Life Lessons with Judy Simon
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.
"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.)
On that occasion, Barka'i began proceedings by informing Adv. Ben-Yosef that she had received hundreds of emails, faxes and letters from Israel and the Diaspora regarding me and my case, but that she would not take these communications into account. Sometime later, I received a printout of about 180 of the emails that had been sent to Her Honour from Israel, the USA, Canada, the UK and other countries, pleading, requesting, cajoling, threatening, arguing for Her Honour to show me leniency.
Twelve days later, on the 6th of Nissan (4 April), Barka'i handed down a two-year sentence. Within the first 24 hours, I received over 100 messages of support from my voice mail and countless more messages in the subsequent days.
I also received a stack of printouts from various Internet sites, articles by me and about me, and responses from around the world. I have been truly overwhelmed by the spontaneous outpouring of support, solidarity and encouragement.
Inevitably, a great many of these communications have included criticism of the Israeli justice system and, by extension, of the entire Israeli political establishment. I do not think that I am in any way important personally, but my case - the events that have been forced upon me - epitomizes and highlights much of what is rotten in the State of Israel.
Now, it is indisputable that the system is corrupt to the core. Clearly, the decision to prosecute me at all, and not the Arabs who testified under oath that they were throwing rocks at Jews, was more political than judicial - and political decisions have (or should have) no place in a court of justice.
But this is merely a symptom. The corruption, the connection between money and power, the politicization of the police, the judiciary and the army, the anti-nationalist and anti-religious bias of the media and the education system, the institutionalized protektziya (and how many people know that the very term protektziya is taken from Russian of the Soviet Era?), the unsupervised power the State has given to the Shabak (General Security Service), the open collaboration between the government and Arab terrorists - all of these are endemic to the Israeli establishment. All these threaten the personal security of every Israeli. All these undermine any confidence and trust that the Israeli authorities may ever have enjoyed. All these contribute to growing poverty, crime, violence, drug abuse and alienation in Israeli society.
And all these threaten the very survival of the Jewish State.
And so, it is entirely understandable that so many of the messages to Rachel Barka'i, and so many of the messages from abroad that I have received, have been from the Jews in the Diaspora who have said that hearing of my experience has discouraged them from making Aliyah. Countless correspondents over these last nine months have made remarks to the effect that only a fool or a masochist would make Aliyah or even visit Israel; that Jews are safer outside of Israel - after all, in the last decade, more Jews have been murdered in Israel than the rest of the world; that Israel is the only country that legally forbids Jews from living in certain areas just because they are Jews; that the Israeli media is more anti-Jewish than any media in the West.
All this is true.
But my one regret is that so many Jews in exile are using my personal story as an excuse not to come home, that so many good Jews have conceded defeat to the anti-Jewish junta that rules in Israel.
Of course, if Germany or France or Iraq become hostile to Judaism, become corrupt, make life miserable for Jews, collaborate with Arab terrorists - that is a reason for Jews to cut off contact with those countries.
And when this happens in Israel, in the one country on G-d's Earth that we can call home - that is all the more reason for Jews to come to Israel, to return home, to do tikkun. When someone else's home is filthy, that is a reason to leave; when your own home is filthy, you clean it thoroughly. And, when necessary, you throw out the scoundrels who are responsible for the filth. But you don't abandon your home to those scoundrels.
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 - Jews who have lived as minorities and can therefore appreciate how precious it is to be a Jew, how precious our Jewish State is. We need a massive influx of Jews from the free world who have experienced life in democratic regimes, who will protest - here at home, not abroad - against the abuses of power.
And so, my one request of any Jew who has been disgusted by the Israeli establishment: take that disgust and channel it into Aliyah. That will be your personal contribution to sweeping the filth out of our collective home. That will be your personal victory over evil. One family - even one single Jew - who makes Aliyah will do more to cleanse Israel than all the protests from America.
One final thought. "If you see oppression of the poor, and justice and righteousness trampled in a country, do not be astounded," said King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 5:7). Corruption happens: it is human nature. The test of the individual is how he or she reacts to that corruption. Do you surrender or do you defeat it?
More than that. The Talmud tells us that "anyone who mourns for Jerusalem will merit to see it rejoicing" (Ta'anit 30A), which Rabbi Yosef Caro brings as practical Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 554:25). How much greater, then, will be the rejoicing of those who actively worked to rebuilt Jerusalem in justice?
The door is open, and we are waiting for you to come home.
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:
"This year, we are here; next year, in the Land of Israel. This year, we are slaves; next year, free men."
Those in exile say: This year we are here and we are slaves; but next year we will, please God, be free in the Land of Israel. This raises a great question: Why does the author of the Haggada connect the exile axiomatically with slavery, and life in the Land of Israel with freedom? After all, there were many exiles in which Jews lived in absolute freedom and equality, while on the other hand, there were many situations in the Land of Israel in which we were under the rule of oppressive Gentiles, such as the Turks and the British. This teaches a basic principle: Even if Jews in the exile feel, for a given period of time, that they enjoy freedom and equal rights, they are mistaken – for they are in a state of servitude. For there are several levels of servitude, the most basic being to live as a minority in a land that is not our own, governed by, and dependent upon, another nation. Only after this level do the more severe types of exile follow. The first level down is where the Jew is simply degraded. In the next level, he is actually a slave; and in the third level, he is led to the gas chambers. Yet all these are but details, mere footnotes to the exile, whose essence is lack of independence, and total reliance on the Gentile. Ultimately, history proves that even the relative tranquillity that the Jew enjoys in the exile is only temporary, and it always ends badly. And this was already guaranteed by the prophets – that there can never be life and existence for the Jew in the exile, and eventually he who does not leave it – will perish.
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).
It was not enough that God brought us out of Egypt into freedom, and gave us the Torah. The ultimate goal could only be achieved if that Torah is kept in the Land of Israel. For sure, God could have liberated the nation physically, given them the Torah, and told them to observe it wherever they may be. However, this was not God’s intention when He created the Jewish nation and gave them the Torah. The Sforno, commenting on this verse, says: “As long as we were enslaved, we were unable to achieve the perfection that He demands; He miraculously took us out [of Egypt] and brought us to a Land [Israel], where we could achieve that perfection”. That is to say, only in the Land of Israel is it possible to achieve the perfection that He demands, that perfection which the Torah intends for us. And the Ibn Ezra offers an additional explanation: “For God knew that they would be unable to do the mitzvot properly when they are in lands under foreign control” (Deuteronomy 4:10). Obviously, one can observe the commandments anywhere, at least on a superficial level. But outside of Israel, it is impossible to observe them properly. After all, what will these commandments look like when we eat, drink, and breathe the foreign culture of the host nation? Obviously, these commandments will remain no more than empty rituals, devoid of spirit and vitality – which is precisely what has happened to the Torah in exile.
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!"
What a disgrace it is to those who dwell in exile, who could so easily come to Israel if they but decided – but continue nonetheless to sit there and to repeat, parrot-fashion, this false declaration of Next year in Jerusalem – without the slightest intention of actualising this! Rabbi Yehudah ha-Levi, in the Kuzari (2:24), described this mindless declaration as being “like the twittering of a starling”. Significantly, the wording is not be-shana ha-ba’ah (literally “in the next year”) but rather le-shana ha-ba’ah (literally “to the next year”). This is no expression of desire to postpone aliyah for another year, by expressing some vague hope that maybe next year we will be in Jerusalem; rather, we say le-shana ha-ba’ah (literally “to the next year”), declaring that already, as of now, we are preparing for aliyah, that by next year we will already be 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.
And if you haven’t yet ordered the new fascinating biography of Rabbi Meir Kahane, ask for it in your bookstore or order it online today.
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
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
Dateline New York
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.
Imagine if the following had been the talkbacks of some of our heroes of old:
“This is Hashem.”
“Yes, sir, I know sir.”
“Don’t call me sir. I am not your army commander.”
“Yes, sir, sorry, sir, I mean, Hashem, sir.”
“Abraham, get thee forth to the Land that I will show you.”
“Where is that exactly, if I may ask?”
“I do, sir, but I have to know in advance in order to assess the data and make a cognitive decision.”
“The Land of Israel.”
“I’m sorry, sir, I can’t do that. There are heathens in the land, barbarians, idol worshippers. It’s suicide. Get yourself some other sucker.”
“I will be with you.”
“Sorry, but a person can’t rely on miracles.”
“I am not asking you, Abraham, I am commanding you.”
“I realize that, sir, but you can’t expect a man to act against his own understanding. After all, it was you who gave me a brain to think with, and right now, with the heathens in the land, it is suicide to go there. You clean things up first, get rid of the natives, provide a ready-made infrastructure, apartments, supermarkets, jobs, and then I will think about going. Meanwhile, my family has a thriving business that I have to manage.”
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.
“Don’t call me sir. I am not your army commander. I am the G-d of Abraham.”
“Yes, sir, I know, sir.”
“Free the Jews from bondage in Egypt and take them home to Israel.”
“I can’t do that. There are heathens in the Land. Seven savage nations. Idol worshippers. They sacrifice their children to Molech. And Amalek is waiting along the way. It’s suicide to go there.”
“I will be with you.”
“Sorry, but that’s not enough. If you want, I’ll take the Jews out of Egypt to France, or England, or to America, but if you are dead set on Israel, find yourself another sucker.”
Fortunately, Moses did not respond in this fashion. If he had, the world never would have received the Torah.
“Take the Jews to Israel!”
“To the Land of Israel.”
“But there are powerful nations in the land. With fortified cities. And they’re armed to the teeth. It will be suicide. Especially with the army I have – a rabble of former slaves who don’t have an ounce of Jewish pride or valor.”
“I will be with you.”
“It’s not enough. I’ll need at least 200 F-16s, 500 tanks, 100 Apaches, 10,000 M-16s with night scopes, 10,000 Napalm bombs, 20 top commanders, and at least a year of hard training to turn these slaves into soldiers. Without it, find yourself some other sucker.”
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.