Parashat Hashavua

Portion Mishpatim -Why Make Laws that No One Follows - Students, Women, Feminism - or a story about JUSTICE

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Big Portion with a Lot of Laws this week -
and a little more connection to the Sinai experience
I will try to cover a few things while I write freezing in an unheated room at a relative's home.
I may not get to the other issues - please forgive me if this computer freezes up!
So what you may ask? Why more connections to the Sinai experience? JUSTICE???
Below is a story of ILLEGAL ARREST which this week is reported in Israel ,
after those illegally arrested were awarded in court 5000 shekels (about $1600) each for the 4 hours of being held by police when they were just standing around to protect a young couple in the middle of an Arab riot a few months ago
( in the mixed Jewish-Arab town of Ramla. The Arabs there WANT APARTHEID - as in most Arab villages the ruling party is the Arab Mafia). 
Overall, Itamar was left with a feeling of humiliation. Here he speaks:

“I mainly remember inexplicable physical sensations throughout that evening,” he said. “I guess the events affected me more than I thought.

“Anger was definitely there, mostly because of the humiliation. There was humiliation in a few senses – because of the very act of being apprehended, which included things like the body search, prevention of freedom of movement, the confiscation of personal belongings, and the very unempathic treatment at the hands of the arresting officers – not answering simple questions such as asking for the name of the policeman or why we were being picked up, feeling as if facing an impenetrable wall.


“In retrospect, I can understand that the police were under a great deal of stress, and it makes sense that they avoided talking to us, perhaps they directed their energies to other thoughts about how to manage the situation in general.

“But the fact is that we had come to support the residents, to do something good, and in the end we were the ones arrested.

“At the same time, there was anger regarding the lack of justice there, not for us, but for our fellow Jews, the Jewish residents of Lod and Ramla.”

So the portion sets up a basic set of laws - which have been digested, used, and updated for 3000 years!

I once taught a few college courses to police officers in New York - but I think that the job requires an annual 3 days seminar to upgrade all officers' perceptions of humanity - if possible.
As one friend said yesterday - the milk of human kindness was given to the female of the species - so does that biological fact influence the Torah views of Justice through the last 3000 years?
I doubt if it makes female judges "better" - but I think the perspective should be given a place in most legal cases.
Just a word about students here, before I get out of this freezing room and heat up my coffee and try to finish it -
Joshua was the number one student of Moses the Lawgiver.
Yet the Traditional View is that Moses first taught the justice rules to Aron the High Priest, then the other priestly families,
then to the 70 elders, and then to the whole people of the Israelites.
Where was Joshua? The tradition says he didn't budge from his teacher-master Moshe. Not that he learned everything - but he was the person selected to lead the Israelites for the next 14 years after Moshe/Moses left the world.
The Ethics of the Fathers begins with the statement 
"That Moses first gave over the Torah to Joshua ..."
"So - who gives over the Torah to us?"
I bless us all that we all seek out and learn from great teachers .
Love Health Safety Blessings and - SHABBOS!
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz



Portion Yitro (Jethro) - What Really Happened

Portion Yitro (Jethro) - What Really Happened
At Sinai the Torah says:
There was
Burning fire and smoke, and the
Sound of a Shofar
And the Almighty Spoke
And Moshe Rabaynu (Moses) Spoke
And King Solomon described the scene 500 years later,
 in the Song of Songs -
from the view of the Almighty - as it were - sending up a
Super Smoke Signal -
that the world heard about (which is why Yitro-Jethro,
father in law of Moses, came to join the people of Israel!
(and why the Portion is named after him)
And you can be in touch with that feeling of of Jethro - 
and the poetic description of King Solomon - 
(updating for the Israelite Population of 950 BC- before the common era)
Reading the 3rd chapter of  the
It is described in the Talmud of a thousand years ago -
as a love letter between the Almighty and the Jewish People
(just as the Purim Megila is from 2600 years ago -
a love story between the Almighty and Israel!)
The ZOHAR teaches us about the feel of the smoke
and smell of the flowers
and the sound of the Shofar -
and that we are to remember those (as much as the 
words of the 10 Commandments)
So what is the Zohar erally trying to tell us to remember?
And Solomon?
And Rabbi Akiva in the Talmud?
Sinai? or the Love of the Almighty?
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

In Portion BO The Almighty"finished up" the Egyptian Plagues (but not yet Pharoah)

In Portion BO The Almighty"finished up" the Egyptian Plagues (but not yet Pharoah)
And then starts : the Passover Holiday! 
And  PASSOVER  is a FOREVER thing - For Israel - and for the World.
Okay, Passover laws appear in a few parts of the Torah - so who needs it here?
The wise commentators say the Torah should have just begun here - not elsewhere!
So why all the stories about Adam Noah Abraham, etc (the whole first of the 5 BOOKS)?
RASHI explains beautifully - writing in the era when -
The crusaders and the muslims fought over controlling the Land of Israel! So ???
Rashi explains right in the beginning of the Torah - that
The first of the 5 BOOKS is really to TELL THE WORLD to "Loosen Up" 
already from EARLIEST HISTORY!
Get it straight world - The Almighty Created it for US - not for conquerors!
So why, today, does the UN and Anti-Semites try to squeeze us out of OUR LAND?
I saw in the weekly from: "short, practical Lelamed Weekly Dvar
and I will paraphrase his idea that its  writer brings from
Rabbi Henach Leibowitz (Majesty of Man): who suggests (in the portion) that
The Almighty telling Moshe to “please ask them [the Jewish people] to borrow… silver vessels and golden vessels” before leaving Egypt, 
 was meant to instill a sense of self-worth within them, and compensate them for their hundreds of years of slave labor - and slave mentality, 
and (especially) to teach them (former opressed slaves) to speak up for themselves.!
G-d’s request was to begin the Nation of Israel's transformation into a nation that fights for what is right and deserved .
The writer says it can be a lesson for us as well (and) teaches us that it’s right to stand up for ourselves - MAYBE WE NEED TO STRENGTHEN OUR OWN RESOLVE!
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Va AyRah : Symbols or Cymbals

 Portion Va AyRah : Symbols or Cymbals
When Moses was "announced"ת coming before Pharoah - was he 
sometimes announced with drums or cymbols? Think about  how things were done 3500 years ago.
Sometimes Moses and Aron had to sneak around the guards - because they were not always welcomed...
But - after all - Moses grew up in the palace. He must have still had "a few connections" to get around ... even though they were not so belooved any more.
Let's face it though - he and Aron walked around with BIG STICKS that could be turned into CROCODILES,
and they turned the Nile into Blood, and released frogs and lice... HUH? WHAT? Of course no one really loved them any more in Egypt!
Yes - the portion tells us here that Moses and Aron introduce 7 of the 10 plagues on Egypt.
Was there any fanfare, drums or cymbols as each plague was introduce? Not likey.
OR WAS THE ALMIGHTY SENDING SYMBOLS that some of the Egyptians finally "got"?
But what are all the plagues if not symbols? (See also the Marcus Lehman Hagadda.)
To us or to THEM?
What fanfare do WE give these portions - do most Jews even cursorily read them? Even at the Passover Seder?
Take for instance in the Zohar. (TO KEEP IT SHORT )
the whole thing with the Sticks into Crocodiles by Aron's staff.
It says in the portion that Pharoah's advisors could also 
do the "stick to crocodile thing."
And then it says that  - well, let me ask you:
Why did Aharon's staff have to swallow the magicians' crocodiles?
It's not a story - it's a symbol!
It wasn't Aron's CROCODILE that ate the the "advisors' Crocodiles".
The ZOHAR says it was a DOUBLE miracle - and DOUBLE SYMBOL
Even Aron's DRY stick (his staff turned back to a stick
after Moses' demonstration) -
 ate the crocodiles/snakes/what-have-you - that 
the Advisors to Evil (Pharoah) produced.
A warning to Egypt? Okay - for that time.
The symbol of ISRAEL Overcoming EVIL? For Every Generation!
May we overcome the snakes of antiSemitism
and the Crocodiles of a Corrupt UN and world leaders,
And Bless the World with our
SYMBOLISM that what they think of as an OLD DRY STICK (us)
is really going to revive true freedom from the Pharoahs of the world
and sprout (like later on IN THE TORAH) and 
bring forth Almond BLOSSOMS - in the desert 
And in Israel Today
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion ShehMote - Who did Moses Smote? (uhhh - smite?)

Portion ShehMote - Who did Moses Smote? (uhhh - smite?)
What ties us together? Us and Moshe?
And what ties us to the Temple he Built -
and the ones he Didn't? (In Shiloh, and in Jerusalem?)
In Shiloh you can see where the giant tabernacle stood for 369 years) -
(Right Art and Don?)
The impression dug up by archaeologists is the exact measurement as in the Torah!
And the Temple mount - over 3000 years holy to our people - even called "holy" in Arabic-
because almost every holy place for Jews has had the name of the place preserved by even the Arab conquerors (who came around the year 650 and defeated the earlier conquerors).
How can the world see obvious facts and make up lies about Israel Israelites and Judaism?
So - in this week's "Rabbi Ashkenazi class" on the Tanya Chapter 4,
he  stated the historical facts of why Moses wasn chosen to lead our people - ( NOT RELATED to why Abraham was Chosen before Moshe)
As appear in our portion:
It was the act of saving the Jewish slave from being beaten by the Egyptian
And trying to break up a fight between 2 Israelites.
Even if we are not all leaders we need to learn the lessons-
and then teach basic morality to the world.
Is that why there is so much anti-Semitism - because the world has a dearth of morality - or doesn't teach morality? (Or is it simple jealousy - like the stories of Joseph, or greed like the stories of Laban? Oh - those were from portions in the previous weeks...) to remember ... )
Why is there so much abuse in the world? Moses could not walk around and see beatings and fights whenever he left his "ivory tower" - the palace
And yet there are so many abusive societies and so many drug cartels, etc..
Do we have too many politicians? Not enough moral leaders?
Do we have to go back 3000 years to search for SIMPLE moral truths?
I guess the Almighty wants us ALL to read the Torah every week to remind us to remind the world about basic morality.
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion VaYeChee - How to Give Blessings

Portion VaYeChee - How to Give Blessings
Rabbi Carlebach taught his listeners how to give blessings - and said that is the only thing that "works" in this world.
So this week we read the Portion of the week of Jacob giving Blessings for all his family and for eternity (all time) and for ALL THE WORLD -
SOOO let me start
by blessing all my family and friends and students and congregants,
all the people of Israel and of all the world - to be healthy and happy and to ADD TO THE GOODNESS OF THE WORLD.
But are Blessings just a bunch of words - or hard work - or patience - or sometimes a struggle?
As a connection to Jabob's Blessings :This week we can learn so much about the Almighty and the Torah by hearing stories from the Yahrzeit's (this week)  of great Hassidic Masters of the past , like
Rabbi Natan of Breslav, who wrote down the notes and published the work and teachings of Rebbe Nachman ( and you can see some of these as explained by Rabbi Yaskil, peppered throughout my book
"Seeking Reb Shlomo"). 
He wrote in the introduction to the Second printing of Likutay Mohara"N (Rebbe Nachman's Magnum Opus):
"The first printing had errors - even blank spaces which confuse the reader - and some of the typeset is corrupted- so I had to make the corrections ..."
What's the big deal? He was the editor, so of course he would make the corrections!? But at the time, 
He was writing his own works, 
yet he felt obligated NOT to give Rebbe Nachman's book to someone else to correct - but to guarantee it himself.
In this Portion, Jacob, Joseph, and the children - all accept the tasks -
Of making the Israelite Nation a spiritual light to the world FOREVER.
Joseph - who ran the country of Egypt, he had time? And
The other brothers who worked together to protect and build "ISRAEL" -
they were all "busy" - but they worked together to fulfill the
challenge of the task and blessing of Israel/Jacob.
And it was  also the Yahrzeit of Mordechai Yosef of Ishbitz (Ishbitzer)
And here's a litle anecdote about him:
A Former student of his, beset by misfortune, went to his NEW Rebbe,
who said "go back to the Rebbe Mordechai Yosef", which he did
After Explaining all his Misfortunes, that Ishbitzer Rebbe (a believer in TRUTH -
only truth and nothing but ...) asked
"If I give you a blessing to get over all the financial woes, will you come back to be a follower at my Hassidic Court?"
But the Hassid said he wouldn't come back, and wouldn't falsify anything.
BUT THE ISHBITZER REBBE blessed him anyway - 
and the man again succeeded in many ways greater than before.
Did he get the blessing despite his refusal to return -or because of it?
Because of his truthfulness - or because the Rebbe valued his honesty?
And it was just the Yahrzeit of the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe
(read about him in Chapter 16 in my book..."Seeking Reb Shlomo").
Somehow he kept with him a tiny set of Tefilin even in Aushwitz ... 
until some SS guards found them ...., 
For which he was soundly Beaten...
Though he always kept a cheery countenance, the others in his bunk saw him cry, and talk as if to the Almighty saying
"I accept whatever you have sent me, 
but I cannot  accept that I am prevented from performing your Commandments"
The next day an SS officer came to that bunk, and asked "are these yours"?
"Yes" said the Rebbe, not sure if he would be in for another beating, but totally truthful.
The officer gave them back to him! And then
He said "just dont let anyone else use them"!
(To all those Corrections Officers out there - did you 
 ever  do a search and find contraband? What did you do or have to do?
See in my work - in -  progress,  probably to be titled 
"Thank You Sol Wachtler")
Power of: Dedication
Connection with the Almighty
All these were our blessings from our forefather Jacob -
in his BLESSINGS to ALL his children-
To help us ALL through our people's long and lonely exiles, and 
As we see from some of our great spiritual masters, that it
Doesnt matter what they did or didn't do - for us - we can only bless each other - and work to try to connect to holiness and truth of the Almighty
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Vayee Gash - the last stop before 250 tough years

Portion Vayee Gash  -  the last stop before 250 tough years  
The basic idea here was voiced some years ago by Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neriya (zatza"l) - but I have to ask a question regarding the significance of Jacob's prophecy
As the song goes:
Sometimes you're up
Sometimes you're down!
And So Too the Kabbala teaches us not to get Hung Up over
where we might "be" in our lives - but to
to improve our lives and the world in general
From this week's portion I ask:
Why did The Almighty appear to Jacob in Be er Sheva
(At The Northern Tip of the Negev Desert) before going to Egypt?
(Reminding him that the going was getting tough,
but that the Almighty would always be with his descendents,
and they would return to the Land of Israel, Land of their forbears).
Why not just as he reunited with Joseph, who could use the prophecy?
Or when the brothers returned from Egypt with the first news of Joseph?
And why did prime Minister Bennet not go INTO Arab towns on his Chanuka tour of the Negev last week?
And I ask - did the 11 brothers also see or hear the prophecy?
 (or the 10 who were there - 
since probably one was with Joseph down in Egypt...)
Why not in Hebron? (Actually we are not SURE where the family was living at the start of the fateful trip down to Egypt that ended in slavery)
So I believe the Lesson in the Portion from the Prophecy could only 
be understood by Jacob - who loved ALL his family - 
despite the troubles he had gone through
The brothers were NOT at that level, as we see even years later,
as when Jacob left the world, the brothers were afraid that
Maybe Joseph would Take Revenge.
Even after freedom from slavery and entering Israel, there was a lot of rivalry and in-fighting between tribes - and
only RARELY  were leaders like KING DAVID able to UNITE them all.
Prime Minister Bennet has to figure out how to deal with Iran and Arabs (like the Beduins in the Negev),
so it seems that he may have lost track of 
Not that he asks me what to do - but
King David was a MASTER at dealing with the foes of Israel -
and UNITING all the Israelites made his whole career WORK better.
Maybe we should all help in this task this Shabbat - Uniting us ALL?
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Me Kates: The End

Portion Me Kates:  The End

End of What?
End of the line at the pharmacy like today? But why fume about it ?
ITS FUNNY - but there is always someone that gets on line behind you ...!

So while waiting at the pharmacy this morning while the pharmacist went somewhere
I was trading Talmud thoughts with the guy behind me

And another guy – with a big red clown's nose comes behind us
and recognizes the page we are talking about – and quotes the 2 lines following

How Elijah the Prophet pointed out to some Rabbis that a certain 2 people in the market
were guaranteed a very High Honor in Heaven!

And why was that? Because they were jokesters and made people laugh!

And this guy reminds us how THIS SHABBAT CHANUKAH is the COMPLETION
Of the High Holidays – and special "in the eyes of the Almighty"
For getting Holy Prayers answered (forget about that Mercedes)

So what's the connection between Chanuka and comedians and Joseph in the Portion? 
So Joseph is in prison waiting for –something? Anything? - to happen
And it's 2 YEARS since he asked the Chief Butler to remember his skills to Pharoah

But at a PARTY (there must have been CLOWNS – like in the Broadway song)
The Butler remembers, and they call in Joseph to interpret Pharoahs dreams, and

In a minute Joseph is free
And in a minute he is Viceroy – assistant to king Pharoah!

And later when he blesses his kid brother Benjamin – he uses the word Chanukah

It is called an "unclear prophecy" -
 that Chanukah will be the re-dedication of the Holy Temple
Which was located in Israel in the Portion (of Israel's land) of Benjamin

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenhz


Portion VaYayShev: Joseph and the brother (on the bus) or the hidden angel?

Portion VaYayShev:  Joseph and the brother (on the bus) or the hidden angel?
Basically, Joseph gets lost and someone unknown - maybe the angel Gabriel - directs him
JOSEPH Then  ends up in Egypt and in trouble - and
he never again sees his homeland


No - he was taken as a slave -
so why is there so much anti-semitism?
is it pushed by
control-freakiness - or jealousy - or greed? (read - hatred and politics?)
Why do some fools fan the flame of hatred - AND NEVER SEE THEM SELVES ?
(I should maybe ask bob dylan to add that to his 
"how many times must a ....look up?" song...)
Modern Day Jews DO need a - what? A transit card? OIY! (Transit to Israel maybe?)
WHO NEEDS A METROCARD  (in Israel it's called a RAV-KAV -means "for all public transit lines")
In Israel the inspectors some times throw people off the bus and give out fines for cheats ...
SO - I am on a bus at night in Jerusalem - and A twenty-something guy is asking people to take his cash and dip for his fare
because his card ran out of pre-pay
AND NOBODY HELPS  (not mean - just students and seniors cannot swipe for adults because we get discounts)
so I offered him MY SPARE REGULAR CARD (always good to have one)
and we begin talking about Maimonides and about the Kabala (guy turns out to be a Canadian student)

Through the ages our Master Rabbis taught that Angels are Messengers

-But when Jacob sends Joseph     and he gets lost    was it an
Angel (in disguise) or just a holy brother out to help ?
In Kabala-

Zohar says – joseph always acted like a brother - even when the siblings were not

Zohar says - what kept Joseph the Slave on the right path to - YES
was not his  dreams 
(who taught him how to be a Holy Brother to others -
even when his brothers were truly not nice to him (see next 2 portions)

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion VaYishLach: Asahel, Angels, and the Lie of the Prophet Elisha

Portion VaYishLach:  Asahel, Angels, and the Lie of the Prophet Elisha

In this portion Jacob (a MAJOR Prophet) returns from Syria with the family (like many, his kids were "angels", okay maybe not ALL the Time)

Hearing (from scouts – remember this is the dangerous Middle East) that his brother Esau is "on the warpath" – Jacob sends G-dly Angels to his brother. With what message?

Through the ages our Master Rabbis taught that Angels are Messengers

Do you remember Jacob's dream last week about the Angels on the Ladder? This week's ZOHAR section continues its related discussion about :

"The Shechina" – presence of the Almighty – versus the "Holy Manifestation of Angels"

Keeping things somewhat brief – I ask: where do the Prophets fit in here? Are Prophets manifesting "Shechina" or are they Messengers like Angels – or just "Holy People"?

Last week I came across how the "Story of Syria" was interfering with the "Story of Israel". Elisha the "Regional Prophet" shows up in Damascus. The King (no friend of Israelites) sends gifts in order to bribe Elisha (for sake of argument I say) for a healing blessing. The gifts are brought by Asahel, the Chief Minister, and Elisha says "Tell the King he will Live!"

BUT then he cried! Asahel asked him "why"? And Elisha says "He will die, and you will reign", and sadly, you will not be good to my Israelites." So Asahel kills the king, and becomes king!

 What level of holiness was Elisha speaking from (telling a lie)? ZOHAR says "outside of Israel" even prophets cannot expect to be at the highest level – despite their holy messages.

What Message was Jacob sending to Esau? Jacob had the power of Shechina and sent peace   messages to his warring brother, a power precisely because he was returning to Israel!

What messages are WE sending out?

We always need to check and see if we are sending out good vibes/messages.

Lesson of the portion? We need angels, and to be angels, for one another, to ease The pain of Israel's exile, AntiSemitism ... can only be eased when we are angels to one another,

And facing towards Israel.


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Andy Eichenholz