Our view of the Galile

Friday, February 9, 2018

Story Time -Parshat Mishpatim 2018 /5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
February 9th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 18 24th Shvat 5778
Parshat Mishpatim/ Shekalim
Story Time
As readers of my weekly E-Mail, now perhaps one of my favorite hobbies as a child growing up was reading. I loved to read. It was an easy hobby to have. I didn’t have to run around. I didn’t have to jump up and down, throw a ball or even break a sweat. I could even eat while I was engaging in this important past time. Each week my mother would take me to the library and I would take out like 10 books and just read read read. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer always was a librarian. They had the perfect job. Surrounded by books they could just tell people to be quiet and refer them good books to read, to share their love and knowledge of books with them. My second choice as I got older was to be the guy that sells books in the book store- same concept, pretty much. Except I figured that I could actually make a commission on my advice of which books people bought and read. See I was a bit of a capitalist as well.
It’s one of the things I would say that I miss most in my life and look forward to catching up on in my retirement- in another million years or so unless I win a lottery- reading all the tons of books that I have bought because I couldn’t resist, but have yet to find the time to open. Ahhh those days were the best. Just becoming engrossed in a story, transporting yourself through the pages to a different time, a different place, a world of ideas. It’s incredible what reading can do for you. You escape from this world and are totally in your mind. Nothing else is around you. It’s just you and your book.
Now I got my reading career started, probably when my parents would read to me as a child. I would look at the pictures and the stories would come to life. As I grew older, I graduated to reading comic books. Each Sunday Morning we would get the Sunday funnies in our newspaper and I would tear through them. From there we graduated to comic books, to word books, short stories, Encyclopedia Brown and Hardy Boy mysteries and then of course to larger and larger novels and stories.  There weren’t many Jewish books back then Marcus Lehman and the Golem and the Dybbuk were the few that were even close. This was pre- Artscroll. Upon going to yeshiva I started for the first time reading what had become a new Jewish genre-the Rabbi Biography books. It was non-fiction, at least it was presented as such, although after a while some of these Rabbi stories just seemed too wild to fathom. But that started me on Non-fiction books, history books… learning about the “real world” not just the fictional one. If Jewish meant being a people of the book, then there was no question I was a member of the tribe. My hobby had been revealed to being a religious identity. Being Jewish meant being able to escape into the mind and expanding it via reading.
The truth is though the Jewish people were never called a people of “a” book. We are a people of “the” Book. That’s the book with a capital B. We are a people of one book in particular, the Torah. Now don’t’ get me wrong, the Torah has plenty of books to it. The five books of Moshe, the books of the prophets and scripture. We have the 6 books of the Mishna which is the oral law that was never in fact meant to be written down- but you know us Rabbis we can’t stop writing or speaking. And if no one is going to listen to our speeches then we will just write them out there for posterity. {Now you see where my inspiration comes from…} We have the Talmud that is an elaboration of that and works on the Talmud and works of Jewish law, philosophy, ethics, we have response, we have insights and compendiums on every nuance of behavior and idea possible. And remarkably it is all Torah. It all goes back to Sinai. It was born there and it carries on until today. There is nothing like our people and our Book. So besides being a nation of readers we have become a nation of writers. The People of the pen.
Now besides reading and writing books, the Jewish people have taken it a step further we have become a nation that doesn’t only read and write but we study. It is our national pastime. Not baseball, not football, not making money, not eating Falafel or even talking politics. The Jewish pastime is studying Torah. Sitting in front of a book with ancient words on it, usually on some obscure topic, like oxen goring, levirate marriages, ancient planting techniques, or temple services and examining, questioning arguing, cross referencing and comparing texts and generally trying to cover ground and making it through the text through critical examination in order to either review it again afterwards or begin another one. Pretty wild isn’t it? But this is what 10’s of thousands of Jews do each day. In Israel, in America, across the globe in every Jewish Torah community. This is true for Modern Orthodox people, religious Zionists, Chariedi and Chasdic Jews. It is the education in every traditional Jewish elementary and high School and the function of the education if you ask any educator is to develop a love, a need, a habit an addiction almost to studying. Not everyone will find their satisfaction in Talmud. Some might be more halachically-legally oriented while others might prefer Chumash, the texts, the narratives or the messages of our sages in the Midrash. There are of course your “greaseballs” as we called them in yeshiva-although in today’s world they might be called the self-help genre that find themselves drawn to the Mussar ethical works that inspire them to refine their character traits and there are others might find their soul connecting to the more esoteric and Chasidic mystical works. But the common denominator between everyone is, that there is this inner longing and soul that knows that will only find its completion and satisfaction in “The Book” and its study.
Where does that longing come from? I believe the answer can come from this week’s Torah portion. See last week we read the story of the Ten Commandments and the giving of the Torah and Sinai. This week begins with the word “And” never a proper grammatical word to being a parsha with (although the Torah seems to use it a lot). Rashi notes this is a continuation of the previous parsha.
Rashi Shemot (21:1) And these are the laws that you shall place before them- Just as the first ones were from Sinai- these as well were from Sinai
Meaning that our portion which lists 10’s of commandments, 53 to be precise, almost ten percent of the total commandments is an elaboration of the Sinai experience. What’s interesting though is that the end of Parsha seems to revert back to that story of last week and tells the story of what happened at Sinai again with a bit of a different take. Rather than recounting the thunder, the lightning and the word of Hashem. This week the Parsha tells us about Moshe bringing sacrifices, sprinkling blood on the people, establishing 12 different altars for each of the tribes. As well it tells us a story of the leaders feasting afterwards. We see them having an image of the throne of Hashem and the sapphire bricks underneath it. It’s a strange depiction and it begs the question or questions. What changes? Why these two different stories? Why not put them together? Why is it divided up by the various laws and mitzvos? What’s going on?
The answer is that last week we had the big reveal, we stood as one nation with one heart. We became eternal. We became the people of the Book. This week though the Torah tells us that although the Ten Commandments may encapsulate it all, but each mitzva, each command will have a book within itself. Each mitzva, each law will have a personal area that you will be able to find your story in. The Parsha is beautiful that incorporates every single area of Jewish life, law and insight. There are slaves, there are family laws, marriage ideas, charity, social contracts, holidays, Shabbat, Temple, agricultural law as, even midrashic accounts and stories of angels bringing us into the land of Israel and rituals of blood sprinkling and sacrifices. It’s amazing there is not a topic or an area of learning that is not here in order that every Jew can find his place, his book of interest in this Parsha. It is spread out for us like a set- table. Like peanut butter and Jelly on rye or matza as my wife prefers its. This Parsha moves us from Sinai becoming a people of the Book to each one of us becoming a Person of the Book.

But it gets even more beautiful. See the first mitzva of the Parsha is the story of an individual who had stolen and was sold into slavery for his debt. After the 6 years maximum of his slavery he decides that he wants to stay. He’s not ready to leave. He loves his wife, he loves his kids and his cushy life. So the Torah tells us that he should be taken to a doorpost and his ear should be poked a hole into it, then he remains in slavery until yovel- the 50th year jubilee.
Rashi notes ours sages statement that this bizarre punishment that his ear has a hole bored into it is because
Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai said this ear that heard on Sinai do not steal and went and stole should be bored. Or if he sold himself into slavery this ear that heard that ‘the children of Israel are my slaves- and he went and sold himself should be bored”
The question though is that seemingly it was the hand that stole, shouldn’t it be punished? Or the feet that went to sell himself, or the mouth that decided to ask to remain a slave? Why the ears?
So Rebbe Tzadok of Lublin notes as well something interesting, it is in this weeks portion that we see the words naaseh v’nishma- we will do and we will hear. Although one might have thought that this would be more appropriate in last week initial Torah Revelation narrative. He explains that naaseh v’nishma means that not only will we fulfill the commandments, but we will continue to hear the eternal voice that comes from Sinai. When Hashem gave the Torah it says it was a
Devarim (5:19) These words Hashem spoke to your gathering in the Mountain from within the fire, the cloud, the thick darkeness- a voice that did not end…
It was a voice that was eternal. It was a voice that calls out until today. The Jewish people vowed by Sinai that not only will we observe the Torah but we will always hear that voice that is coming from Sinai. It will continue to inspire us and it will always be there to remind and speak to us. Rebbi Tzadok explains that is the reason the ear is pierced. For if one were listening properly you could hear that voice still today. It is in your soul. It is calling to you to read your book. It is in fact reading to you from that book as it did over 3000 years ago by that Mountain. Each mitzva, each story, each part of the Torah, from the slave, the widow, the thief, the oxe, the dog, the first fruits and our temple and its angels. They are all being called out and read to us today by the Master Story reader. We just need to open our ears to hear it. If you stole, it’s not your hands fault, it’s not your feet or mouths fault that you sold yourself. It’s your ears. They stopped hearing the call to read the book. Open them up and get back to our story.
 Has this E-mail inspired you to crack that book, any book? I hope so. See because one day I’m gonna be a librarian or a book salesman. Maybe when I retire. In the meantime though maybe Hashem’s call will have to be enough. Although it will certainly be a hard act to follow.

Have a joyous Shabbos Mevorchim Adar,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Der yam iz on a breg — di toyre iz on an ek.”- The sea has no shore — the Torah has no end.

answer below at end of Email
 Q:  The accepted etiquette in a church is:
a. Not to enter with sandals
b. To remove head covers (hats)
c. Not to cross your legs
d. Answers b. and c. are correct


https://youtu.be/z1EkB-5c0UA - The Amazing Kosher Half-Time show this past week during the Superbowl with Ohad and Meir Kay!

https://youtu.be/tMqFKcgM8-I   - Shas A Thon- This is cool Someone just told me about this Torah Marathon for this great organization…cool!

https://youtu.be/D9tP9fI2zbE  – The Library Cop Seinfeld Classic!

https://youtu.be/J2dGSptIweU  – Mishenichnas Adar Eitan Katz Pey DAled start getting in the moon


This week we have a special haftorah reading as this week begins the first of the four supplemental parshiyot that surround Purim and precede Pesach. The first Shekalim, this week was read in order to remind the Jewish people to begin to bring their money to the Temple to contribute for daily offering that would be paid for by the half shekel contribution of each person. So for Maftir we read the portion of Ki Tisa that reminds people of this mitzva. The haftora though which doesn’t describe the mitzva of shekalim is perhaps more appropriate in how we can fulfill this mitzva even when there is no Temple and no sacrifice. It is the portion from the Book of Melachim that describes the action of Yehoash the King of Judah who established the first Pushka in the Jewish world. The Kohanim were originally allowed to keep the money that would be brought in and then they would pay for the repairs and upkeep of the Temple. Yet there were problems thejob wasn’t getting done and the Tample started to go to pot… So instead Yehoash put up Pushkas where the money would go directly to the workers that would fix the Temple. He cut out the middle Kohen man. And thus the Pushka was born.
The eternal message of this Haftora read the week that we bless the month of Adar and begin to be marbin B’simcha- increasing our joy, is that charity is the impetus to accomplish this. We may not have the Temple but we can still support the upkeep of our Mini-Temples. That is the way we start to prepare for our holiday of Joy.

The prophet Yehoyada (980-850 BC)– Our sages tell us that the Prophet Yehoyada would have been even greater than Aharon the High Priest had he lived in his generation this great prophet really saved much of the Jewish people when he hid the King Yoash as a baby when the previous wicked Queen Atahliya was killing out his whole family. He established Yoash as king- at age 7 and heralded in a major Teshuva era with his kingship. Sadly after his death Yoash lost it and in fact killed Yehoyadas child Zecharia ben Yehoyada in the Temple. We remember that sin on Tisha B’av when we talk about the destruction.  


Rachel’s Tomb 1550BC- Where is the tomb of Rachel? Most people would seem to say that is quite obvious right outside of modern day Beit Lechem where it says here tomb is. The truth is upon looking at the sources it might seem not so simple. On the one hand the Torah tells us that Rachel died on the way to Efrat which is Beit Lechem. In the South of Jerusalem. On the other hand in the book of Shmuel it mentions that the tomb of Rachel is on the border of the tribe of Binyamin which would put it in the North of Jeursalem. As well the Midrash notes that Rachel was buried ther to cry for her children when they would be exiled from Jerusalem by Nevuchadnezzar. If that were true then she would be in the North of Jerusalem as that is the direction they were exiled- not South. So there are those that place it near Har Choma in the North of Jerusalem. Earliest sources for our location of Kever Rachel are Christian interestingly enough that mention the tomb there. We have some of the Rishonim and early journeyers to Eretz Yisrael that describe the building as having 12 stones according to the tribes of Israel that were established there and how visitors would write their names on the walls.
The Ramban- Nachmanides is perhaps most interesting in where he originally felt it was in the North of Jerusalem but upon coming to Israel and visiting the site, he changed his mind. Maybe he felt her spirit. Regardless Kever Rachel today is certainly one of he most holy places to pray in Israel. I always like to point out to people that Rachel is buried there to pray for the redemption. That is what she is crying for. It is therefore only appropriate that when we come ther to pray for whatever it is that we daven for, that we as well pray for the GEula, the redemption, Mashiach and the return of our people to our home. That is what the Mama is crying for, shouldn’t we….


Librarian: can I check you out?
Me: sure [spins around]
Librarian: I meant your book
Me: oh yea, that makes way more sense.

Why are first books afraid of their sequels? Because they always come after them

Why did the Romanian stop reading for the night? To give his Bucharest.

What's the best thing to read in the woods? POETREE..

What do you call Tom Sawyer's friend after he lost a lot of weight? Huckleberry Thin

Why does an elephant use her trunk as a bookmark?– Then she NOSE where she stopped reading!

What do planets like to read? – Comet books.

Why was the dinosaur afraid to go to the library? – His books were 65 million years overdue.

What do librarians take fishing?– Bookworms!

Why didn’t the burglar break into the library?– He was afraid he’d get a long sentence!

Top Funny Book Quotes

I just got out of the hospital. I was in a speed reading contest. I hit a bookmark. - Stephen Wright

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.- P.J. O’Rourke

Sure reading a book under a tree is peaceful but imagine how stressful it is for the tree to see a bunch of it's dead friends in your hand.

I heard that Amazon has started a program to try to get people to trade in their old bound books to get an electronic reader. They call it “Kindling.”
If someone says they just love the smell of books, I always want to pull them aside and be like, to be clear, do you know how reading works
I’ve been reading a book on antigravity. It’s so good I can’t put it down.
Top of Form
Bottom of Form

Answer is D – Now I wasn’t totally positive about this but I guessed right. See I knew about the uncovered heads thing. In fact, it’s quite strange how I knew that. See in Virginia there was reform synagogue and the rule there used to be that it was prohibited to wear a Kippa in the synagogue. There was a new cantor there, a friend of mine, Jennifer. She refused to lead the services without a Kippa. She almost lost her job for this. The synagogue rule was established because the original reform was imitating churches. And just as churches one had to be bare-headed in synagogues as well. Now- I told her that she should say that women were always allowed to cover their heads in churches and she should be permitted to according to the original takana… But anyways. I wasn’t sure about the crossing the legs thing. But it sounded familiar and in fact it is a no-no to do in church as well. Now it is bad Jewish ettiquite, as well as halachically problematic, if not forbidden to go into a church, or any house of idolatry but that’s not a question I think they would ask..

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