The Derech Eretz Show
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.
Let’s suppose a Jew was stranded alone on a deserted island. What Torah books would he want to have with him?
On the assumption that he already has a Chumash, Tanach, Mishna, Zohar, Siddur, and the other holy standards, here is a list of 10 recommendations to fill out his treasure chest. Each one is a masterpiece, and a must-read ladder to G-d. Readers are invited to send in additional suggestions. While there are many indispensable Hebrew classics, we are only listing books that are available in English.
ADVICE by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Written by his foremost student, Rabbi Natan. This simply written book on the service of G-d gives profound advice on a wide gamut of topics, including Eretz Yisrael, Modesty, Pride and Humility, Revelation of Godliness, Alien Philosophies, Marriage, Anger, Money and Livelihood, Thoughts and Fantasies, Mikvah, Holidays, Patience, The Tzaddik, Healing, Joy, Prayer, and T’shuva. Truth glows from its pages like unearthed diamonds. It is a book to be read again and again for its deep and unparalleled Torah wisdom.
PATH OF THE JUST by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lutzato. This masterpiece in the service of G-d is a step-by-step guide to improving character straits on the way to attaining Divine Inspiration. Every word is like a drop of healing dew sent down from Heaven. Written in a clear, easy reading style, it a guide for serious heavyweight contenders who have the zeal to ascend all of the way up the ladder.
THE KUZARI by Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi is a work of unsurpassed philosophical genius which lays out the tenets of Jewish faith through the probing conversations between a gentile king and a rabbi. While several sections of the book demand keen intellectual exercise, not always possible on a hot deserted island, most of the treatise is reader friendly and constantly stimulating, keeping the reader wanting to know what will happen to the two protagonists at the book’s end.
THE TANYA by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chassidism, is a profound, almost scientific exploration of the Divine and animal souls that vitalize the life of a Jew. Its esoteric insights illuminate the essentials of Divine service, and present the reader with the knowledge he or she needs to win in the battle between the good inclination and the evil inclination over the dominion of the soul.
KITZUR SHULCHAN ARUCH, is a compilation of Jewish Law by Rabbi Solomon Ganzfried. Even on a deserted island, a Jew needs to know what he can do and what he can’t do. Since you can’t play the game without knowing the rules, this concise and detailed code is a must, especially when you can’t pick up a phone to ask your local rabbi if the shark in your net is kosher.
TORAT ERETZ YISRAEL is a collection of the teachings of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook with a commentary by Rabbi David Samson. As the saying goes, "You can’t tell the players without a scorecard." This book is the guide to the Redemption of the Jewish People in our time, illuminating the Divine meaning of the natural, historical, step-by-step process of the ingathering of the exiles and the rebuilding of the nation in Eretz Yisrael after two thousand years of galut. If you are looking for a Judaism that is more than gefilte fish and bagels, this is the book.
EIM HABANIM SEMEICHAH by Rabbi Isachar Shlomo Teichtal is a revolutionary, scholarly study on the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel, written by a leader of Ultra Orthodox Jewry in Europe, who experienced a profound personal catharsis during the Holocaust and abandoned his previous anti-Zionist ideology to call on all Jews, religious and non-religious alike, to unite by returning en mass to Eretz Yisrael.
THE JEWISH IDEA by Rabbi Meir Kahane is a scholarly, two-volume treatise on the fundamentals of Jewish faith. Written in Rabbi Kahane’s uniquely powerful and uncompromising style, the book highlights the importance of self-sacrifice for the good of the Jewish People. His essays on Redemption, on Mashiach, on Revenge, and on the status of the non-Jew in Israel, based on the teachings of our Sages, are all eye-openers that are sure to keep you awake while swaying back and forth in your lazy, beachside hammock.
THE ART OF T’SHUVA is a commentary by Rabbi David Samson and yours truly on Rabbi Kook’s masterpiece "The Lights of T’shuva." Since there isn’t very much to do on a deserted island, it is a great opportunity to meditate on why we are here in this world and to make a genuine effort to get closer to G-d. After all, there isn’t anyone around to get down on you for acting holy or for being too pious. Besides, after you’ve read this book, you will realize that t’shuva isn’t just beating your head in the sand over all of the bad things you’ve done in the past. You will come to understand, in a burst of illumination as sparkling and vast as the sea, the t’shuva is the force that makes the whole go round, and that by boarding the ship, you are linking yourself with the uppermost reaches of the universe, connecting your tiny island with all of existence, all of history, all of the world.
TIKUN HACLALI is the group of ten Psalms that Rabbi Nachman ordered together to rectify sexual transgression. Even on an island all alone, without access to the porn on the Internet, and without a bikini in sight, mistakes can happen to the holiest guy. And since you have got a lot of time on your hands anyway, why not put a little extra effort into cleansing the sins of the past? Reciting the ten Psalms and saying the confession that follows is a lot more pleasant than sitting naked on an anthill of red ants, one of the suggested ways of atonement for sexual sin (See the book, "The Ways of the Tzaddikim," Gate of Repentance, Pg. 545, Feldheim edition).
This list should keep you busy till rescuers come, may it be soon. Amen.
At least there is one brave Jew in America. Mike is shipping off to fight the Jew-haters in Afganistan and Baghdad.
When some of our readers told him to get lost, who ever dreamed that Uncle Sam would send him off to Iraq? Anchors away, my friend, anchors away. Let's hope he takes along a wireless Blackberry so that he can continue sending Arutz 7 his off-the-wall comments. And let's all pray that he gets out of Baghdad before we drop the bomb, as the Psalmist says, "O daughter of Babylon, marked for destruction; happy is he who shall repay thee thy recompense for what thou hast done to us. Happy is he who shall seize and dash thy little ones against the rock."
We are proud of you, Mike. Go get 'em, cowboy. May the spirit of the Maccabees be with you. May the L-rd bless you and keep you. Your mission of valor for your brothers and sisters in Israel earns you honorary citizenship in the Jewish State. You are one of us now. An Israeli through and through.
Our hearts and prayers are with you, as they are with all of our sons at war. We anxiously wait to welcome you home in Israel where you will no longer have to send in comments. When you get here, we will be honored to provide you with a blog of your own!
Since the sin of the Spies was perpetrated by the leaders of the generation, in order to rectify their sin, today’s Diaspora leaders must rally their congregations and constituents to come on Aliyah. All Rabbis, teachers in Jewish schools, presidents of synagogues, chairmen of Jewish organizations, leaders of the RCAs, OUs, NCSYs, AIPACs, ADLs, Bnei Briths, Hadassah Chapters, Emunah Women, Jewish writers, pop stars, movie directors, and comedians must all speak out in a clear voice that the time has come to bid farewell to gentile lands and lovers, and come home to the Land of Israel.
The arguments of those who try to prevent people from building the Land are the arguments of Satan and his associates, may the Merciful One protect us from their viewpoints.
For leaders of Diaspora Jewry who try to refute the truth of this call by saying, "Who is a mere blog writer to tell us what we should do?" we answer with the words of the Torah giant, Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal. As we mentioned last week, he was one of the respected leaders of Orthodox European Jewry before World War Two. Witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust, he rejected his anti-Zionist ideology, and wrote a brilliant scholarly treatise on the vital necessity for Aliyah. To kick off our celebration of "Book Week" in Israel, we will begin by taking another look at his revolutionary classic, "Eim HaBanim Semeichah," with the recommendation that it be studied by every Jew who cherishes the truth and who truly longs to serve G-d.
Rabbi Teichtal writes:
"Furthermore, my brother, know that in order to rectify our ancestors’ sin, everything must be exactly as it was then. At that time, the leaders of the congregation spread evil propaganda against Eretz Yisrael. Therefore today, as well, the leaders of the congregation must propagandize for the sake of Eretz Yisrael in order to pay off their "bad debt." They must be the first ones to open the nation’s eyes. They must explain that there is no reason for us to remain in the foreign, impure, and polluted atmosphere of the Diaspora, nor to expend our energies in vain while the gentiles rob the fruits of our labor from before our very eyes. The leaders must speak to the people in this fashion and arouse within them a fire and a spark of love for our desirable Land. This alone will make of worthy of Redemption.
"This follows the words of our mentor, the Or HaChaim. He writes that Israel’s leaders throughout the generations will be held responsible for the fact that we are still in exile, because they should have inspired the Jews to love Eretz Yisrael. The leaders of the generation must inspire the Jewish People to help bring the Redemption closer by using the natural means that G-d has prepared for us. We are not worthy enough for it to occur with manifest miracles, rather only with miracles disguised in seemingly natural events, as in the days of Cyrus."
To our pious brethren like Shmuelik from Monsey, who prefer to bastion themselves in foreign lands in their glatt kosher castles, and not dirty their sparklingly shined Florsheims with Holy Land mud, Rabbi Teichtal has this to say:
"I know that the humble ones who separate themselves from the building effort do so for the sake of Heaven. They fear that they and their children may be harmed by joining people whose ways have strayed from the path of the Torah. Behold, we can say about such people that although their intentions are acceptable, their actions are not, for many reasons. First of all, the prophet Yeshayahu said to King Chizkiyah, ‘Do as you are commanded! Why do you involve yourself with the Merciful One’s hidden matters?’ The same applies here. All Jews must be united in order to fulfill the positive commandment of the Torah of building and settling the Land. This cannot be accomplished individually. Therefore, do as you are commanded! Further, no harm will come to a Jew who participates in this great and exceedingly lofty mitzvah. On the contrary, if a large number of Orthodox Jews join in, they will enhance the sanctity of the Land, as I previously cited in the name of the holy Rebbe of Gur and the Ramban. Since we are commanded to build the Land and raise it from the dust, it is forbidden to be overly pious and undermine this endeavor, G-d forbid. Rather, we must build with whomever it may be and concentrate on enhancing the sanctity of the Land. Then Hashem will assist us.
"I have already cited our great and holy Rabbis who say that the light of Mashiach will shine when we build and cherish the Land. We must do precisely this and completely ignore the claims of today’s "pious ones." We must cherish our Holy Land and sacrifice ourselves for it. This way, we will cause the light of Mashiach to shine forth, with G-d’s help, speedily in our days. Amen.
"In summation, anyone who has a brain in his head and truly believes in Hashem and His Land will let no claim in the world stop him from elevating the pride of our Land. The arguments of those who try to prevent people from building the Land are the arguments of Satan and his associates, may the Merciful One protect us from their viewpoints. This is even more true today after all that we have been through. Where are all of the Torah centers of Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary? Do we still have a portion and an inheritance here? Are we not considered strangers by the inhabitants of these lands? They have devoured our money, our bodies, and our spirituality. Thus, any intelligent and G-d fearing person will realize that there is nothing more to search for here in exile. The time has come for all of us to return to the possession of our Forefathers. This is true and clear in accordance with the truth of the Torah, and anyone who denies it denies the truth and the Torah."
Since the sin of the Spies was in despising the cherished Land, the tikun is to love the Land of Israel with a passionate love. Yesterday, we took our youngest kids on a love the Land of Israel trip to the Kinneret. Here's a few of the photos...
I could cite a long long list of Torah giants who emphasize that the Torah obligation to live in Eretz Yisrael applies in every generation, but it wouldn’t do any good. Jews in the Diaspora who want to believe otherwise will respond with a list of their own to justify their love affair with foreign countries. Furthermore, why should anyone listen to me, a baal t’shuva from Hollywood who can barely decipher a line of Rashi? Since next week is "Book Week" in Israel, when we will be taking a glimpse at some books that have changed the face of Jewish history, let’s begin right now by taking a look at the masterpiece, "Eim HaBanim Semeichah," and see what an undisputed giant of Torah has to say about the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel today.
The book’s author, Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, was murdered in the Holocaust. A noted Rosh Yeshiva and Av Beit Din, he was one of the leaders of the Ultra-Orthodox community in Europe and a vehement anti-Zionist until the events of the Holocaust revolutionized his thinking. Realizing that the purpose of the unspeakable persecution was to arouse the Jewish People to return to Eretz Yisrael, he publicly admitted the error of his former beliefs and vowed to write a scholarly treatise proving that the obligation to live in the Land of Israel applied in all times. Hiding from the Nazis in an attic in Budapest, without any books at his disposal to cite, he wrote his powerful argument, quoting hundreds of long Torah sources by heart. Rabbi Teichtal died on a train on the way to the Mathausen concentration camp in 1945. His book, however, was hidden with a gentile family and rescued by his children after the war.
The essential point is that Hashem is waiting for us to take the initiative, to yearn and long for the return to Eretz Yisrael. He does not want us to wait for Him to bring us there.
Regarding the dire anti-Zionists, who clung to their opposition to Jewish immigration to Eretz Yisrael, even in the face of the horrors of the Holocaust, Rabbi Teichtal writes:
"Those who have a predisposition on this matter will not see the truth and will not concede to our words. All of the evidence in the world will not affect them, for they are smitten with blindness, and their inner biases cause them to deny even things which are as clear as day. Who amongst is greater than the Spies? The Torah testifies that they were distinguished, righteous individuals. Nonetheless, since they were influenced by their desire for authority, they rejected the desirable Land, and led others astray, causing this bitter exile, as our Sages explain. Yehoshua and Calev began to argue with them and attempted to prove the authenticity of Moshe and his Torah. They proclaimed, ‘Let us ascend at once!’ They even brought lengthy arguments and proofs to show that Israel would succeed in conquering the Land, as Rashi states. Nevertheless, they were unable to convince them, for the Spies were prejudiced by hidden motives.
"The same holds true in our times, even among rabbis, rebbes, and hasidim. This one has a good rabbinical position; this one is an established Admore, and this one has a profitable business or factory, or a prestigious job which provides great satisfaction. They are afraid that their status will decline if they go to Eretz Yisrael. People of this sort are influenced by their deep-rooted, selfish motives to such an extent that they themselves do not realize that their prejudice speaks on their behalf. People of this sort will not be convinced to accept the truth, even if they are shown thousands of proofs from the Torah. This is what happened to Yehoshua and Calev with the Spies."
On a deeper, more Kabbalistic level, Rabbi Teichtal explains how even learned Torah scholars can be caught in the sin of discouraging aliyah to Israel. He quotes the brilliant and renowned scholar, the holy Rabbi Eliyahu of Greidetz, who wrote: "Human intellect dictates that we initiate the process of redeeming the Land of Israel, and then Hashem will complete it. One must understand the great importance of this matter, for the evil forces, the kelipot, gain strength even among the most righteous imdividuals, in order to nullify this great good. This is so because the entire strength of the kelipot depends on the exile. When the exile dissolves, so will the kelipah, as the Talmud states in tractate Sukkah."
Rabbi Teichtal continues:: "This holy Jew, whom the author of the ‘Nefech Chayah’ calls ‘The holy rabbi who resembles an angel of the L-rd of Hosts,’ states explicitly that the reason there are tzaddikim who oppose this matter is because the kelipot have become strong within them. It entices them to nullify this great matter for which the Holy One Blessed Be He constantly longs. He longs for us to return to our forefathers’ inheritance, for every Jew has an obligation to strive to return to our Holy Land, as I will prove unequivocally from the words of our Sages. In this way, we can bring the final Redemption closer, speedily in our days, Amen."
"The essential point is that Hashem is waiting for us to take the initiative, to yearn and long for the return to Eretz Yisrael. He does not want us to wait for Him to bring us there. When we, of our own volition, truly and with all of our strength, desire and strive to return to the Land, then G-d will bring our work to a successful end."
[From the book, "Eim HaBanim Semeichah," Second Introduction, Translated by Moshe Lichtman, Kol Mevaser Publications.]
"Eim HaBanim Semeichah" can be found online at www.shechem.org