Our view of the Galile

Friday, December 2, 2016

Big Red- Toldos 5777 /2016

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

December 2nd 2016 -Volume 7 Issue 6 2nd Kislev 5777
Parshat Toldot
It wasn’t easy getting a hold of us in yeshiva. This was of course in the pre-historic period before the advent of cell phones. The method to communicate with your children was via the yeshiva pay phone. Those were those primitive boxes hung on the wall which you would have to insert money into in order to dial out. If you were lucky they worked. We had telephone cards to dial long-distance with. But for our parents trying to reach us they would have to call and call and hope that somebody would answer and then if they did hope that they would go get your yeshiva student to come to the phone. For that to happen there need to be a conflux of coincidences. 1) He had to know who your son was- a real problem for a quiet, unassuming, shy guy like me. OK maybe that wasn’t such a problem. 2) The guy that answered the phone had to be motivated enough to run around yeshiva trying to find you. Again, very hopeful. 3) He wouldn’t get distracted and caught up in an important conversation in the interim, like what are they serving for lunch. Is it pizza? If it was, chances are you will be on hold for a long time. 4) Your son was actually in Yeshiva that day and not playing hooky. Something my parents never had to worry about, of course.
My mother had it a little harder than most. For although most people in yeshiva knew who I was, despite my quiet nature, they didn’t really know my name. See in yeshiva I was Schwartzy, not Ephraim Schwartz that I was called by my bris. Most guys were not called by their bris names, maybe it was the bad memories. So when my mother would call and ask for Ephraim Schwartz, inevitably the reply she would get was “Who?!!” in the best scenario. In other cases when it was more knowledgeable guys who answered and just picked up the phone by mistake, or were waiting for an incoming call for themselves and were regretting having answered it the response would be a decisive “there is nobody here by that name.”
My mother wised up though and I’ll never forget the time when she called and asked “Can I please speak with Schwartzy?” The guy that answered the phone asked who this was calling and when my mother answered him. He expressed his wonderment and awe. “You also call him Schwartzy!?!”
Yeah we all had nicknames back in the day. There was T.T. which I still have no idea what it stands for. In camp I was called Pacman, something about me eating up all the food.  One of the stranger names was a freind of mine who we called Grebdlog Oidar- which was our ‘backwards’ way of talking about the illegal contraband that he had hidden in yeshiva (read it backwards). Just the other week I was in Amuka and I bumped into someone who surprisingly looked quite familiar, after-all it was only about 40 years or so since we had last seen each other, back in Camp Gan Israel. But you know what they say about people that served time in the ‘camps’. You never forget your former cell-mates. He started calling me Zaidy right there in Amuka and singing the song that I was nicknamed after having made it famous; ”Shake it up Zaidy”.

Nicknames were cool. They were our way of naming each other, something we were not given any say in. Some of our nicknames annoyed our parents, which were even more of a reason to use them. We had nicknames for our teachers as well. Those we would never say out loud. As I said we lived in the corporal punishment era. We knew that although sticks and stones might break your bones but nicknames- particularly for our teachers could really hurt us.
Why am I focused on nicknames this week? Besides the fact that this guy started singing the “zaidy” song to me. Why this week’s Torah portion of course. For the Torah goes out of its way to tell us the nickname that was given to one of the most important people and nations of history. Certainly the one that we currently, according to our sages, have been living and more often than not suffering under for the past two millennia. I’m referring of course to none other than our Uncle Eisav or as the Torah tells us they called him “Edom” or “Red”.
Now I consider myself the king of making up nicknames. Ask my kids Henrietta pooperstock (Shani), Joey Gunga (Yonah) Abecasis (Rivkah) Elka-loosh- you figure that one out and Harry Hertzka (Naftali “Tully” Hertzka). I know my sister Gitty thinks she’s just a good with her names pootchie pootchie koosh koosh mookie boing boing or something like that. But that just sounds Chinese- apologies to all my far-east readers. But “Red” seems like kind of a simple name. I mean he was born a redhead, the Torah tells us, so that would make it pretty obvious. But it seems that he was not given that moniker for his obvious “gingy” status. He was also born pretty hairy and one of the names given to him was in fact Sei’ir or Harry; also not necessarily quite an original name. But the Torah actually tells us that he didn’t receive his nickname until he was a teenager. I guess that’s generally when he went to yeshiva and was given his name by his friends, or in Eisav’s case thrown out of yeshiva. The Torah however tells us that he was called Eisav after the day that he came home tired and wiped out and asked his brother who seemed to be cooking some lentil soup-although I always like to think of it as chulent. But I like to think of everything as chulent J. He turned to his brother, our grandfather Yaakov and asked him
Bereshit (25:30) pour me (into my mouth) from this red-red because I am tired- Therefore they called his name “Edom-Red”
I always believed that nicknames are important, but one has to ask the Torah why do we care what his nickname was. Does it really matter? And smack in middle of the story. As well why is he named after the color of the soup that he asked for? As I noted there were more obvious reasons to call him that particularly his red complexion and hair.
The truth is the entire story seems like a strange story. After-all Yaakov we are told rather than help his starving exhausted brother seems quite devious, using the opportunity to ask Eisav to sell him his birthright in exchange for the soup. Eisav, obviously being given an offer he doesn’t seem to be in a position to refuse-I’ve been that hungry sometimes, I can relate, I’ve been known to offer to sell some of my kids for a shwarma in a pita-just joking...nothing less than a laffa. Eisav responds, “I’m going to die, and what do I need this birthright for.”  Yaakov makes him take an oath. He swears. And it tells us Yaakov gives him bread, and the bean soup which probably wasn’t chulent- for as the Torah tell us, rather than doing what is usually done after one is tired and eats a bowl of chulent, which is to lie down and crash on the couch, Eisav gets up and goes out and mocks the birthright.
The questions around this story are pretty obvious. Why is Yaakov taking advantage of his poor hungry brother? How can you sell a birthright? I imagine Eisav could have gotten himself a good Jewish lawyer to claim that the entire deal was obviously under duress. And why do we care what they were eating? Perhaps even stranger is the epilogue of this story at the end of the Parsha when Yaakov at his mother’s behest dresses himself up, goat-hair sleeves and all, to get the first-born blessings from his poor blind father Yitzchak. Yitzchak detects something is wrong by Yaakov’s voice yet rather than call someone in to identify him he gives the blessings to Yaakov. When Eisav walks in afterwards, our sages tell us that Yitzchak saw Gehenom open up below him. Now the question besides what is going on here that bothered me is REALLY?!? How could Yitzchak not tell? I mean we have all these stories of these great Rabbis like the Ari”Zl that can tell who you are before you even walk in the room and what you dreamed last night. How could Yitzchak be so oblivious to what was going on? What was he even thinking in the first place to give the blessings to Eisav. I mean didn’t he know what a juvenile delinquent he was. A murderer, a rapist, a hunter- definitely a Republican J.
The answer I believe can be found in the entire middle of the story of our Parsha. Yitzchak is a farmer and someone who digs wells. What is a farmer and a well-digger?They are someone who can see and actually are experts at finding and revealing the potential that others cannot see. If you show me a seed, I will try to eat it or sprinkle it on my pizza- I have become that Israeli. A farmer though sees a crop. If I see someone digging, burying and pouring water on said-seed, to me that is the end of it. Yet the farmer knows that from there will sprout forth fruit. Same thing with wells. Dig, dig, dig, dirt dirt dirt seemingly a waste of time. But the well digger knows that underneath all that shmutz lies the fountain of life. mayim- agua. You just need to look beyond the surface.
Yitzchak of course knows what Eisav is on the outside. Yet he believes that to reveal Hashem in this world one must be capable of getting down in the mud, something that Yaakov who was the nice little yeshiva boy would never be able to. He was right about that. It was what Eisav’s job was supposed to be. In fact Rabbi Yonasan Eibieshitz suggests that on a spiritual level Yitzchak saw the holy converts that were meant to descend from Eisav that would do precisely that. Shmaya and Avtalayon the great leaders in the Mishna period and teachers of Hillel, Unkelos- who’s Temple period translation of the Torah is basic reading each week and the great Rabbi Meir. (I will not write Ivanka in the same sentence-no offense). Yet Yaakov knew that Yitzchak had it wrong about this guy. He knew it because Eisav’s name was “Red”.
When I walk into the house and smell something good, the first thing I would ask is what is this? Oh it’s chulent. Oh it’s steak. Oh it’s soup. Really what type of soup? Lentil soup. That sounds delicious can I have some. The Torah tells us specifically what Yaakov is cooking. Yet Esau never asks. He doesn’t even see what it is he is eating. All he sees is red. The surface. He sees it twice. Red-red. Yaakov is not sure about this. Maybe he’s just hungry. Maybe Eisav can be shaken awake. He asks him if would sell his birthright- that special divine mandate that has been passed down from Avraham to their father Yitzchak to light up the darkness of the world, to find the hidden sparks of holiness and reveal the divinity in Creation. Yet Eisav responds at age 15 that he is going to die and life is meaningless. He wasn’t as much hungry- it doesn’t even tell us he was hungry. It says he was tired. But not go-to-sleep-hit-the-sack tired as it obvious that he gets up and heads right back out after eating his bowl of chulent. He was tired of life. Not interested in digging, in revealing, in uplifting in our partnership with Hashem, our birthright. He is Red. The epitome of surface. It wasn’t a nickname he was given when he was born. In fact the name Eisav not only means asui- fully finished but can also be read asu- make- do- work. There were big plans for this boy. But he is ayeif tired. He chooses to only see the surface. He’s Red.
Our sages tell us that each Jewish name contains in it the essence of what our soul is meant to accomplish. The letters of the name, the definition and the numerical value they are all the divine DNA that make up who we are, what talents and gifts we were given, what are particular personal role in this world is meant to be and our strengths and weaknesses that will challenge us in accomplishing that. The nicknames we have are the short cuts. The surface definition that might just latch onto our externalities but will never come close to guiding us into becoming who we are meant to be. We are living in the world and exile of Esau. The red world. The world that seems to be obsessed with externalities. how it looks, what is politically correct. It doesn't make a difference what is on the inside, all that matters is how we can spin it. That is not Hashems world. That is not the name Yaakov and Yisrael that we are meant to reveal. May each of us live up to that name, realize its potential. After-all our grandfather traded a bowl of chulent for that right.

 Have a perfect Shabbos!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


https://youtu.be/8tIAaMOpKEQ -Elka’s favorite song- Matanot Ketanot

https://youtu.be/znLYZRhbLK4  – Lipa with the holocaust survivor band and Dudu Fisher singing songs from the Alteh Heim

https://youtu.be/pZm_uk5M5D0   A composition by my dear friend Benzion Klatzkow Rabbi “K”- Kol Zmaan Shehaner Dolek Efshar L'Taken Assur L'heetyaesh, M'Hashem Tivakesh- As long as your flame is lit, You can still be fixed Refuse to Give up hope, Call out to God

https://youtu.be/BY0awgARQNo Birkas Habanim by Ohad for this week’s Torah portion theme the blessings for children


“Nit mit sheltn un nit mit lakhn ken men di velt ibermakhn.”  Neither cursing nor laughing can change the world
answer below at end of Email
Q.   Which among the following is not a bird of prey?
A. Eagle
B. Vulture
C. Owl
D. Tristram’s Starling (Grackle)

Our greatest leaders read Rashi and saw in him the basic principles of faith and with that profound insights into our our world and human behavior. In the first verse of this weeks portion of Toldos the Torah tells us
Bereishit (25:19) These are the generations of Yitzchak the son of Avraham. Avraham begot Yitzchak.
Obviously upon reading a pasuk like that which begs the question as to the repitiive nature of it “Yitzchak the son of Avraham and Avraham begot Yitzchak, one needs to check out Rashi. Rashi explains the text with two intepertaions. I’ll focus on the 2nd one (check out the first one yourself) which is famous. Rashi says
For the scoffers of the generation were saying that Sarah became pregnant from Avimelech. For she spent many years with Avraham and did not become pregnant from him. So what did Hashem do? He fashioned Yitzchak’s face to resemble Avrahams and everyone attested that Avraham begot Yitzchak.”
The great Rav of Brisk, Rav Yitzchak Soloveitchik noted that the term that Rashi uses to describe the non-believers was not heretics but rather mockers, scoffers, letizanim. He points out that these people were not people that didn’t believe. For the truth is there was obviously great miracles that took place. Sarah was after all hereself 90 years old. Rather they were believers that chose not to believe in what they would need to believe in. Namely that a miracle was performed for Avraham. Meaning seemingly they should have denied the entire story. Yet, the Rav told his students, that is the way of mockers. They have to believe in something. Each person was granted a power of faith, it is natural to us like strength, wisdom and other attributes. We can direct that faith to something real. To Hashem and his running of the universe or we can and will believe in far-fetched ridiculous things. Be they horoscopes, superstitions, luck, fortune tellers, scientific postulations that struggle to explain the inexplicable without Hashem and without a Creator. A leitz a scoffer is not a non-believer, he is someone who is just channeling his faith in the wrong direction and more often than not a more far-fetched one. Wouldn’t it be wiser to utilize our natural faith for what it was given to us? One word in Rashi and a lesson his students will remember forever.

Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Halevi Soloveitchik (1886,-1959)- Perhaps one of the most influential leaders in the Yeshiva world of the last generation The Brisker Rav or the Gri”Z as he was known, established what is perhaps noted as the most elite Yeshiva in Israel today, reknown for their precision and meticulousness about Jewish law and tradition. He was born in Volozhin to the famed Rav Chaim Soloveitchik. At age 16 he was noted as an illui- genius that had mastered the entire Talmud with Rashi by heart. During World War I he fled to Brisk and was offered the position of the Rav there. In 1941 he came to Israel where he founded the famed Brisk Yeshiva. The style of Brisk was to study each word and the nuances that were written by the Rambam and other halachic works, as well much of the focus of study of the yeshiva was on the tractates of Kodshim that were not vastly learned. He was ardently opposed to Zionism and refused to take and receive any money as other yeshivot did from the government or in fact any source that was questionably “not Kosher”. However he had tremendous respect for many of the great leaders that were supporters of Zionism referring to Rav Kook as the “Pe’er Hador- the splendor of the generation, his nephew Rav Soloveitchik from Yeshiva University he referred to as the greatest scholar in America and even the chief Rabbi of Israel Rav Herzog he noted was a tzadik and genius. This was a different approach than both the Aguda and the Rebbe of Satmar. In fact when the issue of voting in Israel came up he defined his position as stating “It is not such a big mitzva that Rav Aharon Kotler has to come from America to support it and fulfill it and not such a big sin that the Rebbe of Satmar has to come protest it.”
The Rav’s children and grandchildren lead his yeshivas in Israel today. And thousands of Torah Jews study his insights and have adopted many of his customs emulating this great man.


Lone Soldiers – People ask me all the time why I moved to Israel. As if I was crazy to give up the incredible life in America. More often than not it is Israelis that ask me that or people from New York. I had my reasons. My reasons certainly have changed with a greater appreciation for what life in this land truly is on all levels- material, spiritual, emotional and historical. However non of those reasons come close to perhaps the greatest heroes of our  time which are the young men and women that leave their families and life behind in order to join the army and defend our promised land and the Jewish people. Today in Israel there are over 6000 of such soldiers of which over 40% serve in combat units. To be considered and to receive the special benefits the government and army give to lone soldiers which include a higher stipend tickets to visit home, preferential free or subsidized housing, one has to not be in contact or have family here in Israel. The majority of the lone soldiers come from the US and Russia but recently there have been an influx of Chareidi young men who have joined the army and been ostracized by their families or communities who have also been given that status. There are many organizations that assist and support these young dedicated heroes. Many of them have given their lives Al Kiddush Hashem defending this land that may not have been their birth country but is certainly the place that was dearest to their heart. In the last Gaza War there were over 20,000 people that attended the funerals of those that were killed defending our land, giving homage and honor to those that certainly deserve it.
My mate insists on being called 'N' by everyone. He'll do anything to be the center of attention.

I have just changed my name by name to Heart Disease. Just so I can be known as the UK's biggest killer.

Mr. and Mrs. King were in the hospital with their newborn baby.
"What shall we name him?" she asked.
"How about Joseph?" he replied.
The nurse with the birth certificate looked at the baby and said: "You've got to be Joe King!".

How come there are so many bus drivers called Drive? ( In Israel that would be sa!)

A little boy at school on his first day was asked by the teacher what his name was.
The boy replied, "Six and seven-eighths".
The teacher asked him why his parents had given him such a strange name and he replied, "They just picked it out of a hat".

My nickname means I have a great pick -up line when I'm in America.
"Hi, I'm Waldo. I believe you've been trying to find me."

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, goes by the nickname' Bibi'. His wife, in contrast to most Israeli' first ladies', takes a more activist role in her country's affairs.
During the last peace talks with Yassir Arafat and the Palestinians' there were discussion about a formal conference complete with state dinners. The press was dying be on hand to hear Mrs. Netanyahu lean towards Mr. Arafat and motioning towards her husband intone:
'Yasir, that's my Bibi'

Answer is D – We’ve moved on from botany to wildlife. This one was easy though. The tristramites named after Henry Tristram Baker the famous 19th century British archeologist are those friendly birds that hang out at Masada whom he named. They’re black with an orange stripe and they love people and love to sing. They are very romantic birds always eating, flying and singing together with their spouses.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Life and Death...While Singing in the Rain- Chayei Sarah 2016 / 5777

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

November 25th 2016 -Volume 7 Issue 5 24th Cheshvan 5777
Parshat Chayei Sarah
Life and Death while singing in the Rain

We need rain. Not that we have a water shortage in Israel and we’re starving or something like that. We have Diet Coke for that. Even for agriculture, which for those from the big city who may not be aware is where your fruits and vegetables come from although you get them in the supermarket, we are pretty good with that as well. The reason is because Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in alternative water resources. Every time you flush the toilet in this country that water gets sent to a purification plant where it is cleaned out (the gook is eaten out by little parasites…mmmm) and turned into quality level drinking water. Don’t get nervous. We just used that for watering our fields. But in addition to that Israel thanks to our desalinization plants here we are able to take water from the Mediterranean and turn that into drinking water as well. In fact they are even talking about Israel very soon becoming an exporter of clean water to the Middle East. Not bad for our tiny little country.
The reason why we need water is because of Tour guides like me. You see I spend half of my summer rafting down the Jordan River with my clients. The past few years it has been really pathetically bumpy. Lots of rocks. No water. I lost about three inches of my backside. Not that anyone noticed….I was in Tel Dan the other day one of the most lush places in the North and it was pretty dry. The Kinneret has receded, Forget about the Dead Sea and all the sinkholes that have formed along the shoreline. It’s sad. We really need rain. I told my children this morning that perhaps all these fires that are taking place in Israel are to wake us up to daven for rain. Hashem is waiting for our prayers that haven’t been coming enough. Once we’re davening for rain already perhaps we can ask that he wash away our enemies as well. But we need to start davening more and more.
I remember years ago when there was a drought in Israel, they called for a mass prayer session at the Kotel. I remember coming there and I saw a few old men coming with their umbrellas. I smiled and commented to one of them how he must really have confidence that his prayers would be answered quickly. He responded to me that if I didn’t believe that the prayers would work what was really the point in the first place. Hmmmm… Sure enough not soon after we started the skies broke out in clouds and it started to rain. It was awesome. He popped open his umbrella and asked me if I wanted to come under for some shelter. I was quite happy singin’ in the rain though. It was the soft wet caress of my Creator dripping down my face. I wanted it to last forever.
There is probably not too many things like weather that people attribute to randomness. It is certainly something that we probably feel least likely that is in our control. Yet perhaps the first lesson of Man in the garden of Eden was that he was born in a barren world without anything growing in it as Rashi notes on the verse Bereishit (2:5)
For Hashem had no tbrought rain to the earth And there was no man to ‘work’ the ground
That Hashem waited for man to be created and pray for rain until he sent down the storms. The weather is in our hands; in our mouths and prayers. It’s why we were put here. That’s what it means to work the ground. The work of our hearts-prayer will make the ground flourish.
This week’s Torah portion Chayei Sarah deals with two stories that are almost opposite of each other. We have the death of Sarah, our Matriarch. And we have the story of the Eliezer, the first and quintessential Shadchan/ matchmaker finding a spouse for Yitzchak. Death and Marriage. The end of an era the beginning and continuation of the next. Perhaps there is no area where we recognize that we have no control over like death. When the Angel of Death comes calling your time is up. We never know when or how it will come. But we know that it is truly in the hands of Hashem. On the other hand marriage, the choosing of the spouse that we will spend the rest of of our lives with seems to be up to us. Sure Hashem sends our bashert our way. And we all know that it is decreed 40 days before we are born who we will marry. But c’mon, ultimately it is us that dates and finds, seeks out, courts, woos, proposes and ‘closes the deal’. It’s our looks, our brains, our personalities, our sense of humor, our integrity, our generosity that ‘sells the other person’. Hashem perhaps just hooked us up. But the match is in our hand.
Interestingly enough our Parsha tells us the opposite. It’s not merely irony that the parsha that talks about the death of not only Sarah, but Avraham and even Yishmael as well, at the conclusion of the portion is called Chayei Sarah- the life of Sarah. It’s not the first time either. The other portion in the Torah at the end of the book of Bereshis that is called Vayechi- and He lived also talks about not only the death and burial of Yaakov, but Yosef as well and according to our sages even Esau (who lost his head a bit at his father’s funeral). The parshiyot of life are the parshas that talk about death.
The reason our sages suggest is because by the righteous even in their death they are considered alive. They live on. They lived full years and they lived each day to the fullest. Their death wasn’t a death as much as it was an expiration. In fact Rashi notes most fascinatingly by Yishmael’s death.
Bereshit (25:8) And he expired and he died- Expiration is a term that is used only by the righteous
It’s a fascinating term expiration. Your time is up. Everyone has a date on them. Not everyone makes it to that date. If you leave the milk out of the fridge or the meat out of the freezer, guess what? It’s not gonna make it to that date. Which is why the stores won’t take those products back once you buy them. Trust me I’ve tried. Whether we spoil early or not is dependent entirely upon us. The righteous the Torah tells their death is on the expiration date. It’s in our hands. Even more fascinatingly it tells us this by Yishamel. A kid who certainly did not have a great life, who certainly could have blamed his lousy lot in life to all types of challenges. His grandfather was Pharoah, Hagars’ father. Not a nice person. He was chucked out of his house by his ‘step-mom” who couldn’t seem to control him and cared more about Yitzchak his younger half-brother who he knew would supersede him and become the heir of his father. His own father, Avraham, sends him away. His mother turns her eyes away and leaves him dying of thirst so that “she doesn’t see the death of the child”. Yet he picks himself up and says he will not blame his life on his “circumstances” his troubled childhood, his parents, his environment. He will live his life. He will make it to his expiration date. His life will be full. His death will be in his hands. It will come when his time is up and not a day sooner.
When we turn to the marriage of Yitzchak in the Parsha we see almost the opposite. Taking place. Eliezer who is sent find a match for Yitzhcak has a monumental task before. He is the guy that is supposed to find the next matriarch of the Jewish people. The entire future of the world on him making the right choice. Finding the right bashert. Making sure she can balance the gevura/fortitude of Yitzchak who was offered up as the purest sacrifice to Hashem. She would have to fill Sarah’s sandals; her tent, her light, her cloud of glory. Imagine finding being charged with finding the perfect mate for the Gadol HaDor- the leader of the Jewish people. Talk about pressure.
Yet what does Eliezer do? He turns to Hashem and doesn’t ask for Hashem to give him the wisdom, the power to discern, the insight necessary to find this special spouse. He tells Hashem
Bereshis (24:12) “Hashem the God of my master of Avraham Hakreh Na Elai- arrange (or literally appear) for me today and do kindness with my master Avraham
He then sets the incredible and incomprehensible task. Let the right girl be the one who comes over to me and offers to feed not only me but all of my camels. “That will be the one that I will know that You have performed kindness for my master”
Really?!!! Is that someone you would expect to be the responsible shadchan for your daughter? What about the family, her personality, her age?! Besides the fact that its an impossible task I mean my wife used to feed 30-40 hungry West Seattle TLC’ers each Shabbos and that was certainly not easy. But camels? Shlepping out water? Who in their right mind would expect would do that particularly when there is a very capable servant that seems to be able to do it himself? How can you even ask Hashem to do that? Arrange for me?! Talk about abdicating your very important role. Avraham trusted you. He made you take an oath in the most physical of ways. How does Eliezer just turn it over to Hashem like that?
The word hakreh is perhaps the key word here. mikreh is happenstance. It’s something totally out of my control. I remember once that I was trying to hail a taxi once here in Israel and he was busy arguing with someone until he came over. When I asked him “Ma Karah- what happened?” He told me- as only an Israeli cab driver could karah is the same letters as Rak Ha(shem). There is no happen it is all Hashem. Eliezer, the faithful servant of Avraham and the first shadchan, asked Hashem to entirely remove his own knowledge, his own intuition, and his own assessment from the game. It should only be Hashem that makes this happen. The truth is on paper this shidduch probably would never go. Think about it. Her father is a cheap abusive guy that sends his daughters out to shlep water in a pretty dangerous neighborhood. Her brother Lavan is a renowned sheister, con man and criminal. According to our sages she was only three years old at the time and Yitzchak was no spring chicken. Eliezer understood that when it comes to marriage, more often than not the more we leave it in Hashem’s hand the better off we are. There are somethings we should leave to God and some things we need to do on our own.
The land of Israel is the place where those two ideas truly become the essence of life. It’s a country where we are meant to work, we are meant to plant and to build. We are surrounded with enemies who try to destroy us, kill us, burn our fields and prevent our light from shining out to the world and we are meant to pick up weapons, fight and defend our land. Yet nothing ever grows, nothing ever comes to fruition in the sensible logical and natural way. We have desert land that for centuries was cursed and yet we came here and poof it started flourishing. We have armies, soldiers and tanks yet not one battle would ever have made sense to be won without the clear miracles that took place. They don’t even bother teaching the wars of Israel in military school because there’s no logic or rational explanation to how we’re still around. We live, we work, we fight, but at the same time we turn our eyes to Hashem and say we can’t do anything. Hakreh Na Elai. Make it rain. Shower us with Your beneficence. Make it all come from you.
I told my shul that after the last election in the States I believe that even nusach ashkenaz should start to add the words in the Kaddish prayer that Nusach Sfard says of  V’Yatzmach Purkanei V’Kareiv Mishishichei- and you shall sprout His redemption and hasten Mashiach. There is no rational explanation into how fast the world is moving in His hands. How little we, the media, the popular votes have a say in the path Hashem wants us to be lead on. All He wants from us it to turn our eyes, our prayers and our hearts to Him. To ask for it. To finally bring that day. It’s in our hands. We just need to open up our umbrellas. We need to come home.

Have a heavenly rainy Shabbos!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

https://soundcloud.com/ephraim-schwartz/avinu-malkeinu   Avinu Malkeinu I composed in memory of Aryeh Kupinsky H”YD and all of our martyrs that gevet their lives in sanctification of Hashem’s name. May Hashem avenge their blood.

https://soundcloud.com/jroot-radio/yosef-bornstein-nov-17   – A Radio interview I gave last week on Jroot radio with Rabbi Yosef Bronstien- Contest of the week for all those who listen to it. How many times do I say the words “y’know” It’s painful to listen to me…But it was 2:00 AM

https://youtu.be/DR8W_O_TRAk   Jimmy Kimmel Politically correct Thanksgiving Pageant Hilarious and sad

https://youtu.be/BVEc-bV9Dxk   – In honor of Shabbos Chevron this week watch and connect to our holy city.

“A nar vahkst on regn”  A fool grows without rain.
Ponder and discuss…

answer below at end of Email
Q. Sycamore trees can be seen primarily in:
A. The Lowlands (shephela) and Coastal Plain
B. Upper Galilee
C. Arava
D. Golan

It never ceases to amaze me how much I would miss in reading the text without Rashi’s accompanying commentary that makes me stop and read the verse once again and figure out the point he is addressing. In this week’s Torah portion in the great and lengthy negotiation between Avraham and Efron in the purchase of the Machpela Cave, Efron makes the statement to Avraham
Berseshit (23:15) My master, hear me! The Land is worth 400 silver shekalim; between me and you- what is it? And bury your dead.
That amount is an exorbitant amount (note that in Leviticus 27:16 a bit kur which is about 75,00 square feet is 50 sheks meaning 400 shekel should have gotten him 600,000 square feet!). So when Efron says between me and you how would you interpret it? If you asked me, I would probably suggest he meant between two wealthy people like ourselves. Avraham was wealthy and despite the big price tag Efron was trying to show him that for Avraham and Efron this is small penny change. Yet Rashi goes a different route.
Between me and you- Between two friends such as we, is it significant at all, rather forget the price and bury your dead.
Why does Rashi seem to go to a far-fetched explanation that Efron was referring to their supposed friendship rather than what seems to be the simpler explanation that he was talking about their affluent status? Rabbi Shaul of Amsterdam the Binyan Ariel- who reads Rashi better than I do explains, that generally when I want to refer to someone’s exalted or greater status you mention the other person first. In fact the Talmud describes that when Rebbi would write to Marc Antony he would write to the King Antony from the prince Yehuda. So here Efron should have said between “you and me” rather than “me and you”. Which sounds like something my grammar teacher would have taught me “something about “you and I”. But I forgot. Or never really paid attention. When does one put themselves first, as Efron did? When one is describing one’s love for the other. I love you. We are friends. I feel close to you and then you feel close to me. So Rashi notes this small discrepancy in Efron’s words, placing himself first “between me and you” and he therefore comments that this must mean he was referring to their affection, rather than their status. Isn’t it amazing how each nuance can be filled with such meaning and interpretation?

Rabbi Shaul Lowenstam of Amsterdam- The Binyan Ariel- (1717-1790), One of the great leaders in the 18th century of Amsterdam, Rabbi Shaul Levenstam was a scion of an established rabbinical family. He was descended from Rabbi Shaul Wohl (who was crowned King of Poland for one night, according to legend). He was a grandson of Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel from Krakow, who is known as the Rebbe Heshel. His father Rabbi Aryeh Leib served as a rabbi in the city of Risha in Poland and in Amsterdam. His mother was the daughter of Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi, the "Chacham Tzvi." Rabbi Shaul was a rabbi in Amsterdam in a very stormy period of sharp disputes among the wise men of the generation. These disagreements disrupted the status of the rabbinate and led in the following generation to the increased strength of the Haskala movement, the forerunner of the Reform movement and religious change. Rabbi Shaul preferred to stay involved in matters related to his own community and to refrain from taking part in the disputes.The Chida writes in his work  "Shem Gedolim" with respect to Rabbi Shaul, "I was privileged to meet the face of the Shechina, and I was able to enjoy his Torah, his modestly, and his perfection."

Rabbi Shaul's modesty can be seen in his book "Binyan Ariel" (Amsterdam, 5538), which is named after his father Rabbi Aryeh. Rabbi Shaul notes that he did not want to print a book of halacha in order to avoid having people depend on his halachic rulings. The first part of the book presents explanations about the Torah and the five Megillot in a straightforward way that can be understood by everybody. The second part contains insights into the Talmud as a way of helping his students to sharpen their minds. Rabbi Shaul served as rabbi in Amsterdam for thirty-five years. He passed away on the seventh of Tammuz 5550 (1790). After his death, his son Rabbi Yaacov Moshe took his place.


Taxi Drivers - whenever they do polls in America they want to know what the “man on the street” has to say. The simple guy, the regular joe shmoe. In Israel that person is the nahag monit- the taxi driver. And for those that have been in a taxi here in Israel, you know they have plenty to say. There are over 40,000 licensed taxi drivers in Israel and it is estimated that over 600,000 people use their services daily. Taxi drivers in Israel are a great resource of information and truly are part and parcel of the real Israeli experience. They are more than happy to share with you their opinion about anything; politics, tourists spots, why you should move to Israel or not and who they hate and love. There are certainly some that are notorious for “taking you for a ride” not just literally, which is why it’s always fun to negotiate an off the meter price beforehand. A game that these drivers generally like to engage in, although part of the negotiating technique is that they pretend that they don’t. The taxi drivers in Israel run the gamut from secular to religious and in fact it is not unusual at all to get into a cab and hear the driver listening to a Torah class or Tehillim/Psalms. I remember having a cab driver share with me a Torah thought on the parsha and another one that was praying as he was picking me up. Many of them when they encounter a Tourist will offer their services to take them on tours around the country, or even to be your personal chauffer while you are here. That’s a really good gig for them and I remember as a kid when we would come to Israel my parents would often have one of these guys do that for us. It’s really a way to see the country from an ordinary real Israeli standpoint. Today with smartphones and apps like Gett Taxi one can actually just order a cab from anywhere and even see the picture of the driver and rate him afterwards. These guys like their ratings and you usually get better service when you call them this way. They even have a Mehadrin app, where you can get a shomer shabbat driver, thus insuring that your driver is Jewish. There are quite a few jokes about Israeli Taxi drivers and the driving experience here in Israel. For those that want to experience Israel you gotta take a taxi at least once.

Abe was visiting Israel for the first time. As soon as his plane landed, he got a taxi to take him to his hotel. The taxi driver was very friendly and told Abe all kinds of useful information.
Then Abe asks the driver, "Say, is Israel a healthy place?"
"Oh, yes, it really is," the driver answered, "When I first came here, I couldn't say even one simple word, I had hardly any hair on my head, I didn't have the energy to walk across a small room and I even had to be helped out of bed every day."
"That's a remarkable story, truly amazing," Abe said, "so how long have you been here in Israel?"
"I was born here."

Maurice and Isaac found themselves sitting next to each other in a New York bar. After a while, Maurice looks at Isaac and says, "I can't help but think, from listening to you, that you're from Israel."
Isaac responds proudly, "I am!"
Maurice says, "So am I! And where might you be from?"
Isaac answers, "I'm from Jerusalem."
Maurice responds, "So am I! And where did you live?"
Isaac says, "A lovely little area two miles east of King David's Hotel. Not too far from the old city"
Maurice says, "Unbelievable! What school did you attend?"
Isaac answers, "Well, I attended Yeshiva University."
Maurice gets really excited, and says, "And so did I. Tell me, what year did you graduate?"
Isaac answers, "I graduated in 1984."
Maurice exclaims, "Amazing! This is Berschert. Hashem wanted us to meet! I can hardly believe our good luck at winding up in the same bar tonight. Can you believe it, I graduated from Yeshiva University in 1984 also."
About this time, Moishe enters the bar, sits down, and orders a beer. The bartender walks over to him shaking his head & mutters, "It's going to be a long night tonight, the Goldberg twins are drunk again."

Israeli Personal ads
Yeshiva bochur, Torah scholar, long beard, payos. Seeks same in woman.
Worried about in-law meddling? I'm an orphan! Write.
Are you the girl I spoke with at the kiddush after shul last week? You excused yourself to get more horseradish for your gefilte fish, but you never returned. How can I contact you again? (I was the one with the cholent stain on my tie).
Jewish businessman, 49, manufactures Sabbath candles, Chanukah candles, havdallah candles, Yahrzeit candles. Seeks non-smoker.
I am a sensitive Jewish prince whom you can open your heart to. Share your innermost thoughts and deepest secrets. Confide in me. I’ll understand your insecurities. No fatties, please.
Jewish male, 34, very successful, smart, independent, self-made. Looking for girl whose father will hire me.
Orthodox woman with get, seeks man who got get, or can get get. Get it? I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.
Divorced Jewish man, seeks partner to attend shul with, light Shabbos candles, celebrate holidays, build Sukkah together, attend brisses, bar mitzvahs. Religion not important.
Couch potato latke, in search of the right apple sauce. Let's try it for eight days. Who knows?
Female graduate student, studying kaballah, Zohar, exorcism of dybbuks, seeks mensch. No weirdos, please.
Israeli professor, 41, with 18 years of teaching in my behind.  Looking for American-born woman who speaks English very good. 
Israeli lady age 28. Serves behind the falafel counter in Moshe’s Deli. Looking for nice Jewish guy with a good sense of humus.

The Matchmaker asked the best bachur in Lakewood” what he was looking for in a girl. After some thought, the young man replied
“ I was driving down the Garden State Parkway last week when I noticed what seemed to be a Heimishe woman trying to change a flat tire. I felt bad that she was obviously by herself and made a u-turn, figuring I would check it out for sure by driving by slowly this time. Sure enough she was from Lakewood and so I stopped and helped her change her tire. After I was done and about to drop the spare in her trunk, she put her finger to her lips and whispered,
“Please don’t slam, the trunk. I don’t want to wake my husband- he’s sleeping in the back seat…”
The bochur smiled at the Shadchan and said “That’s what I’m looking for in a girl!!”

Answer is A – Are you sick of tree botany questions yet? I am. The sycamore tree or eitz shikma in Hebrew is a fairly tall- it grows up to 60 feet tall and these heart shape leaves. They can be found mostly in the shefela and caostla area. In fact they are the symbol of the city of Cholon. In Tel Aviv you can generally find them like smack in the middle of a street or a major thoroughfare as they have been a major source of conflict as the old-timers and the tree-lovers protest every time they want to knock em down as they have much nostalgic value for those who remember Tel Aviv before it became the major metropolis it is today when these trees were all over there. There are even quite a few songs written about these trees. There are usually not more than 3 or four questions about botany so I think hopefully we are done with them for this exam.