Our view of the Galile

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Where Are You Coming From? - Matos / Maasei 2017 / 5777

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

July 21st 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 37 27th Tamuz 5777
Parshat Matos/ Maasei
Where are you coming from?

“There is so little bureaucracy in this country” my friend who was a new Oleh was telling me. “You go to the government offices, or the banks and it only takes a few times until everything you need gets taken care of”.

 “Actually what I like best here is the weather” my other Oleh friend told me- as I was wiping the 90 degree heat off of my brow-“I find it very pleasant here”.

Chaim, our newest Oleh, though had the best take- he couldn’t believe how wonderful the roads were and the lack of traffic, that he was so accustomed to fighting in his old home, made driving here in Israel just a Mechaya- a true pleasure.

Are we talking about the same country I’m living in?” I thought. But then I remembered. You see, Chaim was from San Paolo, Brazil- home of the world record of 166 miles of backed up traffic out of 522 total miles. Nati, my heat loving friend from India was used to regular 105 degree months of summer. Boruch- or Boris, as he used to be called back in the former Soviet Union, never thought that he would live in a country where he didn’t have to wait in line for 2 weeks and then wait for another few months until he received a response. For him the Misrad Ha’Pnim-Israel’s infamous red tape capital was just a walk in the park. Isn’t it fascinating how much your point of departure reflects on how you see the world.

I had a Rebbe that once asked us, if we could change places with the wealthy Baron Rothchild if we would be willing to do it. He then proceeded to show us how the great Baron lived without running water, without air conditioning, he traveled by a bumpy horse driven wagon- without music. He lived without electricity, television, internet and would you believe cell-phones. Not even the poorest Kollel Rabbi lives in such conditions. If he were living today like that, we would probably start a collection for him. Yet we still feel we’re lacking and still find no shortage of things to complain about.

This week’s Torah portion, Ma’asei is the final one of the Book of Bamidbar. In truth it is really the final Parsha of the story of the Jewish people before they enter the land of Israel. The Book of Devarim for the large part is Moshe’s last sermon to the Jewish people before he dies. It is with that understanding that we can appreciate the first part of the Parsha that recounts for us a review of all of the travels of the Jewish people for the past 40 years. The traveled from…and they camped …. Over and over… 42 times the Torah tells us the names and hints of the various things that occurred along the way. Some places we had highs and some places unfortunately we sinned and were places of tragedy. The commentaries all struggle to understand the point of this list of names. Yet perhaps the reason is to give us the most important lesson of all before coming to Israel. Know where you’re coming from. Understand from where your perspective is built upon and it is important to take that in to consideration for it will affect your outlook on the country you are approaching and are charged to make holy.

Reb Moshe Feinstien elaborates on this point. He explains how it was, that this great nation that witnessed all the miracles of Egypt, the splitting of the Sea, The Revelation on Sinai, the Manna and the clouds of glory could have sinned so many times repeatedly. He explains that it is precisely because they were so accustomed to seeing so many miracles and the open hand of Hashem in the world, that they were challenged to see it when it wasn’t so revealed. Like a child whose parent is always there and then one day isn’t. Ma’asei, the review for the next generation before they will come into the land of Israel is to recognize that their previous experiences are the baggage and at the same time the tools for growth that they come into Israel with. If they want to have a successful Aliyah they have to consistently recall from where they came and be cognizant of the things that will influence their views as they approach a new life; one where Hashem’s hand will most certainly be more hidden than it was in the wilderness. Yet at the same time know that it is always there for them.

We enter the month of Av this week as we increase our level of mourning as we approach Tish’ah B’Av the day when our temple has been destroyed and even more tragically not yet been rebuilt. The increased mourning for men entails no shaving- so our face and beards scratch a little more. For others (who’s gender shall remain nameless.. JJ) it is the prohibition on shopping for new clothing or significant purchases that shakes us out of our regular existence. For some, like my teenage daughter, unplugging their I-Pod and not listening to music for three weeks has been a life changing experience. The point is that we are meant to pause and think about our lives. There is meant to be something different here that is missing. Hashem’s Temple, his presence in our country…our people… our world, is meant to be here with us and it’s not. Why aren’t we mourning more? What are we doing to change it? Has our 2000 year “temple-less” existence made us so cold that we can’t even appreciate how lacking our existence is? This is meant to be a time to reflect and to review. To think. As we scratch our chins, sit music-less in our cars and homes and we are meant to contemplate about what has caused us to be so cold and so distant. We need to think about how as distant as we are, it is even more painful for the Shechina to be distant from us. How it must feel for the Father who goes away and how the children didn’t even notice he was gone. Didn’t cry… Didn’t mourn... Didn’t miss Him.

May Hashem help us as we try to get closer to Him during this time. May he see our efforts as minimal as we can muster up to be sufficient to return once again to us. To return to our Home and once again may we finally merit to complete that journey our ancestors began so long ago in building an Eternal home for us and Hashem forever.

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


“Vibald du farshtaist dein narishkeit, bistu a kluger.” As long as you understand your foolishness, you are smart.

https://youtu.be/fHuzLmbcobo?list=PLTOCZ-DLMausvvU5Ba-8C1INQUSED6Jre    Dovid Dachs I am ancient wall ahavs chinam beautiful!

answer below at end of Email

Q.  The 19th century Templers originated from:
a. Alsace
b. Russia
c. Wurttemberg
d. Austro-Hungary


Matos- The problem with Rashi is that its sometimes so easy to read what he writes and continue and move on without actually thinking about what he writes and one then misses the perplexing questions tht need to be asked and that once answered reveals a powerful insight into a Torah teaching.
In this weeks Torah portion the verse tells us that (Bamidbar 31:5) a thousand from each tribe were given over to fight in battle. Rashi notes that the Torah uses a term that seems to mean they were given over against their will
“In order to teach you the praise of the shepherds of Israel how dear they are to Israel. Until they heard that Moshe would die (as part of the aftermath of the battle with Midian) what did he (Moshe- say about them) ‘A little more and they will stone me”. Once they heard that Moshe’s death would be connected to the vengeance of Midian they did not want to go and they had to be forced.”
If one thinks about this Rashi for even a second, the question is why did Rashi have to bring up the dirty past to tell us that we love our leaders and Moshe? Just say that we didn’t want to be given over if we knew that Moshe would die. Why does Rashi have to tell us that previously we wanted to stone him?
The Steipler Gaon, explains based on a concept of Rabbi Yisrael Salant explains that the love Israel has for its leader is so deep that even when we are holding externally by stoning him deep down the true love will come out ultimately. He brings an example of a parent of a difficult child who he constantly fights with, at the same time that parent might be a teacher who has a student who he loves and always treats with pride and praise. However in time of danger, the parent’s internal love for his child would come out and if given a choice he would save the child first, despite all of the trouble he gives him. It is almost unexplainable. It is just a deep-seated natural love he has for his child. That is what Rashi is trying to convey about our connection with Moshe. This can only be shown this internal love by contrasting it with the external strife. That is the depth of the love and connection we have to Moshe.
If that is true about us and Moshe- the shepherd of Israel, how much more so is that true about our love for Hashem who is our shepherd. Despite how much we might rebel, under it all we are faithful and would give our lives for Him and our belief in Him. That is the history of the Jewish people from even the least observant of our people, when given a choice or threat of life they will martyr themselves before denying God.
What an amazing Rashi and lesson.

Temple Mount Faithful – I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that during the week that we are meant to be thinking about life without the Beit Hamikdash, our Temple, that has been destroyed that the entire world is talking about who’s sovereignty it really falls. Since the times of the earliest pilgrims some of our greatest sages describe having gone up to the Temple Mount to pray and worship before Hashem. Obviously these great Rabbi took necessary halachic precautions and only entered into places that were permitted to walk, immersed themselves in a Mikva or better yet a fresh water spring, and did not wear leather shoes or bring anything with them besides their awe of Hashem and his Home and their heartfelt prayers. Upon the miraculous return of the Temple Mount to the Jewish people in the 6 Day war in 1967. Rabbi Goren, the chief Rabbi led Jews up there to pray as well. That all ended on Tisha B’Av that first year when they tried to bring up an Ark and blew Shofars after which the Jordanians and the Waqf whom we had handed over the keys to the administration over to, protested and forbade Jewish worship over there, making it ironically and tragically the only place in the world where Jews are forbidden by law to pray. Yet each years thousands of Jews go up to the Temple Mount. This past year over 14,000 and last week over 600 Jews went alone. The Jews that go up there really range the gamut from radical right wing religious Zionists that wish to show our sovereignty over it. Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews that wear black hats and affiliate with Chareidi Judaism, despite the overwhelming rulings from Chareidi Rabbis and accepted halachic authorities that for various reasons object. There are secular Jews and tourists as well that go up just to see the place where the Shechina once resided.  It is interesting as well that many of those that are in the forefront of this Temple Mount faithful group are American Olim that having made the bold ideological move to the Land of Israel want to be part of the next stage of our redemption by being part of the Jewish presence returning to Har HaBayit as well. Personally I do not go up to the Temple Mount. I avoid what I call dangerous places, both to my life and to my soul as many of my Rabbis oppose going up there. I do however feel that the big golden pimple up there should probably be taken down if we truly we believe we are a Jewish State. Because just because we can’t pray there doesn’t mean we should be participants in the greatest sacrilege to our holiest place. But I feel the same way about churches in Jerusalem as well-maybe even more so… So don’t pay much attention to me.

It’s the 9 days this week. sorry no jokes!

Answer is C– The Templer- not to be confused with the knights Templar of the Crusaders that guarded the Temple Mount…Hmmm wonder if they had metal detectors back then…- Were German Protestants from Wurtenberg that were pretty much seemed to be too radical and Messianic for even the Protestants and they moved to Israel to realize the coming of Messiah and the rebirth of Palestine. They pretty much get the credit for building the “German Colonies” all over Israel. In Haifa primarily and initially but also Jaffa and Emek Refaim in Jerusalem. With the advent of Nazism after WWI many of them were rounded up by the British and some were even traded with the Nazis in exchange for Jews.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Passing View- Pinchas 5777 / 2017

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

July 14th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 36 20th Tamuz 5777
Parshat Pinchas
A Passing View

I love lookout points. Eretz Yisrael has the most magnificent mountains where you can look out and see fantastic overlooks of this beautiful and incredible country that Hashem has given us. Whether it’s on Mt/ Carmel looking over the entire Jezreel valley, Mitzpeh Yericho overlooking the Dead Sea and the Judean desert, places in the Golan, the Negev, and even Jerusalem and Chevron it’s just awe-inspiring. What makes a lookout even more amazing, particularly when I bring tourists there is when I show them the sites and I GPS them as to our surroundings and then while they sit down and take it all in I open up my trusty pocket Tanach and read them the stories, the descriptions of the area as delineated there, the battles that took place, the people that stood there. They feel it. They’re experiencing it. The past, the land, our people, our history. It all clicks. There’s really nothing like it. And then we can go for ice cream and go to the next great place. With a stop at the bathrooms of course along the way.
Ooops! I forgot something. The pictures, of course. Or more recently of course the selfies. Now frankly I’m not a selfie type of person. I still haven’t mastered the art of fitting myself into a picture and holding the I-phone at the right angle to get me and the view I want int. So usually I just get like one eye and half of my smile and the pole in background. But as a tour-guide it is my responsibility to take the family picture by the overlook. To get 6 year old Moishy who’s had enough already on top of this mountain while the Rabbi has been rambling on for the past 10 minutes to stay another minute and even smile. Forget about to stop fighting with Estie who’s been teasing him the whole time. I’ve pretty much mastered the technique of reverse-psychology though where I tell him to stop smiling and to make angry faces already. That usually gets a grin. I learned that a few years ago when my photographer at one of our family simchos did that to me after I‘ve had enough already and wanted to go into the smorgasbord next door and start eating already and pictures seemed to go on forever. Also Rivky, my sister was bothering me and teasing me the whole time J. Anyways, once I get them all together I tell them that they should just know that really this whole picture thing is really a waste. Although it is certainly necessary because if there’s no picture than you can’t really prove you were there. Although I still haven’t figured out why that is something that needs to be proven. But either way, it really is a waste because ultimately the picture will never truly capture the incredible view and feeling that they experienced. They haven’t created such a camera yet. The sense of awe and wonder is just something that they will have to capture in their hearts and souls and embed it in their memory. Or come back and see it again, hopefully. Because somethings are just too awesome to be limited by a little blip on a screen. Most people seem fine with that. They concur and agree. Somethings are just too amazing to for even the newest iphones with even 50 million pixels to capture. I tell them it is called Hashem.
This week’s Torah portion seems to tell us that Hashem is also a big fan of overlooks. There are quite a few times in the Torah that Hashem looks down and even has his faithful servants do the same. Hashem looks down on Creation- what an awesome view that must have been! He sees all that He has made and it is very good and blesses the world. He looks down at the sins of the world just a millennia later and sees the destruction man has wrought upon that perfect Creation and He decides to wash it clean and start again. He calls Avraham out and tells him to count the stars in heaven and promises him his children will be like those stars. Avraham looks out at Sodom after its destruction, He sees the mountain from a distance where he is told to sacrifice his son. Hashem looks down upon our pain and persecution in Egypt. We have that amazing view Hashem tells Moshe as we stand by the Red Sea to stand back and watch the great salvation he will perform us and it splits. How cool was that? On the other hand not long after Hashem calls Moshe”le and tells him to look down from the mountain as we were dancing by the golden calf a few thousand years ago this past week on the 17th of Tamuz. Yup there is certainly a lot of overlooks in the Torah. But this week’s Torah portion definitely tells us of the most famous one.
 It is right after the Torah tells us the story of the daughters of Tzlafachad who were nervous that they would not be able to inherit a portion in the land of Israel as their father died without sons and the law didn’t seem to address the issue of whether women inherited land until that point. Right after Hashem commands Moshe to tell them that they would inherit their father, yet they should marry within their own tribes in order that it would at least for the first generation remain as part of their tribal portion. Moshe turns to Hashem and wonders if he himself will be able to have his children inherit him. It is then that Hashem tells him to come on up for an incredible view.
Bamdbar (27:12-14) And Hashem said to Moshe Go up to the Mountain of Avarim and see the land that I have given to the children of Israel And you shall see it and you shall be brought in to your people, you too as Aharon your brother was brought in., because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Tzin in the strife of the aseembly, to sanctify Me at the water before their eyes.
How sad and how tragic. Moshe the faithful servant of Hashem who gave his life and soul for this nation is told to come on up to the mountain where he will ultimately die and look down on the land that he will never be able to enter because of his sin of hitting the rock to bring forth water rather than speaking to it.
Moshe the always faithful shepherd asks Hashem who then will lead the people. Who will be able to shepherd this wayward flock. Hashem tells him that he should take Yehoshua/Joshua his faithful servant and place his hand on him and in doing so pass his splendor on to him so that the people will heed him.
Many of the commentaries note the odd placement of this story. After-all Moshe still has some time until he will die. The battles against Midian still hast to take place. He kills Bilaam he writes and speaks the entire Book of Devarim. Why here and why now? Perhaps even more perplexing is, what is the point of this view that Hashem wants him to see? Is it just a tease? Is Moshe supposed to take a selfie over here or something? What is this all about?
Perhaps a clue might be in the name of the Mountain Hashem tells us that he should go up to; Mount. Avarim. It’s an interesting name because we find in other places the Mountain that Moshe dies on is called Har Nevo. What is Avarim- which literally translated means the mountain of passing over, or transference. The word ta’avor or to transfer is in fact in the portion right before this one which seemingly doesn’t have much connection to this one; the portion of the laws of inheritance of the daughters of tzlafchad and of Jewish women. There the Torah tells us
Bamidbar (27:6-9) The Daughters of Tzlafchad speak properly. You shall surely give them an inheritance among the brothers of their father-v’ha’avarta- and you shall cause the inheritance of their father to transfer over to them. And to the Children of Israel you shall speak saying; If a man will die and he has no son, -vh’a’varta- you shall cause his inheritance to transfer over to his daughter.
Hmmm…. Ha’varta-transfer over to the daughters. Hmmm… Moshe go up to Mount Avarim. Is there a connection? Rav Motti Elon notes that there it is an interesting law this law of inheritance. For the truth is that the law of inheritance for women is different and unique then men. By a son or a brother inheriting the Torah uses the term and you shall give inheritance. Seemingly that is a more appropriate term. A person dies his son takes his inheritance of land. Yet by a daughter something else happens it gets transferred. You see when she marries someone else and if that someone else is from a different tribe than ultimately that portion will become part of the other tribe’s portion. So if a woman from the tribe of Benjamin who received property from her father who passed away without sons, for example, marries a handsome young stud from the tribe of Naftali. Then her children are all Nafalites and when they inherit her it will become part of the tribe of Naftali. She is in reality passing over and transferring her portion to another tribe. Guys can’t do that kind of thing if I’m a Naftali then my property and sons and grandsons after me will all keep it within the tribe. Now I’m sure that there are some Benjaminites that might be kvetching about this, but in truth it’s an amazing thing the power of women is to be able to break out of their own tribe and be the catalyst of uniting us all on one land, as property and land rights become exchanged and the nation of Israel becomes closer and closer together. She is in reality passing and transferring her father’s power to inherit over to another tribe entirely. There it will continue. One tribe’s inheritance will mingle and become renewed within another. The people and the land will ultimately become one
It is on that note that Hashem tells Moshe to come up onto the Mountain of Avararim. Moshe is concerned, as Rashi tells us. Perhaps I will also be able to inherit the land. Hashem tells him to come up for a looksee and see that in fact his power will be an even greater one than just merely inheriting a portion of land. In fact Moshe will be the one to be able to be the catalyst to transfer over his power, his splendor to the entire people of Israel. “Look at the land” Hashem tells him. We have a rule that look doesn’t mean merely “Hey check it out” Rather “look” means to put your eyes upon it. As My Heavenly eyes are upon it daily. To watch over it, to make sure it is there protected safe and forever. Hashem is telling Moshe that you, Moshe, have something far more significant than just handing down a piece of property or land to your children. You will be passing forward your soul, your spirit, your leadership, your Torah to the nation that will transcend any tribe, and land and the entire nation. You will pass it to Yehoshua and he will bring that light forward into the land. It is that which will be the soul of the entire country. That is the Mountain of Avarim.
The Jewish people are known as Ivrim. We speak Hebrew which is the same root as that word. We got that name and it defines us because Avraham our forefather tells us was on one side as he spread the word of one true God to a world on the other side that were pagans and idolaters. But it is deeper than just being on one side, one ever, from the other. We are Hebrews/Ivrim because we were charged to transfer that word of Hashem and shine it out to the rest of the world. To be ma’avir it. To pass it on and over. We can see beyond this world. We see the eternity. We are Hebrews because Moshe looked down from Mount Avarim and transferred that power to inherit that to the rest of world. We are told that when Moshe looked down from that Mountain he saw all the generations that would come. He saw the land, the wars, the leaders and he saw his Torah being passed on and on throughout millennia, no matter where we were, what we went through. He infused us with that Divine light. That’s a view that certainly can’t be captured by any I-phone or selfie. Yet it’s a view that stirs within each and every one of us as we stare out in awe and glory at the beautiful land Hashem has given us, the incredible nation that we have become, the challenges that we endured and the light that we continue to shine. May we merit to see that ultimate view as we look out to the that little mountain top in Yerushalayim and we see our Holy Temple once again restored to it’s place.
Have an zealously ecstatic Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


“Az du kukst oif hoichen zachen halt tsu dos hitl.”- When you look to the heights, hold on to your hat.


https://youtu.be/X5kBeo1e-pU   Shabbas Acapella

https://youtu.be/gYF5A6UtPw0  - Amazing video of footage of 17th of Tamuz fast for the Temple in Jerusalem… If it doesn’t bring tears to your eyes and a longing for Geula there’s something broken…

https://youtu.be/1nNo1RQUgRw   Great interview with Moroccan Jews in Israel of what it means to be Moroccan in Israel

answer below at end of Email

Q. “Stand up, take your mat and walk. At once the man was made well…” is connected to:
a. The Siloam Pool
b. The Pools of Bethesda
c. El-Azariya
d. Bethsaida

The Torah is a book  like no other. It is not a story book, it’s not a law book, it’s not even an ethical work. It’s the word of Hashem. Each word, each narrative, each phrase was given precisely by Hashem because there is an eternal message in it. Something that we should draw insight and inspiration and to utilize as the light that shines our lives. We don’t always see that when we read the text. Which is why Rashi is there. To show us that the simple meaning of every word should be pondered and examined and taken seriously. If we read Rashi with that light we can truly tap into important life-messages.
In this week’s portion when Moshe asks Hashem for a leader that will replace him Hashem tells him that he should take Yehosua for he is a man
Bamidbar (27:18)  Asher Ruach Bo- who has spirit in him
Rashi on these words explains this strange term that Hashem was responding to Moshe’s request and directing him to Yehoshua for
He is able to go according to the spirit of each individual.
Now seemingly one might assume that this means that he is a leader that can “work” the crowd. He can relate to everyone on their own level. Yet the Shoe’el U’Meishiv has a deeper understanding. He notes that Rashi utilizes the word k’neged- opposite each person. Which would be even more perplexing, Is a leader supposed to go against the flock that he is meant to lead? He explains that a real leader neve will judge anyone based on their prespective and world-view. To truly lead, to guide, to inspire and to connect. You have to understand where everyone is coming from. See and understand their spirit. Only then can you properly adjust, direct and personally address and lift up each person.  The Jewish people particularly can never be lead by cookie-cutter leaders. Each soul is different and each soul needs a leader that can appreciate and understand them, only then can they and will they be able to be uplifted. Only then can you oppose them because you are mirroring them that you understand them and hey can see the higher places that they can rise to.
Think this is a timely message?

Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathonson-The Shaul UMeishiv - (1810-1875) -- The gaon Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson Zatzal was among the great figures of his generation and one of the outstanding Poskim of the last centuries. He could fully explain the Halachah with his great insight, and people from every corner of the globe came to see him for G-d’s word, meaning the Halachah. In his youth he studied with his father the gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leibush (the author of Sefer Beit E-L), and following his marriage to the daughter of the gaon Rabbi Aharon Halevi Ettinger, he went to study with his brother-in-law Rabbi Mordechai Ettinger Zatzal. The two brothers-in-law studied together for a long time, and they both wrote a number of well-known books, works such as Magen Giborim (on the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim), Me’irat Enayim (on the Halachot of Treifot), Ma’ase Alfas (on the Rif), Ner Ma’aravi (on the Jerusalem Talmud), and many others. However Rabbi Yosef Shaul is best known for his great work Shoel U’Meishiv, a book of responsa covering all areas of Torah. It also became the name by which he was known. After the death of his uncle Rabbi Yaakov Meshulam Orenstein (the author of Yeshuot Yaakov), Rabbi Yosef Shaul was appointed as the Av Beit Din of Lvov. Although he accepted the position, he refused to take a salary because he was very wealthy. He gave his approbation for the book Sidrei Taharot by Rabbi Gershon Chanoch, the Rebbe of Rozhin, saying that not in 300 years had the likes of such a book been published. Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson left this world on Adar 17, 5635, having had no children. May the memory of the tzaddik be blessed.
Moroccans – The 2nd largest Jewish community in Israel-after the Russians are the Moroccan Jews. At least that’s what wikpedia claims and who am I to argue with them, numbering them at about 1,000,000. Certainly Morrocans are very recognizable in Israel and probably the largest sefardic kehilla here. Although arguably they are not really sefardic as they come from North Africa. But they they are definitely very visible here. The chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rav Amar is Moroccan, the leader of the sefardic party Aryeh Deri is as well. Morocco is one of the oldest and most important Jewish communities which dates itself back to the times of Shlomo Hamelech in the first Temple. Some of the greatest Jewish halachists like the R”IF Rav Yitzchak Alfasi is from there. And much of our Jesih songs and poetry come from there. The songs of Reb Yisrael Najara that we sing on Shabbat, the tune of Bar Yochai that is sung by Jews each Lag BaOmer were all composed there. In addition many of the customs have become widespread in Israel The Mimuna party on Pesach and the Hinna before Sefardic weddings are two festive and favorite ones.
Moroccans came to Israel legally with establishment of the State of Israel over 28,000 came over the first few years to realize the messianic dream of living in the Holy Land however once it became independent from France in the 50’s it became more difficult to emigrate as the Arab countries put pressure on them not to allow the Jews to come here. The Mossad worked very hard smuggling Jew quietly out, paying $250 per Jew to secure his release from Morocco to leave. By the 70’s hundreds of thousands had already come over. The integration for the Moroccans here was very difficult though. The State brought them in here to help settle the land and moved many of them into agricultural areas. The Moroccans were not interested in being farmers though as many of them came from cities. They were also known for their very quick and strong tempers and more aggressive nature. It led to them falling on public assistance and much discrimination in the work place until ultimately a revolution of the people against the mostly ashkenazic elitist leadership led to the election Menachem Begin as the Prime Minister who championed their rights. Today Moroccans have certainly established themselves well into the country and their rise to leadership and influential positions have secured them an everlasting place in their role as being the banners of Sefardic Jewry here in Israel.
(Continuing on the theme from last week with my disclaimer and a bit of an explanation to get the jokes here I’m not a stereotyping type of guy but from what I grasp Moroccans are stereotyped as a hot-headed, aggressive and a little more than slightly over-bearing or abusive husbands with a love for good food and lots of salads.I got these Jokes fromHebrew websites- the only place where you’ll find them of course. So the translation may not always do them justice. )

How can you tell a Moroccan faucet? It heats up very fast….
How does a Moroccan cookbook begin? First of all cool off…

The Moroccan young man took his University acceptance exams (psychometric-in Hebrew) they showed him a table with three legs and asked him what was missing. He looked hard and answered “The salatim –salad dips…”

A Christian a Muslim and a Morrocan go into their holy place to pray. The Christian enters first  and all of a sudden a ghost jumps out and screams “I am a spirit with one eye…..”
The Christian hears and runs away. The Muslim goes in to pray and all of sudden a ghost jumps out and says “I am a spirit with one eye….”The Muslim picks up his robe and runs out as well. Finally the Moroccan comes into pray. The ghost jumps out ans days “I am a spirit with one eye….”The Moroccan responds “Quiet already or I”ll poke out your other one soon…”. And the ghost runs away.

The Moroccan calls the police and says that he found his wife passed out in their apartment. The police asks him where he lives.
Chernikovsky 15” he responds.
Can you tell me how to get there?” the police asks.
 “I’ll tell you what I”ll shlep her over to Herzl and you can pick her up there…”

A Moroccan couple were arguing and fighting with one another. It led to screams and shouts and finally the man runs away and hides under the bed. His wife comes after and screams at him to get out from under the bed. Moshe says loudly no. His wife yells again “get out from under the bed right now before I hit you with my broom. Moshe takes a deep breath and announces in a strong voice. “I am the man in this family and if I say no that means NO!

Answer is B– I confess Christianity was not my favorite subject in my tour guiding course. I didn’t really see that as my client base. I didn’t move to Israel to inspire chritsians about their “holy” sites here in Israel. And although tour guides have a reputation for making up “bubbeh maaisehs”- (grandma’s tales) but I don’t even think grandma could sell the baloney that the “New” testament tries to make up. So I basically just googled “yoshka –J-Man” stories that entire part of the course. I mean do I really need to know every where the man went to the bathroom in this country or everyone he supposedly healed.  He was a renegade Jew that was the cause of more deaths than anyone in the history of our people who were martyred in his name. So anyways the answer to this question is Beit Saida- google it if you want to know more. Because I deleted all the information from my brain the second I passed my exam.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Happiness is... Balak 2017 /5777

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

July 7th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 35 13th Tamuz 5777
Parshat Balak
Happiness is...

I'm an Israeli now. July 4th was a fun BBQ excuse holiday, which is always a good thing, but this year I didn't even notice that it passed; maybe because I'm still looking for some good meat to grill in this country. Yet I remember the day when we would talk get together and discuss the difference between the American dream and its rights as opposed to those of Israel and the Jewish State. One of the primary differences I always noted was this concept of the pursuit of happiness. In Israel we were and are looking to survive and to be able to make a difference and society that was impactful and hopefully Divine, (the problem is that every Jew has a different opinion of what that means- some even two). But happiness was never our pursuit. Fulfillment, accomplishment, spirituality, Divine connection and most of all peace are what we pray for and what move us. Happines? That's an American pursuit, and one that certainly interesting to explore. What is this pursuit and why aren't we searching for it over here?

As all good searches must begin I started my search at the easiest location; Google- of course. Which then sent me to Wikipedia. They then informed me that 50% of one’s happiness quotient is related to ones genes. Hmmm... I think it's a little too late to work on that. My next hit brought me to that classic work of wisdom and art the famed "You're a good man Charlie Brown" and the happiness song. Here I found out that "Happiness is finding a pencil and pizza with sausage and five different crayons and tying your shoe". Well the pizza thing wasn't too Kosher (tofu sausages certainly don't make me too happy) I don't use pencils and not great with crayons or shoes). It was pretty much downhill from there.

Deepak Chopra- "Happiness is a continuation of happenings which are not resisted", (Huh?). Albert Schweitzer -" Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory". And the always insightful George Burns- "Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city". And last and perhaps least the profound and insightful Don Marquis "Happiness is the interval between periods of unhappiness". Feeling joyous yet?'

Which, as is usually the case brings me to the place that is generally the only real place where I have usually found meaningful and satisfactory answers to the most pressing questions of life; our holy Torah. It's a good thing, I guess, that Hashem gave us this book of wisdom and life or who knows what we would look like. This week's Torah portion gives us a perspective of an individual who was certainly one of the least happy people in the world. We are told the story of Bilaam the prophet who was courted and enlisted to utilize his supernatural spiritual powers to curse the people of Israel. The lessons of Bilaam are lessons in un-happiness. Or what happens to someone who is too caught up in the pursuit of the elusive rather than the acceptance and the experience of what he has.

The Mishnah in Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) contrasts for us the difference between Abraham and Bilaam and their disciples. The students of Abraham possess three primary character traits a good eye, a humble spirit, and a sense of contentedness while Bilaam's students possess the opposite, an evil eye, arrogance and greed. The Talmud tells us that Bilaam was the equivalent of Moshe our greatest leader in his capacity to achieve prophecy and lead the gentile world. Instead, his self-absorption- that eye of his that could only see his own universe rather than reflect out to the rest of the world and serve their needs and elevate them brought him down. He had the power to bless humanity but instead he chose to curse. While Abraham looked at the world and felt humbled by the Almighty and his Creation, Bilaam's arrogance and his pursuit for honor drove him to attempt to defy Hashem's directive. In the end the Torah tells us he was mocked when his own donkey spoke and in his obsessive blinded pursuit of the happiness that can never be achieved, he became the symbol of an individual who ultimately couldn't even get respect and control upon that which his own backside would ride.

When one examines our Jewish leaders and heroes in the Torah and throughout our history, there are two things that one can find that are fairly consistent. The first is that none of them ever were ever engaged in a pursuit of happiness. Rather as King David in Psalms tells us our role is it is to be “bakeish shalom v'rodfehu”- search out peace and pursue it. The righteous look out at the world and ask themselves not how can I become happy? Rather how can I make the world happier, kinder, more peaceful, and more holy. The focus on building a world of love and peace is the pursuit that is our unalienable Divine mandate; it is for that which we are created.

The second characteristic that can be found by those who merited to have had the privilege to encounter and to develop a relationship with our holy masters is that they all were filled with an incredible sense of happiness and inner peace. In the worst of times and through the greatest of struggles, from our forefathers and to our great leaders today somehow there is somehow a reservoir of happiness that fills them that allows them to shine it out and bring light and joy to the world. Their secret and the Torah's lesson? It is not the pursuit of one's own happiness that will bring them joy or fulfillment. Rather it the pursuit of others happiness, the happiness between man and his fellow, between man and his Creator, and between our Loving Father and his children that will ultimately result in true inner happiness.

We live today in a society that has more and better "stuff" than ever before in the history of mankind. Yet we also live in a generation that suffers from more depression and a true lack of inner peace, joy and satisfaction than ever before. The early settlers of Israel came with different ideals. Perhaps if we would all take a step three thousand years before the founding fathers of the United States set out their mandate for the foundation of their society in the Declaration of Independence. And we looked back to our own heritage and our Forefathers and Jewish heroes as our beacons; we would be closer to achieving that happiness we seek. Our ancestors saw themselves and happiness not in their Independence and in their opportunities to further their own personal goals and lives, rather it was in their dependence on the Almighty for all the goodness that they had and the furtherance of his love and the worlds happiness and relationship with Him and with each other that was their life work and ultimate fulfillment. May we merit soon to see the true fulfillment of those dreams.

Have an ecstatic Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


“Ainem dacht zikh az bei yenem lacht zikh..”- One always thinks that by others they are happy


https://youtu.be/TFvvTotFzoY  Just what the world needed another Rebbe Nachman happy song! Maybe? Or Not? Either way the video is cool!

https://youtu.be/Rr5DzbYvFAE - The Dunk in Mikva song…a bit strange chasidic camp humor…OK

https://youtu.be/92-Py3wheAg  Cool footage of Operation Magic Carpet bringing the Jews of Yemen back home in 1949 (sounds not great but still pretty awesome)

answer below at end of Email

Q. Jewish burial in Kokhim (loculi) was practiced:
a. During the period of the Judges
b. In the days of the Return to Zion
c. From the Hellenistic Period
d. During Iron Age II

One of the great things that many of our sharpest Rabbis do with Rashi is to look at his words and take them as precisely as he writes them and utilizing them to go in an entirely different direction that you may have thought that Rashi was trying to say. It’s the beauty of Rashi, which to a large degree is like the Torah, it can be read and studied and understood on many different levels.
In this week’s Torah portion when the Torah tells us that Bilaam got up early to go to try to curse the Jewish people. So Rashi points out the similarities of the text to another text that is in the Torah. The Torah seems to be echoing a previous story and Rashi tells us the message. The verse says
Bamidbar (22:21) And Bilaam got up in the morning and he saddled his donkey.
Rashi notes on this verse
Hashem said ‘Wicked one Avraham their forefather preceded you already as it says ‘And Avraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey’
Now seemingly I understood this Rashi, as I think that most people do, to be saying, that the merit of Avraham when he got up early in the morning to fulfil Hashem’s command to sacrifice his son Yitzchak, preceded Bilaam’s evil intent and therefore they have nothing to worry about. But the Kotzker Rebbe, has a different take on Rashi. He asks, what does the holy act of Avraham who is fulfilling the will of Hashem have anything to do with Bilaam’s act. Why would the fact that Avraham got up early convince Bilaam that he was doomed to failure? After-all as Rashi writes this is Hashem telling Bilaam that it would not work because of Avraham.
He answered brilliantly that when Avraham was taking his son up for an offering so than he would be destroying the future of the Jewish people. For Hashem had promised that the Jewish nation would only be transmitted through Yitzchak. So Hashem was telling Bilaam, look. If Avraham who was fulfilling my commandment and he even got up early to fulfill my will and saddled his own donkey, despite the fact that this would cause the end of the Jewish people. And that act never came to fulfillment. Then for sure your act which is against my command and will is bound to never succeed. Give it up! The Jewish people are forever…
Pretty awesome and sharp isn’t it?

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Of Kotzk - (1787-1859) --His whole life he waged a war for the truth. The external and internal truth. This was the essence of Rav Menachem Mendel Morgenstern better known as the Kotzker Rebbe. The Kotzker was born in 1787 and lived at a time when Chasiddus was making great inroads into the mainstream of Jewish society. He felt that Chasiddus needed to be tuned up by correcting some of its basic flaws. Chasiddus had become too Chassidishe for him. He wanted to restore Torah as the focal point of all Avodas Hashem and get people to become more self-reliant and not subjugate their God given minds to the Rebbe. A person, he felt, needed to take responsibility for his life, his ways, and develop his own personal relationship with Hashem.
He left no seforim written works-, no tales of miracles, and no biography. He did not seek honor, fortune, or fame. He sought to raise Chasiddus to a movement for the elite. He longed to metamorphis Chasiddus into a movement with truly inspired service of Hashem and intense Torah learning as its cornerstone. His lone legacy is his short sharp sayings that he became famous for, to the world outside of Kotzk.
He was born into a family of a Misnagdim-the antagonists of the Chasidim and eventually became a student of the Chozeh of Lublin and then later leaving Lublin for Peshischa where he became a student of Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. After Rav Simcha Bunim's passing, most of his chasidim who were peers of Rav Menachem Mendel, including the Chiddushei HaRim the founder of the Gerer dynasty, chose to follow Rav Menachem Mendel and make him their leader. His other main student was Rav Mordechai Yosef Leiner who eventually broke away and founded the Izhbetza Chasiddus. Rav Laibele Eiger, the grandson of Rebbi Akiva Eiger, was also attracted to Kotzk much to his father's great dismay. The Kotzker's son in law was the Avnei Neizer who succeeded him.
The Kotzker passed away in 1859. He spent the last 20 years of his life in seclusion frustrated by his inability to create the flock of his ideals while refusing to play the role of the ideal Rebbe as the Chasidim wished. The story goes that once while he was secluded in his room for weeks on end, a chasid wanted to see him so he went right outside and opened the window a crack to listen to the Rebbe learning.... a few minutes in without even looking up, the rebbe said "farmacht de fensters, dem velt shtenk" close the windows, the world stinks. The world perhaps cannot and could not handle the unrelenting truth of the Rebbe of Kotzk, yet every generation requires someone to take that unthankful role to bring that to the world. Yehi Zichro Boruch!

Yemenites/ Teimanim – Certainly one of the oldest Jewish communities and some of the most colorful people in Israel are it’s Teimanim or Yemenite Jews. Coming from Yemen, which dates its Jewish community back to the destruction of the first Temple. The Jews of Yemen really were the ones that most symbolized he ingathering of Exiles that took place upon the establishment of the State of Israel. Already in the late 1800’s Jews from Yemen started to immigrate to Israel. The first wave of Aliya in 1882 was called Aleh Batamar from the verse in Song of Songs that talks about the date palm coming up and being a play on the year 5642 from creation which equals Taf Reish Mem Beis the year they came that spells BaTaMaR. About 5000 made Aliya at that time. But the major Aliya really took place on operation Magic Carpet or Kanfei Nesharim- Wings of Eagles right after the War of independence where the fledgling state airlifted over 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel to escape the persecution that was taking place over there. There was much controversy in Israel at the time whether the newly founded State had the capacity and financial wherewithal to integrate and accept all these new immigrants, but ultimately the decision was made by Ben Gurion that it was for this reason the State was founded. That being said there was much controversy as well as they arrived as the secular leadership was not looking for old fashioned Jews, so sadly and tragically and in perhaps one of the blackest moments of Israel’s history many of their Jewish books and Torahs were taken away from these immigrants and immense pressure was put upon them to assimilate and become leave their religion behind. There have been three different commissions that have been established that have investigated claims of Yemenite children being taken away from their parents after being taken to the hospital and telling their parents they had died they were given to secular families to be raised non-religious.
Despite its tragic beginnings though the Yemenites in Israel have made a significant mark upon the country. They are from the more traditional Jews with great regard for their Rabbis and leaders. There are close to 450,000 of them in Israel. Many of Israel’s most famous singers are Yemenite and certainly the greatest Yemenite restaurants where you get jachnun, matbucha and other Yemenite delicacies ae part of the Israel experience. Most Yemenites are simple, fun, happy go lucky and very family and community oriented. Celebrating their holidays, and special occasions the way they did back in the old country. Although originally Yemenites were more of the blue collar workers, the taxi drivers, construction, shoe makers and simple professions today they can be found in all areas of society. A true testimony to the ingathering of exiles that this country has experienced.
( A bit of an explanation to get the jokes here I’m not a stereotyping type of guy but from what I grasp Yemenies are stereotyped as a simple-minded, blue-collar, and frugal-feel free to exchange Yemenite for the stereotype that you feel better matches the joke)

The Yemenite was sleeping for a week straight. When he awoke he found himself in the hospital surrounded by doctors who had never seen something like this before. They asked him in shock
“Are you all right? Hakol B’Seder?!”
“I’m fine” he said “After a week of searching, I finally found the 50 shekel I lost in my dream the week before!”
A man sees a Yemenite walking around with a half an umbrella. He asked me if everything was alright. The Teimani answers “Yes, they just said it would be partly cloudy/partly rainy today.”

Bill Gates became sick with a terrible illness and he needed a specific type of blood donor that could help him. Doctors looked all over the world to find this special blood type offering a million dollars to the person that could be the donor. Finally Saadia the Teimani was found he agreed to be the donor but on the condition that he received payment first. The doctors were desperate they told him not to worry, the blood was necessary immediately. Bill Gates would certainly pay him afterwards. But Saadia refused. His family thought he was crazy but Saadia wan’t giving one drop until he had the check in the back. So Bill wrote out the check and it was deposited. Saddia then gave his blood. Afterwards Bill came over to Saadia and asked him why he was so stubborn. Saadia explained. “What do you think I’m stupid? I knew that as soon as my Teimani blood flowed through your body, there wasn’t a chance I would ever see a shekel from you…!”

The Russian, the Morrocan and the Teimani were planning a BBq together. The Russian said that he would bring Vodka and Red Bull and they would drink all night. The Moroccan said that he would bring steaks, salads shishkebabs so they would have great food. The Teimani said he would bring his brother he would make the best jokes…

The Yemenite hails a taxi. As they begin to drive all of a sudden the driver loses control and the car begins to go flying down a hill to towards a cliff. The Yemenite screams “STOOOPPPP STOPPP!!!”  The drive yells back “I can’t my brakes are not working…. “ The Yemenite says “NOOOO… I MEANT STOP THE METER..”


Answer is C– This is one of those questions that I believe is arguable. The truth is burial above ground in caves which is what kochim burial is was practiced by the Canananites even before the Jews got here in the Bronze Era 2900 BC or so before the Iron Era when it seems it went out of style. However Tanach does tell us that in a few places that they buried in caves. The cave of Machpela being certainly a good example. As well in the period of judges and the Kings of Israel it is mentioned in a few places. The answer they are looking for which seems to based on archeological finds though is certainly the Hellenist period when we find that it was the most prevalent form of burial. The best example being the Tombs of Sanhedrin where there are tons of caves some having 70 tombs one on top of another where the Sanhedrin were buried far from what was then populated Old City Jerusalem on the outskirts of the city. Today Jewish custom is to bury in the ground and earth and it seems foreign to many religious Jews to see that in the old days they buried in these tombs. It has become a debate and discussion today in Israel in some places where they have begun doing this again, as the country grows and space is scarce to bury people.