Our view of the Galile

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Smoke- Free Shemos 2018 / 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
January 5th   2018! -Volume 8 Issue 13 18th Tevet 5778

Parshat Shemot
There’s and old Jewish joke that really hits the nail on the head. It gets Israelis, It gets Americans, and it hits teenagers. It’s even a bit yeshivish. I like jokes like that. Especially if it also primarily targets me. There’s nothing like a little self-deprecating humor to give one the ability to poke fun at everyone else. So here it goes...
Q: Why doesn’t one make a Shehechyanu on the first cigarette you ever smoke?
A: The American answer is that one cannot make a blessing in the bathroom.
The Israeli answer is that the child is too young to make blessings.
Bada Boom Bada Bing!

Now I relate to that joke. Both as an American teenager that got his 30 year career as a smoker back in a yeshiva bathroom, as well as someone who lives in Israel and sees, tragically, way too many pre-pre- pubescent children with cigarettes dangling out of their mouths. They say they use cigarettes to wean them of their pacifiers in this country. I am the last one in the world to be suggesting moderation, regulation or even discipline, yet I really think that until a kid can reach a sink to wash their hands after they come out of the bathroom, they really shouldn’t be lighting up matches and cigarettes. But that’s just me.

Now I remember when I was a young yeshiva guy, our Rebbi used to rail on against smoking. The way that he described it was 

Techilaso b’gai’va v’sofo b’tai’va- It starts with arrogance and ends up with desire.

Meaning you start smoking because you want to be “cool”. You want to be a big shot. The man on your high school yeshiva campus lot. This was particularly relevant for someone like me, who had no athletic ability and couldn’t be cool on the basketball court. It was also the way that we could rebel. Which is always necessary in teenage development. The benefit of smoking was that it was against the rules, but not necessarily against the Torah. So we could rebel and not be subject to eternal damnation. There are not too many outlets like this for the Yeshiva guy. See there were too many great Rabbis that smoked and were still smoking for them to tell us that it was Halachically forbidden. They could say it was foolish, it was probably forbidden to start smoking. That it was developing bad middos- character traits.  It was not- healthy... But frankly those are all incentives to a yeshiva guy to smoke. It’s what makes it cool. Add on to that, if they caught you they would throw you out of yeshiva or suspend you and it was like the snake in the Garden of Eden calling to us...It was irresistible.

Now yeshiva guys can’t just engage in ta’ivos. There has to be a rationale why whatever they are warning us about is irrelevant to us. It’s for lesser men. We (I) were smarter. Sure they said smoking was addictive. Sure they said it was dangerous. Yes, we all know people that died of cancer and other smoke related diseases. But they were old people. They were people that smoked for 25-50 years. People that smoked at least a pack or two a day. Smoking is not like drugs. You can stop cold- turkey. We’re only doing a few cigarettes a day. We don’t even smoke on Shabbos. So the statistics that they have are not representative of people that only smoke 6 days a week. I thought of the last one there, myself, thank you very much. 
We told ourselves that we would be smart enough to stop, when we started dating. As we knew that girls couldn’t stand smokers. OK I mean after we got married. No I mean when we have our first kid. Oh when I settle into my new job. Or not.... So here we are 30 years later. I’ve stopped a few times. Never for too long though. Something always came up. I pushed it off. I’m still young. There’s still time. They’re gonna come up with a cure for everything soon. Right?
The truth is I really hate lots of things about smoking. It stinks. Everything smells. It’s expensive. Back in the good old days it was a dollar a pack. I feel like my grandparents now when they would tell me about how the subway was a nickle. Today cigarettes are eight to nine dollars a pack in Israel. In addition tourists don’t like it, so of course I can’t smoke in front of them. Also you can’t smoke anywhere anymore, so you’re usually outside in the shivering somewhere, trying to light up in the freezing wind while the rain keeps putting it out. Forget about long flights where you are literally crawling in your seat to get out for your first puff. And then when you finally do get off that plane...the wait until you get through customs, and luggage and until you get outside... Worst of all though is that you of course have let your mother down, your wife, your kids... you basically have shown them that you would rather inhale a bit on some little leaves and suck them into your lungs than improve your chances for sticking around on this planet a little bit longer with them. For them. Yeah smoking really stinks.
Ahhhhh, but that puff..... Is there anything better? An early morning sunrise with a cup of coffee on your porch as the sun comes up. At night after a long hard day is there anything that can replace a nice cold beer and cigarette as you just chill out. Is there a better end to a delicious steak dinner, a Thursday night pre-shabbos chulent? Is there anything that can get your creative juices running faster, quicker more creatively than the inhale/exhale “Lamaze- exercises of smoking. Anything that relieves stress and pressure better?
I tried the electronic cigs once. I think they’re dangerous. Ironically enough. Also I like the flicking, the blowing. I don’t know. E- smoking didn’t do it for me. As well my uncle suggested I do the patches. That also doesn’t speak to me. Neither does gum. No, I’m just gonna go about this the good old fashioned, “cold turkey” way. Last Friday was my birthday. It’s been almost a week now since I've had my last one. I’m eating a lot more. Yelling at my children and tourists a lot more. Yeah... I’m on edge. But I’m holding strong. The time has finally come. I’m not a kid anymore. It’s time to finally stop being a slave to this self-imposed addiction. I am ready to finally be free.
What better Parsha to begin my Exodus than the Torah portion that begins the story of our first Exodus. The truth is that the Book of Shemos or the sefer HaGeula- the Book of redemption is a great title for the first 3 and a half Torah portions of the Book. From the middle of Beshalach and on when we had left Egypt after the splitting of sea it really has not much to do with the story of Exodus. We have the battle of Amalek, the Ten Commandments, the golden calf and the building of the Mishkan. Lots of those stories didn’t even make it into the Ten Commandments movie. Which might have even been a better title for the book as that is at least the centerpiece of the Book. Yet the essence of the book is of course redemption. That is the title and perhaps even more significantly it is way that out people our born.
See the last book is all about our DNA. It is our forefathers, it is our historic connection to our land. It is the challenges that they overcame that engrained in our genes the ability to do the same. Yet this book is about how we become a nation. How we move from a family to a people, to a nation that heard God and was chosen by Him and ultimately how we established a home for Hashem in our midst. That process is called redemption. It starts with us becoming slaves to Pharaoh; A slavery that we willfully entered into.  And it concludes with us achieving the ultimate freedom; becoming bnai chorin-free men. Our sages teach us that title is only aptly worn by someone who is engrossed in Torah. For somehow it is only via the Torah and it's studya nd its lifestyle that we can ever truly experience freedom.
This process of forging us into an eternal nation through slavery is different than most other nations. The English weren’t slaves, neither were the Greeks, the Romans, the Spaniards, the Babylonians, the Germans, or even the so-called Palestinians. In fact quite the opposite the nations that were slaves generally disappeared, assimilated, or opened up casinos on reservations in some hick town in America. Yet we were different. Our experience with slavery becomes the core of our identity. Even more telling, though, is that ultimately the highest level of self-actualization for a Jew is in fact to be a slave or an eved, as it is called in Hebrew. An eved Hashem- a slave or servant of Hashem. That is the title the greatest of all Jews Moshe is given.
What differentiates a slave from a regular worker? Both of them don’t necessarily set their own hours. Both of them are subject to the demands of their boss. There certainly can be hired workers that work harder, longer and even have less benefits than a slave might. The primary difference our sages tell us is that a hired worker is ultimately working to advance their own agenda. He may subject himself to certain extreme conditions, he may even forego certain leisure, or even freedoms, but ultimately he is doing it for his own benefit or ultimate betterment. A slave on the other hand is all about their master. He is property. In the same way that one’s car, one’s house, one’s cow or laptop are there only to serve their owners so are the slaves. Slavery negates any individual human expression and meaning as it is there only to serve the desires of another human being.
The only thing perhaps more dehumanizing than to be a slave, is to be a slave to another slave. To serve someone who themselves are only chattel of someone else. To serve a master like Pharaoh in Egypt who epitomizes the individual who is in the end the greatest slave in the world. He is the man whose kingdom, whose world, whose family and life crumble all around him and yet he cannot express his best instincts to save himself. He is a slave to his ego, to his pride and to an illusory grandeur and “coolness” that he seems to be the only one that thinks it still exists.
The opposite end of that slavery though is being a servant or yes, even slave to Hashem. To have the power to activate my free will enough to negate any of my personal achievements, agendas or desires in order to fulfill the will of my Creator. Most of us could never do that. There’s too much “I” need to do, “I” want to have, or make happen. We are human after all. We have natural God given desires, pleasures, and aspirations. Yet a few centuries of “slavery school” can do wonders to teach us the basic skills of negating our will and doing what we are told to do. Because that is how we survive. Because that is the difference between life and death. We now have the skills to do what it takes. We just need the environment to utilize and become the eternal nation. Serving Hashem, transcending this physical world, realizing our truest selves which is the spark in heaven that can uplift this world and direct it rather than become a slave to it. That is Sinai. That is the Torah. That is knowledge that we can fall and sin and yet rise right back up again and build a Tabernacle for Hashem in this world. That is our book of redemption. It is Exodus.
I remember once asking my Rebbe why he never smoked. He seemed like the type. He was a Brisker, he was yeshivish, and I’m sure many of his teachers and friends did. He told me that he looked at people that smoked and he realized that they were slaves to that habit. Proud people who would never ask anyone for anything would start to bum cigarettes. People who were normally in control of every area of their life, but if they didn’t have a cigarette would run out to the store and scramble for one. They wouldn’t be able to concentrate, they couldn’t prepare to give a class. Forget about sit on an airplane or travel for any long distance anywhere. He decided right there that he didn’t want to be a slave to a few leaves with some paper wrapped around it that he would light up and inhale. That thought was enough to take away any desire he may have had to ever smoke.
That is the view of someone who appreciates the freedom of Torah, of being able to entirely commit one’s desires and one’s enjoyment to the service of Hashem. I’m not my Rebbe. But I get it. I eat only kosher, because I want to elevate my act of eating to be in service of Hashem. I make blessings, I stay away from things that will distract me or tempt me to leave that special holiness that I know that I possess when I am in service of Hashem. But I always had to have my cigarette. Not anymore, though... I wouldn’t say I have hit rock bottom. Or as our sages might put it the 49th level of nicotine filled impurity. But I think I’ve had enough. I’m ready to be free. I may not have said a shehechiyanu when I took my first cigarette. But I am certainly looking forward this Pesach when I celebrate my redemption and freedom from Egypt to be able to as well to include my freedom from cigarettes and my 30 year slavery to it in the shehechiyanu I will be making then. 
This E-Mail may not have an inspirational message for you. I’m sure you’re not addicted to anything. Sure you’re not a slave to anything that you might consider giving up. That’s fine. I’m grouchy this week. This week is about me. So if I failed to inspire you. Just know you’re in good company with my family and tourists that I’ve been barking at as well. Now if I’m still this way next week... Hmmm maybe I’ll take up drinking J...

Have a Shabbos Chazak,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

This week's Insights and Inspiration is sponsored by my dear friend from Seattle Washington Ray Poliakoff             l'zecher nishmas Yehoshua Yosef ben haRav Avraham Nachman. May the neshoma have an Aliya and may the Torah and inspiration from this E-Mail and the Torah and Maasim and Tovim of his decsendants and loved ones be a zechus for his neshoma.


“Ven a shikker hot nit kain bronfen redt er chotsh fun bronfen”-When a drunkard has no whiskey, he will at least talk of whiskey

answer below at end of Email
Q According to tradition, one of the sites where Satan tried to tempt Jesus was at:
A. The Mount of Olives
B. The Quarantal
C. Mount Zion
D. Kathisma


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icZ8B6suCxY   from this weeks haftora vhaya bayom hahu yitaka bshofar MBD classic

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybbicIse0wg   Bill Cosby classic on Smoking and drug funny

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfvTn9ham98   - very inspiring stop smoking song…or not… LOL


I think when I was in yeshiva the only Haforas that we knew were the ones that had famous songs in them. Although I think that the songs were only chosen from these verses because the composers were familiar with them from the Haftorahs. No one I knew growing up ever learned Yeshaaya Hanavi- the Book of Isaiah. But we sung songs from it all the time.
This week’s Haftorah has one of the most famous songs that is as well a central part of the Rosh Hashana davening. Yehshaya prophecizes about
(27:13) Vhaya Bayom hahu yitaka bi’shofar gadol,- and it will be on that day and the great shofar will blow.
U’va’oo h’aovdim bi’eretz Ashur v’hanidachim bei’eretz Mitzrayim- and the ones who have been lost in the land of Ashur and the ones who have been pushed away in the land of Egypt…
And they will bow down to Hashem on the holy mountain Jerusalem.
So if Haftorahs in general sum up the Torah portion in the wordsof the prophets. The songs that were chosen and certainly the verses that were selected for prayers have evenmore significance in giving us insight into the Torah portion.
This particular verse does so nicely for it describes, the Jewish people that have assimilated. The ones that were lost in the land of Ashur- interestingly enough our sages tell us that Ashur is prosperity Like the Hebrew word Osher. Many Jews in Egypt in the Torah portion assimilated because they had out-Egyptianed the Egyptians. They were prosperous. As the end of last weeks Torah portion tells us. The other side of the coin is the ones that have been cast away in Mitzrayim. Egypt. The word Mitzrayim is constraints- like gesher tzar me’od- a very narrow bridge. We have lost many Jews because of difficulties, challenges, because they viewed Judaism perhaps as being Mitzrayim- to constraining. They were slaves. Both of these Jews are ultimately going to be redeemed by Hashem. They will hear the shofar. They will return to Jerusalem. That is haftora we read. This is the song that we sing. Now click on the Youtube clip and start singing.
Yeshaya Hanavi Era of Prophecy (780-700 BC)- One of the most inspiring things about the prophecies of Yeshaya is his tendency to continuously jump back and forth from Yaakov, our forefathers, our ancestors in Egypt and then in the next breath he is rebuking his generation with timeless no holds barred in your face admonitions. He talks about impending doom that will follow unless they repent. But then a moment after that he is already seeing and revealing Messianic visions and times when the glory of Israel will return and our enemies will be punished. To read and learn Yeshaya to a large degree is getting a feel of the entire interconnected story of the Jewish people. As it unfolded, and will unfold and is currently happening. It is truly exhilarating.


The Death of Sarah 1677 BC – Before there was Jerusalem there was Chevron. Chevron the holy city that corresponds to the element of Earth, is the place where everything starts. The cave of Machepela where our Matriarch Sarah was buried was the first land in Israel that was ever Jewish owned. The Torah goes at great length to describe its purchase noting that Avraham overpaid much more than the going price. Our Sages in fact tell us that there are three places that the Torah tells us were purchased for more than full price so that the nations of the world will never have be able to claim it is stolen from them. The three places are the cave of Machpela in Chevron, Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem and the temple Mount bought by King David. Ironically enough there are no three places that the nations claim we stole from the than those three. Which of course taught us the most important lesson….to never pay full price for anything again…J
I always like to talk about the Cave of Machpela and the purchase from on the top of Chevron by Tel Rumeida. There is an awesome overlook there where you can really appreciate the cave of Machpela and its location at the edge of the field of Machpela. As well there is a great place to talk about perhaps the largest and greatest funeral of all times here; that of Yaakov Avinu where the entire Egypt and all the heads of all nations came there. Millions of people certainly gathered in this valley from all over the world. Of course it is worth mentioning the epilogue of the story with Esau who tried to prevent the funeral and whose head ultimately was removed from his head and went rolling into the cave as well.

Two Yeshiva students are discussing whether it is allowed to smoke while learning Torah. But they cannot reach any agreement.
So Yankel says to Moishe, "We will go and ask the Rebbe."
When they find the Rabbi, Yankel asks him, "Rebbe, is it permitted to smoke while learning Torah?"
The rabbi replies in a severe tone of voice: "Certainly not!"
Moishe then addresses the Rabbi, "Rebbe, let me ask you another question.   May we learn Torah while we smoke?"
The Rabbi immediately replies, with a warm smile, "Yes, of course!"

The Israeli bus driver announces over the radio that smoking is prohibited and punishable by a fine of several hundred shekel. Suddenly, a baby starts crying.
"Come on kid," the bus driver said "you're only 6 months old, you can make it without a cigarette for a few minutes."

In a school science class three worms were placed into three separate jars.
The first worm was put into a jar of alcohol.
The second worm was put into a jar of cigarette smoke.
The third worm was put into a jar of soil.
After one day, these were the results:
The first worm in alcohol --- dead.
The second worm in cigarette smoke --- dead.
The third in soil --- alive.
So the science teacher asked the class --- "What can you learn from this experiment."
Little Moishy quickly raised his hand and said. "As long as you drink and smoke you won't have worms."

American Drugstores: Why do drugstores make sick people walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

Yankel had been a heavy smoker since he was a teenager, but to his surprise was able to quit "cold turkey." However, his weight shot up and he felt very self-conscious. When his mother congratulated him on giving up cigarettes, He exclaimed, "But look at all these added pounds!"
Her reply was one I'll always treasure. "Oh, my dear, don't worry about that!" she said. "Just think of all the extra years you will have in which to lose them."

Berel, a defendant in a lawsuit involving large sums of money with his gentile neighbor was saying to his lawyer, "If I lose this case, I'll be ruined."
"It's in the judge's hands now," said the lawyer.
 "Would it help if I sent the judge a box of cigars?" asked the defendant.
"Oh no!" said the lawyer. "This judge is a stickler for ethical behavior. A stunt like that would prejudice him against you. He might even find you in contempt of the court. In fact, you shouldn't even smile at the judge."
 Within the course of time, the judge rendered a decision in favor of the defendant. As the defendant left the courthouse, he said to his lawyer, "Thanks for the tip about the cigars. It worked."
 "I'm sure we would have lost the case if you'd sent them," said the lawyer. "But I did send them," said the Berel.
 "What?? You did?"
 "Yes, That's how we won the case."
"I don't understand," said the lawyer.
 "It's easy. I sent the cheapest cigars that I could find to the judge, but enclosed the plaintiff's business card..." 



Answer is B – Seasoned readers here know that Christian subjects are like from my least favorite topics. Right up there with Islam and fauna. Yet to become a licensed tour guide we had to learn and were responsible for all religions, although we did not have to go into each church we had to know what they looked like and what their stories were. Basically everywhere Yoshka went to the bathroom in this country, we had to know. So this one I was able to eliminate two right away. Mount Zion is where the last Pesach Seder Yoshka ate right before he was killed. And Mount od Olives is where he went from there and where he cried over the destruction of the Temple that he foresaw. So that leaves the Kathisma and the Kurantal. I went with Koranatal because it souned more familiar with the temptation of yoshka stories. See they Christians are very unoriginal so they believe that just as Adam and King David were tempted so to was yoshka whose like a post gilgul… whatever… narishkeit… that is the correct answer. Tha Kathisma which is near Bethlehem I googled and it is where his mother Mary rested before giving birth to him. Just in case you were interested…Don’t hire me for a Christian tour. OK.

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