Our view of the Galile

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Confessions of a Global Warmer- Teruma-2014/5774

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

January 30th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 17-30th  of Shevat 5774
Confessions of a Global Warmer
 I confess, I probably have a big carbon footprint. I used to drive a GMC suburban and before that minivans and station wagons. We go through lots of and lots of garbage in the Schwartz home and pretty much until I moved to Seattle, where you have to pay for the garbage you throw out, per size of your can-while recycling was free, I never really recycled either. (Even then, once I'm confessing my sins already, I used to throw some garbage in the recycling bin…hey it was free and the neighbors would give me these bad looks if my garbage was too full and my recycling not full enough; c'mon you mean to tell me you never padded your recycling bin…). We also, as you know, go through lots of chulent in the Schwartz house and those after-effects can’t be too good for the environment as well.

The truth is I never really bought into this whole environmental thing. I am a skeptic by nature (excuse the pun) and Global warming, greenhouse emissions, sustainable energy, biodegradable and organic cornflakes just all seemed like a scam to me. I mean really is the planet really going to blow up or flood because of my deodorant or soda bottle. OK so we have a lot of garbage and waste and landfills emit gases, I know, I used to live near Staten Island and it smells. But we're smart we'll figure out a way to fix this carbon planet warming thing, if it really is happening. Meantime just leave me alone with my saturated fats and MSG preservatives and keep that corn syrup coming.

Oh… I think we've moved from the planet thing to my diet by now. But you see it's all the same thing to me. Its stuff that my wife, who is much more environmentally and health conscious (which is not saying much, I know, as I'm pretty much admittedly delusional on all of these things) nags me about. I'm sorry- corrects me about. We have three cabinets full of remedies and ancient Chinese herbs. There might even be a little old Chinese lady there as well in the back of my cabinet refilling them all the time for all I know because it just grows every day. All the cereals in our cabinet are grown by hand by some guy in Oklahoma whose cows have never seen a hormone in their life, whose grains have all been watered with natural spring water and who has taken an oath never to litter and to pay double minimum wage for American labor only. The final straw for me was when I came home one day and saw her with this spiral rolled up wax paper thing in one of my kid's ears on fire sucking out the "ear-ache" in a "natural way. Actually that one worked.  Truth is there really isn't a final straw. I've given up. She's trained me. A few times of  having to go back to the store to return the "poison" items or the non-healthy stuff has taught me to not change the shopping list. If I must buy something different-separate receipt, eat it in the car and chuck the guilty planet damaging wrapper in my neighbors garbage before I come home. Yet somehow she always knows. She's got this radar about me. I married a smart one.

I've changed a bit since moving to Israel though. I actually have started to care a lot more about the planet. Well, maybe not the planet, but certainly about the land of Israel. I tour a lot. I love this country. Litter has started to bother me. When I hike I pick up bottles and trash. I even glare at people that leave things around. I started to care about water usage. I turn off my shower when I soap. I still can’t stand the fact that I have to wait for hot water till that solar powered Dood switch heats it up for me, but I respect it. I even started eating salads-besides chummus and techina J. When I visit agricultural places in this country and see how incredible the things that we grow are and how much care is put into maintaining their healthy natural state, I marvel and am proud. Forests, trees, cows, sheep, desert growth, the Dead Sea rehabilitation efforts, so much effort and energy is put into trying to keep and restore this country as close as possible to the pristine way that Hashem created it and meant it to be, it inspires me. I guess before I moved here I really never connected in that way with the world and with nature. Truth is maybe I never really connected that way with myself.

Now what does all this have to do with this week's Torah portion, you want to know. I'm not sure. That's what happens when you digress. But let's try to reconstruct the thought process together, in an organic way, of course. This week's Parsha of Teruma is one big long description of the building of the sanctuary/tabernacle for Hashem. V'Asu Li Mikdash V'Shochanti B'Socham-Make for me a temple and I will dwell amongst them( the Jewish people) Like all that I show you, the structure of the tabernacle and the structure of the vessels and so you should do." The portion then goes through elaborate details on how to construct the Mishkan, the exact measurements and designs are all given. The commentaries all seem to struggle though with the notion that all of this as the verse says was shown to Moshe on Sinai,. Why was it so necessary for Hashem to give Moshe that vision in advance? When it comes to the making of the Menora the Torah even explicitly says "and you shall see and make the form that you are shown on the mountain" Rashi quotes the Talmud that tells us that Moshe struggled with the construction of the menorah in particular and in fact Hashem told him to throw the block of gold in fire and wadda-boom-wadda-bing the Menorah popped out by itself. Ding! Like a gold plated pop-tart J. What was so difficult about building this house of God? Moshe had the best architects in the world with him all under the leadership of Betzalel, who had extra- divine wisdom granted to him. He had a team of people that had been building pyramids for centuries. "My grandfathers grandfather was building these things before you were out of your papyrus Egyptian diapers" was I'm sure the response of most of the people that signed up for the jobs. This was a pretty small and modest wooden portable structure with a few gold, silver and copper vessels and some fancy tie-dyed woolen skins on top. Did Hashem really need to show Moshe up on the mountain how to build this thing?

The answer I believe is that Moshe's difficulty wasn't as much with the construction as it was with his understanding that this would be a place where Hashem's glory could truly reside. Anyone can build a building-well at least anyone with a bit of training. The Jews could build pyramids for Pharaoh. But a house for Hashem?! What does that even mean? My children sing a song (at least the older ones did in the States when they were little-I'm not sure if there is an Israeli version of the classic Uncle Moishy) Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere. Up-Up ,Down- Down, Right Left and all around, Here- there and everywhere that's where he can be found-(repeat until Daddy yells at you to be quiet already your giving him a headache). If Uncle Moishy is right, how can we confine Hashem to a place? He's everywhere.

To that Hashem tells Moshe, let me show you Moshe the answer is here on Mt. Sinai. The answer is that I brought you and this nation out so that they may serve me on this mountain. The answer is that I will dwell amongst them-as our sages explain within each and every one of you. You're right Moshe. Man alone cannot build me a building to dwell in but the objective isn't to have merely a building for me, the objective is for me to dwell within each Jew. The Temple/Tabernacle is to be the place where we return to that moment on Sinai, when none of us doubted that Hashem could be found in each of us. We heard Him say "I am Hashem" our souls were one with their Maker. He wasn't just here there and everywhere. He was within each of us. We were godly. If we were Godly then we could reveal that godliness in the world. The Mishkan would be the place where we tapped into the Hashem that is in each of us and after we recognize that we would see the Hashem that we could build and reveal out of the wood, the gold, the nuts, the bolts, the sheep and tachash skins and eventually shine that light out of Hashem's glory that is found in the entire world.

I'm still not an environmentalist. I really don't believe that we are risk from melting icebergs in Antarctica. It will probably take a lot to convince me of the efficacy of little pellets called dung-poo-gan for rashes and that Melaluca laundry detergent will save our planet (although my wife sells it if you want). But I do believe that we are meant to look at the world as the Temple of Hashem. We are meant to look at our bodies as the Mishkan that hosts the Shechina/the Divine presence. That's pretty heavy. (OK no jokes now…J). No, I really mean  it. The way that we treat the world and interact with it, has to be one in which we consider not merely how we can get the most bang out of it for ourselves, but rather are we treating it the way that shows respect and awe of the Divine presence that resides in it. Does that mean recycling? Does that mean not wasting resources? It certainly means not littering. What a different world it would be if we looked it at that way. The way it really is. Hashem is there. In the rocks, in the trees, in the oceans and in our backyards.

It is true as well for our bodies. The way we/I should be treating them. Hashem is within us. Is all that we imbibe or ingest fitting for the person that has within him or her the spirit of Hashem? The King of all Kings. Our Creator. The source of all holiness. I had a Rebbi once who pointed out to me how bizarre it would seem to be standing on line at the ice cream store and imagine if you would see Reb Chaim Kanievsky (one of the great elder Rabbis of our generation) standing in front of you in line. Can you imagine him turning to the ice cream guy and saying "I'll have some chocolate and vanilla mixed- the soft ice cream and sprinkles and crunch with caramel and hot fudge on top. You can hold the whipped cream though". It wouldn't just be bizarre it would be unimaginable. Not just because he wouldn't know how to get to an ice cream store and certainly wouldn't know what to order. But because he would recognize that an order like that is for someone that is absorbed with the physicality of his existence, our basest animal side and is totally disconnected (at least at that moment) from the fact that there is the holiest spirit in the world residing within every breath that we take.

We are meant to eat and to enjoy this world but it is with a sense of uplifting our soul. Of bringing honor and glory to the spiritual essence of what we truly are. But we forget that... We don't have a temple to remind us of holy we are. Our sages tell us that when the Divine presence left the Temple it continues to reside in the study of the Torah, in the places of Jewish law, in our sanctuaries our synagogues and yes even still within each and every one of us. When we study and read Torah portions like this and all of the upcoming ones. We should remember about our holy spirit, we should look at the glorious heavenly world that is around us and perhaps just perhaps we may merit to reveal a little more Godliness that will shine out to the world. At least creating that Godly handprint in all of his creation.
Have an exquisite Shabbos and a Spectaculous Rosh Chodesh,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"The way to come to love and fear God is by contemplating God's amazing words and creations and seeing the infinite wisdom expressed in them. This will bring one to love God and want to praise and glorify God. One will experience tremendous longing and yearning to know God's great name."- Maimonides

"The energy contained in nature, in the earth and its waters, in the atom and the sunshine will not avail us if we fail to activate the most precious vital energy: the moral-spiritual energy inherent in humankind, in the inner recesses of our being, in our mysterious, uncompromising, unfathomable and divinely inspired soul".- David Ben Gurion 
Hashem commands for the Jewish people to "take for me a donation- Vi'yikchu Li Teruma"
Seemingly the proper term should be to give to me. Our sages teaches that one who gives ultimately will receive. The gematria for
Vi'yikchu Li Teruma
130+      40+   651=   821
Fascinatingly enough also equals
 Shefa Bracha V'Hatzlacha = an abundance of blessing and success
450+     227+      144= 821

(answer below at end of Email)
The "Transfiguration" of the J-man (Christianity) in front of his disciples Peter, James and John takes place on which mountain
a)  Karantal  
b)  Tabor
c)  Mt. of Olives
d)  Har Ha'Kefitza / Mt. Precipice

This 85-year-old couple, having been married almost 60 years, died in a car crash. They had been in good health the last 10 years, mainly due to her interest in health food and exercise.
When they reached the pearly gates, the angel took them to their mansion, which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen, master bath suite and Jacuzzi.
As they oohed and aahed, the old man asked the angel how much all this was going to cost. "It's free," Peter replied. "This is Heaven."
Next they went out back to survey the championship golf course in the backyard. They would have golfing privileges every day, and each week the course would change to a new one, representing the great golf courses on Earth.
The old man asked, "What are the greens fees?"
The angel's reply, "This is Heaven -- you play for free."
Next they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the cuisines of the world laid out.
"How much to eat?" asked the old man.
"Don't you understand yet? This is Heaven, it's FREE!" The angel replied with some exasperation.
"Well, where are the low-fat and low-cholesterol tables?" the old man asked timidly.
The angel lectured, "That's the best part -- you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick. This is Heaven."
With that the old man went into a fit of anger, throwing down his hat and stomping on it, and shrieking wildly.
The angel and his wife both tried to calm him down, asking him what was wrong. The old man looked at his wife and said, "This is all your fault. If it weren't for your blasted bran muffins, I could have been here 10 years ago!"


Global warming solution from the Simpsons


Machon Hamikdash/Temple Institute- Jerusalem- The temple institute is somewhat of a controversial place but it certainly is cool to visit. The institute which is dedicated to rebuilding the Temple on the Mount and encourages visits to the Temple mount has taken upon itself the recreating of the vessels and garments as described in halacha that were used in the Temple. To date over 90 such objects have been made including the garments of the Kohen. Regardless of whether or not you approve of their agenda it is still a pretty cool place to see and get a feel for what the temple was like and the tabernacle as well from their models. May we merit to see the Temple rebuilt again soon.

Answer is B:  Whenever I have these Christianity questions I debate whether to share them with you.. But I just want to give my faithful readers who have made it this far a taste of the silly information the Jewish ministry of information requires us to know to get our licenses (don't get me wrong-I know that there are tons of Christian tourists and they are probably even the majority so I get it but I just wish that tour guides like me who pretty much are here to show Jewish Israel-whether it's to Jews or gentiles could opt out of this stuff). Anywasy Tabor is where they claim the big miracle where Moshe and Eliyahu and you-know-who all morphed together with some heavenly light…yada yada.. Precipice is where the Jews threw him off a mountain and he didn’t die. Karantal is where he stayed forty days and nights (sound familiar-I wonder where they got that from?) as satan tried to tempt him. And Mt of Olives is where he camped out before he went to be killed and where he wept.       


Friday, January 24, 2014

Trayf!- Mishpatim 5774/2014

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

January 24th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 16 -23rd of Shevat 5774
 One of the more revealing things about the degree of Jewish integration and influence in American society is the many “Jewishisms” that have made their way into the English vernacular. I am constantly humored whenever I turn on my radio and hear a talk show host inviting callers to call in and schmooze, or when I read in a newspaper about someone behaving with chutzpah or not being so kosher. Gelt, Kvell, Mazel Tov, are all words I have heard, and it even seems that the word Chulent is slowly making its way into the lexicon (at least here in Karmiel, we’re working on it ). Yet there is one word that I recently heard that got me thinking about its roots and the common way it is utilized.

The word Trayf may not yet be as familiar as it converse counterpart Kosher. Yet just as the word kosher has taken on a meaning that relates to more than the proper preparation or halachic status of food, trayf which literally refers to an animal that has been torn (not slaughtered properly) encompasses all non-kosher food and even behavior. It has therefore become common to use the word when talking about one’s not- so- kosher ideologies you may have found offensive, an inappropriate book and yes even the status of a non-meat restaurant or product that is not under halachic supervision although there is certainly no question about any animal being torn.

 It is interesting to note that the source for this word which seems to have very specific connotations is found in this weeks Torah portion in a more descriptive fashion than the normally minimalist way the Torah generally uses.
Ubasar Basedeh Trayfah Lo Socheilu- And meat torn in the field you shall not eat.
The Kol Yehuda, a Torah commentary asks the question why it has to mention the location of where the meat is found. Does it really make a difference if it is in the field, your home or your Aunt Tillie’s porch? His suggestion, perhaps homiletically, I believe offers a wonderful insight into not only human nature in regards to kosher meat but in to a general malaise in peoples somewhat perplexing  behavior.

 I often meet (excuse the pun) people who when describing their observance level refer to themselves as traditional. When I ask for a greater elaboration many times the response is “Well, we keep Kosher in the home”. Even in the more observant of homes one finds that many times there is a certain standard of acceptable behavior for one’s home yet on vacation or in the work place, one’s language, morals and observance seem to be put on hold. It is precisely this that the Torah seems to be addressing. As my Rebbe would often say “Trayf is Trayf is Trayf,” What is kosher in the home is kosher outside of the home. And what is trayf and inappropriate, is even trayf in the field when possibly no one else is around and one doesn’t have the warm comfortable environment and conveniences of the home. Trayf is still trayf.

I often remember the sad story I once heard about a young boy who went to visit his more traditional grandparents for a holiday break. During the week his Bubby taught him how to make blessings to God before and after he ate. He went to Shul with his Zaidy (grandfather) in the evenings and spent a wonderfully warm Shabbat replete with songs delicious food and words of Torah and inspiration. When his less than observant parents came on Sunday to pick him up and he turned to  leave and kiss his grandparents he stopped by the Mezuzah on the door and placed his hand gently on the doorpost. As he removed his kippah and kissed the mezuzah he said “Good bye, God, I’m going now. I guess I won’t be seeing you anymore”.

It is a sad story but unfortunately it is true for all of us that many times leave our beliefs at the doorposts of our homes and synagogues. The beauty of our faith is that it can provide light and direction wherever we are and in whatever we do. We can all lead kosher lives. All it takes is to focus and remove the Trayf from our fields and to incorporate the beauty and depth of our wonderful heritage in to all that we aim to accomplish and in every place that we go.
Have an absolutely magnificent Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

"Only dead fish go with the flow."-Sara Palin.
"Only live fish get caught with hooks and dragged to a boat and eaten."-Anonymous

In the Laws of Slaves we are told of a slave so entrenched in slavery and exile he says
 Lo aitsay chofshee- I will not go free = 521
Hashem though has other plans for those that forget our holiness that perhaps choose to remain in exile that he promises our mother Rachel
521 = V’shavu vanim ligvulam- Your children will return to their borders. Yes they will go free. (Yirmiah 31:17.)

(answer below at end of Email)
The three "regalim" pilgrimage holidays are
a)  Chanukah, Pesach, Shavuot
b)  Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot
c)  Pesach Shavuot, Sukkot
d)  Purim, Pesach, Shavuot

So David is invited to a Rabbi for his first Shabbat experience. Having been warned of all of the various laws of the "day of rest" he is quite apprehensive of not making any mistakes. The Chasidic Rabbi who was hosting him brought him to Synagogue where they prayed Friday night. After services they come home to a delicious Shabbat meal, which starts with Kiddush on wine. After the first course of gefilte fish the rabbi pulls out some good single malt in honor of Shabbos and they make their first L'chaim together. One is never enough so of course they have another. After the chicken soup, they have some more. During the delicious brisket dinner they of course have some special Cabernet Saviougn from the Golan (they probably bought it on a tour with me J) and end up finishing the bottle. After the meal the Rabbi tells him there are a few Shalom Zachor parties to attend where they of course once again have quite a few beers to go with the nuts and arbis/chickpeas.

The next morning David woke up with a bit of headache and came to synagogue a bit late but just in time to be invited into the pre Torah reading backroom Kiddush club. After Davening there was of course a Chulent Kiddush with some great bourbon and Sheva Sheva Sheva 777. By the time he came home for lunch he was feeling just great and of course Kiddush once again, Lchaim after the fish and another few shots here and there. When Shabbos finally ended after Havdalah on wine the Rabbi asked Dave what he thought of his first Shabbos. Dave responded with the newly gained holy insight that only a real shabbos could provide.
"Rabbi- I still don’t understand why you can't turn on the lights on shabbos or talk on the phone. But I sure understand why you can't drive on Shabbos!! J J


A great inspiring award winning short film "the Kiddush man" think about the ear connection this weeks parsha …worth watchin till the end…I promise

To life to Life Lechaim classic J

Cool Art stores in Tzefat- Tzefat  is that city of Ruach/spiritual transcendence and the people that live there express there holy spirituality in art. All along the old city Karo street one can see the various artists incredible works. A few cool stores to pop in and visit are the Avraham Leventhal Kabbala art where you can here Avraham a former Detroiter explain some of the secrets of kabbala that are found in his art. The incredible glass blowing shop where you can see a live hands on demonstration of the art of making mystical glass art.  A Roman glass jewelry store.There is as well the Talit weaving store where you can see how they made Talit in ancient days and learn the complex laws of Shabbat that relate to weaving. And my personal favorite is of course the world famous Tzefat candle store where one can just stand in awe of the coolest candle art that comprises of biblical stories, Jewish super heroes, Disney characters, "Minion-minyans" men. and the coolest Rabbi chess set in the world. Whether you want souvenirs or are window shopping give yourself a good hour or two to visit this great city.

Answer is C: Once in a while they give a throw away question that is fairly easy for us observant Jews. But sadly this is a pretty difficult question for those that are not religious. And truth is if you think about it for Christians, arabs or others this is a pretty trivial detail question that is quite difficult. Of  course we know that pilgrimage means three times a year we go to the temple and this is a biblical commandment which knock out the Purim or Chanukah option which are rabbinical holidays. Leaving the Rosh Hashana Yom Kippur one but again through process of deduction one should know that Pesach is a pilgrimage holiday as well as Shavuot and that RH and YK are right next to each other so they would not be the three. Or just become observant…

Friday, January 17, 2014

Us and Them- Yisro Tu Bshvat 2014/5774

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

January 16th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 15 -15th of Shevat 5774
 Us and Them
'The Arabs are bad, Daddy, right?" my six year old Elka turns to me at one dinner recently and asks."Uhhhh…no…Elka'la there are some bad Arabs, but there are also some good ones." Continuing to take a bite of my supper and hope that this conversation is over. But this is Elka, the conversation is just beginning. "But they are Goyim (gentiles), Daddy. Aren't Goyim bad? Aren’t the Goyim, Reshaim (wicked)?" I almost choke. And to think this is the daughter of a former outreach professional…oyyy see what a few years out of Seattle, Iowa and Virginia can do to you. Oh well..there goes the simple how was your day in Gan, what pictures did you draw of the sunshine, conversation. Welcome to Israel.
"Why do you think that the Goyim are bad?" I asked already trying to imagine the conversation I would have with her obviously racist and prejudiced Morah. Little did I know that it had nothing to do with her. "Well the goyim are always trying to kill us and Hashem comes to save us. So aren't they bad?" Well I guess if you put it that away. Hmmmm… Where do I want to go with this conversation. "Can you pass the ketchup, sweetheart, you haven’t finished your French fries yet". Now if this was one of my other kids I might be able to move forward. But if Elka is not eating her French fries, this is not a conversation that is going way. Remember, she's Daddy's girl. She passes the ketchup and continues. "I thought only the Jewish people are good and the Goyim and Arabs are bad. Only we have Hashem. So doesn't that mean that only we are good…?" I stop eating my French fries. Supper is now over. Elka, come sit on my lap and let's write a weekly E-Mail together. Let's talk a bit about Jews and Goyim. About us and them. Let's talk about Hashem.
Well Elka certainly picked a good week to have the conversation about the "bro's and heebs" (sorry I know that's cheesy but I couldn't think of a better one). This week's Parsha, the Torah portion that talks about us becoming that chosen nation (that everyone does NOT always want to kill) fascinatingly enough is named after a non-Jew; Yisro/Jethro the Midianite priest of idolatry and father-in-law of Moshe who comes for a visit. Even more interesting is that according to many of our sages the story of Yisro's visit which introduces this week's portion actually takes place after the giving of the Torah. Yet the Torah, which never feels the need to be bound by a historic timeline accounting of events, tells us the story of Yisro's visit before it tells us about the great revelation and the giving of the Ten Commandments and Torah on Sinai.
 One would think that such an important Torah portion should be named after a Jew. Moshe, perhaps? Maybe even call it Parshat Vayishma-and he heard", the first word of the portion, as it does so in other places. That way it would also connect to the Jewish people's famous declaration of Naaseh Vinishma- we will observe and we will hear upon the receiving of the Torah. Why call it after a Goy? Why bring the whole story here, right now at this great flow of "Jewish" stories. Egypt, splitting of the sea, water miracles, manna and even the miraculous battle of Amalek. Wouldn't it have fit in nicely together to just move right to the story of the giving of the Torah. What's the goy doing in the synagogue? Right here? Right now?!
The answer, writes the great Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar (1696-1743) known as the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh (who incidentally suffered persecutions in his home country of Morocco and according to some accounts was even thrown in a lion's den!), is precisely to teach us that contrary to what some uneducated people might assume Goyim are not bad. Not only that but  we're not necessarily better or smarter than them. In fact the entire story of Yisro which is the introduction to us becoming the Jewish nation is to let us know that there are great people amongst the gentiles that will and can teach us many important things. The entire Jewish judicial system in fact is built on the model that Yisro established. We weren't chosen because of our brains, our genes, our good looks or our cooking skills. It was a kindness of Hashem and we have to appreciate that we have no inherent superiority over them. The Ibn Ezra (1092-1167) who also suffered persecutions and exiles at the hands of the Christians and muslims writes "the reason it tells us the story of Yisro after the story of Amalek (although it is out of context) is that once the Torah has recounted  to us the evil perpetrated against us by Amalek correspondingly it tells us the goodness, and kindness of the wise advise that Yisro has when he lit up our eyes." They're not all bad. Know this when you go to get the Torah. Know this before you become the chosen nation.
Recently a student asked me, what does it mean to be Jewish. Are we a religion? If I'm not religious does that mean I'm not Jewish? Are we a race? I hope not. I've always been bad at races. A culture? Chicken soup? Gefilte fish? You knew it was coming… chulent? Are we just a family or descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Maybe just Jacob? But than what about converts? They're not descendants. What is a Jew? My response- Please pass the ketchup. J
The answer to her and I believe to Elka though  as well is that being Jewish means that we all had one shared experience together on a mountain 3326 years ago in which Hashem revealed Himself to us. Not just our ancestors-but each and every Jewish soul was there- the converts too. If you were there you're part of the Jewish people. That meeting on the Mountain was perhaps the most important event in the history of a God-run, created and purposeful world. The function of that meeting and revelation was to bring His light, His kindness and His goodness to all of mankind. We all have one Father in heaven; Jews, Arabs, Christians, Atheists, Americans, Chinese, Timbuktuans, whites, blacks, greens, men, women and children. A father loves all his children, our Creator all His creations. There is no discrimination. We're all His. We were chosen to be the bearers of that message. We were chosen our sages tell us because the rest of the world didn't want to hear it. We were chosen to lead a life that was different than the rest of the world. A life that shows how meaningful it is to be connected to our Creator, our Father. A life that has Shabbos, a life that is dedicated to uplifting the world by the study of God's words, the Torah. A life where we avoid, by adhering  to Hashem's commands, the things that distance us from Him and that connect us too much to our physicality. Every breath we take and decision we make. Where we eat, how we live, what we celebrate and don't becomes a Divine decision, a commandment, a mitzvah. When we lead that life the way we are meant too, than the whole world is meant to be inspired. The good of all of us will be finally revealed.
There are Arabs that do bad things. There are also Arabs that have done and do good things. There are and have always been those that want to destroy and kill us, Romans, Greeks, Christians and even Americans. They're bad. Killing is bad. There are Jews as well, sadly enough, that do bad things. As a Rabbi of mine once put it, they don't have a monopoly on Hell and we don't have one on heaven. There are plenty of both of us in both places. What makes us good or bad is ultimately how much we are doing to bring the world closer to the ultimate good. Perhaps the greatest evil we can perpetrate on mankind is to disconnect us from our Creator and loving Father and as well to distance ourselves from our role to bring mankind closer to Him.
After millennia of suffering persecution, exile, anti-semitism and genocide attempts it is only natural for us to view the world with an "Us versus Them" mentality and mindset. But strangely enough and perhaps even miraculously enough after every period in our history that we were persecuted, we never shut ourselves down and closeted ourselves away. Quite the opposite, the miracle of the Jewish people is that not even a half century after the holocaust we rose from the ashes to once again shine out to the world, to share our knowledge, to become part and parcel of society and even its leaders. It all goes back to that moment on Sinai, when we experienced that great moment, when we became hardwired to change the world. Today we celebrate the holiday of Tu B'Shvat, the New Year of the trees. Mankind is compared to a tree in that it is in the quiet winter when the real growth begins to sprout and flourish. May Hashem bless us this New Year that we the Jewish people provide for the world that conduit that connects us all to our roots and source of growth and goodness. And May we see a flourishing very soon of that ultimate Redemption.
Have a fruitfully good Shabbos and a Happy Tu B'Shvat,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


Israel is like the date palm, of which none is wasted; its dates are for eating, its lulavim are for blessing; its fronds are for thatching; its fibers are for ropes; its webbing for sieves; its thick trunks for building - so it is with Israel, which contains no waste. ~Bereshit Rabbah 41
This is the Day to Give Thanks for All Types of Fruit of the Tree! =
Zeh Yom Lehodos Al Kol Minei Pri Haetz =
12 + 56 + 451 + 100 + 50 + 110 + 290 + 165 = 1234
The 15th Day of the Month of Shvat =
chamisha asar shvat =
353 + 570 + 311 = 1234

(answer below at end of Email)
The "runners path" at Masada purpose was:
a)  To provide as a water system for Masada
b)  To be an alternate route to reach the top of the mountain
c)  To serve the Sikarim on their way to Ein Gedi
d)  To connect the Roman camps as they laid siege on Masada

Q: What did the tree wear to the pool party?
A: Swimming trunks!

Q: What did the beaver say to the tree?
A: It's been nice gnawing you!

Q: Why did the leaf go to the doctor?
A: It was feeling green!

Q: What is a tree's least favorite month?
A: Sep-timber!

Q: What kind of tree can fit into your hand?
A: A palm tree!

Q: How do trees get on the internet?
A: They log in.

Q: What did the little tree say to the big tree?
A: Leaf me alone!

Q: What did the tree do when the bank closed?
A: It started a new branch 

From our friends at Zo Artzeinu planting trees after the recent snowstorm
Rabbi Lazer Brody on the teachings of a Sabra plant


Shvil HaPardes/ the Orchard path-Savyon- Smack in the middle of the country in Savyon is a great place to go celebrate Tu BShvat and the wonderful fruits of Israel. This UPick Citrus farm is more thatn just a pick your oranges orchard. They have all types of activities that teaches the family about animals and wildlife in the area, the separation of sugars from the fruits and of course delicious freshly squeezed juices. The winter months are the season for citrus fruits and the Shvil is a great place to taste the best of Israel.

Answer is D: Masada, great site. Israels first UNESCO recognized site and the place where I do many of our Birthright Bar/Bat Mitzvot. It's pretty meaningful there as the Romans tried to wipe us out and we're back and these students are re-attaching themselves to our heritage and legacy. But I digress. The path for the water is up by the cable car. There is no alternate way up as far as I know although there are some that now suggest the siege ramp was in fact not siege ramp but an alternate path (unlike Josephus's story). The Sikarim were Jewish gangster/ rebles that in fact slaughtered the Jews of the Ein Gedi who were making peace with the Romans but they had no particular path to get there. The correct answer of course is D as the runner path connects all the camps and it would be the way they communicated and intimidated the Jews above that were surrounded.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Shabbos Cereal-Parshat Beshalach 5774/2014

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

January 10th  2014 -Volume 4, Issue 14 -9th of Shevat 5774
Beshalach/Shabbat Shira
 Shabbos Cereal
We were not a very health conscious family growing up, certainly not when it came to eating meals. We did eat salad once in a while, but preferred it on a bun enveloping a ½ lb of the fattiest grilled kosher hamburger that would fit on our plate. Carrots were a decorative, crunchy garnish on the gefilteh fish or salmon (fish only being an appetizer of course, to whet your palate for the main course chicken or cow) certainly never a snack which by definition always was a danish or chip like substance. Schmaltz was a way of life for us, Kishka and Chulent basic staples, oyy and the chopped liver and stuffed cabbage we would go through. Don't get me started.
 Yet interestingly enough even the Schwartz home had food that was decidedly off limits or not permitted to become part of our regular indulgence. There are two that come to mind. The first was breakfast cereal. While many of my friends growing up (Howard T) were regularly delighting in the joys of going CoCo for Cocoa Puffs or munching on the satisfying knowledge that Trix was for kids and roaring with good ol' Tony the Tiger and his Frosted Flakes, the poor deprived Schwartz children were expected to garner their daily energy from dry, saw dusty.. sugar free (but good for your heart!) Cheerios or Rice Krispies. The other cruel deprivation to our nutritionally starving young bodies was that life invigorating elixir of choice… Coca Cola or any soda for that matter. "No soda for" us, we were told. "Soda is a special drink". So instead we had to drink milk, OK I admit we had chocolate milk. But it still wasn't soda.
I do not want any of you to God forbid get the wrong impression. The Sugar cereal and Soda denial was not for nutritional reasons. My parents would never be so cruel. They loved us too much. No it was for spiritual reasons. You see Honeycombs and Coke were not weekday foods. They were our Shabbos treats. They were Shabbos Cereals. Shabbos Drinks. As children we were taught, as soon as we could tell the difference between Rice Krispies and Cocoa Pebbles, that there was going to be a difference between Shabbos food and weekday food, between the delicious-ness of the holy as compared to the rest of the week.
This Shabbos Cereal notion is not a new one it seems. This week's Torah portion and accompanying Medrash reveals the first biblical directive regarding the day of Shabbos. As you can see it is intricately connected with food
And Hashem said to Moshe "Behold I will rain down for you food from the heaven; let the people go out and pick each days portion on its day… and on the sixth day when they prepare what they shall bring and it will be double what they pick each day.
And it was on the sixth day they picked Lechem Mishneh- a double portion of food/bread two omers( measurement)for each…
 Moshe said .. "This is what Hashem has spoken. Tomorrow is a rest day, a holy shabbos to Hashem. Bake what you wish cook what you wish and the leftover put away for yourselves as safekeeping until the morning.
They put it away as Moshe had commanded..
Moshe than said "Eat it today, for today is Shabbos for Hashem. Today you shall not find it in the field".
Yes, our first commandment, experience and relationship with Shabbos in the Torah it seems were with food. Perhaps this is why a model for outreach professionals or those wishing to share the joy of Shabbos with others it is usually done by extending an invitation to a Shabbat meal. Yet the Medrash takes us even a step further. The Medrash asks why it mentions the fact that it was a double portion- Lechem Mishnah and also mentions it was two Omers. If it was two omers and it has already told us that the daily portion is one Omer why does the Torah which is never generous with words and ink do the math and tell us it was a double portion? The Medrash therefore changes the vowelazation on the words Lechem Mishnah and reads it as Lechem Mi'Shuneh special or different bread-or as the Medrah concludes superior in flavor, superior in smell. Shabbos cereal. Or maybe even some Chulent and Kishka flavored Manna.
The Talmud shares us with us that this miraculous manna flavor that was found in the desert can be found still today in every Shabbat food. It is the special spice called Shabbat. Or sages of old would the entire week shop and find special foods for Shabbat. This custom it seems goes back to our manna collecting days. It was our way of expressing our dedication and enjoyment that Shabbat provides and so to speak sugar coating it for generations. It is the secret of how to insure it will be treasured and passed down for generations.
Rabbi Pesach Krohn once told a story about a young girl who, although raised in a non- observant Israeli home, under the influence and inspiration of her more religious teachers and friends decided to broach the subject with her mother about beginning to light Shabbat candles weekly. Her mother who had abandoned this family tradition long ago was rather upset by her young Chaya’s request and abruptly told the little 9 year old that she was free to buy candles with her own money but she was certainly not going to sponsor it.
 Later that Friday evening though Orit, the mother, began to have regrets that perhaps she was too harsh. She made her way to Chaya’s room. When she walked in however, tears began to stream down her face as she saw her young daughter standing by her window in front of two candles. But they were not Shabbos candles, they were Yartzeit memorial candles. (It seems that the grocer obviously knowing the family and assuming that the only candles purchased were for Yartzeits and memorial days gave her those).When she asked Chaya what the candles were for. In her innocence and unaware of her mistake   she responded in words that hit Orit like a knife.
“Echad L’Ima Ve’Echad L’Abba – One for mommy and one for daddy.”
Although Chaya had meant it in regards to Shabbat, Orit understood the message of the candles. One can light a candle for the day of Shabbat, for its pleasure, for its holiness and for it’s enjoyment that represents life. Or one can have a Yartzeit candle. A life and a candle that is merely a commemoration of what could have been; of a Shabbos not celebrated, of that special spice not tasted. The choice was before her. And as she placed her arm around her daughter she too gazed into that extraordinary holy glow and she gave Chaya a kiss on her forehead and said
Shabbat Shalom my dear daughter, Shabbat Shalom”.
Have a spectacular Shabbos and blessed Rosh Chodesh Shevat,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


The tongue is the pen of the heart, but melody is the quill of the Soul" -The Baal HaTanya

In our Battle against Hashem says My throne is not complete as long as Amalek exists. Yad aL Keis Kah. The word Kies and Kah are written missing letters. Keis Kaf= 20 + Samech= 60 and Kah is Yud=10 and heh=5 total 60+20+10+5=95 Haman who is from Amalek and tried to destroy is also Gematria 95 (someone pointed out that Mahmud is as well…

(answer below at end of Email)
The large Mosque in Akko was built by:
a)  Daher El Omar
b)  Avraham Facha
c)  Suleiman the Magnificent
d)  El Jazzar

(I apologize in advance to all musicians..but they were too funny to pass up…)

A young child says to his mother, "Mom, when I grow up I'd like to be a musician." She replies, "Well honey, you know you can't do both." 

Q: whats the differance between a pianist and god?
A: god dont think hes a pianist 

Q:How many Folk Singers does it take to change a light bulb?
A:One to change it and 5 to sing about how good the old one was

Q: What do you call a drummer in a three-piece suit?
A: "The Defendant" 

Q: What did the drummer get on his I.Q. Test?
A: Saliva.

In honor of Shabbat Shira a beautiful song written by my dear friend for the bar mitzvah of his nephew which took place a few weeks after the boy's mother past away.  
The words translated from the words of prophets of Chana who dedicated her son to Shmuel to God
"For this lad I have prayed and Hashem has answered my request. I will continue to pray for him, I am his mother for all eternity"


The holy Karliner Koh Echsof


Tzefat music alley- Right down the stairs from the defenders square heading above the famd Ari Ashkenazi shul in the holy spiritual city of tzefat one can catch a group of mystical street performers that are really amazing as they play these ancient instruments and some fo the holy songs of tzefat and Shabbat. This little quarter was once the ancienct apple orchard where the AriZl the great 16th century kabbalist would go out with his students each Friday afternoon and welcome the Shabbat queen. In fact it was here that the great Lecha Dodi song by Rav shlomo Alkabetz was written. It is truly awesome and inspiring to hear the sound of music played in such an inspirational way in these same streets centuries later.

Answer is D: The mosque was built by El Jazzar otherwise known as "the butcher" by all his close friends and relatives who he gratuitously relieved of their ears or nose as he walked the streets with a handy guillotine. The mosque is one of the "holiest places" in Islam in Israel. Not merely because El Jazar and his son Abdullah are buried there but because supposedly there are two hairs from the beard of Muhammed are there and are displayed to much festivity each year.