Our view of the Galile

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Eye Adjustment- Ki Tavo 2016/5776

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 23rd 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 52 20th Elul 5776
Parshat Ki Tavo
Eye Adjustment

He hadn’t left his room for three weeks. Reb Avraham Dov of Avrtich, better known by the title of the book authored by this great Chasidic Rebbe; the Bas Ayin, was one of the warmest Rebbes. He was beloved by all his chasidim. Having recently fulfilled his life-long dream of moving to Eretz Yisrael at the age of 65 in the year 1830, he had seemingly been higher and greater than he had ever been. Although he had written his work in Europe, he had refused to publish it until it had made its way to Eretz Yisrael and ‘breathed’ the holiness of the country. It was now on the way to be printed. After touring the country a bit, he settled into his routine in Tzfat, in his shul, his classes and his weekly sermons and his chasidus grew. But for three weeks the Rebbe had not come out of his room. Not for prayers, not to meet with his students, not even for his classes. There was a chasid that claimed to have peeked through the window and said he saw the Rebbe just sitting and staring at the floor with tears flowing down his eyes sobbing.
But after three weeks the Rebbe opened the door and walked out. His face was shining like sun. His joy and his exuberance were palpable. He announced that all were invited that evening to his home as he was making a seudat hoda’a- a thanksgiving feast. Now everyone was really curious? What went on? What happened in that room? What was the party all about?
The Rebbe stood up by the meal and he shared with his chasidim the following story. He told them that when he was in Europe his highlight of every year was when theshada”rim would come and collect money. The shada’rim which is an acronym of the word Shlucha D’Rabanan or rabbinic emissaries, were collectors that were sent out from the Holy Land all over Europe. They were sent to raise money for their respective communities that were fulfilling the mitzva of settling the land and preparing it for the imminent arrival of Mashiach when all Jews would return there. The Rebbe recalled how he would sit and talk for hours with these collectors. He would pester them with questions about anything they can share with him about the land that he loved and yearned for so much.
The last shadar that was by him though wasn’t playing ball. He told the Rebbe after a while, that he had nothing else that he could possibly share with him. He told him that when he comes to Israel-God willing and he goes to the Kotel, the Western Wall, he will be able to hear the wall talking to him and feel the Shechina’s presence. But the Rebbe was relentless. He begged to share with him one more thing. So he told him once again that when he comes to Israel and he goes to Rachel’s tomb he would be able to feel all of the longing of Jews for centuries for the return to Eretz Yisrael and the coming of Mashiach. But that still wasn’t enough for the Rebbe. He was like an addict begging for more and more. Just one more hit. Like a kid in a candy store, like me at a Kiddush, just one more bowl of chulent....please, please...
Finally the shadar told him that when you come to Tzfat you will see the stones and the rocks on the floor how they glisten like diamonds, like pearls. And with that theshadar left. The Rebbe told his chasidim how the words and those images played over in his mind for years until he was able to finally come here.  And he had. Upon arriving the Rebbe came to Tzfat and established his shul and then he went around the country to see and experience that holiness that only Eretz Yisrael has. He had visited the Kotel, he had gone to Rachel’s tomb. He had truly felt the holiness that he had been told about. Yet upon his return to Tzfat, he realized that he had yet to see the diamonds. Tzfat was a nice city, a holy city, the largest and greatest Jewish population in Israel at the time. But having suffered some earthquakes in the past the city had a lot of rocks, a lot of ruins. To the Rebbe’s eyes they were just that; rocks and rubble. He figured that the shadar had just exaggerated or embellished a bit. You know how these Rabbis who try to convince you to make Aliya are...J
But just a few weeks ago, lo and behold guess who came to town. It was that shadarthat had visited him back in Europe. The Rebbe was so excited to see him he called him into his room. He hugged him, he kissed him and he thanked him for all the inspiration he had given him to come to Israel. Yet at the end of the conversation the Bas Ayin turned to him and asked him why he had exaggerated so much. He told theshadar that he had gone to Yerushalayim and truly felt the Shechina talking to him. It was as if the wall and the stones were able to communicate with his soul. He had gone to Rachel’s tomb and sure enough he was overwhelmed with that longing for Mashiach. He felt he was not only wiping away his own tears as he stood there but the tears of his Mama Rachel and of all of her children for millennia that are awaiting that final day of redemption. Yet in Tzfat although he had appreciated all the greatness, holiness and spirituality of the city. Yet the rocks were truly just rocks. The city was a mound of them. There was no need for the shadar to make up bubbe-maysah’s-folklore about this special city as well.
The shadar turned to the Rebbe and with the words that pierced his heart he opened up the window and pointed and said
“Does the Rebbe really mean to tell me that you truly cannot see the glistening diamonds that are lining these streets?”
The Rebbe was taken aback. How is that he didn’t see it? He decided then and there that he needed to go in to seclusion. He would not leave his room until he too could see those incredible diamonds. So he sat in his room. He cried and he cried. Each time he would open his eyes all he would see were the same gray rubble, the stones, the hard rocks of Tzfat. But this morning, he told his chasidim when he opened his eyes after crying his eyes and his soul out all night long, before him stood a field of diamonds. I imagine it as being that incredible yellow brick road of Oz. Pearls, diamonds, glistening in the holy sun rays were laid out all around. He didn’t see any dirt he saw sparkly sand. It was wondrous. It was a whole new holy world.
The last Aliya in this week’s Torah portion concludes with an incredible strange and perplexing statement by Moshe Rabbeinu in his last speech to Am Yisrael. (Devarim 29:1-8)
 “And Moshe summoned all of Israel and said to them ‘You have seen everything that Hashem did L’Eineichem- before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all of his slave- the great trials that your eyes beheld, those great signs and wonders.
But Hashem did not give you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear until this day. I led you for forty years in the wilderness, your garment did not wear out from on you, and your shoe did not wear out from on your feet. Bread you did not eat and wine or beer you did not drink so that you would know that I am Hashem you God.
And you have arrived at this place. And Sichon the king of Heshbon and Og, King of the Bashan wento out towards battle and we smote them. We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to (the tribes of) Reuven, Gad and half of the tribe of Menashe. And you shall keep the words of this covenant Lma’an Taskilu- in order that you shall be succeed in all that you do’.”

I know it’s a long quote but bear with me. It will be worth it. As I said it’s perplexing because on one hand Moshe tells them that they have ‘seen everything Hashem has done before their eyes’. On the other hand, Moshe tells them that Hashem hasn’t given ‘them eyes to see until this day’ which in itself is a perplexing statement. What is this day? Although Rashi quotes that he heard that on this day Moshe had given the Torah scroll to the tribe of Levi and the nation complained that they wanted it themselves. However the text seems to tell us that Moshe is telling them that the reference is talking about the fact that they have already started dwelling in the land as this was given to them from Og and Sichon and the tribes are settling there.
Rav Zalman Sorotzkin (my wife’s step-grandfather in-law) in his seminal work Oznayim La’Torah suggests that is precisely what Moshe is telling them. That until now they were looking at the world with their chutz l’Aretz-diaspora eyes. They saw miracles and wonders that Hashem had done before their eyes. Although one can even read the words as saying that they have seen everything that Hashem has donel’eineichem- to their eyes- rather than before their eyes. Hashem had opened up their eyes until now. However now that they have reached Eretz Yisrael, now that they have actually arrived and even started settling it- albeit on the other side of the Jordan, they have their own holy eyes to see. The air of the land makes wise- our sages tell us. One that has learned Torah outside of Israel is like two when he comes here. Here in Eretz Yisrael we have the ability on our own to see the wonders, the miracles, touch theshechina, hear the longing and see the diamonds and the pearls.
It is interesting that the last words that we shall keep the covenant ‘l’maan taskilu’ the text tells us. I translated above those words like Rashi and the Unkelos translation that define those words as ‘in order that you shall succeed’. Yet the Yerushalmi- Jerusalem translation translates the words as biglal dtiboninun- in order that you shall contemplate/understand/internalize all that you do. In the Diaspora one follows the laws and remembers the covenant perhaps to be successful. This comes from the wordseichel-intelligence. The Jerusalem translation written in Eretz Yisrael understands so much deeper, that the covenant is so that we can open your eyes and internalize sights and experiences with eyes that one only gets when he is here.
I conclude this week’s insights with an (slightly edited) E-Mail from a very dear tourist of mine that shared with me some of his thoughts after our trip together. They inspired me I hope they inspire you as well.
“First I want to thank you for the recap of the most amazing life altering trip. It truly was amazing to re-read and thereby re-live the trip. It is amazing to think that myself, who spent only 12 days in Eretz Yisroel, knows more and understands more of the Land, be it from a political, regional, Torah view, than my friends who lived there many years. On a personal note: Your love for the Land was contagious and infectious. 
I have a new appreciation for Im Kol Zeh Achakeh Lo B’chol Yom Sheyavo. I learnt things about myself in Eretz Yisroel that I did not know existed. But the two real gifts you gave me through our time spent together is:
1) I now feel and more importantly know, that although I have a house in Ameirca and I currently live here, my home is in Eretz Yisroel. I have a desire to someday when the time is right  to come to the land were we belong. 
2) Interestingly, I have always had a very hard time with the three weeks and Tisha B’av. I have never really understood it, I never really had a feeling for it. I always went to shul, heard Eicha, went home like it was just another night, went to shul, and said my 10 kinot to be yotzie, and went home chilled the remainder of the day. I always felt that I had no connection. 
This Tisha B’av was different. I cried. I cried because I saw first-hand the ruins of Yerushalayim. I cried because I saw the ruins of the City of Dovid. I cried because I saw the place where R’ Akiva was murdered as one of the Asarah Harugie Malchus-{the Ten Martyrs from the Roman period mentioned on Tish B’Av}. But most of all I cried because I wasn’t crying anymore as I used to do because I didn’t fully know what we are crying for. I finally was able to begin to understand what it was about. It was the most intense Tisha B’av I have ever had. I was captivated by the feelings put forth in the Kinos, the profound sadness and terror described in Eicha. I would not have felt this if not for your unbelievable knowledge that you shared with us, and in the places you shared it with. You brought to life, what the land looked like and what life was like in the times of the Beis Hamikdash. We were able to see it in our minds, to appreciate what we lost. It was life altering,
Again I want to thank you beyond thank you for imparting your love of the land to us. 
Hopefully we will be able to travel together again in the near future in the times of the geulah shelameah
Hatzlacha Rabbah”
Thank you Shimmy for letting me part of being the shadar that shows you our diamonds.
Have an eye-opening Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z7OAxcrwOI The stone laying of the Ponovizh yeshiva with footage of the Rav whos yartzeit is this Friday.
https://youtu.be/sExHrxsZscw   - in honor of all of the UMAN Rosh Hashana travelers the newest song by my dear friend Gershon Veroba and singer Micha Gammerman arrangements of course by the one and only Yitz Berry!
https://youtu.be/K0fAkL6xmNw - an incredible story and song from Eitan Katz. This is a song you should play like a million times its so beautiful...

"Vos lenger a blinder lebt, alts mer zet er” -The longer a blind man lives, the more he sees
“All that I have accomplished has been with my 21 fingers. Ten on my hands ten on my toes and the one above of Hashem.”
“You should be embarrassed of yourselves. They exempt you from serving the army and this is the way you behave! Shame on you that do they not allow you to sit and learn in peace and quiet.” As quoted by Rav Nissan Kaplan after the Israeli flag was taken down from the yeshiva by zealots

“Others sleep and dream, but I dream, and sleep not.” -When people told him that he is dreaming if he thought he could rebuild his yeshiva after the war in Eretz Yisrael

“I see the vision of the return to Zion in our generation as the revelation of the light of divine providence, which strengthens our hand and accompanies us through the evil waters that have risen against us ... I see miracles every moment, every hour! I am sure that His Honor sees the thing as I do, for who like the ship's captain standing at the wheel of the ship sees these miracles” in a letter to Ben Gurion after the 6 Day war.
 “Mark my words these young men of the Hagana and the Etzel will throw the British out of this country and will build a Jewish State here in Israel. But you should know more than that. If I had 10-15 students who had the same dedication, single-minded commitment and self-sacrifice that these boys had we could create a Torah State here in Israel. But I don’t have them.... Learn up from these young men... ” - quoted and heard by Rabbi Berel Wein from a lecture the Ponovezher Rav gave in Chicago in 1947 a few months before the UN vote of 1947 recognizing a Jewish State.
Titus! Evil Titus! Take a good look at what has occurred. You dragged my hapless people out of our land two millennia ago and led them into an exile from which they were never to return. You went home to Rome - the most powerful nation on earth - in glory and triumph. But Titus, where are you? What has become of the glory that was Rome? What has become of the infallible empire that was supposed to last forever? The Jewish people however are still here and continue to flourish. Titus, we are here! Where are you?”- Quoted by Dr. Rothchild as he brought the Rav by his request upon arriving in Rome to the arch of Titus and he got out of the car and said this with rain pouring through his beard.  
Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman The Ponovezher Rav (1886 - 5729 / 1969) This  Friday, the 20th of Elul
 Born in Kuhl, Lithuania, a small town of about 500 of which about a third were Jews. His father, Rav Yehudah Leib, was a famed talmid chacham and baal chesed. At the age of 14 he went to the Telshe Yeshiva, where he learned until he was twenty (or 21) under Harav Shimon Shkop and became close to Harav Eliezer Gordon, the yeshivah’s founder. In 1908, Reb Yosef Shlomo went to learn mussar from Reb Yosef Yoizel, the Alter of Novardok. While there, Harav Yechiel Michel Epstein, the Aruch Hashulchan, taught him the necessary skills for Rabbanut, after which he spent three years in Radin under the Chafetz Chaim.
He married the daughter of Harav Leib Rubin, the Rav of Vidzh. For a while he learned alone at the home of his father-in-law. In 1911, Reb Leib was offered the Rabbanut of Wilkomir; his position in Vidzh passed to his son-in-law, who also opened a yeshivah there.
After Rav Kahaneman’s impressive eulogy at the levayah of Reb Itzele Rabinowitz of Ponevezh in 1919, the community offered him the position of Rav. He became Rav of Ponevezh (at age 33) and opened a yeshivah there which attracted many of Lithuania’s best talmidim. Rav Kahaneman guided his flock with wisdom and fatherly love. He was appointed as the Jewish representative to the Lithuanian parliament.
After 20 years, when the Nazis conquered Lithuania, Rav Kahaneman was on a mission abroad when World War II broke out and was unable to return to be with his family and his students. In 1940 he settled in Eretẓ Israel and from there directed efforts, in vain, toward the rescue of Lithuanian Jewry from the Nazis. Most of his family perished in the Holocaust. Thereafter, he devoted himself to reestablishing in Ereẓ Israel a network of Torah institutions. In 1943 he established Batei Avot, an orphanage for refugee children.fled to Eretz Yisrael, (1940), then under the British Mandate, and became a leader of chareidi Jewry.
Although broken and distraught over the fate of Europe’s Jews, he decided that he had been spared to bemekadesh Shem Shamayim-sanctify the name of Hashem. In 1941, Rav Kahaneman set the cornerstone for the new Ponevezher Yeshivah on a hill overlooking Bnei Brak.
Despite general skepticism, Rav Kahaneman, with his powers of persuasion, collected enough money to build what became the largest yeshivah yet in Eretz Yisrael and one of the largest in the world. He traveled widely in chutz laAretz to secure financial support. There are many great stories about his skills at getting money out of the least likely people. The man who never gave to anyone who the Rav convinced him to donate the picture he had of his grandfather for the yeshiva library and then asked him to donate the library. The anti-religious man who only agreed to give money if his institution will learn Torah without wearing Yarmulkas which he took and started a girl’s school with. Those are just a few of  the stories.
The Ponevezher Rav’s ambitions were not limited to his yeshivah. He founded and supported dozens of other institutions, especially for the “yaldei Tehran,” orphans rescued from the Holocaust and brought to Israel (Batei Avot orphanages). He also revived the yarchei kallah concept, providing two weeks a year of intense learning at the yeshivah for working men.
The Ponevezher Rav merited seeing all his projects reach fruition.
Reb Yosef Shlomo was niftar on 20 Elul 5729/1969, at the age of 83. He was buried in the Ponevezher beit hachaim on the outskirts of Bnei Brak.
answer below at end of Email
Q. The Druze house of prayer is called:
A.    Diwan
B.  Zawiya
C.  Madrasa
D.  Hilweh
So much can be derived from Rashi not only by what he says but also by what he doesn’t say; even the greatest philosophical question of the world can be found in just a simple reading and appreciation of what he says and what he doesn’t.
This week we read the blessings and curses that are given if we follow or not the commanments. On of the first blessings is
(Devarim 28:6) Blessed are you in your coming and blessed are you in your going
What is the question that you should be asking about this verse? You’ve been learning long enough with me here to ask it. OK I’ll tell you. Seemingly one goes before one comes, Right? So why is it reversed. Rashi thus explains that the verse is referring to coming into this world. One’s leaving of this world should be just like one’s coming to this world. Just as we came without sin we should leave without sin.
Great! Nice the problem is there is a verse in the curses that seems to say the opposite where this interpretation fails for there it says
(ibid :16) Accursed shall you be in your coming and accursed shall you be in your going out
Interestingly enough Rashi is silent over there. It can’t mean that one comes into the world cursed? Or maybe it can?
The Binyan Ariel notes that there is a great debate for 2 ½ years in the Talmud (Eruvin13) between the schools of Hillel and Shamai for years is it better to be born or never born. The resolution finally being that for a wicked person it is better not to be born. This would seemingly contradict our verse here that one is blessed when they come into the world. Rashi’s grandson though, Tosafos however explains that this is only true for a wicked person a righteous person though praised is he and praised is his generation. Where does tosafot derive that from? Seemingly our Rashi his grandfather.
For in verse that talks about the blessing, Rashi felt the need to explain the blessing of coming into the world. For the assumption based on the Talmud would be that one’s coming to this world is a curse. He therefore explains that you are blessed when you first come in to the world only when one is righteous, when one fulfills the commandments. However when one sins and one does not fulfill the mitzvos then his very existence, his coming into the world is understood to be a curse as the Talmud explicitly says the resolution was between Beit Hillel and Shammai That Rashi did not need to explain for the Talmud tells us that naturally one’s coming into the world is a curse.
Interesting Halachic aside the Beit Yosef suggests that this is the reason our morning blessings we bless Hashem for having not made us a gentile- shelo asani goy, rather than in the positive form of blessing Hashem for having created us a Jew she’asani yisrael. For being created a Jews is not necessarily a blessing. One’s coming into the world is only a blessing if one ultimately fulfills his commandments. We can only bless Hashem that he did not create us as gentiles so at least we have the opportunities throughout our lives to make that which we were born a blessing if we follow the mitzvos.
Sounds pretty deep? It was really just a simple Rashi.
Creation of the World- this Wednesday 25th Elul Year 0 - 3761 BCE:- Was this the day of the Big Bang? According to Jewish tradition the first man -Adam and Eve were created on Rosh Hashana the first of Tishrei which was the 6th day of Creation. Meaning 6 days before hand this coming Wednesday was the day that the Torah tells us In the beginning Hashem created heaven and Earth. The earth was empty and bare and spirit of Hashem was floating on top of the water. And Hashem said let there be light and there was light. Boom! Many suggest that is the big bang! Matter has been created. He separated the light and darkness into night and day. Many point out that since that first day there was not yet any earth or sun or moon for they weren’t created until day 4 then that day was not necessarily a 24 hour day. It could have been millions of years. This would resolve many of the questions that scientists challenge our Torah tradition with as they point of evidence of millions of years of formation. Our 24 hour day and our counting of time begins on Rosh Hashana with the creation of the center of the universe Man who is meant to bring the world to its fulfillment. That is why Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the year and not the 25th of Elul. We have a man-centric view of the world. After-all we ae the only creation that Hashem blew into us a spirit of life, a soul, a piece of Him. All other creations were all spoken by Hashem and they poofed into existence. There you go Jewish science 101 from someone who barely passed his NY State regents in science. That’s all I know sorry.
(wonder how many my brother the eye-doctor has heard?)
What music do optometrists listen to? Eye-Tunes
What was the lens’s excuse to the policeman?-I’ve been framed officer
What do you call a deer without eyes?-No idea
What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs? Still no eye-deer
What did the sailor say to the captain of the optometrist boat?-eye-eye captain
What did the right eye say to the left eye? -Between you and me, there’s something that smells
How many optometrists does it take to screw in a light bulb? ( I don’t know) You tell me.. is it one or two?
Patient: I keep getting a stabbing pain in my eye every time I drink coffee
 Optometrist: Have you tried taking the spoon out of the cup?
Answer is D - I’m really getting sick of these silly trivia questions. They’re just dumb and not necessary. But this is worse than usual. I recognized two of the above choices. Diwan is their court house the root Hebrew word being din which means judgement. The madrasa as well is their schools and study houses again like the Hebrew word beit Midrash. Which left zawi-whatever and hilveh which sounded somewhat familiar so I went with the other one zawi-whatever... I was wrong the correct answer is hilweh. The truth is I bet you there are even druzim that don’t know that. See because according their religion they have a choice if they want to be religious or not. 90% are not. They are therefore not allowed to pray or practice only the mystics are allowed to do that or even know the secrets of their religion. So if most of them don’t care enough about their religion why should I ?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Deplorables? - Ki Teitzei 2016/5776

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

September 16th 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 51 13th Elul 5776
Parshat Ki Teitzei
There they stood on the side of the road with their finger stuck out. They were all tiuyuled up shorts, hats, large water packs and ripped T- shirts. They were certainly not chareidi. The earrings and tats were a pretty good give-away. I pulled over, my chasidic music blasting out of my window. I always give hitches. I spend too much time on the side of the road with my finger stuck out to violate that cardinal mitzva of ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. Besides it usually makes for good weekly E-mail material, one of my primary driving motivations in life, as you know.
So they got in the car and after a few minutes asked me if I was da’ati-religious. I guess my music was a dead giveaway. In my shorts and T-Shirt myself perhaps it wasn’t obvious. I look pretty cool, by the way, in my tour guide gear… I’m just saying. Now being a bit of an Israeli and a Jew and a Rabbi, of course I couldn’t resist by merely answering a simple question with a simple answer, I responded instead.
Kulanu da’ati’im Kaan BaMedina-We are all religious in this country. And then to make it even more juicy I said.
Ani af pa’am lo pagashti ben adam chiloni- I have never met a secular Jew.
Well that got them going a bit. One of them quickly told me that I should then make a Shehechiyanu for he was a chiloni. Funny isn’t it? How only a secular Israeli could know what blessing you make upon the first time you do or encounter something. But the important thing is he took the bait; a bait I knew an Israeli could never resist. I said, really you claim to be a secular Jew? Let me ask you a question. Did you or do you serve in the army? Of course, he responded with pride. He was in fact in the Golani elite para-troopers brigade. Wow! I exclaimed. So you’re telling me that you are prepared to give your life in order to defend a fellow Jew, perhaps even a fellow ultra-orthodox chareidi Jew. That’s pretty amazing. I know plenty of religious Jews that aren’t religiously motivated to take on their shoulders that responsibility to defend Jews not only in Israel, but according to the IDF mandate to risk their lives and defend Jews anywhere they might be in the world. Sounds pretty religious to me…
But more than that I continued. If god-forbid, it should never happen to you or any of our boys anywhere, but for arguments sake and tragically unfortunately this has happened much too often. If you were trapped somewhere and surrounded by the animals that are trying to kill us daily. You’re out of ammo. There’s nothing you can do. What would you do? Sheepishly he said rather quietly that he would pray…. I asked him to SPEAK UP, I WAS HAVING DIFFICULTY HEARING HIM.  He sat up straighter-like a real Golani. Like a real proud Israeli. Like a YID…and said I would pray. I asked him to whom?
I continued and told him, that I was sure that- again it would and should never happen, but I’m sure his prayer would be Shema Yisrael. The same words that every Jewish child learns as a little baby, the words in our teffilin, in our mezuzot, the name that all our martyrs, our kedoshim throughout our long history, whether it was by the Roman sword, the cursed crusader javelins, the Spanish stakes and torture chambers, and Cossack knives and the Nazi camps of death that caused that pinteleh yid to come out and scream.
 ‘I’m a Jew, I believe in Hashem, He is One. There is an eternal world. I am here to sanctify his name. He is Avinu He is Malkeinu. My Father… My King.
There is no such thing as a chiloni Jew. Just one that perhaps hasn’t come to terms and appreciated the incredible beauty, honor and privilege that he possesses. The incredible religious life he is truly living. That all Jews live. All Jews…
This week’s Torah portion is such an incredible one. Following on the heels of last week’s description of the leadership of the Jewish people of Shoftim- where we spoke about, the judges, the prophets, the kings, the Kohen/priests and the Levi. In short the bessereh mentchen as my bubby would say, the upper class, the really religious Jews…the chareidim? This week’s Torah portion we meet a little bit of a different crowd. The boys from the bowery, scoundrels, the ones who have their faces posted on the post office walls, what some presidential candidates might refer to as the “deplorables”. The parsha starts off with the soldier that is picking up prisoner women of war. We move on to husbands and fathers that will certainly never win any awards, children at ‘risk’ and juvenile delinquents. We’ve got death penalty candidates, kidnappers, rapists, gossipers, women of ill repute and men that frequent them, children born out of wedlock, deviant dressers and behaviors. Then of course there is the usurers, the corrupt businessmen and liars, and the unscrupulous bosses and slave-owners. The only thing missing is perhaps the members of Knesset. But you could probably find them in there somewhere as well. If you looked not too hard. Welcahm to Eezrael. Talk about a crash landing.
There are two amazing insights thought that I will share with you which shed an incredible holy light on our special people. The segue between last week’s Torah portion and this week’s is the very strange mitzva of someone that is found dead outside of a city. Who is this guy? The Torah doesn’t tell us. He’s what we in Israel we might just call stam a guy; Joe Shmoe. Now although the Torah doesn’t tell us who he is, I’m sure the guys in the back of the shul can tell you a bit about him. The guys in the Kiddush club were all talking about him. They are the fountains of all wisdom. We don’t have water-cooler conversations, we schmooze over chulent and the really juicy conversations are in the Mikva. ‘He was probably one of those shnorrers, those beggars that came to town to hit everyone up for money’-Yankel suggested. ‘No’ Moishie said, ‘Those guys have some place to stay, this guy was probably caught up in some hanky panky, some non-kosher business, maybe drugs, maybe smuggling’. Before the chopped liver and herring is gone this guy has pretty much been totally written off. We’re a lot better off without him. He got what is coming to him. And life moves on to the next story.
The Torah tells us a different story though. The Torah tells us that the entire Sanhedrin-all 120 of them, the greatest Rabbis and leaders of the generation, all come out from Jerusalem to whatever neck in the woods deplorable town this guy might have been found next to. They measure the distance between towns to find out which one was closest to him. The Kohanim, the Levi’im, whom the Torah tells us serve Hashem, who give us our blessings, they join together with the elders and sages of the city, and in perhaps one of the most graphic rituals in the Torah they decapitate from the back a calf, in a nachal that will never flow, in a field that will never be sown again and they wash their hands there declaring that their hands had not spilled this blood. Wow! Do you know anybody else that ever got such a memorable gathering upon their death? Who must he be? The guys in the back of shul are murmuring again. He was obviously somebody very great. A holy Jew. One of the 36 hidden righteous people of the world. I mean the whole Sanhedrin, all the great Rabbis, politicians’ leaders, judges everybody is by his funeral. And that my friend is exactly the point. There is no such thing a Joe Shmoe amongst the Jews. We don’t just move on and write people off and let the authorities, the police, CSI, the army, or the counter-terrorism unit just deal with finding the perpetrators. Certainly not the politicians or even just the Rabbis or ZAKA team. Every Jew has to know how important every other Jew is. What a tragedy it is when we lose someone. What an even greater tragedy if we don’t recognize while he was alive the greatness of each one of us. For if we would see that he was the son of the King that he truly he is, there is no way we would have let him leave the city on his own. Leave without accompaniment.
That is the transition from last week’s parsha of the ‘establishment’ and this week’s Torah portion of the ‘amcha’- the boys. Perhaps it is even the function of the entire system that has been presented. This week the portion teaches us an even more powerful lesson. We are told the law of the convicted person who has been given the death penalty. We don’t need the Kiddush club guys or the Mikva crew to tell us that this is guy is bad news. He’s not even an anonymous corpse named Joe Shmoe. We know exactly who he is. The papers have been full of him throughout his whole trial.  He’s the one- in- every- 70 –years-death penalty guy that fulfilled all the rigorous requirements that the Torah places to carry out the punishment. There were witnesses that warned him of his punishment seconds before he carried it out. He acknowledged it. The witnesses were interrogated repeatedly and repeatedly on every nuance of what they saw- truthfully any way we could avoid having to carry this out, the court has tried. But this really really bad guy made it through to the big leagues. So we kill him. Good riddance. Right? Wrong.
The Torah tells us that there is a mitzva to hang him on a tree after he is stoned to death. The stoning being of course the method proscribed by the Torah which will serve as an atonement for his sin, as well as being a natural deterrent for the nation. The mitzva though is described in almost the opposite form for it says that he may not be hung over night on that tree and should be buried right away
Devarim (21:22-23) ‘Ki klilat Elokim talui -For a hanging person is the insult/curse of Hashem”
Rashi is fascinating in that he utilizes this verse in a dual fashion. On the reason for him being hung, Rashi says that a person that gets stoned is hung afterwards from the verse above. For the word ‘klilat’ can be read as he who curses Hashem should be hung. And as the punishment for cursing God’s name is stoning it must mean after he is put to death he is hung.
However the following Rashi tells us that the reason he is not left hanging is because the hanging person is a degradation of the King. For man is made in the image of Hashem and Yisrael are his children. He then brings a parable of two twin brothers, one became a king and one became a bandit and ultimately got caught and was hung. Whoever would see the hanging man would declare the king is hanging.
Very very strange. The same verse that teaches us to hang him, teaches us that he must not be left there. The question though is why in fact do we hang him? If there is a fear and it is a disgrace to the King, isn’t better to just bury our stoned skeletons. As well one needs to ask the question. Really? Would we ever confuse this low-life deplorable once-in-a-century-convicted-death-penalty-convict with Hashem? Everybody in the shteeble knows what this guy was really about.
The insight the Ari’zl reveals is that’s exactly why we hang him. Because nobody really knows what he was really about. You know who he really was? He was really the holiest divine image on this planet. He was the spark of Hashem. Sure he sinned. Yeah it was a really bad one. But you know where sin comes from. It’s in all of our nature. It goes back to Adam and Eve and the first day of their creation. It goes back to “The tree”; the tree of knowledge that incorporated in each of us the ability to fall so far from our God. To fall almost to the point of when our tzelem elokim- our Divine image, that holiness that each of us possesses may not even be recognizable. Although it is always still there. We hang him after has atoned for his sin through his death, on the tree to remind us that anything that anything he may have done can be hung and blamed on ‘the’ tree. Look at him. See that image of God. The image of the King. That holiness was never gone. He was always religious. His soul never stopped being righteous. Never stopped being Divine. And then we take him down and bury him. A Jewish burial. A holy burial. A burial that will rise once again with the ultimate resurrection when the curse of death that resulted from that first sin of the tree is finally over.
There is no such thing as a deplorable Jew. There is no such thing as a chiloni. There are only some who we are able to see that image of the King more easily. And there are some that we do not see it so clearly. There are times that we see it more clearly in ourselves. And there are times when we all fail to see it even in ourselves.
I dropped off the young men at the next stop. I told them that now that I proved to them and they as well to themselves already that they are religious- maybe not chareidi, but certainly religious, then they may as well start keeping Shabbos. They smiled and walked off to continue their tiyul, their journey into the field. As I drove off I thought to myself that, as we have noted in the past, the month of Elul we are told the ‘King is in the field’. Hashem comes out to us.  I’m still looking for Him but at least today I got to see his twins. Perhaps that’s a start for all of us to start working on this Elul. I’m sure He won’t be too far behind.
Have a perfect Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9P9r9M9CTo Parshat Ki Teitzei is never complete without listening to this classic from 40 years ago Yigal Calek and the London Boys Choir Ki Yikareh Kan Tzipor song. Admit it you have already started humming it

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIfLbkx4ZIMThis is an awesomely cool video of the last illegal Shofar blowers by the Kotel under British mandate. Very cool and inspiring story…by the way did mention that this is cool.

http://media.93fm.co.il/new/m/akplayer/203443554334f55cc7acdf4cea75aa1e.mp4  – A possible rendition of the Ben Ish Chai himself singing on a recording done in the early 1900’s in Bagdahad from his synagogue singing a song about Eliyahu on Motzai Shabbat. He would be the older voice in the background.


“Nit yederer oif vemen hunt bilen iz a ganev..”- Not everyone the dogs bark at is a thief.


“Why was the Torah given to Bnei Yisroel? Because they are the most stubborn.  He explains that all the nations know about the obstinacy of Bnei Yisroel and how they refuse to submit themselves under any burdens or someone else's rule.  Hashem gave us the Torah first to show the world how important the Torah is for human existence.  If we were ready to accept it, surely our entire existence depends on it and the other nations should follow suit and submit to the laws that Hashem set out for them.

“A man who had a ring made especially for himself. He engraved the words "This, too, will pass" on the ring. If he was troubled or pained, he would look at his ring and remember that his suffering would eventually end. This thought brought him comfort. Likewise, during times of happiness, he would gaze at the ring as well and realize that his wealth and good fortune could change for the worse in an instant. Good times do not last forever. The man recognized that he should not become conceited or haughty over circumstances which were beyond his control and could change at any moment. The ring reminded the man that his life must be put in perspective, and that one should never live life either complacent or despondent.” –explaining why our shofar blasts, our ‘ring’, are both happy and sad. Tekiah and Shevarim

 “It is neither age nor gender nor even religion that determines whom the “Shechinah” (the Divine Presence) rests upon; it depends only on one’s behavior” – Upon describing an arab sheikh that he felt achieved such and reverence before Hashem to achieve Ruach Hakodesh.

Chacham Yosef Chaim of Baghdad the Ben Ish Chai (1832-1909) This  Friday, the 13th of
Perhaps one of the greatest leaders of Sefardic Jewry in the 19th early 20th century the Ben Ish Chai, was a highly-revered Torah scholar and master of Kabbalah. Based in Baghdad, Iraq, he was recognized by the Sephardic community both locally and abroad as an eminent Halachic authority.
Born into a long chain of rabbinic figures renowned for their spiritual influence on the Baghdad Jewish community over the centuries. His father, Chacham Eliyahu Chaim, the son of Chacham Moshe Chaim, was the head rabbi and leader of Baghdad's Jewish community. At the age of seven, Yosef Chaim fell into a deep pit in the courtyard of his home while playing with his sister. He was eventually saved by a miracle, and in gratitude to Gd he decided to devote his life to the study of Torah. As a young boy, he spent many hours absorbing Torah from the books in his father's extensive library When Yosef Chaim was fourteen years old, a question arrived for his father from Rabbi Chaim Palag'i, the chief rabbi of Turkey. His father was very busy and unable to answer for several days, so the young Yosef Chaim answered the question in his father's stead. The Turkish rabbi was so impressed with the boy's response that he predicted he would be a great sage.
In a special room secluded for study, Yosef Chaim continued to strive toward spiritual perfection, studying all of the Torah day and night. At midnight he would rise to recite the Tikkun Chatzot, lamenting the destruction of the Holy Temple, and at sunrise he would recite the morning prayers. For six consecutive years, he fasted by day and ate only at night, to weaken physical drives that could interfere with his Divine service. He built a mikvah, a ritual bath, in his home, so he could purify himself at any time.
At the age of eighteen, he married Rachel, the daughter of Rabbi Yehudah Someich, a relative to his teacher. Together, they had one daughter and a son. Yosef Chaim was known for the attention he showered upon his children, teaching them Torah and conversing with them, despite his demanding schedule. He often composed little riddles and puzzles to entertain them, some which are recorded in his book Imrei Binah.
When Yosef Chaim was twenty-five years old, his father passed away, and he became the unofficial leader of the Baghdad community. The title chacham – "wise one," the traditional Sephardic title bestowed upon rabbis – was appended to his name. Despite his young age, he was highly respected, and one of his disciples, Rabbi Dovid Chai Hacohen, testified that if Rabbi Yosef Chaim had lived during the time of the Temple, it would never have been destroyed. For unlike then, when the Jews disregarded the admonitions of the prophets, the entire Baghdad community lovingly obeyed every word uttered by Rabbi Yosef Chaim. During his lifetime, per his influence, all the Jews of Baghdad observed Shabbat and Torah law. Chacham Yosef Chaim refused a salary for his public service. Instead, he supported his family by partnering in his brother's business. He personally funded the publishing of his books, refusing sponsorship or charity, and any income from these books would be distributed to the poor. He was also known to donate his books for free to Torah scholars.
He personally funded the publishing of his books, refusing sponsorship or charity, and any income from these books would be distributed to the poor. He attempted to bridge the gap between the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities, who often followed widely differing practices, by referencing his contemporaries abroad, and reflecting on their approaches in his own writings. He felt strongly that Torah scholars needed to show mutual recognition for one another, even when they disagreed, lest their names be forgotten with the passage of time. Though his legal decisions carried weight primarily amongst Sephardi populaces, his Ashkenazi counterparts recognized his genius, held him in high esteem, and often quoted his rulings.
For fifty years, from his appointment until his death, he lectured for one hour daily on Torah law and aggadah (historical and anecdotal material) in the Tsallat L'ziri, "the small synagogue." Four times a year, he lectured at the Great Synagogue of Baghdad, built with dirt from the land of Israel.
Chacham Yosef Chaim understood that cut-and-dry Torah law would not appeal to many, so the bulk of his discourses were coupled with Kabbalah and Aggadah. He helped his followers make associations between Biblical lore and the law, so their hearts would be drawn to the wisdom of Torah, and they would remember it.
His seminal work, the Ben Ish Chai, is based on the three-hour classes he presented each Shabbat. He'd begin each lecture with a Kabbalistic interpretation, in simple language, of the Torah portion of the week, and then present a selection of related practical laws. His approach was based on preservation of local traditions, even in Halachic rulings. He would not recommend a change in local tradition unless there was compelling reason to do so. His rulings testify to his innovative approach which gave credence to local tradition, and to Ashkenazi and Sephardi rulings alike.
The Ben Ish Chai became the standard reference book for Torah law among Sephardim. It appealed to a wide audience, scholars and commoners alike, including women, who were usually not provided a religious education. Due to its widespread popularity, Chacham Yosef Chaim came to be called by the name of his book.
Chacham Yosef Chaim deeply loved the Land of Israel. He supported the Jewish settlement by printing all his books there, and throughout his life, gave money to the messengers from Israel who came to collect for the poor. In 1869, he journeyed to Israel where he visited the gravesites of numerous holy figures in Jerusalem and Hebron, and met with eminent Kabbalists. Though offered a rabbinical post there, he decided to return to Iraq. He brought back with him a large stone to be placed at the entrance to the synagogue where he lectured.
Days before his death, on the 8th of Elul, Chacham Yosef Chaim went on pilgrimage to the grave of the prophet Ezekiel, and he became sick shortly after. On the 13th of Elul, 1909, he died and was buried that same night. He was deeply mourned, his funeral attended by over ten thousand people—Jews and non-Jews alike. Years after his death, Jews still made it practice to visit his gravesite every Friday.
Despite his passing over 100 years ago, his legacy is very much alive in the hearts of those who continue to live by his seminal work, the Ben Ish Chai. Many of his disciples became great Jewish scholars who continued to disperse his teachings.The extensive work of Chacham Yosef Chaim encompasses all aspects of Judaism: Torah law, Kabbalah, Q&A's, sermons, parables, proverbs, and prayers, liturgics and poetry for Shabbat and holidays. His work reflects simultaneously broad knowledge of the sciences, medicine, astronomy, physics and economics. His approach to Torah, though stringent, is imbued with love for its practice, and his followers, whose numbers continue to grow even today, revere his commitment to Torah law and the inspiration he brought to it.

Many schools, particularly in Israel, have been built in his name. Thousands continue to glean from the wisdom of Chacham Yosef Chaim, studying his books, but more importantly, living by them.

answer below at end of Email
Q. A settlement with a Shi’ite population is:
A.    Gush Halav
B.  Rehaniya
C.  Daburiyya
D.  Ghajar

There is a mitzva to review the Torah portion each week which our sages state should be fulfilled reading the portion twice and once with the Targum Onkeos Translation. There are many feel that it should be done with Rashi as well if not even in place of the Onkelos. One of the many reasons is so that one can appreciate the global explanation of Rashi. For to fully appreciate his commentary one can see how he explains things that might seem similar however Rashi’s differing explanations can shed light on many practical things that should be derived from the text that you might have missed.
In this week’s Torah portion on the mitzva of the Ben Sorrer U’Moreh the child who is considered a wayward rebellious child that has already been flogged by the courts and has continued and stolen and engaged in gluttonous behavior. The law is that he is brought by his parents to the courts and he is stoned to death. Don’t get nervous here, our sages tell us that this is a law that never happened or was carried out. It is there merely to “learn it and get reward’. The Torah tells us that this law is in order
Devarim (21:21) that all of Israel should hear of this and fear.
Those words are familiar words in fact in last week’s Torah portion when the law of an elder that refuses to abide the ruling of the court who is known as a zaken mamre (17:13) who is also sentenced to death in order that ‘Israel will hear of this and fear’. Yet interestingly Rashi explains these verses differently.
On the verse over there Rashi explains that his verdict is delayed to be carried out until the pilgrimage holiday. Seemingly that is the time when the maximuim amount of people will be there to witness it. This is an exception to the usual law when we execute right away so as not to prolong the persons waiting in dread.
Here Rashi however explains the text differently. Here he says we derive the law that it should publicized from the court house that ploni-(the Talmudic word for John Doe) is being stoned for being a rebellious son.
Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi one of the great commentaries who’s central work is a commentary on Rashi notes this discrepancy. He obviously reviewed Rashi every week and remembered the Rashi from last week.
He notes the reason for this difference being that the law of the Ben Sorrer UMoreh is only for three months. Meaning to be eligible for this particular law and status of being the rebellious son one has to be between 13 and 13 and 3 months. That’s right just the first three months after your Bar Mitzva. The Talmud derives this from the fact that the Torah calls him a son- he has to be the age of maturity which is 13-however he cannot yet be considered a father- or even have the possibility of becoming one. Since at age 13 one hits maturity and halachic puberty by which he can then father a child. And since it takes three months for the mother to start showing, by which then he is first already considered a father-despite its fetus status. Thus the only time this law applies is for that short three month span. See I told you that it is not a common law. The Mizrachi thus notes therefore Rashi could not learn that here by this law one would delay to wait for the pilgrimage holiday for then it would or could be longer then the three month time frame. Therefore Rashi had to learn that here the people ‘hearing and fearing’ had to come from a different mechanism.; one of the court publicizing the case. Boom. There you have it.
See an intricate halachic discussion and a whole word just by knowing your Rashis.

Knesset vote on reparations from Germany-18th  Elul 5712 – September 8th 1952:- It was probably one for the most heated fights to take place in the early fledgling state. To take money or not to. After much discussion, the Knesset chose to accept reparation payments from Germany for losses caused by the Nazis during World War II. As early as 1943, Jewish groups had begun to formulate demands for a postwar settlement that would include billions of dollars of indemnity for stolen or destroyed Jewish property (real estate, art, gold), plus payments for slave labor, and reparations for the loss of Jewish life. The 1945 Paris Conference on Reparations chose to ignore the Jewish demands. However, in 1951, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who viewed Jewish reparations as part of the burden of guilt that Germans needed to confront, offered payments to Holocaust survivors.
In Israel, Menachem Begin led the movement against accepting the reparations, arguing that they would somehow "absolve" Nazis of their heinous crimes. Begin delivered a harsh speech at a huge and violent demonstration in Jerusalem on January 7, 1952. Begin called on citizens to refrain from paying taxes and to engage in civil disobedience, even at the cost of being taken to a “concentration camp,” as he put it. Haaretz described the Knesset plaza, where the rally took place, as “a battlefield.” Begin maintained his harsh tone also from the Knesset podium, when he called prime minister David Ben-Gurion a “fascist” and “hooligan.”
The Israeli delegation members did not conceal their aversion to their German interlocutors. Some refused to shake hands with the members of the West German delegation during the negotiations. The creative solution was the brainchild of someone in Ben-Gurion’s security detail, who suggested using a big room and placing an enormous table in it, minimizing contact between the two sides.
But in the end the parties reached an understanding. On September 10, 1952, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett and Chancellor Adenauer signed the reparations agreement in Luxembourg. Under this agreement, West Germany transferred to Israel goods worth 3.45 billion deutsche marks (approximately $845 million) and acknowledged its responsibility for the genocide of the Jewish people and damage to property and life. It also undertook to personally compensate citizens persecuted by the Nazis.
German reparations enabled the state of Israel to build an infrastructure of roads, railways, shipping and industry, at a time when it was suffering from a severe shortage of foreign currency and of basic goods such as sugar and fuel. In the meantime the population of the young state doubled every three years. Today, 61 years later, not many people would dispute the fact that the agreement was one of the most important events in the history of the state, one that enabled Israel to get up on its feet and start moving forward. To date it has transferred some $70 billion. At the most recent meeting last month in Jerusalem, Germany undertook payment of an additional $1 billion over the next three years.
Over the years, German companies like Volkswagen, Deutsche Bank and Daimler-Benz have admitted to using slave labor during the war, and set up a fund to compensate workers. In the 1990s, it was revealed that Swiss banks were complicit in the Nazi effort to hide and sell stolen loot, and had engaged in the large-scale theft of deposits made by Jews. After some hesitation, Swiss banks announced their intention to create a fund for Holocaust victims.
I think hitch-hikers are really friendly. I've gone past three in the last hour and they all gave me the thumbs up.
He's so lazy that he's the only guy I know who doesn't walk in his sleep. He hitchhikes.

I stopped to pick up a one-legged hitchhiker And told him to hop in …oyyy did I really put that in….Bad Rabbi
So two lazy yeshiva guys are trying to hitch a ride to their apartment. Finally after about a half hour a guy stops and pulls over for them about a half a block up and waves for them to come. Rather than going up the block Yankel turns to his friend and says- “look at this guy, he stopped for us right where we had wanted to get off.”

Last but not least…It was Sunday morning at the Israeli army base and three chayalim were called to their officers office for coming back late from their weekend. The first soldier when asked why he was late responded that he had to get a hitch with a horse and buggy and it took a while.{back in the days when it was legal} He was excused. The next soldier as well responded the same. He got a hitch from his Kibbutz and it was only with a horse and buggy. Finally the last soldier was called in. Seeing that the first two excuses worked he was about to give his excuse when the officer said to him “Don’t tell me you were also getting a hitch with a horse and buggy…
Very quick on his feet the chayal said not at all He actually said that he got a ride with a very fast sports car.
“So why were you late” His officer asked him.
“You’ll never believe this”  he said “But the road was all clogged with horses and buggies…”

Answer is D – I guessed wrong on this one. I probably should have gotten it right. It was a toss up that I should have figured out. See I knew that it wasn’t Gush Chalav right on top of meron as I knew that was a mostly arab Christian and Maronite town. I knew Rechaniya was a Circassian place cause we visited there and I will never forget the funny dresses and stuff they do there. Now I knew that Ghajar which is visible from Tel Dan and I speak about it all the time as being a former Syrian city that we didn’t conquer in 1967and was then split up with Lebanon. Whatever you have to tour with me to get the whole story, or google it. They were Alawites like the Syrians and thus I guessed the answer was Daburiya-named after Devora the prophetess in the lower Galile by Tabor where she judged. Not because I thought it was Shia rather because I thought I had eliminated it. See most of the arabs in Israel are Sunni. So I should have realized something didn’t make sense. The truth is what I missed and if I would have though t for a second I could have figured it out. Alawites are Shias…So the answer is those arabs in Ghajar. Daburiya like prett much the rest of Israel is Sunni. Oh well.. Who cares? Right?