God. Esau is out in the field. He’s the gladiator, the Roman legionnaire, the Crusader Knight, the Papal army, the Grande Armée of Napoleon,  the Wehrmacht, and “The few, The proud” and the ‘Be all you can be’ of the US Marines and Army. He’s the guy that brings in the hunt. He’s the capitalist, the Wall Street shark.
But you know what? Sometimes Esau comes home hungry from the field. Tzi gayt im nisht- as they say in Yiddish. It just isn’t going. He needs a good yiddisheh kup to put the chulent on the table for him. He’s tired of all his meaningless wars and conquests. All his pursuit of the next prey, the next venture, the latest acquisition and hostile takeover. So he comes to the tent of Yaakov. He’s willing to trade it all. To hand the car keys over to us so he could start drinking and drown out this world and the road ahead that we are really meant to be driving together on. Should we take those keys? Should we just hand him the bottle and rip-off his car and leave him on the side of the road with a bowl of chulent to hold him off.?
The story in our Parsha continues and tells us that not necessarily so. Yaakov instinctively feels that he’s not ready to dump his brother. Yaakov is opposed to sneaking into his father and stealing the blessings. He fears once he does that their relationship will be shattered irrevocably. Esau ultimately doesn’t want to be left out of the game. He’s also part of the Divine plan. Unlike his uncle Yishmael who was born from Hagar, Esau is the child of our Matriarch Rivka. He sat in the holy womb for 9 months. He learned together with Yaakov with the angel in there. He will ultimately be the grandfather of some of our greatest Jewish leaders that will ultimately convert. The prophet Ovadia, Shamya V’Avtalyon, Rabbi Akiva, Rebbi Meir, Unkelos, -Ivanka Trump…? J just joking… couldn’t resist JJ. Even Yitzchak Avinu our Patriarch sees that the ultimate fulfillment of Hashem’s mandate in this world will only come to fruition when these two brothers both live up to their Divine roles. Yet Rivka sees what neither of the men see. Esau is not ready yet. The time has not yet come. Yaakov needs to take Esau’s blessings and role until he will be ready to step up to the plate. Rivka received a prophecy that there will come a time when Esau will fulfill his role. In the times of Rebbi Yehudah HaNasi the author of the Mishna, Esau’s descendant Marcus Antoninus will come to Yaakov for Torah and wisdom, he will give him the historic opportunity to gather all of the sages together and to shine that light out to the world in the publishing of our oral tradition, after the destruction of the Temple. The two brothers will work together to bring Hashem to this world. Esau will take his role, and Yaakov his. But not yet. Not in this parsha. Esau is not ready to put his wars and his agenda down and create a world where Hashem’s will can be revealed. So we have to put on his clothes, his suits, his army uniforms and create the world on our own until he catches up.
This coming week many Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving. For many Jews tragically enough, it is more of a holiday then Shavuot and Purim or even Shabbos. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against turkey, although I believe that a slice of cow is always a better option to celebrate a meaningful occasion with. As well I think that American Jews have a lot to be thankful for. America is truly a country where we have not only been welcomed, but under the Esau/Edom of the USA there has been more Torah studied, more great works published, more freedoms than ever in our history. More than the first temple, more than the second Temple. Even more than that, the government not only has given us freedoms, but offers support in so many ways and programs in assisting those that are dedicating their lives to study Torah, in fixing up our schools, with security and other legal separation of Church and State means. This is almost unheard of in our history. It is Esau fulfilling his role and meriting the blessing of Yaakov.
Ultimately, though, the blessing of Yaakov is meant to be fulfilled and realized for us here in Eretz Yisrael. Not in Har U.S. of sAy’ir. Esau is doing his job in his place. Are we doing ours in our home? Are we unabashedly sharing the truths of Hashem, His Torah and His light with the world? Or are we more concerned about being “Poleetakally Korrrekt” as they say in Hebrew? The redemption is around the corner, I believe. The day is very near when the entire world will give thanksgiving to Hashem. It is up to us though to make that turkey…or chulent.

Have a glorious Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


“A nar ken fregen mer frages in a sho vi a kluger ken entferen in a yor.”- A fool can ask more questions in an hour than a wise man can answer in a year.

answer below at end of Email
Q. The name for Jaffa Gate in Arabic is:
a. Bab al Amoud
b. Bab al Khalil
c. Bab al Asbat
d. Bab al Yafa


https://youtu.be/ip-CorIdeME  - The Kishka showdown- don’t’ know whether to laugh or cry…

https://youtu.be/33ClL9lARV8   -70 Holocaust survivors put on tefilling and are bar mitzvah by Kotel this week.

https://youtu.be/Ksv3lcsgt6k - Elka and Tully Schwartz Productions! Tow siblings that do get along!

https://youtu.be/QUFyBcDZPuA   - Gorgeous Yitein Lecha video from Shmuli Ungar and this weeks Parsha!

The haftora this week from the beginning of the book of Malachi shares a connection in that it describes Hashem’s relationship with Yaakov over Esau, the expectations that comes with that relationship and the disappointments and calamity that will befall Esau and us for not maintaining it.
The Haftora starts off with Hashem saying
“I have loved you said Hashem and you said how have you loved us
“Is not Esau a brother to Yaakov and I love Yaakov.”
The truth is the crux of the entire Parsha and relationship is based on the notion of this love. We have Rivka loving Yaakov and Yitzchak loving Esau. This is not to say that one parent does not love the other child. Obviously Yitzchak had love for Yaakov and Rivka for Esau. Just as Hashem has love for all his children as well. The question is in how one reflects and shows the love. Yitzchaks love is because Esau is tzayid bipiv- he’s a good hunter- he does things for him. He honors Yitzchak it is a love that is conditional. Rivka’s love for Yaakov though is unconditional. Similarly Hashem tells us that He loves Yaakov for himself. It obviously isn’t because of zechut Avot-his love for us because of our forefathers, because Esau would be included in that.
In addition Hashem tells us how Esau is in fact hated for what he does and his actions and his attempts to harm us will fail
“They may build but I will turn down”
When we see this we will say Yigdal Hashem Ma’al L’Gvul Yisrael- Hashem will be exalted above the border of Israel.
This is as well a reflection of our parsha when we see Yitzchak who stays in the land of Israel seeing the land flourish again and again while the “occupiers” of Israel Avimelech and the Philistines can’t seem to get anything going here and it remains desolate. Yitzchak on the other hand sees the blessing of Hashem n everything he does.
The final part of the Hafotrah fascinatingly enough discusses Hashem’s disappointment with the quality of the way that we are serving Hashem. Seemingly Malachi who is living in the beginning of period of the second Beit Hamikdash is commenting of the fact that we Jews seem to be cheating Hashem offerings bringing emaciated and blind animals as sacrifices.
“If I am a father where is my honor?”
It is interesting that in our Parsha Yaakov only gets the blessings because he is able to show that he honors Yitzchak and brings him his choice dinner. He really usurps Esau who excelled in this mitzva of honoring his father. The prophet seems to be telling us that despite Hashem’s love for us and his choosing us, we have to remember that we were chosen for the job to make Hashem’s name great BaGoyim-among the nations. If we don’t fulfill our role and the gentiles, Esau show more honor to Hashem’s name then the blessing of Esau who did show honor to his father will kick in and we will be spited and cursed.
Our sages in choosing this haftorah are sharing with us an incredible presepective. Us receiving the love and blessing of Hashem over Esau is because we have a mission. The mission can never be abdicated. Hashem will always love us. However that love for us, like a father to his child will express itself in punishment to get us on the right track and to make sure that we know we are expected to bring the message of our father’s glory to the world. Esau will come to us to learn Torah and wisdom. But we have to be that light that will always beckon him and shine it out to the rest of the world.

Malachi (520-430 BC)- The identity of this mysterious prophet, the last in the books of the prophet is a debate amongst our sages. There are some that suggest that it is in fact the prophet Ezra, others say it was none other than Mordechai of the Purim story, and yet others suggest that malachi was in fact the prophets name. One thing is certain, Malachi is from the founders of the Anshey Knesset Hagedola the first organized body of great Rabbis during the second Temple and with him concludes the era of prophecy. Perhaps his greatest contribution in terms of prophecy is in the final prophecy of the book of Malachi where he describes the ultimate redemption and he says that it will be preceded with Eliyahu Hanavi heralding in that great day. This prophecy is the source of the tradition that Eliyahu will be the one who brings Mashiach. May it be today!


Noah and his animals  2105 BC Besides the flood of course, the other significant thing about Noah is of course the animals that he took with him on the Ark. 2 of each kind except for the Kosher ones of which he took 7 for sacrifices. There is certainly no shortage of places to talk about the biblical animals in Israel. There is of course the Jerusalem Biblical zoo which shockingly enough is in fact the second most paid visited site in Israel after the Masada. With over 63 acres of animals from all over the world and the mammals, amphibians, fish, reptiles and birds in the aquatic and marsh sections there’s a lot to see there. Right after that at number 3 on the most visited paid sites is Ramat Gan Safari with the largest animal collection in the entire Middle East. Gorillas Monkeys Lions, Tigers and elephant all roam freely on 250 acres of safari land. Besides these two biggies there are plenty of places to see specific animals. Gan Gooroo Kangaroo park near the Beit Shean Valley, Afrikef by Ben Shemen or the monkey park by Yodefat. As well there is Crocoloco crocodile park in the Arava, an alpaca farm in Mitzpe Ramon just to name a few. Israel as well is home of course to the second largest bird migration in the world with over a half a billion birds that fly in here to the Hula Valley on their way down south to Africa from Europe and Asia in the fall and back again in the spring. My favorite place to visit is the Biblical Museum of Natural History or better known as “Slifkin’s museum” where there is an incredible collection of all types of animals and where you can really learn about which animals there were in the Torah, some fascinating insights about their laws, our sages descriptions of them and just tons of incredible cool stuff. They say that Israel is full of chayos, I don’t think they mean the four legged kinds. But there are certainly lots of places to remember all of the animals that Noach brought over here.

A Catholic, a Protestant, a Muslim and a Jew were in a discussion during a dinner.
Catholic: "I have a large fortune....I am going to buy Citibank!"
Protestant: "I am very wealthy and will buy General Motors!"
Muslim: "I am a fabulously rich prince.... I intend to purchase Microsoft!" 
They then all wait for the Jew to speak....
The Jew stirs his coffee, places the spoon neatly on the table, takes a sip of his coffee, looks at them, and casually says, "I'm not selling!" 

Billy Graham went to see the Pope in Rome. While he was waiting, Billy noticed a red phone. As he was ushered in to talk to the Pope, he asked, "What's the red phone for?" 
"That's to talk to God," came the reply. 
"Really," Billy gasped, "how much does such a call cost - it's an awful long way?"  "$10,000 a minute, but it's well worth it." answered the Pope. 
Some weeks later, Billy Graham went to see the Chief Rabbi in Jerusalem. He noticed that he, too, had a red phone. "I don't suppose," asked Billy, "that this phone is to talk to God?" 
"Yes it is." came the reply. 
"And how much does that cost?" Billy inquired. 
"A dime a minute," shrugged the chief rabbi. 
"How come it's so cheap?" Billy asked, "the Pope has a phone like that and it costs $10,000 a minute!" 
"Well," grinned the Chief Rabbi, "From here it's just a local call."  

Rabbi Levy had to spend time in a Catholic hospital. One day, nurse came into his room and noticed that the crucifix on the wall was missing. 
She asked him good-naturedly, "Rabbi, what have you done with the crucifix?" 
"Oh," chuckled Rabbi Levy, "I just figured one suffering Jew in this room was enough." 

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, in the midst of the French Revolution, the revolting citizens lead a priest, a drunkard and and Berel the engineer to the guillotine.
They ask the priest if he wants to face up or down when he meets his fate. The priest says he would like to face up so he will be looking towards heaven when he dies. They raise the blade of the guillotine and release it. It comes speeding down and suddenly stops just inches from his neck. The authorities take this as divine intervention and release the priest.
The drunkard comes to the guillotine next. He also decides to die face up, hoping that he will be as fortunate as the priest. They raise the blade of the guillotine and release it. It comes speeding down and suddenly stops just inches from his neck. Again, the authorities take this as a sign of divine intervention, and they release the drunkard as well.
Next is the Berel. He, too, decides to die facing up. As they slowly raise the blade of the guillotine, the Berel suddenly says, "Hey, I see what your problem is ..."

A father is dealing with sibling rivalry so he takes a five hour course on how to deal with it. He is feeling so good about it he stops on the way home to buy a brand new football for one son, hoping to spark a good fight so he can practice his new skills. He walk in to the house and sees the younger son Moishe. He shows Moishe the new football and, anticipating an uproar, he tells him "Look at this new football I got for Yankel". 
Instead of a tantrum Moishe runs over to his father and says "wow dad! you are the best!
Thinking Moishe miss-heard him he says very slowly and clearly "did you hear what I said? I got this football for Yankel." 
"I know" Moishie said excitedly, "it was a great trade!" 

A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to "Honor thy father and thy mother," she asked "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?" Without missing a beat yankel answered, "Thou shall not kill."


Answer is B – I wasn’t sure of this one, but hey I guessed right! I knew Bab Al Amud was Shaar Shechem or Damascus Gate because Amud in Arabic is pillar just like it is in Hebrew and by Shaar Shechem there is a great Roman pillar that was erected during the Roman period in order to measure the distances from there in Israel. I wasn’t sure about the rest, although I was pretty sure that I had never heard of Bab Al Yafa, and it just sounded fake. Which it is. I was pretty sure I heard of Al Kalil and in fact that is the right answer. Al Kalil is the friend and it refers to Avraham who was called the friend and lived in Chevron which is the other name of this gate. Bal Asbat is the gate of the tribes- asbat is like the word shevet tribe in Hebrew and this is the gate that Jews would travel through according to their tradition to get to Temple Mount.  

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