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      Hollywood to the Holy Land
      by Tzvi Fishman
      Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Creativity and Culture

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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 5, 5768, 7/8/2008

      Secret of Rain


      As if Israel doesn’t have enough problems with a host of savage enemies, a government of corrupt and mediocre politicians, and millions of Jewish refuseniks who refuse to give up the exile, the water level of the Sea of Galilee is very low, and farmers are bracing for a dry and economically disastrous summer.

      The Talmud teaches that the power over rain is one of the three keys that the Almighty has kept for Himself - the key of Rain, the key of Childbirth, and the key of the Resurrection of the Dead” (Taanit 2A).

      "He will shut up the Heavens and there will be no rain."

      Because the key of rain is in G-d’s keeping, when rain does not fall in Eretz Yisrael, we know that G-d Himself has turned off the faucet, because the Land of Israel is under the special Providence of G-d, as it says, "The Land where the eyes of our L-rd are always upon it from the beginning of the year to the end” (Devarim, 11:12). A lack of rainfall in Israel isn’t some freak disturbance of regional weather patterns, but, as the Talmud teaches, the result of our sins:

      “Rabbi Tanchum ben Hamilai said, No rain falls unless the sins of Israel have been forgiven” (Taanit 7B).

      The Talmud goes on to list many transgressions that cause the withholding of rain, but to understand the secret of the matter, we will turn to the holy Zohar.

      It turns out that the secret is no mystery at all, as it explicitly states in the Shema:

       “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart not be deceived, and you turn aside and worship other gods and bow down to them; and then the anger of the L-rd will be inflamed against you, and He will shut up the heaven that there be no rain, and that the Land yield not its fruit; and you perish quickly from the good Land which the L-rd gives you” (Devarim, 11:17).

      The Zohar explains that the idol worship referred to in the Shema means sexual transgression. In punishment for misusing the “lower waters” of the seminal life force during sexual sin, G-d shuts up the heavenly “upper waters” of life sustaining rain (Zohar, Bereshit 189B). This relationship occurs specifically in the Land of Israel, because the G-d’s covenant bequeathing Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish People, symbolized the brit milah, is based on sexual holiness.

      The Ramak, Rabbi Moshe Cordevero, was dean of the Safed academy of Kabbalists, immediately preceding Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, the Ari. The Ramak explains that the heavens are associated with the “sefirah” or spiritual channel “Tiferet.” From here, the Divine blessing of rain flows forth to the earth, identified with the sefirah of “Malchut.” The channel that conducts the blessing of rain from Tiferet to Malchut is the “Yesod,” associated with the atmosphere between heaven and earth. The Yesod acts as a spiritual faucet.

      Yesod - the Spiritual Faucet

      Therefore, when the channel of Yesod is damaged, rains are withheld from the earth. Since the sefirah of Yesod parallels the organ of the Brit in man, it follows that sexual transgression causes the greatest damage to the channel of  Yesod, stunting the flow of rain and G-d’s blessing to the Land (See the commentary on the Zohar, “Matok M’Dvash,” Vayashev, 189B).

      Readers who are interested in exploring this concept further are encouraged to read the condensed online introduction to the book, “Secret of the Brit,” on the www.jewishsexuality.com website. 

      May we all endeavor to mend our sexual lapses, and may the Almighty have compassion upon us and grant us the blessing of rain, as it says, “And G-d saw their deeds, in that they turned from their evil way” (Yonah, 3:10).


        



      Sivan 26, 5768, 6/29/2008

      The Land of Israel is Waiting


      Take an empty can or plastic bottle of soda. Put a few pennies inside. Shake it. It makes a lot of noise, right? Now, take a slip of paper and write on it MIKE. Scotch tape it to the can. You can use it to scare away stray cats from your back yard, or use it as a noisemaker on Purim.

      Just a lot of fizz and foam

      G-d created the world and gave the continents of the world to the gentiles, and the Land of Israel to the Jews. The commandment to live in the Land of Israel has absolutely no connection to the question whether Medinat Yisrael is holy or not. That is just a smokescreen that Mike employs to hide the fact that he isn’t here doing something to help create the Torah atmosphere we all long for. Instead he chooses to live in a gentile land helping the goyim. He chooses to follow his own will, rather than the will of G-d. And he makes a pathetic attempt to cover it up by finding a thousand things wrong with life in Israel.

      “Medinat Yisrael is out to kill the Jews!” Mike cries out in protest of Hashem’s great international ingathering of the Jewish People in our time. “The Israeli government isn’t religious! The Israel police and the Israeli army kick Jews out of their homes! They beat up girls in Amona! And the settler lemmings don’t fight back!”

      But even if there are ten thousand things wrong in the Land of Israel, it is still a commandment from the Torah to live here. This obligation applies in all generations. The mitzvah to live in the Land of Israel is totally independent of the religiousness of the government ruling here. Jews are commanded to live here whether idol worshippers rule here, or Jewish leftists, or terrifying giants, uncircumcised Philistines, or Torah Jews. Eretz Yisrael is Eretz Yisrael, independent of any other factor, and we all are commanded to live in Eretz Yisrael, as we have been from the time of our Forefathers until today. 

       As to the side question regarding the holiness of Medinat Yisrael. Yes, Medinat Yisrael is holy. One of the commandments of the Torah, as clearly set forth by the Ramban, is to establish Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel (Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Mitzvah #4). This supreme Torah mitzvah has been accomplished in our time by the establishment of the State of Israel. In the Laws of Hanukah, the Rambam declares that we celebrate the holiday of Hanukah because Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael was returned to the Jews for over two hundred years. We celebrate the Hanukah even though most of the Hashmonite rulers that followed the Maccabees were corrupt and estranged from the Torah. In the same light, the Second Temple was considered holy, even though Herod slaughtered all of the rabbis of his time, save one, whom he merely blinded. Jewish sovereignty is Jewish sovereignty whether the king or prime minister wears tzitzit or not.

      Mike cannot understand this because he doesn’t want to. He wants to stay in galut. True, the present government of Israel is corrupt. True, its political leaders are corrupt. True, its justice system is corrupt. True, corrupt anti-Torah leftists control the media. One can go on and on, but all of this corruption does not, in any shape or form, negate the commandment to live in the Land of Israel. Eretz Yisrael is above all governments and politicians.  Just as a Jew has to eat holy food, and recite holy prayers, and perform holy acts, and observe holy days, he has to live in a holy place. There is only one holy place in the world. The Land of Israel. Not living in the Land of Israel is like not eating kosher food, and not going to shul, and not observing the holidays. Not living in the Land of Israel is much worse than ignoring these other basics of Jewish law, for living in Eretz Yisrael is the encompassing foundation of all of the Torah. Without it, a Jew can have a lifelong stock of gefilta fish in his basement, but he can’t have a Jewish king, a Sanhedrin, a shmittah year, prophecy, an Israeli air force, or a Beit HaMikdash, even in Brooklyn or Monsey, New York. He can practice a handful of personal mitzvot, but compared to Jewish life in Israel, Diaspora Judaism is Orthodox Lite. 

      Orthodox Lite

      Mike can write noisy, penny-in-an-empty-can, talkbacks until he is blue in the face, but the very essence of Mike’s Jewishness is missing, because he is performing his private brand of exile Judaism in a place he doesn’t belong, in an impure gentile land, where all the goyim are wondering, “Why is this Jew living here with us, when G-d gave him his own Jewish land?” Instead of sanctifying the Name of G-d by coming to live in G-d’s chosen Land, Mike does the very opposite, as the prophet Ezekiel declares:

      “And when they came to the lands of the nations into which they came, they profaned My holy Name, in that men said of them, ‘These are the people of the L-rd and they have gone out of His land.’”

      How can this terrible disgrace be erased? Hashem Himself gives the answer: “I will sanctify My great Name, which was profaned among the nations, which you have profaned by being in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am the L-rd, says the L-rd G-d, when I shall be sanctified through you in their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own Land” (Ezekiel, 36:20-24).

      In our time, this great sanctifiction of G-d has been brought about via Medinat Yisrael. Thank G-d that it’s ours! If there are things needing improvement, come help. If money is a problem, Mike, I’m sure our readers will pitch in and buy you a ticket. Put up or shut up. The Land of Israel is waiting.



      Sivan 23, 5768, 6/26/2008

      Bye Bye, Complainers


      Apparently, there is a Jewish gene for complaining. In any crowd, there are always the Complainers who have to spoil things for everyone else.

       In this week’s Torah portion, we meet them again, Korach and his Crowd of Complainers. This time, they complain about the leadership of Moshe and Aaron. Two of them, Datan and Aviram, are longtime Complainers. They complained about Moshe in Egypt; they complained about the travel accommodations in the wilderness; now they are complaining again that Moshe has led the Jews out “of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness” (Bamidbar, 16:13).

      What chutzpah! Look how they turn things around. Eretz Yisrael is called the land flowing with milk and honey, but they describe Egypt in this way! Sound familiar? Over our history, Complainers have rejected Eretz Yisrael and found their own lands of milk and honey in Spain and France and Germany and America and Japan.

      The Torah commentator, the Abarbanel, reveals what was really at the core of their rebellion. In a last ditch effort to save the situation and give the Complainers a chance to repent before the test of the incense, Moshe sends for Datan and Aviram, but they stubbornly answer, “We will not come up” (Bamidbar, there). The simple meaning is that they will not come up to the Mishkan to meet with Moshe, but the Abarbanel teaches that their declaration "לא נעלה" was a call of rebellion, meaning “We will not make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael.” They remained adamant in their opposition to G-d’s plan for the Jewish People, that even if G-d were to forgive them for the sin of the Spies and allow the generation to enter the Land of Israel, “We will not come up.” This was the source of their rebellion against the leadership of Moshe, who was committed to bringing the Jews to Israel. They wanted the milk and honey of Brooklyn and Paris and Mexico City, where they could remain important people, and not Eretz Yisrael, where they would be just another worker of the Land.

      "Fishman and his blogs are true!"

      We all know the rest of the story. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed up all the Complainers. Hikers traveling through the Sinai today, can still hear their screams emanating from the bowels of the wilderness, “Moshe and his Torah are true!” Just like the Complainers of today will one day proclaim, “Fishman and his blogs are true!”


      Shabbat Shalom    



      Sivan 19, 5768, 6/22/2008

      You Don't Have To Be Gay


      Gay parades are not the only problem we have in the Holy Land. It is summertime and immodest fashions imported from America and Europe can be seen everywhere.
       
      Question:

      Our family is modern Orthodox. I try to instill in my wife and daughters an appreciation for the laws of modesty, but it always leads to arguments. My wife says that wearing a blouse that reveals the cleft of the chest is the unspoken dress code in the office where she works, and my daughters always answer that all of their friends dress according to the going fashion and they don’t want to be the ugly ducklings in their crowd. My question is, how strict can I be if it leads to tension and quarrels at home?

      Answer:

      The renown Torah scholar, Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, says that the issue of modesty is not to be seen as a demand from a man to his family, but rather a halachic requirement like all of the other laws in the Torah. This means that if there is a question of what is the proper style of clothing to wear, a qualified rabbi must be consulted, just like when there is a question in any other detail of the law.

      Also, since daughters are influenced by the behavior of their mothers, it is important that the mother conform to the proper, halachic standard of dress for her daughters to follow.  If she dresses in opposition to the ways of Jewish modesty, then it is not reasonable to expect that the daughters will behave otherwise. If this means that the mother might lose her job, this is a risk that must be taken in order to safeguard the Jewish law and the sanctity of the family and the marriage.

      Getting one’s wife and daughters to agree to follow the laws of modesty should not come as an angry decree that must be followed blindly, but rather the women in the house should be taught to appreciate these laws and understand the consequences of breaking them.  There are books on the subject of modesty that they can be encouraged to read. There are also classes and tapes on the subject that present the rewards and dangers in a palatable light.

      It is important to inspire one’s family to understand that the principles of Judaism far outweigh any passing fashion. It is important to teach one’s family that it is more important to please Hashem, then to please the men in the office, or the guys and girls at school.

      The halachic authority, Rabbi Moshe Shaul Klein, emphasizes that women should be made aware that infractions in modesty have not only personal consequences, but public consequences as well. A woman who goes out to the street wearing clothes that draw attention and show off her body, not only brings punishment on herself for violated a commandment, but she also brings others to sin. Regarding this it is written, whoever brings the multitude to sin will not be afforded the chance to repent. For if this woman causes a man to stray from the right path by triggering fantasies and forbidden actions, even if the woman repents for her errant behavior, all of the sins of the men she tempted still rest on her head. When she appears before the heavenly tribunal at the end of her life, she will have to give an accounting for all of her deeds, and she will discover that she is accused of myriads of transgressions, things that she never even thought to do. And when she asks, “What is this? What’s going on here? Isn’t this supposed to be the world of truth? I never committed these sins.” The heavenly tribunal will answer her, “Yes, these are all your doings, because you went about in immodest attire and caused thousands of men to sin. For whoever causes another person to sin receives all of his punishment. Therefore the responsibility for a woman to dress in a proper fashion isn’t a private matter alone, but a public concern, and a responsibility that affects all the Jewish nation, determining whether the Presence of G-d will dwell amongst us.

      Furthermore, the masters of Kabbalah have longed warned us that one of the major causes of the tragedies and sufferings that come upon us is due to breaches in modesty. When women dress in opposition to the tenets of Jewish law, destructive angels are created that wreak havoc in revenge. Then it is too late to ask, “Why has this tragedy come upon us?”

      By explaining these things in the proper fashion to one’s wife, and according to the age and intellectual capacity of one’s daughters, in order to enlighten, and not to invoke thunderbolts and lightning from out of the sky, a new respect and appreciation for the laws of modesty can be achieved in the home, for the betterment of the family and the Jewish People as a whole.


       



      Sivan 15, 5768, 6/18/2008

      Become Believers!


      I apologize from the beginning, but it’s time once again to read the Torah portion, Shelach, this Shabbat, the portion that tells the sad and tragic story of the Spies. What can I do? I didn’t write the Torah. Perhaps it would be better to forget this disgraceful episode in our history when the Jewish People rebelled again Hashem in the wilderness by refusing to make aliyah. But apparently, by keeping it in the Torah, and having us read about it year after year, Hashem wants us to learn its lessons.
       
      If there are readers who have a chip on their shoulder about not living in Israel, and know in advance that they will be offended by what I have to write, then please, don’t read this blog. There are many interesting articles to read on the Internet. Be my guest and read them instead.

      Our Torah portion has two main themes: the saga of the Spies, and the commandment of wearing tzitit. Before we explain the connection between them, let’s give a capsule summary of the episode of the Spies for readers who may not be familiar with the Torah portion.

      After the Exodus from Egypt, before entering the Promised Land, Moshe sent Spies out on a surveillance mission to check out the nature of the Land, its fortifications, and the strength of its inhabitants. To carry out the undertaking, he chose the leaders of the tribes, the premiere Torah scholars, the most important men in the community, confident that they would return with superlative praises for Hashem’s Holy Land that would inspire the nation to continue on with their journey. But the very opposite occurred. Instead of seeing the good in the Land, they saw the negative, and their report of great fortified cities and giant enemies undermined the will of the Jewish people. Two valiant men, Yehoshua and Calev, believers in Hashem, argued with them, declaring that the Land was indeed a good Land, and that Hashem would surely lead them to victory, but the whining report of the other Spies traveled from house to house, demoralizing the spirit of the camp until the people refused to journey on to Israel. Their disobedience of G-d, and their refusal to abide by His command to make aliyah, brought about the death of the entire generation, who were doomed to another forty years of wandering in the wilderness, until a braver generation could arise, born into freedom, a new type of Jew who didn’t know the fear of the gentile that comes from being a minority in gentile lands.

      That’s the story, right? I didn’t exaggerate. I didn’t change things. Everyone can read it for themselves. I won’t even bother to make comparisons to today. See what a good boy I am!

      So what does this tragic tale have to do with the commandment that follows right afterward, that a Jew wear fringes on his four-cornered garments, called tzitzit? First, here is the commandment:

      “And the L-rd spoke to Moshe saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and bid them that they make fringes in the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put on the fringe of each corner a blue thread; and it shall be to you as a tzitzit, that you may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the L-rd and do them [INCLUDING THE MITZVAH OF LIVING IN ISRAEL] and that you not go after your own heart and you own eyes after which you go astray; that you may remember and do all the commandments [INCLUDING THE MITZVAH OF LIVING IN ISRAEL] and be holy to your G-d.”
       
      This commandment tells us that we are supposed to wear tzitzit. It tells us that we are to remember and do all the commandments. And it warns us not to go after our own desires and eyes which lead us astray. (Bemidbar, 15:37).

      This was the cardinal mistake of the Spies. They went after their own desires, preferring to live in galut, rather than in Eretz Yisrael. They went after their eyes, seeing only the enemy fortresses and giants, rather than relying on Hashem.

      There are two types of vision; an external superficial vision that sees only surface matters, and a deeper inner vision that sees the inner essence. The Spies saw only the outer contours of the land, the walled cities, the formidable warriors, the funerals wherever they went, reporting that “It is a land that eats up its inhabitants.” In contrast, the inner vision, the vision of Yehoshua and Calev, is a vision of faith. It is a vision that understands that the Land of Israel, the Land of Hashem, is not just another geographic region, like any other country, with mountains, and streams, and valleys, but that the Land of Israel is as inseparable to the mission of the Jewish People as the body to the soul.  Outside of the Land of Israel, the Jewish people are like the dry, scattered bones of Ezekiel’s famous prophesy. Only into the Land of Israel, on our own holy soil, can the Israeli Nation come alive and lead the world back to the service of Hashem, even if there are problems, even if this takes time until all of the Jewish People rally to fulfill the will of their Maker.

      The Spies were sent to spy out לתור the Land. The mitzvah of tzitzit comes to rectify this sin, as it says, “that you not go after תתורו your own heart and you own eyes after which you go astray.”

      Today, like in the days of the Spies, there are a handful of people who only see the surface matters when they look at Israel, the political corruption, the proliferation of foreign ideologies, the lack of inspired leadership (as if these exist anywhere else!) Instead of seeing the inner Israel, the Israel of faith, the Israel of Yehoshua and Calev, the Israel that Hashem commands us to live in, EVEN IF THERE ARE GIANTS IN THE LAND, they see only the problems. Like the Spies, in choosing foreign habitations, they despise the cherished Land. Like the Spies, they speak out over the Internet, spreading their slander to home after home, discouraging others from following G-d’s eternal command that a Jew should always live in the Land of Israel.

      “Remember!” Hashem commands them. “Look at your tzitzit! Don’t follow what your eyes see! Don’t worry about the problems! Rise up to MY vision! Follow ME! Live in My chosen Land!”

      Yes, there are many Jews who would like to come to Israel and can't, for a variety of justified reasons. We are not addressing them here. Rather, we are referring to those who could, but choose not to, and actively discourage others from coming. May Hashem guard us from their poisonous counsel. Amen.

      A Jew wearing tzitzit in the Land of Hashem