Our view of the Galile

Friday, January 12, 2018

Weather or Not- Parshat Vaeira 2018 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
January 12th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 14 25th Tevet 5778
Parshat Vaeira
Weather or Not
So how you guys holding up with the weather there in the States. With your cyclone bomb and the like. Pretty amazing isn’t it? I mean Donald Trump is not even President for a year and he already solved Global Warming it seems. Right? Now that is taken care we can go back to putting on deodorant without worrying about the ozone layer. Now I know that Israelis may be hesitant to quickly jumping to conclusions and they may be a bit reticent about spraying anti-perspirant on again too quickly. I mean they were after-all the first ones to stop wearing any- decades before anyone knew that those spray cans where making icebergs melt in Antarctica. They just had a feeling it was a bad thing. But I think they might come around, once they realize that the Donald has solved the problem. He definitely seems to be some type of Messianic figure around this country lately. The President that many here wish would be our Prime minister. Because the Knesset is just not enough of a circus already.
But jokes aside, it is a pretty crazy weather situation in the world. Snow in Virginia and Florida. NY has been sieged by freezing weathers. Here in Israel on the other hand we are suffering from a 4 year drought. It has been a pretty sunny winter. Now I know that my tourists think that is a great thing. But that is only my winter tourists. Come back this summer and if we don’t get rain soon all of of our amazing and fun water hikes won’t be much more than splash holes anymore. Instead of rafting down the Jordan River we may be backside bumping down. Ouch! Not that fun. It is a serious situation though. I travel around the country and it is really sad to see how much of it is dried up. We did have some rain the past week. Even had a big storm that flooded by suite last Shabbos. But I was listening to a weather guy afterwards and he noted that we would need about 500 days like that to just get back up to the red line of the Kinneret. To where it should be. It’s time to pray for rain, boys and girls. And to be honest I really find it one of the parts of davening that I find that I find myself having the least amount of fervor or kavana in.And I don’t think I’m the only one.
See in America we were raised on the song “Rain rain go away don’t come back another day.” Rain means we can’t play ball. Rain means we’re stuck inside. Now that wasn’t much of a problem for me as I wasn’t a ball player and I liked inside. But still it was wet, dirty, muddy, certainly not anything that we ever thought was a blessing. I told my shul last week that when people in America pray for rain- when they say the prayer for geshem on Sukkot or the daily prayers of Morid Hageshem or V’tein Tal U’Matar they don’t really mean rain they mean parnassa- livelihood, the holy dollar, moola. Nobody really wants rain. Here it’s different. In Eretz Yisrael fascinatingly enough they really mean rain.
What’s even more interesting is that the prayer for rain is not even because we need it necessarily for our crops or for our drinking, showers, wash or bathing. We have desalinization, we have purification plants. We may even start exporting water soon to other countries despite our drought. No, they pray for rain because they innately sense that the land needs rain. The country needs rain and that lack of rain is a sign from Hashem of his displeasure and his withholding of blessing. Even the most secular Israeli senses this. Rain is a barometer of our relationship with Hashem. It always has been since the very beginning. In fact the very first narrative of the Torah after the creation of the world- the very first!!-  is precisely that
Bereshit (2:5) and all of the siach- tree of the field was not yet on the earth and all the herb of the field had not grown and there was no man to work the ground.
The world Hashem created needed rain. The word that is uses for tree is siach which also is a term that is used for prayer by Yitzchak our forefather who established the Mincha prayer. The world needed prayer. It needed Man to pray for it. That is our first experience of Creation- perhaps even arguably the function of our Creation as the next verse says and thus Hashem created Man. We are here to pray for rain.
As well each day in Shema we mention that if we do not follow the mitzvos then Hashem will close up the heavens and there will not be rain. The weather forecast fascinatingly enough really should be our spiritual barometer about how our relationship with Hashem is doing. And if that’s the case, then I think we should be asking ourselves more and more with these crazy weather conditions how our forecast looks.
The truth is, that it is not only because of the weather outside that I am writing about this week. It is also the weather in the Parsha. See I believe, as our loyal readers know, that the Parsha as well is our daily forecast for the messages and life lessons that we should focusing on each week. It the glasses we should put on each morning that gives us the perspectives we should have for the challenges and current events that are going on around us. So what is the weather in Parsha?

It’s interesting when one thinks about the plagues of Egypt of which the first 7 are listed in this week’s Torah portion. Blood, Frogs, Lice, Wild Beasts, Pestilence, Boils and finally Hail. Which of these would you say is the least extraordinary? Or how would you rank them in “coolness”. Blood- very cool. Frogs totally awesome lots of fun. Lice very creepy and slimy but definitely extraordinary I mean the entire sand of the land of Egypt turns to lice. The first three are definitely just unreal.  Similarly with wild beasts just rampaging through the streets. That’s crazy! Pestilence a plague that suddenly hits the cattle doesn’t sound so crazy, so miraculous. I mean we certainly have heard of plagues wiping out cattle before. OK so the borders that it only hit Egyptian animals was pretty strange, but it seems we have gone down a little bit from the way out there amazing change the course of nature plagues. As well the boils doesn’t seem to be so spectacular. I mean it’s painful don’t get me wrong. Perhaps the most painful of all the plagues until now, which seemed to be more terror-inducing oriented but not unheard of.
Finally we end off the Parsha with “severe weather conditions” A cyclone bomb. Are you terrified? Don’t worry by the way, about this plague the Torah tells us because if you stay in your house and if you bring your animals inside then you really won’t suffer from it. It’s only if you’re- pardon the French- an Egyptian idiot- and leave your stuff outside, then you will be struck by it. You know kind of like the people that hung around and didn’t evacuate during the hurricane.
I don’t know for some reason if I had to choose any of the above plagues this would seem to be the one that I would go for. Yet interestingly enough for some reason Hashem describes this plague as being the wildest of all of them, listen to the verses.
Shemos (9:14) This time I will send all of my plagues to your heart and your servants and your nation
(9:16) On account of this I have left you standing to show you my power and so that my name will be declared throughout the world.
(9:18) Behold at this very time tomorrow I shall rain a very heavy hail such as there had never been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.
OK so this is the first time Hashem is sending all plagues to Pharaohs heart. Not sure why a bit of rain and hail is all the plagues. It’s also interesting that he keeps repeating that this is from the time Egypt was established on the earth. Almost hearkening back to that first establishment of the earth pre-rain of Adam in the garden. Moshe as well warns them to take in their cattle and slaves and tells them that if you fear God and take precautions by bringing in your stuff you’ll be fine. What is so bad about this plague? Now to be fair the Torah does describe fire coming down with in the hail which does seem supernatural, yet if I was in Egypt and I knew I was safe inside then I would just think this is a very cool firework show from inside my house. Moshe even gave any exact time for showtime on this plague. At exactly “this time tomorrow” or as Rashi says when the sun hits this spot the hail show begins. So no one is caught outside. Why is this what the Torah describes as the most terrifying of all plagues?
The truth is that we find that this in fact is the most terrifying. It is here for the first time that Pharaoh admits I have sinned. Hashem is righteous. I and my people are wicked. He sounds like a complete Baal Teshuva. A real penitent. He begs Moshe to daven to Hashem. The hail show seemed to do something that no other plague did. It made Pharaoh realize that his actions have consequences. How? He saw the weather forecast and he understood that his deeds impacted the weather.
Our sages tell us that when it thunders it goes directly to your heart. We tremble. It is like we hear heaven talking. There is nothing that shakes us more than a natural crack of lightning.  At the same time. As well there are not too many things left in the world today and even back then as well that we feel we have absolutely no control over like the weather. We can desalinate water if it all turns to blood, we can cure diseases, we can get rid of wild beasts, frogs, and we can “fight off” anything that Hashem sends against us. But the weather… When the heavens themselves are turning against us, the game is over. We know it is totally out of our league. The truth is everything is out of our league. Everything is from Hashem. We only breathe each minute because He chooses to give us air. But we take that for granted. The weather is there to remind us that the heavens and earth are connected. They have a symbiotic relationship. If we hear God we are good. If we don’t we are toast; Hail and fire toast. If we pray, there will be rain. We are connected to above. We have joined the worlds. The upper and the lower. If we don’t then chaos reigns and rains.
The Shemen Hatov notes that this plague hits Egypt in its heart because it shows that Hashem despite his wrath at Egypt shows them mercy. They can stop it at any time. It is the first plague that Hashem tells them how they can control their own destiny on weather  whether or not the plague will hit them. The ball- yes that big fire ensconced hail ball- is in their court. It’s not just a God throwing wild miraculous plagues and punishing or even frightening Egypt. It’s a Hashem, a loving father in heaven that is only doing this in order to bring even a Pharaoh and his nation back to him. It works. Pharaoh understood the weather report. He repents. It doesn’t last. His heart gets hardened. But for that brief moment and for the first time. Pharaoh can say and see that it his wickedness and his actions that can change the weather in a moment.
I was at the Western Wall the other day. There was a great Rabbi praying in front of me. He was crying. He was broken hearted. He was imploring Hashem. There wasn’t someone sick he was davening for. He wasn’t even asking for the Temple, for redemption certainly not for livelihood or blessing or peace. He was asking for rain. He kept repeating the words and crying. He wasn’t a farmer. He wasn’t thirsty. He wasn’t nervous for his crops. Yet he understood as well the weather report. He understood that for all of our prayers to work the lines between heaven and earth have to be open. That rain, that blessed weather, is the sign of how good our “reception” is. If it ain’t raining it’s because Hashem is telling us that we are out of rain-ge. He is withholding for a reason. He wants us to reconnect with him. Ignoring that call can be fatal. It is stubborn. It is no different than Pharaoh in Miztrayim. It is hardening our hearts. We are told that before Mashiach comes the weather will be out of control. It will be unseasonal, it will be extreme. Hashem is cyclone bombing us. Just as then may we hear that call and have it herald in the Redemption.

Have a redemptive Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Run away from rain and you get hail”- Men antloyft fun regn, bagegnt men hogl.

answer below at end of Email
Q The Mesubim junction is named after a site mentioned in:
A. Megillat Ta’anit (The Scroll of Fasting)
B. Serekh haYahad (the community rule scroll)
C. The Passover Haggadah
D. Megillat Eikha (Lamentation)


https://youtu.be/u9o4bqAQVhs  -  Beautiful song by the two incredible brothers Eitan and Shlomo Katz Al Hatzadikim in memory of Rav Shteiman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUFyBcDZPuA    -  Loving this song this week Yitein Lecha Elokim. Just a really beautiful upbeat song about blessing!

 https://youtu.be/ibww5KEiwWg  - New Benny Freedman music  video Amar Reb Yehoshua about doing things with Zerizut- alacrity a word that by the way no one really uses unless their translating zerizut.

https://youtu.be/hebh-ZoRa0o  - HASC concert Rabbi Baruch Chait and Avraham Fried singing perhaps the most popular Jewish song of all time Gesher Tzar Meod! Awesome


So much of the way that we understand and read our Torah narratives are influenced and directed by our sages and the Midrash that accompanied the teaching of the Torah stories. That Haftorah is like a bridge between those two worlds and views. On the one hand it is written prophecy so the words and text becomes significant. On the other hand it is words of Prophets and Sages and how they understood and read the Torah and its stories. And how we are meant to read those stories and their eternal lessons.
This week’s Torah portion which is perhaps one of the most well-known Jewish stories is the story of the plagues against Egypt. Now if one would read the story itself and perhaps even watch a few biblical movies one might get the impression that the struggle of the Egyptians nad Pharaoh against Hashem and Moshe was about slavery and the persecution of the people. And that is true. But the Prophet suggests a deeper level to the story and that is that this is a struggle about revealing Hashem to the world. It begins with a vision of Yechezkel of Messianic times with the ingathering of Exiles when that will occur
Yechezkel (28:26) And they shall dwell securely and they shall build houses and they shall plant vineyards… and they will know that I am Hashem.
Hashem tells Yechezkel that Pharaoh is the anti-thesis of that revelation for he is the one that believes himself a deity.
(29:3) He said it is my Nile and I have made it
(29:6) and all of the dwellers of Egypt will know that I am Hashem.
In the times of Yechezkel who is prophesizing about the Babylonian Exile in which Egypt had betrayed Israel and reneged on their treaty to defend us, he foretells of the destruction of Egypt. To a large degree this is similar as well to our Egypt story where Egypt forgot of the gratitude they should have had for Yosef who had provided them with food in their famine.
Egypt it seems represents this tendency to believe that they are the be-all and end- all. The Nile makes them feel self-suffecient. They can abandon their previous alliances and they can ignore the fact that there is a Creator God that makes and controls the entire world. This is the theme of the Haftorah and the truth is that is the theme of our Parsha. For our Parsha really begins with this revelation of Hashem to Moshe that the entire story of our Exodus, the plagues and the punishment of Egypt is about revealing Hashem to the world in a way that has never been done before. The phrase “and they will know I am Hashem” is not only the conclusion of the Haftorah but it repeats itself again and again. That is the lesson our sages wished us to see in this story. In our story. It’s not just about slavery and freedom. It’s about recognizing and seeing Hashem in this world.
Yechezkel /Ezekiel (590 BC) – The names of the prophets always reflect the essence and personality of the Prophet. Yechezkel’s name which means the “strength of God” is most apt for this navi whose prophecies really depict the era of redemption and when Hashem will avenge against the nations who have persecuted His people and the miraculous ways that Hashem will restore us to our Land. Yechezkel himself witnessed that redemption when the Jews as he was part of the Exile from the destruction of the Temple and he 70 years later was part of the return. Meaning he was there for the entire story of Purim and Queen Esther in Babylonia, yet he saw us return with Ezra and was part of that. We don’t usually think of the stories and lives of the prophets intersecting like that. But when we put the historical data together it can give us a better picture of the lives of these great men.


The Marriage of Yitzchak 1674 BC – After the death of Sarah it seem there is a need for a woman in the house of Avraham, to fill here shoes. The Torah tells us that Avraham sends Eliezer to Aram Naharayim to go find a spouse for Yitzchak by his family back there. Aram Naharayim which is Northern Syria is certainly a ways from Beer Sheva where Avraham is living. Interesting enough as well we are told that Yitzchak had the same idea to find a spouse for Avraham from one of his favorite places, namely his former wife Hagar and the place that she would seemingly hang as well, with his step-brother Yishmael. Where is that? The Torah tells us it is Be’er La’Chai Ro’i- The well of the Living One that sees me. It was here that she prayed to Hashem when she was thrown out of the house of Avraham. And it was here that she was on her way to be returned to Avraham when Yitzchak meets his Bashert Rivka coming back from Syria with Eliezer. She sees him praying and she falls of the camel.
So many important lessons take place here. First that we learn that if one does a kindness for someone else or prays for someone else and he needs the same thing Hashem will answer him first. Yitzchak needed to get married and he went to find a spouse for Avraham and he was answered first. Second we learn that despite Yishmael and Hagar being thrown out of Avraham’s house because of their potential influence on Yitzchak, they are never out of Yitzchaks mind and heart and he does whatever it takes to return them to Avraham and ultimately both of them do teshuva and repent. As well this is the place where our sages tell us that Yitzchak established the afternoon prayer of Mincha.
Where is Be’er Lachai Ro’i? The Torah tells us it is in the Negev between Kadesh and Shur. This would put it somewhere in the center of the Negev. There are quite a few wells and early biblical setttlements that have been discovered in the central Negev many of them definitely Jewish. There are some that place it by Ein Obdat a spring by the Nabatean city and a really fun hike. When I am there I always try to daven Mincha with my tourists there noting that this is the place where the original Mincha was established.

Q: When does it rain money? A: When there is "change" in the weather
 Q: What do you call it when it rains chickens and ducks? A: Foul (fowl) weather.
Q: What did one raindrop say to the other? A: Two's company, three's a cloud
Q: How can you wrap a cloud? A: with a rainbow.
Q: What does it do before it rains candy? A: It sprinkles!
Q: What do you call a wet bear? A: A drizzly bear
Q: Can Bees fly in the rain? A: Not without their yellow jackets
Q: Why was the blonde standing outside the department store in the rain? A: She was waiting to cash her rain check!
 Why Jews aren’t Weather forecasters.
A cold front may or may not be coming in from the North tonight depending upon the will of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Tomorrow morning, early, before shacharit, there will be a slight drizzle, im yirtze Hashem. If you drive to Shul, beware of slippery conditions to prevent accidents, rachmanis letzlan. Then, later in the day, if Moshiach hasn't come yet, chas veshalom, there will be -- b'ezrat Hashem -- heavy rain. Keneina hara, pu pu pu, this will help fill the reservoirs, kein yirbu (and if you need my brother-in-law is offering a good deal on umbrellas). By Shabbat kodesh, haba aleinu letovah, the sun will emerge from its sheath and shine upon the inhabitants of the land, may they live and be well bis hundert un tzvantzic, in gezuntheit.
Okay, schoen, that's it for this evening. Enjoy your dinner, zeit gezunt und shtark - chazak ubaruch, and don't forget to count the Omer!

Izzy and Yankel are walking down the street of Chelm when it starts to rain, and in no time at all, it’s raining quite hard. Luckily, Izzy is carrying an umbrella.
"Nu," says Yankel. "So when are you going to open the umbrella?"
"It won't do us any good," says Izzy. "It's full of holes."
"So why then did you bring it?" replies Yankel.
"Because," Izzy says with shrug, "I didn't think it would rain."

Maurice and Rachel are sweethearts. Maurice lives in a small village out in the country and Rachel lives in town. One day, they go to see the Rabbi and set a date for their wedding. Before they leave, the Rabbi asks them whether they want a contemporary or traditional service. After a short discussion, they opt for the contemporary service.
Their day arrives but the weather is rotten and a storm forces Maurice to take an alternate route to the shul. The village streets are flooded, so he rolls up his trouser legs to keep his trousers dry. When at last he reaches the shul, his best man immediately rushes him up the aisle and up to the chuppa. As the ceremony starts, the Rabbi whispers to Maurice, "Pull down your trousers."
"Rabbi, I've changed my mind," says Maurice, "I think I prefer the traditional service."



Answer is C – I admit I had no clue to the answer to this question. I also had no clue as to where the Mesubim intersection was. Never even heard of it before. So I guessed. The only one of the above answers that had anything to do with the concept of Mesubim which means reclining is the Pesach haggada. Eicha lamentations with a Tisha bav connection has nothing to do with reclining and it would probably be in Jerusalem or Herodian somewhere. The Yahad is like a Kumran Dead Sea thing and there is no mesubim junction in that area that I know of, nor does it have anything to do with reclining either. Megillat Taanis I think is just thrown in to mess with you. So the only answer that made sense is Pessach seder and it talks about all the Rabbis reclining in Bnai Brak. Which actually is where the intersection is. Well it’s not in Bnai Brak. But it is by Ramat Gan and south entrance to Tel Aviv where they believe the old Roman period Bnai Brak was. And there you have it.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Smoke- Free Shemos 2018 / 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
January 5th   2018! -Volume 8 Issue 13 18th Tevet 5778

Parshat Shemot
There’s and old Jewish joke that really hits the nail on the head. It gets Israelis, It gets Americans, and it hits teenagers. It’s even a bit yeshivish. I like jokes like that. Especially if it also primarily targets me. There’s nothing like a little self-deprecating humor to give one the ability to poke fun at everyone else. So here it goes...
Q: Why doesn’t one make a Shehechyanu on the first cigarette you ever smoke?
A: The American answer is that one cannot make a blessing in the bathroom.
The Israeli answer is that the child is too young to make blessings.
Bada Boom Bada Bing!

Now I relate to that joke. Both as an American teenager that got his 30 year career as a smoker back in a yeshiva bathroom, as well as someone who lives in Israel and sees, tragically, way too many pre-pre- pubescent children with cigarettes dangling out of their mouths. They say they use cigarettes to wean them of their pacifiers in this country. I am the last one in the world to be suggesting moderation, regulation or even discipline, yet I really think that until a kid can reach a sink to wash their hands after they come out of the bathroom, they really shouldn’t be lighting up matches and cigarettes. But that’s just me.

Now I remember when I was a young yeshiva guy, our Rebbi used to rail on against smoking. The way that he described it was 

Techilaso b’gai’va v’sofo b’tai’va- It starts with arrogance and ends up with desire.

Meaning you start smoking because you want to be “cool”. You want to be a big shot. The man on your high school yeshiva campus lot. This was particularly relevant for someone like me, who had no athletic ability and couldn’t be cool on the basketball court. It was also the way that we could rebel. Which is always necessary in teenage development. The benefit of smoking was that it was against the rules, but not necessarily against the Torah. So we could rebel and not be subject to eternal damnation. There are not too many outlets like this for the Yeshiva guy. See there were too many great Rabbis that smoked and were still smoking for them to tell us that it was Halachically forbidden. They could say it was foolish, it was probably forbidden to start smoking. That it was developing bad middos- character traits.  It was not- healthy... But frankly those are all incentives to a yeshiva guy to smoke. It’s what makes it cool. Add on to that, if they caught you they would throw you out of yeshiva or suspend you and it was like the snake in the Garden of Eden calling to us...It was irresistible.

Now yeshiva guys can’t just engage in ta’ivos. There has to be a rationale why whatever they are warning us about is irrelevant to us. It’s for lesser men. We (I) were smarter. Sure they said smoking was addictive. Sure they said it was dangerous. Yes, we all know people that died of cancer and other smoke related diseases. But they were old people. They were people that smoked for 25-50 years. People that smoked at least a pack or two a day. Smoking is not like drugs. You can stop cold- turkey. We’re only doing a few cigarettes a day. We don’t even smoke on Shabbos. So the statistics that they have are not representative of people that only smoke 6 days a week. I thought of the last one there, myself, thank you very much. 
We told ourselves that we would be smart enough to stop, when we started dating. As we knew that girls couldn’t stand smokers. OK I mean after we got married. No I mean when we have our first kid. Oh when I settle into my new job. Or not.... So here we are 30 years later. I’ve stopped a few times. Never for too long though. Something always came up. I pushed it off. I’m still young. There’s still time. They’re gonna come up with a cure for everything soon. Right?
The truth is I really hate lots of things about smoking. It stinks. Everything smells. It’s expensive. Back in the good old days it was a dollar a pack. I feel like my grandparents now when they would tell me about how the subway was a nickle. Today cigarettes are eight to nine dollars a pack in Israel. In addition tourists don’t like it, so of course I can’t smoke in front of them. Also you can’t smoke anywhere anymore, so you’re usually outside in the shivering somewhere, trying to light up in the freezing wind while the rain keeps putting it out. Forget about long flights where you are literally crawling in your seat to get out for your first puff. And then when you finally do get off that plane...the wait until you get through customs, and luggage and until you get outside... Worst of all though is that you of course have let your mother down, your wife, your kids... you basically have shown them that you would rather inhale a bit on some little leaves and suck them into your lungs than improve your chances for sticking around on this planet a little bit longer with them. For them. Yeah smoking really stinks.
Ahhhhh, but that puff..... Is there anything better? An early morning sunrise with a cup of coffee on your porch as the sun comes up. At night after a long hard day is there anything that can replace a nice cold beer and cigarette as you just chill out. Is there a better end to a delicious steak dinner, a Thursday night pre-shabbos chulent? Is there anything that can get your creative juices running faster, quicker more creatively than the inhale/exhale “Lamaze- exercises of smoking. Anything that relieves stress and pressure better?
I tried the electronic cigs once. I think they’re dangerous. Ironically enough. Also I like the flicking, the blowing. I don’t know. E- smoking didn’t do it for me. As well my uncle suggested I do the patches. That also doesn’t speak to me. Neither does gum. No, I’m just gonna go about this the good old fashioned, “cold turkey” way. Last Friday was my birthday. It’s been almost a week now since I've had my last one. I’m eating a lot more. Yelling at my children and tourists a lot more. Yeah... I’m on edge. But I’m holding strong. The time has finally come. I’m not a kid anymore. It’s time to finally stop being a slave to this self-imposed addiction. I am ready to finally be free.
What better Parsha to begin my Exodus than the Torah portion that begins the story of our first Exodus. The truth is that the Book of Shemos or the sefer HaGeula- the Book of redemption is a great title for the first 3 and a half Torah portions of the Book. From the middle of Beshalach and on when we had left Egypt after the splitting of sea it really has not much to do with the story of Exodus. We have the battle of Amalek, the Ten Commandments, the golden calf and the building of the Mishkan. Lots of those stories didn’t even make it into the Ten Commandments movie. Which might have even been a better title for the book as that is at least the centerpiece of the Book. Yet the essence of the book is of course redemption. That is the title and perhaps even more significantly it is way that out people our born.
See the last book is all about our DNA. It is our forefathers, it is our historic connection to our land. It is the challenges that they overcame that engrained in our genes the ability to do the same. Yet this book is about how we become a nation. How we move from a family to a people, to a nation that heard God and was chosen by Him and ultimately how we established a home for Hashem in our midst. That process is called redemption. It starts with us becoming slaves to Pharaoh; A slavery that we willfully entered into.  And it concludes with us achieving the ultimate freedom; becoming bnai chorin-free men. Our sages teach us that title is only aptly worn by someone who is engrossed in Torah. For somehow it is only via the Torah and it's studya nd its lifestyle that we can ever truly experience freedom.
This process of forging us into an eternal nation through slavery is different than most other nations. The English weren’t slaves, neither were the Greeks, the Romans, the Spaniards, the Babylonians, the Germans, or even the so-called Palestinians. In fact quite the opposite the nations that were slaves generally disappeared, assimilated, or opened up casinos on reservations in some hick town in America. Yet we were different. Our experience with slavery becomes the core of our identity. Even more telling, though, is that ultimately the highest level of self-actualization for a Jew is in fact to be a slave or an eved, as it is called in Hebrew. An eved Hashem- a slave or servant of Hashem. That is the title the greatest of all Jews Moshe is given.
What differentiates a slave from a regular worker? Both of them don’t necessarily set their own hours. Both of them are subject to the demands of their boss. There certainly can be hired workers that work harder, longer and even have less benefits than a slave might. The primary difference our sages tell us is that a hired worker is ultimately working to advance their own agenda. He may subject himself to certain extreme conditions, he may even forego certain leisure, or even freedoms, but ultimately he is doing it for his own benefit or ultimate betterment. A slave on the other hand is all about their master. He is property. In the same way that one’s car, one’s house, one’s cow or laptop are there only to serve their owners so are the slaves. Slavery negates any individual human expression and meaning as it is there only to serve the desires of another human being.
The only thing perhaps more dehumanizing than to be a slave, is to be a slave to another slave. To serve someone who themselves are only chattel of someone else. To serve a master like Pharaoh in Egypt who epitomizes the individual who is in the end the greatest slave in the world. He is the man whose kingdom, whose world, whose family and life crumble all around him and yet he cannot express his best instincts to save himself. He is a slave to his ego, to his pride and to an illusory grandeur and “coolness” that he seems to be the only one that thinks it still exists.
The opposite end of that slavery though is being a servant or yes, even slave to Hashem. To have the power to activate my free will enough to negate any of my personal achievements, agendas or desires in order to fulfill the will of my Creator. Most of us could never do that. There’s too much “I” need to do, “I” want to have, or make happen. We are human after all. We have natural God given desires, pleasures, and aspirations. Yet a few centuries of “slavery school” can do wonders to teach us the basic skills of negating our will and doing what we are told to do. Because that is how we survive. Because that is the difference between life and death. We now have the skills to do what it takes. We just need the environment to utilize and become the eternal nation. Serving Hashem, transcending this physical world, realizing our truest selves which is the spark in heaven that can uplift this world and direct it rather than become a slave to it. That is Sinai. That is the Torah. That is knowledge that we can fall and sin and yet rise right back up again and build a Tabernacle for Hashem in this world. That is our book of redemption. It is Exodus.
I remember once asking my Rebbe why he never smoked. He seemed like the type. He was a Brisker, he was yeshivish, and I’m sure many of his teachers and friends did. He told me that he looked at people that smoked and he realized that they were slaves to that habit. Proud people who would never ask anyone for anything would start to bum cigarettes. People who were normally in control of every area of their life, but if they didn’t have a cigarette would run out to the store and scramble for one. They wouldn’t be able to concentrate, they couldn’t prepare to give a class. Forget about sit on an airplane or travel for any long distance anywhere. He decided right there that he didn’t want to be a slave to a few leaves with some paper wrapped around it that he would light up and inhale. That thought was enough to take away any desire he may have had to ever smoke.
That is the view of someone who appreciates the freedom of Torah, of being able to entirely commit one’s desires and one’s enjoyment to the service of Hashem. I’m not my Rebbe. But I get it. I eat only kosher, because I want to elevate my act of eating to be in service of Hashem. I make blessings, I stay away from things that will distract me or tempt me to leave that special holiness that I know that I possess when I am in service of Hashem. But I always had to have my cigarette. Not anymore, though... I wouldn’t say I have hit rock bottom. Or as our sages might put it the 49th level of nicotine filled impurity. But I think I’ve had enough. I’m ready to be free. I may not have said a shehechiyanu when I took my first cigarette. But I am certainly looking forward this Pesach when I celebrate my redemption and freedom from Egypt to be able to as well to include my freedom from cigarettes and my 30 year slavery to it in the shehechiyanu I will be making then. 
This E-Mail may not have an inspirational message for you. I’m sure you’re not addicted to anything. Sure you’re not a slave to anything that you might consider giving up. That’s fine. I’m grouchy this week. This week is about me. So if I failed to inspire you. Just know you’re in good company with my family and tourists that I’ve been barking at as well. Now if I’m still this way next week... Hmmm maybe I’ll take up drinking J...

Have a Shabbos Chazak,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

This week's Insights and Inspiration is sponsored by my dear friend from Seattle Washington Ray Poliakoff             l'zecher nishmas Yehoshua Yosef ben haRav Avraham Nachman. May the neshoma have an Aliya and may the Torah and inspiration from this E-Mail and the Torah and Maasim and Tovim of his decsendants and loved ones be a zechus for his neshoma.


“Ven a shikker hot nit kain bronfen redt er chotsh fun bronfen”-When a drunkard has no whiskey, he will at least talk of whiskey

answer below at end of Email
Q According to tradition, one of the sites where Satan tried to tempt Jesus was at:
A. The Mount of Olives
B. The Quarantal
C. Mount Zion
D. Kathisma


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icZ8B6suCxY   from this weeks haftora vhaya bayom hahu yitaka bshofar MBD classic

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybbicIse0wg   Bill Cosby classic on Smoking and drug funny

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfvTn9ham98   - very inspiring stop smoking song…or not… LOL


I think when I was in yeshiva the only Haforas that we knew were the ones that had famous songs in them. Although I think that the songs were only chosen from these verses because the composers were familiar with them from the Haftorahs. No one I knew growing up ever learned Yeshaaya Hanavi- the Book of Isaiah. But we sung songs from it all the time.
This week’s Haftorah has one of the most famous songs that is as well a central part of the Rosh Hashana davening. Yehshaya prophecizes about
(27:13) Vhaya Bayom hahu yitaka bi’shofar gadol,- and it will be on that day and the great shofar will blow.
U’va’oo h’aovdim bi’eretz Ashur v’hanidachim bei’eretz Mitzrayim- and the ones who have been lost in the land of Ashur and the ones who have been pushed away in the land of Egypt…
And they will bow down to Hashem on the holy mountain Jerusalem.
So if Haftorahs in general sum up the Torah portion in the wordsof the prophets. The songs that were chosen and certainly the verses that were selected for prayers have evenmore significance in giving us insight into the Torah portion.
This particular verse does so nicely for it describes, the Jewish people that have assimilated. The ones that were lost in the land of Ashur- interestingly enough our sages tell us that Ashur is prosperity Like the Hebrew word Osher. Many Jews in Egypt in the Torah portion assimilated because they had out-Egyptianed the Egyptians. They were prosperous. As the end of last weeks Torah portion tells us. The other side of the coin is the ones that have been cast away in Mitzrayim. Egypt. The word Mitzrayim is constraints- like gesher tzar me’od- a very narrow bridge. We have lost many Jews because of difficulties, challenges, because they viewed Judaism perhaps as being Mitzrayim- to constraining. They were slaves. Both of these Jews are ultimately going to be redeemed by Hashem. They will hear the shofar. They will return to Jerusalem. That is haftora we read. This is the song that we sing. Now click on the Youtube clip and start singing.
Yeshaya Hanavi Era of Prophecy (780-700 BC)- One of the most inspiring things about the prophecies of Yeshaya is his tendency to continuously jump back and forth from Yaakov, our forefathers, our ancestors in Egypt and then in the next breath he is rebuking his generation with timeless no holds barred in your face admonitions. He talks about impending doom that will follow unless they repent. But then a moment after that he is already seeing and revealing Messianic visions and times when the glory of Israel will return and our enemies will be punished. To read and learn Yeshaya to a large degree is getting a feel of the entire interconnected story of the Jewish people. As it unfolded, and will unfold and is currently happening. It is truly exhilarating.


The Death of Sarah 1677 BC – Before there was Jerusalem there was Chevron. Chevron the holy city that corresponds to the element of Earth, is the place where everything starts. The cave of Machepela where our Matriarch Sarah was buried was the first land in Israel that was ever Jewish owned. The Torah goes at great length to describe its purchase noting that Avraham overpaid much more than the going price. Our Sages in fact tell us that there are three places that the Torah tells us were purchased for more than full price so that the nations of the world will never have be able to claim it is stolen from them. The three places are the cave of Machpela in Chevron, Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem and the temple Mount bought by King David. Ironically enough there are no three places that the nations claim we stole from the than those three. Which of course taught us the most important lesson….to never pay full price for anything again…J
I always like to talk about the Cave of Machpela and the purchase from on the top of Chevron by Tel Rumeida. There is an awesome overlook there where you can really appreciate the cave of Machpela and its location at the edge of the field of Machpela. As well there is a great place to talk about perhaps the largest and greatest funeral of all times here; that of Yaakov Avinu where the entire Egypt and all the heads of all nations came there. Millions of people certainly gathered in this valley from all over the world. Of course it is worth mentioning the epilogue of the story with Esau who tried to prevent the funeral and whose head ultimately was removed from his head and went rolling into the cave as well.

Two Yeshiva students are discussing whether it is allowed to smoke while learning Torah. But they cannot reach any agreement.
So Yankel says to Moishe, "We will go and ask the Rebbe."
When they find the Rabbi, Yankel asks him, "Rebbe, is it permitted to smoke while learning Torah?"
The rabbi replies in a severe tone of voice: "Certainly not!"
Moishe then addresses the Rabbi, "Rebbe, let me ask you another question.   May we learn Torah while we smoke?"
The Rabbi immediately replies, with a warm smile, "Yes, of course!"

The Israeli bus driver announces over the radio that smoking is prohibited and punishable by a fine of several hundred shekel. Suddenly, a baby starts crying.
"Come on kid," the bus driver said "you're only 6 months old, you can make it without a cigarette for a few minutes."

In a school science class three worms were placed into three separate jars.
The first worm was put into a jar of alcohol.
The second worm was put into a jar of cigarette smoke.
The third worm was put into a jar of soil.
After one day, these were the results:
The first worm in alcohol --- dead.
The second worm in cigarette smoke --- dead.
The third in soil --- alive.
So the science teacher asked the class --- "What can you learn from this experiment."
Little Moishy quickly raised his hand and said. "As long as you drink and smoke you won't have worms."

American Drugstores: Why do drugstores make sick people walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

Yankel had been a heavy smoker since he was a teenager, but to his surprise was able to quit "cold turkey." However, his weight shot up and he felt very self-conscious. When his mother congratulated him on giving up cigarettes, He exclaimed, "But look at all these added pounds!"
Her reply was one I'll always treasure. "Oh, my dear, don't worry about that!" she said. "Just think of all the extra years you will have in which to lose them."

Berel, a defendant in a lawsuit involving large sums of money with his gentile neighbor was saying to his lawyer, "If I lose this case, I'll be ruined."
"It's in the judge's hands now," said the lawyer.
 "Would it help if I sent the judge a box of cigars?" asked the defendant.
"Oh no!" said the lawyer. "This judge is a stickler for ethical behavior. A stunt like that would prejudice him against you. He might even find you in contempt of the court. In fact, you shouldn't even smile at the judge."
 Within the course of time, the judge rendered a decision in favor of the defendant. As the defendant left the courthouse, he said to his lawyer, "Thanks for the tip about the cigars. It worked."
 "I'm sure we would have lost the case if you'd sent them," said the lawyer. "But I did send them," said the Berel.
 "What?? You did?"
 "Yes, That's how we won the case."
"I don't understand," said the lawyer.
 "It's easy. I sent the cheapest cigars that I could find to the judge, but enclosed the plaintiff's business card..." 



Answer is B – Seasoned readers here know that Christian subjects are like from my least favorite topics. Right up there with Islam and fauna. Yet to become a licensed tour guide we had to learn and were responsible for all religions, although we did not have to go into each church we had to know what they looked like and what their stories were. Basically everywhere Yoshka went to the bathroom in this country, we had to know. So this one I was able to eliminate two right away. Mount Zion is where the last Pesach Seder Yoshka ate right before he was killed. And Mount od Olives is where he went from there and where he cried over the destruction of the Temple that he foresaw. So that leaves the Kathisma and the Kurantal. I went with Koranatal because it souned more familiar with the temptation of yoshka stories. See they Christians are very unoriginal so they believe that just as Adam and King David were tempted so to was yoshka whose like a post gilgul… whatever… narishkeit… that is the correct answer. Tha Kathisma which is near Bethlehem I googled and it is where his mother Mary rested before giving birth to him. Just in case you were interested…Don’t hire me for a Christian tour. OK.