Our view of the Galile

Friday, December 15, 2017

No Small Thanks- Mikeitz /Chanuka 2017 / 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
December 15th 2017 -Volume 8 Issue 9 27th Kislev 5778
Parshat Mikeitz/ Chanukah
No Small Thanks
How can they be such ingrates? Are they insane? Do they want to lose it all? Do they know who they are messing with? I’ve heard of Chutzpa, but that is a Jewish trait supposedly. Where did our cousins pick it up from? The vice President of the United States is coming to the region. OK you’re not happy that the US declared Jerusalem as our eternal capital. I got that. You rioted, you had your days of rage. Booya and Allah Akbar. But really you’re not going to meet with him? You’re going to stand him up? To make it even better, Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdalla ( Abbas is the president- this guy is the prime minister- for those of you like me that were wondering who he is), announced that the US has declared a financial siege on Palestine and they have received no money from them since 2016. Ummmm…. What is $357 million dollars in aid just this year alone considered? Falafel and chummus? Last year the US contributed as well $355 million dollars to the UN relief fund of which $95 million was meant to be directed to the PA. Yes, with a total of of over 700 million dollars the US is that largest supporter of the Palestinians and they won’t even meet with the Vice President who is schlepping all the way out to the Middle East during his “Yom Tov” Season. That my friends is chutzpa.
Truth is this is just an escalation of the lack of appreciation that they have for us. I mean who provides them with their electricity, their water, their jobs, and their health care. How can they in turn lob missiles and declare war against us. In 1967 we liberated our holy city from their hands. The Kotel was used as a dumping place for their garbage. Har HaBayit- the Temple mount was in our hands. And then we handed it over to them. We gave them the best piece of Real Estate in Jerusalem. Mind you, this was just a mere 19 years after they threw us out of our holy city. There is no nation on this planet that would ever give their holiest place to an enemy, let along one that tried to destroy us and maintained that it would still do so. And yet all have gotten in return is blood, war, and hate. They should be bending over in gratitude. They should be waking up every morning and thanking Allah that the Jews are the ones that are in charge of this country and that provide them with their welfare, rather than one of their corrupt cousins. And yet..and yet… and yet…
It reminds me of the time I went to the Kosel and this beggar came over to me. I reached in my pocket and pulled out some change and came up empty. I asked him if he had change of a 20 shekel bill. He said he did. When I handed it to him, he started to walk away. Now my Hebrew is pretty good and I was pretty sure there was no miscommunication there. So I went after the guy and asked him where my change was. He looked at me and smiled, and said “Oh you wanted me to give you money now?!” I let him keep the change. Like my grandfather used to say it’s better to be on this side of the exchange than the other. But really I’m a nice guy. I don’t think the Donald will be so accommodating. But who knows? We live in an upside down world. Good is bad. Immoral has become moral. Terrorists have rights, the victims not so much. Maybe lack of gratitude is the new gratitude.
Yet, there is a rule from the great Baal Shem Tov, one that I try to live by. He said that if Hashem sees fit for us to see something negative then it is something that we are meant to self-reflect and examine ourselves for precisely that negative trait. In the words of the great Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. If you see someone stingy than it must be that I have something stingy inside of myself. If I see someone doing something or behaving immorally than I need to check where that is within me. If someone looks ugly than oyyyy….Gevalt maybe I’m ugly as well… So if the Jewish people are being faced with an enemy who are such kifuyei tov- so lacking in appreciation, we need to see if Hashem is showing us that to find it in ourselves.
The truth is there is probably no better time of year to reflect upon that than Chanukah. Unlike many of the songs about this being a festival of lights, or a time when we play dreidel, eat latkes and exchange presents for 8 crazy nights, when our sages established this holiday it was meant to be in their words- Yemei Hallel V’Hodaa’h – Days of Praise and Thanksgiving. That’s right although we spend so much time and energy focusing on lighting the Menorah and eating latkes and doughnuts the essence of these days is fulfilled by thanking and praising Hashem through the recitation of hallel and the appreciation for the miracles that Hashem does for us Ba’zman Hazeh at this time. Have I done that yet this Chanukah? Have I stopped and spoken with my family about how much appreciation I have of Hashem for all he has done for me. When I recite Hallel in the morning, am I bursting out in song, or rushing out to make my tour and be thankful that there is no tachanun which takes about as much time as Hallel. C’mon be honest, tell me I’m not the only one that thought that way. Am I as unappreciative as our cousins?
One thing that I did notice and the question comes up each year is why when we recited the blessing after our jelly doughnuts of al hamichiya do we not mention Chanuka as we do when we say our regularly bentching- grace after meals. Or even as we do other holidays in al Hamichiya itself I think everyone is jarred by that and looks in the bentcher for where it is. By the way, that may even be the point. Let us notice when we are not saying thanks. It should jar us, particularly on this holiday of praise and thanksgiving, that when we have the opportunity we are not saying it.
But I saw an even more powerful insight into why we do not mention it, although I can’t remember where. It is because al hamichiya is a shortened blessing- it is the essence of the three blessings of bentching on the land, asking mercy for our people and rebuilding of the temple. Chanuka is mentioned not as a special day in our regular bentching in yaa’leh v’yavo as there is no specific sacrifice or even holiness of the day. Rather it is mentioned in the thanksgiving blessing. Since there is no specific shortened blessing of thanks of hoda’ah and thus there is no mention of Chanukah. The question though is why than is there no specific shortened blessing of thanks. And the answer I saw, which was beautiful is that there is no shortcuts when it comes to saying thanks. Saying thank you, expressing our appreciation, recognizing how indebted we are to Hashem for everything that he does for us, it’s not a short, quick get-it-over-with prayer. In fact the longest blessing in our Shemona Esrei- daily amida is Modim- saying thanks.
It is then perhaps no wonder that this week’s Torah portion always read on Chanuka begins with the story of Yosef who had in last week’s portion implored the butler to remember him to Pharaoh. Here he had brought him good tidings. Yosef had interpreted his dream for him and the butler would be returned to his former position. He asked one small favor. Remember the kindness. And yet our parsha begins that two years had passed. The butler had not only forgotten him, he had deleted him from his memory. One would think with Pharaoh and his dreams and looking for an interpreter that he would remember him. But no. All the other “all the interpreters and all the wise men” were brought first and they couldn’t put Humpty back together again. Sorry… Just spacing out there a second. Finally with no choice he mentions Yosef, however he demeans him. He tells Pharaoh about the “Naar eved Ivri- the Jewish slave boy” that had interpreted his dream in the pits of Egypt. That story is the start of our Chanukah. Contrast his ungrateful behavior with ours. Look at him and think if perhaps we need to work on our gratitude as well.
Maybe we need 8 days of straight gratitude, of singing praise. Perhaps we need to stand and fulfill this special unique mitzva and the only one of its kind with ner, ish v’beiso- a candle, a man and his house; with his whole family, together, the family that Hashem has blessed us with. Look at the eyes of those loved ones in the glow of the candlelight have we thanked Hashem for these miracles? We have the mitzva to light by the entrance to our house. Do we take for granted the fact that we even have a home? Have we thanked Hashem for this? Have we burst out in song? Or are we as guilty as our cousins are of standing God up when he comes to visit us. Do we demand that He hasn’t given us support in so long? That we are under a financial siege; that we need this, and that. Are my longest blessings in Shemona Esrei the requests and supplications or is it modem. The thank you that I should never shorten.
Perhaps as well it is why we celebrate the holiday with the lighting of the menorah. A small little light. Is there anything perhaps that is a greater kindness from Hashem than a little bit of light? I remember once going to the blind museum here in Israel. For an hour we walked with a cane through pitch black as someone who is blind does. It is terrifying not to be able to see the world. One of the first blessings we make each morning is pokayach ivrim- that Hashem has opened up the eyes of the blind. When we are sleeping we can’t see. In the morning Hashem gives us our eyesight back. Are we still sleeping? Can we thank Hashem for the light. To see our loved ones, to see this beautiful world, to see His miracles shbichol yom imanu-that He does for us each day. As we light our menorahs this year, let’s stop and ponder that incredible light. It is that light of gratitude that can light up the world. May it lead to Hashem revealing His great light with the coming of Mashiach.

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

“Es iz nit azoi tei’er der geshank vi der gedank.” The gift is not as precious as the thought.

answer below at end of Email
Q.  The gravesite of Baba Sali is found in:
A. The town of Sali
B. Sderot
C. Netivot
D. Amuka


https://soundcloud.com/ephraim-schwartz/haneiros-halalu - Rabbi Schwartz original Haneiros Halalu composition in honor of Chanukah !!

https://youtu.be/dx0jvrlV_EQ    - Maccabeats newest Chanuka song-Candle on a sill

https://youtu.be/lMjJltbJ0yc    - Mordechai Shapiro newes Lecha Great- My kids think I dance like the chubby kid…

https://youtu.be/HVhE7_AUtNI   -8th Day miracle of Light!

https://youtu.be/Q4j65GbP4Lw    -Pretty funny Chanuka cartoon Sufgi the doughnut- Hebrew

https://youtu.be/-3_DPZcGTy4    -Great 90’s Chanuka remash 613 Akapella


Now as we know Haftorahs were generally chosen because of their connection to the Parsha. They are the insight of our sages into the eternal lessons of the parsha that can be enhanced or highlighted by the books of the prophets. As well on holidays, or special shabbosos the haftoras change giving us insight into the times. In some communities on Shabbat Chatan or other special occasions a different haftora would be chosen. I believe that the messages of the haftorah can connect as well to the Parsha and even to special current events. You just have to give it a little thought. This past week still on euphoria of the recognition of Jerusalem by the most powerful nation of the world; The United States of Edomica, the haftora talks about the
Zecharia (2:14-16_ Sing and rejoice daughter of Tzion because I am coming and I will dwell in your midst… And the great nations will accompany you to Hashem on that day…And Hashem will inherit Yehudah his portion on the holy land and will choose again Yerushalayim…Be silent all flesh before Hashem for He is aroused from His holy abode…
Ummmm was that really written 2500 years ago about the day that we are experiencing. How’s that for a prophecy that is meant to be read this week?
As well the haftorah is connected to the Torah portion and Chanuka for it discusses the vision of Satan trying to badmouth the High Priest Yehoshua who has “dirty clothing” on. Our sages discuss that this was his or his children assimilating and Hashem is telling the Malach that he dare not persecute or judge Yehoshua for the sins of Galut. We have returned. We get a new set of clean clothing. We just need to be strong and each man will speak with his friend in Eretz Yisrael renewed. Finally he sees a vision of a Menora with olive branches that he is meant to light and the political leader from the house of David will return again as well. But he should know that it will not be with strength or with great armies, but rather with word and spirit of Hashem. The connection to Chanuka when a small band of Rabbis left the sins of assimilation behind and fought against the largest army in the world with the word of Hashem, and the connection as well with our Parsha of Yosef who despite being in a position to assimilate refuses to. Instead he as do the Chashmonai Maccabees millennia later cry out. Only Hashem has power. That is how the Temple was rededicated and that is the message Zecahria brought to his generation. It’s the message of ours today as well. May we soon see that Menora shining bright again.

Zecharia (520 BC)-  The Temple has been destroyed, the Jews were exiled the time of return had come with the declaration of Cyrus 18 years before, and yet the Jews were stalling. Faced with opposition from the nations around them and from the Shomronim from within as well as overwhelming poverty the initial enthusiasm had waned and Zecharia arrived on the scene to rejuvenate the spirits of the people. His prophecies in the first few chapters are visions of an angel that encourage the Jews to follow the mitzvos and build the Temple. The latter chapters are visions of the end of days after the destruction of the Temple when the nations will be punished and the streets of Jerusalem will once again be filled with its children


Sodom  1713 BC – Sodom and Gomora two of five cities that were destroyed by Hashem in the famous Biblical story. Where are they? Have we found any remains of them. Archeologists for the last half century have tried to discover these cities. General Torah faithful Archeologists place them under the Dead Sea. However with the receding of the Sea over the last century greater effort has been placed in trying to place them. All of the sites that are attributed to being from this era are on Jordan’s side of the Dead Sea so one really can’t go there. They range from the Northeren part of the Dead Sea today by the city of Safi and the Archeological site of Bab ed Dra and Numiera to further South almost to the Arava valley at the bottom of the Dead Sea. In many of the sites mentioned above there have been burnt houses and lots of lava, rocks and sulfur which non-believers suggest may have come from an earthquake that shook these things up, although the dating may have been before the Patriarchs. There were certainly cities and even gates of cities that were found similar to the gateway that Lot was sitting in when the angels arrived. The bitumen and sulfur pits are certainly in Israel and can be described there. Yet if you want to see something that dates back to that biblical story a few miles south of Ein Bokek by the Dead Sea one can see famous pillar of Eishet Lot- the wife of Lot, described in the story as having disregarded the command not to look back at the destruction of the cities. When she did, the Torah tells us she turned to a pillar of salt. That there is such a pillar is mentioned in Josephus from the end of the second temple period. As well the Talmud discusses blessing Dayan Ha’Emet- the True Judge upon seeing it. The majority of Halachic authorities however suggest that as we do not know where it is, and which salt pillar it is one need not make any blessing. So there you have it, Torah story, Archeology, History and Halacha all at one stop. Only in Eretz Yisrael!
There was a tailor named Mendel and he was worried about his business. Mendel was down to his last $50 and was torn between buying a sign and getting food for his family. Mendel decided to pray.
“Dear G-D,” he said, “I don’t know what to do. If I buy a sign it may bring in business, but I need to buy groceries for my family…and if the sign doesn’t bring in sales, we will starve.
G-D replied, “Mendel buy the sign. Don’t worry, your family won’t starve.”
So, Mendel bought the sign and business took off. The tailor fed his family and all was well. However, as time passed it became evident that Mendel couldn’t keep up with orders all by himself. He contemplated hiring on a helper, but wondered if he could afford it. So, he asked G-D if getting help would be a prudent move.
“Go ahead,” G-D tells Mendel, “hire some help, you’ll do okay.”
And so Mendel did. And business took off beyond his wildest dreams. After a time, the tailor decided to move to a larger site that would accommodate the growing demands of his business. As he surveyed certain locations, he found a perfect storefront, but the rental price was really steep.
“G-D” Mendel again prayed, “I found the perfect place to relocate my business. But the cost of the lease worries me. I don’t want to get in over my head.”
“Go ahead and a get a lease on the store, Mendel,” said G-D. “Trust me, you’ll be okay–I haven’t steered you wrong yet, have I?”
So Mendel signed a lease on the 5th Avenue store and profits from his business went through the roof. Out of heartfelt gratitude, Mendel proposed to the Almighty that he dedicate the store to Him.
“How do you like the name “Hashem and Mendel,” the tailor asked.
“Nah,” G-D said. “Let’s go with ‘Lord and Taylor.'

One Sunday a pastor told the congregation that the church needed some extra money and asked the people to prayerfully consider giving a little extra in the offering plate. He said that whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns.
After the offering plates were passed, the pastor glanced down and noticed that someone had placed a $1,000 bill in offering. He was so excited that he immediately shared his joy with his congregation and said he’d like to personally thank the person who placed the money in the plate. A very quiet, elderly, saintly lady all the way in the back shyly raised her hand. The pastor asked her to come to the front.
Slowly she made her way to the pastor. He told her how wonderful it was that she gave so much and in gratitude asked her to pick out three hymns. Her eyes brightened as she looked over the congregation, pointed to the three handsomest men in the building and said, “I’ll take him and him and him.”

President Trump/Obama {Insert your candidate of choice} was at the beach and got into trouble while swimming. He called for help, and three young men went to his rescue and pulled him ashore.
Trump/Obama wanted to show his gratitude, so he offered to give each of the young men what they would like, within reason.
The first young man said that he would like to have a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Trump/Obama told him he could select it and to just send him the bill.
The second young man said he would like an All-Terrain ports vehicle. Again, Trump/Obama told him he would have it.
The third young man declared that he would like a state-of-the-art wheelchair. Trump/Obama was puzzled and asked him why an obviously healthy and athletic young man such as he was would want a wheelchair.
The young man replied that when his dad found out he had helped rescue him, he would break every bone in his body.

Three sons left home, went out on their own and prospered. Getting back together, they discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly Mother. The first said, "I built a big house for our Mother." The second said, "I sent her a Mercedes with a driver." The third smiled and said, "I've got you both beat. You remember how Mom enjoyed reading the Bible? And you know she can't see very well any more. I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites the entire Bible. It took Elders in the church 12 years to teach him. He's one of a kind. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot recites it."
Soon thereafter, Mom sent out her letters of thanks: "Milton," she wrote one son, "the house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house."
"Gerald," she wrote to another, "I am too old to travel any more. My eyesight isn't what it used to be. I stay most of the time at home, so I rarely use the Mercedes. And the driver is so rude!"
"Dearest Donald," she wrote to her third son, "you have the good sense to know what your Mother likes. The chicken was delicious!".'


Answer is C – OK so this is a cute question. I mean doesn’t everyone know who the Baba Sali is? Right? I mean his picture is in every pizza, falafel, Shwarma store as well as in many taxis. He was the great Kabbalist. He was the great Kabbalist who passed away 1984 that was known to be an incredible miracle-worker. But did you know where he lived? Interestingly enough he as well as his children all lived in far our places in Israel away from the religious masses preffereing to live next to secular Jews who he hoped he could be successful in influencing and inspiring. He lived in Netivot near the Gaza border in the South not far from Sderot. I remember a few years ago in the Gaza war when I was there and a siren went off. All the people around rather than run into a bomb shelter ran to his grave for protection. It was pretty cool. Amuka, of course is the burial place of Yonatan Ben Uziel- the greatest student of Hillel, and also a place for pilgramages. Particularly for people seeking to get married and find their bashert. Sali- by the way means prayer-like the Aramaic word Tza’ala- Baba means father- So he was called the father of prayer!

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