Our view of the Galile

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Your Heart Desire- Parshat Teruma 2018 / 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
February 16th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 19 1st Adar 5778
Parshat Teruma
Your Heart’s Desire
So it was after a while that I was living in my community in America. With Hashem’s help we had built up a congregation there pretty much from scratch. Actually it was my wife’s chulent that really gets the credit for our growing tribe members coming out of their assimilated woodworks. We were living out where there were not too many religious Jews and yet somehow more and more somehow found their way to our classes and programs. After a while one of the things that I noticed, much to the consternation of my somewhat sheltered upbringing, was that most of the Jews I was bumping into and connecting with were married to non-Jews. I had lived in quite a few communities but yet there it was just wild. Almost everyone I met seemed to have found either a gentile husband or wife to tie the knot with.
 Now, I would reassure these congregants who were really raised pretty ignorant of their Jewish heritage and were making incredible steps in growing in their observance, that I did not believe that at this point in their lives when they were just being introduced to Judaism that Hashem was in anyway looking askance at the fact that they had married out of the faith. God had raised them in a home without religion or any value that there was something significant to marry a Jew. Heck, If wasn’t raised religious I would probably have married a non-Jew as well. However God was wondering why they didn’t come to services last week, or why they ate in McDonalds when the kosher restaurant was across the street, or why they weren’t learning more Torah, or celebrating the holidays they were learning about. And my people accepted it. They grew, they learned, they observed. It was amazing and inspiring.
Interestingly enough, some of them had spouses that ultimately joined them in their Jewish journey and converted.  Other spouses didn’t. In some cases radical things happened, which seemed almost certainly God-sent that led to each one going their separate ways and divorcing. Many that were married to non-Jews even remarried to Jewish spouses afterwards. While other couples remained married navigating the complicated life of one Jewish and one non-Jewish wife In each case the person recognized how Hashem was there for them, like their loving Father slowly assisting them up the ladder to the next rung that they were meant to achieve in their spiritual Jewish journey.
I remember once talking to my Rabbi at the time and mentioning to him how different and new this was for me. I told him that most of my shul was intermarried and yes quite a few of them had either broken up and then found Jewish spouses or alternatively converted. On the other hand there were many that had not. These were not skills and experiences that I had ever really been prepared for in my Rabbinic Yeshiva studies. He told me in words that I will never forget.
“Ephraim, remember Hashem gives each man certain strengths and skills. You can use those talents for good or for bad. So for example if someone has a violent nature he can be a murderer or a thief or on the other hand he can be a mohel(ritual circumcisor) or a shochet (ritutal slaughterer). So Hashem gave you ‘bad-marriage-skills’ so thank god you are using that talent and skill to counsel people that are married outside of the faith…
Bada Boom Bada Bing- Ouch! Thanks Rebs. See, that’s why he’s my Rebbe. He knows how to give it to me, the way I needed it. Straight up. No punches pulled. But with a loving smile and laugh that keeps me strong.

The truth is that is perhaps one of the most powerful lessons that an educator, or parent or mentor can give over to their, student, child or mentee. Hashem gave you a skill a talent a gift. He created you with a purpose that only you can achieve and with the skills that only you can bring to the world. Someone sent me a birthday E-Mail that said. Today is the day that Hashem decided that the world could no longer exist without you. What an incredibly empowering thought. The question though is how do I know and find what my purpose is. What I should become, should I focus my life upon achieving, what I should do when I grow up…

The answer many of our great Rabbis tell us is quite simple. One should study what one’s heart desires. There is a fascinating Talmud that tells us the story of two sages.
(Avoda Zara 19.) The Sages Levi and Rabbi Shimon the son of Rebbi were sitting in front of Rebbi and learning the meaning of certain verses in Tanach from him. When they finished the book they were learning, they each made differing requests regarding what  to learn next. Levi said he wanted to learn Mishlei- the ethical works of Proverbs, and Rabbi Shimon the son of Rebbi asked for Tehillim- Psalms- with a foucus on impriving ones prayers.
 Somehow, Levi was overruled, and efer Tehillim was brought for them to learn. When they reached the second verse —Psalms (1:2) “But his desire is in the Torah of G-d” — Rebbi expounded it to be teaching that “A person learns Torah only from a place that his heart desires.” Upon hearing this, Levi said, “Rebbi, with this teaching you have given me permission to stand up (from learning Tehillim, and to learn Mishlei instead, as I desire).” 
Perhaps one of the most incredible things about our Torah is that there is so many different areas of it study and every Jew will have his area that is connected to his soul and that is what he is meant to learn. This principle, is one of the most essential ones in personal growth for an individual. Now I imagine most of you are nodding your heads at this. You agree. It speaks to you. Learn what your heart desires. Learn what inspires you. The problem is though… this really flies in the face of having a school system where everybody pretty much is being made to learn the same thing. It is the opposite of a system, which pretty much tells every Jewish kid, you have to learn Talmud. Just learning ethics all day, or Chumash, or Midrash that’s for babies. Real men innovate, learn, spending their days and nights trying to plumb greater and greater depths in their study. Yeah that’s a problem. Because what if that’s not what “his heart desires”.
I have a confession to make for about four years after moving to Israel, I barely cracked a Talmud. I was busy, I was running around, I was settling, and in depth Talmudic study wasn’t speaking to me anymore. The truth is it hadn’t spoken to me for years. Pretty much since a few years after got married. Don’t get me wrong. It once did. I loved the arguing the appreciating the fine differences in the nuance of the text, the logic behind the different opinions of the Rabbis. It was awesome, challenging and exhilarating and I reveled in it. Yet once I got married I wanted to explore something new. The old way of study tired me. It didn’t give me the same life anymore. So I began focusing more on Jewish law- Halacha. It was no longer hypothetical arguments it was real. It was following the process of Jewish law from Sinai through the ages until modern day response. It was powerful. It was inspiring to see three thousand years of Jewish scholarship shedding light on modern day legal and ethical dilemmas. And that pretty much was my study while I was in the States.
Now of course in the States I also studied ethics, Textual Torah insights, history, even mysticism and other areas of Jewish life, but that was work. See I had to give classes and that was the material that I gave classes on. Most of my students were not looking for either Talmud or Halachic discourses. But once I moved to Israel, the Halacha thing wasn’t speaking to me so much anymore. Neither was the plain Talmud thing. So I began to study the Torah and its commentaries. Appreciating the text the weekly parsha and its different insights. As well I started studying Midrash more, some Chasidic insights, some of the philosophical works. It was a whole new world. One that I didn’t have the “guts” to pursue while in America, in a system perhaps where it is all about the Talmud. It was truly enjoyable. Here I felt the freedom to learn more of what my heart desired.
It’s interesting how things have changed. This past year and half, I’ve kind of started missing my Talmud. It’s been a long time my old friend. I wanted to see you again. So I started once again my Talmud study. I’m back in the game and better than ever. I sowed my wild spiritual oats so to speak. That’s what Torah study is all about.
This week’s Torah portion.- you were waiting for those words until now weren’t you- discusses the building of the Tabernacle. Our sages see in the opening words of the portion exactly that lesson for life.
Shemot (25:2) Speak to the children of Israel and take for me an offering from every man who’s heart shall contribute you shall take my offering.
Each person, each individual has a personal contribution that only he or she can make. That we are meant to be bring up to Hashem for His name. How do I know what that gift is? Form each person what their heart contribuites. What your heart desires, what it is drawn to. That is your strength, that is the inclination and gift that you should channel and bring up to the Almighty.

The great philosophical work Chovot Halevavot says that this concept applies not only in the area of study but in what one chooses to dedicate their life to. There are some Jews who are more drawn to community service, to hospitality, to charity work, to outreach. There are others for whom prayer, devotion, meditation have more meaning than studying. Some enjoy cooking, some join volunteer ambulance services, other visit the sick, while others focus on raising their families their children and instilling them with a connection to their heritage. We have soldiers, doctors, advocates even tour guides and Rabbis. We each have our gift that we can bring up.
In the words of the Chovot Halevavot
Each man was created with an inclination and desire for a particular area or business over another. Because Hashem has given him that proclivity. He did this with every animal as well, each one has its own nature. For example a cat’s nature is to hunt mice (I don’t think this is true for Israeli cats, I think they just eat garbage, every time I open a can one jumps out).  Hawks eat birds (I didn’t know this, but google says it so it must be true.). other birds eat fish.
As well Hashem formed each one of them in a specific way so that their limbs and their body shape can best realize the way they are meant to survive and provide for themselves. Fish-eating birds have long legs and long beaks to scoop up the fish with. Lions and other carnivores have sharp teeth and claws, whereas animals that are herbiovres don’t have these. Similarly human beings. Each one is built in certain ways and each one has innate inclinations to the ways that he will ultimately provide for himself. He should not try to hide or be embarrassed from it, for that is his calling
We enter the month of Adar today. It is the last month on the Jewish calendar year. It is the month that closes out the winter and heralds in the spring and renewal of Pesach. It is a time for reflection. Are we doing what our heart desires? If we are then we should feel the joy of Adar overwhelming us. For that is the key to rebuilding the Temple. May we celebrate it soon this coming month.

Have an increasingly happy and ecstatic Chodesh Tov and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Ver es hot lib di melocheh iz im leicht di melocheh”- He who likes his work, to him work comes easy
answer below at end of Email

Q  The following were the first to break into the old city of Jerusalem in the Six Day War:
A. The Har’el and the Jerusalem Brigade
B. The Paratroopers and the Jerusalem Brigade
C. The tank reconnaissance and the Har’el Brigade
D. The Paratroopers and Golani Brigade


https://soundcloud.com/ephraim-schwartz/techelet-mordechai  - In honor of Chodesh Adar my latest fun composition Techelet Mordechai- the Next big Jewish Purim hit!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEmIDlMuXsI  - Simcha Leiner cool new video Naavor Gam Et Zeh- Bonus points for my tourists who can say where this was filmed

https://youtu.be/0IBgZH0dHGA   – Matana Tova- fun song for Shabbos by SY Rechnitz

https://youtu.be/h6PNGrn0psM   – Kinderlach Purim medley Awesome play again and again and again


Some Haftorahs are just plain easy to pick out. This week for instance our Torah portion discusses the building and collection for the Mishkan- the Tabernacle so of course the Haftorah will be the one that discusses its Nevi’im counterpart which is Shlomo’s Temple and the collection for that. Now there are of course differences. The Temple our Haftorah tells us was built with a covenant and partnership with Hiram the King of Tzur, which is Lebanon. Meaning it was built with gentile money. Our sages tell us that is the reason it was not eternal. The Mishkan on the other hand was entirely Jewish built as such it could never be destroyed and in fact Jewish tradition is that they were hidden away.
Another difference between the two is that the Temple of Shlomo involved heavy taxation and mandatory giving and labor as described in our Haftorah, the Tabernacle was a volunteer system. However the one common denominator is that we are told that the Shechina resides in both of them however that will depend on us fulfilling the mitzvos.
King Shlomo (848-796 BC) He was a mere 12 years old when he became King and he was the smartest of all men. The verses tell us that he composed 3,000 parables, and 1,005 poems. He understood the languages of the trees, animals, birds, creeping things and fish. Men of all nations came to hear Solomon's wisdom, as did all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom. This wisdom is also reminiscent of Betzlael who built the Tabernacle and granted extra wisdom. It seems to build the House that would be the place where we raise up this world to the heavens one has to be familiar with the spiritual nature of this world.


Mt. Seir and Edom- It is interesting how when we come to Israel today we appreciate it all as Israel however a good portion of our country is not biblical Israel although it certainly is biblical. Our Southern biblical border ends near Beer Sheva the Negev from Maale Akrabim down was not part of biblical Israel. Meaning the Tzin wilderness they wandered in which is today in Israel was not back then. Now our brother Esau was promised the land of Edom and Mt. Seir, there is a dispute amongst biblical archeologists where that area is. Most associate it with the Eastern side of the Arava Valley in Jordan and the Mountains there north of Eilat. Although Rashi in the Torah seems to suggest that it is located in the South of Israel as well in the Negev, some even associate Mt. Karkum south Mitzpe Ramon as being Mt. Seir. It is interesting that many look towards Petra with its Red Rocks as being the Edom-which means red and state that it was named that after the rocks. The Navi Ovadia tells us that ultimately the Negev will inherit the Har Esau…that is the first part of the nevua that many are familiar with Valu moshi’im B’Har Tzion Lishpot et Har Esau, Vhayta La’Hashem Hamelucha… Just as we fulfilled the first part of the prophecy let us fulfill the second part.


My doctor told me I needed to break a sweat once a day so I told him I'd start lying to my wife.

My first job was being a diesel fitter at a pantyhose factory. As they came off the line, I would hold them up and say, "yeah, Deez-el fit her."

The best time to start thinking about your retirement is before the boss does.

I refused to believe my road worker father was stealing from his job, but when I got home, all the signs were there.
When my boss asked me who is the stupid one, me or him? I told him everyone knows he doesn't hire stupid people.
I always wanted to marry an Archeologist. The older I would get, the more interested she would become!

Team work is important; it helps to put the blame on someone else

One day an auto mechanic was working under a car and some brake fluid accidentally dripped into his mouth. "Wow," he thought, "This stuff tastes good!"
The next day he told a friend about his amazing discovery: "I think I'll have a little more today." His friend was concerned but didn't say anything. 
The next day the mechanic drank a whole bottle of brake fluid. A few days later he was up to several bottles a day, now his friend was really worried.
"Don't you know brake fluid is toxic?" said the friend. "You'd better stop drinking it."
"Hey, no problem," the mechanic said. "I can stop any time."

A young man with his pants hanging half way down, two gold front teeth, and a half inch thick gold chain around his neck; walked into the local welfare office to pick up his check.
He marched up to the counter and said, "Hi. You know, I just HATE drawing welfare. I'd really rather have a job.. I don't like taking advantage of the system, getting something for nothing."
 The social worker behind the counter said "Your timing is excellent. We Just got a job opening from a very wealthy old man who wants a chauffeur and bodyguard for his beautiful daughter. You'll have to drive around in his 2013 Mercedes-Benz CL, and he will supply all of your clothes."
"Because of The long hours, meals will be provided you'll also be expected to escort the daughter on her overseas holiday trips. 
The guy, just plain wide-eyed, said, "You're kiddin me!"
The social worker said, "Yeah, well... You started it."

The Jewish Chronicle had heard that Benjy was coming up to his 108th birthday so they sent one of their reporters to interview him.
"How do you account for your longevity?" asked the reporter.
"You could say that I am a health nut," Benjy answered. "I have never smoked or drunk alcohol, I am always in bed by ten o'clock, I’ve been going to Israeli dance classes since I was a teenager and I've always walked three miles a day, even in rain or snow."
"But," said the reporter, "my uncle Shlomo followed exactly the same routine and he died when he was 70. So how come it didn't work for him?"
"All I can say," replied Benjy, "is that he didn't keep it up long enough." 

Hymie, a wealthy American, retires to England and buys a fabulous English country home with over 50 rooms. He brings in a local workman to decorate the place.
When the job is finished Hymie is delighted but soon after realises that he's forgotten something. There are no mezuzahs on the doors.
He immediately goes out and buys 50 kosher mezuzot and asks the decorator to place them on the right hand side of each door except on the bathrooms. He's worried that the decorator won't put them up correctly.
However, the job is carried out entirely to his satisfaction and so he gives the workman an extra bonus. As the decorator is walking out of the door he says "Glad you're happy with the job mate. By the way, I took out all the guarantees that were in those little boxes and left them on the table for you."  

Answer is B – This one wasn’t so simple. Meaning I didn’t know the answer but I was able to guess it correctly based on process of deduction. See I knew it was Paratroopers. Everyone knows it was paratroopers. It’s the famous picture of Motta Gur by the wall “Har Habayit B’Yadeinu”. Yet I wasn’t sure who the second group was. But since there was only one other choice with the Paratroopers, I went with Jerusalem brigade, actually not because it’s called Jerusalem brigade, but because the Golani I knew was mostly up in the north against Syria. And whadaya know that was the right answer.

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