Our view of the Galile

Friday, March 9, 2018

Earth, Ash and I- Parshat Vayakhel /Pikudey /Parah 2018 -5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
March 9th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 21 22nd Adar 5778
Parshat Vayakhel-Pikudey /Parah

Earth, Ash and I

Cogito Ergo Sum. No I am not still drunk from Purim and writing gibberish, although to those less intellectual of you it may seem that way. Not you, Judah of course, please tell everyone what that means. Shy?? OK, I’ll tell them for you. Should I let them think about it a bit? But if they do they might get it. They might exist. Oops… I gave it away.
Yes the above quote is of course from Descartes, that great 17th century philosopher. He thought a lot. That thinking led to the development of analytical geometry and the development of calculus. See what too much thinking can do to you… His motto in life was this Cogito statement above which of course I’m sure you’re familiar with. “I think therefore I exist”.
Now personally I always found to be more profound the great philosophers that came after Descartes that made even weightier aphorisms such as the more erudite “lomdishe” take
Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum- I think that I think, therefore I think that I am
Or the skeptical “I doubt, therefore I might be.”
The simple son’s- I think, therefore I am, I think. And of course post-Purim you have WC Fields very self-aware insight “I drink therefore I am.”
I won’t even conclude with the Sweet Potato Kugel’s motto Cogito Ergo Spud–I think, therefore I yam. Because everyone knows that Potato Kugel should never be made with anything besides Idaho’s finest. Hant gigribbin of course. And if you don’t know how to say hand grated in Yiddish you have never really had Potato Kugel and really don’t Jewishly exist. But I digrate… I mean digress. Oy…It’s almost Shabbos and I’m getting hungry.
Anyways. This principle by Descartes, who actually did believe in God, although he thought that Hashem would pretty much would put man on this world to figure out on his own how to behave rather than give him the Torah and the Jewish people to enlighten them, became the basis of much of modern western philosophy. I’m not that into Philosophy, unlike my brother-in-law Judah. We’ve kind of lost that era. As Rabbi Wein would always teach us, once they would put somebody to death for having philosophical theories that challenged the mainstream beliefs, today you that and nickel couldn’t get you a cup of coffee or a subway token. I think we lost it once the words of the prophets were written on the subway walls…tenement halls. Whatever that is.
Philosophy really is a much later development in Jewish writing and thought. We didn’t need to ponder our existence, because we woke up every morning and thanked Hashem for being alive. We didn’t have to ponder Hashem’s existence either for the same reason. We knew He existed. We speak to Him three times a day, we make over a hundred blessings for everything we do, we recognize the miracle of our history and our existence, and even if it gets foggy or cloudy and we lose sight of Him, we have a weekly Shabbos to remind us, with chulent that certainly gives us heartburn and reminds us that we are existing. As well as holidays. So we never really needed philosophy to define our existence. Jewish philosophy was really created more to debate, enlighten and clarify to the gentile world that didn’t have the benefit of the reminders that we have, of the divine nature of the world and of our relationship with our Creator. And the truth is perhaps the greatest Jewish philosopher of all time and the smartest person to ever walk the world put the Jewish perspective of philosophy best. In the words of Shlomo HaMelech- King Solomon- Hevel Havalim- it is all hot air. See King Shlomo understood that to be or not to be was never really the question. Life is not about the recognition of existence it is about becoming. There is perhaps no better place to appreciate that concept than this week when we read the portion that Shlomo himself suggests he had trouble understanding; the parsha of the Parah Aduma the purification from death with the ashes of the Red Heifer.
See in Jewish law there is a concept of purity and impurity. Purity called tahara is clarity. Rav Moshe Shapiro, whom the following idea flows from, suggests that word tzaharayim- afternoon is the same root as well as tzohar- window. When something is pure one can directly and clearlys see the connection to Hashem the real existence of this world. Impurity or Tumah is satum-sealed, tamun-hidden, atum- closed. When things are spiritually blurry it is a result of tumah. Death is the ultimate mechitza- barrier between us and Hashem. Our soul has departed. All that is left is a body. In the song of Haazinu Hashem says
Devarim (32:39) Ani amis v’echyeh machatzti v’ani erpah – I have put to death and I bring to life I have made a barrier and I shall heal
When death comes it looks final however the truth is Hashem will bring back to life He will ultimately remove that barrier. When one comes in contact with death. He is stricken with his sense of mortality. He loses sight of his eternality. He needs to be purified to once again see clearly. How can we do this?
The answer Rabbi Shapiro understands is with the dual nature of the red heifer and the secret that lies in its ashes. The extra portion that we read each year after Purim and before the month of Nissan begins
Bamidbar (19:1)Zot Chukat Hatorah adam ki yamut ba’ohel..This is the law of the Torah for when one (comes in contact with) someone how dies in the tent… And you shall take a red heifer that is pure upon whom a yoke has never rested…and you shall slaughter it… sprinkle its’ blood seven times… Someone shall burn it… The Kohen takes cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson thread and throw it in the burning of the cow…
It is then mixed with water and the ashes are sprinkled upon the impure person. Poof he then becomes pure. It is certainly a strange mitzva. It is one that even Shlomo Hamelech confesses to not fully grasping. Yet our sages tell us that we merited it as a result of our forefather Avraham, who when speaking to Hashem about his outlook upon his personal existence, he described himself as being
Bereshit (18:27) V’anochi afar va’eifer- I am dust and earth
Talmud Sota (17.) In the merit of Avaraham saying that he is dust an earth we merited the two mitzvas; the earh of the Sotah woman (a woman who was suspected of an illicit relationship and was made to drink from waters mixed with earth) and the ash of the Red Heifer
Interestingly the Torah interchanges the word ashes and earth as well when it talks about the ash of the red heifer. What does Avraham mean when he says that he is ash and earth. It is fascinating if you think about it. The two are really opposite sides of a coin. Earth in Jewish thought is total nullification. When we tell someone he is a piece of dirt, we mean he is nothing. On Passover we nullify all our Chametz like the dirt of the land-k’afra d’arah. Earth really has only one thing going for it. It has potential. It can grow things, it can sprout. It can be formed into something.2 It can create life, plant life that becomes food for animals that can be elevated to a person. Ash is the exact opposite. It was once something. It may have been a book, an animal, it was something of value. My Mother-in-Law is in Poland right now and she told me of the ashes that she saw there. The holiness that once was. Ash has a past but no future. Earth has no past but can become. The common denominator however is that neither of them are focused on the existence of right now.
Avraham Avinu, our humble forefather wanted to always be connected to our Father in heaven. The way he did that was to recognize that upon thinking about his existence and all that he has done and accomplished. In that regard he is ash. He negates it all. It is yesterday’s news. It was all a gift from Hashem. I take no pride. I am ash, glory that once was. That thought as well tells me that I am earth. I have potential still. I can create, I can plant, I can grow, I can soar towards the heavens and become. That is the clarity of Tahara.
The Antithesis of Yaakov is Esau. Esau is thus named because he is asuy- he considers himself a finished product. He thinks therefore he exists. There is no need to become because he is already there. Esau notes that he has no need for a birthright for he is on the path of death. Esau is the pinnacle of Tuma- He loses all clarity. Esau’s descendant was Amalek, It was Haman, It was Purim. It was eating and partying and saying we have arrived. We are respected by Achashverosh. We can go to his White House and celebrate with the best of the Goyim. We don’t have our Temple, but you know what we’re still alright. We even have Jewish Queen not far from the Oval Office. We are not dirt and we are not ash. But then Hashem showed us that path leads to the gallows. So we reconnected. We put ash upon our head and we understood that we are better of being afar and eifer- {One perhaps can suggest that the peh and reish of afar- earth and the peh and reish of eifer-ash are two pur’s or Purim}
So we wiped out Amalek. We read this week about the building of the Tabernacle. The rectification of the sin of the Golden Calf. The sin that came about because the Satan showed us Moshe’s coffin. We thought he was dead. We thought we weren’t connected. We became tamei. We danced and celebrated with false gods with a calf made of gold. So Moshe came down and broke the tablets. He burned the calf and we had ashes that were sprinkled upon us. We then could build the tabernacle. That is this weeks Torah portion, the conclusion of the book of Shemot. The Book of our Neshoma that has been restored. And we read the supplemental parsha of Parah. We absorb and become purified as we appreciate that it’s not about existing in as much its about becoming. We are then ready for the month of Nissan. The month of Pesach. The month when we will be redeemed. When we will be renewed and become the first borns of Hashem once again….
Whewww…. Made it. Got it out… Didn’t think it would happen. It’s been a busy day. See because once we are talking about first-borns and purity. I am proud to announce the birth this morning of our first-born grandchild to my son-in-law Yaakov and Shani. As well 24 years ago today my wife and I entered into our holy matrimony in Lakewood New Jersey. It is a day of Mazel. A day of Purity. A day of simcha. May Hashem as well make it a day of geula- redemption.
Have fantastic mazeldike Shabbos!
Ecstatically yours,
Rabbi- “just Call me Zaidy” J- Ephraim Schwartz

The Young Israel of Karmiel would like to express our thanks to Rabbi Moshe and Ahuva Goldbaum as we do each year for arranging our Purim Seuda and our festive Megilla Reading musical arrangements as well to our Baal Koreh Rabbi Zeltzer. What fun, it just gets better and better, thanks to all those that pitched in with the cooking and particularly to Akiva Goldbaum for filling his big brothers musical shoes and playing for us all night long. You were amazing! May we only share in many more Purims together!


“Alts iz nit puter vos kumt aroys fun der ki”- All is not butter that comes from a cow.

answer below at end of Email

Q  The “security fence” (security barrier) was constructed following:
a. The Dayan – Abdalla a-Tel agreement
b. The Yom haKippurim War (War of Atonement)
c. The 2nd Intifada
d. The Tzuk Eitan (Strong Cliff) Operation


https://youtu.be/PcVuL4es-0E - Simcha Leiner “The Greatest Chupa” How many of you appreciate that these tunes were last sung by lady with a beard- or have any clue as to what I’m talking about..

https://youtu.be/RsDWUBt_C50   – Ari Goldwags newest hit Lo Nafsik Lirkod

https://youtu.be/GxLtUHWXbXg – My Fellow Seattlite Nissim Black Jewish Rapper!

https://youtu.be/Mbt6uq-Bhio - Comedian Modi’s hillarious take on Jewish music


One of the things that is tragic about today’s state of education is that in the yeshiva system we really do not study Tanach. Even if we cover the some of the historical early books of the prophets Yehoshua, Shoftim/Judges and maybe even some of Melachim/Kings but certainly the later prophecies we never really get to. That wasn’t true in previous generations I believe. Rav Hutner suggested that it was perhaps because once the Christians started being busy with it the Jews dropped it. I dunno… it seems like a shame. Interestingly enough to me one of the most significant things about the Books of the Prophets is that when we examine them we really appreciate that we are in fact living the fulfillment of those prophecies. What was once dreams, promises and hope today we are actually living and seeing. The early secular Zionists such as Ben Gurion and others had these prophecies in their hands and mouths as they resetteled the land despite being secular non-observant Jews. We religious Jews those failed to see those promises. It is precisely why, it is so important for us to pay attention to our Haforahs.
This week’s special Haftora of Yechezkel/Ezekiel certainly hits that point home more than any that I know.  It is a special Haftorah because it is meant to accompany Parshat Parah the special supplementary Torah reading that discusses the purification of the Red Heifer that was done before Pesach. The Haftorah mentions this concept where Hashem says the famous verse
Yechezkel (36:25) "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean"
But that is just a small piece of it. The Haftora is read after the holiday of Purim which was while we were in Exile and before the month of redemption Pesach because the haftorah really discusses that process and vision. As well many years such as this one it coincides with the conclusion of the Book of Shemot/Exodus and the reading of the building of the Mishkan which the atonement for sin of the Golden Calf that ultimately was also meant to be the precipice before us going into the Land.
I will quote just a few verses, but as you can clearly see they are truly incredible in that they detail exactly the fulfillment of those words spoken and written 2500 years ago of our era. Words that our ancestors all dreamed of upon hearing this Haftorah each year. Words that only we are realizing and appreciating today.
"And I shall take you from the nations and gather you from all the lands and I will bring you to your land"
"And you shall settle in the land which I gave to your forefathers"
And I will call to the grain and I will multiply it"
"And I will multiply the fruit of the tree and ten produce of the field so that you will no longer be subject to the shame of hunger"
"The desolate land will be tilled instead of having been desolate"
The nations that remain around you will know that I know Hashem have rebuilt the ruins and i have replanted the wasteland"
This land that was desolate has become like the Garden of Eden, and the cities that were destroyed and desolate and pulled down have become settled as fortified [cities].”
Pretty Amazing! Isn't it..

Yechezkel /Ezekiel (590 BC) – His name "means Hashem will strengthen." Ezekiel wrote his own book. He was a Kohen. He was a major prophet that recorded the warnings to the Jewish captives of Babylon. He experienced his prophecies just before the destruction of Jerusalem on Tishah Be'av (The 9th of Av). He was a villager. His wife died suddenly. He was exiled in 597 B.C.E. His prophetic ministry lasted 20 years. Some of his visions were experienced while he was in exile. Ezekiel was the only prophet to experience a prophecy while outside the Land of Israel. He died in Bavel. He was among 8000 exiles taken to Babylon by Nevuchadnezzar, King of Babylon soldiers


Graves of Tribes of Israel (1275 BC)- Praying by gravesites is an ancient Jewish tradition. We do not pray to dead people though, the grave is a point of connection or tziyun to where we can connect with a tzadik and the inspiration of that tzadik will uplift our prayers. What better place than the graves of the original tribes of Israel. But hold on! Didn’t all the tribes of Israel go down to Egypt and die there? Yes they did. But Jewish tradition tells us that they as well as Yosephs bones were brough down and buried in Israel.
 Now we don’t have the original graves for these site however we do have the testimonies of early travelers to the holy land that described traditions that were passed down as to the locations of the graves. Over the next few weeks we’ll try to mention a few as we come to the end of the Book of Bereshit in our historical journey.
So the first slew of graves are found on the mountain of Arbel. The ancient mountain is historic for it is where the Jews hid from Herod the governor of the North before he was King who hunted down those Jews that didn’t hold him to be legitimate. As one hikes down one can find the graves of the first three tribes Reuvein, Shimon and Levi  as well tradition tells us that Dina the daughter of Yaakov and even Sheit the son of Adam are buried there as well. By Dina’s grave there is a tradition that there is a myrtle tree which one can find there until today as well as a cave where there was once a spring that had water pouring out of it.
It’s pretty neat and not far from an ancient synagogue from one of the great leaders in the period of the Mishna. Nittai Harbeli. For those that want a fun and inspiring hike this is a great place to come to.


Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are on a camping trip. In the middle of the night, Holmes nudges Watson awake, and says, "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
"I see millions of stars, my dear Holmes."
"And what do you infer from these stars?"
"Well, a number of things," he says, lighting his pipe:
Astronomically, I observe that there are millions of galaxies and billions of stars and planets.
Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.
Meteorologically, I expect that the weather will be fine and clear.
Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and man, his creation, small and insignificant.
What about you, Holmes?"
"Watson, you fool. Someone has stolen our tent!"

A child sees the bulletin of the Synagogue announcing that the congregation had just hired a new rabbi, his name is Rabbi Dr. Epstein. The child is so excited that the new rabbi is also a doctor, that the next time he has a stomach ache, he calls the Synagogue.
"I would like to speak to the Rabbi Dr.," the boy says. The rabbi gets on the line and asks how he can be of help. "Well rabbi, the boy says, I have a stomach ache and I was wondering what you suggest I do."
"Sorry son, I'm not a medical doctor," replies the rabbi.
"What type of doctor are you?" asks the boy. "I am a Dr. of Philosophy," was the response.
The child thought for a moment and then asked, "What type of sickness is that?"

Yankel is given instructions from his father for his first date. His father tells him, "If you find that you have run out of things to talk about, always remember the three Fs: 1)family, 2)food, and 3)philosophy
Yankel goes and meets the girl and as soon as they see each other they run out of things to say. Remembering his father's wise advice, he employs the three Fs. "So do you have any brothers or sisters," he asks?
"Nope," she responds
The guy moves onto the next "F." "Well, do you like gefilte fish?"
"Nope," she responds again.
Getting exasperated the guy says "Well if you had brothers and sisters -- do you think they would have liked gefilte fish?"

Shmuel Shuster went straight from many years of Yeshiva into college. His parents were concerned that he might not have the necessary background in the humanities but he was confident. He came to class at the end of the semester for his philosophy final exam where the students had all prepared from their vast array of assignments and readings.
Their eccentric professor gave a one-question final exam. He picked up his chair, plopped it on his desk, and wrote on the board: "Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist."
Fingers flew, erasers erased, and notebooks were filled in furious fashion. Some students wrote over 30 pages in one hour attempting to refute the existence of the chair. Shmuel, however, was up and finished in less than a minute.
Weeks later when the grades were posted, the rest of the group wondered Shmuel could have gotten an "A" when he had barely written anything at all. They asked Shmuel what his answer consisted of and he responded that it only contained two words:
"What chair?"

God created the dog and said: 'Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years.'
The dog said: 'That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?'
So God agreed.
God created the monkey and said: 'Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span.'
The monkey said: 'Monkey tricks for twenty years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the Dog did?'
And God agreed.
God created the cow and said: 'You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.'
The cow said: 'That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I'll give back the other forty?'
And God agreed again.
God created man and said: 'Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years.'
But man said: 'Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?'
'Okay,' said God, 'You asked for it.'
So that is why for our first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.
Life has now been explained to you.
Answer is C – The controversial “security fence” which has truly knocked down the terror attacks that came into Israel from Palestinian terrorists began to be put into place right after the 2nd Intifada that began in September 2003. It knocked down the amounts of attacks from 73 to 12 in the three years after it had started being built. The wall is controversial because, our enemies would like us to be killed and this prevents that from happening. Think of it like a zoo. There are wild animals and tame ones and sadly the tame ones have to caged in order that the wild ones don’t attack people. The other choices are wrong, I know that you know what Yom Kippur war in 1973 was, and what Tzuk Eitan-“Protective Edge” the last Gaza War was in 2014, but did you know what the Dayan Abdalla agreement was? It was the 1949 War of independence cease fire agreement with the Jordanians that was the surrender of the Old City of Jerusalem to them. There you go!

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