Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
January 19th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 15 3rd Shvat 5778
All About the Kids
I always get inspired to write about things that people tell me that they don’t enjoy reading. I don’t know maybe it’s the rebel in me. Anyways I bumped into a good friend of mine this week and he told me he enjoys getting my weekly E-Mail and inspiration. He reads the first 20 pages or so each week until I start writing about my kids and my family and then he just deletes. He has no patience for my personal family reflections. So here we go YS. This E-Mail is for you delete now.
I love my kids. They’re really great. Each one of them is unique, special and all of the good things about them all come from me of course. Sure they can be argumentative, and they have problems with authority-well at least my authority, and they really don’t know how to clean up after themselves well. Those things, of course don’t have nothing to do with my genes. After all I never have problems with my authority and I never argue with myself. Even the cleaning up thing is really not from me. My room since I’ve gotten married always seems to be clean. And I have like this magic thing in my house. My table kind of clears itself and my laundry somehow always finds its way to the laundry basket and cleaned and folded back in my cabinets. But besides those minor things about my kids they really are great. Th are growing up pretty fast, though. I mean every month or so when I see them, as we pass through the house and nod to one another in between my touring gigs and their schoolwork they seem to have aged. I really should spend more time with them. Before I know it they may even get older than me. See I never age. I’m still 18ish, I think it’s that same magic thing in my house that makes that happen.
But to be honest, Es Chata’ai Ani Mazkir Hayom- I will recall my sins today- I really don’t appreciate or think about my kids much. Who has time to? I’m actually writing about them and thinking about them this week because I’m in Los Angeles. I miss them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I never look at my kids pictures when I’m home with them, but last night I looked into my wallet and just had one of those father moments as I looked at my darling Shani’s toothless smile back up at me from her picture, or Yonah’s cute little pre upsherin curls. Yeah I know I should update pictures as those are like 20 years old. And I have a few more kids since then. But who actually develops pictures anymore? Kids are great when they’re far away. Especially when they are far away and can be accessed via pictures, back to a time when they don’t argue with you.
Now my kids feel the same I think about their father I think. Dads are great when they’re not around or there to argue with. I remember back in my tour guiding course when I was in Eilat for a few days I called up my little 5 year old Elka to say hello. I asked her if she missed me. And she asked me when I was coming home already. I was touched. I was moved. I felt loved. Then she asked me if I bought her presents. I of course explained to her that when I went away in Israel I didn’t buy presents for them. Only when I go to America do I buy presents. She then got very serious with me and asked me when I was going to America… Oh well… maybe she didn’t miss me so much…
I write about children for another reason this week as well. This week’s Torah portion, or Part II of the Exodus from Egypt story which began last week, seems to be very busy with children. I noted last week in my shul that the stopping point between the first 7 plagues, which was last week’s Torah portion, and the final 3 this week, of locusts, darkness and death of the first borns, seems to be an odd place to break up the story. If you would have asked me I would have stopped after the first 5, making it an even 5 and 5. Alternatively we know that it can be split up into three groups De’TzaCh, A’DaSh B’aChaV- 3 plagues 3 plagues and the last 4. But why stop after the plague of hail? I answered what I answered last week. You had to be there. But in a nutshell, I spoke about the theme of the first 7 plagues which was to bring Egypt and Pharaoh to a recognition of Hashem as the God. The theme of this week’s Torah portion is entirely different. If you ask me it’s about the kids.
The Parsha begins with Hashem telling Moshe to come to Pharaoh. Now seemingly what would be the point of this? In last week’s Torah portion Hashem introduced the saga of the plagues as being in order that Pharaoh, the Egyptians, the Jews and really the whole world will recognize Hashem. They do. Mission Accomplished. Pharoah announced Hashem is righteous. He admitted that he was wicked. Why continue to game. He said uncle. Or Father.
The answer Hashem introduces Moshe to in this week’s Parsha is
Shemot (10:2) In order that you will tell your children and your children’s children...
Meaning if the first part of the story was about Pharaoh the rest of the story is going to be about our children, our descendants and passing on that story and tradition. In fact if we follow the story from here on we note that is what is going on. Pharaoh is ready to cave by the warning of the plague of locusts. Yet he refuses to let the children go. Moshe refuses.
Ibid (10:9) With our youth and our elders we will go, with our children and our daughters…
The final battle Moshe is going to have is for our children. We need them. They are the future. They are what this is all about. We need the elders to pass on the tradition and the youngsters to absorb and continue the line. That is what will make us eternal.
After the plague of darkness Pharaoh agrees to let out even the infants. But the story is not over. There is one last plague; the plague of the first-borns. Their children will die, ours will become sanctified. From there we move on to the laws of the Pesach sacrifice. Interestingly enough those are precisely the laws that by the Pesach Seder we are told to teach the wise son. Later on the parsha continues with the questions of the simple son, the wicked son and the one who doesn’t even know how to ask. The point of the Exodus is for these children to keep asking. To have an unbroken chain that remembers we have been sanctified.
The final mitzva of the Parsha is to sanctify the first born of every Jewish womb. Yet it is interesting and revealing how this mitzva is commanded and how Moshe passes it on. See Hashem tells Moshe
Shemot (13:2) Sanctify for Me the firstborn of every womb of the children of Israel from man to animal.
Seemingly a simple command right? Wrong. Moshe goes through a whole drasha for 12 pesukim that begin with
Ibid (3:3) Remember this day that you left Egypt from being slaves for with a strong hand Hashem took you out from this and you should not eat Chametz.
He continues with the command that this should be in the spring. That we will come to the land of Israel. He seemingly gets sidetracked describing Israel as a land of milk and honey. Back to the laws of eating Matzos, the questions of the children. Finally he arrives at the mitzva of the first borns and even then he changes it a bit.
Ibid (13:13) and every first born of a donkey he should redeem with a sheep… and every first born of your children should be redeemed.
So Moshe rather than talk about their sanctification describes it as pidyon- redemption.
He continues and explains the lesson as
Ibid (13:15) And it was when Pharaohs heart was hardened to send us out and He killed all the First Borns in the land of Egypt…Therefore I sacrifice to Hashem the first of the womb of the males and the first born of my sons I will redeem.
As I noted this is a pretty extensive expansion of the simple law that Hashem commanded that our firstborns should be holy. The Rashbam and other early commentaries understand that the mitzva of the First born is really two fold. There is the pre-golden calf and post the golden calf. See when we left Egypt that night of the First Borns, we became chosen to teach Hashem to the world. The method of our teaching would be through our children, primarily our first-borns would be the Priests, the Kohanim our intermediaries between Hashem and His people and from them to the rest of the world. Now this was despite that they were idolaters as the Egyptians were. Yet Hashem saw in us that greatness. He saw our commitment to our children, to passing down our heritage through them. To answer their questions, to prompt them to ask. Yet on that night they were saved because of our future. That is the mitzvah that Hashem tells Moshe- sanctify your First Born; plain and simple.
Moshe on the other hand is commanding us about the process after the sin of the Golden Calf. He speaks about a time when we will come into the land. By then the pendulum of priesthood had changed hands. The First-borns lost it. They failed to teach the people faith, rather they inspired fear, doubt and quickly were involved in making the golden calf. So they lost it. Now although they lost it. The nation never did. Moshe tells the nation that sanctity remains. That role and obligation remains. Each parent must redeem his child. Must see in his child the potential for greatness, must see them as an essential link in our chain, in our mandate to reveal Hashem to the world. The first born may not be the leaders, or the priests anymore but that holiness needs to be passed down from generation to the next. At the start of every new generation, with the birthing of a first born, we must realize and remember we are different than Egypt. Our children can always leave Egypt. We can’t leave without them. That is how we Bo El Pharaoh- How we come to Pharaoh.
I’m about 10,000 miles away from my children as I write this. I miss them. Yet I am away because I am at a wedding of the child of a close friend of mine. There is nothing more Jewish than a Jewish wedding. We are told that all of the previous generations are there at the Chupah. They rejoice at this newest link being formed. Another generation gets ready to begin. Our family started 3000 years ago, that chain still lives on. It is truly remarkable. And we owe it all to our kids. May our Father continue to bless all of His children that we should merit to see our Father return to His Home as well soon.
Have a blessed simchadike Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Oib di velt vet verren oisgelaizt, iz es nor in zechus fun kinder”- If the world will ever be redeemed, it will be only through the merit of children.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q The Jewish calendar year is based on:
A. The sun and the moon
B. The sun
C. The moon
D. None of the above is true
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
https://youtu.be/u9o4bqAQVhs - Beautiful song by the two incredible brothers Eitan and Shlomo Katz Al Hatzadikim in memory of Rav Shteiman
https://youtu.be/0wqMp3J8FB4 - Awesome story by Rabbi Yoel Gold- I love his stuff but this one is really cool wathc till end!
https://youtu.be/8oQk5ghFE50 - I loved this song when it first came out. I love Shwekey but he still isn’t an Abie Rottenberg.
https://youtu.be/9EjjfkHql3I - And of course the Little Kinderlach will bring Mashiach from Country Yossi classic!
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S HAFTORA CONNECTION OF THE WEEK
Quite a few of our Nevi’im as we pointed out lived at the same time. Although in yeshiva I think it was all one big blob of nevi’im and it really doesn’t make much of a difference. It’s why I include the timeline and the bios to this column of each of the nevi’im hopefully with its review each week of different prophets and their contemporaries we can get a feel and appreciation of each of these great men and their times.
Two such prophets Yirmiyahu and Yechezkel both lived during the period leading up to and following the destruction of the Temple. The difference being that Yechezkel, whose prophecy was the haftorah of last week, was in Babylonia already, while Yirmiyahu, this week’s Haftora, was in Eretz Yisrael. It is fascinating to look at each of their prophecies about the same incident in before the Exile of the Jews; namely the defeat of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian King.
It seems this was a very significant incident in the world at the time. Egypt was who Israel counted on for support against the Babylonians and their defeat in Yechezkel’s view was one of Hashem destroying the arrogance of Egypt and establishing His name in the world, ironically enough through Nebuchadnezzar. Yirmiyahu on the other hand sees this battle as it reflects as a forewarning of what will happen to the Jews for relying on Pharaoh.
Yirmiyahu (46:25) So said Hashem of Hosts the God of Israel behold I will punish Amon of No and Pharaoh and Egypt and their gods and on their kings both on Pharaoh and those that put their trust in him.
The connection to the Parsha is of course the plagues, the stumbling blocks Hashem put before them and their arrogance and denial of a day of judgement.
However Yirmiyahu, unlike Yechezkel mentions that Egypt will be returned to their country as they were in the past. Similarly he tells Yaakov that even though we will be exiled we will return to Eretz Yisrael. Two different views of this world story. One from the eyes of exile and Yechezkel who is warning Jews that even Exile they must remember that Hashem is the one behind it all. Yirmiyahu on the other hand from Israel forewarning us that the sword of Nebuchadnezzar is coming our way, and yet we should know that we will return just as Egypt will. Isn’t it so much more interesting when you know the history?
Yirmiyahu (590 BC) – One of the last prophets of the first temple. Yirmiyahu prophesied for the lastk kings of Yehuda Yoshiayahu the righteous King, and his following kings Yehoachaz, Yehoyachin, and for the 11 years of King Tzedkiyahu who was captured and exiled by Babylonians. Yirmiyahu certainly living in one of the most tragic periods of our downfall’s prophecies are full of rebuke trying to get the people to repent and avoid the impending destruction.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ERA’S AND THEIR PLACES AND PEOPLE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Yaakov’s Ladder 1577 BC – It is perhaps the most famous of all Biblical dreams. The imagery of Jacob’s ladder with the angels going up and down to heaven is classic and inspirational. Whether this is the angels that accompany him as he leaves Israel to go to Chutz La’artez as he is fleeing from his brother. Whether it is the angels seeing Yaakovs image up in heaven engraved on Hashem’s throne. Whether it is a moral lesson for the way that we have to grow in this worl; our feet being planted firmly in this world as our heads like the ladder reach for the heavens. We are told this story takes place in the city of Beit El. Yaakov has left Be’er Sheva in the South he is headed up to his uncle Lavan in North Syria or Iraq. According to Rashi and others he has already traveled all the way there to study for 14 years in Yeshiva and remembers that he passed over the Temple Mount- where his forefathers prayed and headed back there. This would make it quite a journey. But regardless it is here that he goes to sleep and has his fateful dream.
He awakes and calls this place the “Gateway to Heaven”.
Now as we know Jerusalem is the gateway to heaven so Rashi explains that the land folded up underneath Yaakov. And his feet was in Beer Sheva and his head was in Beit El which would put the middle of the ladder or where his heart would be more accurately in Jerusalem. I have seen some commentaries that describe the ladder as going up to Jerusalem from Beer Sheva and then down from Jerusalem to Beit El, which is a bit of a different take. Now modern Beit El is near where the biblical city was. In fact in the Arab village of Beitin south of Beit El there was certainly a city with biblical ruins they have found there. Some archeologists have associated this with the city of the King Yeravam, who broke off with 10 tribes after King Solomon and started the Northern Kingdom of Israel, had his capital. Interestingly enough he chose Beit El because he said that Yaakov declared that this was gateway to heaven- as opposed to Jerusalem that was selected by the house of David that Yeravam was breaking off from.
Now I have never really guided in Biblical Beit El or even modern Beit El as there is not much I have found there to show people. Beitin is one of those West Bank villages that Jews are not allowed into and risk their lives if they go there, as is so nicely posted at entry to city. I would love to daven Mariv there once though if I ever had the opportunity with my tourists thought for after-all as we know it is there that the first Mariv service was ever made, the prayer of Yaakov before that dream. It would be a real chavaya to daven and sleep there. I wonder what we would dream about…
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S CHILDREN JOKES OF THE WEEK
One day a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast on her brunette head. She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, "Why are some of your hairs white, Mom?"
Her mother replied, "Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me cry or unhappy, one of my hairs turns white."
The little girl thought about this revelation for a while and then said, "Momma, how come ALL of grandma's hairs are white?"
An irate woman burst into the baker's shop and said, " I sent my son in for two pounds of cookies this morning, but when I weighed them there was only one pound. I suggest that you check your scales."
The baker looked at her calmly for a moment or two and then replied, "Ma'am, I suggest you weigh your son."
When Dad came home he was astonished to see Alec sitting on a horse, writing something. " What on earth are you doing there ?" he asked.
"Well, the teacher told us to write an essay on our favorite animal. That's why I'm here and that's why Susie's sitting in the goldfish bowl !"
Two kids are talking to each other. One says, "I'm really worried. My dad works twelve hours a day to give me a nice home and good food. My mom spends the whole day cleaning and cooking for me. I'm worried sick!"
The other kid says, "What have you got to worry about? Sounds to me like you've got it made!"
The first kid says, "What if they try to escape?"
For weeks a six-year-old lad kept telling his first-grade teacher about the baby brother or sister that was expected at his house.
One day the mother allowed the boy to feel the movements of the unborn child. The six-year old was obviously impressed, but made no comment. Furthermore, he stopped telling his teacher about the impending event.
The teacher finally sat the boy on her lap and said, "Tommy, whatever has become of that baby brother or sister you were expecting at home?"
Tommy burst into tears and confessed, "I think Mommy ate it!"
Little Girl to her friend: "I'm never having kids. I hear they take nine months to download."
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S SHABBOS CARTOON OF THE WEEK
Answer is A – I don’t believe there is anything mystical about my selection of questions for this section our weekly E-Mail I just go through them in the order that they come up from the current years Minstry of Torurism’s Tour Guide exam. I’m testing myself, and sharing with you an appreciation of the amount and minutia of detail that was and is required to pass the exam to become a licensed tour guide in this country. Yet, when a question comes up that has to do with parshat Hashavua, I pause and think maybe there is some mystical Divine hand in the order of these weekly questions. Anyways this question is easy for anyone that read the Torah portion this week. The first mitzva the Jews got as a nation was to count the months, which of course would be a lunar calendar. However we are also told that the Pesach mustbe in the spring each year. Which of course if we would follow a solely lunar calendar year of 354 days would be short 11 days each year and eventually move Pesach and all our holidays to different season of the year. Which is what happens to the Muslims who follow a lunar only calendar. So we correct our Lunar calendar by adding in leap years every few years to bring us back to the balance of a solar year. So there you have it’s really a balance between the solar and lunar calendars.