Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
February 28th 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 22 –19th of Adar 5773
Parshas Ki Tisa/ Parah
I spent the better part of this week in the hospital dealing (thank god) with healing family members. Not necessarily the funnest place to spend your post-purim days. But it beats spending your time with non-healing relatives. Thank God everyone's doing fine and life will start to get back to normal. But all that time in an Israeli hospital and left me with a lot of impressions…inspiration… new insights… and perhaps a little bit of a cough J. So I'll share the first three with you and I'll drink a tea for the cough and who knows we may even get to the Parsha as well.
The first thing that struck me about the hospital is that all the signs are in Hebrew, Russian and Arabic…uhhh aren't we missing something here? It became a little clearer when I realized that those were really the only languages I heard here. I guess all the Americans that move to Israel stay pretty healthy. Over the entire week I don't think I heard one English speaker. Now lest you think I live out in the Jewish boondocks I don't think I have ever gone into the Supermarket and not heard English. So we're certainly eating well.
The second thing I noticed was that the care in the hospital felt different. It was tougher in many ways not as sweet and caring that doctors and nurses are trained to treat their patients with in the States. I felt that these hospital staff members had seen some pretty scary things and acted in a stronger almost warlike military way. At the same time I felt a strong sense of personal caring from them- not the fake American "trained to treat your patients with" kind. But the extra way they scolded, or the personal family questions and comments that they made. It felt like family that really cared about how their patients were doing. They broke some rules here and there to keep their patients happy or go the extra mile and it was heart warming.
The third and perhaps most startling thing was how many of the doctors, nurses and patients were Arabs- Christian, Muslim and Druze. I guess I expected a Jewish hospital to have mainly Jewish staff, but that wasn't the case. Even more interesting was the many conversations that I had with them. One older arab (typical look with a kafiyeh white mustache and cane) visiting a sick relative introduced himself and told me about the synagogues he helped build and how we are all the children of Nebi Abraham/Ibrahim. He then wished me well and asked how everyone was doing and said he would pray for them. The doctors and nurses as well that weren't Jewish, that were part of the tens of different doctors and nurses that we saw also truly gave me a very similar sense of that dedication and caring for my family's well-being that I got from their Jewish counterparts. (although having lived in America and studied way too much Israel history I had a healthy/un-healthy(?) sense of suspicion and skepticism I found it hard to accept it as such).
But perhaps the most interesting was watching everyone sitting around and talking throughout the hospital. It's fascinating, there was no talk of politics, sports; no one was really interested in the News that was on the various TV's. People were just all pretty much united in concern for the life and health of one another. Some were sadly crying over some bad news, other looked hopeful praying and others were waiting to see their newest additions. Old people were there visiting their children, Parents holding babies or sick toddlers and boyfriends and girlfriends seeking out the latest prognosis's of their loved ones. We were all united in the hospital. We were all in a situation where we understood that we were no longer in control of our destinies and future. We all wanted Hashem to step in and give us another day of life. There is no place where I think that life is ever thought about or valued more.
Which brings us to this week's Parsha, or two Parshiyot, I should say. The first Parsha that we read describes right next to each other both the most beautiful and the most tragic moments of Jewish history. The verse re-describes the moment of the giving of the tablets to Moshe as "And he gave to Moshe Ki'Chaloso-when he completed talking to him... the two tablets of written with the finger of God". Rashi quoting the Medrash notes that usage of the word Ki Chaloso can also be read as Ki Kallah to- as his bride. The moment of the giving of the tablets was like a bride and groom and the greatest expression of love. The next verse however tells us of the rapid fall to the great sin of the golden calf described again in the medrash as bride that is unfaithful on the moment of their chuppah. The greatest and most tragic moment. The debacle of the Golden calf is one that Hashem declares will always be with the Jewish people when they are punished. We lost our status (Stahtoos-in Hebrew), our crown, our potential for eternal life and that perfect world at that moment. And although Moshe was able to achieve atonement we were changed forever as a nation.
The second Parsha we read is the third of the 4 special Parshiyot that are read from before Purim to Pesach, this one being the Parah the laws of the red heifer that would be used to purify the Jewish people from the Tuma'ah that comes from coming in contact with death. The intricate laws of this heifer include burning it with hyssop (a lowly bush symbolizing humility) and cedar (a towering tall tree symbolizing arrogance) and sprinkling the ashes upon those who had become impure. We read this before Pesach in order to prepare the Jewish people for the Phascal lamb that must be eaten in purity. Two Parshiyot seemingly not connected and also not "the funnest" to read post-Purim yet here we are.
Upon examining this strange mitzvah of the red heifer our sages tell us that it is in fact very connected to our 1st Parsha. In the words of the Midrash "Let the mother clean up after her child" The cow should clean up the sin and the impurity of death that was brought into the world by the golden calf. Why is there impurity when one comes in contact with death? In Judaism we believe that there is a world to come- Death the moment when we enter that eternal resting place to be joined together with Hashem should be a holy moment-not one of impurity? The answer is that Tum'ah which comes from the word blockage is a description of when something is blocked from accomplishing the purpose of its existence. Man was created to be alive to accomplish When one dies his ability create a Divine world has ended. There is a void and all that come in contact with that emptiness and void need to go through a process of re-building.
There was perhaps no greater moment of Tuma'ah then when the Jewish people fell from their heights and their potential then by the golden calf. We were as alive and set to accomplish the world and we lost it. We defiled it. Moshe burns the calf and sprinkles its ashes upon the nation. Those ashes of death though are mixed with the water of life. We can rebuild again. We must. The mother will atone for the children. We can bring a Korban Pesach and be renewed each year again. We read this each year after Purim when we celebrate our physical survival from death, because we realized that just being granted the gift of life again is not enough. We're not just going to go back to our regular day-to day anymore. We are going to try to purify and rebuild our souls and our lives spiritually once again as well. We will be cleansed of the Tuma'ah and we want to restore our souls and bring back that moment of our bride once again. Purim was our hospital that we left with good news. Parah and Ki Sisa that follows is us taking that renewed appreciation of the life we have been given again and choosing to this time make it better… Purer… holier. Back to our source. Back to the mountain. Being one with Hashem.
So perhaps hospitals are not such a bad place to visit after Purim. May Hashem grant his entire beloved nation and certainly all those that need that loving healing touch that only the Almighty can give, a complete restoration of body and soul and may we all serve him together renewed.
Have a remarkable and inspiring Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ FAVORITE CLIPS OF THE WEEK
YONAH AND BINYOMIN ISRAELI CHESS RULES (LIKE IT)
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE COURSE QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Which of the following sites was destroyed in the Great Revolt ?
(a) Beitar and Yavne
(b) Yodfat and Gamla
(c) Sephoris (Tsipori) and Beit She'an
(d) Jerusalem and Akko
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Yodefat- This archeological not far from Karmiel in the lower Galile was at one point one of the most important strongholds for the Jews in the great Revolt. The city itself is mentioned in the gemara as a city that was walled from the times of Joshua yet the earlies remains are from the 2nd temple Chashmonaim period. Walking around the site one can see the remains of the ancient walls of the city that were built to protect the rebles from the Roman troops. Archeologists have found thousands of arrow heads and ballistas that were shot as well as the siege wall that Titus breached the city with, as well as cisterens with skeletons of the bodies of the Jewish fallen. One can also see the ancient water cisterns that provided the water for the city of 40,000 according to Josephus who was the general here. When the Roman's finally broke through the soldiers similar to Masada agreed to commit suicide. Josephus being the last man standing gave himself over to the Romans here and became their historian and chronologist of the eventual destruction.
RABBI SCHWARTZ VERY CHEESY HOSPITAL JOKE OF THE WEEK
A panel of doctors was asked for their opinions concerning a proposal to build a new wing to their hospital. This was what they said:
The Allergists voted to scratch it.
The Dermatologists preferred no rash moves.
The Psychiatrists thought it was madness.
The Radiologists could see right through it.
The Gastrointologists had a gut feeling about it.
The Neurologists thought the administration had a lot of nerve.
The Obstetricians stated they were labouring under a misconception.
The Ophthalmologists considered the idea short-sighted.
The Pathologists yelled, "Over my dead body."
The Pediatricians said, "Grow up!"
The Plastic Surgeon said, 'This puts a whole new face on the matter.'
The Podiatrists thought it was a step forward.
The Urologists felt the scheme wouldn't hold water.
The Surgeons decided to wash their hands of the whole thing.
The Anesthesiologists thought the whole idea was a gas.
The Cardiologists didn't have the heart to say no
Answer is B- The Revolt against the Romans that started in the year 66 started primarily in the North of Israel and then spread to the rest of the country. Yodfat was one of the major strongholds and Gamla was the final stronghold before Vespasian and his three Roman legions marched down to destroy Jerusalem and the Beit Hamikdash