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Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
Tammuz 19, 5768, 7/22/2008
I have decided to follow the advice of one of our readers and take a sabbatical from this blog to learn more Torah and write a book in my father’s memory.
From Brooklyn to the Holy Land
In the meantime, here is a dvar Torah by Rabbi Nachman Kahana that sums up many of the points that we have been discussing over the past two years:
Pinchas, through his zealousness for God and the Torah, brought to an end the tragic episode of the Jewish people’s sinning at Baal Pe’or. There are traditions which state that Pinchas, is also known as Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah the prophet) who never died, and continues to appear in times of great need.
Often, when the Gemara presents a halachic problem which the rabbis at the time could not resolve, the issue concludes with the word "TaYKU," which is an acronym formed by the first letters of the four words Tishbee Yetaretz Kushyot U’sefaykot, meaning: in time Tishbee (Eliyahu the Prophet) Yetaretz (will resolve) Kushyot (rigorous questions) U’sefaykot (and uncertainties.)
Why did Rav Ashi, the editor of the Babylonian Talmud, place the onus of adjudicating halachic difficulties upon the shoulders of Eliyahu HaNavi and not on the more authoritative Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the ultimate human law giver?
I suggest: Moshe was and will always be the ultimate law giver. But Moshe, as great as he was, lived 120 years and then left this world. Eliyahu never died and by virtue of his extended longevity was able to perceive the entire scope of Jewish experience of over 3000 years. This extended participation in all times and places of Jewish life cultivated his ability to see the Torah in all its worldly applications. Hence he is the most qualified to solve these problems.
Why did HaShem grant this great longevity to Eliyahu Ha’navi?
For the Haftorah this Shabbat we read Melachim [Kings] 1 chapter 19. It relates how Eliyahu fled from the evil King Achav and his depraved Queen Ey’zevel (Jezebel) after they murdered all the rabbis and prophets in the northern tribes, except for 100 who were rescued by Ovadia and hidden in caves. Eliyahu, went to find refuge at Mount Sinai, in the very cave where Moshe had hidden from the omnipotent presence of the Almighty.
To HaShem’s enquiry as to why he was there, Eliyahu replied:
"And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Your altars, and slain Your prophets with the sword: and only I am left; and they seek my life to take it away."
HaShem became angry at Eliyahu’s incrimination of Bnei Yisrael for stating "Israel have forsaken Thy covenant." It is related in the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 71):
“And the Lord said to him, "You were zealous at Shittim when the Jewish people engaged in sexual transgression, and now again you are zealous. Upon your life you shall be present and see every brit mila (circumcision ceremony). Because of this the rabbis enacted that a chair be placed at every brit mila for the "angel of the brit" (Eliyahu Ha’navi).
HaShem could not bear to hear lashon hara (unfavorable judgment) of His people, Israel, even from one as great as Eliyahu. Thus, HaShem gave Eliyahu longevity so that he would see for himself that the Jews always continued to honor the brit.
Eliyahu could not have foreseen leaders like Ezra the Scribe, who rebuilt the second Bet Ha’Mikdash and the Men of the Great Aseembly. Nor could he have foreseen the revolt of the Maccabim in the name of the Torah, or the Tannaic and Amoraic generations. Nor the hundreds of thousand of talmidei chachamim and millions of faithful "simple" Jews over the generations. He could not have foreseen the many faithful Jews whose last gasp of air in the gas chambers were used to utter Shema Yisrael. Nor could he have foreseen our great generation which stubbornly struggles to rebuild God’s Holy Land despite the impossible odds.
HaShem sent Eliyahu to see the extent to which Jewish fathers and mothers would sacrifice to have their sons carry on their bodies the sign of HaShem’s covenant with His holy people, a covenant which will never be abrogated.
But, indeed one can sympathize with Eliyahu, when the fruits of his labors to bring the Jewish people closer to HaShem seemingly failed, and in return for his efforts he was hunted down by the monarchy like a wild beast.
Now is one of those times.
The government gave to the Hizbullah murderous gang live terrorists in return for dead bodies. By doing so, the government has put into danger every Jewish soldier who might, God forbid, fall into the hands of any Arab group, because they know that Israel will pay "big" even for a dead soldier, so why go through the effort of keeping him alive.
Government spokesmen keep declaring that this was an act of high Jewish morality, to do all and pay all for even a dead body. However, the last entity to speak about what is Jewish or not, is the government.
This week’s parasha teaches us what Jewish morality is.
HaShem commands Moshe to send an army to utterly destroy the Midianite nation for using their daughters to entice Jewish men to sin.
No talks. No exchange of ideas. No negotiations. Just obliterate the Midianites- young and old.
Were it in my hands, I would have given Hizbullah one hour to return Ehud Goldwasser and Udi Regev, and the Hamas in Azza one hour to return Gilad Shalit, and if after 60 minutes they were not brought back, Lebanon and Azza would cease to be the home of even one Arab.
We who are still healthy and normal of the Jewish nation feel the great frustration of Eliyahu. But we must also adopt in our lives HaShem’s command to Eliyahu to return to life and continue the struggle to reach the goal that one day we shall be a "Kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation."
There are too many observant people who have given up the struggle and cry "Mashiach now", and many "secular" Jews who have no need of a Jewish homeland. And there are the Jews in chutz la’aretz (the Diaspora) who are irrelevant to the future of Judaism.
Then there are the people who form the various degrees of “Haredeism. Some view the Medina as being born like a badly handicapped child with no potential. Others view it as a child born out of wedlock. The more extreme Haredees view the Medina as a child born in sin, and the traitors who go off to Teheran view the Medina as a goyishe child.
The students of Eliyahu HaNavi are those who have studied the entire gamut of Jewish history and know that galut, even the sweetest of them, will bring eventual decay and death to our people.
The students of Eliyahu are those who see the Medina for what it really is: a beautiful, healthy and holy child, which must be nurtured and cared for until the time when its inner holy soul will become revealed. The governments of Israel are not the soul of its people. They are, at best, an embarrassment to our intelligence and our history. But they will go, and one day we will merit not only a nation of Jews but a "Jewish Nation."
Our sages enacted that at the Pessach seder each family pour a cup of wine for Eliyahu HaNavi. By this our rabbis are teaching us that the Torah of Moshe at Mount Sinai and the command of HaShem to Eliyahu at Mount Sinai never to give up, are at the heart of the covenant between HaShem and His people.
One who leaves the Torah, or one who is scrupulous in keeping its mitzvot, but escapes ones responsibility in bringing about the total renaissance of our people in Eretz Yisrael, has "forsaken Thy covenant".
Tammuz 17, 5768, 7/20/2008
I wrote this dvar Torah for the dynamic new “Torat Yisrael” Shabbat Page which is being distributed in Israel: www.TorahFromZion.com.
Rashi explains this to mean that the leaders should hang those Jews who trespassed with the daughters of Moab, but the Zohar understands the text in its literal light, that the leaders themselves should be hanged for having allowed the Jews to fall into such grave transgression: “The leaders of the people are deemed responsible in every generation for this transgression, if they know of it, yet are not jealous in stamping it out. For they are required to be zealous on G-d’s behalf against this transgression, for this is the Brit” (Zohar, Shemot, 3b).
This message was emphasized by the great Chofetz Chaim. In the year 1927, at a time of world depression and widespread persecution of the Jews, he wrote an appeal to the rabbis of world Jewry, exhorting them to speak out against breaches of immodesty, in order to stem the sufferings of the Jewish People:
"Every man has the obligation to extinguish this terrible fire, and to rectify the situation in his home so that everything will be according to the law, and not to allow licentiousness, G-d forbid. And in doing so, he will merit to have upright and exalted holy children. And more than anyone else, this obligation falls on the rabbis and on all those who are zealous to fulfill G-d's words, that in every city and village, the importance of this matter must be publicly explained, in that it directly effects our survival and our success, both physically and spiritually, in this world and the next. Thus will the verse be fulfilled, ‘And your camp shall be holy’."
Attending a Brit during Parshat Pinchus
This outstanding quality of spiritual leadership was exemplified by Pinchus, for which he won the Brit of Shalom, for having appeased Hashem’s wrath against the Jews in zealously rising up against Zimri and his Midianite whore. Nonetheless, twenty-four thousand Jews from the tribe of Shimon died in the resulting plague. If one Jew transgressed, why were so many punished? Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi explains that when Zimri took the Midianite woman, others followed by taking Midianite women into their homes. They said, “If our leader, Zimri, sins and gets away with it, then we will do the same.” But merely taking the gentile women into their homes and fantasizing about them brought about their deaths in the plague.
Rabbi Levy teaches that this same spiritual war is being waged against the Jewish People today by the nations of the world, with the goal of blemishing our adherence to the Brit, the very foundation of our holiness. In today’s battle, the Internet has taken the place of the daughters of Midian, bringing the same poisonous temptations into our homes. Rabbi Levy explains that, according to the Kabbalah, our eyes are connected to the highest spiritual worlds, and that by looking at forbidden images we bring a great impurity upon our souls. When this occurs on a national level, in homes throughout the country, our holy connection to Hashem is gravely blemished, cutting off blessing to the nation.
Window of the Soul
A research study conducted at the University of Haifa, regarding the viewing of Internet pornography by teenagers in Israel, revealed that 60% of the young people admitted they regularly visited porn sites. While there was no specific survey for the religious public, several rabbis in the religious Zionist community have warned that the plague has infiltrated our homes too.
Rabbi Elisha Aviner of Maaleh Adumim has written on several occasions that an intense campaign of education is needed to counteract this danger. Since there is a simple and inexpensive solution – the installation of a censorship filter that prevents entry into immoral websites – one must ask the question, why don’t all religious parents equip their computers with this readily available service?
Do you know what your children are viewing?
Perhaps this stems from a lack of awareness. Perhaps from an attitude of denial, as if to say, “This could never happen in our home.” Perhaps parents, no less than their teenage children, are victims of unhealthy viewing habits themselves. According to Rabbi Elisha Aviner, parents who have Internet in the house without a site-screening service are transgressing against their children.
So grave is the danger of Internet watching that Torah authorities have ruled that Internet surfing without an anti-porn filter is a violation of the Torah commandment not to put a stumbling block in front of a blind man. In addition, erotic pictures on the Internet, whether they appear in ads on the Yahoo home page, or in adult sites, cause a person to violate a long list of Torah commandments, including:
“Be holy, because I the L-rd your G-d am holy.”
"Thou shalt not follow after your heart and your eyes which lead you astray."
Today, the strategy of Bilaam has turned into the multi-billion dollar industry of Internet pornography today. Every time a person sits down at the computer, thousands of tempting Midianite women are just a click away.
Recognizing the terrible danger of unsupervised Internet viewing has extra significance now, Rabbi Levy says, at the time when Israel is surrounded in all directions by an arsenal of lethal missiles, emphasizing that victory over our enemies is achieved, not only by our tanks and war planes, but through our connection to Hashem. The holiness of Israel is what overcomes our enemies, not just our physical prowess, as the Torah attests: “For the L-rd your G-d walks in the midst of your camp to save you and to give up your enemies from before you; therefore keep your camp holy, that He see no unclean thing in you and turn away from you" (Devarim, 23:15).
Each of us can play a part in this national sanctification and defense by making sure that the impurity of the nations of the world does not seep into our homes through the Internet. We who don’t have same exalted zealousness that Pinchas had, where will we summon the strength to overcome the temptation? For us, Divine assistance comes in the form of an anti-pornography filter. There are many on the market. Many can be downloaded for free. In our home, we have three for safe measure: Eye-Saver of Bezeq; K9 Web Protection; and the new Israeli Internet Rimon, which can be found at www.neto.net.il.
Therefore, if you want to help win the battle against our enemies - and save yourselves and your children – then follow the example of Pinchas, be zealous, and install a filter as soon as you can.
Tammuz 14, 5768, 7/17/2008
I would like to thank all of you for your condolences over the death of my Father. Abba, ז"צל, had the incredible blessing to spend his last eight years in the Land of Israel. Even though we intended to bury him in the Jerusalem Har HaMinochot cemetery close to our home, Hashem had other plans and brought things about so that Abba found his final resting place on the Mount of Olives, the holiest and most famous cemetery in the world. It was his fitting inheritance as a dedicated supporter of Torah. Without my Father’s assistance, I would never have been able to write so much about the Land of Israel and Torah, and thus spread the light of true Judaism around the world, into the homes of tens of thousands of Jews scattered around the four corners of the earth.
Like being buried under the Temple altar.
At the time of the resurrection of the dead, those who have been buried on the Mount of Olives are destined to arise first. In contrast, the Talmud teaches that Jews who have been buried outside of the Land of Israel will have to first undergo a terribly painful journey, rolling through underground tunnels all of the way to Israel. This is one of the reasons that our holy Forefathers, Yaacov Avinu and Yosef, ordered their sons to bury them in the Land of Israel, to avoid the painful underground convolutions that awaited them if buried in Egypt, even though Egypt was very close to the borders of Israel (Ketubot 111a). If this is true for Egypt, what a painful journey it promises to be for the bones of Jews embalmed in exiles thousands of miles away!
To be buried in the Land of Israel is like being buried beneath the altar of the Holy Temple, atoning for all of one’s sins (Ibid). The Talmud praises a person who lives and is buried in the Land, unlike someone who is brought to the Land after his death: “He who embraces it while alive is not like him who does so after his death” (Ibid). The Talmud continues: “They say concerning him who could have lived there, but did not do so, only ordering his body to be brought there after his death, ‘While you were alive, you made My inheritance an abomination, yet in death you come and contaminate my country’” (Ketubot, Jerusalem Talmud, also, Kuzari, Ch.2:22).
Sorry, my friends, that I have to be the one to break the news, but this is what it says in the Talmud, and I am sure that Abba would have wanted you to know in advance, so that you can start making your aliyah plans now.
May his memory be for a blessing.
Tammuz 10, 5768, 7/13/2008
Tzvi Fishman's father passed away on Wednesday night and was buried on Thursday in Jerusalem. During the 7-day period of mourning known as the shiva, Tzvi Fishman will not be posting any entries to this blog.
May the Omnipresent comfort Tzvi and his brother amidst the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Tammuz 6, 5768, 7/9/2008
On our previous blog, a Talkbacker suggested that sexual holiness is only for super tzaddikim and not for the normal Internet Jew. He writes:
"It seems to me that most of the material on the jewishsexuality.com website is intended for Torah scholars and people who aspire to be holy tzaddikim, and not for the average Jew. In fact, lots of these laws and recommended behaviors seem so far out of reach, I’d rather not even know about them."
In the Torah portion, “Kedoshim,” the Torah states: “And the L-rd spoke to Moshe, saying, Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the L-rd your G-d am holy.” Rashi explains this command to be holy to mean: “Distance yourselves from incest and sexual transgression, for every place that you find a fence preventing a sexual transgression, you find holiness” (Vayikra, 19:1).
Rabbi Moshe Shaul Klein points out that from the language of the Torah verse, the commandment to be holy is not directed just to select tzaddikim, but rather “to all the congregation of the children of Israel.” Thus, a person cannot say, “I am just an ordinary Jew. This doesn’t apply to me.” Everyone must strive for sanctity in their sexual lives, and everyone is obligated to fulfill this commandment. Why? Because, “I the L-rd your G-d am holy.” Just as G-d is holy, we are holy. He created the Jewish People to be His unique holy nation. Hashem has planted within each and every one of us, special attributes and powers so that every Jew can live up to being holy.
Thus, we all have it in our genes, from our having a Jewish soul, and from the inheritance we received from our holy forefathers, to be holy. Not only individual tzaddikim can reach these heights, but all of us can, for we are a holy nation and a kingdom of Kohanim.
This means that we are to keep away from things like adultery, pre-marital s@x, homos@xuality, masturb@tion, or@l s@x, s@x with non-Jews, s@xual gymnastics, s@x during niddah, s@x in the light, s@x without being covered, s@xual fantasies, s@xual websites, and the like.
Hashem commanded all of the Jewish People in this, and Hashem does not give us commandments that our beyond our reach. Hard work is needed. Sometimes sacrifice. But to say that one cannot do it is to surrender to one’s evil inclination without even putting up a fight.