Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 19th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 39 8th Av 5778
Parshat Devarim /Chazon
Not Mourning Tisha B’Av
I have a problem with distorted history. You know how we always like to look back and think about the alteh heim. How great it was. How holy everyone was. How much better it was in simpler times. It may be great to build up the previous generations and give our children something to aspire to become and achieve. But let’s get real. Life was bad. Life was always pretty bad for the Jews. We talk about “golden ages” in our history, but anyone that reads a bit of history will realize that we haven’t gone a century or two without incredible persecution, anti-semitism and expulsion. As well we haven’t gone a century or two without Jews forgetting all of the terrible things that continuously happened to us mere decades before and deluding themselves into thinking “but now it’s different”. Now we have learned. The “world” will never allow it. We are more civilized, we are advanced, they are our friends. They need us. We are too influential. We have lobbies. Uh huh…As King Solomon and all the prophets teach us “same old –same old…”
I admit, I’m no different. It’s hard to wrap my brain around the concept that normal, nice, seemingly moral people, civilized nations, and regular Moms and Pops could become so hate-filled, so rabid, so evil as to do the things that were done to my nation. I read the stories. I guide in Yad Vashem. I have given classes on Jewish history and I have even shed tears as I read about all the different eras when we have been killed, massacred and been taken like sheep to the slaughter. It is an essential part of our prayers. When we recite tachanun each morning we beseech the almighty
“Habeit Mishamayim U’ri’ey- look down from heaven and see that we have become an object of scorn and derision amongst the nations; we are regarded as sheep to the slaughter, to be killed, destroyed, beaten and humiliated”
“We are exhausted but allowed no rest”
“Why should the nations say ‘Where is there God now?’”
“Listen to our voice and be gracious-do not cast us off into the hand of our enemies to blot out our name”
Do these words have meaning to me living in my nice, comfortable, home in Karmiel and with the most powerful, dedicated and holiest army in the Middle East watching my back. Does is it have any semblance of relevance to you living behind your picket fences and manicured lawns with your kosher restaurants, shtibels, synagogues and behind the wheel of your well air-conditioned, blue-toothed stereo new or leased car. Did it mean anything to the Jews of Germany, of Spain, of the Communist revolution, France, England, Babylonia, Morocco, Yemen, Syria and Africa. Or were they feeling just as comfortable as we do. Were they as excited as I am when there’s a new groom, or a bris in shul on Monday and Thursday and we don’t have to recite tachanun. When we don’t have to recite those words above that seem foreign to us.
This Shabbat is the 9th day of Av, we will eat, we will drink, we will sing songs. In the words of our sages one can have a feast like King Solomon in his times. But it’s Tisha B’Av? But our temples were destroyed? What about all of the tragedies? Shabbos there is no aveilus. There is no mourning. It’s like not reciting tachanun when we have a festive guest. On Shabbos we are afforded a taste of Olam Haba- the World to Come. On Shabbos we are halfway there to having our Beit Hamikdash back. Shabbos is the one day that I realize what life could be like when I am basking in the divine presence. There are no phone calls, no work worries, no obligations that take me away from connecting to my soul’s deepest desire to unite with my Creator, with my people, with my family, with the entire world in a song about Creation.
It is on Shabbos that I appreciate how much I am missing out on life during the weekday. During the week, I have to run out of davening, I have no time to learn, I am wiped after the day and have no patience for my family, my wife. I can’t think about the rest of the world because I am too busy taking care of everything that needs to be taken care of. The messages I have to respond to, the responsibilities that consume us. Yet when those candles are lit an aura of tranquility rests on the world. I am uplifted. I close my eyes and sing Lecha Dodi and I for the first time truly long for a day that is always Shabbos. I long for the Mikdash. I come close to Hashem and want Him always with me from my table that is set like King Solomon’s; Shlomo HaMelech who built that first temple. I don’t need to sit on the floor and cry on Shabbos, I don’t want the Divine presence returned because I have it so bad. I want it because I have a small taste of how good it is and I want that ta’am- that flavor forever. I want the whole world to have it.
On Shabbos as well I connect to all of our history and ancestors. They may have not Shabbos clocks to turn on their lights, Air conditioners in their synagogues or crockpots for their chulent, but their Shabbos experience was not much different than mine. The Jews in even the worst conditions had that one day of tranquility. It started in Egypt when Moshe got us Shabbos off, recognizing that it was the key to us appreciating what redemption could be like. Jews in Babylonia, in Russia, in Spain even in the concentration camp testify that even if they were forced to do who knows what, Shabbos still brought with it some medium of hope of faith and yes even of respite. When I pray on Shabbos, when I look out at my Shabbos table, I think of the thousands of years that my people have “sung the song of Shabbos” to the world. And I think of a yom shekulo shabbos- a day and era that is all Shabbos. And I long for it.
Our Temples destruction, our exile from our land and all of the pain and tribulation our people have endured is because we have lost that feeling of the unity of the world that takes place on Shabbos. The lack of appreciation of the land of Israel that led to us to cry and wander in the wilderness upon hearing the report of the spies- that is mentioned in this week’s Torah portion of Devarim by Moshe in his final rebuke to our people, is a result of not appreciating how Eretz Yisrael is essential to achieving the Shabbos of the world. We can’t really have it without being here. The world won’t be one until we light those candles here. The idolatry, murder and abandonment of Hashem and the Torah which led to the destruction of the first Temple again resonates with the break of the nation with our Creator. We had Eretz Yisrael but we failed to connect it to Hashem. We didn’t have those songs of glory that bring that peace and harmony between Hashem and His people.
Finally the last Temple and the 2000 years of Exile that we suffer from. Yes, suffer even in times of tranquility. We suffer even though we may not feel, even though we may not even be persecuted. We suffer because there is no era of Shabbos in the world. We are plagued with sinat chinam, which although in the times of the Temple may have meant murder and Jews killing each other in civil wars, and thank God we have moved beyond that. But we have not yet heralded in an era of love harmony and peace that only the return of the shechina can bring.; That we can taste on Shabbos, when we are hearts and souls are open to one another and to the entire world. We are lacking an era when
(aleinu prayer) “Kol bnei basar yickri’u vishmecha-when all humanity will call out in your name, to turn the earth’s wicked to you…On that day Hashem will be one and His name will be one.”
It is a time when every Jew appreciates the essential role each of us has. When we can see the beauty in each other. When we can look at the entire world and realize that they all have a part of Creation. Each being is in the image of our Creator and we will see it as the whole world is sitting at a Shabbos table, just as my children sit around my Shabbos table and I see their beauty and blessing. That is what we don’t have. That is what we need to long and pray for on a Shabbos that is Tisha B’Av.
My brother sent me a beautiful little prayer from Rabbi Asher Weiss and I couldn’t not include it.
“May we have a litvishe head, a chasidishe heart, the honest and integrity of a yekke, the temimus and purity of a Hungarian (and their cooking- my addition) the honor of Torah and its scholars of a Sefardi and the love of Eretz Yisrael of a Religious Zionist”
The perfect Jew though is not one that has all of these. But one that is able to reveal the beauty of each of us and the Hashem in each of us. Let’s all have a Shabbos meal together. If we did perhaps we would then merit it together in Yerushalayim rebuilt with our Temple and our Father at the head of the table.
Have an amazingly holy Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Zi veynt mit tsibele-trern”- She's crying onion tears
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q. The stepped stone building in G area in the City of David is dated to the:
a. Late bronze – Iron age I
b. Early bronze age
c. Persian period
d. The Hasmonean period
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
- The Children are waiting
- Time to Wake up- if only….
- The Promise -the story of Torah in Space
- For those that know me this is the song that never fails to bring tears to my eyes.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S HAFTORA CONNECTION OF THE WEEK
Parshat Chazon – This is not a week for pulling punches. Moshe may have in his introduction to the parsha alluding to the sins by the names of the places that we camped, but he gets right into it afterwards lamenting the behavior of the people in their complaints, with the spies, and their lack of faith. In our haftorah Yeshaya doesn’t pull any punches. He is writing during the period when the ten tribes in the north were exiled and when Jerusalem and Yehudah were next on the slate for destruction and exile. And he gives it to them… to us…
“I have raised sons and they sinned against me. An ox knows its owner and a donkey his masters trough and Israel does not know my people does not comprehend.Woe a sinfulnation, apeople weighed down with inquity evil offspring, destructive children. They have forsaken Hashem, they have angered the Holyone of Israel and have turned their back to them”
And it gets worse. We are harlots, we have bloody hands, murderers, corrupt, thieves, every dirty name in the book. It’s Tisha B’Av. There’s no sugar coating today. As long as the Beis Hamikdash is destroyed it is as if we have destroyed it. The sins then are still haunting us. Sure we have more Torah and more services and more prayer than ever before, but the prophet tells us that
Ibid (1:11) “Why do I need your numerous sacrifices? Says Hashem…
Bring your worthless meal-offering no longer, it is the incense of abomination to Me, the new Moon and Sabbath and your calling of convocations, I cannot abide dishonesty with solemn assembly. My soul detests your New Moons and your holidays they have become a burden to me.”
Hashem wants us to be just to vindicate the innocent render justice to the orphan and care for the widows. It’s all about tzedaka. It’s all about taking care of the needy. The Torah the mitzvos, the holidays and the Shabbat are just means to get to the core which is taking care of one another. Ahavas Chinam. Loving our fellow man. Until we get that right, we are still missing the boat. We will still mourn and we will still not fulfill our mandate here on this world. It’s a rough read, but a necessary one. We read the haftorah with the Eicha mournful cantillation. If we allow the words of the prophet to inspire us then God willing this year Tisha B’Av will turn to a day of rejoicing as we have the Beit HaMikdash rebuilt.
Yeshaya Hanavi Era of Prophecy (780-700 BC)- Yeshayahu received his tradition in prophecy from his Rebbe the prophet Amos. The Baal Shem Tov suggests that the power of Yeshaya was that unlike the prophet Yirmiyahu who when he heard of the impending exile of the Jewish people did not pray for them. Yeshayahu, whose name means Hashem should preform salvation, would pray on behalf of the Jewish people. Which is why Yirmiyahu, ultimately suffered at the hands of the Jewish people when he was thrown into a pit whereas Yeshaya was treated with respect.
ABBI SCHWARTZ'S ERA’S AND THEIR PLACES AND PEOPLE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
70 date trees Eilim- 1312 BC- The next stop leaving Egypt and after our first water crisis was in a place called Eilim, From there we entered into Midbar Sin- or the Sinai desert. The Torah tells us that there were 12 springs of water there and 70 date trees. The 12 obviously symbolic of the tribes and the 70 for the number of elders of the Jewish people. Many archeologists and historians place this site to be El Arish in the Sinai Desert Others say that El Arish was Sukkot their first stop after leaving Egypt before the slitting of the Sea, but geographically that would be problematic-despite the fact that Arish is Arabic does mean Sukkas or huts. Currently it’s a great beach town in Egypt and the capital of the Sinai desert although for quite a bit of our modern history there were plenty of Jews there.
A few interesting factoids about the place are that it was actually proposed by Theodore Herzl to be the State of Israel and Jewish national homeland in 1903 when Palestine didn’t seem like a viable option. In 1948 the Israeli army came pretty close to there and it was almost ours. In 1956 the Sinai campaign it was actually under conquered and under Israel control until we gave it back after the war in our ceasefire agreement. Once again in 1967 it was under Israel control and then we held on to it until 1979 when Menachem Begin returned it to Anwar Sadat in the agreements ultimately destroying the Jewish settlements that were built there.
One place I don’t talk about Eilim is the yishuv Chad Nes that was built in the Golan heights to take in the members of the Sinai settlement that was there; Charuvit, Dikla, Neot Sinai Because Chad Nes never took in anyone from there. So I won’t mention it. On the other hand I do talk about the “girush- expulsion from Sinai when I drive through the Negev and pass points where we can see into Sinai near the Gaza border. As well no visit to the Begin museum in Jerusalem is complete without discussing the peace agreement and controversy that surrounded the return of Jewish although perhaps not biblical land. And finally I of course talk about the date palm trees whenever we are in the Dead Sea and Yericho Jordan valley area. Dates are known to grow the sweetest in the world in this area. The reason is because dates grow the best in the worse possible conditions. The Dead Sea has terrible earth, almost no rain and not a lot of agricultural minerals. And that’s why dates are the sweetest there. It’s also why Dovid Hamelech says that a tzadik grows like a tamar. A righteous person, doesn’t grow in the best conditions, yeshivos, communities[es1] , mikvas.the righteous person grows in the worst conditions out in the midbar where it is desolate. Only one person does the Tanach testify is a tzadik. Not Moshe, not Avraham, not Yaakov or Aharon. Noah-ish tzadik. Noach is the righteous person because he grows like a date tree in the worst conditions and the worst world.
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S JOKES OF THE WEEK
It’s Tisha B’Av shame on you for even checking out this column…!
See ya next week J
Answer is A– This one is easy although somewhat controversial. The two answers that are wrong ar of course the Early Bronze which pretty much goes back to briyas haolam as it is dated as 3500 BC or so. As well the Persian period is also incorrect coming after the first Temple destruction and they didn’t really build much here. Interesting enough the early archeologists to Israel being the minimalists that they were assumed that this huge structure in the Ir David was fortified in the 2nd Temple by the Chashmonaim that were fortifying Israel and its new expanded borders after the Temple rededication and Chanuka story. However most modern archeologists agree that the structure was certainly in use in the time of Dovid HaMelech and may be the Milo that was described that he filled up after conquering the cities. And many archeologists as well place it as being built by the Jebusites- Yevusim that lived in the city before it was conquered. It was perhaps where they taunted Dovid and his army with the blind and crippled people guarding the walls proclaiming their invincibility. Big mistake. Don’t mess with Hashem’s people. Either way the Yevusi or Dovid are both late Bronze early Iron period 1300-1000 BC.
I like when my weekly questions of the week happen to be timely (I take the questions in the order of the Tour guide Exam of the week). Certainly there is nothing more timely then going to the Ir Dovid to this area and seeing the burnt remains of the archives of Israel under the palace of Dovid Hamelech. May we soon see it rebuilt.