Our view of the Galile

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Of Shofars Big and Small- Nitzavim/ Rosh Hashana 2016/5776-5777

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

September 29th 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 53 26th Elul 5776
Parshat Nitzavim/ Rosh Hashanah 5777

Of Shofars Big and Small

It was Changi, Singapore. It was the first time Boaz was there and he was diligently engrossed in the tour book he picked up that gave him the important things he would need to know about the city and country he was visiting. He read about the foods to stay away from, the traditional ways to greet people, tip amounts to give to waiters. You know, the important things. He skipped over the various temples and religious sites that he knew he wasn’t interested in visiting. He had left that behind in Israel. He didn’t come here to do religion or God, certainly not gods. He reached the pages that were talking about the specific laws they had in Singapore and was fascinated by the punishments of caning and flogging that seemed to be quite common over there. As he was reading he noted that the Asian-looking man next to him was peeking over his shoulder and looking at what he was reading. After a few minutes the man turned and asked him a question in a somewhat imperfect English.
“Are you interested in sins?”
Now Boaz was certainly not the most religious of people and yet this was like something out of the movies. He looked around to see if there were any hidden cameras anywhere. When he didn’t see any he asked the man to clarify. “Sins?!?” Boaz asked perplexedly.
“Well I noticed that you were reading about punishments over here. Generally someone who is reading about penalties usually has some types of crimes he is thinking about.” Boaz closed his book very quickly and quite nervously and explained that he had no sins or crimes he was just fascinated by the ‘unique’ penal system in this wonderful country. The man seemed to accept that and they went back to sitting and avoiding each other’s gazes. At least Boaz was avoiding his gaze. He thought to himself how he had thought Israelis were nosy and like to strike up conversations with strangers, but this seemed a bit out of the bounds for even a sabra like himself. But the next question the man asked him threw him for an even greater loop.
“Do you mind if I ask you another question?”
Uhhh… Sure. Boaz answered, although he definitely was not sure.
“In your culture, and although I don’t know what it is, I have my suspicions…”
 Now Boaz was really getting nervous.
“What is the smallest sin that a person can do?”
The smallest sin?!
Yes the smallest sin.
All of Boaz’s life he had been focused on the big sins, the lies he told, the laws he had broken, the religion that he wasn’t always most faithful or observant of. The smallest sin?
See here in Singapore we focus on the little sins, the smallest crime. That’s what we try to figure out.
Come think with me let’s see if you can come up with the smallest sin.”
Boaz thought and thought but all he could think of was the big ones. The man figured he’d give him a bit of a hint. He pretended to start chewing up and down quite vigorously with his jaws. Boaz stared and then the man made a motion of taking an imaginary something out of his mouth and throwing it on the floor. A light bulb went off in Boaz’s head; a shining Big Red, Juicy Fruit, Hubba-Bubba lightbulb.
“Chewing gum in public and throwing it on the floor!” He exclaimed like he had just won the million dollar prize on Jewprady. I mean Jeopardy.
That’s right his Singaporean friend told him. That’s a small sin that we treat very seriously here. He made a caning motion with his hand. Now you’ve got the idea. Now tell me are you Jewish?
Boaz decided to just go with the flow on this one. This was getting far too interesting. So he just nodded.
“Ahh well if you are Jewish it is easy to find small sins. For example those bad Germans what do you call them nahzee’s that killed most of your people. With that terrible big sinner Ardorf Heelter. I’m sure that there were many Jews that lied to him, to his soldiers, to save themselves. To save their wives, to save their children. That’s a very small sin. Isn’t it?”
He smiled very proud of himself. Boaz being a grandchild of survivors didn’t find it as amusing. He also didn’t feel that it was necessary to tell him that lying to save a life is not necessarily a sin in Jewish law. This conversation was just getting more and more bizarre… and interesting.
So now the man told Boaz that he found two small sins. He promised him that if he was able to name one more sin then he would show him and share with him something very special. Something that was dear to his heart and something that had to do with the Jewish people.
Now Boaz was really curious. So he thought and he thought and finally he remembered an incident a few days before that somehow stuck in his mind. He was walking through a park and there was a city gardener that was forming circles of rocks around the trees. The gardener who was an older gentleman was not doing such a great job, although he seemed to be working pretty hard. When the gardener stepped away to take a break over by the tree for a drink, Boaz made his way over to that circle of rocks and straightened out a few of the out of place rocks. He tried to be discreet, but the gardener glanced at him and there was that moment when their eyes met. He saw that he had a hurt look in his eyes. Like who is this guy that thinks he can do a better job than me? Boaz smiled meekly and just pooh-poohed with his hand and mumbled something about how he really thought it looked nice, but he knew that he had hurt the man’s feelings.
 It was a small sin. He had totally forgotten about it. But now here in the train it had come back to him.
His friend on the train seemed quite pleased with this sin. He turned to him and told him that he had always been fascinated by the Jewish people. He read a lot about the Holocaust and he was particularly interested in their concept of a day of judgement each year. In Singapore he said most people did not believe in a judgement day and neither did he, but he liked the concept a lot. He particularly was fascinated by the concept of the shofar blast. And he started to collect them. The problem he had was as he put it “Your shofars are too big”. The ram is a big animal and its horns are too big. So he began to breed smaller animals. He pulled out his smartphone and started to show Boaz his ‘Bonzai rams” and shofars that he was breeding.
See how small they are? They’re just right for small sins.”
Boaz was dumbfounded. Flabbergasted. Blown away-excuse the pun.
The man gathered up his things and before getting off the train he reached into his handbag and handed Boaz the smallest Shofar he had ever seen. It was the size of one of those small party-tooter whistles. Here this is for you. My Jewish friend, he said smiling. Proud. For all your small sins. And then he stepped off the train to the platform and he was gone.
Boaz put the shofar to his mouth and a little squeak came out.  A toot. And then it fluttered and pieces started to flutter off of it and it crumbled. It fell in his lap right next to his little tour book. All he had left was the little mouthpiece. He put it in his pocket right next to his ticket back home. Isn’t that where the shofar is supposed to bring you to, he thought…Back home.
Somewhere in the distant recesses of my mind I hear Shlomo Carlebach strumming on his guitar “Eliyahu Ha’Navi… Eliyahu HaTishbi… Eliyahu HaGiladi…”
When I read this story it made me think of another story or actually another drasha, perhaps one of the most famous and prophetic ones given by the first chief Rabbi of Palestine Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohe*/n Kook. The year was 1934. It was before the Holocaust. Before the 6 million. It was a time when Europe was still the Jewish center of the world and Eretz Yisrael had less than a half a million Jews. The British has authorized the rebuilding of the Churva Shul in the old city of Jerusalem and this was the speech that Rav Kook z”tzl gave on the first day of Rosh Hashana that year
We say in our prayers, “Sound the shofar gadol- the big or great shofar- for our freedom, and raise the banner to bring our exiles together.” What is the significance of this ‘great shofar’?
There are three types of shofars that may be blown on Rosh Hashanah. Preferably, one should blow a ram’s horn. If this is impossible, one may use a shofar made from the horn of any kosher animal other than a cow.But if neither of these types is available, we may blow the horn of an animal which is ritually unclean or of a chaya -wild animal or even one that was used for idolatry, however this shofar is blown without reciting a blessing. For it is considered a curse.
These three shofars of Rosh Hashanah correspond to three ‘Shofars of Redemption,’ three Divine calls summoning the Jewish people to be redeemed and to redeem their land; the big, the average or medium and the small.
The preferred Shofar of Redemption is the Divine call that awakens and inspires the people with holy motivations, through faith in God and the unique mission of the people of Israel. This elevated spiritual awakening corresponds to the ram’s horn, a horn that recalls Abraham’s supreme love of God and dedication in Akeidat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac. It is the shofar of faith, it is the shofar that wishes Hashem’s kingdom to be restored to his holy land. It was the call of this shofar, with its holy vision of heavenly Jerusalem united with earthly Jerusalem that inspired Nachmanides, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy, Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura, the students of the Vilna Gaon, and the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov to ascend to Eretz Yisrael. It is for this ‘great shofar,’ an awakening of spiritual greatness and idealism that we fervently pray.
There exists a second Shofar of Redemption, a less optimal form of awakening. This shofar calls out to the Jewish people to return to their homeland, to the land where our ancestors, our prophets and our kings, once lived. It beckons us to live as a free people, to raise our families in a Jewish country and a Jewish culture. It’s not a call for religion or faith, merely a return to our ancestral and Jewish homeland. This is a kosher shofar, albeit not a great shofar like the first type of awakening. We still recite a brachah over this shofar, for it also corresponds to a ‘kosher’ return of the Jewish people to their homeland. To the place where Hashem desires us to live and shine his light to the world from.
There is, however, a third type of shofar. (At this point Rav Kook burst out in tears.) The least desirable shofar comes from the horn of an unclean animal. This shofar corresponds to the wake-up call that comes from the persecutions of anti-Semitic nations, warning the Jews to escape while they still can and flee to their own land. Enemies, the wild animals, the idolators force the Jewish people to be redeemed, blasting the trumpets of war, bombarding them with deafening threats of harassment and torment, giving them no respite in the Diaspora.
The shofar of an impure animal becomes the shofar of Mashiach. The one who did not listen to the sound of the first shofar and the ones whose ears are closed up and do not want to listen to the sound of the second ordinary shofar will listen to the sound of the impure, invalid shofar. They will listen against their will. Over this shofar, however, no blessing is recited. “One does not recite a blessing over a cup of affliction” (Berachot 51b). This is the smallest shofar; the Shofar that the nations blow for us.
We pray that the Holy One does not force us to listen to the invalid and impure shofar. We also do not long for the ordinary, medium sized-almost secular- shofar.We pray, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom”, a shofar which comes from the very depths of the sanctity of the Jewish soul, from our Holy of Holies. We all await that great day of which it is written: ‘It shall come to pass on that day that a great shofar will be sounded, and those who are lost in the land of Assyria, and the oppressed in the land of Egypt will come and worship God at the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 27:13)”

I titled this essay “Of Shofars Large and Small”- in case you missed my brilliant title. A lot of work goes into them each week, incidentally, but I understand that you don’t’ have two hours to read the entire E-Mail each week before you jump to the bottom read the jokes and delete. But anyways. I thought of this when I heard Boaz’s story. The story of the smallest shofar that he heard from the gentile in Singapore. The one for the small sins. And I thought of Rav Kook and his prophecy just a few years before the entire Europe heard even more deafeningly the shofar that our enemies blew for us. ‘It’s time to come home’ is the only note that a shofar can play. ‘It’s time to return to Hashem’ is the call that the shofar beckons us to heed. In our parsha this week the Torah tells us prophetically Devarim (29-21-24)
“And the last generation, you children who will arise from after you will say, And the gentile that will come from a distant land and will the blows of this land and its maladies that Hashem has stricken it with…
And all the gentiles shall say why has Hashem done so to this land what is this great wrath? And they shall say because they have left the covenant of Hashem the God of their fathers…”

Is Singapore that distant land? Is Germany? Europe? Should I even say it… Will it be America? How could the Torah have known that there would one be a medium called the United Nations, The World Wide Web, a global media? A world which would one day even have the ability to blow daily its hot air with what becomes a holy cry for our people to return, return, return…
This year as we close our eyes and hear that shofar blow of that ram’s horn, the big shofar, the great one, the only shofar blast that really can unveil our deepest and perhaps most buried and yet most spiritual longing. Let us confess our smallest sins and our biggest sins. Let us awaken and realize that the redemption is just one short blast away. It is up to us. We’ve had enough of other people blowing for us. May the next shofar be the one that Eliyahu Hanavi –the Israeli version-blows, the biggest and greatest blasts, and may it be written and sealed for this year.

Have an uplifting Shabat and may we be inscribed and sealed for a happy, healthy and holy sweet New Year,
Shana Tova UMetuka,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__7b9O8k1twIn memory of Shimon Peres a funny parody he did when he left the job of being president of Israel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIurPUWOkss Shana Tova from my heroes!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3tNKmzTZDw  – cool! Shana Tova Min Hashamayim- from the heavens!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LC6YeLy61V4Shlomo Carlebach L’Shana Tova and the Chozeh of Lublin


“A nayer meylekh mit naye gzeyres, a nay yor mit naye aveyres.” - A new king with new decrees, a new year with new misdeeds.


“Now we pray every day: ’Vtehchezena eineinu b’shuvcha l’Tzion  Let our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy’ and if we believe our own words, then upon whom will the Divine Presence become manifest? Upon the trees and the rocks? Therefore, as the first step to the beginning of redemption of our souls we must return to the Land twenty-two thousand (Jews), to cause the Divine Presence to descend upon them. This most certainly will be followed by Hashem showing us and all of Israel beneficial signs..”

“Now however because of our sins we are separated one from another, for each and every country has a language and customs of its own and this factor hinders the ingathering (of the exiles) and delays the redemption. I myself have remained in sorrow over this, as it was not right that our fathers abandoned and forgot the Holy Tongue when our nation was divided among seventy nations and our language among seventy different languages in all parts of the world. When G-D accomplishes all His wondrous deeds for us and gathers us from the four corners of the earth into our Land we will not be able to converse with one another and the ingathering will fail….Therefore we should not abandon hope but rather in steadfastness and strength attempt to achieve the revival of our language and make it our essence so that the Holy One Blessed Be He will pour His spirit upon the teachers and the students; upon the sons and upon the daughters”

This new redemption will - alas, because of our sins - be different: our land is waste and desolate, and we shall have to build houses, dig wells, and plant vines and olive trees.”

“All of the final dates for redemption have finished and the only thing that is lacking is Teshuva-our sages teach us. Teshuva in this statement means returning to the Land.”

“The salvation of Israel lies in addressing to the kings of the earth a general request for the welfare of our nation and our holy cities, and for our return in repentance to the house of our mother... our salvation will come rapidly from the kings of the earth”

Rav Yehuda Ben Shlomo Alkali (1798 - 1878) This Thursday, the 4th of Tishrei- Many consider the father of modern Zionism Theodore Herzl. But perhaps the ideas that he brought to fruition had their roots in the life and teachings of the shul where his grandfather blew shofar each year, and the sefarim/holy books that Herzl’s father published. The teachings of the great Rabbi of Sarjevo who planted the seeds and began the work of convincing the Jewish people that the ultimate return to our holy land would come with our already beginning to move and by the Jewish people en-masse supporting this movement and getting the agreement politically from the world.
Yehuda Solomon Alkalai was born in Sarajevo (Bosnia) in 1798. He spent his boyhood in Jerusalem then under Turkish rule from age ll studying with various rabbis most notably the great author of the Pele Yo’etz and it was there that he came under the influence of the Kabbalah – Jewish mysticism. In 1825 he became Rabbi of Semlin (the capital of Serbia). At that time, the Serbs, as well as other nationalities which resided within the Balkan States, were greatly influenced by the Greek War for Independence and the prevailing atmosphere of rebellion against foreign Turkish rule. With this resurgence of national pride and desire for independence, the entire Balkan area became divided among differing nations and peoples. There is no doubt that these events influenced Alkalai and brought him to the realization that the time had come for Jewish nationalism to reassert itself among the Jewish people.
Rabbi Alkalai raised the issue of Jewish political independence and the Land of Israel for the first time in 1834 in a small booklet entitled Shema Yisrael, (‘Hear O Israel’). In his essay, he proposed a beginning of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel as a precursor to the Messianic Redemption. Such an idea was not only original but was considered heretical among many Jews who believed that the Messianic Redemption would come only through a miraculous event caused by God. Within Alkalai’s proposition of a natural process of redemption, there was the inclusion of the Rabbinic doctrine, expressed in the Midrash, that the Messiah, son of Yoseph, would first come to lead the people of Israel in the apocalyptic war of Gog and Magog and would then re-conquer the Land of Israel, freeing it from foreign domination.
A drastic change took place in the life and outlook or Rabbi Alkalai in 1840 with the occurrence of the Damascus Blood Libel, shaking the very foundations of the Jewish, and elements of the non-Jewish world. This blood libel convinced Rabbi Alkalai that freedom and security for the nation could and would only be achieved in the land of the forefathers, and that the redemption would only come about through positive action on the part of the Jewish community.
From this moment Rabbi Alkalai devoted himself to spreading these ideas through writing and speeches within various Western European Jewish communities. He approached such Jewish leaders as Moses Montefiore and others for their political and financial support.
Rabbi Alkalai was convinced that it would be possible to buy part or even most of the Holy Land from the Turkish government, i.e., the Sultan and his empire, as Abraham had done at the cave of Machpelah when he bought land from Ephron the Hittite. He dreamed of establishing a world-wide organization along the lines of the various national organizations then prevalent among other nations of Europe. The purpose of these organizations would be to buy and reclaim land, as well as providing loans for new settlers. These ideas were subsequently adopted by Herzl and the World Zionist Organization.
Alkalai did not simply write and preach his ideas but he traveled to various cities attempting to set up a basic structure for the organization he envisioned. One such group was established in London but it did not last long enough to have any type of substantial impact upon the masses.
Alkalai attempted to convince people that his plan for at least part of the Jewish nation to re-establish itself in the Land of the Forefathers was one of realistic proportions and that the realization of an independent state in all its modern nationalistic connotations could be achieved. Towards the end of his life he moved to Israel and died there without seeing many of his dreams fulfilled. He lived his last four years here and is buried on Mt. Of Olives right across the mountain from the city that he worked so hard to return the shechina and his nation to.

answer below at end of Email
Q. A tourist site with a restoration of a Talmudic Village can be seen at:
A.    Tel Dan
  1. Neot Kedumim
  2. En Yael
  3. Katzrin

This weeks Parsha is always read the week before Rosh Hashana. Although Rashi’s explanation is certainly not dependent on our calendar year, if one reads Rashi’s commentary, just as is one reads the weekly parsha with an eye to the eternal timeliness of its corresponding Parsha we can find a message that Rashi is stressing that is meant to inspire us in that particular time.
This week’s Torah portion which moshe reiterates the covenant between us and Hashem tells us about the mitzva of Teshuva and our ultimate Redemption. Devarim (30:2-3)
And you will return to Hashem, your God and listen to his voice, according to everything that I command you today; you and your children, with all your heart and all your soul.
VShav Hashem Elokecha Es Shvuscha VRiChamecha--And Hashem your God will return your captivity and have mercy upon you”
The translation above is Artscrolls and it was fine with me, but that’s primarily because I really don’t know much about grammar. Rashi on the other hand asks that if that was what the verse meant to say it should have used the word V’heishiv- And He returned rather than the literal translation which would be and Hashem your God returns- the focus being the return of Hashem rather than the capitves. The footnotes say something about intransitive, third person masculine conversive prefixes. Whatever that means..
Rashi thus learns and explains pshat with two powerful insights. The first is he quotes the Talmud that explains that Hashem is saying that He is in exile with us. And when we return He returns as well.
As far as we may have fallen and may have strayed from Him, guess what? He’s there as well. He’s waiting for us to return so that He may also return home.
The second lesson that Rashi suggests and brings a proof to is that the day of the ingathering of Exiles is so great and will come with such difficulty it is as if Hashem himself must actually hold each and every person with his hands to take him from his place in Exile. Each and every person. In His hands. Rashi is vivid. It is an image we should read again again.
Rashi was not just satisfied with telling us that Hashem is with us waiting for us. Rashi is telling us that Hashem and the Torah itself is telling us that He will take each Jew with his hand. Like a father crossing his child the street and bring each one of us home. With Him.
We sometimes wonder how can it happen? There are so many that are so scattered, so far from our Father. We are so far. We can’t see him here in our Exile with us. Rashi thus tells us don’t worry. He will take us in His hand. His hand…
We will daven this Rosh Hashana for that Shofar. That call. Rashi tells us to wait and pray for that Hand of return as well.

Death of Shaul and his sons- this Wednesday 28th Elul Year 2282 – 907 BCE:- The story as told in the Book of Shmuel and that I often read as I stand on Mt. Gilboa looking down at the valley below where it all took place is that the great king Shaul knew the end was near. Just the day before he had disguised himself and asked the witch of Ein Dor (Yes, like the Star Wars planet and like the dream of Jeannie witch mother-in-law Endora) to raise up Shmuel from the dead. He was not happy and told him pretty much that he would be joining him over here in the other world pretty soon. Shaul knowing he is doomed still goes out to fight. The Philistines massacare the Jews and Shaul though injured tries to commit suicide by falling on his sword so that the Philistines won’t desecrate his body. When he is not successful he entreats the Amalekite convert that is nearby to finish him off-which he does. Ironies of Biblical ironies for it is Shaul that spared the King of the Amalekim originally and that got him in to this whole losing your kingdom mess with Hashem in the first place. The Philistines find Shaul and Yonasan his son’s bodies and they desecrate them and hang them on the walls of the city of Beit Shean. They were only rescued by the some heroes from Yavesh Gilad- a city that Shaul saved in the beginning fo his career who took his body down. King David when he hears mourns them with the famous “Oh how the mighty have fallen” eulogy. He curses Mt. Gilboa that it should always remain barren and so it is…
What did the big chimney say to the little chimney? 'You're too young to smoke! 
What did the big candle say to the little candle? You're too young to go out by yourself!
 What did the big bucket say to the little bucket? You look a little pail!
What did the big maths book say to the little maths book? You're too young to have so many problems!'
 What did the big star say to the little star? 'You're too young to stay out all night!'
 What did the big tonsils say to the little tonsils? 'You're too young for the doctor to take out!'
What did the big firework say to the little firework? 'My pop is bigger than your pop!'
What did the big hand say to the little hand? 'I'll be back in an hour!'
What did the big elevator say to the little elevator? I think I'm coming down with something!'
Finally the last one of these very painful jokes…
What did the big old shoe say to the little old shoe? My sole is hol(e)ier than your sole!

Answer is D – It’s that time of year, thank Hashem, when my phone rings off the hook with people calling for tips for Sukkot vacation. Tel Dan is unquestionably my favorite place in the entire country primarly because it contains all most ingredients for a great tour; history-modern and Tanach, archeology, nature and water it’s just beautiful and an easy trail for the entire family. I have never been to Ein Yael in Jerusalem by Nachal Refaim but I googled it to just be sure and it seems cute recreation of terrasots and roman streets and activities. Maybe I’ll check it out next time. Neot Kedumin is definitely a cool place it was established with the vision of connecting the Jewish people to the land and our history and Torah through nature. On sukkos it is particularly mobbed as they have a very cool Sukkot display which shows all the Sukkot that are kosher and not that are mentioned in our teachings. But the correct answer is of course Katzrin in the heart of the Golan. I don’t go there often enough. But it is definitely a Talmudic period city and they show you (sometimes even dressed up) what life was like back then olive and wine presses and their houses and shuls. They have some cheesy films there that recreate the story of Elisha Ben Avuya AkA Acheir and of the story of Tanur shel Achnai. Happy Sukkos everyone!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Eye Adjustment- Ki Tavo 2016/5776

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
September 23rd 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 52 20th Elul 5776
Parshat Ki Tavo
Eye Adjustment

He hadn’t left his room for three weeks. Reb Avraham Dov of Avrtich, better known by the title of the book authored by this great Chasidic Rebbe; the Bas Ayin, was one of the warmest Rebbes. He was beloved by all his chasidim. Having recently fulfilled his life-long dream of moving to Eretz Yisrael at the age of 65 in the year 1830, he had seemingly been higher and greater than he had ever been. Although he had written his work in Europe, he had refused to publish it until it had made its way to Eretz Yisrael and ‘breathed’ the holiness of the country. It was now on the way to be printed. After touring the country a bit, he settled into his routine in Tzfat, in his shul, his classes and his weekly sermons and his chasidus grew. But for three weeks the Rebbe had not come out of his room. Not for prayers, not to meet with his students, not even for his classes. There was a chasid that claimed to have peeked through the window and said he saw the Rebbe just sitting and staring at the floor with tears flowing down his eyes sobbing.
But after three weeks the Rebbe opened the door and walked out. His face was shining like sun. His joy and his exuberance were palpable. He announced that all were invited that evening to his home as he was making a seudat hoda’a- a thanksgiving feast. Now everyone was really curious? What went on? What happened in that room? What was the party all about?
The Rebbe stood up by the meal and he shared with his chasidim the following story. He told them that when he was in Europe his highlight of every year was when theshada”rim would come and collect money. The shada’rim which is an acronym of the word Shlucha D’Rabanan or rabbinic emissaries, were collectors that were sent out from the Holy Land all over Europe. They were sent to raise money for their respective communities that were fulfilling the mitzva of settling the land and preparing it for the imminent arrival of Mashiach when all Jews would return there. The Rebbe recalled how he would sit and talk for hours with these collectors. He would pester them with questions about anything they can share with him about the land that he loved and yearned for so much.
The last shadar that was by him though wasn’t playing ball. He told the Rebbe after a while, that he had nothing else that he could possibly share with him. He told him that when he comes to Israel-God willing and he goes to the Kotel, the Western Wall, he will be able to hear the wall talking to him and feel the Shechina’s presence. But the Rebbe was relentless. He begged to share with him one more thing. So he told him once again that when he comes to Israel and he goes to Rachel’s tomb he would be able to feel all of the longing of Jews for centuries for the return to Eretz Yisrael and the coming of Mashiach. But that still wasn’t enough for the Rebbe. He was like an addict begging for more and more. Just one more hit. Like a kid in a candy store, like me at a Kiddush, just one more bowl of chulent....please, please...
Finally the shadar told him that when you come to Tzfat you will see the stones and the rocks on the floor how they glisten like diamonds, like pearls. And with that theshadar left. The Rebbe told his chasidim how the words and those images played over in his mind for years until he was able to finally come here.  And he had. Upon arriving the Rebbe came to Tzfat and established his shul and then he went around the country to see and experience that holiness that only Eretz Yisrael has. He had visited the Kotel, he had gone to Rachel’s tomb. He had truly felt the holiness that he had been told about. Yet upon his return to Tzfat, he realized that he had yet to see the diamonds. Tzfat was a nice city, a holy city, the largest and greatest Jewish population in Israel at the time. But having suffered some earthquakes in the past the city had a lot of rocks, a lot of ruins. To the Rebbe’s eyes they were just that; rocks and rubble. He figured that the shadar had just exaggerated or embellished a bit. You know how these Rabbis who try to convince you to make Aliya are...J
But just a few weeks ago, lo and behold guess who came to town. It was that shadarthat had visited him back in Europe. The Rebbe was so excited to see him he called him into his room. He hugged him, he kissed him and he thanked him for all the inspiration he had given him to come to Israel. Yet at the end of the conversation the Bas Ayin turned to him and asked him why he had exaggerated so much. He told theshadar that he had gone to Yerushalayim and truly felt the Shechina talking to him. It was as if the wall and the stones were able to communicate with his soul. He had gone to Rachel’s tomb and sure enough he was overwhelmed with that longing for Mashiach. He felt he was not only wiping away his own tears as he stood there but the tears of his Mama Rachel and of all of her children for millennia that are awaiting that final day of redemption. Yet in Tzfat although he had appreciated all the greatness, holiness and spirituality of the city. Yet the rocks were truly just rocks. The city was a mound of them. There was no need for the shadar to make up bubbe-maysah’s-folklore about this special city as well.
The shadar turned to the Rebbe and with the words that pierced his heart he opened up the window and pointed and said
“Does the Rebbe really mean to tell me that you truly cannot see the glistening diamonds that are lining these streets?”
The Rebbe was taken aback. How is that he didn’t see it? He decided then and there that he needed to go in to seclusion. He would not leave his room until he too could see those incredible diamonds. So he sat in his room. He cried and he cried. Each time he would open his eyes all he would see were the same gray rubble, the stones, the hard rocks of Tzfat. But this morning, he told his chasidim when he opened his eyes after crying his eyes and his soul out all night long, before him stood a field of diamonds. I imagine it as being that incredible yellow brick road of Oz. Pearls, diamonds, glistening in the holy sun rays were laid out all around. He didn’t see any dirt he saw sparkly sand. It was wondrous. It was a whole new holy world.
The last Aliya in this week’s Torah portion concludes with an incredible strange and perplexing statement by Moshe Rabbeinu in his last speech to Am Yisrael. (Devarim 29:1-8)
 “And Moshe summoned all of Israel and said to them ‘You have seen everything that Hashem did L’Eineichem- before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all of his slave- the great trials that your eyes beheld, those great signs and wonders.
But Hashem did not give you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear until this day. I led you for forty years in the wilderness, your garment did not wear out from on you, and your shoe did not wear out from on your feet. Bread you did not eat and wine or beer you did not drink so that you would know that I am Hashem you God.
And you have arrived at this place. And Sichon the king of Heshbon and Og, King of the Bashan wento out towards battle and we smote them. We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to (the tribes of) Reuven, Gad and half of the tribe of Menashe. And you shall keep the words of this covenant Lma’an Taskilu- in order that you shall be succeed in all that you do’.”

I know it’s a long quote but bear with me. It will be worth it. As I said it’s perplexing because on one hand Moshe tells them that they have ‘seen everything Hashem has done before their eyes’. On the other hand, Moshe tells them that Hashem hasn’t given ‘them eyes to see until this day’ which in itself is a perplexing statement. What is this day? Although Rashi quotes that he heard that on this day Moshe had given the Torah scroll to the tribe of Levi and the nation complained that they wanted it themselves. However the text seems to tell us that Moshe is telling them that the reference is talking about the fact that they have already started dwelling in the land as this was given to them from Og and Sichon and the tribes are settling there.
Rav Zalman Sorotzkin (my wife’s step-grandfather in-law) in his seminal work Oznayim La’Torah suggests that is precisely what Moshe is telling them. That until now they were looking at the world with their chutz l’Aretz-diaspora eyes. They saw miracles and wonders that Hashem had done before their eyes. Although one can even read the words as saying that they have seen everything that Hashem has donel’eineichem- to their eyes- rather than before their eyes. Hashem had opened up their eyes until now. However now that they have reached Eretz Yisrael, now that they have actually arrived and even started settling it- albeit on the other side of the Jordan, they have their own holy eyes to see. The air of the land makes wise- our sages tell us. One that has learned Torah outside of Israel is like two when he comes here. Here in Eretz Yisrael we have the ability on our own to see the wonders, the miracles, touch theshechina, hear the longing and see the diamonds and the pearls.
It is interesting that the last words that we shall keep the covenant ‘l’maan taskilu’ the text tells us. I translated above those words like Rashi and the Unkelos translation that define those words as ‘in order that you shall succeed’. Yet the Yerushalmi- Jerusalem translation translates the words as biglal dtiboninun- in order that you shall contemplate/understand/internalize all that you do. In the Diaspora one follows the laws and remembers the covenant perhaps to be successful. This comes from the wordseichel-intelligence. The Jerusalem translation written in Eretz Yisrael understands so much deeper, that the covenant is so that we can open your eyes and internalize sights and experiences with eyes that one only gets when he is here.
I conclude this week’s insights with an (slightly edited) E-Mail from a very dear tourist of mine that shared with me some of his thoughts after our trip together. They inspired me I hope they inspire you as well.
“First I want to thank you for the recap of the most amazing life altering trip. It truly was amazing to re-read and thereby re-live the trip. It is amazing to think that myself, who spent only 12 days in Eretz Yisroel, knows more and understands more of the Land, be it from a political, regional, Torah view, than my friends who lived there many years. On a personal note: Your love for the Land was contagious and infectious. 
I have a new appreciation for Im Kol Zeh Achakeh Lo B’chol Yom Sheyavo. I learnt things about myself in Eretz Yisroel that I did not know existed. But the two real gifts you gave me through our time spent together is:
1) I now feel and more importantly know, that although I have a house in Ameirca and I currently live here, my home is in Eretz Yisroel. I have a desire to someday when the time is right  to come to the land were we belong. 
2) Interestingly, I have always had a very hard time with the three weeks and Tisha B’av. I have never really understood it, I never really had a feeling for it. I always went to shul, heard Eicha, went home like it was just another night, went to shul, and said my 10 kinot to be yotzie, and went home chilled the remainder of the day. I always felt that I had no connection. 
This Tisha B’av was different. I cried. I cried because I saw first-hand the ruins of Yerushalayim. I cried because I saw the ruins of the City of Dovid. I cried because I saw the place where R’ Akiva was murdered as one of the Asarah Harugie Malchus-{the Ten Martyrs from the Roman period mentioned on Tish B’Av}. But most of all I cried because I wasn’t crying anymore as I used to do because I didn’t fully know what we are crying for. I finally was able to begin to understand what it was about. It was the most intense Tisha B’av I have ever had. I was captivated by the feelings put forth in the Kinos, the profound sadness and terror described in Eicha. I would not have felt this if not for your unbelievable knowledge that you shared with us, and in the places you shared it with. You brought to life, what the land looked like and what life was like in the times of the Beis Hamikdash. We were able to see it in our minds, to appreciate what we lost. It was life altering,
Again I want to thank you beyond thank you for imparting your love of the land to us. 
Hopefully we will be able to travel together again in the near future in the times of the geulah shelameah
Hatzlacha Rabbah”
Thank you Shimmy for letting me part of being the shadar that shows you our diamonds.
Have an eye-opening Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z7OAxcrwOI The stone laying of the Ponovizh yeshiva with footage of the Rav whos yartzeit is this Friday.
https://youtu.be/sExHrxsZscw   - in honor of all of the UMAN Rosh Hashana travelers the newest song by my dear friend Gershon Veroba and singer Micha Gammerman arrangements of course by the one and only Yitz Berry!
https://youtu.be/K0fAkL6xmNw - an incredible story and song from Eitan Katz. This is a song you should play like a million times its so beautiful...

"Vos lenger a blinder lebt, alts mer zet er” -The longer a blind man lives, the more he sees
“All that I have accomplished has been with my 21 fingers. Ten on my hands ten on my toes and the one above of Hashem.”
“You should be embarrassed of yourselves. They exempt you from serving the army and this is the way you behave! Shame on you that do they not allow you to sit and learn in peace and quiet.” As quoted by Rav Nissan Kaplan after the Israeli flag was taken down from the yeshiva by zealots

“Others sleep and dream, but I dream, and sleep not.” -When people told him that he is dreaming if he thought he could rebuild his yeshiva after the war in Eretz Yisrael

“I see the vision of the return to Zion in our generation as the revelation of the light of divine providence, which strengthens our hand and accompanies us through the evil waters that have risen against us ... I see miracles every moment, every hour! I am sure that His Honor sees the thing as I do, for who like the ship's captain standing at the wheel of the ship sees these miracles” in a letter to Ben Gurion after the 6 Day war.
 “Mark my words these young men of the Hagana and the Etzel will throw the British out of this country and will build a Jewish State here in Israel. But you should know more than that. If I had 10-15 students who had the same dedication, single-minded commitment and self-sacrifice that these boys had we could create a Torah State here in Israel. But I don’t have them.... Learn up from these young men... ” - quoted and heard by Rabbi Berel Wein from a lecture the Ponovezher Rav gave in Chicago in 1947 a few months before the UN vote of 1947 recognizing a Jewish State.
Titus! Evil Titus! Take a good look at what has occurred. You dragged my hapless people out of our land two millennia ago and led them into an exile from which they were never to return. You went home to Rome - the most powerful nation on earth - in glory and triumph. But Titus, where are you? What has become of the glory that was Rome? What has become of the infallible empire that was supposed to last forever? The Jewish people however are still here and continue to flourish. Titus, we are here! Where are you?”- Quoted by Dr. Rothchild as he brought the Rav by his request upon arriving in Rome to the arch of Titus and he got out of the car and said this with rain pouring through his beard.  
Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman The Ponovezher Rav (1886 - 5729 / 1969) This  Friday, the 20th of Elul
 Born in Kuhl, Lithuania, a small town of about 500 of which about a third were Jews. His father, Rav Yehudah Leib, was a famed talmid chacham and baal chesed. At the age of 14 he went to the Telshe Yeshiva, where he learned until he was twenty (or 21) under Harav Shimon Shkop and became close to Harav Eliezer Gordon, the yeshivah’s founder. In 1908, Reb Yosef Shlomo went to learn mussar from Reb Yosef Yoizel, the Alter of Novardok. While there, Harav Yechiel Michel Epstein, the Aruch Hashulchan, taught him the necessary skills for Rabbanut, after which he spent three years in Radin under the Chafetz Chaim.
He married the daughter of Harav Leib Rubin, the Rav of Vidzh. For a while he learned alone at the home of his father-in-law. In 1911, Reb Leib was offered the Rabbanut of Wilkomir; his position in Vidzh passed to his son-in-law, who also opened a yeshivah there.
After Rav Kahaneman’s impressive eulogy at the levayah of Reb Itzele Rabinowitz of Ponevezh in 1919, the community offered him the position of Rav. He became Rav of Ponevezh (at age 33) and opened a yeshivah there which attracted many of Lithuania’s best talmidim. Rav Kahaneman guided his flock with wisdom and fatherly love. He was appointed as the Jewish representative to the Lithuanian parliament.
After 20 years, when the Nazis conquered Lithuania, Rav Kahaneman was on a mission abroad when World War II broke out and was unable to return to be with his family and his students. In 1940 he settled in Eretẓ Israel and from there directed efforts, in vain, toward the rescue of Lithuanian Jewry from the Nazis. Most of his family perished in the Holocaust. Thereafter, he devoted himself to reestablishing in Ereẓ Israel a network of Torah institutions. In 1943 he established Batei Avot, an orphanage for refugee children.fled to Eretz Yisrael, (1940), then under the British Mandate, and became a leader of chareidi Jewry.
Although broken and distraught over the fate of Europe’s Jews, he decided that he had been spared to bemekadesh Shem Shamayim-sanctify the name of Hashem. In 1941, Rav Kahaneman set the cornerstone for the new Ponevezher Yeshivah on a hill overlooking Bnei Brak.
Despite general skepticism, Rav Kahaneman, with his powers of persuasion, collected enough money to build what became the largest yeshivah yet in Eretz Yisrael and one of the largest in the world. He traveled widely in chutz laAretz to secure financial support. There are many great stories about his skills at getting money out of the least likely people. The man who never gave to anyone who the Rav convinced him to donate the picture he had of his grandfather for the yeshiva library and then asked him to donate the library. The anti-religious man who only agreed to give money if his institution will learn Torah without wearing Yarmulkas which he took and started a girl’s school with. Those are just a few of  the stories.
The Ponevezher Rav’s ambitions were not limited to his yeshivah. He founded and supported dozens of other institutions, especially for the “yaldei Tehran,” orphans rescued from the Holocaust and brought to Israel (Batei Avot orphanages). He also revived the yarchei kallah concept, providing two weeks a year of intense learning at the yeshivah for working men.
The Ponevezher Rav merited seeing all his projects reach fruition.
Reb Yosef Shlomo was niftar on 20 Elul 5729/1969, at the age of 83. He was buried in the Ponevezher beit hachaim on the outskirts of Bnei Brak.
answer below at end of Email
Q. The Druze house of prayer is called:
A.    Diwan
B.  Zawiya
C.  Madrasa
D.  Hilweh
So much can be derived from Rashi not only by what he says but also by what he doesn’t say; even the greatest philosophical question of the world can be found in just a simple reading and appreciation of what he says and what he doesn’t.
This week we read the blessings and curses that are given if we follow or not the commanments. On of the first blessings is
(Devarim 28:6) Blessed are you in your coming and blessed are you in your going
What is the question that you should be asking about this verse? You’ve been learning long enough with me here to ask it. OK I’ll tell you. Seemingly one goes before one comes, Right? So why is it reversed. Rashi thus explains that the verse is referring to coming into this world. One’s leaving of this world should be just like one’s coming to this world. Just as we came without sin we should leave without sin.
Great! Nice the problem is there is a verse in the curses that seems to say the opposite where this interpretation fails for there it says
(ibid :16) Accursed shall you be in your coming and accursed shall you be in your going out
Interestingly enough Rashi is silent over there. It can’t mean that one comes into the world cursed? Or maybe it can?
The Binyan Ariel notes that there is a great debate for 2 ½ years in the Talmud (Eruvin13) between the schools of Hillel and Shamai for years is it better to be born or never born. The resolution finally being that for a wicked person it is better not to be born. This would seemingly contradict our verse here that one is blessed when they come into the world. Rashi’s grandson though, Tosafos however explains that this is only true for a wicked person a righteous person though praised is he and praised is his generation. Where does tosafot derive that from? Seemingly our Rashi his grandfather.
For in verse that talks about the blessing, Rashi felt the need to explain the blessing of coming into the world. For the assumption based on the Talmud would be that one’s coming to this world is a curse. He therefore explains that you are blessed when you first come in to the world only when one is righteous, when one fulfills the commandments. However when one sins and one does not fulfill the mitzvos then his very existence, his coming into the world is understood to be a curse as the Talmud explicitly says the resolution was between Beit Hillel and Shammai That Rashi did not need to explain for the Talmud tells us that naturally one’s coming into the world is a curse.
Interesting Halachic aside the Beit Yosef suggests that this is the reason our morning blessings we bless Hashem for having not made us a gentile- shelo asani goy, rather than in the positive form of blessing Hashem for having created us a Jew she’asani yisrael. For being created a Jews is not necessarily a blessing. One’s coming into the world is only a blessing if one ultimately fulfills his commandments. We can only bless Hashem that he did not create us as gentiles so at least we have the opportunities throughout our lives to make that which we were born a blessing if we follow the mitzvos.
Sounds pretty deep? It was really just a simple Rashi.
Creation of the World- this Wednesday 25th Elul Year 0 - 3761 BCE:- Was this the day of the Big Bang? According to Jewish tradition the first man -Adam and Eve were created on Rosh Hashana the first of Tishrei which was the 6th day of Creation. Meaning 6 days before hand this coming Wednesday was the day that the Torah tells us In the beginning Hashem created heaven and Earth. The earth was empty and bare and spirit of Hashem was floating on top of the water. And Hashem said let there be light and there was light. Boom! Many suggest that is the big bang! Matter has been created. He separated the light and darkness into night and day. Many point out that since that first day there was not yet any earth or sun or moon for they weren’t created until day 4 then that day was not necessarily a 24 hour day. It could have been millions of years. This would resolve many of the questions that scientists challenge our Torah tradition with as they point of evidence of millions of years of formation. Our 24 hour day and our counting of time begins on Rosh Hashana with the creation of the center of the universe Man who is meant to bring the world to its fulfillment. That is why Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the year and not the 25th of Elul. We have a man-centric view of the world. After-all we ae the only creation that Hashem blew into us a spirit of life, a soul, a piece of Him. All other creations were all spoken by Hashem and they poofed into existence. There you go Jewish science 101 from someone who barely passed his NY State regents in science. That’s all I know sorry.
(wonder how many my brother the eye-doctor has heard?)
What music do optometrists listen to? Eye-Tunes
What was the lens’s excuse to the policeman?-I’ve been framed officer
What do you call a deer without eyes?-No idea
What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs? Still no eye-deer
What did the sailor say to the captain of the optometrist boat?-eye-eye captain
What did the right eye say to the left eye? -Between you and me, there’s something that smells
How many optometrists does it take to screw in a light bulb? ( I don’t know) You tell me.. is it one or two?
Patient: I keep getting a stabbing pain in my eye every time I drink coffee
 Optometrist: Have you tried taking the spoon out of the cup?
Answer is D - I’m really getting sick of these silly trivia questions. They’re just dumb and not necessary. But this is worse than usual. I recognized two of the above choices. Diwan is their court house the root Hebrew word being din which means judgement. The madrasa as well is their schools and study houses again like the Hebrew word beit Midrash. Which left zawi-whatever and hilveh which sounded somewhat familiar so I went with the other one zawi-whatever... I was wrong the correct answer is hilweh. The truth is I bet you there are even druzim that don’t know that. See because according their religion they have a choice if they want to be religious or not. 90% are not. They are therefore not allowed to pray or practice only the mystics are allowed to do that or even know the secrets of their religion. So if most of them don’t care enough about their religion why should I ?