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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.

       

      Elul 28, 5767, 9/11/2007

      P.S. – World Tikun


      At precisely 12 o’clock noontime in Israel tomorrow, Weds, September 12, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Jews the world over will recite the Tikun Clalli, a Kabbalistic prayer formulated to rectify sexual sins. The main gathering will take place at Uman, at the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, where 10,000 Jews have assembled to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. Another mass gathering will take place at the Kotel with a live satellite hook-up to Uman.

      World Tikun

      According to the Kabbalah, 600,000 sparks of holiness, or souls, are lost to the realm of impurity each time the holy sexual life force is wasted, either accidentally or through sexual transgression. Reciting the 10 Psalms of the Tikun HaClalli has the spiritual power to rectify these lost souls, releasing them from their captivity and returning them to their Celestial source. Each time a person recites the Tikun, some 30,000 souls are rectified. When this figure is multiplied by the 50,000 Jews who will be saying the Tikun at the very same time, a chain reaction occurs, multiplying the effect of each individual recital so that each person in effect rectifies 1 billion 500 million souls.

      1,500,000,000 Rescued Souls

      Don’t miss this unique opportunity to rectify the damage we caused to the Covenant between G-d and the Jewish People, and thus open the channel of prayer and blessing that becomes clogged because of our sins.

      The Psalms to recite are: 16, 32, 41, 42, 59,77, 90, 105, 137, 150.

      If one has a copy of the Tikun HaClalli, with the confession printed at the end, it is best to say the Tikun in full. If not, then after reciting the Psalms, everyone should beg Hashem, in his or her own words, to grant forgiveness from all sexual transgressions and to rectify, in His great compassion, all of the terrible blemishes that our transgressions caused.

      May G-d answer our prayers and inscribe everyone in the Book of Life for a healthy, happy, and prosperous year. Amen.
               



      Elul 26, 5767, 9/9/2007

      Happy Trails To You


      During the past year, we have seen over and over that the true life of a Jew is in the Land of Israel. We have also seen that we are to sanctify ourselves with the holiness of the Brit that was sealed in our flesh, a sign that we are to distinguish ourselves from all peoples by guarding our lives in sexual purity.

      The message of guarding the Brit is repeatedly emphasized in the Torah portion that we read this past Shabbat. Seeing the total destruction of the once bountiful Land which was transformed into a barren wasteland in G-d’s wrath against Israel’s transgressions, foreigners ask in astonishment what brought about this great anger? They receive the answer, “Because they have forsaken the Brit of the L-rd G-d of their fathers…. For they went and served others gods and worshipped them…. And the anger of the L-rd burned against this Land to bring upon all the curses that are written in this book; and the L-rd uprooted them out of their Land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is to this day” (Devarim, 24-27).

      Our Sages reveal that the Jewish People never believed in idol worship, but only participated in its rites as an excuse to partake in the sexual deviations that were part and parcel of the hedonist culture of the gentiles living in Eretz Yisrael. It was sexual transgression that brought about G-d’s great wrath upon us and which caused our exile from the Land.  We have attempted to stress that this danger has renewed importance today, when, once again, the immodest, adulterous culture of the gentiles has fastened a hold on the Holy Land, luring the Jewish People into the pitfalls of sexual transgression. 
             
      If readers have internalized these messages, and have made deeper commitments to the Land of Israel, and have added more holiness to their lives, then this blog has achieved its purpose. Each day, more than a thousand pages are read on our jewishsexuality site, and this is an indication that the message is indeed being heard. Arutz 7 readers who would like to hear more on these themes are invited to follow me there, where, G-d willing, I will continue to write on these matters, always trying to highlight the eternal teachings of our Sages. For example, readers interested in encountering some Kabbalistic “Secrets of the Shofar” will find them posted there.

      In conclusion, I would like to leave you with a farewell gift. There is an interesting law about the recital of Selichot. If a person wakes up late in the night and only has enough time to recite either Tikun Hatzot or Selichot before sunrise, he should recite Tikun Hatzot because of its exalted power in evoking Divine compassion. The Zohar refers to the Midnight Lament as the most perfect service. King David says, “I will rise up at midnight to give thanks to you for Your righteous judgments” (Tehillim, 119:62). This was the secret of his great success. He would get up at midnight to learn Torah and sing the praises of G-d.
       
      Tikun Hatzot

      The Shulchan Aruch states that “It is fitting for every G-d fearing Jew to feel grief and sorrow over the destruction of the Temple (Orach Chaim, 1:1-3). This refers to Tikun Hatzot. The Zohar explains that sins, especially sexual transgressions, cause the Shechinah to flee into exile. More than anything else, it is the prayers of Tikun Hatzot that stir the Shechinah to return to guard over the Jewish People.
       
      The Most Powerful Prayer

      So friends, “Arise! Cry out in the night! Pour out your heart like water before G-d” (Lamentations, 2:19). Make Tikun Hatzot a regular part of you week. However often you can. Once a week is good. Twice is even better. It is a spiritual multi-vitamin pill guaranteed to bring a new zest to your service of G-d, and to draw down a river of blessings. During the upcoming Shmittah year, only half of the prayer is recited, Tikun Leah. This 15 or 20 minute investment is the smartest, most profitable investment you can make. [For an online text of Tikun Hatzot and related laws, click here.]

      That’ it. L’hitraot. Happy trails to you until we meet again. Shana tova, and may you and all of the Jewish People be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy, and prosperous year.  
       
      The End

       


      Elul 23, 5767, 9/6/2007

      True and Amazing Confession


      An integral part of t’shuva is vidui, or confession, over transgressions. Here is a true and frightening confession of another sort – from Esther, a woman married to a man addicted to Internet porn. In order to help and warn others, she sent her heart-wrenching letter to the Forum on our jewishsexuality.com site, under the title “The Suffering of the Family.” 

      "The Scream"

      May Hashem help us to wipe out this abomination and cancer in our midst.



      Elul 21, 5767, 9/4/2007

      Penultimate Blog


      With such dismal and visionless government leaders in Israel, it is hard to feel joyous as the New Year approaches. Therefore, we must remind ourselves that the scenario of Jewish History is all a part of a supreme Divine Plan that is being orchestrated by a faultless Conductor.
       
      Everything is under control.
       
      Our Sages have told us that the Redemption of Israel is a gradually unfolding process, similar to the dawning of the day (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot, 1:1). First, the Jewish People return to Zion to rebuild their homeland. Once the physical body that houses the nation is built, then the revitalized Jewish soul will yearn for spiritual completion as well and return to the Torah.
       
      ZIONISM AND NATIONAL T’SHUVA
       
      Rabbi Kook taught that even in the return of the non-religious Zionists to Israel there is a profound holy core. The inner source of their desire to return to the Jewish Homeland is an expression of the Redemption itself. With time, its spiritual core will surely be awakened. This great transformation may take fifty years. It may take one hundred. We need to remember that after nearly two-thousand years in exile, a few generations is like the blink of an eye. The important thing to know is that the t’shuva of the Nation of Israel is sure to come (Rambam, Laws of T’shuva, 7:5). Rabbi Kook writes:
       
      “The awakened yearning of the Jewish people as a whole to return to their Land, to their roots, to their spirit and way of life — truthfully, there is the light of t’shuva in this” (Orot HaT’shuva, 17:2).
       
      The book of Ezekiel includes an overview of Jewish history which traces Israel’s exile among the gentile nations, and our ultimate return to the Land of Israel and Torah. Only after the nation’s physical revival in Israel is underway do the Jewish people undergo the period of spiritual cleansing which leads them back to Torah.
       
      “For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and I will bring you into your own Land. Then I will sprinkle pure water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all of your uncleanlinesses, and from all of your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart will I also give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit in you, and cause you to follow My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them. And you shall dwell in the Land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I shall be your G-d” (Ezekiel, 36,24-28).
       
      The great and ongoing physical return of our people to Israel is something we have witnessed in our century. First, out of the graveyards of exile, came a new hope and zest for life, as if our scattered, dry bones were rising to rebirth. Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, the Jewish nation was reborn in Israel. The Hebrew language was restored. After two-thousand years of wandering, the Jews returned to being an independent nation in their own Land. An incredible, new awakening of Jewish valor and physical prowess, epitomized by the Israel Defense Forces, startled the world. The ingathering of exiles from the four corners of the earth led to the building of a dynamic, progressive society. Yeshivas were opened all over the country. Today, Israel is unquestionably the Torah center of the world. All of these things are aspects of t’shuva, of a nation returning to its roots.
      As Rabbi Kook writes:
       
      “Without question, the light of Mashiach and the Redemption of Israel, the rebirth of the Nation and the Land, the revival of its language and literature — all stem from the source of t’shuva, and everything will be brought out of the depths to the heights of the highest t’shuva” (Orot HaT’shuva, 4:11).
      Our government leaders may be fools, but the orchestra’s Conductor knows what He is doing, and everything is under His guidance and control.
       
      The return of a scattered people to its Land is no simple matter. Because of the magnitude of the undertaking, there are numerous problems. Nonetheless, Rabbi Kook assures us that our inner Israeli longing for
      G-d will overcome all of the barriers. Even the brazen secularism, which seems so contrary to the nation’s holiest goals, will become a powerful vessel bursting with Torah.
       
      “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” (Ibid, 17:3).
       
      This necessary developmental process from the physical to the spiritual should be obvious to everyone, including our friends in Virginia and Monsey. 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). Similarly, Adam was first created from the dust of the earth, and then the soul was placed within him. So too, a Jewish youth only becomes responsible to keep the Torah at the age of thirteen, after his body and mind have developed in strength. 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 (Rashi, Shemot, 38:22).
       
      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. The “Gra” sent his students to settle Eretz Yisrael, teaching that the active resettlement of the Land was the path to bring the long-awaited redemption (See the book, “Kol HaTor). Other great Rabbis, Rav Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher, Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher, and Rav Shmuel Mohliver were the actual founders 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 explains that the newcomers embraced the call to Zion in a way which fit their own understandings, national aspirations, and dreams. While this temporarily lowered the loftiness of the message, it insured the necessary first stage of physical rebuilding. He 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 original, pure, lofty idea of Zionism, as handed down by our Sages, 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. For the secular Zionists, the return to Israel become something else. For some, the Land of Israel was merely a refuge from the persecutions of the gentiles. For others, it was a place to build a utopian socialist society. Because of their large numbers, the influence of the secular Zionists was widespread. Additionally, Rabbi Kook explains, the secular Jews were more suited to the task of settling the barren, swamp-ridden land. The religious Jews of the time lived in a spiritual world, having little contact with earthly matters. The physical side of their nature was neglected and weak. The secular Jews, on the other hand, had an abundance of physical energy and prowess, along with the subsequent will and desire to work and achieve through concrete endeavor.
       
      When a holy idea needs to be grounded in reality, it necessarily descends from its exalted elevation. Rabbi Kook explains that 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 powerful spiritual figures arise, girded with the strength of Divine righteousness. They grasp the idea in its original purity and hold it aloft, rescuing it from the depths where it had plunged, stripped of its holiness and spiritual splendor. As a result of this new infusion of light, the original idea is resurrected in all of its majesty and power. Even those who attached themselves to the idea in its fallen state are raised up, and they are inspired to a powerful, lofty t’shuva.
       
      “This process will surely come about. 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. From the lowly valley, it will raise up G-d’s Temple and Kingdom and all of its branches. 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. However, he knew that the holy essence of Am Yisrael guaranteed that the Nation would 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).
       
      Also vital to recognize is that the spiritual darkness presently hanging over the State of Israel is not so much a product of the profane culture of the secular pioneers and their children, who are still in power today; rather it is because the majority of Orthodox Jewry failed to respond to the call of Redemption and chose to remain behind in Boro Park and Monsey and Antwerpen and Manchester, England. As Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook often proclaimed, if the G-d-fearing Jews of the Diaspora would have made aliyah, the religious situation in Israel would be very different today. If they had come in their hundreds of thousands, Israel would have been immeasurably strengthened, both physically and spiritually, and our weaknesses in the face of our enemies, and the tragedies of Oslo and the Disengagement, would never have occurred.
       
      As Rosh Hashana approaches, the important thing is not to despair. The t’shuva of our Nation is promised. Our government leaders may be fools, but the orchestra’s Conductor knows what He is doing, and everything is under His guidance and control.

      [More of Rabbi Kook's writings on T'shuva are available now online.]



      Elul 19, 5767, 9/2/2007

      Major League Judaism


      Just as the new Israeli baseball league is a poor imitation of Major League baseball, the Judaism of the Diaspora is a poor imitation of the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael.
       
      Step up to being a Major League Jew in the Land of the Jewish Giants.
       
      For example, this coming year in Israel, every religious Jew will be busy with the mitzvah of Shmittah, the Sabbatical year when the Land must rest from labor. This countrywide mitzvah will influence the food that we buy, where we will buy it, from whom the purchases will be made, what housewives will do with the discarded peels of the Land’s holy fruit, what homeowners can do in their gardens, farmers in their agricultural fields and the like. All of these things don’t exist for the Jews of Chutz L’Aretz (the Diaspora). They will continue practicing their minor league Judaism unaffected by this gigantic, national mitzvah.
       
      The Torah potion, “Ke Tavo,” that we read yesterday on Shabbat begins, “When you come to the Land….” The Torah doesn’t say, “If you come to the Land….” The Torah takes it for granted that a Jew will come to the Land because that is where a Jew belongs, that is where G-d decreed that the Jews keep the Torah.
       
      The Torah portion goes on to describe all of the bountiful blessings the Jewish People will receive if we properly express the gratitude and joy we should rightly feel over the great gift of the Land. In contrast, if we scorn this unparalleled gift of Eretz Yisrael, terrible curses will come upon us, curses that have indeed plagued our history as a people because we “did not serve the L-rd your G-d with joyfulness and with gladness of heart for the abundance of all things (Devarim, 28:47).
       
      In a letter, Rabbi Kook writes:
       
      “The source of the moral baseness which continues to darken the world stems from the lack of recognition regarding the value and wisdom of the Land of Israel. Thus the sin of the Spies, who spoke derogatorily about the pleasant Land, remains uncorrected. To rectify this, the Land’s praise, splendor, holiness, and honor must be declared to all the world” (Letters, Vol.1, 112-113).
       
      Our Sages have long ago noted the exalted level of Eretz Yisrael in saying, “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael” (Bereshit Rabbah,16:7). There is so, not only because over two-thirds of the Mishna deals specifically with Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael, and because of the many mitzvot which can only be performed here - the Judaism of the Land of Israel is immeasurably more elevated because the Jewish people possess true national vitality only in the Land of Israel. Outside of the Land, Jews can excel as individuals in all fields of endeavor; including great Torah scholars, but the light of G-d cannot appear in its intended NATIONAL format. Only in the Land of Israel can the Jews be a KINGDOM of priests and a holy NATION (Shemot, 19:6). The Zohar emphasizes that the Jews can be a nation only in Israel, and not outside of it, where we are minorities in other people’s lands. (Zohar, Vayikra, 93B). Prophecies of Redemption all involve the return of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Land. The Jewish people’s unique prophetic talent is dependent on being in the Land of Israel (Kuzari, 1:95; 2:8-24). The Temple can only be rebuilt on the Temple Mount, and the full revelation of G-d’s Presence is exclusive to Eretz Yisrael, as the prophet teaches, “For Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem” (Isaiah, 2:3).
       
      For the world to reach perfection, G-d decreed that the Jewish People must live a life of Torah in Israel. G-d’s first commandment to Abraham is to go to the Land of Israel in order to serve G-d in the most complete way. Afterwards G-d commands Moshe to bring the Jews out from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael. Over and over, the Torah repeats that the Jewish people are to live their unique Torah life in the Land of Israel. When the holy Jewish nation lives a holy life of Torah in the Holy Land, the vessel is formed to bring the light of G-d to the world. The nation of Israel becomes an international beacon, an example and light to all of the nations (Isaiah, 42:6). It follows then that a Jew who is able to return home to the Land of Israel, yet chooses not to, is holding up his part in the Geula.
       
      At the time of the Second Temple, when we failed to uphold the high moral standard demanded of us by the Torah, we were punished and exiled from the Land. G-d’s worldly vessel was shattered. Israel was conquered, Jerusalem was razed, the Land was laid waste. G-d’s Chosen People were scattered and debased. Like the Jews, G-d’s Presence went into exile (Megillah, 29A). His light in the world became hidden. In effect, mankind was cut off from G-d, given rise to many false religions like Christianity and Islam. To rectify this tragedy and return the entire world to G-d, the Jewish people must return to their previous spiritual stature, including a national life in Israel, the only place in the world where the Torah can be observed in all of its wholeness because of the many commandments unique to the Land (Ramban, Vayikra, 18:25).
       
      On an even deeper level, each Jew has a bit of the Shechinah, or the Presence of G-d, within him. When a Jew returns to the Land of Israel, he is, in effect, bringing the Shechinah back with him (Rashi, Devarim, 30:3). This is the Kabbalistic concept of “raising up the buried sparks of holiness from the kelipot.” Since the soul of a Jew is infused with the light of the Shechinah, when the Jewish people return en masse to Israel, the light of G-d in the world returns with them.
       
      Look at the big picture
       
      A visual illustration will help us envision this global spiritual revolution that is gradually unfolding in our time. To raise ourselves to an all-encompassing, history-spanning perspective, imagine being in a spaceship orbiting the earth. Down below, scattered all over the globe, are tiny, little lights. These lights are the Jews, in their lands of dispersion around the world. Slowly, lights begin to travel to a certain point on the globe — the Land of Israel. More and more lights begin to congregate there. From all over the world, the scattered lights begin to unite in Israel. Lights that do not make the journey begin to flicker and disappear. Gradually, a great beacon of light is formed in Israel, sending out rays of light to all the world. These rays are the lights of t’shuva, summoning mankind back to G-d.
       
      Already, the eyes of the world are turned to Israel. Headlines about the tiny country of Israel fill news reports on a day to day basis from all over the world. In just a few decades, Israel has become a world leading in science, medicine, agriculture, computer technology, and a gamut of other fields. Israel has become by far the world center of Torah and boasts the greatest concentration of Torah giants and students. To be a Jew in Israel is to be a part of a world-leading nation, soon to be #1 in the world, and not just the member of the community shul.
       
      Make no mistake, my good friends. When it comes to Judaism and true Jewish life, Israel is the Big Leagues. Anything else is the minors.