Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 28th 2017 -Volume 7 Issue 38 5th Av 5777
Parshat Devarim/ Chazon
Working from Home
So how’re we doing so far? It’s been close to 70 years since Hashem returned us to our own Jewish country. 50 years since we got back Yerushalayim. The Kotel. The Temple Mount? I did think I remember hearing once that it was B’Yadeinu- in our hands. But it seems I must have been mistaken. Or we must have had very slippery hands. But anyways. We seemed to have built up in a large part a growing Torah country as well. 10’s of thousands of Jews have returned to Torah, mitzvos despite many of the early founders’ best efforts and trying to create a new secular Sabra Jew and their certainty that traditional Torah Judaism would disappear in this new/old country of ours. They also thought that the world would finally respect, love, admire and support us once we got here. Yeah… that didn’t really work out either.
The truth is the return to Israel, the final and last coming that had been prophesied from ancient times throughout our 2000 year exile and even in modern times where both the Chafetz Chaim and Rav Chaim Volozhin suggested that America was and will be the last stop before the final redemption, has been truly miraculous. What this country has done, what our people have done and accomplished in the mere 70 years that we have been back is more than extraordinary. It is a testimony to the blessing Hashem showers upon the entire world when we are back where we need to be. I tried to explain it to one of my tourists once. I told him that you know how when you are on vacation and at the same time you are trying to run your business. It's hard. You’re not in your office, you don’t have your computer, your files, your staff isn’t getting the messages properly and you’re phone keeps dropping calls because it’s not your usual service. Forget about your data plan, that they told you would be just fine over here. Uh Huh.. You’re not really sleeping well because you’re not in your own bed. The food isn’t really agreeing with you. The water is doing funny things to your stomach. My tourists all related and understood right away. So I continued and explained. That experience is in fact the world and it’s functioning when the Jews are not home. See we are meant to be the CO’s to the one big divine CEO of this corporation called Earth. And when we’re away nothing is functioning the way it should. Not us and not the rest of the world.
Now once our tourists land back in the States. Right away things start to function better. Even though they have not yet arrived in their office yet. Their cell phone service is normal again. They are on the same time zone, the food, water and even night’s sleep is even better. Already things start to pick up. Sure it is not the same as when they actually get back into the office. But there is an already dramatic and palpable difference in their productivity, in the companies and thus all the other industries that they impact. I believe that really best describes our experience here for the past 70 years. We have returned to our airspace. We are functioning much higher and better than ever before. At least those of us that have actually crossed the ocean and come home. It seems that those that have extended their vacation seem to be suffering from a lot of extra baggage issues and increasing disfunction, but that’s what usually happens when you forget where you belong and start to think you should stay on vacation forever and are a native in a place that will always know you’re merely a tourist. But that’s because galut is not really a vacation. It’s exile. And generally we realize that when we come and ultimately we realize it when Hashem feels we have extended our stay. But in regards to our functioning and productivity level the comparison is certainly the same.
But we have not yet returned to our office yet. Yet we certainly our getting closer and closer, and that can be seen in the evidence of all that we have accomplished, that Hashem has granted us as we get closer and closer. This is despite the hardships, the relentless wars, terror, intifadas and seemingly never-ending obstacles the world keeps throwing at us to prevent us from finally realizing that dream. That is not withstanding our own self-destructive efforts to undermine and subvert the fruition of that final return. Our lashon hara, our baseless hatred, our divisiveness, our petty fighting and our distortion of our Torah values; looking to the world for their distorted ideals of morality, societal values, and spirituality rather than shining our own light out to them. Yes we have still persevered. Netzah Yisrael Lo Yishaker. Ultimately the Jewish people, returned to their land of Israel, as a whole will always persevere. Will always come out complete on the other end. Our eternality is guaranteed. There is no other choice or option. Ain Breira.
I was speaking to a military expert once and he taught me an important lesson. He asked me if I know how I know that Israel has won all of its wars. He said we know that because we’re still around. Meaning that every war that we fought was for existence. We’re not like the US where we are fighting battles and wars around the world; Germany, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan and the like. In Israel all our wars were because our enemies wanted to wipe us off the face of the earth. Into the sea. So if we are still around, it’s because we won all of our wars. Then he continued and told me that the reason why we won the wars is because of a secret Israeli code. It’s called Alef Beis. What is Alef Beis? It’s an acronym he told me for ain breirah- we have no other choice. If we didn’t we would be dead. And there you have it. Life runs differently when you have no other choice. When you know that there is nothing else you can do. That to a large degree is the Divine secret of our existence.
In this week’s Torah portion which is the beginning of Moshe Rabbeinu’s final lecture and rebuke to the Jewish people he shares that secret with us. He reminds this generation whose parents had all died in the 40 year sojourn in the wilderness of all of the mistakes, sins and follies that their parents made. So that they should not make them as well. He transmits to them the skills, the outlooks and primarily the essentials of faith that they will need to conquer and more importantly to settle and develop this holy land which is meant to be the center of the Universe and the bridge between heaven and earth. At one point in this speech he recalls to them the sin that led to their parent’s demise; the sin of the spies and their faithless report and the mourning that took place on Tisha B’Av that led to it always being a day of mourning of the opportunities lost for our people.
Devarim (1:29) Then I said to you ‘do not break down and do not fear them’. Hashem, your God, Who goes before you. He shall do battle for you, like everything He did for you in Egypt before your eyes. And in the wilderness as you have seen that Hashem you God carried you as a man carries his son, on the entire way that you traveled, until you arrived in this place.
Think about it, Moshe tells them. What is more difficult to conquer this foreign land of Canaan or to destroy the entire world empire of Egypt? Contemplate how for forty years in the wilderness without food, without water, Hashem provided everything you need. You had clouds of glory, you had pillars of fire. You’ve got the greatest nuclear weapon in your arsenal. Yet with all of that Moshe sadly concludes
Ibid (1:32) Yet in this matter you did not believe in Hashem, your God
And Rashi ruefully notes
“Yet in this matter- That He promises to bring you to this land, you do not believe in Him.
We, they failed in that we did not have faith and believe that we would actually ever be able to do it.
This lack of faith is not in the fact that we went sent out the spies in the first place. In fact Moshe himself a few verses before states that he thought it was a good idea. The failure that we had is because we believed that the victory, the coming to the land of Israel was in our hands. If it is up to us, then it certainly can and will fail.
I believe that it is precisely that which Moshe is pointing out to them. You know what the difference between Egypt and the spies were? In Egypt we stood by the Red Sea. We knew we couldn’t do anything. What are we going to send out spies to see how high the waves were? Or to quote a disgraced comedian once on his routine on Noah- “How long we can tread water for?” So we believed in Hashem and His servant Moshe. Hashem fought for us and we were silent. Ain Breira. When we were in the wilderness. There is no food. There is not water. We are a few million people. There is no physical or natural way we could ever survive. Ain Breiera. We turn to Hashem and like a father carrying his invalid child who can’t walk, Hashem carried us. This is the lesson and message Moshe imparts to our nation. The most important message when we come to a land where there is no visible clouds of glory or pillars of fire. Where the manna is certainly not falling from the heaven. Where we have to work, we have farm, we have to pick up swords, guns, and tanks and fight and defend. We have to appreciate and internalize that it is all alef beis. It is the only option we have because it is the place and home that Hashem has commanded us and structured the entire universe upon us settling and shining His light forth from.
We are not back in the office yet. There are still many of us that think that we have other breirot- other choices or options. Some that want to stay on ‘vacation’ in America or other places-seemingly oblivious to how the Jewish exiles is closing up shop and ending in other places around the world; Europe, Africa, South America and the former Soviet Union. There are some that feel we can land in the right country and create a “Jewish” country that is bereft of God and the Torah. The right place, but just an office-less existence. There are even those that think that we can tele-commute or manage our business without even having the main office and headquarters for the actual business to take place. We can live here, we can learn we can do mitzvos. Who needs the home office? Who needs the Beit Hamikdash? We can’t get it or own it anyways. We have a choice.
U’Badavar Hazeh Einchem Ma’aminim Ba’Hashem- Yet in this matter you do not believe in Hashem.
That Hashem promises us that we can and will. We just need to realize ein breira. Alef beis it’s as easy as that.
No matter the year this is the Torah portion that we read the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av. Each year we sit on the floor, we mourn, we cry, we recall all of the times and places that our illusory ‘choices’ have left us. We ask ourselves how are we doing so far, and it is the one day that we are meant to come to the ultimate conclusion that we’re still not doing that well. Not that well at all. We’re not functioning. Our business is really not accomplishing the mission statement that we have set for ourselves. There is no breira. We need our Home. We need our office. We need that bridge to bring Hashem’s glory back to the world. The pain must stop, the suffering and hatred must end. Every single one of our brothers and sisters need to be part of the company. The time has finally come when we realize there is no other option, just as there wasn’t by the Red Sea and there wasn’t for our forty years in the wilderness. Ain Breira.
May this year Tisha B’Av be the holiday that our prophets foretold would be a day of rejoicing and feasting. There really is no other options.
Have a inspiring Shabbos and hopefully a celebratory Ninth of Av,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FAVORITE YIDDISH PROVERB OF THE WEEK
“Er draytzik arum vi a shoichet in di nayn teg” He wanders around like a butcher in the nine days”
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
https://youtu.be/4-hqfZJtUho – The Billionaire buried with his socks. Inspiring
https://youtu.be/tAZ8zdMCiuQ – Happy Ninth of Av?
https://youtu.be/ForS09KA29o – My Avinu Malkeinu composition in memory of the Kedoshim that were murdered last Shabbos in Chalamish and all of the martyrs murdered by the animals that roam the streets and that occupy Hashem’s holiest place. May Hashem avenge their blood.
https://vimeo.com/214051105 - Words once spoken Tisha B’av for children Chafetz Chayim trailer
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
answer below at end of Email
Q. A time of day that a Muslim does not pray:
d. All of the above
d. All of the above
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S ILLUMINATING RASHI OF THE WEEK
Devarim- There is nothing extraneous in Rashi. If he mentions something that seems like an elaboration on what he’s explaining in the pshat but doesn’t seem relevant. Read it again. Think about it. It’s relevant. You might even see a nice insight that can explain an obscure Jewish behavior like the Chidushie HaRim does in this week’s Torah portion.
In Moshe’s rebuke to the people this week when gets to the story of the spies Moshe tells them
Devarim (1:23) “You approached me, all of you, and said ‘Let us send men ahead of us and let them spy out the land…”
Rashi seemingly noting the extra description of “all of you” writes
“As a rabble, but further on it says ‘And you approached me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders’ And you said ‘Behold Hashem has shown us…’. That approach was proper the young honored the elders and sent then ahead of them. And the elders honored the heads to go ahead of them. But here “you approached me all of you” as a rabble, the young pushing the elders and the elders pushing the heads.
The question is why did Rashi have to mention and contrast the entire story of the spies with the response of the Jewish people upon receiving the Torah where they came ‘properly’ and said that it was too much to hear the Torah directly from Hashem. It’s a nice contrast. But it really isn’t necessary in explaining the pshat here, in the fact that they came a rabble. Which he seemingly does already.
The Chidushei Ha’Rim of Ger, thus notes that Moshe in his rebuke over here that they came as a rabble, is also rebuking them with the contrast in how they came properly was also wrong. Meaning that when they came to hear the words of the Torah, the word of Hashem all of a sudden they became all proper. Suddenly they didn’t feel the need to push to get into “shiur” to hear the words of Hashem. They were very proper. No rush, no pressure, no thirst… no passion… But when it came to their agenda of spending spies all of a sudden its pushing and shoving time; like getting into a ball game or black Friday into Walmarts. But when it comes to sitting by the “Rebbe’s tish” or going to a Torah event…ahhh I don’t like the pushing and shoving….WRONG! Moshe’s telling the Jewish people that if you are pushing and shoving for your won agenda then the Torah should be certainly no less. And the opposite if you are all prim and proper when don’t like crowds when it comes to Torah then just remember that the next time you go to a concert, ball game or other event.
So you going to Tish this Friday night?
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Rothenberg –Chidushei HaRim (1799-1866) – Rabbi Yitzchak Meir was the founder and first rebbe of the Ger dynasty, which at one time counted more than 100,000 Chasidim, and to this day remains one of the largest Chasidic groups. He was a child prodigy who was sought after by all the great Polish Hasidic leaders. The Rim’s mother Chaya Sara, was an orphan who was raised by the Koznitzer Maggid, and the Maggid played a great role in Yitzchak Meir’s early development. The Rim became a disciple of Rabbi Simcha Bunem of Pshischa and Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk. He once said that “according to Pshischa Chasidus a person does nothing with his external limbs, the main thing is the inner self, from which one is inspired to act.”
Ger emphasized the centrality of Torah and self-development, the externals of Chasidus were minimized or disdained. Though Pshischa and Kotzk were elitist, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir showed how their principles could be embraced by all Jews. From Pshischa and Kotzk Ger absorbed a healthy skepticism of human motivation and the demands of the ego.
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir was a true leader and was deeply involved in all political events affecting his flock. His halachic writings are characterized by scintillating brilliance and his non-halachic thought by great depth and warmth. The custom to make siyyumim during the nine days was seen by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir as motivated by a desire to bring Jews together in a harmonious spirit and thus rectify the sin of sinas chinam which had caused the destruction of the Temple.
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir’s personal life was filled with tragedy. Many of his thirteen children died in his lifetime. When he finally consented to assume leadership after the death of the Kotzker he remarked: “I am not a rebbe. I do not want money. I do not care for honor. All I want is to spend my years bringing the children of Israel nearer to their Father in Heaven”.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TYPES OF JEWS IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK
Funeral Arangement and Chevra Kadisha Guys I live in Karmiel so I don’t have to meet or deal with these guys. But if your in any religious neighborhood certainly Chariedi neighborhood you will regularly throughout the day and many times in the early morning or late night hear a car driving through the streets blasting information about the tragic passing of Yankel Chaim son of Moshe And Chani Shmerelsberg at the young age of 105. All of Israel mourns this great calamity. The funeral will be held on Mount of Olives at 10:00 PM. Shiva will be by the home of his 15 children and the mourning widow. And again and again. I don’t know who started this thing. But it’s been going on for a long time. As well there are those guys that literally hours after someone is dead have people on the streets plastering them with signs. I wonder if they pre-print them. In fact the joke was that the walls of Meah Shearim are actually held together by these pahskivilim/posters. You of course have your chevra Kadisha guys as well that are truly heroes many of them working on a volunteer basis to be on call at all times to prepare someone for burial. See unlike in America, where burials and cemeteries have to work with non-Jewish business hours and teams and many times burial is delayed. In Israel, out of concern for the pan that the soul endures as long as it is not buried we bury as soon as possible many times a few hours after someone passes, he can already be interred, even if it is in middle of the night. But perhaps the most incredible are members of Zaaka that are involved in the way too many tragedies that insure that every bit of blood or body parts that was part of the person would be collected and brought to burial. Tragically death is a big part of life in Israel as paradoxical as that sounds. But these guys are there to always to remind us that adage of our sages “to remember the day of our death”. May we merit the day when Hashem will wipe all death and mourning from the world.
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S JOKES OF THE WEEK
It’s the 9 days this week. sorry no jokes!
Answer is D– I once had someone in my shul that undergoing conversion and the Beit Din asked him why he wanted to convert. He responded that Judaism connected him by God at all times, he prayed three times a day, he made blessings before he ate, after, throughout the year, even when he went to the bathroom. They told him if he liked prayer so much he should just convert to Islam as they do it 5 times a day…. The truth is although one of their five “mitzvos” (as opposed to our 613) is salah-which is a very similar word to our Aramaic of tzalaach which means prayer. But their entire prayer which is recited 5 times a day consists of basically one sentence and a sura or two that Allah is great and that murdering psychopathic delusional false prophet Muhammed is “his” prophet. The five times for prayer are 1) Dawn to sunrise, 2) noon until about a half hour to sunset, 3) from after the 2nd prayer until sunset, 4) after sunset until nightfall, nightfall until midnight or dawn. Now there are “machlokesim”/ differences of opinions between Sunni, Shi’ites and all the other breakoffs. But that’s the basic idea. I don’t mind their prayer so much, but why do they feel they need to blast it out from their minarets all the time. We know your “frum” just bow down on your carpet and be down with it already. OK!