Our view of the Galile

Friday, May 18, 2018

Being Jewish-Parsha Bamidbar / Shavuot 2018 /5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
May 11th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 30 4th Iyar 5778

Parshat Bamidbar / Shavuot
Being Jewish

What makes you Jewish? It’s a question that many people who haven’t been raised with a Jewish Torah background would ask me; both Jews and Non- Jews. The Non-Jews would ask because they wanted to know. They understood, that it was not being observant keeping Shabbat or kosher, or even supporting Israel, tragically enough. Tragically enough on all of the above, not just the Israel part, because they knew lots of Jews that didn’t do any of that. They were also wise enough to understand that Judaism was not just a gastrointestinal religion or culture. It was more than an ability to digest or even an affinity for Gefilte fish, herring, kugel, blintzes, chopped liver and of course chulent. They understood that despite the fact that many of those foods may keep you up for some nights, it’s not enough to keep our people around for a few thousand years. So what really makes you Jewish they would want to know.

Now some might answer that it is wisdom, it is lawyers, doctors, accountants. It is comedians, Seinfeld, Jackie Mason. It is advocating for the needy and persecuted. On the other hand it is arguing, lobbying, fighting. It’s in your face. It’s a drive for education, greed for money, for success, for assimilation. I don’t think we have a monopoly on all of the above and I certainly don’t even necessarily buy into the stereotype. Except for Seinfeld of course. Perhaps the one common thing tragically enough about being Jewish though that is all of the above is the drive to become more goyish than the goyim. To out-goy them. But I would never tell that to them.

Now my Jews that would ask me the question had a different agenda. They knew that as an Orthodox Rabbi that was presenting the 3000 year old tradition of our people as it had been given to us on Sinai and as it has been practiced for pretty much the same and universally accepted way up until the past century when some decided it would be easier to just change the rules, I would tell them the answer that they would not like. I would tell them of course, they assumed, that what makes you Jewish is that your mother is Jewish, or you have undergone a conversion that accepts all of the commandments of the Torah. A conversion of course that doesn’t mandate that you accept all of the commandments, that gives you a few exceptions; you can still eat shrimp, still speak lashon Hara- gossip, still drive on Shabbat, still not fast on Tisha B’Av or celebrate Christmas is obviously not legitimate. They would then point out to me how unfair that was. How why shouldn’t they or their girlfriend or their step-mother not be considered Jewish just because they didn’t have a Jewish mother. They were more Jewish than most of their “Jewish friends”. They loved Israel, the observed more commandments, they gave to the JNF. They even had a Bat Mitzva, Brit, went to the mikva or had a Jewish confirmation ceremony-whatever that is… You may have even gone on a tour and climbed Masada with Rabbi Schwartz. Who was I to say who was Jewish or not? How dare I judge them? Why was I so closed-minded? See I knew they would say that, so I never took the bait.

Rather my general response was a Jewish response. I answered a question with a question. It’s really the only way one can arrive at the truth. Be careful, by the way of Rabbis that just throw you answers and don’t ask you questions. More often or not they just want you to hear them, and they are really not hearing you or at least trying to hear you. A questioning Rabbi is telling you I want to hear what you want to say. Generally that dialogue can reveal so much more and can help one integrate so much more. Both of you. The questioner and the responder. We both grow from one another and out questions. But I digress….So I responded and asked the very profound question. What does it matter? Huh…? What do you mean what does it matter? Exactly what I said. What do you care about what makes one Jewish. Is it because you feel you need my validation? Do you feel Jewish, anyways? Do you want to become more Jewish? Why is it so important to you know what it takes or what makes someone into a Jew? In addition why would or should anything I say make a difference to you? If you feel that you are Jewish, although your mother may not be. If you feel that you are Jewish although your conversion was not done in the traditional way, what does it make a difference what I think?

Are you worried that my son won’t marry your daughter? Do you really want to have me for your daughter’s father-in-law? Listen if she wants to marry him, she’ll probably have to be Orthodox herself, or at least know how to make a good chulent J. But really why do you care? Why aren’t you “Jewish” enough for yourself? Why do you need my validation?

The truth is every denomination of Judaism has it’s definition of what makes one Jewish. For Conservative Jews it’s only a conservative conversion and for many its only Patriarchal descent. Reform Jews pretty much have whatever requirements they must have, they must undergo some Jewish training. They go to a mikva. They can’t believe in Christianity and they have to donate to the building fund. Israeli Jews feel if you serve in the army that makes you Jewish enough, or if you love Israel. For many here it’s the opposite, if you stand up for the down-trodden Palestinians you are a Jew and if you don’t then you’re a heartless “goy”. Yet for some reason there is this gnawing feeling that bothers people from these backgrounds and affiliations, that ‘I’m not Jewish enough’. That ‘Rabbi Schwartz thinks I’m not Jewish’. Although they have no problem agreeing that someone else that might consider themselves Jewish, are not considered by them as Jewish if they are a different standard.

I remember when I was in Seattle I once had a meeting with a “Messianic Jew” who wanted to undergo conversion. After hemming and hawing a bit and after he assured me that he observed Shabbat, kosher and many Jewish holidays already, I broke the news to him. I told him that although Orthodox, Conservative and Reform disagree on a lot, particularly in regard to conversion we all pretty much agree that you can’t believe in the J-man and become Jewish. He asked me why can’t we believe that the “Messiah” had already come. Aren’t there in fact Chabad people that believe that the Rebbe was Messiah and might even come back as one… Ouch! I told him to ask a Chabad guy to explain the difference to him. But it was different.

Regardless we all have different standards, and opinions, perhaps that is the most Jewish part of all. Yet there is something in the Jew that knows that he is never “Jewish” enough. Something that still needs to be completed. Some place where I have to grow. Perhaps that as well is one of the most Jewish attributes.

This Shabbat we come to the conclusion of the counting of the Omer that we have been counting from when we left Egypt 49 days ago. We count from when Hashem chose us a as a nation and pulled us out of slavery and assimilation and we count until the holiday of Shavuot when we became for the first time a nation of Hashem. A nation with a Torah, a mandate, a mission that we accepted to bring Hashem's light and presence to this world. Most Jews around the world celebrate the holiday of Passover. It’s fun, it’s nice, it’s exciting, it’s tradition. Every Jewish soul understands the message of Pesach. We are different than everyone else. Hashem preforms miracles for us. He saves us. They will never destroy us. We are eternal. Those are all messages that every Jewish soul connects with and makes a seder to pass it down to their descendants.

Shavuot on the other hand… not so much. Outside of Orthodox synagogues I would say there’s a 90% drop in attendance for Shavuot. And trust me if there wasn’t a Yizkor there would be more…For some reason, Jews don’t feel as connected to the message of Shavuot. The message of what truly makes us a Jewish. The remembrance and the reliving of that moment 3330 years ago this Sunday when we stood as one as a nation and heard Hashem announce the He is the one that took us out of Egypt, We shall not have any other Gods besides Him. We should observe, the Shabbat, we should honor our parents, we should not steal, we should not envy. We should follow all of the 613 commandments. We should follow the Rabbinic laws that will follow over the generations that are meant to be a fence around Hashem’s law. We should love our fellow man as ourselves and we should be complete and perfect with Hashem and with our neighbor. It is much easier to understand and define our Judaism by the notion that we are “not them”. But the Jewish soul ultimately will never be satisfied with that Pesach message. That Jewish soul also needs and screams for the Shavuot message. What makes me Jewish? How do I become a better Jew?

The Torah portion we read before Shavuot is Bamidbar. The Book of Numbers where we count and name the Jewish people and their tribes and their leaders. The verse tells us how each tribe camped
Bamidbar (2:2) Each man according to his flag with signs according to the house of their fathers they shall camp.

Rashi notes and describes this encampment

Each flag had a symbol and a colored sheet of cloth or map hanging in it. Each one had its own color that was different from the other. The color being the same that each one had as their stone in the breastplate of the high priest. That way each one will know his flag.

The Book of Bamidbar tells how when we left Sinai the most essential way for us to travel was for each of us to have a flag. That each Jew should know that he has a banner, a national banner, a tribal banner, a familial and personal banner that he is part of. Each Jew has his color on the breast plate that is brought before God in the Holy of Holies. Each Jew will always feel the need to connect and be part of that greater camp. For the mission of Shavuot, the mission of Sinai, the mission of our people will only be fulfilled when we are all on the same team. When we stop worrying so much about what other people think about our Judaism, but we are more concerned with answering the real call of our own souls to be better Jews.

Shavuot as well teaches us that sometimes, the Jewish question is not what will inspire us as much as the non-Jewish one. We get so caught up in our inter-Jewish politics we forget about who we are really meant to be and who Hashem has chosen us to be. So we read the story of Rus. The non-Jewish Moabite who sees and appreciates what it means to be Jewish. How it’s not about what I’m not or what others think I am but what I could and am meant to become to fulfill the longing of my soul. It’s mission. She is the heroine of Shavuot as is King David as well her grandson. They didn’t worry what others thought about their legitimacy. Their questionable and challenged roots or conversions. They worried about what they needed to do to become the Jews they needed to become. That is what Shavuot is all about, that is what we celebrate and the energy, resolution and inspiration we are meant to draw from the holiday.

This past week the entire world sat back and saw how the most powerful Nation of the world recognized Yerushalayim as the capital not only of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The world is aching for us to claim it as well. To claim not just our city, our capital, but our mission that we received to accomplish from it. To bring that light to the world. To connect the heavens to the earth. To be the best Jews that Hashem chose us all to be. May we all be inspired this Shavout to do that.

Have an incredible Shabbos and a inspirational Shavuot,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


“A guter yid darf nit kain briv, a shlechten yidden helft nit kain briv.”- A good Jew doesn’t need a letter of recommendation; for a bad one, it would do no good.

answer below at end of Email
Q: It is possible to watch eagles in Israel primarily in:
A. The Hula Agamon
B. The Carmel hai bar
C. The bird sanctuary in Eilat
D. Wadi Kelt


https://youtu.be/DnrH04cu7SE  - Motti Steimetz beautiful rendition (by Rechnitz wedding) of Ko Amar Lechtech Bamidbar-in honor of Parshat Bamidbar

https://youtu.be/vOMmU2vUJQU  - Fantastic song by Zanvil Wienberger- All nations said no to Torah just the Jews in Yiddish but well worth it. Its really all you need for Shavuot!

https://youtu.be/GwcFq2rbCHA  - Hopping new single by Ohad and composed by Eli Klein and Yitz Berry enjoy Livado

https://youtu.be/dJZg8gV-30Q - In honor of Dovid HaMelech Yartzeit his great words- you have overturned my mourning -Hafachta Mispidi done amazing Acapella…

https://youtu.be/SY_v25-dqAo   – Hineni Kaan by Y-Studs in honor of Jerusalem, and its newest world recognition

Parshat Bamidbar- Haftoras can be read on the simple level and one can easily find the connection to the Parsha. Sometimes even in the first verse. But if you dig a little deeper there are many layers of connection you can uncover. All you have to do is pay attention and you may find them.
The first words of the haftora from the book of Hoshea are
Hoshea (2:1) “And the number of the children of Israel will be like the sand of the sea which cannot be measured or counted”
Being that we are beginning the Book of Numbers, Bamidbar, reffered to by our sges as the sefer Pikudim- the book of counting. The first words of the haftora are certainly understandable and appreciated. That although we were numbered and counted, ultimately we the time will come when we will be beyond that.
As well the haftora mentions the midbar- the wilderness in two seemingly opposite contexts. It first describes this vision that Hoshea had where Hashem demands that he abandon his own unfaithful wife and perhaps even illegitimate children, that he had originally been commanded by Hashem to take and produce. Hoshea, through this process understands the depth of love Hashem has for us and how He can never abandon us.
Ibib(2:5) Lest I will unclothe you naked and I will present you like the day you were born and placed you like a wilderness or put you in a parched land and you shall die of thirst.
Hoshea realizes that abandoning his children is like throwing them naked in the wilderness; the Midbar
Later on though he describes how Hashem comes to us, in our terrible state and weds us. He comes to seek us in the midbar.
Ibid (2:16) Therefore, behold, I shall seduce here and I shall lead her in the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart.
Finally this haftora is always read before the holiday of Shavuot, and as we know Shavuot is to a large degree our “wedding” to Hashem. Mt. Sinai is our chuppa over our head. And thus the haftora aptly relates to that as well. As it says
Ibid (2:18) And it will be on that day says Hashem, I will call you my husband and you will not call me my master.
The conclusion of the haftorah is familiar to many men who put on their tefilin/ phylacteries each morning and recite the connecting verses. After we place our hand and our head tefilin we wrap the straps upon our fingers, like a ring almost. We then recite these last words.\
Ibid (2:21-21) And I will betroth you to me forever. And I will betroth you to me with righteousness and with kindness and with mercy. And I will betroth you to me with faith and you shall know Hashem.
The perfect shidduch. When we place that tefilin, that ring upon our finger we have bound ourselves with Hashem. True as Hoshea notes we may not have always been the most faithful wife, ye the love Hashem has for us is there forever. That is the message and the celebration of Shavuot. And that is what we are meant to feel when we read this haftora each year the Shabbos before the holiday.

Hoshaya Ben Be’eri (600-530 BC)- Certainly one of the most fascinating of prophets, the talmud in pesachim tells us that Hoshea prophecized at the same time as Isaiah, Micha and Amos but he was the greatest of all of them. He was a prophet after the division of the 10 Northern tribes from Yehuda and Binyamin in Jerusalem and he lived in the North of Israel. Much of his prophecies revolve around the sin of idolatry that the Jews in the North, whome he refers to as Ephraim, can’t seem to kick and he foretells of the doom that will befall them. He is buried in the old cemetery of Tzfat according to the tradition of the Ari”Zl making it the oldest grave there.


 Ruth- 1290 BC- In America I found that I paid more attention to the reading of the Book of Ruth then I did here in America. See in Israel we have only one day of Yom Tov, the holiday. So after a whole night learning session we have to get it all in Ruth, akdamus, the Ten Commandments, yizkor; it is the davening that never ends. In the US though with two days of chag, we read Ruth on the second day after a good night’s sleep. But here in Israel though I am more in touch with Ruth than there. See because here I can point out and talk about her, more than just on Shavuot. After- all this is where her story takes place.
Where do we mention Rus, the great convert and great grandmother of King David and ultimately Mashiach? Easy. First of all whenever we go to Rachel’s tomb we note that the city of Bethlehem was seemingly a capital city of Israel. Kind of like the Baltimore to the Chevron which was the Washington DC Jewish capital city back then; long before Jerusalem was even in Jewish hands. It is where Elimelech and Naomi lived and where he did not want to help out his community with tzedaka during the famine. As well when I am at various lookout points in Judean desert, it could be Mitzpe Yericho, Mt. Azazel, or even by the road going down from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea- Highway 1, I note that this is the very same path that they took when they came down to Moav, which is today Jordan and the way that Rus returned. We are, to paraphrase Rus going on the “path that you shall walk, I shall walk” It doesn’t get more biblical than that! It is easy to tell that it is the same road, because it is the only break in Mountains- In Hebrew it is called Matzok Ha’Etikim or the separated cliffs, on the long mountain range that goes along the west Bank and the Judean Desert. It is certainly the only path to go to Bethlehem.
As well I mention Ruth whenever we visit farms and we cut wheat or other fruits and we discuss the mitzvos of charity that the farmer fulfills in Israel. Leaving over the corners of his field, and the droppings that would fall or the parts that he forgot. It is these mitzvos that led to Rus gathering in her relatives Boaz’s field and ultimately to their marriage.
Talking about their marriage as well, I mention that whenever we are in the gateway of a biblical period city, such Beer Sheva, Tel Dan, Chatzor or Megiddo and we talk about how the gateway was where the judges sat and was the central gathering place for important functions. Once again the Book of Ruth tells us that Boaz’s redeeming of her and the levirate marriage that he took the place of her deceased husband in place of the other relatives all took place in the sha’ar gateway of the city.
Finally of course whenever we are in Chevron, the city where her grandson King David ruled before Jerusalem for 7 years, we stop off at her grave there, as well as her grandson Yishai, who is next to her. It would seem that Dovid brought her there to be buried in his capital and where she remains until today. Certainly before Shavuot many flock to her grave to pray before we read her  great Book and story. So I may not be awake when they read it in synagogue, but don’t worry we speak about her plenty here in Israel.


A priest, a Pentecostal preacher and a Rabbi all served as chaplains. They would get together two or three times a week for coffee and to talk. One day, someone made the comment that preaching to people isn't really all that hard. A real challenge would be to preach to a bear. One thing led to another and they decided to do an experiment. They would all go out into the woods, find a bear, preach to it, and attempt to convert it.

Seven days later, they're all together to discuss the experience. Father Flannery, who has his arm in a sling, is on crutches, and has various bandages on his body and limbs, goes first. "Well," he says, "I went into the woods to find me a bear. And when I found him I began to read
to him. Well, that bear wanted nothing to do with me and began to slap me around. So I quickly grabbed my holy water, sprinkled him and, Holy Mary Mother of God, he became as gentle as a lamb. The bishop is coming out next week to give him first communion and confirmation."

Reverend Billy Bob spoke next. He was in a wheelchair, with an arm and both legs in casts, and an IV drip. In his best fire and brimstone voice he claimed,
"WELL brothers, you KNOW that we don't sprinkle! I went out and I FOUND me a bear. And then I began to read to my bear from God's HOLY WORD! But that bear wanted nothing to do with me. So I took HOLD of him and we began to wrestle. We wrestled down one hill, UP another and DOWN another until we came to a creek. So I quick DUNKED him and BAPTIZED his hairy soul. And just like you said, he became as gentle as a lamb.

They both looked down at the rabbi, who was lying in a hospital bed. He
was in a body cast and traction with IV's and monitors running in and out
of him. He was in bad shape. The rabbi looks up and says,
"Looking back on it, circumcision may not have been the best way to start." 

Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy.There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal. He would have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy. If the Pope won, they would have to leave or convert. The Jewish people met and picked an aged, but wise, Rabbi Moshe to represent them in the debate. However, as Moshe spoke no Italian and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they all agreed that it would be a "silent" debate.

On the chosen day, the Pope and Rabbi Moshe sat opposite each other. The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Rabbi Moshe looked back and raised one finger. Next ... the Pope waved his finger around his head. Rabbi Moshe pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope then brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. Rabbi Moshe pulled out an apple.
With that, the Pope stood up and declared that he was beaten ... that Rabbi  Moshe was too clever and that the Jews could stay in Italy.
Later, the Cardinals met with the Pope, asking what had happened. The Pope said,
 "First, I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there is still only one God common to both our beliefs. Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He had me beaten at my every move and I could not continue.”
Meanwhile ... the Jewish community was gathered around Rabbi Moshe.
 "How did you win the debate?" they asked. "I haven't a clue," said Moshe. "First he said to me that we had three days to get out of Italy , so I gave him the finger! Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I said to him we're staying right here."

And then what?" asked a woman. "Who knows?" said Moshe, "He took out his lunch so I took out mine."

Abe and Shlomo are strolling down the street one day when they happen to walk by a Catholic Church. They see a big sign posted that says: - ‘CONVERT TO CATHOLICISM AND GET $200.00’
Abe stops walking and stares at the sign.
Shlomo turns to him and says, “Abe, what’s going on?”
“Shlomo,” replies Abe, “I’m thinking of doing it.”
Shlomo says, “What, are you crazy?”
Abe thinks for a minute and says, “Shlomo, I’m going to do it.”
With that, Abe strides purposely into the church and comes out 20 minutes later with his head bowed.
“So,” asks Shlomo, “did you get your $200.00?”
Abe looks up at him and says, “Is that all you people think of?”

Yankel Cohen decided he’s had enough of Judasim and its poverty and its associated persecution so he converts and decided to become a priest. After months of study he is finally ready and he gets up to give his first Mass in front of a number of high ranking priests who came for the occasion.
At the end of the new priest's sermon, a cardinal goes up to congratulate him.
"Pastor Cohen," he said, "That was very well done, you were just perfect. But next time, please don't start your sermon with, "Fellow Goyim..."

Christine and Daniel fall in love and decide to get married - but only on condition that Christine becomes Jewish. So she goes to see Rabbi Levy for some advice.
Rabbi Levy tells her, "You will have to learn how to keep a kosher home, light shabbes candles, keep two sets of crockery and a few other simple things."
"That sounds easy to me, rabbi," says Christine, "I can easily do that."
Then Rabbi Levy says, "The last thing is, you must go to a mikva."
"A mikva?"
says Christine, "what's that?"
"It's a pool of water,"
answers Rabbi Levy, "and you must immerse yourself completely for a few seconds."
"I'm sorry, rabbi, but I have a phobia about putting my head underwater. I'll go into the water up to my chin but I won’t put my head under the water. Will that be OK?"
"I suppose it will do
," replies Rabbi Levy, "you’ll be mostly Jewish but you will still have a 'Goyisha kop'."

Answer is A – This is a confusing question that the consensus on my tour guide whatsapp group that I posed it to seems to think they – as in the ministry of tourism- who wrote this exam messed up. As far as all can agree there is no eagle lookout place in Israel. The Eagles are not indigenous to here and one would probably see them migrating either in Eilat or Hula where the migration goes through. And being that one can’t choose both answers so that is not what they meant. The other option is that there are places where one can see vultures in Israel they are raised in Gamla and Mt. Carmel by the Hai- Bar animal reserve. That is probably what they meant as the right answer. But they wrote eagle instead of Vulture because in old biblical texts and even English translation the word nesher- as in Hashem will bring us on the “wings of ______” the blank is usually entered as eagles. That’s wrong though. Eagles are not neshers, vultures are. Vultures have the longest wingspan and are the highest flying bird. All of the signs our sages tell us about the nesher fit with vultures and not eagles. So the MOT must have google translated or something nesher and came up with eagle instead of vulture. I dunno… but definitely I believe anyone who took this exam should get credit for this question.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Uncle Mendy-Parshat Bechukosai 2018/5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
May 11th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 2th Iyar 5778
Parshat Bechokotai
{Behar and Bechukotai - for Diaspora}
Dear Uncle Mendy…
Dear Uncle Mendy,

As I write these final words to you, I’m picturing myself standing in front of your aron-your coffin. What are you doing there? How can you be there? You always told me that “Ephraim I’ll always be there for you”? So where are you now when we need you so much? How do you just leave us like that?

It was just two months ago when you sent me an E-Mail “Call Me”. When I did, you told me how we don’t spend enough time together. How you want to see the children. How you come in all the time and we never get a chance to spend the time like we used to. To see my children- your brother Olav hashalom- O”BM - my father’s grandchildren. Can we come for Shabbos? Can we spend it with you? I told you how incredible that would be and that I would make it happen.

After I hung up the phone I told my wife about the call. It was strange. We always had a love relationship. I always knew that I could call you and that you would take time and listen to me. But a whole Shabbos together? By your request? Where you sick? Where you dying? I was nervous.

 We had the Shabbos of our life with you that weekend. You told us stories of Babby and Zaydy, of my father. You played and talked to the kids. Yelled at me a bit about my shlumpy shirt. It was the greatest Shabbos, we could have had. My children could’ve had with their famous Uncle Mendy. He wasn’t Klal Yisrael’s Uncle Mendy that Shabbos. He was ours. He was the Uncle Mendy of my childhood. The one that I remember would visit us in Detroit. That we went to Cleveland to play with. That wouldn’t’ stop singing up my bar mitzva drasha until my Savta held a seltzer shpritz bottle to his head.

After Shabbos we went for a walk and you told me how much that Shabbos meant to you. How wonderful it was. How we had to do it again. I told you, that I really didn’t want to mention it but the truth is I was nervous the whole Shabbos that you had some bad news to tell me. Who knows some terminal illness or something god forbid. You smiled and told me that it is was a shame that we don’t’ do this often enough. And we will…

I told you then that you were my link to myMesora-my heritage and tradition. You were the person I looked up to convey all that my father never had the ability to, that Babbi and Zaydie never could or did tell us. So where are you now? Why are you in this Aron?

You used to tell me that you loved Eretz Yisrael. It was the most special place in the world to you. You would move here tomorrow even, you told me. There’s one problem however, you said. There are Israelis that live there….
 So now you are here with all the Israelis. Here on Har Menuchos. The last place I think any of us ever thought that you would be so soon.

You would sit on your porch in Rechavia and you would plan out your “golden years”. You didn’t have big plans for those years. You just wanted to sit on that porch and look out at Hashem’s beautiful land, His country, His city and His people… You wanted to bask in the glow of an oilam misukan b’malchus shadai- a world that had been made complete with the Kingdom of Hashem. But that world wasn’t complete yet. There was still too much pain, too much suffering, too much poverty, not enough Torah. You couldn’t sit on that porch of yours because you understood that Hashem had made you his gabbai on this world to fix it. And if you’re the gabbai of Hakodosh Baruch Hu, then you can’t just sit on the porch and enjoy your small little piece of heaven. Hashem didn’t bless you with what he gave you so you could make yourself a nice little home. He gave it to you because He wanted to make Him that home.

You would tell me that in the early years of your life, of your business, you worked for your family. Once you didn’t have to do that anymore, then unlike most people that would just sit back and enjoy, you understood that now you were working for Klal Yisrael. To pay the bills that they couldn’t pay, to provide the services that they couldn’t afford to provide, to heal the people that no one else even would admit needed to be healed.

Now unlike most people that are working for someone else’s good; someone that is employed in the non-profit world that would put in their hours and then come home to sleep. You felt an even bigger acharayus-responsibility in being the Parnas Hador then you did when you were working for your own good and family’s needs.

 I remember by Dina’s and Shmullys wedding the next morning, after a night of dancing all night, you came down to shacharis and I said to you. “Nuuu.. gut Gshloffen-did you sleep good?” You responded in words that I thought were just a joke “Oib ich shluf- Iz shoin gut-if I sleep, it’s already good”. Little did I know or perhaps even you knew, how true those words were and would be even more so in the future. Normally when I called America I have to wait for American hours. Morning time here in Israel which is 2,3, 4 ,5 AM in the States is not a time when I could talk to anyone. Except you… You were there in the evening hours as well… You were always there. Except of course when you were flying all over, which was also quite often. But even then. It was “Ephraim I’m getting on a place call me in an hour or two hours when I land.” You never slept, you had too much to do.

So how is it that you are sleeping now? I know you would say that after 120 you’ll be able to sleep. You still owe us 55 years. Hashem’s world still needs to be fixed. I still need you. Doda Ita needs you, your most loved possessions in the whole world Edna -Emir, Shmully-Dina, Yoni-Sho and Nati and Channy need you. You’re grandchildren who you loved more than anything and your great grandchild that will never know his Zaydi Zaydi all need you.

Your brother, my father, Yonah olav hashalom made you promise that you would take care of Me and Gitty. That you would always be there for us. And you were. You walked down my Chupa, you were by my simchas, by my Yonah’s Bris in New York and his Bar Mitzva in Israel. You walked down my Shanis chupa and danced all night long with me there. You even flew in a month ago for my first grandchild’s bris where you handed the baby to my father who was the Sandek. My father who you always called your brother, as my mother was always your shvester your sister.
You were there for Gitty’s Simchas as well, her chasuna, her bar mitzvas, just a week and a half ago you called her and told her how much nachas you got when Aron Shlomo and Noson- Chanies husband.- I’m just saying that because you probably forgot his name. You were never great with names. You always had Doda Ita to remind you. - But you told her how much nachas you had and how much it meant to you that they came to kever of Babby and Zaiydi for the yartzeit.

Yes you were there for us always. But your job was not done. Your promise has not been fulfilled. We still need you. We have more simchas I”YH that we need you to be by. More chupas more brisim. More uncomfortable speeches that we need you to make and break down crying for in middle. As you would get all choked up knowing that you were the representative of my father, of Babby and Zaydie. That you were the person that was charged with being there for all of us. So how can you not be here? How can you be in this aron? How could Hashem have taken you so soon, so young, when there was so much you still had to do…

Shlomo Hamelech in Mishlei tells us “tzedaka tatzil mimaves-charity saves one from death”. Was there a greater Baal Tzedaka? I have read many obituaries and they all start off Reb Mendy Klein “askan-community activist”. They didn’t know you. They didn’t know that you were not really an askan. That you were a guy that liked to sit in the back of the shteeble with the “boys”. That you were never the macher or the person that even sought to be “Oisek b’tzarchei tzibur-deal with the communal needs”. There are other people like that. They seek the limelight, they seek the hock, the tumult, the negotiations, the politics. That wasn’t you. You would’ve been more than happy to sit on your porch, to learn with your grandchildren, to just be together with the love of your life.

No you weren’t an askan. You were a ranchman-one who was filled with compassion. You were someone that couldn’t bear to see people in pain, people in need, people that were suffering. You used to tell me that your objective was to put Tzvi Gluck-the founder of the organization that meant so much to you that helped children that had been abused, out of business. To even put the poverty crisis in Eretz Yisrael out of business- which would mean most tzedaka organizations- by providing people the tools and skills that they needed with Temech and other organizations. You wanted to put tuition crisis’s that are eating up American families out of business by getting legislation passed, and other means. This was not askanus. This was rachmanus. This was someone who couldn’t bear to see others in tzar-in pain. So where is the tzedaka that is tatzil mimaves? Is it perhaps that maves doesn’t mean physical death? That there are many people with so much money and no joy in life because they hoard it and they are to a large degree “Walking Dead” Reshaim afilu bachayehem nikraim meisim- the wicked even when they are alive are considered dead. And that you recognized that tzedaka is what gives you life in this world. It is what you are living for. It saves you from the ‘living death’ of one who does not use what he is given to bring more life into the world. To bring more of the shechina-the Divine presence into world.

The Gemara in Avoda Zara tells us that the world was created for 6000 years. The first 2000 is tohu-empty and barren. The second 2000 is era of torah and the third 2000 that we are now in is yemos hamashiach-the days of the coming of Mashiach. The Gaon of Vilna in shir hashirim explains that the world stands on three things torah avoda and gmilus chesed and after we were thrown out of our land weno longer have torah as it says in Eicha Malka vsarahea bagoyim ein torah- Her (Jerusalem’s)kings and princes are in the nations- there is no Torah  . We don’t have the temple service anymore, as prayer is merely in place of avoda, All that remains is gemilus chesed as chazal say when the Temple was destroyed the rabbis were scared the world wouldn’t be able to stand and Reb Yochanan Ben Zakai said we still have chesed. These last 2000 years, the force and power that will bring Mashiach is the koach hachesed. It is the aovda of the generation, and you were that paradigm. That’s what is holding the world up. That’s how you were holding the world up.

But it wasn’t just the tzedaka you gave. It was how you gave it. With humility, without the one thing that you hated more than anything and that was kavod-honor. You ran from it. You would tell me that your policy was that an organization that put your name on it when you wrote them a check would be the last check they received from you. I, as many, were in shock to see the recent ads honoring you from a major national organization. Many people told me that they had never even heard of you until that ad came out. It was the first time that I could remember that you had agreed to allow yourself to be “honored.  Although I know that you didn’t feel it was and that it went against every grain in your body. I told myself that the only reason you would even be willing to be moser nefesh-sacrifice your soul for your precious ideal- and I truly feel that you felt that way, by allowing yourself to be honored was because you felt that it would give the largest platform to stand up and talk about an issue that you felt needed to be talked about. Little did you or anyone know that it ultimately in fact become mesirus nefesh mamash-literally be the sacrifice of your life. 
How can it be that one of the greatest donors in Klal Yisrael and most people outside of Cleveland  and who aren’t in the fundraising business don’t even know who you are? It’s because Hashem granted you that wish that you should be able to maintan your matan b’seser-your hidden gifts. Your hatzne lechet, your humility and modesty.

You passed away on Lag Ba’omer. It is the day after the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died 2000 years ago. Those students our sages tell us were niftar because they weren’t noheg kavod zeh bazeh-they did not treat each other with honor. They worried too much about their own kavod-honor and couldn’t see the kavod in the other. They were niftar in the first 32 days of the Omer counting-32 in fact being the gematria of the word Kavod. Lag Ba’omer is the day that it all ended. It is when the light of Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai shined through the world. Rebbi Shimon was the one who saw in each Jew the ben melech-the prince. The most drunk bresalver dancing in the street is a ben melech, the persecuted, the distant, the Russians so far from yiddishkeit they are all benei melachim-princes. And he was repaired that flaw. Rebbi Shimon didn’t seek kavod himself, because he was too busy finding it and bringing it out in everyone else, and he continues to do that until today… That is the day that Hashem took you from us. What more appropriate day for the man who ran from kavod and brought out the ben melech in everyone he could find.

A rosh yeshiva told me that he wanted to write a thank you letter to Uncle Mendy after he received a generous donation and the check stated that all correspondence should go to the person who handled the checks. No letters of thanks were even permitted to go to him. He wasn’t the one giving the donation, he was merely the shaliach-the messenger of Hashem. In that way you were truly like Moshe Rabbeinu who has the same shoresh neshoma-“soul spark” as Rebbi Shimon, an eved Hashem- a true dedicated servant, a shaliach who saw himself merely being charged with handing out the blessing Hashem gave him. You didn’t feel you even deserved thanks or appreciation. It wasn’t your money it was the money Hashem gave you to disburse and fix the world with.

How can it be that someone who was so dedicated to the mitzva of kibud av v’eim-Honoring ones parents, was not meritorious enough to be maarich shanim-lengthy years as well as yamim-days on this world. Babbi and Zaydi were your life. There wasn’t a thing you wouldn’t do for them. There wasn’t an indignity you wouldn’t endure- you would even scoff and be baffled that it would be considered anything less than the kavod Hashechina-the honor of the Divine  when you would serve them. You understood intrinsically that kibud av veim is on the side of the luchos Ten Commandments that is bein adam lamakom-between Man and God because you saw in your parent the shechina mamash. The mesirus nefesh they had, the hell they survived for you, their unwavering faith In Hashem that they transmitted to you was the Shechina itself. And you served them like  the Kohen gadol, the High Priest, in the Beis Hamikdash. How little we are compared to you in the way you fulfilled that mitzvah? How much you serve as role model that I don’t even think any of us can even come close to attaining.

The love and dedication you had in fulfilling that promise you made to Zaydi and Babbi that you would always take care of your sister Agi. How you never left her, how you supported and continue to support her. How you were her rock, her whole world. How her children, Ami, Yael and Yoni, like Me, Gitty and Rivky and Gedalia were like your own children. How you shepped so much nachas, gave so much of yourself and your resources because you always said that family is the most important of all. How can you leave us? We are orphaned, a second time. You were all that was left for Doda Agi, You were supposed to be there always…

I never knew my father. You were that figure that connected me to him, that I saw him in, that would connect me to Babbi and Zaydi and all of the generations of our mesora. You were the Ish Hamesora. You were the bridge that infused in everything you did an awe of gedolim our religious leaders,, of rabbanim, of rebbes. You were the only living person that I could turn to find out what our minhag-family custom was. What Zaydi did, what he would say. Now you are part of that mesora that I have to pass on and I don’t know it enough and never will…

The only answer to how you can be there in that aron in front of me, Uncle Mendy, is perhaps in that other great monument that was connected to your neshoma-your holy soul. Mama Rachel. Rachel was buried on the side of the road in order to be mispalel, to pray, for her children. To bring them out of  our long and bitter Exile,our galus, to bring the geula-our redemption. Rachel Immeinu touched you more than anything because you also cried for Hashem’s children. You also felt that immense agonizing never-ending pain of the downtrodden, the tzaar of a galus too too long. Hashem is misaveh betifilasam shel tzadikim- He is desirous of the prayers of the righteous and particularly Mama Rachel who unlike everyone else refuses to stop crying, refuses to stop working, refuse to loz up as long as there is still pain in this world. Perhaps, perhaps Hashem needed you to continue your work right next to our Mama. To keep turning up the tears to cry, to feel, to agonize, to implore and to never let anyone- even the basheffer, our Creator, say that it can’t be done, the time is not right.

So Uncle Mendy, your 120 years are not up yet. You can’t yet sleep, You can’t yet shluf, You are still on the job. Daven and cry, daven with Zaydi, with Babbi, with my father OB”M.. Daven for your children, for you einiklach, for me for Gitty, for Rivky and Gedalia. Daven for my mother your shvester and for my father your brother.

Daven for doda Agi, her pain is so great you have left her so lonely. For Ami, Yael for Yoni. Never stop davening and crying for Doda Ita. She was your life, your queen your partner your truest eizer knegdo. She needs you to comfort her, to console her, to be there with her always.

We are still so far from the tikun Olam that you wanted and needed. Klal Yisrael has so many tzrachim, so much tzar and pain still. Your job is not over. You have left the greatest yorshim inheritors with the greatest yerusha-inheritance, possible. They will have you in front of their eyes every day in the same way that you had Zaydi in front of yours. They will carry on your torch here in this world. And in that you have completed that job.
So maybe you are here in this aron because this is the only place that you can really bring the tikun to the whole world from. And if that’s the case Uncle Mendy, then as painful as it is and as empty as I feel… I can then say good bye,
I will love you always, and I ask your forgiveness, although I know that anything that we ever argued and fought about it was only because of the love we had for one another. But I ask you and beg you anyways. Because I miss you so so much.
Your nephew Ephraim.

This week’s Torah portion, the one that reconnects us to our brothers in the Diaspora contains the Torah portion that describes the frightening portion of the admonition that we are given if we don’t follow the mitzvos, if we don’t cherish the holiness of the land of Israel, if we don’t consider our obligations to take the blessing of the land Hashem has given us and share it with the needy. The warnings are graphic, they are scary. We have seen the fulfillment of many of them. This is what we are told to read before the holiday of Shavuot because, Shavuot is the time of Judgement for the trees of the Land. We read this, as we do the other admonition in Devarim before Rosh Hashana, so that “the year and its curse should end”. Shavuot shall come and we will read the Book of Ruth, the book of kindness, charity and compassion. In that book the spark of Mashiach is found. May Uncle Mendy’s passing inspire each of us to bring out that spark in each other, and may we finally bring that perfect world that he is now working upstairs as well to achieve speedily in our days.

Have a inspired Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Der toit klapt min nit oiffen tir”- Death does not knock on the door”

answer below at end of Email
Q: A stamen is:
A. The organ of the flower that produces the pollen
B. The name of an insect that helps pollination
C. The part that connects the flower to the stem
D. The pollen


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGLA79z_Brk   - a beautiful shabbis medley including Kah Echsoif…My Uncle Mendy would’ve loved this

https://youtu.be/M9mdDWCtXQ8 - Beautiful eulogies from his grandchildren

https://vimeo.com/amudim - Links to other friends and family members eulogies

https://youtu.be/wjm1yLVds5A  – My good friend the Rechnitz twins against the LA Lakers! At least something up beat!


Bechukosai- As the Parsha that we read has the power to speak to whatever we undergo, it is like the heavenly newspaper to understand and focus on what is happening in our day to day life. This haftora as well serves that same function. So as I read the Haftora, this week, which certainly connects to the Parsha and its words of rebuke, warning, and exhortation to have faith in rough and challenging times. I see those same words screaming to me from the Haftorah that truly embody much of my Uncle’s life.
Jeremiah 17:7-8. Blessed is the man who trusts in the G‑d, to whom G‑d will be his trust. For he shall be like a tree planted by the water, and which spreads its roots out into a stream, so it will not be affected when heat comes, and its leaves shall be green, and in the year of drought will not be anxious, neither shall it cease from bearing fruit."
I wonder about his place right now and I read the words of the prophet that tells us
I, the Lord, search the heart, test the kidneys, to give everyone according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.
Each person receives what is coming to him. Hashem sees the inside, the kishkas, not what is the outside. Only Hashem needs to know of the hidden kindness and will reward him undoubtedly.

Yirmiyahu then contrasts people that make their money unjustly, how the die at half their age… Yes he did die very young, but the prophet then tells us their death is one that is ignoble and dishonored in the end. Uncle Mendy’s departing with 1000’s of mourners around the world was anything but ignoble. In fact it was perhaps more honor that he ever had in his entire life.
His death the prophet tells us
As a Throne of Glory, exalted from the beginning, so is the place of our Sanctuary.
It is the honor of Hashem. That is all he lived for and that is the conclusion of the hafotrah and the prayers he is saying for our people up in heaven
Heal me, Hashem, then shall I be healed; help me, then I shall be helped, for You are my praise!
Yes the haftorah is a way to be consoled and finding meaning and messages for our personal lives.


In honor of my Uncle I include this oldie with a few new details

 Rachel’s Tomb- PART II 1550BC- It was just a few years ago that I remember going to Rachel’s Tomb on the side of the road in the streets of Beit Lechem. The bus would drop us off in the front and we went in. The arabs outside didn’t bother us. They tried to sell us stuff. After Bibi Netanyahu in the Wye agreements of 1998 gave the city to the Palestian authority that he had created and armed and pretty much forbade Jews from going there it was downhill from there. The Arabs emboldened by this free gift which was perceived as Israeli weakness made the place difficult to get to, unsafe and it was cordoned off ultimately.
One day about 12 years ago it was visited by my Uncle Mendy. He saw the place was full of garbage and when he inquired about its state he was told that there was a strike. It was unexceptable that the “Mama” should be so desecrated and under Israeli control to add insult to injury. He immediately got a private garbage truck to collect it all. That first step led to a long 7 year journey of rehabilitation of the building to its glorious structure that it is today. One of his conditions of the construction was that no prayers should ever be interrupted. The building and construction had to work around the worshippers. The “Mama” was never to be closed for business. As well he funded the Kollel that would study there all day. The Mama should always have the sound of Torah near here.
A few years back, he saw some Torah scrolls for sale at Soethebys auction. He was not a collector of Judaica, but these ancient scrolls that date back 700-800 years to the times of Maimonides, touched something in him. He was scared that they would fall in the hands of non-Jews or others that might not treat with the reverence and dignity that they deserve. So they were bought and brought to the Mama’s house to watch over them.
Today when you go to Kever Rachel and pray to our Mama, please have in mind the soul of the man who restored the dignity to her and to the tens of thousands that come to bring our prayers and tears to add to hers before Hashem. Reb Menachem Moshe ben Naftali Hertzka, I promise to always tell your story when I am there.

PART I (from a previous week)
Where is the tomb of Rachel? Most people would seem to say that is quite obvious right outside of modern day Beit Lechem where it says here tomb is. The truth is upon looking at the sources it might seem not so simple. On the one hand the Torah tells us that Rachel died on the way to Efrat which is Beit Lechem. In the South of Jerusalem. On the other hand in the book of Shmuel it mentions that the tomb of Rachel is on the border of the tribe of Binyamin which would put it in the North of Jeursalem. As well the Midrash notes that Rachel was buried there to cry for her children when they would be exiled from Jerusalem by Nevuchadnezzar. If that were true then she would be in the North of Jerusalem as that is the direction they were exiled- not South. So there are those that place it near Har Choma in the North of Jerusalem. Earliest sources for our location of Kever Rachel are Christian interestingly enough that mention the tomb there. We have some of the Rishonim and early journeyers to Eretz Yisrael that describe the building as having 12 stones according to the tribes of Israel that were established there and how visitors would write their names on the walls.
The Ramban- Nachmanides is perhaps most interesting in where he originally felt it was in the North of Jerusalem but upon coming to Israel and visiting the site, he changed his mind. Maybe he felt her spirit. Regardless Kever Rachel today is certainly one of the most holy places to pray in Israel. I always like to point out to people that Rachel is buried there to pray for the redemption. That is what she is crying for. It is therefore only appropriate that when we come there to pray for whatever it is that we daven for, that we as well pray for the Geula, the redemption, Mashiach and the return of our people to our home. That is what the Mama is crying for, shouldn’t we….


Berel went on vacation and asked Yankel to watch over his house. About a week later, Berel calls home and asked "How's my cat?"

Yankel hesitated and sadly told Berel his cat died.

"What?! You shouldn't have broken the news to me like that! You should have done it slowly. The first time I called, you should have told me she was on the roof. The second time I called, you should have said there was no way to get her down. The third time I called, you should have told me that you tried to get her off the roof, but she fell down and died," explained Berel
Bobby apologized and went about his day.

About a week later, Berel called again and asked "How's my Granny?"

There was a long silence and then Yankel replied. "Well, she's on the roof
Hillary Clinton goes to a psychic who tells her: "Prepare yourself for widowhood ... Your husband is about to die a violent death."
Mrs. Clinton takes a deep breath and replies: "Will I be acquitted?"

Zaydie Moishe is lying on his deathbed with his children, grandchildren, and older great-grandchildren all around, teary-eyed at the approaching finale of a very long and productive life. The old man is in a terminal coma, and the doctors have confirmed that the waiting will be over within the next twenty-four hours. Suddenly, the old man opens his eyes and croaks: "I must be dreaming of heaven! I smell your grandmother's strudel!"

"No, grandfather, you are not dreaming. Grandmother is baking strudel now."

"I know I will never have another taste of her delicious strudel after this one. Could you please go down and get me a piece?
", the old man begs with what is left of his final breath.

One of the grandchildren is immediately dispatched to honor the old man's last request. After a long time, he returns empty-handed.

"Did you bring me one last piece of your grandmother's delicious strudel?" the old man asks.

"I'm very sorry, Zayide, but she says it's for the Shiva."

The Kollel Rabbis were discussing the unforeseen possibility of their sudden death. The leader of the discussion said, " We will all die some day, and none of us really know when, but if we did we would all do a better job of preparing ourselves for that inevitable event."

"Everybody shook their heads in agreement with this comment."

Then the leader said to the group, "What would you do if you knew you only had 4 weeks of life remaining before your death, and then the Great Judgment Day?"

A gentleman said, "I would go out into my community and do outreach work to those that do not yet know how special Hashem is."

"Very good!", said the Rabbi, and all the others agreed, that would be a very good thing to do.

One Rabbi then spoke up and said enthusiastically, "I would dedicate all of my remaining time to giving charity and helping the poor and the needy."

"That"s wonderful!" the Rabbi again commented, and all the Rabbis agreed, that would be a very good thing to do.

But one little tzadk in in the back finally spoke up loudly and said, "I would go to my shviggers (mother-in-laws) house for the 4 weeks."

Everyone was puzzled by this answer, and the group leader ask, "Why your mother-in-law's home?"

"Because that will make it the longest 4 weeks of my life!"

Answer is A – This one was also pretty easy. Not that I would know what the part of the flower that produces pollen is called if you asked me on the street. However for a multiple choice question it was easy. Now in my course we learned botany, although I forgot most of it, except the avocadoes J… but the course was in Hebrew, so I knew what avkan was-the thing that produced ivka-which is pollen, like the word avak which is dust and a Talmudic word. But when you use process of deduction it’s pretty easy. It’s not an insect. Never heard of such an insect. It’s definitely not pollen. And it just didn’t seem like the part that connected the flower to stem. Not that I know what that is… but I couldn’t imagine that they would even bother teaching us that. Do you know what the part that connects flower to stem is. Bowl of chulent to the one who answers first.