Tzvi FishmanTzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984, he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbis A. Y. Kook and T. Y. Kook. His other books include: "The Kuzari For Young Readers" and "Tuvia in the Promised Land". His books are available on Amazon. Recently, he directed the movie, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman."
In our previous article, we began to explain the need for a deeper comprehension of Emunah (Faith) and Torah, in order to understand the rebirth of the Nation of Israel in our time. This deeper learning has the power to lift ourselves up to a higher level of existence – the transition from Galut to Geula, from a grave-like existence of dry scattered bones in gentile lands, to our full revitalized life of being a united body and sovereign Nation in our own Land.
In his book, “Binyan Emunah,” Rabbi Moshe Bleicher explains that the Torah defines the parameters of existence, and not the beliefs and opinions of man. An example is the definition of work (Malacha) on Shabbat. The notion of work which is forbidden on Shabbat is not determined by the concepts of man. For instance, human reasoning could maintain that if a person were to perform some difficult labor on Shabbat, this would be forbidden, and if he were to do some work without any effort, this would be allowed. But this is not the case. A person can carry heavy crates from one room to another in his home all day long without transgressing the laws of Shabbat, while if he were to carry a weightless needle in his hand from his house to his neighbor’s house across the street, in a place where there is no eruv, he will have violated the Malacha of carrying an object from one domain to another, whose punishment is most severe. It is the Torah which determines the definition of work on Shabbat and not the definitions of man.
When we understand this idea, we can acknowledge another truth. Just as the activities of life are defined by the Halacha (Jewish Law), all of the events of life, large and small alike, are defined by the Torah. If the Prophet Ezekiel, along with Torah giants like Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi and the Gaon of Vilna, define the exile as death, even if the Galut seems in our eyes to be filled with flourishing Jewish life, one must recognize that it is the Torah which determines the definition of a situation, and that the Galut is indeed a graveyard, because the essence of the Jewish People, our being Hashem’s holy NATION, does not exist there. Of course, we have to explain why this is so. How can it be that a situation which appears to be thriving, materially and even spiritually, for example, Jewish life in New York, with an abundance of Torah learning and observance, is nevertheless defined by the Torah, and by our Prophets and Sages, as death?
In order to understand why the Galut is death, we have to first meditate on the meaning of life. True life is when an organism functions as a whole. For example, no one would say that a severed limb is alive. Or, if you were to place an eyeball on a table, of course it couldn’t see. Without being connected to the soul, the life-force of the body, an eyeball obviously won’t function. The eyeball by itself is dead. Only in its connection to the general body and life-giving soul, can it function and see.
Rabbi Bleicher explains that the reason that the eye cannot function without it being attached to the body is because the eye isn’t a private organ which exists by itself. This is also true for the other organs of the body – the ear, the brain, the heart, etc. If you were to take out all of the organs of the body and connect them together, a man wouldn’t result - only a big, lifeless doll. The thing which gives man his essence as a man is the general life force inside of him. This is what enlivens and operates all the organs of the body, determines their function, and also gives man his consciousness as a man. From this general life force, the different parts of the body receive their value and importance.
Just as a life force animates an individual, the same is true for the Clal, the general community of all the Jewish People, past, present, and future. As we previously mentioned, the Nation of Israel is the earthly vessel which testifies to the Kingship of Hashem in the world. We declare His praise and bring His Word to mankind. While there are individual Tzaddikim (righteous people) who influence the world with their spiritual greatness, the universal Sanctification of Hashem in the world comes through the Israeli Nation as a whole, and not through individual Jews, however holy they may be (Ezekiel, 36:23-24).
There are nations of the world which also call upon the Name of G-d and praise His greatness, but in the very same breath, they are capable of murdering millions and carrying out the most savage, bestial acts. In contrast, when Am Yisrael calls upon the Name of G-d, it is to reveal and establish the Divine Ideal and Morality in the world, with the altruistic aspiration of bettering the life of all mankind.
Rabbi Bleicher writes: “While the world has greatly advanced in scientific and technological spheres, when it comes to morality, the improvement is far less noticeable. Much of mankind is still enslaved to primitivism, to idol worship, and its seemingly more sophisticated offshoots like Christianity, without the awareness that that the world has a single Soul, the Source of Ideal Unity, which gives value to everything. Lacking this understanding, the majority of the world lives an illusion, and walks like a blind man in darkness. In contrast, the recognition that the world has an Ideal Goal, and that the forces of life derive their value from a universal, unifying Divine Truth, gives existence a new exalted stature, and reveals that it is possible to live a life of purity, holiness, and nobility, on a lofty and transcendental level” - not only for an individual, but for nations as well, and for humanity as a whole.
“This lofty moral recognition is the innovation which Am Yisrael brings to the world. ‘This Nation have I created for myself, they will declare My praise.’ The ability of Am Yisrael to declare the praises of Hashem, to illuminate the world and liberate it from its truncated framework of private interests and egotistical concerns, from its bondage to individual lusts, by attaching all of the forces of life to their ideal Divine Source through the Torah, this stems from the unique vision of Am Yisrael that recognizes the existence of a single unifying Divine Goal which stands at the foundation of the world – the recognition that there is a single unifying force of life that lends ideal meaning to all of the details of life. This is a great Kiddush Hashem, the ability to reveal in life the Universal Unity which gives life to everything.”
The Nation of Israel was created to illuminate this Universal Truth of Divine Unity, to declare the Universal Kingship of G-d. When all of Am Yisrael gathers in its Land, with the Beit HaMikdash rebuilt on Har HaBayit, this Divine life-force appears in the life of the Israelite Nation, in all aspects of its national existence, in their most ideal and healthy format. But even before the Beit HaMikdash is built, the return to the Land and the Nation’s rebuilding, even in its early, outwardly secular stages, injects the dry bones of the Jewish People with a mighty national vitality that astonishes all other nations in the miraculous nature of its rebirth.
Rabbi Bleicher continues: “Like with an individual man, whose soul gives life to all of his organs and limbs, so too, when Am Yisrael returns to Eretz Yisrael, its unique, national life-force, which only comes to life within the Nation when it dwells in its Land, radiates its powers to all of the national faculties of the Nation, and to every vista of its life. The more the Nation is true to its inner essence and draws vitality and strength from the Divine Source of its life, the healthier it will be, and it will succeed in achieving its mission in the most complete and ideal fashion.”
This is a life of national Kiddush Hashem, where the Divine Presence is revealed in our midst, through the realization of the ideal, universal, Divine Goals and Aspirations in the life of the Nation, a holy Nation living its national life guided by the Torah.
However, when the Nation of Israel is exiled from its Land, and its general, national format is lost, along with the national life-force that goes with it, then its very essence undergoes a drastic descent. To protect itself from the impurity of exile, its general, Clalli soul ascends to the celestial heights, and no longer functions as the battery source of the now scattered and splintered Jewish People. Exiled from its Land, and unable to exist in its national format, the individual (prati) side of life becomes dominate, and the forces of life appear separately, seemingly independent, one from the other, like scattered dry bones. In this way, the level of life changes, and the entire observance of Torah and its commandments falls into a totally different category of performance - the practice of the precepts without their inner national essence. Scattered throughout the Diaspora, the Jewish People lack the vivifying Divine Soul of the Nation – like a body without a head or a heart. We become scattered communities, like dismembered organs, without any true, national Israeli life of our own.
To be continued.