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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.

       

      Iyar 20, 5768, 5/25/2008

      The Key to Happy, Healthy Living


      The Torah portion, Bechukotai, is known as the portion of rebuke. The portion begins with G-d’s promise that if the Jews observe the commandments of the Torah, prosperity, blessing, and peace will befall them. However, if they turn away from the Torah, G-d warns them that terrible curses and sufferings will be their fate - they will be pursued and ravaged by their enemies and forcibly expelled from the Land into exile where they will be relentlessly persecuted and decimated.

      The saintly Tzaddik and holy Kabbalist, Rabbi Yaacov Abuchatzera, z’tzal, grandfather of the holy Baba Sali, z’tzal, explains this Torah portion as referring to sexual transgressions, known as transgressions of the Brit.

      Since these matters are the very foundation of Judaism and of a happy, healthy life, we encourage brave readers to see his essay in full.
       
      Readers are also encouraged to look over chapters on our jewishsexuality.com site that deal with starting out on a path of rectification and tikun.
       
      The real problem facing us isn't Olmert, the self-hating leftist media, and a tired national camp. The problem is the underlying spiritual malaise that is caused through our transgressions. Olmert and his like are merely the whipping rods that Hashem has sent throughout our history to bring us back to the Torah. When a dog is bringing whacked with a stick, he bites at the stick, not realizing that it is being swung by its master. If we only bark at the stick and ignore our Master, we won't get anywhere, not with orange ribbons and not with guns. Like it or not, that's the truth, and the sooner we face it the better. 
       
      "It's all Olmert's fault!"

      Hatzlacha!
       
      (Certain features of the site are temporarily not working this week due to upgrading.)  


      Iyar 18, 5768, 5/23/2008

      The Secret of Lag B'Omer


      I wasn’t intending to write a blog this evening, but it is impossible to keep silent at the incredible wonder of Lag B’Omer. Not only are the hillsides of Jerusalem ablaze with towering bonfires in tribute to the secrets of Torah that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed; not only are the streets of Jerusalem inundated with the smoke of burning embers; the hillsides and streets of all of the country are lit up with the fire of Torah. Not only the streets, my friends, but the smoke of the holy fire penetrates into every single apartment and house, like the aroma of havdala after Shabbat, penetrating through windows and concrete walls to reveal the inner spirit of every Israeli soul, of Israeli house, to reveal the inner holiness of the entire country of Israel whose national soul is completely Torah, no matter how secular its surface appearances seem.
       
      Aish HaTorah

      This is what Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught us. The great wisdom of patience. To see below the surface appearance to the inner reality, where the light of Israel shines in an eternal, unquenchable blaze.

      Inspired by the light of the Zohar, Rabbi Kook writes: 

      “Out of the profane, holiness will also come forth, and out of wanton freedom, the beloved yoke (of Torah) will blossom. Golden chains will be woven and arise out of secular poetry, and a brilliant light of t’shuva will shine from secular literature. This will be the supreme wonder of the vision of redemption. Let the bud sprout, let the flower blossom, let the fruit ripen, and the whole world will know that the Spirit of G-d is speaking within the Nation of Israel in its every expression. All of this will climax in a t’shuva which will bring healing and redemption to the world” (Orot HaT’shuva, 17:3).

      Indeed, the revival of the Jewish people in Israel is a wonder that is impossible to explain in any mundane fashion. Clearly, there are powerful inner forces at work as we return to our homeland. Increasingly sensitized to our own national longings, we realize that gentile lands cannot be called home. The process takes time. The nation is not transformed overnight. But gradually, the curse of galut is erased. From being a scattered people, the Jewish nation returns to have its own sovereign state. G-d’s blessing is revealed in all facets of the nation’s existence; military success, economic prosperity, scientific achievement, the resettlement of the nation’s ancient cities and holy sites — all leading to a great national t’shuva, the renewal of prophecy, and the return of the Divine Presence to the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, in fulfillment of our prayers.

      Rabbi Kook explains that the secular, physical rebuilding must necessarily precede the spiritual building. The Talmud teaches that the Beit HaMikdash was first constructed in a normal, profane manner, and only after its completion was its sanctity declared (Me’ilah 14A). This is the pattern of spiritual building; first comes the physical vessel, and then its inner content. First the Ark is constructed, and then the Tablets are placed within.

      It must be remembered that the Zionist movement did not begin with Herzl, but rather with the giants of Torah, the Baal Shem Tov and the Gaon of Vilna, more than a hundred years earlier. They sent their students to settle Eretz Yisrael, teaching that the active resettlement of the Land was the path to bring the long-awaited redemption.  Other great Rabbis, Rav Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher, Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher, and Rav Shmuel Mohliver were the actual builders of the early Zionist groups like the “Lovers of Zion.” As the movement spread, its message attracted many non-religious Jews as well.

      Rabbi Kook writes:

      “Occasionally, a concept falls from its loftiness and its original pureness after it has been grounded in life, when unrefined people become associated with it, darkening its illumination. The descent is only temporary because an idea which embraces spiritual goodness cannot be transformed into evil. The descent is passing, and it is also a bridge to an approaching ascent” (Orot HaT’shuva, 12:12).

      The Zohar teaches that the original, pure, lofty idea of the return to Zion is that the revival of the Jewish nation in Israel is the earthly foundation for the revelation of the Kingdom of G-d in the world (Zohar, Ki Tisa, 276A). However, when a holy idea needs to be grounded in reality, it necessarily descends from its exalted elevation. When this happens, people of lesser spiritual sensitivities seize the idea and profane its true intent. Because greater numbers of people can grasp the idea in its minimized form, its followers increase, bringing more strength and vigor to its practical implementation. This trend continues until the inner spiritual light arises to banish the material darkness.

      Celebrations all over the country

      “This process will surely come about,” Rabbi Kook proclaims. “The light of G-d, which is buried away in the fundamental point of Zion, and which is now concealed by clouds, will surely appear. All those who cling to it, the near and the distant, will be uplifted with it, for a true revival and an everlasting salvation.”

      Rabbi Kook’s deep spiritual insight did not blind him to the unholy lifestyles of the secular pioneers, and we are not blinded to the painful shortcomings of their followers today. However, as the Lag B’Omer bonfires blaze all over Israel, filling each house with the aroma of burning incense, we know that the holy essence of Am Yisrael guarantees that the nation will return to its roots.

      Long before the establishment of the State of Israel, Rabbi Kook described this process in almost prophetic terms:

      “We recognize that a spiritual rebellion will come to pass in Eretz Yisrael amongst the people of Israel in the beginnings of the nation’s revival. The material comfort which will be attained by a percentage of the nation, convincing them that they have already completely reached their goal, will constrict the soul, and days will come which will seem to be devoid of all spirit and meaning. The aspirations for lofty and holy ideals will cease, and the spirit of the nation will plunge and sink low until a storm of rebellion will appear, and people will come to see clearly that the power of Israel lies in its eternal holiness, in the light of G-d and His Torah, in the yearning for spiritual light which is the ultimate valor, triumphing over all of the worlds and all of their powers” (Orot, Pg 84).

      In the innermost heart

      “The nation’s eyes will be opened, its soul will be cleansed, its light will shine, its wings will spread, a reborn nation will arise, a great, awesome, and numerous people, filled with the light of G-d and the majesty of nationhood. Behold, the people shall rise up like a great lion, and like a young lion, it shall lift itself up” (Orot HaT’shuva, 15:11).

      Amen.

       



      Iyar 17, 5768, 5/22/2008

      TK Says It All


      Mike, if not Eretz Israel then where? We are all going to die sometime and 
      at 61, I'm only half way thru my life expectancy, so anything sooner is 
      definitely a bummer. However, things aren't looking good for Jews in 
      the US so where do we make our stand? The banks of the Potomac or the 
      banks of the Jordan? If American Jews are just going to Israel to get 
      more house for their dollar, and as here, expect the government to do 
      everything for them, well, I don't completely blame you for calling 
      them lemmings. Israel is far from a magic bullet to fix all our galut 
      mistakes or get us even more goodies than we had here. It takes 
      commitment and dedication to survive in Eretz Israel until Mashiach 
      comes. The truth is it takes dedication and commitment to live as a 
      Jew anywhere and even as a non-Jew if you want to do it with integrity 
      and purpose.

      The Diaspora Jews aren't listening. I had a Syrian Jewish woman of 
      advanced years tell me just this past weekend, that it will never 
      happen here because in America we have Congress and a President!  This 
      is a woman who sees herself as religious. Ok, I agree but who is her 
      god?

      She was amazed that we want to return to Israel rather than enjoy all 
      the "blessings" of Miami. I see no purpose in anyone dedicated to 
      Eretz Israel remaining here to try to convince those who don't want to 
      see. The door is barred and the window is almost closed. In a few 
      months it will be too late.  Those who love Israel need to return now 
      and FIGHT for her. In that I agree with Mike. Don't just sit and wait 
      for a "good" government to arise. Make it happen. When Nehemiah 
      returned with the Babylonian exiles, they built the  Temple with their 
      builder's tools in one hand and a sword in the other.  That should be 
      our example.

      I for one am not a lemming. I know the risks of both places. I don't 
      like governments, period, but until my King comes I must cope with 
      what our corporate sin has brought upon us. I choose to risk life with 
      purpose and meaning in Israel rather than a life of futility that 
      could well be cut short for no more than a hit of crystal meth or the 
      violent reaction of a uniquely American sociopathic personality who 
      projects his pathology unto me one unfortunate day.

      That’s what I have to say.



      Iyar 16, 5768, 5/21/2008

      Love, Love, Love


      Yesterday, we had the privilege of driving north to Meron, in the entourage of the revered Kabbalist, Rav Eliahu Leon Levi, for a beat-the-mob visit to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, whose yahrtzeit will be celebrated on Lag B’Omer, beginning this Thursday night.

      View of Kinneret from tomb of Rachel, wife of Rabbi Akiva

      For half a kilometer in both directions along the highway leading to the site, people are already camped out in tents. Traffic patterns have been diverted, and hundreds of policemen are already in place, ready for the one million devotees who are expected to arrive to honor the author of the Holy Zohar over the next few days. There is no more festive a memorial day anywhere in the world.

      Rav Leon arrives in Meron

      Since there are readers who say silly things about the Kabbala, we won’t write anything more on the subject. For people who would like a taste of Rabbi Shimon’s teachings, a selection can be found in the Zohar section of jewishsexuality.com.

      Studying the Zohar with students

      In the meantime, we will continue with our new leaf of love, and Rabbi Kook’s writings on the Land of Israel and aliyah, with goal of softening hearts that have become bitter and fortified in a defensive posture in order to ward of the pummeling blows of my hitherto offensive assaults.
          
      Another public proclamation of Rabbi Kook was addressed to Orthodox communities to urge their Aliyah to Israel. In establishing a movement called “The Banner of Jerusalem,” Rabbi Kook called upon all religious Jews to come to Israel to rebuild the nation’s spiritual life, just as the secular Zionists were rebuilding the physical.

      “Jews! We call you to the sacred task of building our Jewish nation in our Holy Land, in Eretz Yisrael. Come to us, rally together under the “Banner of Jerusalem” which we now raise aloft before the whole Jewish religious public.

      “We all know the ‘Banner of Zion’ which unites a certain portion of our brethren on the basis of our Jewish secular interests in the Land of Israel. But there are many who have not joined those who bear the Zionist flag, and a great many who feel it impossible to do so. We simply record the plain fact that this is so, without questioning its veracity.

      “Yet it cannot be that the largest, most natural, and earnest portion of Jewry, the majority of the Jewish religious public, should remain indifferent to the wonderful events of the present, and not lend a hand in the holy task of building our nation on our sacred soil because of, what they call, objections.

      “Jews, all the loyal believers in the Jewish faith, there can be no doubt that the Divine power is now manifesting itself in us amidst the great world events. We are certainly called to return to our ancient home in the Land of Israel, there to renew our ancient holy life.

      “We religious Jews must all profoundly know and believe that the Divine hand is now leading us openly to our high, ideal destiny. We must make known to the whole world, the true meaning of the present wondrous happenings, whose purpose is so clearly the hastening of our redemption and salvation, from which alone will also spring forth the redemption and salvation of all mankind.

      “With the flaming, illuminating, Divine faith, with all the luster of our holy Torah, with the vitality of all of the most refined and devout Jews, we shall carry our flag, the ‘Banner of Jerusalem’ by which alone the ‘Banner of Zion’ will also be properly hoisted. For the value of Jewish secular power will be elucidated to the world only in the light of our holy Jewish spiritual power, emphasized by the uplifted voices of the whole religious Jewish world community, setting with holy enthusiasm to the task of our national construction, of our return to the Land of Israel, by the grace of the Divine and illuminating light, O House of Jacob, come, and let us walk in the light of the L-rd.”



      Iyar 15, 5768, 5/20/2008

      The Great Call


      “To the Land of Israel, Gentlemen, To the Land of Israel! Let us utter this appeal in one voice, in a great and never-ending cry!”

      This isn’t me. It’s Rav Kook. You want love. Here's love. Unbounded, limitless love. Rav Kook wrote this open letter, which he named, “The Great Call,” to world Jewry in 1907 when the Turks ruled the Land of Israel, when travel was difficult, when livelihood was sparse, before there was  a Jewish airline, and a thriving economy, a rebuilt Jerusalem, government subsidies, and Jewish communities filled with yeshivot, modern ten-story apartment buildings, and split-level homes.

      What more do you want?

      “Come to the Land of Israel, dear brothers, come to the Land of Israel. Save your souls, the soul of your generation, the soul of the entire nation; save her from desolation and destruction, save her from decay and degradation, save her from defilement and all evil — from all of the suffering and oppression that threatens to come upon her in all the lands of the world without exception or distinction....

      “Escape with your lives and come to Israel; G-d’s voice beckons us; His hand is outstretched to us; His spirit within our hearts unites us, encourages us and obliges us all to cry in a great, powerful and awesome voice: Brothers! Children of Israel, beloved and dear brethren, come to the Land of Israel, do not tarry with arrangements and official matters; rescue yourselves, gather, come to the Land of Israel....

      “And now, who is so blind that he does not see the L-rd’s hand guiding us in this, and does not feel obligated to work along with G-d? A heavenly voice in the future will cry aloud on top of the mountains and say, ‘Whoever has wrought with G-d, let him come and receive his reward.’ Who can exempt himself from doing his part in bringing additional blessing and swifter salvation; from awakening many hearts to return to the Holy Land, to the L-rd’s legacy, that they may become a part of it, to settle it with enterprises and buildings, to purchase property, to plant and sow, to do everything necessary for the foundation of life of a stable and organized settlement....

      “Brothers, come to the Land of Israel.”