Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
January 26th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 16 10th Shvat 5778
A Spectacular Sea Splitting Spelling Synopsis
How do you spell Tzfat? Well that should be easy. Just look at one of the signs coming into the city. Actually that probably won’t work. Because depending on what entrance you came in you would be greeted by a different spelling. There’s Sfat, Safed, Sfad, Tzefat, Tzefad, Zfat. I don’t know why this is so difficult for Israelis. Akko is not much better. There is Ako, Acre and Akko Acco. Perhaps most exciting in Israeli signs are their seeming fetish for the letter “Q” as in Qiryat Shmona, Qumran, or any other word that has a “kuf” in it, despite the fact that no one really uses a “Q” in an real words in America. It’s why a triple word score in scrabble and always with a “U” in boggle. But Israelis just love that letter “Q”. They can’t get enough it. They’ll use it instead of a “C” instead of a “K”. Maybe because it is the one letter and sound that we don’t have in our alphabet, so it’s very American and you know us Israelis we like everything American. Truth is we don’t have a “W” either, so the best we can come up with is double vav to replace it. Which of course just leads to Israelis saying “Vere eez your Vife valking, vaht vill she vant to dreenk ven she kahms bek? Vine?”
Now it’s not just the misspellings the signs themselves can be quite hilarious in their translations as well. I don’t know why they can’t just get it right. I was in Mitzpe Ramon the other day and they have quite a good film there that talks about the Creation of the World from the point of the “Big Band” millions of years ago. Now I know that Keith Richards was old and I assumed that the Rolling Stones had something to do with the Creation of the world, but millions of years ago? It’s the big band theory that they only know about here in Israel.
I’m not even going to try to list the misspellings and mistranslations from Hebrew to English in this country. Some of them are hilarious, some are pathetic and some are just pure laziness. It seems strange that for a country that seems to want to help Americans and foreigners and place signs for them in our mother language that they can’t make the extra effort to actually get it right.
Now someone once suggested to me that the truth is this really is in line with our ancient Jewish tradition. I mean if one looks at the Torah, we know that there are different spellings for different words at different times. Sometimes a word is spelled “full” with all of its letters sometimes it is missing a few. As well there are different words that seemingly mean different things that are used to describe the same incident. Each one of them have different lessons. Our job as the academics of God, is to notice these inconsistencies. To figure out what the Torah is trying to tell us and what its message is for us today. In fact one of the most critical places we find this is by what Hashem describes repeatedly as a “sign” for the Jewish people. A sign we should wear on our heads and wrap on our arms in our Tefilin, a sign we should place on our doorposts in mezuzas. The love Hashem has for us that all began with our Exodus from Egypt when Hashem made “osot- signs” for us in Egypt.
This week’s Torah portion is finally the chapter of that Exodus; the end of Egypt and the splitting of the Sea. In describing the sea splitting the Torah uses two different accounts let’s see if you can pick it up from the various verses. Hashem commands Moshe
Shemot (14:16) And you should lift up your staff stretch out your arm on the sea and bakei’hu- split it and the children of Israel shall come in the sea on the land.
Ibid (14:22) and the children of Israel came in the sea in the land and the water was a choma-wall from their right and their left.
Now after the Egyptians entered the water and Hashem told Moshe to stretch out his hands again and Hashem drowned the Egyptians the Torah tells us
Ibid (14:29) and the children of Israel went in the dry land in the sea and the water was a ch*ma- wall on their right and left.
As well in the song of the Sea the description is
Ibid ( 15:19) when the horse of Pharaoh and his chariot and riders came into the sea and Hashem restored upon them the water of the sea and the children of Israel went in the land within the sea.
OK so did they walk in the sea on the land or in the land in the sea. As well how do you spell wall in Hebrew is it with an”o” as in Choma or without ch*ma. Perhaps an even more fascinating question is the term that we use to refer to the splitting of the sea. See our sages always call it Kriyat Yam Suf. Yet the Torah never uses the word kriya- which literally mans the ripping of the sea. Rather it uses the term bekiyat hayam- the splitting of the sea. So what is up with our mistranslation? Is it some Israeli thing? The answer is of course. Yes it is.
The Chidushei HaRim of Ger is quoted as having suggested that the difference between the two terms is that kriya- ripping is a term that is only used when two things have been separated and then were put back together again. Splitting on the other hand is the first time. When our sages talk about the splitting of the sea, they refer to it as the ripping of the sea. Because they are suggesting that the splitting of the sea that happened then can and will happen again and again. In fact even at the original splitting some of our sages see that it happened twice. You just have to pay attention to the nuances in translation and spelling.
See, the Gaon of Vilna notes that Hashem wants the Jews to walk into the sea. Even before the water splits. If they do that and act with faith then it will turn to dry land. And that is precisely what the majority of Israel did. In that case the water was like a choma- a wall around them. There were Jews however that waited. They didn’t have faith. In fact according to our sages there were two Jews- Dathan and Aviram that waited around in Egypt to see what would happened. It was in fact, the Targum Yonatan explains, to these two that at the beginning of the parsha the Torah tells us.
Ibid (14:3) and Pharoah said to the children of Israel they are confined in the land the wilderness has locked them in.
Yet after they saw that pharaoh drowned they decided to join the Jewish people and the water once again split. Or more precisely it tore- as in a second time- for them. However this time they went in the land on the water as it was already split and they did not have the faith to walk in the water and wait to see it turn to land. Upon this second splitting the Torah says ch*ma- without the “o” because it spells the word cheima- which can mean wrath as well. The Torah wants us to note that when it split the second time it was not so happy. After-all it was splitting for these two guys that didn’t have much faith.
Why did it split for these two seeming trouble makers and what is the inspiration that our sages wish for us to take from this, by referring to the miracle of the tearing of the sea. Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin notes that Dathan and Aviram despite being the ones that complained, that later on joined Korach, that in this week’s Torah portion went out to pick manna on Shabbat. That were the initial ones in Egypt that snitched on Moshe for killing the Egyptian and that forced him to flee. Despite being the quintessential trouble makers. They have one merit. They were the taskmasters in Egypt. They took blows for the Jewish people, rather than allow the Jews to get beaten. If someone will put themselves on the line for their fellow Jew, no matter how unobservant, or even anti-observant, anti- god, anti- Moshe anti- Shabbos they might be, Hashem will split the sea for them. That is the lesson of the splitting of the sea.
Our sages tell us that a man’s livelihood is like the splitting of the sea, finding one’s mate is like the splitting of the sea. Just as when the sea split we had to have faith. We had to walk into uncharted and difficult waters, and yet Hashem opened it up and split it for us. Similarly each step we take to make our living, to find our spouse. Or even if we have found our spouse already, we are mandated daily to find again and again our zugiyot- our partner in our spouse. It takes faith, it takes trust and it is step by step. Yet despite the challenge and the sense of inadequacy that we may have at that great demanding task, our sages wanted us as well to remember that the sea splits even for those not worthy. Even for Dathan and Aviram. Each Jew is special. Each Jew has merit, particularly those that put their lives on the line for their fellow Jews (Yes, I mean our boys in green here in Israel). Hashem notices the little nuances in each of us. He finds that there is meaning and a precious redemptive treasure no matter how we spell our names, how we look, how we observe. That is how we were redeemed then. It is even more so, how we will be redeemed very soon.
Have a quaint, quiet, qomforting Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
This week's Insights and Inspiration is sponsored by my dear friends Jeff and Amy Brooke of Norfolk Virginia upon the occasions of the marriage of their daughter Chana to Avi Horowitz and the marriage of Herb and Bina Zukerman this past month. Mazel Tov! May the young and “elder” couple be blessed with a house of Simcha, bracha, nachas, health and all things good. And may you guys continue to see many more simchas from your family!
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Der got vos hot geshpoltn dem yam vet dir shpaltn dem kop oykh!”- Der got vos hot geshpoltn dem yam vet dir shpaltn dem kop oykh!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q The “Duc in Altum” church is found in:
C. Capernaum (Kfar Naum)
D. The Mount of Olives
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
https://youtu.be/hwspmVuuqLo - Funny spoof of Netanyahu Israel speech with hillarious translation really LOL
https://youtu.be/JaiT5HgdF9w - beautiful “Lo Mir Machen Kiddish” song by Beri Weber by Wedding last week
https://youtu.be/EGLA79z_Brk - Perhaps one of the most majestic renditions of Kah Echsof the holy Shabbos song ever! Shloimy Daskal
https://youtu.be/cVC57jpkY2c - Splitting of Sea in Hebrew
https://youtu.be/T4H5tjx2Zpg - the history of splitting the Sea in Hollywood cool! But nobody does it like Hashem!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S HAFTORA CONNECTION OF THE WEEK
Now there are different customs many times between Sefardim and Ashkenazim about haftora readings. Sometimes we read different portions, sometimes we start and end at different places. If you examine the haftoras many time they have similar themes, others they are bringing out different aspects of the Parsha. In all cases though it is certainly interesting to examine both readings, as all Jewish customs are considered like Torah to be learned.
This week, when we read Shabbat Shira the song of the Jewish people at the Sea, the custom was to read as well the portion of the song of Devora and her battle over Sisera. Now Ashkenazim read the story leading of the battle whereas the Sefardim read just the song. Maybe Ashkenazim like stories more than songs, or only appreciate a good song when there is a story first. Sefardim though don’t need a story to sing. Now there are certainly many similarities between the song of Devora and the song by the Sea. Both of them praise Hashem and recognize His hand in the victory, as well as all nations hearing about this battle. As well as the song of the sea concludes with Miriam’s song Devorah’s song ends with praise for Yael. Yet there are differences as well. Much of Devora’s song blames those that did not come to fight; the tribes, the stars, the nations.
Interestingly enough the first part of the haftorah as well spends time discussing Barak’s reluctance to battle without Devora joining him. This hearkens back to Moshe not wanting to bring Jews out until Aharon joins him. This is in glaring contrast to Yael who is perhaps not even Jewish and not part of the battle who joins and kills and defeats Sisera. Perhaps it can be suggested that the theme the haftorah are pointing out to us is those that have faith and join versus those that do not. As well whereas the song of Sea is entirely focused on Hashem. Devorah in her song recognizes and sings about the heroics and bravery of those that joined in battle.
Devora the Judge (1026-1066 BC) – The fourth of Israel’s judges after coming into the land of Israel was a woman. Devora was known for her piety and wisdom and her heroic battle against Sisera. She would judge underneath a palm tree, our sages tell us in order to symbolize that Jews would
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ERA’S AND THEIR PLACES AND PEOPLE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Gilad and Jacobs Battle with Angel 1555 BC- Yaakov was gone from Israel for 22 years. It is interesting to note that all of his children were Olim. Binyamin being the only Sabra. When he comes back to Israel he faces enemies right away he is chased home from his uncle Lavan, he is beset pon by his brother Esau, and he even does battle with Esau’s angel the mysterious man in the night. Now I do not generally tour with my tourists outside of Israel. Yet we certainly do overlooks to other countries and places that were Israel. One of those places is the land of Gilad. Right across the Jordan river South of Tiverya, in what was the biblical portion of the tribe of Gad. Yes, Jordan is occupying our territory. Terrible that no one is making a fuss about this illegal occupation. The Yabok river today which is a tributary on Jordan’s side of the Jordan river an dis called in Arabic the Zarka river, is about halfway between the Dead Sea and Tiverya. It is there that Yaakov crossed from Gilad to Israel. It is there that he went back to fight with the angel and called it Penuel. There is a lot to talk about on the drive up on Highway 90 certainly our biblical stories and the crossing places of our forefathers can certainly make the trip more meaningful as we connect to our biblical roots across the Jordan River as well. May we soon return to there.
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S TERRIBLE SEA JOKES OF THE WEEK
Why can’t blind people eat fish?
Because it’s sea food.
What did the beach say as the tide came in?
Long time, no sea.
What did one ocean say to the other ocean? nothing, they just WAVED. can you SEA what I did there? I’m SHORE you did.
i had a dream about the whole ocean was filled with orange soda turns out it was a fanta sea
How did Moses cut the sea in half? With a sea-saw
Why do seagulls fly over the sea? Because if they flew over the bay they would be called bagels
Why did the Jews cross the sea? To get to the other tide.
What’s the most popular TV show in the ocean? – Whale of fortune!
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RABBI SCHWARTZ’S SHABBOS CARTOON OF THE WEEK
Answer is A – So as you know Churches are not my forte. In our tour guiding course we of course had to be knowledgeable and visit the important churches in Israel. Now although we- in our course which was technically religious (Jewish) did not require us to go into the church which would be a violation of Jewish law- and a disgrace to millennia of our ancestors that would have given their lives rather than to visit any of those places that worship that heretical Jew in whose name multitudes of them were killed in Crusades, Inquisition, pogroms and the like. Yet we still had to know everything about the churches and what was in each of them. The information I pretty much deleted from my limited memory brain not long after my exams. Yet I was still able to get this answer correct by process of elimination. See Magdala was the only one that I was never at. It is in fact a newer Christian site near the Kinneret North of Tiverya. And I was familiar with all the other ones. Tabha being the one with the fish and bread “miracle bubbbe mayseh”. Capernaum or Kfar Nachum is where Yoshka was thrown out of shul because fo his heresy and he cursed them as well its where Peter’s house is supposed to be. And Mount of Olives is all of the churches of the nations and the stories of Yoshka before he was killed. So Magdala is the right answer- Duc in Altum means something about the deep… I dunno it was too boring to read… google it yourself if you care… I bet you won’t and don’t…. so why should I?