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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.

       

      Sivan 13, 5768, 6/16/2008

      Possessed - UPDATE: The Soldier Returns TB#25


      WARNING: this blog contains explicit sexual material. I am posting it because every day, hundreds of thousands of Internet viewers are falling prey to the nefarious web of Internet porn. This is the number one enemy, inside the home, of the Jewish People today. If it helps even one blogger to escape this terrible danger, then it is worth all of the blogs I have written.

      Question:
      Time and again, I have tried to stop watching pornography on the Internet, but a day later, and sometimes after just a few hours, I’m back at the keyboard, unable to withstand the urge, as if compelled by some kind of magnet whose strength is far greater than mine. Can you tell me what’s at the root of this, and what I can do to stop?
       
      Love Those Blogs

      Answer:
      The very strong pull to gaze at forbidden images on the Internet is rooted in the “yetzer hara,” the evil inclination. This powerful and unholy force has been around since the beginning of time. The Sages of the Talmud teach that “the eyes see, the heart desires, and the body carries out the sin.” Represented by the snake in the Garden of Eden, the yetzer hara strives with all its might and cunning to draw man away from G-d, as in the story of Adam and Eve, who “saw” that the fruit was pleasing to the eyes and tasted it against the will of G-d. This force gains added strength when a person feels depressed or lacking, leading him or her to fill their emptiness with the deceiving temptations of evil. But the seeming satisfactions of evil are passing, leaving a person to seek more and more illicit pleasure to fill up his or her void.
       
      Window of the Soul

      What happens on a spiritual level is that when a person sins by watching forbidden images and filling his mind with unholy thoughts, the “Shechinah,” or protective Divine Presence, flees from him, and he draws a “ruach ra’ah,” an evil spirit upon himself in its place. At first this unholy spirit is like a visitor, but with every new session at the computer, watching pornography and the like, this evil spirit becomes a permanent guest, until it takes over the person completely. With each transgression, another impure layer of this evil spirit surrounds him, until he is encased by an unholy spirit that takes over his life completely, ruling over him, instead of him ruling over it. This is what causes to feel “possessed” or driven by an urge he feels that he cannot control.
       
      Imprisoned by his yetzer
       

      On the spiritual battlefield, breaking the addiction to Internet pornography means overcoming this yetzer hara and shattering the ruach ra’ah, which accompanies the person like an invisible straitjacket wherever he goes.  As long as the ruach ra’ah has the addict imprisoned in its deathlike grip, he doesn’t have the wherewithal to overcome the yetzer hara. First, the ruach ra’ah must be weakened and forced to retreat. This can be achieved through the Twelve Torah Steps, outlined in the “Pornoholics Anonymous” section of the jewishsexuality.com website. Here, we will mention a few of the basic weapons needed in the battle.
       
      Purifying Waters

      When a person immerses himself in a mikvah, he drowns a layer of the ruach ra’ah that has enveloped him. He is spiritual cleansed, but only for a short period of time. Since a person draws layers and layers of impurity upon himself with each transgression, it isn’t enough to immerse in a mikvah only one time. Multiple immersions are needed, on a daily basis if possible, to weaken the grip of the ruach ra’ah.

      Concurrently, it is good to recite, also on a daily basis, special prayers called “Tikunim,” which have been formulated by masters of the Kabbalah to obliterate the forces of impurity that a person has drawn upon himself by looking at erotic images, or having engaged in sexual fantasies and sexual sins.
       
      You are what you think

      To the extent that a person has polluted his brain and soul with unholy images and thoughts, he must replace the damage he has caused his spiritual world through an increased immersion in Torah study which is a powerful, healing medicine.

      There are many other important strategies in the battle against the yetzer hara, which can be found in the online version of the book, “Secret of the Brit,” in the section on “Rectifying the Brit.” In addition to an anti-porn filter, which you can download and then throw away the code, so you won’t be tempted to override it, these weapons include added good deeds, reciting the Bedtime Shema with great concentration,  Tikun Hatzot, and the outpouring of heartfelt prayer before G-d, for without G-d’s assistance, we would not be able to win the battle against this tenacious enemy.

      To illustrate, here is a prayer based on an excerpt from the writings of Rabbi Natan, the foremost student of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, from the book, “Likutei Tefillot:”

      “May it be Your will, my G-d and G-d of my fathers, that I merit in Your great mercy and kindness to cleanse my mind of foreign thoughts and false wisdoms, that I not pollute and derange my mind with lusts and sexual fantasies, G-d forbid. And that I not infest my brain with lusts and evil fantasies, and that I not have any unholy thoughts at all. Rather let my thoughts be clean, refined, and pure, without doing anything to cause unholy thoughts to lodge there in the holy chamber of my brain, which is like the Holy of Holies. Give me the strength to overcome all evil thoughts and fantasies that come to confuse my mind, especially the evil thoughts that I have brought upon myself by not guarding my sight, and by looking at illicit matters. Let me not give room at all in my mind to such polluted thoughts and deeds, which distance me from You with a horrible distance. Have mercy upon me, my G-d, for I know the terrible damage these evil thoughts cause in all of the upper spiritual worlds which are always connected to my mind through the awesome interconnectedness of Your creation, and which sever me from Your holiness, and from the holiness of Israel, the source of my life.  You alone know the great and terrible lust which overcomes me, confusing my mind again and again, polluting my very being until my mind is completely filled with evil fantasies. And not only have I not overcome these evil inclinations, but I myself brought them upon myself through my wanton doings, when I knew that this unholy behavior wasn’t Your will for Your holy Jewish People. Woe is me for the days that I have wasted in sin.”

      “Therefore, my G-d, and G-d of my fathers, I come before you with a broken and sorrowful heart, humbling myself before Your Kingship, appealing to Your mercy like a poor man at the gates, that You forgive me in Your abundant kindness, though I be undeserving, and that You bring me from darkness to light, and that you help me from this day forth to sanctify my thoughts. May I be successful in banishing these polluted thoughts from my mind, and avoiding like fire anything that awakens evil fantasies and lust in my heart and my brain. Give me the strength to overcome my evil inclinations, and may my thoughts be always holy and sanctified in Your service. Amen.” 
      (“Likutei Tefillot,” 1:4)

      May Hashem grant you strength and steadfast persistence in the ever-raging battle. Amen.
       


      Sivan 12, 5768, 6/15/2008

      The Cry Babies


      Unfortunately, cry babies are not unique to this blog. They have been with us ever since our departure from Egypt, as the Shabbat Torah reading records:

      “And when the people complained, it displeased the L-rd; and the L-rd heard it, and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the L-rd burned among them, and consumed those who were in the uttermost part of the camp (Bamidbar, 11:1).

      They complained about the journey through the wilderness; they complained about their weariness; they kvetched about this, and bitched about that.
       
      Waaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!

      One of Israel’s foremost educators and popular writers on Jewish Studies, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, rabbi of the settlement Har Bracha, teaches that complaining is a poisonous weakness. When a baby hears another baby crying, he begins to cry too. The complaining in the wilderness led to more and more complaining. Next they complained about the Manna which fell from Heaven, lusting for meat instead. Rashi explains they complained at the same time about the laws they had received at Mt. Sinai forbidding sexual transgression. So pernicious was their complaining, it even affected Miriam and Aharon, who complained about Moshe. Finally, it led to the greatest crisis and sin in our history, when the complaining of the Spies about the Land of Israel caused all of the people to whine in their tents and complain about G-d’s command that they make aliyah.

      Likewise, there are those who cry and complain today. Finding things to complain about Israel, they too refuse to come on aliyah.

      May G-d save us from their poisonous murmurings. 

       



      Sivan 9, 5768, 6/12/2008

      The "Real Issues"


      Presumably, readers who accuse me of avoiding the "real issues" are referring to the political coruption in Israel, to the ill-fated and abjectly secular policies of our government leaders, and to what readers see as a lack of political activism and protest on the part of the Israeli public.

      This is indeed the present situation, but the fact is that the majority of my readers are Diaspora Jews who, by and large, exert absolutely no influence on what goes on in Israel. Except for wealthy Jews who can contribute to relevant organizations, Diaspora Jews are simply not in the ballgame when it comes to affecting positive change in Israel. For me to write blogs complaining about this politician or that, or blogs offering strategies for reform or rebellion, would have no meaning or practical application, because the Diaspora Jew isn't here to take a part in the struggle. My Israeli readers would probably agree with what I wrote, but this would be like preaching to the already convinced. Nothing would be gained by it. They are here. They know what the problems are. So why waste my time writing what everyone already knows just to see my name in print?

      Instead, I use the opportunity that I have on this blog to speak to Diaspora Jews about something they can change, and that is their ongoing life in the Diaspora, in foreign countries, when the Master of the World has miraculously returned us to our cherished homeland after an exile of 2000 years. What are they waiting for? Why do they prefer gentile lands over our own? Why do they cling to foreign identities and raise their children to believe that they are Americans, and Frenchmen, and proud Mexicans like everyone else? I ask them these questions, hoping that they will wake up to the hypocrisy of their lives.

      For an assimilated Jew who has no connection to his Jewishness or to Israel, OK, I realize that convincing him is like talking to someone in Timbuktu. But for a reader of Arutz 7, who cares enough about his Jewishness and Israel to religiously follow a religious Zionist website, he is very close, and just needs an outstreched hand, or a tug and a shove to climb out of the mud.

      Secondly, as I have emphasized in the past, one of the major "real issues" is indeed the failure of Diaspora Jewry to respond to the clear, obvious, and Divine call for the Jewish People to return to the Land of Israel. To what is this like? To a flashlight that has a battery missing. If it has three batteries, but requires four, it won't work. The light won't go on. So too with the Jewish People. We are a whole. If a part of us is missing, the light doesn't go on. 

      Come help light the light

      So brothers and sisters, if you really want to affect change in Israel, if you really want the light to shine here, then come. Bring your batteries. We're waiting.         



      Sivan 8, 5768, 6/11/2008

      The Jew From Timbuktu


      Continuing  our update on thriving Jewish communities in the Diaspora, I put in a phone call to one of the prime movers of the Timbuktu Jewish community. The outgoing, dynamic figure, formerly from South Florida, is known throughout the Mali region as Master Abraham, and is never seen without a safari hunting hat and walking stick.

      He apologized for not knowing what a blog was, but said he was happy to do an interview for Arutz 7, in order to spread the word about Jewish Timbuktu.

      Jewish Quarter Wall

      To remind readers, the West African city of Timbuktu was an intellectual and spiritual capital and centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its three large mosques recall Timbuktu's golden age. Although continuously restored, these monuments are under threat from desertification. Interestingly, Timbuktu is primarily made of mud.

      Timbuktu Synagogue. "Ohel Avraham"

      “Why Timbuktu?” I asked him.

      “Why not?” he replied. “Jews have made a home for themselves all over the world. Historically, Timbuktu’s geographical setting has made it a natural meeting point for nomads and travelers. Its long history as a trading outpost brought Jewish and gentile traders together from all over the world. This is what gave it its fabled status as an exotic, distant land, as the saying goes, "From here to Timbuktu."

      “What else can you tell our readers about historic Timbuku?”

      “Well, Timbuktu's long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization is scholarship. By the fourteenth century, important books were written and copied in Timbuktu, establishing the city as the centre of a significant written tradition in Africa.”

      “What’s the Jewish population there today?”

      “Just counting the locals, we almost have a minyan. But we host Jewish travelers constantly. Over the High Holy Days, there were over a hundred Jews at services. We get a lot of Jewish tourists and Israeli businessmen passing through. Also lots of young Israeli soldiers who have recently finished their army service. We see it as our duty to provide a warm, welcoming Jewish atmosphere for them during their visit. Including kosher food and a real Shabbat. Until recently, Jewish women who needed a mikvah could perform their ritual immersion in Timbuktu Lake, but one lady was eaten by a swarm of piranha fish, so we have embarked on a mikvah fundraising drive.” 

      Class in Judaism

      “What other plans do you have for the Timbuktu Jewish community?”

      “Our plans include building a ten-million dollar Jewish Community Center with a kosher cafeteria, swimming pool and health club, basketball court, and cinema center. In addition, we have hired a group of renowned architects and landscapers to design a utopian residential complex, on the model of Boca Raton, with a wide selection of villas, and a country club featuring tennis courts, an eighteen-hole golf course, a mini shopping mall, medical center, and Ashkenazi and Sefardi synagogues.”

      “Sounds like quite an investment.”

      “One hundred and twenty million dollars. In the States it would be more, but labor here is cheap.”

      “Don’t you think that an investment like that might better be planned for a place like the Golan Heights in Israel, which is in danger of being lost to the Syrians?”

      “The Golan Heights is too far away from things to be attractive.”

      “So is Timbuktu.” 

      “You’re forgetting the lure. There is a magical pull to Timbuktu. And to be perfectly frank, not everyone is built for idealistic and military struggles, which is the case in order to live in Israel. Don’t get me wrong. We are a very Zionistic community. We’ll fly the Star of David on Israel Independence Day, and our doors will always be open to shalichim from ha’Aretz, but we see ourselves as a tolerant, academic, multi-denominational Jewish community in the historic tradition of Timbuktu, spreading the light of Judaism at the crossroads of the world.”

      “Anything else you would like to tell our readers?”

      “Sure thing. Come on down to Timbuktu!”

      Shrunken head of former Timbuku rabbi. New applicants welcome.


       



      Sivan 5, 5768, 6/8/2008

      The Secret of the Angels


      When Israel was given the Torah at Sinai, all of the Jewish People called out in one voice, “All that the L-rd has said. We shall do and we shall hear” (Shemot, 24:7).

      They took it upon themselves to do the commandments even before they were explained, as if to say, “You are the boss, Hashem. Whatever you say, that’s what we will do, whether the commandments please us or not, whether we understand them or not, we will do them without any complaint, or without offering a dozen excuses.”

      This is the essence of a Jew – to do what Hashem wants.

      Mt. Sinai

      In the Talmud, Rabbi Elazar teaches: “When Israel said ‘we shall do’ before ‘we shall hear,’ a heavenly voice called out, saying, ‘Who has revealed this secret to My children, a secret employed by the ministering angels?’” (Shabbat 88a).

      Angels do what Hashem commands them without saying, “But it’s too cold on earth,” or “What if it rains?” or “There are suicide bombers down there,” or “The Mashiach hasn’t come yet,” or “Explain exactly what’s involved and then we’ll decide,” and a thousand other rationalizations, intellectual arguments, and excuses.

      The modern master of Halacha and Kabbalah, Rabbi Kook writes:

      “Saying ‘we shall do’ before ‘we shall hear’ is Israel’s eternal strength, revealing the holiness of Judaism that is concealed in the natural depths of our essence.  If we feel a diminishment of this strength within us, we must first of all strive to be faithful to our true selves. We must shake off all self-deception and strive to protect the wholeness of our characters. Then we shall walk with strength on all the paths of life, including the path of our national rebirth and the rebuilding of our Land” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, Pg 172-3).

      Rabbi Kook teaches that the natural inner essence of a Jew is the desire to do all of the commandments. To be true to ourselves and reach inner wholeness, we must shake off all self-deception and embrace the wholeness of the Torah, including rebuilding the nation of Israel in the Land of Israel.

      Rabbi Kook explains that angels require no instruction, explanation, or persuasion before they act, because they are motivated by a pure and natural holiness. So too, in the animal world, a bee naturally builds the cells of its hive with utmost precision without attending lectures on engineering. Only human beings, who are confused by a bombardment of false ideas, emotional pulls, and fears, need to exert themselves to return to their pure inner source.

      Doing what comes natural. Jews and the Land of Israel go together like bees and honey.

      The inner truth of the Jewish People was revealed to us at Sinai when the Master of the World gave us the Torah and commandments. The Torah is who we are. The commandments are our wholeness. When we say “we shall do” before “we shall hear,” we are our true selves, servants of Hashem, and not the servants of foreign concepts, cultures, and kings, including our very own ego and limited human understandings, which often trick us into doing what WE want, rather than doing what Hashem commands in His Torah.

      “And now, brothers,” Rabbi Kook writes, “Both young and old, in a bold flight, let us return to our exalted purity. Faithful to the very nature of our soul, let us fortify our return to our Land on a foundation of purity and confidence. And a heavenly voice shall once again bust forth from the peaks of holiness, saying, ‘Who has revealed this secret to My children, a secret employed by the ministering angels?’ And as in the days of yore, we shall all answer together with a fiery voice, ‘All that the L-rd has said, we shall do and we shall hear.” 

      Hag Shavuot Samaoch!