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Life Lessons with Judy Simon
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.
Adar Bet 14, 5768, 3/21/2008
In a surprise announcement late night, Baruch Gordon, head of the English Media desk at Arutz 7, handed in his resignation. Yaacov Katz (Ketzila) Director of Beit El Institutes, including Arutz 7, immediately appointed controvrsial blogger Tzvi Fishman to take over the position. "I m hoping Tzvi will revamp the whole site and give INN some needed new punch," Katz said. Fishman announced that his first move will be to cancel the talkback sections on the site. In addition, the name INN will be changed to ISN, IsraelSexualityNews. In the wake of the unexpected development, Hillel Fendel, INN News Editor, stated that he will be quitting also.
New ISN Chief, Tzvi Fishman
Adar Bet 13, 5768, 3/20/2008
Well the lot has finally fallen, no doubt because of the many protest emails that INN’s Baruch Gordon has been receiving. In a way I’m glad. Now I can concentrate on things in Israel and let someone else try to rescue the Virtual Jews in Cyberspace.
Here is the letter I received from Mr. Gordon, the Director of English Media for Arutz 7.
Arutz 7 greatly appreciates the fine and provocative writing that you have been doing for us for over a year. In an effort to constantly be adding new faces and opinions, we are replacing longtime bloggers with new ones. Please try to sum up by the end of the week when we will be ending your blog. Believe me that our decision has not been influenced, in any shape or form, by donor threats or complaints about censorship and incitement, but solely to present creative new voices to our readers.
So that’s the way it goes. All’s well that ends well. Everything is for the best. As the great Jewish entertainer, Bob Hope, was wont to say, "Thanks for the memories." In the meantime, Purim Samaoch!
Adar Bet 12, 5768, 3/19/2008
What brought about the decree of Haman against the Jews? It was their craving to be accepted as full-fledged citizens of Persia rather than return to the Holy Land to rebuild Jewish life in Israel.
In the year 3391, the Persian king, Cyrus, ordered the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Led by the prophet, Ezra, a small number of Jews returned to Israel to begin the rebuilding. The vast majority, including the aristocracy, were unwilling to give up their businesses and positions of honor in the Persian community. This was highlighted by their participation in the great feast of Achashverus, who rose to the throne in the 3392, and immediately halted the reconstruction of the Temple. Against Mordechai’s warnings, the Jews of Shushan flocked to take part in the gentile celebration, to raise toasts (with kosher wine) to the gentile king, and to regale along with the gentiles at what was to be a bawdy, immoral, wife-swapping burlesque (“Me’am Lo’ez,” Esther, Ch. 1 and 2). Even when Achashverus bought out the sacred Temple vessels, they didn’t leave the party.
The Divine wrath and the decree of Haman were soon to follow.
Remind you of anything?
In the Diaspora - it's Purim every day
Adar Bet 9, 5768, 3/16/2008
A great Purim gift is the wonderful new biography of Rabbi Meir Kahane which reminds us how a healthy Jew is supposed to think and act.
To get us in the mood for the holiday, here is something that Rabbi Kahane wrote about Purim:
On Purim as part of the joyful abandon, it has become customary to create a “Purim Torah Lesson,” known as a “Purim Spiel,” a humorous rendition of nonsensical “pilpul.” In recent months we have been witness to the spread of several “Purim Torahs” that we share with you below. What makes them uniquely different from other Purim Torahs is that their creators and spreaders never meant them to be Purim Torahs at all. Which only makes them funnier — and more maddening.
1) Going the rounds of certain yeshiva circles is the latest effort to affirm the positive benefits of the Galut, Exile. Thus, in the face of flat Biblical verses describing the Exile as a curse, a tragedy, and, above all, as a punishment, we find the affirmers of the Exile regaling us with the following quote from the Talmud: “The Holy One, Blessed Be He, righteously dealt with Israel by scattering them among the nations” (Pesachim 87b). As a Purim Torah it is quite good but the clear explanation is: since the Holy One Blessed Be He did punish us and made us suffer by going into Exile, at least he did us the favor of not letting us go into only one country of the Exile where it would have been simpler to kill us.
The Galut itself remains the punishment, the suffering and the curse that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, told us ten times over in the Bible and that we affirm twice a day in the second paragraph of the Shema: “Beware for yourselves, lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray, and serve gods of others, and worship them; and then the L-rd’s anger will blaze against you . . . and you will quickly perish from off the good land which the L-rd gives you” (Deuteronomy 11:16-17).
2) The concept of not giving up land to the Arabs and not being prepared to divide with the “Palestinians” goes against the basic Jewish concept of how to settle a dispute. Thus we find the great Mishna in Bava Metziah (1:1) clearly saying: “If two people hold a garment and each one says the whole thing is mine, let them divide it.”
This is one of the better Purim Torahs heard. Of course, there are some people who know that the entire law involved here is only when two people are both in actual physical possession. But if one holds it and the other merely claims it — the rule is clear: one who desires to take something from the possession of his neighbor is obligated to bring legal proof. The land of Israel that is now in our hands is Jewish possession, and the rule of division is totally irrelevant.
Furthermore, it takes a certain kind of Jew to look upon the Land of Israel as a garment. The real ones know that it is an inheritance to the Jewish people by their Father in Heaven.
3) The fact that there is a Biblical prohibition against giving up a part of the Land of Israel to gentiles is reluctantly noted by some of the more sober Purim Torahists. However, they add, pikuach nefesh docheh shtachim, the saving of lives takes precedence over the territories. Naturally, if pikuach nefesh had any relevance at all to the land, Jews would never have been allowed to fight a war, since in every war men have been known to die. Despite this, the Jew is allowed to fight, obligated to fight, and the Talmud (Shabbat 19) permits the war to continue even on the Sabbath. The clear fact is that the very concept of conquering the land is irrevocably tied to war and the necessary loss of life and thus the entire concept of pikuach nefesh has no relevance to it.
And so, a look at the Book of Judges (Chapter 11) finds the nation of Ammon demanding back its “conquered territories” on the EAST BANK of the Jordan (that which is now the counterfeit Kingdom of Jordan) and offering, in return, “peace” (as the king says: “And now return them in peace”). We are not speaking of the return of the West Bank, certainly not of Tel Aviv, emphatically not Jerusalem. All the gentiles want back are territories on the East Bank that Israel took when it went up from Egypt. The choice is clear: Return that and there will be peace or, if not, Jews will die. Surely here is pikuach nefesh with a vengeance!
But does the Jewish leader and Judge, Yiftach, agree? Hardly. His reply was: “That which Chmosh your god gives you to possess, that shall you possess. And that which the L-rd our G-d delivers to us, that will we possess” (Judges 11:24). This Jewish leader went to war rather than give up an inch of the land that G-d gave to the Jews.
Adar Bet 7, 5768, 3/14/2008
Shabbat Zachor is upon us, when we have the obligation to remember what Amalek did to us when we departed from Egypt and how they attacked us on the way.
The Torah commandment states:
"Remember what Amalek did to you by the way, when you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you by the way and smote the hindmost of you, all that were feeble in your rear, when you were faint and weary, and he feared not G-d (Devarim, 25:17).
Just what is it that we are supposed to remember? That our enemies hate us? They themselves remind us of this all the time. That they attack us for no reason at all? This is a lesson that Jewish history teaches without the need for any additional reminder.
The Torah commentator, Rashi, wrestled with this very question. Usually, during their Shabbat Zachor sermons, the rabbis explain Rashi's third understanding of the verse. Rashi writes that the Hebrew for "how he met you by the way" - "karcha baderech" - comes from the word "kar" meaning cold. Thus in attacking Israel, Amalek showed the nations of the world that, notwithstanding all of the miracles in Egypt, the Jewish People were not invincible, just as when a show-off jumps into a scalding bathtub, even though he gets burnt, he cools it off for others to follow after him.
This is an interesting observation, but not something so important to require a special Torah commandment. Furthermore, relying on this explanation alone ignores the explanations of Rashi which precede it. Rashi's first explanation is that "karcha" derives from the Hebrew word, "mikre," meaning happenstance. In other words, Amalek attacked the Jews just for the sake of attacking, for seemingly no real reason, since the Jews were not threatening to conquer Amalek's land.
It is the second explanation of Rashi that we will focus on, because within it lies the key to understanding the inner, spiritual danger we face today in our present war against Amalek. The strategy of Amalek, in the past, and once again today, is to destroy the Jewish People by luring us into sexual transgression.
The Devil Made Me Do It!
Rashi says that "karcha" should be understood as “keri,” meaning seminal pollution. Rashi explains that Amalek lured the Jews into sexual transgression, (homosexual relations) then cut off their "milot," the sign of their circumcision, and threw them up to the sky, as if to say, "This is what's left of Your holy nation." Rashi concludes that the protective Clouds of Glory spit out these Jews who were feeble because of their sexual sins. These were the Jews whom Amalek killed.
The universally respected Torah commentary, the "Sfat Emet," explains that Amalek's principal goal in going to war against Israel was to banish sexual purity from the world, represented by the brit milah. This is why they cast the sign of the circumcision into the air. The brit milah is considered the seal of G-d, stamping the Jewish People with the Name of G-d, and distinguishing us from all of the nations. It is our adherence to the laws of sexual purity which set us apart from the gentiles. In contrast, the nation of Amalek represents the spirit of evil in the world, the impure orlah, the husk that prevents the light of G-d from entering the world. This explains why the Name of G-d cannot be fully revealed until Amalek is obliterated. By fighting against the sexual purity of Israel, Amalek pollutes the moral message of Israel, causing G-d's Presence to be screened from the world ("Sfat Emet," Parshat Zachor, Year 5664).
This was Amalek's plan. But as long as Israel guarded the Brit, the Clouds of Glory guarded over them hermetically. Amalek reasoned that if Israel were to lose its Divine protection, it could be defeated in war. They knew that the holiness of the Israeli camp, exemplified by its sexual purity, is the key to its defense, as it says in the Torah, "For the L-rd thy G-d walks in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thy enemies from before thee, therefore shall thy camp be holy, that He see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee" (Devarim, 23:15). Our sages explain an “unclean thing” to mean the wasteful spilling of seed. This was Amalek’s strategy in luring the weakest Jews into immoral sexual behavior. When the Clouds of Glory cast out the unchaste of Israel, the enemy was waiting to pounce on them and thus fulfill its evil design.
The Zohar asks, "What is the reason that the war that Amalek waged against Israel was singled out for remembering by the Holy One Blessed Be He, more than all the wars that all other nations waged against Israel? The Zohar answers that Amalek waged both a physical war against Israel and a spiritual war, in order to defile Israel's sexual purity and thus alienate them from G-d" (Zohar, Shemot 194b).
The Zohar continues:
Accordingly, Moshe chose Yehoshua, who came from the descendents of Yosef, the upholder of the Brit, who conquered his sexual passion, to wage war against Amalek. Thus Yehoshua, the embodiment of the holy Brit, was chosen to fight against Amalek, the embodiment of the impure orlah. Interestingly, the gematria of "milchamah b'Amalek" (war against Amalek) equals "Yosef HaTzaddik."
The holy Sage and Kabbalist, Rabbi Tzaddok HaKohen of Lublin, explains that ever since the sin of Adam, mankind was infested with lust. The brit milah was given to the Nation of Israel as a tikun, to rectify the world from its fallen state. Sexuality for the Jewish People was to be a commandment in the service of G-d, sanctifying the act in the boundaries of marriage and through the holy offspring who would derive from it. This sexual holiness was what Amalek was seeking to erase from the world when they came and tempted the weak and erring Jews. Therefore, when they castrated their victims, they threw their milot skyward, and called out to Heaven, "Take that which You chose for Yourself." As if to say that the Jews were no different than the other nations in their submission to animal passions and lust.
For Amalek could not tolerate that there could be a nation, Israel, that sanctified the sexual act. They could not tolerate the idea that G-d had a part in this too "Thus the verse says, ‘karcha baderech,' meaning that they caused the Jews to spill semen in an unholy way. For when the sexual act is not performed in its intended holy fashion as a mitzvah, but rather after the lustful inclination, which is called evil, this is considered ‘mikre,' spilling semen in vain." And there is nothing which causes the Divine Presence to flee from the world more than the spilling of semen in vain. And this was Amalek's goal, to remove the Presence of G-d from the world, so that mankind could be free to wallow in its lusts and evil inclination (Rabbi Tzaddok, “Resisai Liela,” 58:17-20; and, "Takanat Hashavin," 10:13-14).
Rabbi Tzaddok explains that we read the portion of remembering Amalek before Purim on Shabbat Zachor in order to awaken Israel's sanctity in regards to the Brit, because when this sanctity rises, then the impurity of Amalek falls, paving the way for his destruction on Purim ("Yisrael Kiddoshim," 8:27).
Today, the spirit of Amalek in the world is still trying to uproot the sign of the Brit from Israel by exporting all of its immoral culture and pornography to the Holy Land. Throughout the Diaspora, the spirit of Amalek is working overtime to lure the Jews into the grave sexual transgression of assimilation. Like their fathers before them, these modern day sons of Amalek are hoping that this pollution will sever our connection with G-d, leaving us vulnerable prey to their ever-evil designs of destroying our holy nation, and thus eradicating the Presence of G-d in the world, Heaven forbid.
May the Almighty overturn their plans and wreak destruction on them instead.
This is what we have to remember, and guard against, and fight with education and counseling, in order to repel this plague of spiritual pollution from our borders, from our streets, and from our homes, via television, Internet, and the like. This is what our rabbis must teach from this Torah portion in order to alert the nation of this insipid and poisonous threat that undermines the very foundation of our existence - the Covenant of sexual purity that G-d established with our forefather Avraham and with his offspring after him, to be a holy nation in the Holy Land. It is by sanctifying our lives that we blot out the memory of Amalek, and in so doing, the L-rd G-d of Israel shall be One, and His Name shall be One over all of the earth.