Our view of the Galile

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Things that happen at Rest Stops in Georgia- Vayigash 2017 / 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
December 22nd  2017 -Volume 8 Issue 11 4th Tevet 5778

Parshat Vayigash

Things that happen at Rest Stops in Georgia

 There are some times in life that things happen that are so incredible that you just have nothing to do but stand back in total wonder and awe. Fortunately these things happen to me I think more often than I ever would imagine. It is as if there is a cosmic buzzer spiking me with these flashes of acute awareness, which in turn allows me to share with you a great story.
 This past Thanksgiving weekend (this was written 13 years ago in 2004) my family and I were invited to join my parents and siblings in Hilton Head, South Carolina. As we were unable to fly into Savannah / Hilton Head airport (tickets, particularly of the free frequent flyer kind, were sold out) we resolved ourselves to flying into Atlanta and driving the four hours into Hilton Head. Realizing that I would probably have no idea how to get to the condominium where we would be staying, I planned with my father that I would call him when I arrived at the rest area in Savannah and he would meet me so that I could follow him to our place of lodging! Simple enough, right?  Wrong.
 Pulling up to the rest area I realized my first problem: my cell phone had died (never happens to you, right?) “Not to worry” I thought to myself. I’ll just use the public payphone.
{Remember this was written 12 years ago- for all you young ‘uns. There was a time in our ancient history when one could make a phone call from this box that was attached to a wall and that you would insert money into to dial with….In fact they were quite common, until they were all eaten up by dinosaurs in the Great Flood}
Wrong again, for they were all out of order. Struggling with what to do next, I remembered I had a phone charger but it would need an outlet to work and charge my phone. As you guessed, the rest area’s main building was closed and the bathrooms did not have any outlets. I knew I was reaching the bottom when I started leeringly eyeing the Coke machine’s power outlets a little too hopefully. Then suddenly I heard a voice.
Do you need to borrow a cell phone?”
 After responding with grateful appreciation my bareheaded friend said, “Y’know with a few more people we can get a minyan (required quorum of 10 for prayer)”.
My tongue was caught in my throat, but somehow I managed a casual query: “Oh you’re Jewish?”
 I then began to engage in the ancient Jewish tradition of “Jewish Geography”. Much to my delight I found out that Ed was from Charleston and was a congregant of one of my close friends, Rabbi Ari Sytner. Marvel, however, turned to intrigue when upon on telling him that I was from Seattle he turned pale and shared with me something incredible.
 “We recently koshered our home and have begun to take our Judaism more seriously. Our greatest wish was that our son who is in the military should also be able to share in some of the beauty we have found in our heritage. We spoke our desires over with Rabbi Sytner and he mentioned that he had a friend in Seattle not far from the Fort Lewis base where he was going to be stationed and that he would be happy to forward him that info once he got settled.
“This was a few weeks ago and my son just got settled in this week and I wasn’t sure if we should forward that info or not, but it seems that the good Lord in heaven sure resolved that one for us.”  
 The feeling of awe and amazement at how an experience that at first seems so discombobulating turns out to be so Divinely orchestrated, gave me insight into a fantastic Midrash in this weeks Torah portion. We find our forefather Yaakov reuniting with his long lost, presumed to be dead, son, Yosef. The Torah tells us that upon that reunion Yosef falls on his father and cries. The Midrash points out that the text does not mention what would seem to be the more appropriate Hollywood reaction: both father and son weeping together. The reason, our rabbis explain, is because Yaakov was reciting the ancient Jewish prayer of Shema ‘”The Lord is Our God the Lord is One” at that moment, and therefore was not crying.
Praying? You ask in disbelief. Now, of all times to pray!
 The Maharal of Prague (sixteenth century scholar and author) explains that Yaakov was not merely reciting his morning prayers. What he expressed through the recitation of the Shema was the reaction that most succinctly expressed the awe that he was feeling: the almost unbelievable sensation that everything that had happened and occurred was through the hand of God. Famine in Israel, loss of his son - two seemingly unrelated tragedies but under the unseen hands of our Father in Heaven - both happened in order to propel Yosef to his position in which he was most suited, to prepare Egypt for the arrival of the tribes of Israel.
 Incredible things happen daily, some in Egypt to our forefathers, some at rest stops in South Carolina, and some in each of our daily lives. Would that we could utilize the recitation of Shema to focus on these events than not only will our prayers be more complete and meaningful but our lives and all our experiences will be connected to the eternal hand of our Maker .
Two weeks ago I wrote an E-Mail about a story that happened at a rest stop in Georgia. At the time I thought it was an incredible example of how the hand of God reveals itself and directs all that we do. Since then the e-mail and story has taken on a life of its own, being published on the internet website www.jewishworldreview.com and eventually made its way across the country (and world!!) on the   radio and in newspapers. My close friend and colleague Rabbi Ari Sytner from Charleston, South Carolina, the Rabbi of the individual Ed who I met at this rest area has written a follow up to my story, once again revealing to me how wrong and how small my interpretations of events and the actions of the hand of God really can be. Read on and be amazed
 A tiny glimpse into the Divine's reality
By Rabbi Ari Sytner
Miracles are G-d's way of letting us know that He is a part of our daily lives. At times, G-d orchestrates extraordinary and unexplainable events as a means of showing us that, despite our perceptions, life may actually appear differently when seen through the prism of Heaven.
Last week, I was given a tiny glimpse into G-d's reality.
JewishWorldReview.com featured an article that described what was initially thought to be a chance encounter at a highway rest-stop between a Seattle rabbi and a fellow named Ed from Charleston, South Carolina. As the story unfolded, and the two men began to speak, the nature of their meeting was soon revealed to be nothing short of miraculous.
To recap, Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz had just moved to Seattle. Ed's son had just been stationed at a base in a suburb there. Ed explained to the rabbi that he was concerned that his son would not have any Jewish contact while in Seattle. His new young rabbi in Charleston, however, had assured him that a friend and colleague in Seattle would be more than happy to embrace their son.
Sure enough, the friend and colleague that Ed's rabbi, myself, referred to was none other than Rabbi Schwartz himself, who Ed "happened" to stumble upon in the South Carolina rest-stop after what the rabbi presumed were a series of annoying circumstances!
The JWR essay concluded with the two men exchanging information, and agreeing to remain in touch, as it was a surely sign from heaven that the two were destined to cross paths.
After JewishWorldReview.com published this amazing story it was widely circulated over the Internet, and served as a springboard of inspiration for thousands of people.
However, I would like to inform you that this was only the beginning of the story.
Allow me to fill you in a few details that transpired behind the scenes and which I would not have believed myself, had the Divine had not allowed me to personally witness them.
Initially, when Rabbi Schwartz met his new friend Ed at the rest stop in South Carolina, Ed broke the ice with a joke about getting 8 more men together for a Minyan for afternoon prayers. The two men laughed. But deep down, Ed was not kidding. The reason Ed had commented about Minyan was because he's still in the period of mourning after having tragically lost his 28 year-old son. He needed to recite the Kaddish prayer.
After that "coincidental" meeting at the South Carolina rest stop, Ed and his wife, Judy, were greatly comforted. They knew that their remaining child, now living in Seattle, would once again be reconnected to the Jewish community through Rabbi Schwartz.
But for Ed and Judy, the comfort did not end there. After JewishWorldReview.com published their story, they were overwhelmed and flattered by the amount of encouragement and feedback they received from its many readers. It truly gave them strength and comfort they so need during their difficult time of grieving.
But the story still does not end there . . .
On Friday morning, I was preparing for the Sabbath while listening to the popular JM in the AM radio show broadcast over the Internet. Suddenly I jumped to attention after hearing my name. I listened attentively as the substitute host, Mayer Fertig, recounted the entire story about Ed and Rabbi Schwartz, as it appeared on the Jewish World Review website.
Once again, I couldn't believe just how much attention this one story was getting. I was so surprised that I immediately emailed Ed and told him how impressed I was to hear the story over the radio. I concluded my email by telling Ed that I believe that G-d was trying to tell us something. I wrote:
"All of the unexpected attention that this story has gotten seems to be the Almighty's way of letting you and Judy know that you are not alone in the world. There are thousands of people around the world that are now inspired by you. Despite the incredibly difficult and painful time that you are going through, G-d, together with your son in Heaven, must be smiling down on you, letting you know how proud they are over your recent growth and progress in your observance of Mitzvos," religious duties.
Within 10 minutes of sending the email, my phone rang. I recognized the sobbing women's voice on the other end. It was Judy. She revealed that during the last few weeks of dealing with the pain of losing her son, she began to have questions and doubts about G-d. Suddenly, however, through the unexpected publicity of the story of Ed's encounter with Rabbi Schwartz, first by email, then on websites, and now on the radio, she now sees with absolute clarity the hand of G-d. Through her tears, her pain, and her grieving Judy explained that she no longer questions G-d. Rather, she understands that G-d is watching over her family with love and compassion!
Many of us originally looked at this story as some form of spiritual entertainment, merely a cute story. However, I would like you to consider that G-d is not in the entertainment business, and does not run the world for our amusement. Quite to the contrary, G-d is in the profession of healing the sick, comforting the mourners and bringing hope to the destitute, serving as the ultimate role model for us to learn from.
That being said, this story has given us a glimpse into life through the eyes of Heaven. Despite all the media, emails and publicity that swirled around this story and despite all the lives that were inspired by the miraculous event of two Jews meeting at a highway rest stop, the true purpose of this entire event was simply G-d's way of reaching out to a inconsolable, grieving mother, and saying, "Judy, I still love you, please don't stop loving me."
Have an amazing heartfelt Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Az men darf dem ganef, nemt men em arop fun der t’liye.” When you need the thief, you take him down from the gallows.

answer below at end of Email
Q.  The southernmost bird sanctuary in Israel is found in:
A The Hai Bar in Yotvata
B. Yoash Mountain
C. Timna Mountain
D. Eilat


https://youtu.be/ClfI5zhnc2A - A composition of Yossi Green that went viral upon the commuting and freedom of Shalom Rubashkin- Motzi Asirim U’podeh Anavim-He frees the prisoners and redeems the humble and helps the downtrodden and he answers his nation when they call out to him. Nice!

https://youtu.be/z7wJsg1rQLQ - Rubashkin bentching Gomel in 770 this morning!

https://youtu.be/BDur6BEm3M8     - I got really into this golden oldie song this week. Eishes Chayil by Abie Rottenberg from his Aish album. It’s addictive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3Sx5ynlRGU&list=PLD9uToE4LLvKFf2uPKUs4usAwXiC1F-FG&index=2    - Not sure if this link will work in the States. It doesn’t in Israel but try it. It’s Rechnitzes Ani Yosef – Simcha Leiner singing. If it doesn’t work then buy the disc. It’s worth it! Great song from the parsha


This week is my Bar mitzva Parsha and therefore as well it is my Bar Mitzva Haftorah. As we know not only is the parsha that one is born have some connection with his neshoma, but obviously the haftora which is what our Rabbis chose as the accompaniment to our parsha and the insights we should have in it as well will have some connection to us.
Now besides the fact that it mentions my name twice, the past few years I felt an even stronger connection to this haftorah. Yechezkel HaNavi has this incredible vision of two sticks that become joined together as one, this symbolizes the tribes of Yosef and Yehudah that come together in this week’s Torah portion, as well as the divided kingdom in Israel that are represented by the tribe of Ephraim, whose king Yeravam Ben Nevat, led the 10 tribes to split off from Yehudah. Yechezkel then sees the return in Messianic times.
Ezekiel (37:21) So said Hashem behold I take out the children of Israel from amongst the nations which they went there and I will gather them and I will bring them to their land.

Ibid (37:25) And they will dwell on the land which I gave to my servant Yaakov which their fathers dwelled there. And they will dwell there, them and their children and their grandchildren forever and David my servant will lead them forever.
It took me 37 years since my Bar mitzva to see at least my personal return to Eretz Yisrael from amongst the nations. I read the Parsha many years and never saw in the story of the reunion between Yosef and his brothers, his father, and the beginning of our exile in Egypt to have some type of eternal consequence. I’m sure those that lived during the exile from Israel after the first Temple in the time of Yechezkel that didn’t see it as well. Yet, the prophet, reminded the Jewish people that they would be returned. It took them only 70 years to come back and rebuild the 2nd Temple. We have waited over 2000 years for the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy that has already begun. May we soon see the fulfillment of the last words of this week’s prophecy.
Ibid (37:28) And the nations will know that I am Hashem who sanctifies Israel when my Temple is amongst them.

Yechezkel /Ezekiel (590 BC)-  Perhaps known as the most Messianic prophet of the books of the prophets, Yechezkel focuses on the wars of Gog and Magog and the visions of the Temple rebuilt and the services that take place there. He was from a family of Kohanim according to the Radak he was perhaps even the child of Yirmiyahu the prophet as he is called Ben Buzi- the son of the “scorned one”. He was exiled to Babylon in the first Exile and he lived through the period when Ezra was granted permission to rebuild the Temple. His grave is in Iraq and according to the Abarbanel many would go and pray there.


Gerar and Avimelech  1700 BC – Famines hit the land of Israel. This year particularly we are not in great shape as this is the 5th year of drought. Many of my former water hikes in this country are depressingly dry. I’m dreading the summer bumping my backside as I raft down the Jordan river, if we don’t get rain soon. Back in the times of the our forefathers the Torah tells us about the famines that hit Israel and both Avraham and his son Yitzchak make their way down from Beer Sheva  a place called Gerar to the land of the Plishtim-Philistines or Gaza. We are told of the non- god fearing people that lived there led by Avimelech. The name Avimelech, like Pharaoh or Caesar are generic names for the leaders of their particular countries. Now I can’t take my tourists to Gaza today. There are some people there that are not that fond of Jews. I guess some things don’t change. But thankfully I don’t have to. See Gerar is in Israel.

 Now I know that when I go to the Gush Katif Musueum they talk about it being in Gaza. I believe the former yishuv of Kfar Darom claim that it was near there. However archeologists place it by Tel Haror about 35 KM north of Beer Sheva and about the same from modern day Gaza. At that site they found a lot Philistine artifacts and religious items as well as an upper and lower city. Although I have never been there personally. However Those that visit Be’er Sheva or make pilgrmages to Netivot to the grave of the Baba Sali can pass by and talk about our ancestors who made their way along that route. Now one thing I like to point out to my tourists is that this area is certainly considered Israel despite whatever deals the Israeli government might make or what the UN may want. For we are told that Yitzchak was ordered by Hashem never to leave the Land of Israel. Yet he went to Gaza, to Gerar ergo that must have been Israel.
Why did the picture go to jail? Because it was framed.
Why did the belt get arrested? Because he held up a pair of pants. 
What do prisoners use to call each other? Cell phones.
Where can you find a bunch of clowns who deserve to be in jail? Silly Con Valley.
What do you give prisoners for dessert? Jaily-Beans.

The town thief Berel Shmerel was on trial for, what else, stealing. “Berel Shmerel,” announced the judge, “for breaking into a house in the middle of the night, I sentence you to two years in prison.”
“But your honor,” pleaded Shmerel, “last time I was in court you sentenced me to a year in jail for breaking into a house in broad daylight If not in the middle of the night, and not in broad daylight, just when am I supposed to earn my living?”

Chaim Yankel made some terrible decisions early on in life that landed him in prison. After 12 years behind bars, he feels like he just can’t take it anymore, and decides to break out.
When he gets home, filthy and exhausted, his wife Rachel takes one look at him and says, “Where have you been? You escaped eight hours ago!”


Answer is D – Interesting question as the sites listed are all in the Eilat area. The Hai Bar is a nice animal reserve in the nearby city of Yotvata. Yoash is a nice mountain overlook into Sinai. And Timna is also the beautiful mountains right outside of Eilat. Yet the correct answer where one can check out the 500 million birds that land in Israel is Eilat, in what was once the garbage dump there and was turned into the first bird conservatory in Israel in 1980. Best time is to come in March when the birds start to return from the South and they have the festival there.

No comments:

Post a Comment