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Torah Tidbits Audio
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.
Nissan 9, 5768, 4/14/2008
"Now, more than ever, we need to do serious Pesach cleaning in our national home. And we need Jews - Jews in the millions - to help us. We need Jews from the USA, from Britain, from everywhere."
Thus begins the eloquent and passionate letter that Daniel Pinner wrote on the eve of his entry into prison. We are reprinting it here so that others can learn from his real life example:
On the 23rd of Adar (23 March), I was in court to hear the arguments of my lawyer, Baruch Ben-Yosef, and of the prosecution's lawyer, Rachel Elmechais, as to what my appropriate sentence should be. (For the record, the judge, Rachel Barka'i, handed down a sentence closer to what Adv. Baruch Ben-Yosef argued for.)
Nissan 9, 5768, 4/14/2008
Sorry to ruin the taste of the sweet Manishevitch wine or to cause the matzah to get stuck in your throats, G-d forbid, but let’s have another look at the Haggadah as part of our holiday preparation. The Haggadah isn’t just a fun adventure for the kids, but a poignant recounting of the Exodus, carefully composed by our Sages to bring all future generations of Jews to identify with the inner aspirations of our People.
We mentioned that “Next year in Jerusalem” comes to teach that just as Jerusalem was the destination of the Exodus from Egypt, it is also to be our destination today. The Torah is not a mere list of do’s and don’ts, but rather our national constitution, to be lived in our own unique national Land. In exile, we are scattered, individual Jews, minorities in foreign lands, whereas the goal of Judaism is to be a nation of Torah-abiding Israelis in the Land of Israel.
This teaching is also found at the very beginning of the Hagaddah. We begin the Seder by saying, “This year, we are here; next year, in the Land of Israel. This year, we are slaves; next year, free men.” In the Diaspora, a Jew is a slave to the gentile rulers and gentile culture around him. But instead of hearing it from me, let’s take a look at the wonderful “Haggadah of the Jewish Idea,” and the commentary of Rabbi Benyamin Zev Kahane, may Hashem avenge his murder:
On the other hand, when a Jew lives in the Land of Israel, even under foreign rule – he has already taken himself out of servitude. He at least the potential to rise up and march forward to liberation and Redemption. And this was proven during our era, when a relatively short time after the nation of Israel began to return to its Land, despite being under the oppressive British rule, it arose and accomplished the unbelievable, driving out the great empire and winning independence…
And what about today? Unfortunately, even while we have a state, we refuse to be independent, choosing to make ourselves dependent upon the nations. And all this depends on our decision. Though we have left the exile, the exile has not left us, and its mark of fear of the Gentiles is still upon us. So long as this situation continues, there can be no complete Redemption. And so, on this night, in this period of self-inflicted subjugation to the nations – we hope that by next year we will have taken upon ourselves the Yoke of Heaven, thereby throwing off the yoke of the nations, the yoke which we have placed on ourselves – and this is but a moment’s decision away!
"And [Hashem] brought us out from there, in order to bring us to the Land which He swore unto our fathers to give" (Deuteronomy 6:23).
So fundamental is this concept that, commenting on the verse “And you will perish quickly from the good Land which Hashem gives you” (Deuteronomy 11:17, part of the second paragraph of the Shema), the Sifri says: “Although I will exile you from the Land, continue performing the mitzvot so that when you return, they will not be new to you”. Remarkable! Why put on Tefillin in the “holy city” of Borough Park (the “Bnei Brak” of America)? – In order that when, at long last, you will return home to Israel, you will know how to put on Tefillin, and not have to start from scratch. In short, solely for educational purposes.
Similarly, it is interesting that several times, the Book of Deuteronomy – the Book which leads us up to the border of Israel – ties the Torah and mitzvot to the Land of Israel. A typical example is: “…to teach you the statutes and ordinances, that you may do them in the Land into which you go over to possess” (Deuteronomy 4:14). And on this verse, the Ramban, in his Introduction to the Book of Exodus, writes: “And so the exile is not over until the day that they return to their place and that of their forefathers. And after they left Egypt, even though they had left the House of Slavery, they were still considered exiles, for they were in a land not their own, stranded in the desert”.
"Next year in Jerusalem!"
The book "Kol HaTor" tells us how worried the Vilna Ga’on was that in the time of the Ingathering of the Exiles, only the Jews in Israel would survive, and so many would not return: “With piercing, fiery words he urged his disciples to ascend to the Land of Israel and to occupy themselves with ingathering the exiles… Almost every hour, our Master would talk to us, trembling with emotion, for ‘in Zion and Jerusalem will be a remnant’ (Joel 3:5); [thus he would urge us] not to delay the moment. Who can possibly describe in words the tremendous worry that our Master felt as he spoke of these matters to us, with his divine inspiration, with tears in his eyes…” (Chapter 1, Section 10; also Chapter 5).
Below is information on how to obtain this inspiring Hagaddah, written by the son of Rav Kahane. To conclude, it is interesting to note that the Gaon of Vilna sent his students to settle in the Land of Israel when it was under Turkish rule, just as Rav Kook made aliyah at a time when the British ruled over the Holy Land. Living in the Land of Israel is a supreme mitzvah, in and of itself, no matter who rules here, whether it be the Turks, the British, or Medinat Yisrael. In our time, Hashem, in his great goodness, has fulfilled his Biblical promise and restored Jewish sovereignty over the Holy Land. When we recount the miracles of the Exodus, we should recount this incredible miracle too. Just as we thank Hashem for liberating us from Egypt, we should thank Him in Hallel and song for liberating us from the darkness of exile in our time. Someone who doesn’t do this on the first night of Passover may eat the proper amount of matzah and drink the four cups of wine, but he or she is missing the whole point of the Seder.
The “Haggada of the Jewish Idea” can be ordered by contacting Daniel Pinner, the translator, at email@example.com . Unfortunately, at this date it is impossible to guarantee delivery in time for the Seder Night, though orders in certain parts of Israel can be arranged within 48 hours. In any event, it makes inspiring reading throughout the year, and especially for the remainder of Pesach.
Nissan 8, 5768, 4/13/2008
I would rather live in a leperous house in Israel than in a palace in the Diaspora. If you don't believe me, here is a dvar Torah by a mystery blogger. Try to guess who.
“Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aaron saying: When you come to the Land of Canaan, which I give you as a holding, and I will give a tzara’at-affliction in a house of the Land of your holding, then he whose house it is will come and tell the Kohen saying: Something akin to an affliction has appeared to me in the house” (Leviticus 14:33-35).
The Torah began speaking about tzara’at (usually, though inaccurately, rendered as “leprosy”) back in Parashat Tazria (13:1), and this somewhat unappetizing subject will continue until the end of Chapter 14. In the midst of all this – and the equally non-aesthetic subjects that the Torah deals with in somewhat gruesome detail both before and after – the phrase “when you come to the Land of Canaan…” seems out of place.
The Ibn Ezra explains: “The implication of ‘when you come to the Land of Canaan’ is that this applies solely in the Land, because of the great elevatedness of the Land, because there the Holy Temple is in their midst, and [God’s] glory is in the midst of the Holy Temple”. Like so much of what the Ibn Ezra writes, this comment is like a flash of lightning: brief, burning in its intensity, and so dazzling in its brilliance as to illuminate an entire landscape.
Clearly, the affliction of tzara’at applies solely within the Land of Israel. So here, we have a simple way of avoiding this most hideous of afflictions: stay outside of Israel. Remain in the desert, remain in Egypt (or America, France, England, or wherever), and you will never have to face this disgusting disfigurement.
This does not seem to be a particularly good marketing ploy for Aliyah: “Come to Israel – and experience bodily disfigurements, pus, sores, and boils! Only in the Holy Land can you undergo the novelty of God turning your house, your garments, and your body weird colours if you disobey certain Mitzvot!” I venture to suggest that any advertising executive would strongly advise Nefesh B’Nefesh or the Aliyah Department of the Jewish Agency that this is poor salesmanship. Was this really the best timing for telling the Jews what awaited them in Israel?
I suggest the following explanation: the phrase el eretz K’na’an (“to the land of Canaan”) occurs only twice in the entire Torah – here, and in the verse “Hashem spoke to Moshe in the plains of Moab, by the Jordan, at Jericho, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you pass over the Jordan to the land of Canaan, you shall dispossess all the inhabitants of the Land before you, and eliminate all their figured stones, and all their molten images shall you eliminate, and all their idolatrous altars shall you demolish” (Numbers 33:50-52). This, too, seems to be a somewhat discouraging message: after forty years wandering through the desert, the Jews surely wanted to enter the Land of Israel peacefully, to rest at last, to start building for their future. But God instructs Moshe to warn them that immediately upon entering their Land, they would have to wage war. Is this really the best message to give? Come home to Israel – and there, instead of living in tranquillity as you do in the desert, with no enemies around you, you will have to fight for your lives and for your homes, you can have the privilege of having friends and family – perhaps yourself! – killed in battle. Is this really the sort of message that is designed to promote Aliyah?
The answer is a resounding Yes! The very words “to the land of Canaan” should evoke in every Jew such a yearning, that all tribulations are not merely insignificant, but a worthwhile price to pay. “God gave the Jews three wonderful gifts, but all can be acquired only through suffering: the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the World to Come” (B’rakhot 5a; Exodus Rabbah 1:1; Tanchuma, Sh’mot 1), and undergoing the suffering to earn any of these gifts is not merely a worthwhile price to pay, but an honour to undergo. Basic training may not be everyone’s idea of fun – but it is an honour to have undergone that gruelling mission for the sake of the Land of Israel. The affliction of tzara’at may be unappealing, but better to suffer this affliction in Israel than to be bodily healthy anywhere else. True, you can avoid it completely by remaining in the desert, in exile – but then, neither will you experience the sanctity and glory of the Shekhinah, which can exist solely in the Land of Israel.
Indeed, other midrashim give an added dimension to these three divine gifts: “God gave the Jews three wonderful gifts, and the nations of the world lust after them, and all can be acquired only through suffering: the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the World to Come” (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Yitro 10; Sifrei, Deuteronomy 32; Yalkut Shimoni, Exodus 303).
The Land of Israel is such a wonderful gift that every Jew should be willing to live here, even knowing that here he will be punished for his sins in a way that cannot happen anywhere else. Because here, every Jew will also receive rewards that he cannot even conceive of anywhere else; and here, and nowhere else, every Jew can bask in holiness of the Shekhinah.
by Daniel Pinner
Nissan 6, 5768, 4/11/2008
Last night, I had a very disturbing dream. I was working on my blog when this news headline popped onto the screen:
JEWISH COALITION BANS HAGGADAHS
In a rare display of solidarity, the main streams of American Judaism, the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements, have issued a joint announcement banning the printing this year of the last page of the Passover Haggadah, which relates the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Michael Vienner, spokesman for the Adhoc Coalition of American Jewry, explains that the last page of the Haggadah contains the sentence, “Next year in Jerusalem,” something that Jews have been saying for the last two thousand years, ever since they were exiled from the Land of Israel.
“Why turn the Jewish People into liars?” Vienner asks. “The truth is that the Jews aren’t going on aliyah to Israel in more than a minuscule trickle. There were maybe 1000 this year out of five million. It isn’t even a hundredth of a percentage point. So why say that we are going there? Judaism has always fostered truth, so why make Jewish fathers into liars in the eyes of their children?”
The Nefesh B’Nefesh organization that promotes aliyah to Israel has filed a protest against the ban. “The call to return to Jerusalem has held the Jewish People together throughout our long exile,” their outraged spokesman said. “The wilderness was never meant to be the final stop of the Exodus. We were to receive the Torah at Sinai and journey on to Jerusalem.”
But Michael Vienner disagrees. “Most Jews have the money to move to Israel,” he says. “But with the growing Arab missile threat, moving there at this time is suicide. So we would rather have people say, ‘Next year in New York, or in Los Angeles, or in Florida.’”
The Coalition has recommended Jews not to use Passover Haggadahs that have already been printed with the traditional Jerusalem conclusion, lest someone say the prayer out of habit. “It’s best that the old Haggadahs be stored away with the chametz,” Vienner advices. “Hopefully in the future, the situation in Israel will change and we will be able to restore the text’s original reading.”
Please assure me that I was dreaming.
Nissan 5, 5768, 4/10/2008
Imagine if the following had been the talkbacks of some of our heroes of old:
Fortunately for the Jewish People and the world, Abraham didn’t respond in this egotistical manner. He believed in Hashem and he went, without hesitation. If he hadn’t, the world never would have learned that there was only one G-d.
Fortunately, Joshua didn’t answer in this rational manner. If he had, the Jews would never had had a national homeland or built the Beit HaMikdash.
Fortunately, our Forefathers believed in G-d.