Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 26thth 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 39–19th of Av 5773
The Non-Atkins approved E-Mail
Bentch-a-phobia, sadly this seems to be a recent illness that I have noticed amongst some Orthodox Jews. Unlike its accompanying neurosis fleish-a-phobia (the fear of being flieshigs-having eaten meat and then being prohibited from eating ice cream, chocolate or any other dairy product for the next 6 hours according to traditional Jewish practice) which seems to only be found amongst women and teenage girls; we guys know that a good steak or shwarma trumps an ice cream any day. Bentch-a-phobia, or the fear of eating bread and thus being obligated in having to take the extra 15 seconds to wash ones hands before eating (in general a good a practice, my mother taught me and my wife kind of enforces…with soap) and make a blessing and then spending the extra few minutes on the longer after-blessing called bentching that a bread meal requires, seems to be found by many Jews without any differentiation towards gender, age, and even meat or dairy orientation.
There are of course varying degrees in which some people suffer from this disease. There are some that will order the steak and shwarma plate meal, even though it is more expensive, rather than have to bentch (the Yiddish term for the after blessing). There are others though, perhaps more frugal, that will even order the hamburger and/or hot dog (because one is never enough) but make the extra effort to remove the bun in order not to bentch. I've even seen some people dump a beautiful shwarma and falafel onto their plate removing their pita or even worse their laffa and discarding it with the disdain that only broccoli or cauliflower deserves, just to avoid that 3 minute blessing afterwards; A true travesty, indeed. In fact entire industries of fruit-juice based bread products (rather than water which therefore does not give it the halachic status of bread and requiring the after blessing) have developed around this phenomena. Mezonot rolls (named after the shorter blessing), mezonot pizza- or alternately making sure not to eat more than one slice as starving as you may be are all just there so that people don't have to wash and bentch. Certainly not for flavor. Oyy what our world has come to…
As this weekly E-mail's function is to inspire and address pressing issues amongst my fellow Members of the Tribe, and as this week's Torah portion contains this wonderful mitzvah of blessing, and being that it is the summer time and many are on vacation and seem to be in a rush and try to avoid the bentching (although from what I can see everyone has all the time in the world to examine the menu and decide what to order…if only people would bentch half as long as it took them to decide what side dish they wanted-just choose the fries already…) there is no better time than to address the ills and maladies of this terrible disorder. The Torah commands us and we recite this portion twice a day in the 2nd paragraph of the Shema that when we will listen to the mitzvahs hashem has commanded us, Hashem will than bring rain and give us crops.
V'aChalta Vi'Sava'ata U'Veirachta Es Hashem Elokecha al Ha'aretz Ha'Tova asher Nasan Lach-And you shall eat and be satiated and you shall bless Hashesm your God on the good land which he gave to you.
This is in fact the only biblically commanded blessing in the entire Torah. That's right if one wants to fulfill a biblical commandment (rather than just the rabbinical commandment-that all other blessings are) than Bentch. In fact all of our organized prayers that we have today are rabbinical in nature. Shabbat, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, we are biblically obligated to celebrate, sanctify and observe these special days and according to some authorities we even have a biblical obligation perhaps daily to talk to God in times of need. But the only mitzvah where the Torah actually explicitly commands us to engage in a verbal communication with the Master of the World is right after you chow down on that big juicy corned beef sandwich on rye. It is as if Hashem is telling us, you want to get a mitzvah to talk to me. Eat a little challa, a croissant, a bagel a baguette and then we can schmooze. Then we have to schmooze. For it is than that you can really appreciate me. One slice of pizza, a mezonos roll, a salad…not so much. OK, the Rabbis said those also require and earn you a shorter blessing. But if you really want to connect, one must have some delicious bread.
Even more interesting about this blessing, now that I've convinced you to wash a little bit and sit down and grab a roll, is that the entire blessing to a large degree revolves around an appreciation of not just God, but of the land of Israel.
We thank you, Hashem our God, that you inherited to our forefather a land that is desirous, good, and spacious.
There is no land that is more special in the world. Everyone wants a piece of us. It is the land which the Torah portion tells us this week is playing non-stop on Hashems live feed wide screen heavenly screen 24/7 (OK maybe it doesn't say it in exactly those words). It is spacious. There is room for every Jew that wants to move here. If you are visiting or touring this country this summer with you family and want to impress upon them the beauty of Israel and our spiritual and ancestral connection to it, how can you not bentch and say these words?
The blessing continues with us recalling how we were redeemed from Egypt, our eternal covenant with Hashem, the Torah we were gifted with and the daily life, kindness and graciousness that we receive from Him. All because of that one slice of bread. Rav Ben Tzion Baruch, the founder of the Jerusalem branch of the Novhardok Yeshiva, in the 1930's shares another inspirational insight about this blessing. He suggests that as opposed to if one comes to someone's house for dinner and thanks them afterwards for the wonderful meal that they had. If one would begin to thank them for the table and chairs and house that they were hosted in it would be a little bizzare. Yet when one bentches we thank Hashem for everything and especially for the land of Israel for the wording of the blessing is not past tense it is present. It is more similar to a an analogy of someone who is thirsty and starving and all of a sudden a plane picks him up and brings him to a beautiful island with all the amenities one oculd ever possibly dream of. In that case of course one thanks their benefactor for everything. When we eat we are meant to appreciate that Hashem created all of this and allows it to exist only for our pleasure in order to him. When we eat that delicious meal we are meant to think about how he provided this special land, the rain, the crops and gave us our freedom and the medium of Torah and Mitzvos to express our gratitude and raise ourselves to higher spiritual level.
Finally, the last of the three biblical blessings that we make after we finished that luscious everything bagel and Lox sandwich with some cream cheese, red onion, and of course sliced juicy tomato (this is for those fleish-a-phobes), is the blessing for Hashem to have mercy and restore our Temple
Our God, Our Father-tend us…sustain us…support us…relieve us…. Rebuild Yerushalayim the holy city soon in our days.
Once we have realized that Hashem has not only created but continues to provide all that we need to survive and granted us this special land in which to fulfill our heavenly mandate, we than ask Him to finally restore to us our precious Beit Ha'Mikdash, our holiest Temple, His presence once again amongst our nation, so that we may have not just our and the entire worlds physical needs but even more significantly our spiritual purpose fulfilled through that glorious destiny.
There is more to the blessing after the bread that we say. The fourth blessing the Rabbis added in that describes Hashems Divine providence in our daily lives and all types of other blessings and supplication. They shouldn't take you more than another three minutes or so. Maybe four minutes if you sing it and bang on the table and to the clapping NCSY hand signals that accompany the traditional tune. But I guarantee you there will be no better and more fruitful time spent your entire meal than in the few minutes after your bread meal reciting these meaningful words. Think about it when you sit there with your menu. You have the opportunity to order a meal and get a mitzvah and recite the oldest blessing in Jewish tradition. Or you can just have a salad. Grab another piece of Challah, Forget about your Dr. Atkins grain free diet. He died of a heart attack. I on the other hand am offering yu a wonderful whole grain, organic slice of heaven.
Have a wholesome delicious Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
The Mishna was redacted by?
(a) Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi
(b) Rabbi Gamliel
(c) Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi
(d) Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai
RABBI SCHWARTZES QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Did you know that the Jews invented sushi? That's right - two Jews bought a restaurant with no kitchen.-Jackie Mason
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE LINK OF THE WEEK
Jackie Mason the funniest and truest description of Jews in a restaurant…If only we would bentch with that much intent.
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Mitzpeh HaShalom- I love glorious views of Eretz Yisrael and perhaps one of the most inceredible lookouts you will have is from this amazing over the entire Kinneret down the Jordan valley and up to the Hermon and Golan Heights in the lower Golan Heights. Right off Highway 98 about 15 minutes up on the windiest and some say scariest road in Israel from Hammat Gader. (I say the most fun), this 315 meter high lookout point in Kfar Haruv is truly breathtaking. As well the small settlement of Kfar Haruv founded after the Yom Kippur war on what was formerly a Syrian outpost that terrorized the below Yishuvim of Ein Gev and Ha'On around the Kinneret offers wonderful cabins and vacation suites, truly the perfect get away. Really a must see view for anyone up north in the lower Golan area.
Answer is C- Rabbi Yehuda Ha'Nassi "broke the rules" prohibiting the oral tradition of the Torah from being written down enacting the Torah's extenuating circumstances clause of Hora'at Sha'ah that the Torah provides in order to save the Torah from being forgotten in the advent of the destruction of the Temple being destroyed and subsequental prohibition by Hadrian of Jews living in Jerusalem. The six books of Mishna which was a collection of all of the traditions, rulings and teachings of the 1st and 2nd century sages in his period become foundation of all of jewish law and the Talmud which followed in the 5th and 6th centuries is merely an elaboration of it. One can visit the great city of Tzippori today where the Talmud was writen and the grave of Rabbi Yehudah Ha'Nasi AKA Rebbi in nearby Beit Shearim. I can recommend a good tour guide if you want J