Karmiel

Karmiel
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Transitions- Parshat Tazria-Metzora/ Achrey Mot- Kedoshim 5778/ 2018


Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
from
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
April 20th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 26 5th Iyar 5778
Parshat Tazria-Metzora/Acharey Mos-Kedoshim
Transitioning
Transition; that’s the word that keeps passing through my mind during this pretty packed week and half. I personally haven’t undergone any major changes. I’m still working on getting comfortable with that new grandfather title and role. Rather I’ve been on the outside this week, an observer, a people-watcher, and perhaps even what our sages refer to as a maven or yode’ah Ha’itim- someone who watches and understands the different times, moments and transitions.
In truth it’s the right week for transitions as the Torah readings this week are different in America and Israel. In Israel we reading Acharey Mot and Kedoshim in America Tazaria Metzora. Both are double portions both are transitions.

I guess it started out watching my grandson have his pdiyon haben- the fascinating ceremony as he is redeemed by his parents from his sanctified level a s first born son, whose life belongs to Hashem in exchange for Hashem saving the Jewish first-borns when he killed the Egyptian ones. We wait 30 days until we do that, as the 30 day mark is when a child is in the clear of being at risk for neo-natal death. It is considered a viable birth. He has transitioned fully into the world of the living. And right away the first thing that we do focus on what his role will be in this world.
It doesn’t get more Jewish than that. A doctor? A lawyer? A Rabbi? The parents redeem him from the Kohen and dedicate him to this new world where they recognize that he has a role to fill, and that role interestingly enough is one that might take him out of the Temple and the service of the Kohanim, that he is otherwise been dedicated to.

In Israel this past Shabbos we read Parshat Tazria and Metzora and in America they are reading that portion this week. Tazria begins with that transition. A child is born, the parsha begins. Boys have one rule, girls have another. Each one of them the parents have different obligations. Different processes of purity after the birth, different types of of offerings and sacrifices. Birth offerings, sin offerings, birds, sheep for the wealthy for the indigent. The Torah wants us to not to take for granted this significant milestone. There is perhaps nothing more natural than child-birth. At the same time there is nothing more miraculous. No time, perhaps where we ever feel that close to Hashem. Where we feel God-like, as we become His partner in bringing life to this world. So many things could have gone wrong. Do go wrong, many times. So the Torah tells us to mark this with the rituals of post- childbirth. As well the pidyon haben is done when everything is natural. This is the first born of the mother, there is no casarean sections, no previous miscarriages. When everything seems most natural that Torah wants us to take note and recognize that this is a transition and a time to reflect and plan forward.

Its interesting that the parsha of Tazria is juxtaposed with Metzora. It contains the laws of this spiritual malady that take hold when one does not pay attention to ones life. When one speaks Lashon Hara, when one acts haughtily, stingily. When one pretty much does whatever he or she in the mood of doing without thought of the significance of one’s actions. The remedy the Torah tells us is Tzora’as. Things start to go back. His body has a form of spiritual decay. Kind of like food that sits out and doesn’t’ stay fresh. We get moldy. We have to change everything to get back in the game. We go out of the camp, we redo our house, our vessels, our clothing. WE have to examine everything. We need to recognize that life doesn’t just happen. We have to move with the program, grow with the program and become what we were meant to.
As well this week, I flew to the States. It’s always a jarring experience for me. How little America has changed. Same fancy shuls, same fancy houses, same people running, shopping, buying, selling and yes learning and praying as well. It’s a whirlwind. Israel doesn’t feel that way.

Here I feel that more people are taking life with more appreciation for it. People don’t move as fast, don’t feel like they’re trying to escape as much. They’re busy, talking, laughing, raising children and worrying about them. There’s a lot more arguing about life and its meaning and how the world should be run over here. There is a sense that my life has a lot more significance here. One might say it’s because we live in a constant state of terror threat. Every day may be your last. And although that is certainly a Jewish perspective to live with as our sages say that a person should always “repent a day before he dies”. I don’t think that it is the reason why people live that way. I just think that we appreciate that our living here in Israel is a transition in Jewish history.

 America is same old same old 2000 years exile. Israel living is the beginning of the redemption. It’s the ingathering of Exiles. It’s the process of fulfilling our divine mandate of shining our light, Hashem’s light out onto the world. Yeah…. America with all its kosher pizza shops and Kosher eateries With all its Orthodox Jews in the White House, it’s lobbyists and representatives in congress and the Senate. With all its incredible chesed organizations, its yeshivas, its study halls and even its Torah and mitzvos, just don’t feel to me as having anything near the Jewish or even religious significance as one more Jewish baby being born in Eretz Yisrael, one more house or apartment being built or bought, one more Jewish solider swearing to defend with his life our homeland and every Jew no matter where they are.

As I returned to Israel I began to look at the double portion that we read here this week. I had after all four Torah portions to prepare for in one week. I thought about the juxtaposition of the two portions we read here in Israel. Acharey Mot-after the death of the children of Aharon, the first parsha which discusses the laws of the Yom Kippur, atonement service and the laws of forbidden and illicit relations. And Kedoshim- becoming holy, the varied laws and commandments that that run the entire gamut of areas of life of which the observance of them will sanctify us and separate us from all the other nations of the world. There is a wry joke that is said of how whenever anyone dies the eulogies will inevitably make the deceased sound like the greatest tzadik and forget all the terrible things that the person may have done. It is based on the names of these regularly juxtaposed parshiyot; Acharey Mot- after they die, then Kedoshim- they become holy.
I thought about these parshas and their message of transition as I sat in Moscow Airport on my layover to Israel. And had a choice of three different minyanim to daven from. There were chasidim, Sefardim and plain old American Jews all putting on tallit and teffilin and praying in varied corners and gates of the airport. I watched in wonder and thought about how not even 35 years ago this would have been unheard of. The KGB arrested people for praying, I had Rabbis that smuggled in mezuzot and matzas for Jews that hid their Judaism for fear of death. But the world had changed. It had moved on. There are American magazines in the airport, and Chabad guys putting teffilin on Jews in the streets as thousands of Jewish children are learning Torah in the hundreds of schools in Russia. The former Soviet Union was dead and the kedusha, perhaps in the merit of those that sacrificed their lives to bring out that holiness, was no flourishing. I don’t think anyone there appreciated it. They just took it for granted. Why not? Let’s daven in Moscow airport. But nor me. I was in transition mode and this was incredible.

Finally I arrived back in Eretz Yisrael. Home sweet home. I came home though to perhaps the most meaningful and significant transition that this country has. I returned to the siren of Yom HaZikaron- the Israel memorial day for its 23,646 soldiers and victims of terror that have lost their lives for living here, defending our country, because they were Jews, the ones that may not have been so holy in their lives but in their deaths there is none that can enter into their sphere. The truth is this transition began a week ago with the commemoration of Yom Hashoah- Israeli holocaust memorial day when the State remembers the 6 million that were murdered by the Nazis and all their merry helpers. These memorial days are really the perfect transition into perhaps the most celebrated day in Israel; Yom Ha’atzmaut- Israel’s Independence Day. One can’t appreciate the present without recognizing the past and seeing it as a transition. When we have a Tazria- a birth of a child, a nation, a transformation in our life we have to be wary of not becoming a Metzora someone that just lets it sit and become stagnant. When we experience a death, a tragedy, a loss- Acharery Mot. We should await and anticipate the Kedusha of that moment. The Yom Kippur, the atonement, the holiness and the opportunity for new relationships, new opportunities a new explosion of sanctification into a world that is moving faster and faster to its fulfillment. To the end game. To Mashiach.

We are reading different parshiyot in America and in Israel. They are different but they are the same. They are both parshas that teach us to take note of the incredible times we are living in. We may not be on the same page but we are both heading through transformative times, which brings me to one last transition. We are in the period of Omer right now. Today, Friday is the 20th day of the 49 day counts as we move from Pesach to Shavuot. Form Exile to becoming a nation that received the Torah. It is a time of growth and transition as well as anticipation of that most incredible revelation. At the same time, fascinatingly enough it is a time of mourning. We don’t listen to music, make weddings and take haircuts or shave. During this period the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died, whether of a plague or in the battles of Bar Kochva. As well it is during this period that the Crusades took place when almost 30% of the Jewish population was wiped out in the 11th and 12th century. It is mourning and it is growth, it is exile and it is redemption and becoming, it is remembering the past and seeing how it moves us to an incredible future. It is Tazria and Metzora and Acharey Mot and Kedoshim.

As the sirens end and the festivities of Israel’s 70th birthday dwindle down, I think about how far we have come. I have just read an article written by the nephew of the founder of the anti- Zionist, Neturei Karta Rabbi Yehuda Meshi Zahav on his appreciation of what has changed since the founding of the State. It’s a worthwhile and fascinating read (https://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/israel-news/1506537/you-were-wrong-a-letter-from-yehuda-meshi-zahav-to-his-uncle-rav-amram-blau-founder-of-neturei-karta.html )

The world is moving faster and faster. The Kedoshim of the past’s merits have brought us a country where even the most secular Jew is singing songs of praise to Hashem. Our first exile from our Temple lasted 70 years. We have now been returned for 70 years to our home. May Hashem now this year bring us to that final transition with His return to His home as well.

Have transformative Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

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RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK

“Nit mit sheltn un nit mit lakhn ken men di velt ibermakhn.”- Neither cursing nor laughing can change the world

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email

Q: The previous name of Kfar Tavor:
a. Mess’ha
b. Ja’uni
c. Sejera
d. Umm-Juni

RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK

https://a7.org/media/a7radio/misc/video/18/apr/hared%2018-4.mp4     - Incredible video of Chariedi children being taught about Yom Hazikaron by Viznitze Chasidic teacher Rabbi Bombach

https://youtu.be/kxzEGSmgYl4?list=PL4FBDAAD0572A52D7   – Eyewitness to history- 1948 American Volunteers to War of independence-inspirational- What would you have done!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6UcozPpJvs   – Maccabeats Megillat Ha’Atzamut- not my favorite Maccabeats composition but hey it’s Maccabeats right?

https://youtu.be/oxzR9Z-kG6Q     - Shlomi Shabbat and KolKulam with 12,000 people singing Al Kol Eileh magnificent almost impossible not to get chills and emotional…

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S HAFTORA CONNECTION OF THE WEEK

Tazria/Metzora Story Haftoras are always more interesting, but they are even better when the parsha itself has no stories in it. This week the two Torah portions contain the various laws of Metzora, Tazria deals more with the process of becoming a metzora and how, where and the different variations of the tzaras-physical blemish manifestation of a spiritual malady, occur. Parshat Metzora on the other hand deals more with the purification process from it. The Haftora though which is a story from the book of Kings contains some metzoras that seem to play a role in the story but seemingly we always try to find a deeper message and connection that our sages are trying to tell us that reflect on the entire portion.
The story is that the Jewish King of Israel, Yehoram, is facing a siege by the king of Aram. Food is sacrce and people are starving. The King blames the prophet Elisha… it’s always the Rabbi’s fault, right? For his prayers had not been answered. He prophetically tells the King that the next day
Kings II (7:18) “a seah of fine flour will sell for [merely] a shekel, and two seahs of barley will sell for a shekel in the gate of Samaria.'
The Kings doubting servant is rather skeptical and mocks Elisha and Elisha tells him that as a result of his lack of faith he will not enjoy the miracle.
That is the backdrop, the haftorah tells us then of the story of the four lepers that having been quarantined outside of the camp, make their way to the Aramean camp and find it empty. It seems Hashem had performed a miracle and made it sound like great armies were approaching and the Arameans fled, leaving everything behind. The Metzoras ate to their hearts content and then decided to share the news with the camp and the King. Although he was skeptical at first the Jews went out and celebrated when they found the former army camps full of food. They celebrated and took all the stuff. In their haste the skeptical servant got trampled just like Hashem had promised through the prophet.
So that’s the story. The message I believe, which is really the one of Tzara’s in general is that one has to try to see the good, see redemption and appreciate that the salvation of Hashem can come from even the most unlikely of sources. The King, the servant they look down on Elisha, what do rabbis know from politics, from sieges, from famines. Why should we listen to these lepers, these castaways? On the other hand the Metzora who had previously spoken evil as well and seen only the negative here choose to focus on hope, Hashem will provide, let’s go to the enemies camp there will be salvation. As well they share the news with the people. They don’t just hide it for themselves. That is perhaps the greater message and connection our sages wish for us to reflect upon when we read this portion

Elisha (718 BC) – The period of Elisha's prophecy in Israel was a very crucial one. The land suffered from war and famine and was on the verge of total collapse. It was at this time that G‑d sent the great prophet Elisha to bring comfort and courage to the people in distress. Elisha was constantly on the road, mingling freely with the people. He counseled kings and offered his help to a poor widow, with equal grace. So numerous did Elisha's disciples become, that their quarters in Samaria became too small. At the request of the young prophets, Elisha agreed to accompany them to the Jordan, where they intended to build spacious quarters to house all the young prophets who were eager to be near him.

Acharey Mot/ Kedoshim- So Sefardim and Ashkenazim have different Haftorah to read this week. The Sefardim read the haftorah of Kedoshim which is from the book of Yechezkel and the Ashkenazim read the shorter one of Acharey Mot from the book of Amos. Both haftorahs contain the same theme though. They are prophecies that discuss the Jews engaging in the evil and licentious ways of Egypt or Kush (a relative of Egypt). The navi tells how Hashem will wipe out those sinners as the land of Israel will not tolerate this immorality. As well it foretells in Amos of the Messianic period after this immorality is eradicated
of the Jews returning to the land of Israel and all of the incredible porphecies that we see fulfilled today are foretold.

Amos (9:13) Behold days are coming, says Hashem, that the plowman shall meet the reaper and the treader of the grapes the one who carries the seed, and the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.           
14 And I will return the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall rebuild desolate cities and inhabit [them], and they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their produce.                    
15And I will plant them on their land, and they shall no longer be uprooted from upon their land, that I have given them, said the Lord your God.
There is not too many mountains that one can drive through in Israel that one doesn’t see the vineyards, the crops, the produce and the ingathering of Exiles. We are back and forever! What an amazing Haftora to read particularly this week as we celebrate 70 years back home.

   Amos (646 BC) – Amos began his prophesies during the period of the first temple  when Yeravam ll extended the boundaries of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and under whose reign the kingdom of Israel flourished. Yeravam attempted to banish Amos from the kingdom because of his prophecy that Yeravam's kingdom would not last. Amos criticized the kingdom for persecuting the poor and immersing themselves in materialism and luxury


RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ERA’S AND THEIR PLACES AND PEOPLE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK

The War of Independence 1948 – It is Israel’s 70th Birthday, you want to learn more about the great war that led to the founding of our country when we warded off 5 armies Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt and established our State. Over the past few years there have been some really fantastic upgrades to the many museums that discuss the stories of that yearlong struggle that began in 1947 with the United nations vote and ended in in March of 1949 with the cease-fire agreement. To learn about the soldiers and fighting units one can visit the Palmach museum and Etzel museum in Tel Aviv with their multi-media movie presentations. In the Palmach museum by special arrangement one can even see the film dedicated to the Gachal the foreign immigrant army units. In Kfar Etzion the story of the history and battle of the Etzion bloc that fell on the morning of Yom Ha’atzmaut  the day of the Ben Gurion’s  declaration of independence, is vividly told in their new upgraded multimedia museum. In Latrun one can appreciate the remembrance wall and discuss the tank battles that took place there on the road to Jerusalem and of course in the old city there is the museum where one can see footage of the war for Jerusalem in 1948 and the blowing up of the Churva shul that led to its defeat and surrender. Certainly no tour of the war of independence is complete without a visit to independence Hall in Tel Aviv where one can visit and see displays and films about the declaration of our State and the historic United Nations vote that led up to it.
It is easy to celebrate the birth of our country and to even sing songs of praise to Hashem and to make barbeques but to really make the day meaningful it is worthwhile to become more knowledgeable about the history, the heroism and the story that were the founding of our country.

RABBI SCHWARTZ’S TOP ISRAEL QUOTES OF THE WEEK

When I was a boy, the Dead Sea was only sick. -George Burns

The only thing chicken about Israel is their soup -Bob Hope

Are the Israelis friendly? Don’t ask! If you are lost in Israel and ask directions, they don’t tell you. They take you, then you both get lost. ~ Dave Berg

Students in Israel don’t riot. They’re too busy arguing what to riot about. ~ Dave Berg

Tel-Aviv airport is still the only airport in the world where each passenger is met by ten relatives. ~ George Mikes

Bad English was the second language of Israel and bad Hebrew, of course, remained the national language.George Mikes

Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil! ~ Golda Meir

If we have to have a choice between being dead and pitied, and being alive with a bad image, we’d rather be alive and have the bad image. ~ Golda Meir

AND MY FAVORITE
On a crowded bus (in Israel), a mother was speaking to her son in Yiddish. An Israeli woman reprimanded her. “You should be speaking Hebrew. Why are you talking to him in Yiddish?’’ The mother answered, “I don’t want he should forget he’s a Jew.’” ~Kirk Douglas
  

RABBI SCHWARTZ’S REALLY TERRIBLE ISRAEL JOKES OF THE WEEK

A voice was heard on Israeli Radio.  “This is Station OYVEH Tel Aviv, 1830 on your dial…. but for you, 1825.”

How does the  Prime Minister’s celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut?  BiBiQ

What is the name of the dance we do on Yom Ha’Atzmaut?  The Indepen-dance

A car hit an Israeli man. The paramedic says, “Are you comfortable?” The man says, “Eh, I make a good living.”

A guy is partying on Rothchild and suddenly noticed he lost his wallet. He got up on the bar and shouted, “Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, I’ve just lost my wallet with over 500 shekels in it. To the person that finds my wallet, I will give 50 shek!” A voice from the back of the bar shouted, “I will give 75!”

Hear about the new Japanese Israeli restaurant. It is called  “SohSueMi.”

It’s the Maccabi Games in Tel Aviv and just before their race, an American sprinter asks an Israeli opponent, “So what’s your best time for the 100 meters?” “Just over 8 seconds,” replies the Israeli.”But the world record is around 9 seconds,” says the astonished American. “Yes,” says the Israeli, “but I know a short cut.”

Benny is on holiday in Israel and goes to a concert at the Minkovsky Auditorium. Benny asks one of the officials, “I was wondering whether this magnificent auditorium is named after Dovid Minkovsky, the famous biblical scholar?””No,” replies the official, “It’s named after Harry Minkovsky, the writer” “I’ve never heard of him,” says Benny, “what did he write?” “A cheque,” replies the official.

Moshe was travelling back to London on an El Al flight from Tel Aviv and it was time for the main meal to be served. “Would you like dinner?” a flight attendant asked Moshe.”What are my choices?” he asked.”Yes or no,” she replied

A Journalist has to write a story on the lack of meat in Poland. So he goes off to Poland and asks the people:  “Excuse me, what do you think of the lack of meat in Poland?”  All the poles reply: “Meat? What is meat?”   Seeing he cannot get an answer in Poland he goes to the USSR and asks the Soviets:  “Excuse me, what do you think of the lack of meat in Poland?”  All the Soviets reply: “Think? What is think?”  Seeing he cannot get an answer in the USSR he goes to the USA and asks the Americans:  “Excuse me, what do you think of the lack of meat in Poland?” All the Americans reply: “Lack? What is lack?”  Seeing he cannot get an answer in the USA he decides to go to Israel, and asks the Israelis:  “Excuse me, what do you think of the lack of meat in Poland?”  To which all the Israelis reply: “Excuse me? What is excuse me?”
." 
************
Answer is A – Yup, got this one wrong, I guessed Sejera. I wasn’t that far off Sejera is the name of Ilaniya which is right next to Kfar Tavor, but ahh well… The correct answer for this one was Messah. Omm Junni was Deganiya and not sure who Ja’unni. Not that I think any of this information is important or that any of my tourists would ever be interested in the old arba names of the original Jewish villages, but I would have studied this for the exam because I knew that they usually ask questions like this. I guess I deleted it from my memory after the exam, if I never knew it.   

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Kosher Pigs- Parshat Shemini 2018 /5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
from
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
April 13th  2018 -Volume 8 Issue 25 28th Nissan 5778

Parshat Shemini/ Tazria / Metzora
Kosher Pigs

Yankel was sick. He was deathly ill, in fact. There was not much that they could do for him. He went from doctor to doctor, from specialist to specialist, none of them could diagnose him. They all just nodded their heads and noted that if he continued to deteriorate he didn’t have much time left on this world.
Finally someone mentioned to him the greatest specialist in Europe. He was known to find the cure for everything. Yankel, got himself and appointment and the Doctor after completing a whole series of test noted that he had since this condition once before. It was curable. However when he heard the cure Yankel gulped. His only remedy it seemed would be to consume the chopped liver of a pig. Yikes!
Now Yankel, like your weekly inspiring E-Mail Rabbi, liked chopped liver. But pig liver…?! Chazer! It seems sacrilegious to even say the word chopped liver when you talk about pig.
But Yankel, of course, knew that the most important mitzva in the Torah is to stay alive. Pikuach nefesh- the sanctity of Jewish life has precedence of all but the three cardinal sins, of which of course pork is certainly not one of them. So chazer it would be. Yet Yankel was not ready to eat the same chazer that his heathen gentile neighbors were eating. He was better than that. He would have his pig slaughtered, by a proper shochet, just as if it were a prime rib for his Shabbat meal. In that way there would be some semblance of yiddishkeit, some thing that separated Yankel from his neighbors, in this eating.
But like all good plans, this one had a hitch as well. See after the shochet slaughtered the pig, with Yankel standing over him religiously looking on. Yankel asked him to continue to do everything that he would do as if this were a cow, or a sheep or any other kosher animal. So the shochet began to check the internal organs of the animal to make sure that none of the were blemished. And whadaya know? The pig had a slight aberration on his lung. If this were a cow, it certainly wouldn’t be glatt; the top level clean and smooth meat we would want to see. But perhaps the blemish went  even deeper, perhaps there was a hole in the lung. That would render the animal un-kosher. Yankel couldn’t have that.
So our Yankeleh and his shochet, who had no experience in pig blemishes, took the questionable organ to the local Rabbi, to have it checked out. The Rabbi examined the lung and told Yankel, that it was fine. It was not a problem. “But is it kosher, Rabbi?” Yankel asked. “I only eat the best kosher standards. I have never compromised in the past.” The Rabbi looked at poor Yankel and told him. “Yankeleh, what can I tell you. Kosher it will never be. A pig will always stay a pig. I can let you eat a pig. But I can never declare it Kosher. A chaer blaybt a chazer-a pig wil always remain a pig.”
I read this story many years ago when I first began my work in Jewish outreach. It was in a book title “The Kosher pig and other Jewish curiosities.” The author who was a reform Rabbi, interestingly enough, had written a book about many of the Kosher pig questions he had over the years. Questions that sought “halachic”, “Jewish” perhaps even Torah insights and direction to things that were certainly even by his more lenient or non-Orthodox albeit traditional standards chazer/trayf.; Kosher-pig questions.
There was the person in his congregation that was getting intermarried to an Episcopalian and wanted to know if it was problematic during the Omer period, which we are now counting, when Jews customarily observe laws of mourning and don’t get married. There was the other congregant that went jogging each morning and wanted to know if he was permitted to drink on Yom Kippur after his run, because it would be dehydrating. There was the couple who upon having their first baby wanted to know if the Rabbi could resolve the issue that they were having. See the mother was sefardic and wanted her son named after her father who was alive. The father though was Episcopalian and the mother claimed that made him Ashkenazi and she knew that Ashkenazim did not name after living relatives. So was she permitted to name her son after her father still? Oy…
See these are what the author calls Kosher-pig questions. I laughed when I read the book. At least until I became a Rabbi and moved out to Iowa. Iowa, in case you didn’t know, lays claim to the largest hog population in the United States. It would make sense therefore that it was going to be the home to lots of Kosher pig questions as well.
These are some of my favorite ones. We used to make an early Shabbat minyan there, as we weren’t comfortable praying in the “Orthodox” shul that did not have a separation between men and women and used a microphone for Shabbat services. In time though we had a larger attendance then the regular minyan, because we had all the people that went to work on Shabbos. The question that was raised was, is it alright to advertise our services, knowing that people would come pray in order to go to work on Shabbos. On one hand they were praying in our more “halachic” minyan. On the other hand, they were going to work, if they prayed in the later minyan they would at least be spending more time in shul and less at work. Either way most people didn’t live within walking distance, so perhaps creating and advertising and early minyan would be encouraging people to drive to shul. On the other hand, they would probably be driving anyways…. See Kosher pigs questions…Welcome to Iowa
 We had Bill who had the kosher bagel store. He had kosher bagels with Kosher, cheeses and shmears. He also had kosher turkey, salami, baloney and deli. His Rueben bagel sandwiches with melted cheese and deli together were about as trayf as can be, violating the biblical prohibition of Milk and meat. {Something that is not easy to find as McDonalds cheese burgers,-also trayf are not “milk and meat” prohibited because the meat is prohibited by itself prior to being cooked with the cheese. In order to attain the solely milk and meat prohibition it has to be Kosher meat and cheese. When I asked Bill why he was open on Shabbos. After all he was a good guy, he came to shul, he studied with me regularly. Why not close his business on Shabbos.He explained to me that for many Jews their only connection to yiddishkeit was eating a bagel on Shabbos. He had to be open for them; without their Shabbos morning bagel they would be lost from our people. I nodded my head at his sincerity and told him how wonderful it was that he was so dedicated to the Jewish people. But then using my Rabbinic acumen asked him why he couldn’t get the goy-his non- Jewish employee to open up for him on Shabbos, that way he could stay in Shul and observe the day and those “bagel-Jews” would be fine. He looked at me with horror and disappointment as if I was suggesting who-knows-what. “The goy, Rabbi? He said, “He’ll trayf up my store!”
We had plenty of other ones as well. There was the woman that had intermarried that wanted to know if she could or even should study or practice the laws of family purity. Although that ould seem like it doesn’t’ get more Kosher pig than that, the answer we got from the Debrecener Rav was that she should, for that way she would at least be separated from her husband for certain intervals and a non-Jewish marriage wasn’t made to keep these laws. I had Kaddish for pet dog questions, and a Kohen that refused to marry his girlfriend whom he was living with, because she was a divorcee and that would mean he had to give up his Kohen status, according to him. Yes… I had my share of Kosher pig questions. In fact when we spoke about making our own Kosher organization there in Des Moines our symbol was going to be a pig with K inside of it. The Chazer-K. I’m not sure how it would’ve went over though.
This week the Torah portion in America- is Shemini. {In Israel, as last Shabbat was the day after Pesach for us we read that already and are a week ahead of you at Tazria/Metzora} Being that I am in America this week, for a wedding, and last week on the holiday I didn’t write about this Parsha- so my Israeli readers are still in the dark about it. It’s this week’s Parsha of the week. Hopefully by next week Mashiach will be here and you’ll all be in Israel and I won’t have to write two E-Mails. But anyways the end of the Parsha discusses the laws of Kosher and non-kosher animals. This of course will lead us to some kosher pig questions of our own. And perhaps some insight and inspiration-after all that’s why you’re here…right?, To why it is that the Kosher pig syndrome is perhaps the most significant and defining one of our generation. So here we go. The Torah tells us of four non-kosher mammals.
Vayikra (9:4-7) But these you shall not eat among those that bring up the cud and those that have a cloven hoof: the camel, because it brings up its cud, but does not have a [completely] cloven hoof; it is unclean for you.
5 And the hyrax, because it brings up its cud, but will not have a [completely] cloven hoof; it is unclean for you;
6And the hare, because it brings up its cud, but does not have a [completely] cloven hoof; it is unclean for you
;7And the pig, because it has a cloven hoof that is completely split, but will not regurgitate its cud; it is unclean for you.
So we have three non-kosher animals that don’t have the hooves but chew their cud. The pig though is the one that is the opposite. It has the split hooves, yet it does not chew its cud. The Gaon of Vilna brings the Midrash that notes that each of the four animals represents one of the four exiles that we have been through. The camel is Babylonia, the hare is Greece, Hyrax is Persia and the pig represents the exile we are in today Rome, the West…America? The Talmud in Yoma tells us
Yoma (9:) The first ones that their sin was in the open the date of the end of their exile was also revealed. The last ones who sin was hidden, so too the end of their exile has been hidden from them.
It concludes with the enigmatic statement
Rabbi Yochanan said It is better the nails of the first ones then the belly of the last ones.
The Gaon of Vilna explains that the difference between the first three animals and the last ones. Is that the first three are all obviously by the lack of their split hooves not Kosher. You can see that right away. The pig on the other hand has kosher hooves. It likes to show them off. It pretends to be kosher, to be moral, to be righteous. But look at its kishkas. Look a little deeper and you will see outside of the surface and deep inside it’s as trayf as can be. chazer-trayf. The first exiles the Jews were idolatrous, they immoral, they didn’t hide it. They were like the first three animals and Hashem seemingly preferred that, as their exile was also revealed it was only 70 years. Our kishkas, were still pure seemingly. Our liver was kosher J. The last exile, Rome we pretended to be religious. We showed off our split hooves. They were very yeshivshe looking. We had payos, shtreimels and chalav yisrael. But it was all a show. It was all worried about the externalities. It was kosher looking pigs. Our bellies of the last generation, Rebbi Yochanan tells us, didn’t come to close to those non hooved toenails of the earlier ones. And thus we are sent into an exile without an end. We are sent into an exile to a nation that claims to be more moral than any other. That is the one we are in until today.
This past week was Yom HaShoa in Israel. I was listening to a radio program here in New York in Hebrew.88.7 FM, I think. By the way, I just want to let you know how cool that is. It’s funny in Israel I never listen to Hebrew radio, but in New York I do. Also Kosher pig I guess. Keep the Israeli Jews feeling like their living in Israel although they are still here. Have your Israel and 13th Avenue too! But I digress…Anyways, this man was discussing the Holocaust and he said something fascinating. He suggested that one of the primary lessons that we as Jews are meant to take from the Shoah is that is shined a light to the world. That the most moral, cultured, civilized society of the time-ergo Germany. Was really just a pig in disguise. They were in fact just externally moral. Inside they were bankrupt. Evil. Barbaric. A Chazer blaybt a chazer. A pig is a pig and is never kosher. That is the exile that Hashem has shown us and that we are in.
How do we leave this exile? The Yismach Moshe suggests that only way is to conquer Esau/Edom, who on the outside pretends to be so pure. Is by being the Yaakov that grabs on to his foot, his hoof and shows to the world the fallacy of a non-Torah world. A world that does not believe in Hashem. Yaakov is the power of Torah. Torah is that light that we shine on our actions to examine if what we are doing is truly moral, is truly inherently pure. Judaism isn’t about the externalities. It’s about fulfilling the will of Hashem.
We are in the period of the Omer now. We count each day as we get closer to the moment and the energy of the holiday of Shavuot when we received that Torah. This is the time of year, when we each need to shine that light of Torah into our daily actions. Grow a little more. Learn a little more. The kosher pigs questions reveal that deep desire of even the most distant of us to find that light and become kosher. Become holy. Become like that sheep of Hashem awaiting its shepherd to bring us home. The Talmud tells us that the reason a pig is called chazir which means return, is because one day in the Messianic era the pig will return to being kosher. The pig was neve kosher though, you ask? Perhaps it means that kosher pig in all of us. The time of return is here. Let’s come home.
 
Have an amazing Shabbos and an incredible Chodesh Iyar Tov,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
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RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
 
“Fun a khazers ek ken men keyn shtrayml nit machen.”- You can't make a shtreimel out of a pig's tail.

RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
 
Q. Places where the poetess Rachel lived:
A. Degania and Motza
B. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
C. Kinneret and Yavne’el
D. Alumot and Kfar Tavor

RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
 
https://youtu.be/6N_yJG5Imrw    - What an incredible and moving story and message. Acheinu by Shabbat.com in honor of Yom Hashoah
 
https://youtu.be/pCB4v68Bb3g  – Non observant Jews go Kosher for a week!
 
https://youtu.be/mabKr9s52EE  – Certainly very beautiful and interesting on many levels give a listen to “kiddish” by Nishma
  
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S HAFTORA CONNECTION OF THE WEEK
 
Although we are separated by Torah portions between Israel and America. Israel being a week ahead with Tazria/ Metzora. We share the same haftora as this week we have the special haftora that is read when Rosh Chodesh- the new month falls out right after Shabbos on Sunday. The Haftora which begins seemingly right in the middle of a story starts with the words
Shmuel I (20:18) And Yonatan said “Tommorow is Rosh Chodesh”.
This haftora reading is mentioned in the talmud, it is therefore a much earlier source and it is agreed upon by Sefardim and Ashkenazim. So it certainly deserves a bit of extra appreciation.
The story in the haftora is about the not yet- King David, his friend and brother- in- law Yonatan and King Shaul his father in law. Dovid was nervous that Shaul was going to kill him again. He was suffering from paranoia and depression and Dovid was usually his target. Yonatan wasn’t sure and so he developed a plan with Dovid. That is where the haftora begins from.
Yonatan tells Dovid that tomorrow will be Rosh Chodesh and it seems the tradition back then was that there would be a great feast each new month. Dovid would miss the party. And Yonatan would gauge Shaul’s reaction. If he was upset at Dovid’s seemingly innocuous absence, it would be a sign that it would be safe. If he got upset, which he did, then Yonatan would send a message to Dovid by shooting arrows and giving him a signal.
The connection between the haftora and perhaps the message we are meant to think about each erev new month. Is that we are in the position of Yonatan, Dovid and King Saul. There is a new month. It is a new beginning. Dovid will be King. Shaul’s Kingdom is coming to an end. How will you relate to this new opportunity? We will you still keep your old baggage. Like Shaul does and not utilize the opportunity and freshness to start anew and get on board. Or will you like Yonatan choose Dovid. Choose the future. Move forward and change and grow. Dovid as well assures Yonatan that despite his father trying to kill him, Dovid will not allow that to define him. That is the past. That is his father. Yonatan can have a new start and fresh relationship that the past doesn’t define.
We can as well each new month. It is our opportunity to move forward and onward.
Chodesh Tov!
 
King David (904 BC) – Born to the home of Yishai in Bethlehem Dovid was anointed clandestinely by the prophet Shmuel much to everyone’s surprise to become the King of Israel. The Tanach gives an incredible description of Dovid
Shmuel I (16:18) He knew how to play musician, he was mighty, a man of war, who was understanding of people, a man of great physical stature, and Hashem was with him.
Don’t you love how it starts out with his musical qualities?
 
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ERA’S AND THEIR PLACES AND PEOPLE IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
 
The Holocaust (1930’s and 40’s – We’ll pause for this week in our Eras and places that we have been ordering chronologically from the Creation of this week in honor of Holocasut Memorial day in Israel or Yom Hashoah. The holocaust has certainly been long accredited by many secular and even some religious Zionists as being the rationale for the State of Israel coming into being. We earned it. We need it. Never Again. We shall never forget.  It is certainly a topic and era that the early state wanted to fortify as part of the culture and ideology of the State. As a result of that there have been many musuems and places where one can learn about the topic and era. The most notable of course is Yad Vashem, although that was not the first Holocaust museum. The Ghettos fighters museum in Akko has that distinction, as it was built in 1949 to commemorate and share with the next generation the heroism and story of the Ghettos and the revolt against the Nazis for survival. As well there is the yad layeled children exhibit there which is really a view for children of what life was like in the Ghetto.
Also notable is Yad Mordechai in the South has a museum dedicated to the Warsaw Ghetto and revolt. One of their most significant displays is the cattle cars that you go in as the camera shine yellow stars upon you. One last off the beated track and perhaps the most religious oriented of memorials is the Martef Hashoah by Mt. Zion and Diaspora yeshiva with its’ virtual cemetery for the families that have dedicated stones for those that have died and have no burial.
 
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S TOP FIVE CLEANING QUOTES OF THE WEEK
 
I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals. -Winston Churchill

“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”― George Bernard Shaw
 

RABBI SCHWARTZ’S REALLY TERRIBLE PIG JOKES OF THE WEEK
 
Q: How do pigs write top secret messages? A: With invisible oink!
Q: What is a pig's favorite color? A: Mahogany
. Q: What do you call a pig with no legs? A: A groundhog.
Yesterday a pig invited me to see his new home. Actually it was quite stylish.
Q: How do you take a sick pig to the hospital? A: In an hambulance!
Q: What do you call a pig that does karate? A: Porkchop!
Q: What do you get when you cross a pig and a cactus? A: a porky-pine
 Q: What do you call it when you cross a dinosaur and a pig? A: Jurassic pork!
Q: What's the difference between bird flu and swine flu? A: If you have bird flu, you need tweetment. If you have swine flu, you need oink-ment.
What do you call a pig that's not fun to be around? A boar.
Where do flying pigs go? Hogworts
 
Rabbi Landau has always been secretly sad that he's never been able to eat pork. So one day, he flies to a remote tropical Island and books into a hotel. “No one will find me here,” he said to himself. On the first evening, he goes to the best restaurant and orders the ‘roast pork special’. While he’s waiting, he hears someone call his name. Rabbi Landau looks up and sees one of his congregants walking towards his table. What unbelievably bad luck – the same time to visit the same restaurant on the same island! 
Just at that moment, the waiter puts on his table a whole roasted pig with an apple in its mouth and says, “Your special, sir.” Rabbi Landau looks up sheepishly at his congregant and says, "Would you believe it - you order an apple in this restaurant and look how they serve it!"
 
A Nazi walks into a bar with a duck under his arm. Yankel the barman says "sorry we don't serve pigs in here," The Nazi says "Its not a pig its a duck" The barman says "I am talking to the duck."
 
Moishe and Mindy were driving down a country road for several miles, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument and neither of them wanted to concede their position. As they passed a barnyard of mules, goats and pigs, Moishe asked sarcastically, "Relatives of yours?"
"Yep," replied Mindy "the in-laws."
 
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Answer is B – This one was really difficult for me as 1920’s Israeli music is really not my thing. Nor is it any of my tourists, so I’m not that worried. See the only thing I knew about Rachel Bluestien or Rachel the poetess as she is known is that she had some turid affairs if I remember correctly with some of Israels early Zionist leaders, she loved the Kinneret and she worked on the ladies farm there and is buried in the Kinneret cemetery; next to the lake that she composed the famous “Kinneret Sheli” song. So I would have guessed the Kinneret answer. However I was jut in Yavniel for Pesach and nothing there reminded me of anything to do with Rachel. So I in fact went with the correct answer Jerusalem and Tel Aviv where she spent the end of her life. She was also in Deganya. D was totally wrong though.