Our view of the Galile

Friday, June 22, 2018

Daniel's Tefilin and Our Clouds of Glory-Chukat 2018 /5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
June 22nd 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 35 9th Tamuz 5778

Parshat Chukas

Daniel’s Teffilin and our Clouds

It was one of the most horrifying video clips I have ever seen. He was a young secular Israeli man. I couldn’t tell his age maybe 18 maybe 23. His hair was shaved on the sides and his big cool blond flip in front kept falling down in front of his eyes. But I saw those eyes and there was such pain, such hurt and such hate it was hard to look into them. He was sitting on his porch in Bnai Brak, the city that he was raised and he had a little fire burning. He announced to the world and the thousands of “followers” and viewers that it was the day that he had enough. As much as it pained him, he needed to break free. Judaism was evil, the Torah and the commandments were primitive and full of hate. He had enough. He pulled out his head and arm teffilin, that incredible pair of Jewish ritual items that we were daily, that he received by his bar mitzvah, that announced that he was Jewish man and he threw them into the fire. He was finally free.

But he wasn’t. He wasn’t going to be happy until he spread this message of hate and atheism right back at the people that had “rejected him” that had hurt him and that represented the hypocricy that was the religion he was brought up on. So he went to the middle of Bnai Brak by the famous “Itzkowitz shul” where there are people praying 24 hours a day in perhaps the world’s largest and oldest minyan factory (at least outside of Jerusalem) and he brought a table with bread, challa, pitas to disburse. Except this wasn’t a kind gesture. It was Pesach. This was to once again throw his rebellion in the face of the people who still held their religion precious. He mockingly held a big sign that printed that said HaMotzi lechem min Ha’aretz- the blessing on bread. The locals of course were furious and screamed and spit and cursed him, which is exactly what he was trying to achieve. To reinforce their intolerance, and their rabid hatred for those that didn’t want to follow their ancient hate-filled traditions.

He had more posts. Posts of him talking about he was forced to give up his dog. How his teachers told him that those who did not “keep” the commandments were doomed, were worthy of being killed. He mocked the Torah’s perspective and warnings about alternate lifestyles. And yet his eyes were filled with such pain, it hurt just to see him. His final act was taking a Chumash and ripping it out page by page, crumbling it up and throwing it on the ground. Yet although, my grandparents had seen Nazi’s do the same, and my ancestors had seen anti-semites throughout millennia do these same hate-filled acts, whether it was the various Arab pogroms in Israel in the 20’s and 30’s, the Crusades, the inquisition, or even Titus of Rome taking his sword and stabbing the Ark of the Covenant, this young Jewish man, Daniel, was different. It hurt more. But at the same time I knew it wasn’t as real.

See Daniel, is my brother. He’s your brother too, by the way. And when your brother does some like this, you know it’s not for real. He was raised just like you were. He had a rebbi that taught him love, he had Shabbat songs, he ate chulent. He danced on Simchat Torah and had fun on Purim and he read from the Torah on his Bar Mitzva while his closest relatives looked on in pride. While his mother and grandmother shed a tear of nachas and joy. But something went wrong along the way. Somehow that spark of joy that inner meaning and beauty was taken from him. But he wasn’t a Nazi. He wasn’t a hater. He wasn’t one of them. He was still my brother. He had just gotten lost…very lost perhaps, along the way. But he will make it back. I know he will. In fact he already…Oh we’ll get to that soon.

This week we read perhaps one of the saddest Torah portions. Just to be prepared for it, the Torah portion starts off with the laws and mitzvah of the Red heifer that is used to purify someone from the tumah of coming in contact with the dead. Get ready there is death in this parsha.

First Miriam the sister of Moshe, dies. She is the one that started it all way back in Exodus. If not for her Moshe would never have been born, as our sages tell us she got her parents who had separated back together in. She watched as Moshe was floating in the basket down the Nile and she was the one that brought his mother to the daughter of Pharaoh, thus not only saving him and but insuring that his holy mouth would remain pure to speak with Hashem and give us the Torah. She was the midwife of most of the children of Israel rescuing them from the hands of the Egyptians. She led the women’s choir after the splitting of the Sea in song.  And now she was dead, and with her the miraculous well and water source of the Jewish people.

If that wasn’t enough just four months later we lost Aharon. It was he who was the connection between Hashem and the nation for the past forty years in the role of the High Priest. He blessed them daily with love, and they felt the Divine love flowing from him. He was the marital counselor and family therapist of the Jewish people and trust me 40 years schlepping along in the wilderness as a family there are lots of issues that needed to be worked out. I’ve gone camping with my family for a few days and that was about all we could take… forget about 40 years. It was he as well who bravely stopped the plague of the fiery snakes that attacked our nation with the incense of Hashem. Now he was gone as well. When he died we lost the clouds of glory that protected us in the midbar; that cleared the roads, removed the obstacles and even served as a temperature controlled air conditioner and dry cleaner.

Perhaps the biggest blow of the week is the news that Moshe would not be taken us into the land. The last time we thought we lost our holy shepherd that preformed the 10 plagues, that took us out of Egypt, split the sea, went up to Mount Sinai for forty days and brought us down the Torah and won our battles for us. The last time w though we lost him we made a golden calf. Now when we knew we were losing him and with him we would lose the Manna that sustaind us for the past 40 years as well we really started to freak out. We complained about the Manna we wanted to go back to Egypt. It was a nightmare. As I said this is a tragic parsha.

Yet at the same time there is something special our sages tells us about this Parsha. For this Parsha really is the beginning of us entering the land. We already start to conquer area that will ultimately be ours on the Eastern side of the Jordan. Miracles take place and we win without even raising a sword. Moshe leads us into battle and the Golan heights becomes ours as he slays Og the King of Bashan. The old generation is sadly dying but at the same time the new one, the nation that will merit to inherit the land is beginning the work of conquering and inheriting the land and I don’t believe this is a coincidence.

A parents job is to give a child all of the gifts and tools that he can so that the child ultimately make it on their own. They can’t hold their hands forever, they can’t change their diapers, and Mom, they one day have to stop reminding them to brush their teeth before they go to sleep. They do. The Jewish people are an eternal people. We are a movement that is charged to bring Hashem to the world and to shine his light out to it. Each generation keeps that torch burning and then gives the next generation the charge to hold that torch and shine it even brighter. But they have to hold it on their own.  Moshe, Aharon and Miriam all represent three gifts for us to make it through the wilderness of life that each one of us has to traverse. Moshe, our holy shepherd, represents the Manna, our sustenance. A shepherd’s job is to make sure that not only does every sheep have what to eat, but also that they eat the right thing for them. Little sheep the soft grass, the older ones that harder straw. The manna as well gave each Jew exactly what they wanted and needed spiritually and physically. As well Moshe is the one who gives us the Torah. The Torah which on one hand is the same document for everyone, just as the manna looked the same for everyone. Yet each Jew has his own special taste, his own special flavor, his own special sustenance. Forty years we had the food, that gift, now it was time to find it on our own.

Aharon gave us the clouds of glory. As opposed to the Manna which each Jew had their own special flavor the clouds of Aharon had no individuality. We were all part of the same cloud. The cloud that protected Moshe and Aharon and the righteous leaders and holy people also protected Korach, Datan, Aviram, and Zimri who committed abominations, rebellions and all types of unrest amongst the people. The clouds of glory and Aharon are able to do that because they see only one common denominator in each and every Jew. The holy spark of Hashem that is in each of us. You got a Jewish souls,-your in, regardless of your observance level. Aharon, the uniter of the people is able to give us that gift because it is he that is charged with bringing that Divine love to each of us every day. When he dies the King of Canaan attacks and takes only one captive. Our sages tell us that it was a maidservant, possibly even a non-jewish one that had undergone a conversion. He takes one because the cloud is down, Aharon is gone, maybe the weakest of us, the least observant are free game. Will we take responsibility? Will we go to war for every Jew no matter how far he or she may be, because we recognize they are our brother our sister, they have that spark of Hashem.

We do. Aharon taught us well. We are walking on our own.

Finally we have Miriam, she is the water. Water which doesn’t have any nutrients, but which we cannot live without. Water is the substance that carries it all. It takes the food and makes up the blood, and it is the life force that flows through us. She is the one behind the scenes making it all happen moving us to where we need to go, even if we can’t see it. It is transparent. It’s like it’s not there, but without it we are so soooo thirsty. It is our faith it is our eternality. And it is ultimately the song that will be sung at our redemption.

When I looked at Daniel, as I’m sure you will as well (I have included the clip below) you will see someone that has not yet found his flavor of sustenance of manna. Is there anything more maddening than that. He is starving and the food he was being given was not what he needed to sustain his soul. When I look into his eyes though I saw as well that spark that mirrored my own. Hashem’s light radiating from the darkest moments screaming to shine forth. When heard his hatred at the same time I saw how precious the Torah was to him. He ripped it, burned it, screamed at it only because it meant so much to him. It was the rock that was not giving him the water, the faith that his soul was thirsting for. But Hashem heard his prayer. His pain and his cry and perhaps even those that saw the first clips and cried and prayed for Daniel as well was answered. Rather than those that scorned him and wrote him off and threw him out of their sel-created “clouds of glory” that only seem to be deserving of protecting those that dress, talk and daven in the same shul or yeshiva that they do. Ouch! Three weeks ago Daniel made a new post. He is making a shehachiyanu on tzitzis he is wearing. He apologizes to those he hurt and offended. He found his water, he found his manna, he found the love from Rabbis and mentors that accepted him, comforted him and loved him.

Is he a baal teshuva? Is he religious? Is he “one of us”. I don’t know about the second question. I know that he certainly expressed regret and asked forgiveness and those are parts of the teshuva process. I can certainly say that he has probably done more soul searching and more teshuva than I have ever done.  Yet, it really doesn’t make a difference. See he was always one of us. We are not “us” without him. He is our brother. He is walking on a path, in a midbar, when the older ways of forcing him, and holding his hand, and even his community are not there for him. He has stumbled and fallen, and he is starting to walk on his own. He is finding the water of the Torah, the spiritual food that is sustaining him and given him life. But we need to be his cloud of glory. Hashem promises that with the ultimate redemption lo yidach mimenu nidach- no one will be pushed away. We will all come home. We will all return. There are thousands of Daniels outside those clouds. It’s time to open up the window and let them in.

Have a spiritually uplifting  Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Keyner veys nit vemen der shukh kvetsht, nor der vos geyt in im– No one knows whose shoe pinches except the person who walks in it.

answer below at end of Email
Q. A period named after the use of metal:
a. Paleolithic
b. Neolithic
c. Chalcolithic
d. Holocene


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxo_gb3qjXI  - the incredible video of Daniel- UNLESS YOU WATCH UNTIL THE END- DON’T EVEN BOTHER… TRULY INCREDIBLE

https://youtu.be/DoN2MIF9b0g   - Adorable song with great words- Da lach Senei- don’t do what you hate to another

https://youtu.be/b4vbFcE1zWg - Yonatan Razel With African choir Lmaaan Achai My brothers. Cool!


Parshat Chukas There are some incredible stories and people in Tanach that we only know about if we pay attention to the haftorah, but hopefully if we do spend a little time reading the haftorah then it will inspire us to perhaps dust off our tanach and open it up and learn a bit of the great (and perhaps not-so-great) leaders that commanded and directed our nation in our early years in Eretz Yisrael. Perhaps through that we might even better appreciate or look at things a bit differently today.
Whereas last week the haftorah focused on Jewish leaders like Shmuel and Shaul, this haftorah chronologically precedes it with the leader Yiftach almost the contra figure to Shaul and Shmuel. Yiftach seemingly would be in modern times the underdog hero. Coming from questionable if not even downright bad roots. His mother a harlot, his brothers throw him out, he goes to a land mysteriously called Tov and hangs out with “empty people”. Yet in times of need and with the impending threat of Ammon he is called to come to the rescue. If this were a movie, if he were a real hero, a role model the story would end up with him overlooking the slight, returning to his roots, proclaiming Hashem and living happily ever after. But it’s not a movie.

Yiftach only agrees to go if they agree to make him their leader. Yiftach is not at all magnanimous. He throws back at them their rejection of him. He demands they make him their leader. As well he doesn’t fight and wipe out Ammon right away. He engages them in attempted peace negotiations. Back and forth and back and forth… with an extended history lesson of this story  of our battles in this weeks, Edom, Sichon and Ammon from our Torah portion and at first glance perhaps even the reason for the choice of haftorah. Even in this drasha he talks about how their god “kamosh” gave them their land and Hashem gave us ours.. Really very strange. The haftorah concludes without one of the strangest and maybe even most tragic of stories how Yiftach makes a vow that the next thing to walk out of his door he promises to Hashem as a sacrifice. The haftorah doesn’t tell us that the end of that story was that his daughter was who came out. As you can see this leader is different than the Shmuel and Shaul. What’s the story here?
Haftoras are connected not just to one story in the parsha but to the whole parsha. This parsha which is Chukat and begins with the mysterious and even unexplainable purification process for one who has come in contact with the dead through the ashes of the red heifer. The torah portion as well can be described as the transition of leadership and the nation-shattering consequences of that. Miriam dies, there is no water, Aharon dies and we are attacked by Canaan. Moshe loses his right to lead the nation the people complain about the manna and are beset by plague. I believe that is what the haftorah as well wants us to focus on.

Our sages tell us that Yiftach in his generation is like Shmuel in his generation. Each generation will never have the leaders that are the same level as other generations. We get what we need. They may not be as learned, they may not be as holy, but they are what is right for us. They may even be as unlikely as Yiftach but they are our leaders as much as Shmuel was. But how can that be? Zot chukat hatorah- these are the inexplicable laws of the Torah. The pure becomes impure and the impure becomes pure. If we can’t get over that and we don’t’ establish the next leader and just obsess and bemoan what we lost then it can lead to even greater tragedy. As it does in our parsha.
What does that mean for us today? We have lost many great leaders, there are almost none that are like the previous generation. How do we move on? Shmuel b’doro kYiftach b’doro. Discuss…

Yiftach HaGiladi (982-976 BC)-  The meaning of Yiftach-iel is “Hashem opens”. He was born in the land of Gilead. Yiftach’s mother was referred to as a harlot. His father was called Gilead and his stepbrothers ostracized him, and did not provide him with any share any of the inheritance left from their father. He therefore moved away to the land of Tob. He was an Israelite military leader. He became known as a mighty warrior who was a skilled and daring fighter. His mobilized a resistance and led a counter offensive defeating the Ammonites of Trans-Jordan. He made a promise with Hashem that if he were to win the war he would sacrifice to Hashem the first living thing that came out from his gates when he came home. Unfortunately his only daughter, Seila came out dancing and singing with tambourines and ribbons to welcome home her victorious father and as a fulfillment of a vow he sacrificed her. Yiftach’s life ended tragically he wasn’t buried but his limbs would fall from his body and were scattered around the land of Israel.


Jewish birthrate- 1522-1312 BC-  Perhaps one of the greatest miracles of our history in the Jewish capacity to rebuild from the ashes, to bring life and light from the darkness and death of oppression. This power finds itself first in our exile in Egypt where the Torah tells us that as the Egyptians persecuted us so we grew and flourished. As they killed our babies we were fruitful, multiplied and our nation grew. If one calculates the math we came down with 70 people to Egypt and we left 210 years later with a few million (men alone between the ages 20-60 were 600,000). If one assumes that this was four of five generations that would only be possible if each family had 20 -30 kids a piece per generation. Our sages note this and suggest that each family gave birth to sextuplets each time they gave birth. Pretty wild. But this is the promise Hashem made and it is really the only way the math would work out. To translate that into modern times. The Jewish population before WWII was about 17 Million and 6 million were lost in the holocaust 70 years later we are about 14 million and about 17 million if you count those that identify as Jewish despite not being halachically Jewish. This means that we have over 70 years not even grown by 50 percent. This could be because of assimilation and low birthrates.
On the other hand the Orthodox Jewish world which was one about 7 to 8 percent of the Jewish population is close to 20% for the under 18 demographic. They are having lots and lots of kids.
Now in modern Israel we also see this blessing and miracle. 1850 there were 15,000 Jews in Israel by 1948 there were 600,000 . Remember that number? Yup the same amount that left Egypt 3000 years before. The 600k finally made it home. Today we are at 6. Million. Yup, the more they persecute us the more we grow!

Now where in Israel can one speak and learn about this great miracle? Well there is the promise of Avraham that we will be like the stars of heaven and there is no better place to see those stars then in Mitzpeh Ramon in the heart of the Negev. Without any electricity around the great sky open in front of you it is truly magnificent. As well, I always enjoy driving with my tourists through Meah Shearim and religious neighborhoods and see the multitudes of cute little yerushalmi children with their payot and the little girls with pigtails running around. This is the blessing of Hashem, this is the miracle of our country.

As well another form of tourism that I am not involved in is the fertility tourism. The State of Israel not only has child subsidies for each child born, as well as even savings plans for them, it is also the only country funds fertility treatments even for women 45 years of age that have children already but want more. Last year alone there 37,000 children born here from those treatments. So there many Jews that can’t afford these treatments in other countries and their insurance will deny them, as they are at risk. Not here, by the law you can’t be denied. So there are some that make Aliya just for that. As well there are many great infertility organizations that will happily give you a tour of their organizations (generally a donation is expected) and explain their holy work, like A Time, the Puah institute and Boney Olam that offer counseling, support and even funding when necessary. Yes Israel is a miraculous country and all you have to do is come here to see the miracles that once happened still happening as we have returned home.


Sam picked up his wife Becky and their new baby from the hospital and brought them home. It was not long before Becky suggested that Sam try his hand at changing a diaper.
"I'm busy," he said. "I promise I'll do the next one."
The next time soon came around, so Becky asked him again.
Sam looked at Becky and said innocently,
"I didn't mean the next diaper, I meant the next baby." 

Yitzhak and Melvyn live in a retirement home. One day, as they are sitting on a bench under a tree, Yitzhak turns to Melvyn and says, "Melvyn, I'm 85 years old and I'm full of aches and pains. You're about my age. How do you feel?"
Melvyn replies, "I feel just like a new-born baby."
"Really? Like a baby?"
"Yes," replies Melvyn, "no hair, no teeth and I can hardly walk."

Abe was in a bind he never missed his morning prayers and here he was delayed on a flight sitting on the tarmac. He had pushed off praying hoping that he would make it to his synagogue to pray in time and now when they finally opened up the gate it was too late to make it there. So he runs off the plane to the chapel, not realizing that it was in fact a church group there in session.  He makes his way to the corner takes out the tallis and teffil in and dresses himself, and proceeds to pray.
The Priest comes in and wants to start the Services. He stands up and says," Will all non-Catholics please leave." Little Abe goes right on davening."
Next request, again, "Will all non-Catholics please leave."
Finally, the Priest gets up and says, "Will ALL JEWS please leave."
At this Abe gets up folds his tallis and teffilin  and packs it away. Then Abe goes to the altar and picks up a statue of the baby icon there and says, "Come bubbela they don't want us here anymore." 

Sadie went to her doctor for a check up. Afterwards, the doctor said to her, "I must inform you that you have a fissure in your uterus, and if you ever have a baby it would be a miracle."
As soon as she got home, SAdie said to her husband, "You vouldn't belief it. I vent to the doctah and he told me - 'You haf a fish in your uterus and if you haf a baby it vill be a mackerel'"

She was a new nurse in the maternity ward in Israel, not aware of the miraculous births that take place here. As she entered the first room she saw a new mother with 4 newborn babies lying next to her in their hospital bassinets. “Wow” she said “are all of these yours?” “Yes” said the new mother. “I just had quadruplets last night, but actually…” she said “that’s quite common.  You see, I come from the city of Kiryat Arba (the Israeli community translated as “village of four) and a lot of my friends have four children.”

Pretty amazing” the nurse thought as she went to the next room. Much to her surprise the next patient was lying down with 7 little infants around her.“Are these all yours?” she again asked in shock. “Certainly” the proud mom exclaimed, “I’m from Be’er Sheva (the well of seven) and many of us have septuplets”. The next room had a mother from the city of Kiryat Shmona (the city of eight) and sure enough 8 adorable little babies were pleasantly cooing around the mother’s bed. When the nurse came to the next room though, she immediately turned around and started running out of the hospital. On her way out the doctors asked her where she was going. With a sign of total resignation the poor lady said “I quit! There’s no way I am going in the next room”. “Why? What’s the matter?” the doctor said. “Don’t you know,” the exasperated and clearly overwhelmed nurse responded. “The lady in the last room is from Meah Shearim (the city of 100 measures)!!!

Answer is C– I confess Geology was one of my weaker topic in the tour guiding program. Especially the different “prehistoric” periods certainly didn’t gather much of my interest. It wasn’t anything that I thought my tourists would care much about as well. That being said I still got this question right, because it was easy if you just know a bit of latin. Paleo means old, lithic means stone. Neo is new. Holo means the whole and of course calcolithic is the copper era which is a metal and the period according to scientific dating that would precede briyas ha’olam which is the bronze period. I kind of start my tours from bereishit not before so as I said didn’t interest me much.

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