Our view of the Galile

Friday, June 1, 2018

The House that Mendy Built- Behaloscha 2018 / 5788

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
June 1st 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 32 18th Sivan 5778

Parshat Behaloscha

The House that Mendy Built

He didn’t start out in a big house. It was nice. Comfortable. Baalabatish, as we like to say in Yiddish, respectable. But over the past few years his new business venture had pushed him over the top. He had, what some might say, “made it”. It was time for his house to reflect his newer austerity and stage in life. So he approached his dear friend and attorney for a recommendation for a contractor that might help him build up his house. Knock down a few walls, push it out, maybe larger nicer guest quarters for hosting his more prominent guests and Rabbis that would need a place to stay. Harry, his lawyer, sat him down for a bit to try to dissuade him. Why knock down a perfectly good house. It’s baal tashchis- it’s a shame and a waste. Besides, even practically it doesn’t make much sense. It will never be what he wants or could use it to be. It will always be just an expanded upon old house with some nice additions to it. Better buy the big empty lot a few blocks away. There he could build the “dream house”. It was a larger plot of land and it could be designed and built from scratch in the best way possible. But Mendy was adamant. He was staying in the old house. He wasn’t moving from it. After a bit of urging he told Harry what his rationale was.

Remember a few years ago when I was really struggling. I had reached my low point. I was behind on my mortgage, I had nothing to pay my bills with and I was at the point when the banks were ready to foreclose on me. For days I did not sleep. I tossed and turned. What would I do? Where could I move to? What about my kids, my family. What will people think of me? Will I be able to show my face in shul? My kids in their schools? My wife with her friends? It was the most painful moments of my life.
But Hashem pulled me out. I made it through. Today, I am in a different place. But I never want to forget what those moments felt like. How when someone comes to me for help, I should always be able to look at my four walls and remember those sleepless nights, that fear of shame, of humiliation. Of the thought that I had let down my family and loved ones. I am staying in this house. It is the only place that will have what I most need to navigate the new role Hashem has given me. Has blessed and charged me with.”

My Uncle Mendy stayed in that house. It was his headquarters from where he was able to share and alleviate the burdens of the thousands that came to seek refuge from the storms and challenges that Hashem had thrown in their path.

But that is not the end of the story. But before we get there, I share with you an incredible idea from this week’s parsha.
There is a fascintng and unique verse in this chockfull of diverse narratives Torah portion of Beha’alotcha. The Torah tell us of the command and ceremony that surrounded the dedication of and induction of the Levi’im, the tribe of Aharon to the service of Hashem. They were meant to replace the first-borns who had lost this role and privilege as a consequence of having sinned by the golden calf right after we had received the Torah. The ceremony was a strange ceremony that included shaving off all of their hair, bringing sacrifices and atonement offerings, as well as being lifted up and waved around by the Kohen followed by the Jewish people placing their hands on them- semicha- ordination as they took their new role. The Torah tells us the

Bamidbar (8:19) And I shall give the Levi’im as a gift to Aharon and his sons from among the children of Israel, to perform the service for the children of Israel in the Tent of the Meeting and to atone on behalf of the children of Israel, so that the children of Israel will not be afflicted with a plague when the children of Israel approach the Holy Sanctuary.

In case you didn’t notice there is a repitive seemingly extra few words that any grammar teacher (and actually a few of the online translations actually) would cross out. Namely the children of Israel. It would have been more concise to say I have given the levi’im as a gift to Aharon from the children of Israel to perform the service and atone for them so that they will not be afflicted when they approach the Holy Sanctuary. Why keeping wasting all that good ink on saying the children of Israel 5 different times in this verse.

Rashi notes this and explains.

Five times it says the children of Israel in this verse in order to show the love of Hashem for them as it says their name 5 times the same amount as the five books of the Torah.

The way the Midrash explains this unique anomaly of the multiple mentions fo the children of Israel is like a loved one that can’t stop saying the name of their beloved. Their fiancĂ©. Their children, their first grandchild. Yoel Eliyahu, Yoel Eliyahu Yoel Eliyahu Yoel Eliyahu, which ultimately becomes Yoliyahu which is what I call him J. Yet the Sfat Emet of Ger, ask the obvious question on this Rashi. Why here? Why now? Why in the middle of the Torah portion and narrative about the dedication of the Levi’im?

He answers with an idea that he heard from his grandfather the Chidushei Ha’Rim. That it is precisely here and now that it is most needed and necessary to tell the Jewish people how much He loves them, How special we are. How much we mean to Him.

Although it seems a while ago since we read the Torah portions of the Exodus from Egypt and the building of the Tabernacle, the Mishkan. We have after all read the entire book of Vayikra and the begging of Bamidbar. Yet only a year has passed. The trauma of the sin of the golden Calf and the almost destruction of our people and abandonment by Hashem that was only prevented with the imploring of Moshe, was still fresh in our minds. And now Hashem was taking a tribe to be his representatives. What until now was each family having their own personal family representative in the Temple was now being given to one tribe. Were they the new elite? Have we lost our connection?
It is in this framework that Hashem tells the people that they are the most beloved to Him still. The role of the Levi was not to be above the people, but rather their entire strength comes from and because of the nation. Hashem selected them mitoch bnai yisrael- from amongst the children of Israel. To do the service of the children of Israel, to serve as our atonement, to help us come closer to the Kodesh. Rashi introduces this portion explaining why all the Jewish people were told to gather here
Rashi (8:9) because the Levis would serve as our atonement offering all should come and lay their hands upon them
They were shaved entirely and waved around just like metzora and his offering- one who had been stricken with the spiritual leprosy like malady for
Rashi (8:8) Since they are an atonement of the idolatry of the first borns and idolatry is referred to as the sacrifice of the dead, they are shaved like metzoras that are also considered like dead.

The sin offering, the cow, the goat, the laying of the hands are all the Jewish people recognizing that Hashem does not choose anyone or even any specific tribe over the rest of the Jewish people. Hashem rather appoints the tribe of Levi because in the words of the Sefat Emet

“He who nullifies and subsumes himself to the community is he who Hashem chooses”

The Levi doesn’t have a portion of the land of Israel. He is living off the people’s tithes. They are the teachers. They received their semicha, their ordination from us. We are the Rebbi so to speak that empowers them. Hashem loves us and the Levi begins his service with the understanding that he is in the position he is in because of Hashem’s love for His people and his entire life should be dedicated to their benefit and never for their own.

A few years after Mendy’s business, Safeguard properties, of servicing mortgages and properties for banks was taking off, the foreclosure crisis hit. Whereas for many this was a huge downfall, Mendy being in the position that he was in was servicing all of the properties that the banks were foreclosing upon and was experiencing a tremendous growth in his business. In the beginning of this new climate he approached Harry and asked him to please train his Safeguard employees in all of the legal documentation that Harry was handling for him so that he could move this aspect of the business “in-house”. He explained that there were many Jewish families that were undergoing foreclosure and that it would be humiliating for them to know that another religious person that they might meet in Shul, in schools or social gatherings was aware of their plight. Harry agreed and came in to the office and trained his employees in how to deal with it. Harry thought this was an incredible sensitivity on Mendy’s part, but it wasn’t until two years later that he really discovered what this was all about.

It was two years later when Harry met the former bank manager he worked with. He asked him how things had gone since they started in-housing the work at Safeguard. The manager told him though something that really shook him up and revealed to him who his friend really was.

Y’know Harry” he said, “It’s the strangest thing. Since Safeguard took over the accounts we haven’t had one foreclosure in the Jewish community. We had plenty of pending ones, though. Plenty that were on that path. But somehow they all managed to find a way out of it. Their loans were paid off, mortgages renegotiated. It’s really unlike anything I have ever seen.”

Harry’s jaw dropped. Could it be? Was his friend really taking care of all of those outstanding loans? But then Harry looked across the street and saw the house. He understood. His neighbor was someone that had been chosen for a role. To serve the people. To bless the people. To make sure Hashem’s children should never have pain and that they should never have plague as they come to the “Kodesh”. He wasn’t a Levi but he realize that his home, his house wasn’t given to him as his own little palace, rather Hashem and his people are his portion. His job and his gifts are to make sure their dwelling places remain theirs. That Klal Yisrael will be able to build their own homes for Hashem. This week marks 30 days since the passing of my Uncle Mendy.Mayy his continued inspiration serve as a blessing for all of Klal Yisrael and may he succeed in finally establishing the only home he ever really wanted to see built here on this earth. The Palace of Hashem, readily In our time. Yehei Zichor baruch..



“Beim oiskern di shtub gefint men alts.” - When you sweep the house, you find everything

answer below at end of Email
Q:   A road that was paved by the Gdud haAvoda:
a. Ramat Rachel – Bethlehem
b. Tiberias – Tzemaִh
c. Amiad – Farod
d. Ashdod – Be’er Sheba


https://youtu.be/FsF_qlMvWV0    - My friend Dovid Lowy’s newest hit song for the summer Colorful!

https://youtu.be/DO7njVeFPnQ    - Greatest Spelling Bee Word question ever-= check it out!

https://youtu.be/SBToNHob6xc - Agudas Yisrael Movement in Time musical tribute by Dinner


Parshat Behaloscha A lot of phrases from tanach have come into our common lexicon in Hebrew or even what I would call “yeshivshe speak”, which is Hebrew or Talmudic phrases into your regular day to day conversations. Now I don’t believe that this is because we are so familiar with tanach, for besides the first few books with the stories of shoftim and King David not too many people are actually studying it. Yet I think perhaps the way we know this phrases and terms is because of the haftorahs. So many songs, so many catch phrases that I know are found in different haftorahs. And I don’t think it’s because people have Zecharia, Isaiah or Ezekiel on the tip of our lips. But the haftorahs, read year after year we seemingly do. So that’s another reason to learn them well. It’s as if chazal- our sages were saying if you don’t have time for all the prophecies at least now these.
This week’s Haftora which incidentally is one of the few that are read more than once a year, as this is read on Chanuka, describes a vision Zecharia has of the rededication of the Temple and particularly the lighting of the Menora. Zecharia lived right before the rebuilding of the Temple. The 70 year exile was coming to an end and this is the vision he sees of a conversation with and angel and High Priest Yehoshua whose children were intermarried and assimilated. The Haftorah begins with the famous words
Zecharia (2:14) Rani Vs’simchi Bas Tzion- "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for, behold! I will come and dwell in your midst, says the L-rd."
The Satan tries to tell Hashem that Yehoshua is not worthy. His has plenty of dirty baggage. And again famous words that are a lesson to all of us never to judge.
And Hashem said to the Satan- Yig’ar Hashem Becha HaSatan- May Hsahem denounce you Satan
Vyigar  Hashem becha Habocheir BiYerushalayim –And Hashem who chooses Jerusalem should denounce you
Halo Ze Ud mutzal Me’Eish – he is like a firebrand saved from the fire.
These last words that he is an ood mutzal from Eish a firebrand is the term used in Israel fro holocaust survivors who as well could and should never be denounced by the Satan and judeged by any of us. Just as Zecharia sees that the kohein should not be judged because of his baggage.

Hashem tells Yehoshua to remove the soiled clothing from above him and I recall that we would recite this verse as we would prepare a body for a burial for the chevra kadisha and remove their clothing. As well as many of the other verses in this haftorah. The haftora concludes with this image of a menorah with olive trees over it, which is in fact the emblem of the State of Israel. The malach interprets that image with the famous words
Lo bachayil vlo b’koach ki Im bi’ruchi  amar Hashem – Not through army and not through strength it is only through my spirit Hashem says.
Isn’t that amazing how that became the symbol of the modern state of Israel. May we always remember that message.

Zecharia (520 BC)-  The Temple has been destroyed, the Jews were exiled the time of return had come with the declaration of Cyrus 18 years before, and yet the Jews were stalling. Faced with opposition from the nations around them and from the Shomronim from within as well as overwhelming poverty the initial enthusiasm had waned and Zecharia arrived on the scene to rejuvenate the spirits of the people. His prophecies in the first few chapters are visions of an angel that encourage the Jews to follow the mitzvos and build the Temple. The latter chapters are visions of the end of days after the destruction of the Temple when the nations will be punished and the streets of Jerusalem will once again be filled with its children


Death of Yaakov- 1520 BC- {I’ve been trying to keep this column in chronological order, however every once in a while I will jump out of order to address something or someone that is particularly time-relevant. Such as we have done with Shimshon last week, as he is in the haftorah or Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai by his yartzeit but this week we return to the end of the book of Bereshis with the death of Yaakov.}
It was probably the largest funeral in Jewish history. And we have certainly had large ones that numbered a few hundred thousand people over the last few years when many great Rabbi passed. Yet the funeral of our last Patriarch Yaakov certainly numbered in the millions. Egypt was the world empire back then. Kind of like the US is today- sorry British and Canadian readers…Especially since it has been made great again J. And Yet the Torah tell us that when Yaakov died they had a huge state declared mounrning for him in Egypt for 40 days and then another 30 days. Can you imagine the entire US shutting down for over two months of mourning? Then we are told that all of the elders and all of the statesmen of Egypt escorted the body to Israel for burial. If the leaders of the most prominent country are accompanying him then the Torah tell us other nations as well sent their representatives to the funeral. Their were chariots, horse riders “the camp was very heavy”. Or in another words it was huuuuuugge.
The Torah then tells us that they came to “Goren Atad” on the other side of the Jordan and the people of Canaan saw this huge funeral there as they eulogized Yaakov there for a week, and named the place Ebel Mitzrayim- the mourning of Egypt. Now where is this Goren Atad? The Torah says it is on the other side of the Jorda River. However that raises an even more difficult question. Why would they go to the other side of the Jordan River? Its way out of the way. It would be like going from Florida to New York and crossing the Missisipi River. Now there are many different responses I have seen. Some suggest that there was no roads that went up that way that were safe, others that they took Yaakov all around to give him more honor, and yet others suggest that the other side of the the Jordan doesn’t mean the Jordan river but rather the country of the Jordan that at that time poured out to the Mediterranean. We discovered a map in Jordan from the 6th century that places Goren Atad by Beit Hijla near the Yericho, So at least in the` times of the Byzantine Christians that’s where they felt it was.
Now of course the best place to talk about this great funeral is in Chevron, I prefer to see it from the top by Tel Rummeida overlooking the whole valley and imagining the million that gathered there`. As well I remind my tourists of what they saw` when they got there`. Esau, Yaakov’s brother claiming it was his burial place not Yaakovs. This became a whole thing because we Jews like to argue and prove ourselves and our rights. Yet there was one person, the deaf son of the tribe of Dan, Chushim, who couldn’t hear arguments and saw what needed to be done and did it. He grabbed a sword and chopped off his head and the funeral proceeded as planned. What a story what a place!


Yankel bought a new fridge for his house. To get rid of his old fridge, he put it in his front yard and hung a sign on it saying: "Free to good home. You want it, you take it."
For three days the fridge sat there without even one person looking twice at it.
Finally he told his friend Berel his problem. Berel offered to take care of it for him. Yankel said he did not want to pay for it to get hauled away, and Berel assured him that it would be take care of free of charge. The next morning the Fridge was gone. When Yankel asked how he did it. Berel told him he said I just put up a new sign on that read :"Fridge for sale $150." 

So the painters finish painting Abe's home and they hand him the bill. 
Abe notices that by the item "Paint" it says "$0." 
Abe says, "You guys did such a good job, why aren't you charging me for the paint?" 
The head painter looks at Abe and says,
"Don't worry about the paint, it's on the house."

A shlimazel decided to try his luck as a handyman, so he started canvassing a wealthy neighborhood. He went to the front door of the first house and asked the owner if he had any jobs for him to do. "Well, you can paint my porch. How much will you charge?" 
The fellow said, "How about 50 dollars?" The man agreed and told him the 
paint and other materials that he might need were in the garage. 
The man's wife, inside the house, heard the conversation and said to her 
husband, "Does he realize that the porch goes all the way around the 
The man replied, "he should; he was standing on it." 
A short time later, the fellow came to the door to collect her money. 
"You're finished already?" he asked. 
"Yes," the he answered, "and I had paint left over, so I gave it two 
coats. " Impressed, the man reached in his pocket for the $50. "And by 
the way," he added, "it's not a Porch, it's a Ferrari." 

Abe steps out of his building to hail a taxi and immediately finds one. As he gets in, the cabbie says, “Perfect timing, just like Saul.”
“Who's Saul?” asks the passenger.
“Saul Gold, of course,” says the cabbie. “Now there was someone who got what he wanted — like a taxi just when he needed it. Not like me; I always have to wait ages when I nee something.”
“Nobody’s perfect," says the passenger.
“Except Saul,” says the cabbie. “Saul was a great athlete and could have played in the NFL. Not like me – I'm just a couch potato. Saul danced like Astaire. Not like me. I've got two left feet.”
“Sounds like Saul was really someone special.”
“You can say that again,” says the cabbie. “He even remembered everyone’s birthday. Not like me. I always forget important birthdays and anniversaries. And Saul could fix anything in the house. Not like me. If I change a fuse, the whole neighborhood has a power failure. And Saul knew how to treat  his wife. He could always make her feel good and never answered her back even if she was in the wrong. He always complimented her on dinner. Not like me. I'm always getting into arguments with my wife.”
“What an amazing person. How did you meet him?” asks the passenger.
“Well, I never actually met Saul,” replies the cabbie.
“Then how do you know so much about him?” asks the passenger.
“I married his widow,” replies the cabbie. 

A man told his doctor that he wasn't able to do all the things around the house that he used to do.
When the examination was complete, he said, "Now, Doc, I can take it. Tell me in plain English what is wrong with me." 
"Well, in plain English," the doctor replied, "you're just lazy."
"Okay," said the man. "Now give me the medical term so I can tell my wife." 
Answer is C – One of the reasons why I include this section, besides sharing with you the the  something to guess about each Shabbos, or give the tour guides on the group something to test themselves on is for me to learn new stuff that I really never paid attention to in my course. Perhaps even usable material. I didn’t know much about the gdud ha’avoda- the labor brigade of the pre-Zionist state. I didn’t know that it was started in memory and honor of Yosef Trumpledor- not to be confused with the guy from Harry Potter. I knew that they were the ones that promoted Hebrew labor, that they built settlements and paved roads and even did farming. As well that they were socialist. Trumpledor was of course. They were the real chalutzim-pioneers. So it was interesting reading up on them. Their first major project was the road from tiverya to tzemach on the south side of the Kinneret. The first road ever to be built by “Jewish labor”. They didn’t know what they were doing but quickly learned and the road stands until today. Now I have something new to share with my tourists as we drive along the road either down to the Dead Sea from Tiverya or even around the Kinneret to the Golan. And there you have it.

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