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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.
Tammuz 24, 5767, 7/10/2007
Don’t forget the Midnight Prayer. Reciting it is especially important during these three weeks preceding Tisha B’Av, the day that commemorates the Temple’s destruction.
Destruction of Jerusalem
The prayer, called Tikun Hatzot in Hebrew, can be found at the beginning of most Hasidic and Sefardi prayerbooks. Its first part, Tikun Rachel, is recited while sitting on a mat on the floor, to demonstrate our sorrow over the exile of the Shechinah. Some people recite it while wearing a sackcloth and with ashes on their forehead to emphasize our anguish over the Temple’s destruction and over our exile from our Land. The second part, Tikun Leah, is recited while sitting. The elder Kaballist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, recommends reciting Psalm 67 while looking at the Hebrew words in the form of a menorah, a graphic which is printed in many prayerbooks. It is also fitting during the Three Weeks to recite the Midnight Prayer in the afternoon. Reciting the lamentation with tears is especially praiseworthy.
Perhaps in a previous incarnation we ourselves were responsible for something which brought about the destruction of the Temple.
The great Hasidic master, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, stated that the main devotion of a Jew is to get up every night for the Midnight Prayer. Here are some of his teachings from his book, “Likutei Etzot,” regarding the importance of Tikun Hatzot:
“HOW precious it is to rise at midnight in order to pray and meditate and study Torah. Try to make it a regular practice. Then you will be worthy of succeeding in the task of separating the good from the evil in the world – which means always to remember your purpose in life. You must recognize that everything you do in this world only has meaning in relation to the World to Come. For the entire purpose of man’s being sent down into this world is only to come closer to G-d.
“RISING at midnight serves to sweeten the harsh judgments.
“THE EXILE has already lasted so long. G-d is only waiting for the moment to return to us and rebuild the Holy Temple. It could happen any time. Our task is to see that from our side we do nothing to obstruct the rebuilding of the Temple. On the contrary, we must make every effort to hasten it. This is why we should be careful to get up each night at midnight and mourn for the destruction of the Holy Temple. Perhaps in a previous incarnation we ourselves were responsible for something which brought about the destruction of the Temple. Even if not, it could still be that our sins in our present lifetime are holding up the rebuilding of the Temple, and this is as bad as if we had actually destroyed it. This is the reason why we must weep and mourn every night at midnight. When we do so it is as if we were actually making a tremendous effort o rebuild the Holy Temple. Then we will be able to draw close to the truth – to the true Tzaddikim and those who are genuinely filled with the fear of G-d. They are the embodiment of the truth, in its beauty, splendor and pleasantness. Through drawing closer to them your eyes will be opened and you will be able to see how far your own development has advanced and in which area you need to work in order to return to G-d, and to know and acknowledge His great and holy Name.”
Rabbi Leon Levi Reciting Tikun Hatzot at the Kotel
Tammuz 23, 5767, 7/9/2007
Only an infant expects his desires to be gratified immediately. He wants his bottle now! He wants his rattle now! If he doesn’t get it, he screams, he hollers, he cries.
"I want my bottle now!"
Sometimes, when a child gets to be an adult, he still wants everything handed to him on a silver platter now, without having to do any work. For instance, some big babies demand Peace Now! To get their way, they are willing to do the most self-destructive things, like surrendering their homeland to the enemy and give them guns which end up killing Jews.
There are also people who want Mashiach Now! While the wish for Mashiach’s coming is a praiseworthy thing, these people don’t realize that Mashiach’s coming is a process that evolves over time. These people want everything to be finished at the start. They say that when Mashiach comes and does all the work of rebuilding the Land of Israel, and gathers all of the exiled Jews, and fights the wars of Hashem, and rebuilds the Beit HaMikdash, then they will come on aliyah. First everything has to be perfect. It doesn’t matter to them that someone has to warm the water and prepare the formula, they want their bottle now!
The Talmud speaks of “Tzaddikim who do not believe” (Sotah 48B). Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook explained that there were people at the time of the Second Temple who complained about the situation in their time, when Israel returned from exile yet didn’t achieve the greatness of the past and the exalted level of the First Temple. In their eyes, the Second Temple was an affront. They would weep and express reservation and scorn, declaring, “This is the Temple?” The Prophets rebuked them for their attitude, saying, “For who has despised the day of small things?” The Talmud answers: “The smallminded among them who didn’t have faith in the Almighty” (Ibid). You are disbelievers, the Prophets told them. The L-rd is returning His children to Israel, and yet you complain?
In our time too, Rabbi Kook taught, there are “tzaddikim” who criticize the Almighty for the way that He is returning the Jewish People to Zion. There are those who even say that what is happening now is the work of the Satan. Somehow they forget that everything that happens is from the Holy One Blessed Be He. Is it the Satan who has gathered millions of Jews from all over the world to Israel? Is it the Satan who has made the Land bloom after having laid fallow for two thousand years? Is it the Satan who has restored Jewish sovereignty over vast stretches of Eretz Yisrael, and brought about miraculous victories in war, and rebuilt Jerusalem, and made Israel the Torah center of the entire Jewish world? And still these people complain. They want everything perfect now! They want everything complete without having to lend a hand in the work.
It is true that babies dirty their diapers, and teenagers do all kinds of things that they shouldn’t do, and yes, even adults will make an occasional mistake. But is this a reason to throw the baby into the trash, or kick the teenager out of the house, or burn the adult at the stake? The fact is that there are problems in Israel, the fact is that not everything is perfect with the government, the fact that not everyone is religious, and the fact is that Mashiach hasn’t come. But is this a reason to throw out the baby?
Only an infant thinks this way. In Israel, we believe in G-d and thank Him for the gift of the renewed Jewish State. At the same time, we understand that rebuilding a nation it is a colossal undertaking and that there are problems along the way. That’s why we are working hard and trying to improve everything we can. We realize that building is a slow process. What can we do? A large chunk of our work force is missing.
Tammuz 19, 5767, 7/5/2007
There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding whether a Diaspora Jew owes his national allegiance to the gentile country where he is living in exile, or to Israel, the home of the Jews. This is because over the long course of exile away from our homeland, Judaism was denuded to being a religion like any other, lacking its all-important national component that the Land of Israel provides. To help people determine where they stand on this crucial question, we have devised a Jewish identity test. While we have chosen the example of America as our Diaspora nationality, Jews living in other countries can substitute pictures from the lands of their exile, whether it be England, France, Australia, or the North Pole.
Dilemma of the Diaspora Jew
Which flag is the flag of your nation?
Flag of America
Flag of Israel
Which photo is a picture of your nation’s capital?
Which historic national landmark moves your emotions more?
Statue of Liberty
Which picture evokes in you a prouder more patriotic response?
Walk on the Moon
Conquest of Kotel
With which of these two mountains do you identify more?
If these two armies were at war with each other, which would you support?
Which of these men made a greater impact on the history of your nation?
David Ben Gurion
Which historic figure do you consider the forefather of your nation?
Which of these foods do you consider a national favorite?
Hamburger and Fries
Where would you prefer to be buried?
Arlington National Cemetery
Mount of Olives
Jews who have identified with America in five or more questions are recommended to come to Israel for a visit and learn about their true national identity as Jews. Some serious Torah study is also certain to improve your score the next time you take the test.
Hope to see you here soon, in the Land of our Forefathers.
Tammuz 18, 5767, 7/4/2007
One of the great things about Israel is that when Christmas time comes around you don’t notice it at all. Sure, if you go to Bethlehem, you’ll see Christmas decorations and maybe a manger, but what Jew goes to Bethlehem anymore? The same is true with the Fourth of July.
I didn't know that George was Jewish
True, I saw somebody driving around yesterday with American flags waving from his car windows, but I didn’t think of the Fourth of the July. My wife, who is Israeli, asked, “Why would anyone want to drive with American flags flying out of his car?” At the time, I didn’t know what to answer. Only when I noticed the hoopla on Yahoo last night did I realize that the Fourth of July was coming today. In Israel, it was the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day over the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem. Who cares about the Fourth of July?
The truth is that not many Americans really care about it either. It’s a day off from work, maybe a barbecue, a chance to do some discount shopping, and see some fireworks on TV. I am sure there are still a few patriotic Americans who get misty when they hear the Star Spangled Banner and see Old Betsy wave in the wind. But for a Jew to celebrate the Fourth of July? It is as absurd as an American Indian going to a baseball game to honor the day.
OK. Sorry, sorry. I know there are Jews out there who don’t like it when I come across as a fanatic. Therefore, to all you Jews in America, if you want to drink beer and eat hot dogs on the Fourth of July because America has been good to the Jews, then drink your Budweisers and eat your mustard buns. But after you finish your meal and thank G-d for the food and the land, don’t confuse matters and think that the land in the Birchat HaMazone blessing is referring to America. The Torah wants a Jew to praise G-d for having given him the Land of Israel, not for the old US of A. In formulating the blessing, our Sages wanted a Jew to remember Jerusalem, not Washington D.C. or New York. Go ahead and eat your hot dogs, if they are kosher. Drink your beer. But don’t think that the Fourth of July is your Independence Day. If you are a Jew, Independence Day is Yom Haatzmaut. If you are a Jew, your nation is Israel, not America. You should be saluting the Star of David, not the Stars and Stripes. Remember that you are only there temporarily because of the curse of galut. Perhaps you were born there, but it isn’t your home. When a baseball sails into the bleachers for a game-winning grand slam, the American cheering next to you may give you a brotherly smile, but he really hates your guts.
So have a happy Fourth of July if you wish. But don’t pretend it is Independence Day for you. If you still identify with your Jewishness, the “land of the free and the home of the brave” is in Israel. Hope to see you here soon.
The A7 blogger, photographed by a hidden camera.
Fishman finally shuts up!
Tammuz 17, 5767, 7/3/2007
For readers who have mistaken understandings of Judaism and who consider my blogs against immodesty as uncultured Taliban ranting, it is interesting to note that in this week’s Torah portion, the fanatic, extremist, Taliban Pincus is awarded the Covenant of Shalom for his zealous act of killing Zimri and his Midianite whore while they were engaged in their immoral coupling before the shocked eyes of the holy Jewish nation.
In true Taliban fashion, Pincus picked up a javelin and hurled it through the air, impaling Zimri and the whore through their loins. In appreciation for his action, the Holy One Blessed Be He awarded Pincus the coveted prize of eternal priesthood, for having abated G-d’s anger and reinstated shalom between G-d and the Jews. I suppose that makes G-d a member of Taliban too. After all, as our Sages tell us, the G-d of the Jewish People hates licentiousness more than anything else. While we are counting Talibans, I suppose that makes our Sages Taliban too.
Today is the fast day of the 17th of Tammuz, commemorating the day that the walls of Jerusalem were breached. In “The Book of our Heritage,” Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov explains that the purpose of this fast day is to awaken our hearts to repentance by recalling our forefathers’ misdeeds which led to the calamity. In addition, we are to acknowledging our own repetition of those same deeds today. The fast itself is merely a preparation for our own self-examination and repentance. Since the breach of Jerusalem’s walls led to the destruction of the Temple, let’s take a look at the cause of our nation’s decline, according to these Taliban Sages.
Destruction of Jerusalem - Breach in the Walls of Modesty
The Talmud teaches that the First Temple was destroyed because of idol worship, sexual transgression, and murder. In describing the sexual transgression, it quotes a verse from the Book of Isaiah: “Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk around with outstretched necks and ogling eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet” (Isaiah, 3:16).
What we have here is a description, not of immoral sexual acts, but rather of the immodest behavior of the women of the time. The Talmud explains that the woman would haughtily parade their beauty in the street by holding themselves as erect as could be, with their heads held high, and with their eyes tinted with blue shadow to appear extra large. They would walk in a sexy, mincing manner, taking short swaying steps to attract attention to their movements. And they would fill their shoes with perfume. Why? So that when they came upon a virile Jewish youth, they would kick him with their scented shoes and spread their perfume on him “in order to inject him with lust like the bite of a snake” (Yoma 9B).
This is the description of our Taliban Sages in the Talmud. And this immodest, attention-seeking behavior of the women of Israel was what led to the breach of the walls of Jerusalem and the subsequent destruction of the Temple, not to mention exile from our Land. According to the Kaballah, Jerusalem represents the female principle of Malchut, so that when there was a breach of modesty in the women of Israel, a breach in the walls of Jerusalem naturally followed. The secrets of Torah reveal that the spiritual damage caused by lustful thoughts is even greater than the damage that Nebuchadnezzar and Titus wreaked on Jerusalem.
Tragically, the behavior of a segment of our holy Jewish women today is no different than the immodest behavior that led to Jerusalem’s fall, may G-d have mercy on us. Today, the styles of dress may be somewhat different, and a women’s arsenal may be more sophisticated, but the effect of the poison is still the same. This is not Taliban. This is Torah.
Blessed be all of the modest women of Israel who guard the holiness of our national camp. May their numbers increase day to day. And may our fasting lead to sincere, heartfelt repentance, not only over the sins of our forefathers, but more importantly, over our sins of today.
In longing for the rebuilding of our Temple, when the days of misfortune shall be transformed into days of joy, may it be soon. Amen.