Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 23rd 2011 -Volume I, Issue 42–24th of Elul 577
Up Close and Personal
I almost missed it. The road between Tzefat and Meron is quite curvy and as I was coming across the bend by the Birya forest, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something that looked strange. I stepped on my brakes hurriedly, very carefully made a U-Turn and sure enough my eyes did not deceive me. There they were. What they were doing there… I wasn’t sure. But this is the mystical mountains of Israel and I knew that there most certainly was going to be a good story or at least a worthwhile E-Mail that as your “man on the ground” I was obligated to investigate.
So I got out of my car and slowly and quietly made my way over to this strange sight on the side of the road. They were a very mixed crowd of about 20 women. There were older and younger women. Some were obviously very religious with head coverings and wigs. Others were younger with rings and piercings dressed more “street –like”. Some seemed were more put together women and some who seemed like they could use a hand-out. Yet the diversity of the women was not what caught my eye, rather it what each of them was doing that seemed very bizarre. For each one of them was standing next to their own tree, with their eyes closed in some type of meditation and hugging the tree for dear life. Now I come from Seattle and New York and have certainly seen quite a few strange people and things in my life. But the range and the diversity of these women coupled with what seemed like either some biblical styled tree worship or some type of science fiction mind morphing alien abduction definitely took the cake.
I approached one of them and asked what was going on and was shhhh’ed away back to my corner. All of a sudden a woman who seemed to be leading this group shouted out some type of command that unfortunately I did not understand and could not make out. But within a second I was shaken to my core when each woman let out a deep guttural scream, almost tarzan-like on the tops of their lungs for a full 30 second or so.
It was suddenly very quiet again. Each woman went back to her silent intense tree-hugging meditation and then once again three minutes later with even more intensity.
This continued one more time and then they all smiled at each other hugged and embraced and made their way back to their bus that was parked there.
I couldn’t restrain myself anymore. I walked over to the “leader” and asked her what this was all about. Was this some environmentalist thing, some far out eastern religion, or maybe some type of candid camera thing that my reaction was being filmed for? She smiled at me and explained.
“Actually”- she said “this is a very Jewish thing. You see these women have all suffered some type of tragedy. Some have lost their children, others are from abusive relationships and others have sunk to the bottom and are in so much pain they could barely pick themselves up. We are a support group for these women and we have found that one of the most effective means of helping them is by utilizing the great wisdom and insight of Rebbe Nachman of Breslav”.
Rebbe Nachman advises that when one is so overcome and overwhelmed and feels that he or she has nowhere to turn; they should go out to the forest, a place of quiet, solitude…of holiness. There in the forest one should feel the life force that flows from the heavens, the earth and the trees. One should contemplate how each leaf and each branch rises up and is cared for and loved by the Master of this Divine universe. And then one should pour out all of their pain and woe to our Father who has never left our side and who sits and joins us in our sorrow or loss and our hurt. That knowledge and personal connection is the essence of their relief. Hashem is not just a concept and ideology or a global manipulator. He is a personal God who is there to hold our hand and bring us up and closer to His presence.
The great 18th century Chasidic Rebbe, Reb Yackov Yitzchak of Peshischa, known as the Yid Ha’Kadosh in this week’s Torah portion shares with us this very powerful idea. We learn hownn Moshe in his final speech to the Jewish people warns them to heed our special covenant that is being made with each individual.
“ Your leaders, tribes, elders, officers, each man, infant, woman, convert in your camp from the wood chopper to the water carrier… those who are standing here today and those that are not here with us today…”
Perhaps there is amongst you a man, woman, tribe, family or tribe whose heart is turned away from Hashem our God… “Pen Yeish Bachem- perhaps there is within you a root that bears poison and bitterness…”
The Yid Hakodosh reads the verse, that the root that bears the poison and the bitterness is actually the “perhaps” itself. Pen -Yaish Bachem- There is doubt within you. That is what the source of your pain is. That is the root which will fester and grow and it, and it is from there that all sadness, sorrow and sin result.
I walked away from the bus somberly. It was not them who were taken over by aliens rather it was me. Alien thoughts, foreign reliance’s, a forgetfulness of the essence of who I truly am and the world I truly exist in, but fail to see and appreciate. But most of all the powerful love and caring that my Father has for me.
This week each of us will stand by ourselves before Hashem. “Like a sheep passing underneath the rod- Hashem counts and brings us close to Him as he decrees the upcoming year’s outcome for us. Our prayers for the New Year should not only be for ourselves, but for all of Klal Yisrael, for Eretz Yisrael, for Jews that are in pain and for all those that need relief, comfort, redemption and salvation. But our prayers should not be like those of the past. They should not just be read as an organized book of prayers and rituals. Rather they should be conversations of the most personal and deepest nature to our Father who is yearning for us to be close to Him. Who stands with His pen poised to give us all that we need and could possibly hope for if we only were able to really deeply tell Him how badly we want it, how much we need it. How real He is us to us and how much we need this year to be better and different.
May Hashem bless each and every one of us with Ketiva VeChatima Tova- a blessed sweet year.
Have a spectacular last Shabbat of the year,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Machon Ayalon-the Bullet Factory Museum- There are many cool places in Israel each has their own story but the Underground clandestine bullet factory from the years 1945-1948 in Rehovot is certainly one of the top coolest places in Israel. The factory which was built 25 feet below the ground of a Kibbutz that was used for agricultural training for new olim that moved to Israel was right under the nose of the British. Millions of bullets for the precious Sten guns of the Hagana and pre-State of Israel defense forces were made for 3 years providing them with all the ammunition they needed to protect and establish the Jewish State. One can visit the center with a guided tour and see the bakery and Kibbutz laundraomat with the spy movie- like retractable oven and washing machines that led to the underground factory which no one on the top – and even in the leadership of the Jewish people knew about or its location. One can watch a great film there of their story and hear interviews from these great heroes-many of them still alive today. A fun and fascinating trip for the whole family that shares an important and unique story of the establishment and fight for our Country.