Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
March 30th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 24 14th Nissan 5778
Zaydie Maysehs- Of Sons and Grandsons
So I’ve been preparing. This year my Pesach will be special. It is not often that one gets to fulfill a mitzva that you have never been able to before, especially at my late grandfatherly age. Ha! I’ve been doing Pesach Seders for a long time. I’ve had different stages in my seders. I was the child, who was fascinated to hear the stories my father would tell me by the Seder. He would not only tell us the story of our exodus from Egypt, but the personal miracles his uncle and my ancestors had experienced in the holocaust. I loved acting out the plagues; the frogs, the hail, and the wild animals. Opening up the door for Eliyahu was always fun as well and then trying to cath my father as he would run around the house and knock or pour out some wine when we weren’t looking. By the way, we never caught him, Elka and Tully. So that means that Eliyahu really does come to our house and drink wine. Of course stealing the afikoman was fun as well, although I think I’m still owed a few ToysRus trips that I should cash in before they finish going bankrupt.
But perhaps the highlight for me would be when I got to be the center of attention as I proudly recited the Ma Nishtana in the original classic tune, much to the adulation of my parents and grandparents. As my siblings grew older and began competing and vying for that attention that really was all rightfully mine, I had to up my game a bit and recite it in Yiddish and maybe even another language. Hungarian, perhaps? This was not easy for a normally shy and bashful kid like myself….But hey, what I wouldn’t do to give nachas to my parents. Right?
Once I became a yeshiva bachur though I arrived at the next stage of my Pesach Seder experience. Pesach was a holiday to impress a lot of people with all of my shtiklach Torah that I had learned. It was also about eating a heck of lot more Matza then I had ever eaten before in my life as the yeshiva guy in me learned that you had to like stick 5 matzos in your mouth at once and finish it all in a minute and half if you really wanted to do it right and be frum. Fuggedaboutit the huge glasses of dry red wine that I had to choke down. To be extra frum as well I had to have a few different selections of Marror bitter herbs, Lettuce, Romaine, horseradish roots and stalks and freshly ground that had been hermetically sealed, so that when you merely opened it up your eyes fell out of your head. Those were difficult years of Pesach, not only for me but for my parents who patiently just went along with this, although my father did perfect the art of sleeping with his eyes opened at those long seder nights.
Fatherhood was the next stage in my Pesach Seder. I was excited. I have finally become the transmitter of the stories of Pesach. I would make it exciting for the kids. I would keep them engaged. I made plans, invented games, offered money for questions. They really weren’t that interested though. “Are we going to eat soon?”. “Shani took my pillow..” “He’s pinching me…”
“How many more pages...?” “I’m tiiiiirrreddd” “I don’t like eggs…” “Do I have to eat this…”At the end I just yelled at all of them, threw some of the plagues on them and told them that if they were in Egypt they wouldn’t be redeemed. So I guess you could say it was a partial success. I got one of the 4 sons right.
But this year will be a special year. See this year I will for the first time be able to fulfill the mitzva that the Torah tells us is really the function of the entire exodus.
Shemot (10:2) l’maan ti’saper b’azney bincha u’ben bincha es asher his’olalti bimitzrayim v’es ososai asher samti bam. Viyidatem ki ani hashem elokeichem- In order that you tell in the ears of your children and your grandchildren how I made a mockery in Egypt and the signs that I placed in them. And you shall know that I am Hashem.
The purpose of the Exodus was to tell over to your children and grandchildren. And you thought it was to leave Egypt. If Hashem wanted us out he could have just poofed us out. He can do that. The story, the plagues, the splitting of the sea all the dramatic effects. That was so that we would have good zaydie-maysehs- Grandfathers stories to tell our children.
Now I know you’re thinking that my grandson is a little bit young, and that certainly would be a concern for most 2 and half week old infants. But he is very intelligent. He laughs at my jokes, he looks up at me in awe as I learn holding him, and he has never woken me up once in middle of the night. Now I know my wife and daughter claim that he cries during the night and wakes them up. But they said that about my other kids as well, and I never heard them cry during the night as well. The one concern I had was that he is not as of yet at the stage to ask questions, and as we know the mitzva of the night is through questions and answers. Yet that is precisely the reason that the Haggada includes in his list of four sons “The One Who Does Not Know How To Ask”. That’s my grandson. That’s my Yoel Eliyahu… Or “Yahoo” as I am trying to get people to call him.
Pesach is the time to give over our and out story to the next generation. This is true. But it goes much deeper than that. More importantly that we pass our Torah down to our children. Our sages tell us that in fact the only way that we can tap into our own real sense of revelation is by experiencing it through the process of the questions- or non-question ultimately that our children ask us. Shavuot we received the written Torah. Pesach 50 days before that Torah was given we were revealed the essence and light of the Torah. We get the entire Torah in one night. It is the oral Torah, the Torah that is passed down from father to son.
. The written Torah is finite. It has letters, it has words, it has verses, it has pages. The Torah by which we are bound to Hashem is the Oral tradition and Torah. That is infinite. It is wider than sea. Non-Jews can translate the written Torah. Almost every religion and nation has done that. But only we can access the continuing light that is the oral light of the Torah that illuminates still 3000 years later. We get that light seder night.
The light of the Oral Torah is revealed by its endless and relentless questions. The answers are not always as important. In fact more often than not, the answer is never as good as the question is. The question intuits that we don’t have all of the knowledge. We don’t have all the light. An answer on the other hand assumes that all can be explained and understood. And there is nothing farther from the truth than that. Our finite minds can never grasp the infinite. The question though tells us that we can and always should pursue it. For each revelation will bring forth more and more light.
We go through four different sons. The holy Izbitzer Rebbe suggests, they are different stages in when we have moved further and further from Hashem. Fascinatingly enough though he does it in an order that you may not have thought he would. From the lowest to the highest. From the furthest to the closest. From the Chacham to the one who doesn’t ask.
The chacham, the smart son may be the most knowledgeable. With that knowledge and scholarship he might have even written many treatises, doctorates and responsa on the Exodus from Egypt and the laws of Passover. But he has forgotten about the flavor of the afikoman, the sweetness and taste that is so essential. That is really the beauty of all of the mitzvos. That is what we tell him.
There is the wicked son, interestingly enough he might even be closer to Hashem than the chacham. The Rasha, greater than the chacham! Is that possible? According to the Izbitzer it certainly is. See the wicked son is at the seder. He wants to be part of it. He has just lost his way. In the 1960’s there was an article in the New Yorker magazine about the hippy movement that had taken America by a storm. The article wrote how there were thousands of Jewish kids that were flocking to this movement. They were leaving their faith, their synagogues and their God for the free-love hippy world. The following week there was a letter to the editor. I will excerpt some of the letter
“Dear Editor in response to the article you wrote last week about Jewish youth leaving their synagogues because they were seeking a god-less lifestyle, you couldn’t be farther from the truth. The reasons these young men and women are leaving their respective synagogues and communities is precisely because they are seeking God. Much to our chagrin and because of the way that many of our synagogues and communities are being run, the know they will not find God in shul. . Perhaps when no one is around God may come to visit…
The hippies are are seeking God more than anyone else. They are looking to fill that void in their hearts and their souls. They want to return to that glorious image of their Creator that they know and intuit is within their souls to elevate the world to. They just don’t have anyone to lead them there.”
The letter which was printed in the back of the next weeks edition was signed by the writer, perhaps it should be no surprise who it was as there was no one greater that could see the high level of the Jewish Rasha, It was signed with the greatest love, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.
This is what the Izbitzer explains in the second of the sons. He is greater than the wise son who thinks he has and knows it all. He is greater because he realizes that he doesn’t and that is a source of his pain.
And to this son we are told to blunt his teeth. We are meant to tell him that there is no quick fix to finding and enjoying Hashem. You need to chew your food. Bit by bit. You can’t swallow your Judaism whole.
The next son even greater than the previous ones is the Tam- the simple one. In the Torah it was Yaakov the chosen of all of the Patriarchs who was called a tam. Tam does not meant merely simple it means complete. Yaakov, our forefather, straddled both worlds. He worked night and day in the most physical of worlds watching his father in laws sheep and goats night and day. As well he is the man of total spirituality. It is from his head the the ladder of this world goes up ot the heavens and angels go up and down. The simple son asks simply. What is this? What is a broad question. This is the specific aspect of it. How is Hashem so large, so wide so prevalent. Yet at the same time how is He so hidden? How can I at one time be so connected and at others be so distant. How can I be complete and see Him in everything. The anwer to this son is that Hashem took us out with a strong hand from the house of slaves. Hashem also needed strength to free us. To come to the most physical of worlds. You can do it with strength. Continue to grow. Continue to pray. The worlds will join. Hashem will always be present.
Finally we have the Eino Yodea Lishhol. The one who has no questions. The one who is closeset to Hashem. We have Yoel Eliyahu. I saw a story once of a mother who brought home a new baby boy home. Their four year old son was quite excited that he was getting a new sibling. His parents were a bit nervous though as he asked to be alone with his new brother as soon as he came home as he wanted to be the first to talk to him privately. The parents left young Moishy alone with his little yet-to-be named brother in his crib and listened in on the intercom as Moishy talked to his brother.
“Hi dear brother”, Moishy cooed to this new baby, “I’m here already for four years, and I am already forgetting what Hashem is like, Can you please remind me?”
I heard this story and my soul began to melt. That is the difference between children and adults. It is why we are meant to experience the Seder through our children’s eyes. They are closer to Hashem. They can return us to Him as well. They can remind us of how close we once were and how close we can become. I look forward to experiencing the Seder this year through my littlest ones pure eyes. I’ve had my chacham years, my rasha years, and my simple pure years. I am ready for the next stage. Pesach night we all can jump to highest stage. We realize we are all sons of the same Father. Our questions will continue to bring Him closer to us as we await his answer this year in Jerusalem rebuilt.
Chag Samayach and Happy Pesach,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Oif itlechen terets ken men gefinen a nei’eh kasheh.”- To every answer you can find a new question
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q A settlement founded after the creation of the state:
b. Nir Am
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
https://soundcloud.com/ephraim-schwartz/eliyahu-hanavi - After 4 cups of wine trust me this is the Eliyahu Hanavi you want to be singing. Get on your Yahoo!
https://youtu.be/UlEipKO1fhw – “The Greatest Passover”- Y-Studs Acapella cool!
https://youtu.be/qZ9M9d5k7uA – 613- Game of Thrones Passover…OY!
https://youtu.be/J9Ng9-MZoxg - Shlomo Katzes Eliayhu Hanavi which is almost as good as mine
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S HAFTORA CONNECTION OF THE WEEK
The Haftorah for Pesach is one that I read for my tourists often. Those of you that have gone with me to the Dead Sea. There I stand with them, by the lookout point from Mitzpe Yericho, and we note the city of Yericho, the banks of the Jornda River where it meets the Dead Sea and the mountains of Jordan- or Moav as it was called in the Torah. I tell them about the jews that had been camped here for a whole month as Moshe spoke the entire Book Of Devarim here for a whole month. How he died on the 7th of Adar and how after the month of mourning we arrive at the haftorah of this week that discusses the crossing of the Jewish people finally into the land if Israel on the 10th of Nisan as Yehoshua split the river, just as Moshe had done 40 years prior when we crossed the Red Sea, The Haftora tells us that after we crossed it was time for the first Pesach offering, as we had not brought it in the Midbar because the men weren’t circumcised. It was considered dangerous to circumcise in the wilderness. So Hashem commands Yehoshua for the men to have their circumcision. It obviously took some recovery time, which would mean that the men would not have to do any cleaning for Pesach. Thus setting an eternal precedentJ.
The Haftorah concludes with Yehoshua meeting a mysterious angel as they surround the city of Yericho who tells Yehoshua that he should removes his shoes because he is on holy land. It then concludes with the fulfillment of Hashem making Yehoshua great as he did Moshe. The connection of the Haftora and Pesach may be more than just the story of the Korban Pesach, but rather might be how we see that the exodus From Egypt really sparked a little Moshe in each of us. Just as we see Yehoshua becomes like Moshe and splits the sea. As well each of us has that ability and that is the message of Pesach; the recognition that each of us has the potential and personally are desired by Hashem to become great and free.
Yehoshua (1270 BC) – The meaning of his name means “Hashem will save” Yehoshua ben Nun, , lived until the age of 110. He was the successor to Moses, and brought the nation of Israel into their homeland. It is believed that Joshua authored his own book with help from the High Priests, with exception to the final chapter, which was authored by Elazar and Pinchas. It is the sixth book of the Tanach, and the first book of the prophets
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ERA’S AND THEIR PLACES AND PEOPLE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Graves of Tribes of Israel- Levi (1375 BC)- Although we did mention the tradition that Levi is buried along with Reuvein, Shimon and Dina by Mount Arbel a few weeks ago. It is worthwhile particularly this week to mention him again and another tradition for his burial as his birthday is this coming week, as he was born on the first day of Pesach and his yartzeit is the second day of Pesach. Levi is also connected with the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim as he was the last of the tribes to die, and only when he did, at age 137, did the intensity of the slavery in Egypt really begin. The alternate tradition of the burial site for Levi and for Shimon his brother as well, is in the northern village of Kfar Manda. There is a well over there near the muslim cemetery where the arabs believe the daughters of Yisro are buried or Banaat Shueib as they call him. Next to that well there is a domed building where tradition tells us that a few of the Tanaim like Akavya ben Mehalel, Rabi Gamliel and Rebbi Yissachar of Kfar Mandi are buried there. I personally am anot a big fan of going into arab villages and visiting graves there, although in general in the North I wouldn’t worry that much as I would in other parts of Israel, but for the more daring of heart Pesach would certainly be a nice time to visit the grave of the last of the tribes to die on his yartzeit and to pray that Hashem take us out of our final exile.
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S TOP FIVE DONALD TRUMP WHITE HOUSE SEDER CUSTOMS
5. Everyone’s cleaning out their cabinet
4. Robert Mueller is the only one allowed to do bedika
3. Jared security downgraded from Wise Son to the Son Who Can’t Ask questions
2. Kids Afikomen gift: a new semi automatic assault rifle
1. “Let my People go!” changed to “Let my immigrants be deported!
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S WORST PESACH JOKES OF THE WEEK
What did the grape do when he got stepped on? He let out a little wine
Why did the matzah quit his job? A. Because he didn’t get a raise!!
What army base is off limits on Passover? Fort Leavenworth
What do you call someone who spent hours preparing the Seder plate???? Egg-zosted!
What kind of shoes did the Egyptians where during the plague of Frogs? Open toad!
What did the Red Sea say to the Jews when it was split? Nothing. It just waved.
What kind of cake do you eat after the big Passover meal? a Stomach cake
What did Moses say to Pharoah after he refused the first plague? That was Dumb.
A Matzah walks into a bar… Bartender says: Haven’t seen you in a while, where you been? Matzah says: I’ve had some bad breaks
Answer is A – In studying for the exams the main material I used to prepare was the old previpus years exams. They don’t often use and repeat questions but once in a while they do and if you learned it once you can usually get it. This is one of them that was repeated on my exam and was in a previous one as well. And I still remembered the answer. I was able to deduct Nahariya as I know that city was founded by German Jews pre-state and was the first vacation resort city of Israel. I wasn’t sure about the rest of them. Although I probably would have negated Nir Am as I remember something about it in the War of Independence. Turns out upon googling it was actually headquarters for Negev Brigade against Egyptians in that war. The correct answer though is Arad, which was the first pre-planned city of Israel in 1960. It was Ben Gurions pride as he saw it as being the key to the development of the Negev. Turns out it was the last development city as well. Now its full of Ger Chasidim and Russian immigrants.