Our view of the Galile

Friday, January 12, 2018

Weather or Not- Parshat Vaeira 2018 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
January 12th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 14 25th Tevet 5778
Parshat Vaeira
Weather or Not
So how you guys holding up with the weather there in the States. With your cyclone bomb and the like. Pretty amazing isn’t it? I mean Donald Trump is not even President for a year and he already solved Global Warming it seems. Right? Now that is taken care we can go back to putting on deodorant without worrying about the ozone layer. Now I know that Israelis may be hesitant to quickly jumping to conclusions and they may be a bit reticent about spraying anti-perspirant on again too quickly. I mean they were after-all the first ones to stop wearing any- decades before anyone knew that those spray cans where making icebergs melt in Antarctica. They just had a feeling it was a bad thing. But I think they might come around, once they realize that the Donald has solved the problem. He definitely seems to be some type of Messianic figure around this country lately. The President that many here wish would be our Prime minister. Because the Knesset is just not enough of a circus already.
But jokes aside, it is a pretty crazy weather situation in the world. Snow in Virginia and Florida. NY has been sieged by freezing weathers. Here in Israel on the other hand we are suffering from a 4 year drought. It has been a pretty sunny winter. Now I know that my tourists think that is a great thing. But that is only my winter tourists. Come back this summer and if we don’t get rain soon all of of our amazing and fun water hikes won’t be much more than splash holes anymore. Instead of rafting down the Jordan River we may be backside bumping down. Ouch! Not that fun. It is a serious situation though. I travel around the country and it is really sad to see how much of it is dried up. We did have some rain the past week. Even had a big storm that flooded by suite last Shabbos. But I was listening to a weather guy afterwards and he noted that we would need about 500 days like that to just get back up to the red line of the Kinneret. To where it should be. It’s time to pray for rain, boys and girls. And to be honest I really find it one of the parts of davening that I find that I find myself having the least amount of fervor or kavana in.And I don’t think I’m the only one.
See in America we were raised on the song “Rain rain go away don’t come back another day.” Rain means we can’t play ball. Rain means we’re stuck inside. Now that wasn’t much of a problem for me as I wasn’t a ball player and I liked inside. But still it was wet, dirty, muddy, certainly not anything that we ever thought was a blessing. I told my shul last week that when people in America pray for rain- when they say the prayer for geshem on Sukkot or the daily prayers of Morid Hageshem or V’tein Tal U’Matar they don’t really mean rain they mean parnassa- livelihood, the holy dollar, moola. Nobody really wants rain. Here it’s different. In Eretz Yisrael fascinatingly enough they really mean rain.
What’s even more interesting is that the prayer for rain is not even because we need it necessarily for our crops or for our drinking, showers, wash or bathing. We have desalinization, we have purification plants. We may even start exporting water soon to other countries despite our drought. No, they pray for rain because they innately sense that the land needs rain. The country needs rain and that lack of rain is a sign from Hashem of his displeasure and his withholding of blessing. Even the most secular Israeli senses this. Rain is a barometer of our relationship with Hashem. It always has been since the very beginning. In fact the very first narrative of the Torah after the creation of the world- the very first!!-  is precisely that
Bereshit (2:5) and all of the siach- tree of the field was not yet on the earth and all the herb of the field had not grown and there was no man to work the ground.
The world Hashem created needed rain. The word that is uses for tree is siach which also is a term that is used for prayer by Yitzchak our forefather who established the Mincha prayer. The world needed prayer. It needed Man to pray for it. That is our first experience of Creation- perhaps even arguably the function of our Creation as the next verse says and thus Hashem created Man. We are here to pray for rain.
As well each day in Shema we mention that if we do not follow the mitzvos then Hashem will close up the heavens and there will not be rain. The weather forecast fascinatingly enough really should be our spiritual barometer about how our relationship with Hashem is doing. And if that’s the case, then I think we should be asking ourselves more and more with these crazy weather conditions how our forecast looks.
The truth is, that it is not only because of the weather outside that I am writing about this week. It is also the weather in the Parsha. See I believe, as our loyal readers know, that the Parsha as well is our daily forecast for the messages and life lessons that we should focusing on each week. It the glasses we should put on each morning that gives us the perspectives we should have for the challenges and current events that are going on around us. So what is the weather in Parsha?

It’s interesting when one thinks about the plagues of Egypt of which the first 7 are listed in this week’s Torah portion. Blood, Frogs, Lice, Wild Beasts, Pestilence, Boils and finally Hail. Which of these would you say is the least extraordinary? Or how would you rank them in “coolness”. Blood- very cool. Frogs totally awesome lots of fun. Lice very creepy and slimy but definitely extraordinary I mean the entire sand of the land of Egypt turns to lice. The first three are definitely just unreal.  Similarly with wild beasts just rampaging through the streets. That’s crazy! Pestilence a plague that suddenly hits the cattle doesn’t sound so crazy, so miraculous. I mean we certainly have heard of plagues wiping out cattle before. OK so the borders that it only hit Egyptian animals was pretty strange, but it seems we have gone down a little bit from the way out there amazing change the course of nature plagues. As well the boils doesn’t seem to be so spectacular. I mean it’s painful don’t get me wrong. Perhaps the most painful of all the plagues until now, which seemed to be more terror-inducing oriented but not unheard of.
Finally we end off the Parsha with “severe weather conditions” A cyclone bomb. Are you terrified? Don’t worry by the way, about this plague the Torah tells us because if you stay in your house and if you bring your animals inside then you really won’t suffer from it. It’s only if you’re- pardon the French- an Egyptian idiot- and leave your stuff outside, then you will be struck by it. You know kind of like the people that hung around and didn’t evacuate during the hurricane.
I don’t know for some reason if I had to choose any of the above plagues this would seem to be the one that I would go for. Yet interestingly enough for some reason Hashem describes this plague as being the wildest of all of them, listen to the verses.
Shemos (9:14) This time I will send all of my plagues to your heart and your servants and your nation
(9:16) On account of this I have left you standing to show you my power and so that my name will be declared throughout the world.
(9:18) Behold at this very time tomorrow I shall rain a very heavy hail such as there had never been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.
OK so this is the first time Hashem is sending all plagues to Pharaohs heart. Not sure why a bit of rain and hail is all the plagues. It’s also interesting that he keeps repeating that this is from the time Egypt was established on the earth. Almost hearkening back to that first establishment of the earth pre-rain of Adam in the garden. Moshe as well warns them to take in their cattle and slaves and tells them that if you fear God and take precautions by bringing in your stuff you’ll be fine. What is so bad about this plague? Now to be fair the Torah does describe fire coming down with in the hail which does seem supernatural, yet if I was in Egypt and I knew I was safe inside then I would just think this is a very cool firework show from inside my house. Moshe even gave any exact time for showtime on this plague. At exactly “this time tomorrow” or as Rashi says when the sun hits this spot the hail show begins. So no one is caught outside. Why is this what the Torah describes as the most terrifying of all plagues?
The truth is that we find that this in fact is the most terrifying. It is here for the first time that Pharaoh admits I have sinned. Hashem is righteous. I and my people are wicked. He sounds like a complete Baal Teshuva. A real penitent. He begs Moshe to daven to Hashem. The hail show seemed to do something that no other plague did. It made Pharaoh realize that his actions have consequences. How? He saw the weather forecast and he understood that his deeds impacted the weather.
Our sages tell us that when it thunders it goes directly to your heart. We tremble. It is like we hear heaven talking. There is nothing that shakes us more than a natural crack of lightning.  At the same time. As well there are not too many things left in the world today and even back then as well that we feel we have absolutely no control over like the weather. We can desalinate water if it all turns to blood, we can cure diseases, we can get rid of wild beasts, frogs, and we can “fight off” anything that Hashem sends against us. But the weather… When the heavens themselves are turning against us, the game is over. We know it is totally out of our league. The truth is everything is out of our league. Everything is from Hashem. We only breathe each minute because He chooses to give us air. But we take that for granted. The weather is there to remind us that the heavens and earth are connected. They have a symbiotic relationship. If we hear God we are good. If we don’t we are toast; Hail and fire toast. If we pray, there will be rain. We are connected to above. We have joined the worlds. The upper and the lower. If we don’t then chaos reigns and rains.
The Shemen Hatov notes that this plague hits Egypt in its heart because it shows that Hashem despite his wrath at Egypt shows them mercy. They can stop it at any time. It is the first plague that Hashem tells them how they can control their own destiny on weather  whether or not the plague will hit them. The ball- yes that big fire ensconced hail ball- is in their court. It’s not just a God throwing wild miraculous plagues and punishing or even frightening Egypt. It’s a Hashem, a loving father in heaven that is only doing this in order to bring even a Pharaoh and his nation back to him. It works. Pharaoh understood the weather report. He repents. It doesn’t last. His heart gets hardened. But for that brief moment and for the first time. Pharaoh can say and see that it his wickedness and his actions that can change the weather in a moment.
I was at the Western Wall the other day. There was a great Rabbi praying in front of me. He was crying. He was broken hearted. He was imploring Hashem. There wasn’t someone sick he was davening for. He wasn’t even asking for the Temple, for redemption certainly not for livelihood or blessing or peace. He was asking for rain. He kept repeating the words and crying. He wasn’t a farmer. He wasn’t thirsty. He wasn’t nervous for his crops. Yet he understood as well the weather report. He understood that for all of our prayers to work the lines between heaven and earth have to be open. That rain, that blessed weather, is the sign of how good our “reception” is. If it ain’t raining it’s because Hashem is telling us that we are out of rain-ge. He is withholding for a reason. He wants us to reconnect with him. Ignoring that call can be fatal. It is stubborn. It is no different than Pharaoh in Miztrayim. It is hardening our hearts. We are told that before Mashiach comes the weather will be out of control. It will be unseasonal, it will be extreme. Hashem is cyclone bombing us. Just as then may we hear that call and have it herald in the Redemption.

Have a redemptive Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Run away from rain and you get hail”- Men antloyft fun regn, bagegnt men hogl.

answer below at end of Email
Q The Mesubim junction is named after a site mentioned in:
A. Megillat Ta’anit (The Scroll of Fasting)
B. Serekh haYahad (the community rule scroll)
C. The Passover Haggadah
D. Megillat Eikha (Lamentation)


https://youtu.be/u9o4bqAQVhs  -  Beautiful song by the two incredible brothers Eitan and Shlomo Katz Al Hatzadikim in memory of Rav Shteiman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUFyBcDZPuA    -  Loving this song this week Yitein Lecha Elokim. Just a really beautiful upbeat song about blessing!

 https://youtu.be/ibww5KEiwWg  - New Benny Freedman music  video Amar Reb Yehoshua about doing things with Zerizut- alacrity a word that by the way no one really uses unless their translating zerizut.

https://youtu.be/hebh-ZoRa0o  - HASC concert Rabbi Baruch Chait and Avraham Fried singing perhaps the most popular Jewish song of all time Gesher Tzar Meod! Awesome


So much of the way that we understand and read our Torah narratives are influenced and directed by our sages and the Midrash that accompanied the teaching of the Torah stories. That Haftorah is like a bridge between those two worlds and views. On the one hand it is written prophecy so the words and text becomes significant. On the other hand it is words of Prophets and Sages and how they understood and read the Torah and its stories. And how we are meant to read those stories and their eternal lessons.
This week’s Torah portion which is perhaps one of the most well-known Jewish stories is the story of the plagues against Egypt. Now if one would read the story itself and perhaps even watch a few biblical movies one might get the impression that the struggle of the Egyptians nad Pharaoh against Hashem and Moshe was about slavery and the persecution of the people. And that is true. But the Prophet suggests a deeper level to the story and that is that this is a struggle about revealing Hashem to the world. It begins with a vision of Yechezkel of Messianic times with the ingathering of Exiles when that will occur
Yechezkel (28:26) And they shall dwell securely and they shall build houses and they shall plant vineyards… and they will know that I am Hashem.
Hashem tells Yechezkel that Pharaoh is the anti-thesis of that revelation for he is the one that believes himself a deity.
(29:3) He said it is my Nile and I have made it
(29:6) and all of the dwellers of Egypt will know that I am Hashem.
In the times of Yechezkel who is prophesizing about the Babylonian Exile in which Egypt had betrayed Israel and reneged on their treaty to defend us, he foretells of the destruction of Egypt. To a large degree this is similar as well to our Egypt story where Egypt forgot of the gratitude they should have had for Yosef who had provided them with food in their famine.
Egypt it seems represents this tendency to believe that they are the be-all and end- all. The Nile makes them feel self-suffecient. They can abandon their previous alliances and they can ignore the fact that there is a Creator God that makes and controls the entire world. This is the theme of the Haftorah and the truth is that is the theme of our Parsha. For our Parsha really begins with this revelation of Hashem to Moshe that the entire story of our Exodus, the plagues and the punishment of Egypt is about revealing Hashem to the world in a way that has never been done before. The phrase “and they will know I am Hashem” is not only the conclusion of the Haftorah but it repeats itself again and again. That is the lesson our sages wished us to see in this story. In our story. It’s not just about slavery and freedom. It’s about recognizing and seeing Hashem in this world.
Yechezkel /Ezekiel (590 BC) – The names of the prophets always reflect the essence and personality of the Prophet. Yechezkel’s name which means the “strength of God” is most apt for this navi whose prophecies really depict the era of redemption and when Hashem will avenge against the nations who have persecuted His people and the miraculous ways that Hashem will restore us to our Land. Yechezkel himself witnessed that redemption when the Jews as he was part of the Exile from the destruction of the Temple and he 70 years later was part of the return. Meaning he was there for the entire story of Purim and Queen Esther in Babylonia, yet he saw us return with Ezra and was part of that. We don’t usually think of the stories and lives of the prophets intersecting like that. But when we put the historical data together it can give us a better picture of the lives of these great men.


The Marriage of Yitzchak 1674 BC – After the death of Sarah it seem there is a need for a woman in the house of Avraham, to fill here shoes. The Torah tells us that Avraham sends Eliezer to Aram Naharayim to go find a spouse for Yitzchak by his family back there. Aram Naharayim which is Northern Syria is certainly a ways from Beer Sheva where Avraham is living. Interesting enough as well we are told that Yitzchak had the same idea to find a spouse for Avraham from one of his favorite places, namely his former wife Hagar and the place that she would seemingly hang as well, with his step-brother Yishmael. Where is that? The Torah tells us it is Be’er La’Chai Ro’i- The well of the Living One that sees me. It was here that she prayed to Hashem when she was thrown out of the house of Avraham. And it was here that she was on her way to be returned to Avraham when Yitzchak meets his Bashert Rivka coming back from Syria with Eliezer. She sees him praying and she falls of the camel.
So many important lessons take place here. First that we learn that if one does a kindness for someone else or prays for someone else and he needs the same thing Hashem will answer him first. Yitzchak needed to get married and he went to find a spouse for Avraham and he was answered first. Second we learn that despite Yishmael and Hagar being thrown out of Avraham’s house because of their potential influence on Yitzchak, they are never out of Yitzchaks mind and heart and he does whatever it takes to return them to Avraham and ultimately both of them do teshuva and repent. As well this is the place where our sages tell us that Yitzchak established the afternoon prayer of Mincha.
Where is Be’er Lachai Ro’i? The Torah tells us it is in the Negev between Kadesh and Shur. This would put it somewhere in the center of the Negev. There are quite a few wells and early biblical setttlements that have been discovered in the central Negev many of them definitely Jewish. There are some that place it by Ein Obdat a spring by the Nabatean city and a really fun hike. When I am there I always try to daven Mincha with my tourists there noting that this is the place where the original Mincha was established.

Q: When does it rain money? A: When there is "change" in the weather
 Q: What do you call it when it rains chickens and ducks? A: Foul (fowl) weather.
Q: What did one raindrop say to the other? A: Two's company, three's a cloud
Q: How can you wrap a cloud? A: with a rainbow.
Q: What does it do before it rains candy? A: It sprinkles!
Q: What do you call a wet bear? A: A drizzly bear
Q: Can Bees fly in the rain? A: Not without their yellow jackets
Q: Why was the blonde standing outside the department store in the rain? A: She was waiting to cash her rain check!
 Why Jews aren’t Weather forecasters.
A cold front may or may not be coming in from the North tonight depending upon the will of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Tomorrow morning, early, before shacharit, there will be a slight drizzle, im yirtze Hashem. If you drive to Shul, beware of slippery conditions to prevent accidents, rachmanis letzlan. Then, later in the day, if Moshiach hasn't come yet, chas veshalom, there will be -- b'ezrat Hashem -- heavy rain. Keneina hara, pu pu pu, this will help fill the reservoirs, kein yirbu (and if you need my brother-in-law is offering a good deal on umbrellas). By Shabbat kodesh, haba aleinu letovah, the sun will emerge from its sheath and shine upon the inhabitants of the land, may they live and be well bis hundert un tzvantzic, in gezuntheit.
Okay, schoen, that's it for this evening. Enjoy your dinner, zeit gezunt und shtark - chazak ubaruch, and don't forget to count the Omer!

Izzy and Yankel are walking down the street of Chelm when it starts to rain, and in no time at all, it’s raining quite hard. Luckily, Izzy is carrying an umbrella.
"Nu," says Yankel. "So when are you going to open the umbrella?"
"It won't do us any good," says Izzy. "It's full of holes."
"So why then did you bring it?" replies Yankel.
"Because," Izzy says with shrug, "I didn't think it would rain."

Maurice and Rachel are sweethearts. Maurice lives in a small village out in the country and Rachel lives in town. One day, they go to see the Rabbi and set a date for their wedding. Before they leave, the Rabbi asks them whether they want a contemporary or traditional service. After a short discussion, they opt for the contemporary service.
Their day arrives but the weather is rotten and a storm forces Maurice to take an alternate route to the shul. The village streets are flooded, so he rolls up his trouser legs to keep his trousers dry. When at last he reaches the shul, his best man immediately rushes him up the aisle and up to the chuppa. As the ceremony starts, the Rabbi whispers to Maurice, "Pull down your trousers."
"Rabbi, I've changed my mind," says Maurice, "I think I prefer the traditional service."



Answer is C – I admit I had no clue to the answer to this question. I also had no clue as to where the Mesubim intersection was. Never even heard of it before. So I guessed. The only one of the above answers that had anything to do with the concept of Mesubim which means reclining is the Pesach haggada. Eicha lamentations with a Tisha bav connection has nothing to do with reclining and it would probably be in Jerusalem or Herodian somewhere. The Yahad is like a Kumran Dead Sea thing and there is no mesubim junction in that area that I know of, nor does it have anything to do with reclining either. Megillat Taanis I think is just thrown in to mess with you. So the only answer that made sense is Pessach seder and it talks about all the Rabbis reclining in Bnai Brak. Which actually is where the intersection is. Well it’s not in Bnai Brak. But it is by Ramat Gan and south entrance to Tel Aviv where they believe the old Roman period Bnai Brak was. And there you have it.

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