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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 22, 5771, 9/21/2011
Thirty-five concerned Jews protested yesterday outside the UN against the upcoming UN recognition of a PLO terrorist state. 35 Jews in all of America! Hip hip hurray. Hip hip hurray!
OK, it isn’t fair to expect people to come from out-of-state. So it’s 35 out of the million plus Jews in New York. Hip hip hurray. Hip hip hurray!
What a pathetic turn-out!
Allow me to let my fellow bloggers and INN political analysts to write about the political and international aspects of this whole sad affair. I would like to use it as a springboard to write about the darkness of galut and the tragedy of Jewish non-identity.
In all fairness, it was a dark, rainy day in NYC, and let’s hope that was the reason the turn-out was so small. There is an interesting expression mentioned in the Torah concerning the plague of darkness in Egypt. The Torah describes it as “a darkness which could be felt” (Shemot, 10:21). Before the plague, the Jews in Egypt were ensconced deep in the darkness of the exile. However, the majority of them didn’t feel it. With the plague, Hashem added another element – He made the darkness tangible, 3-dimensional, so that you could actually reach out and touch it, so that the Jews would realize that they were living in darkness and want to escape. Unfortunately, 80 percent of the Jews in Egypt preferred to stay in exile and not leave for Israel, and these Diaspora lovers were slain during the three days of darkness (see Rashi, there). This is the darkness of the exile today for the Jews in the Diaspora, represented by the 35 proud Jews out of millions who stood in the rain to protest. It is “darkness mamash,” so dark you can reach out and touch it.
Let me give you another example. As I mentioned, to spread the message of aliyah, I recently started to make friends on Facebook. There, I discovered a very noteworthy thing. As everyone knows, Facebook lovers can write all about themselves and their interests on their “walls.” (How very different that wall is from ours.) There, they can tell all of their friends about their favorite books and movies and television shows, music and philosophy. Now here is the interesting thing. All of my new Facebook friends tend to be avid supporters of Israel and obviously proud to be Jews. They post all kinds of news stories, and blogs, and Youtube clips about Israel with great devotion and passion. But by and large, when you glance at their preferences in movies and music and books, they like all of the American garbage that the goyim love – the stupid celebrities and rock stars, and idiot TV shows, and sci-fi movies, and trash thrillers – all kinds of names, and groups, and books, and movies that I’ve never heard of, thank G-d. Darkness mamash!
In other words, while their hearts are directed toward Israel, their heads are drowning in junk. At the same time that they identify with being Jewish, they embrace and just as equally identify with the polluted gentile culture they live in. This is an unavoidable product of golus. Whether you are secular, modern Orthodox, or Haredi - the surrounding shmutz sinks in.
Here is how Rabbi Kook explains it in his writings on Eretz Yisrael:
“It is impossible for a Jew to be devoted and faithful to his contemplations, logical reasonings, conceptualizations, and imaginations, when he is outside the Land of Israel, compared to the quality of their faithfulness in Eretz Yisrael….
“The imagination which is found in the land of the nations is murky, clouded in darkness, in shadows of defilement and pollution. It cannot rise to the heights of holiness, and it cannot afford a basis for the influx of Divine light that rises above all of the baseness of the worlds and their oppressive straits….
“Because the intellect and the imagination are bound up together, and act and interact one upon the other, the intellect which is outside the Land of Israel is also incapable of being illuminated with the light which exists in the Land of Israel.”
I highly recommend the very readable commentary on Rabbi Kook’s writings on Eretz Yisrael: https://www.createspace.com/3604549. The book is worth a million dollars and should be read again and again, in order to illuminate the darkness of the exile and help people see the light shining from Zion. In the meantime, for all of you diehard lovers of exile, be sure to carry a strong flashlight wherever you go.
Elul 20, 5771, 9/19/2011
Exile from Eretz Yisrael is the worst punishment that can befall the Jewish People.
Given this terrible predicament, the task of Diaspora Jewry was to survive the exile and prepare us to return to the Land of Israel. The goal of returning to Israel is emphasized many times in the Torah, and in the visions of our Prophets. For nearly 2000 years, we prayed and dreamed about returning to Zion. Then something went terribly wrong. When the State of Israel was established, and we finally had the chance to return to our Land, the vast majority of Jewish communities in the West turned their backs on the opportunity. Instead of wanting to escape the exile, they wanted to stay. In defiance of the clear promises of the Torah, the Prophets, and 2000 years of prayers and dreams, in defiance of the clear discernable fact that G-d was gathering His outcasts back to Zion, the Diaspora communities in the West decided to stay where they were, living amongst the gentiles in foreign lands. Instead of rushing to rebuild Israel, they continued to build and strengthen their bastions in exile. After 2000 years of yearning, when the time came to return, they balked. By and large, they totally failed to heed the call of Redemption and join the hundreds of thousands of Sefardi Jews, Yemenite Jews, and Holocaust survivors who were returning to Israel, in accord with ancient prophesies, age-long prayers, and the will of the Torah.
My friends, in this all-important matter, Diaspora Jewry, with all of its institutions, organizations, synagogues, day schools, and Jewish newspapers, has failed. Yes, for most of the long and dark exile, it waged a mighty battle to preserve Jewish traditions and keep the light burning, but when the gateway was opened to return to our homeland, it failed. Its task was to keep the remnant of our nation intact until we could return home to Zion, and when the time came, it forgot its mission. Instead of action – silence. Instead of commitment – lip service. Instead of sending their children on aliyah to Israel – they sent checks. Instead of coming to live here – they came for a week-long visit (all 20% of them – the others haven’t bothered to come at all), and in obvious punishment for their preferring to remain amongst the goyim, assimilation is rising and rising at an unstoppable rate, a hundred thousand Jews per year.
All of the directors and presidents of the Jewish organizations and federations and committees and leagues and unions who didn't and still don't call upon their members to pack up and go, they all should be replaced with braver souls. All of the rabbis who didn't and still don't urge their congregations to go en mass to Israel should return to the beis midrash and read through the Torah once again. True, for mature people who are long settled in their ways, the challenge of aliyah is not easy, but any Jewish parent who doesn't exhort his children to leave the galut and build his or her future in Israel betrays his true duty as a Jewish parent. Every Jewish leader in the Diaspora who didn’t pour all of his energies into rallying his constituents to make aliyah failed as a Jewish leader. BECAUSE THE WHOLE GOAL OF THE DIASPORA WAS TO SURVIVE THE EXILE AND PREPARE THE JEWS FOR THE PRAYED-FOR RETURN TO ZION.
This is the goal of the Torah, or our Prophets, and the goal of our prayers. The Diaspora isn’t meant to last forever. The curse isn’t supposed to be extended and embraced. We are meant to come home.
But when the opportunity arose, something went wrong, went wrong, went wrong, went wrong, went wrong, went wron, went wro, went wo, went w, went, wen, we, w……….
Elul 19, 5771, 9/18/2011
The Arizal is universally recognized as one of the most influential Sages of Torah in the last thousand years, the foremost master of Kabbalah, possessed of Ruach HaKodesh, whose teachings illuminated the secrets of Torah and forged new pathways in our understanding of the world and Divine service.
He explains that all of the 98 curses of exile mentioned in this week’s Torah portion “Ki Tavo,” derive from sexual transgression, blemishes to the sefirah of “Yesod,” which stirs Divine wrath and brings the “vengeance of revenging the Brit” in its wake.
This is what he states:
הנה כל העונש הוא, בשביל מה שפגמו ביסוד, בסוד חרב נוקמת נקם ברית. והנה יסוד הוא קשת היורה חצים, בסוד זרע היורה כחץ, למטרה: רחל. לכן כשחטאו והפרידו חץ הקודש, כן ח"ץ פתאום היה מכותם צ"ח קללות.
A translation and explanation can be found at our website www.jewishsexuality.com. Once again, before the Days of Judgment arrive, and to take advantage of the special segulot of the month of Elul, which is a particularly favorable time to make atonement from sexual transgression, I recommend that you spend some time at the site. It’s a library of everything you ever wanted to know about Jewish Sexuality but were too embarrassed (or afraid) to ask. If you don’t believe me of its importance, take it from the Arizal. The Questions and Answers on the site are very useful; Rabbi Kook’s writings on t’shuva are explained in the section “The Art of T’shuva”; there’s lots of Rebbe Nachman; tikunim for sexual transgression; a 60 page guide to beating masturbation and Internet temptation; the Laws of Marital Relations, and much much more, including a condensed translation and explanation of the famous “Igeret HaT’shuva” or “Letter of T’shuva” by the Baal HaTanya, whose birthday is being celebrated today, along with the Baal Shem Tov’s.
Don’t think you know it all. You may very well be doing things that you’ll end up regretting, as the Arizal and the Baal HaTanya make perfectly clear.
Shavuah tov and happy t’shuva!
Elul 17, 5771, 9/16/2011
When are you dear people going to get it into your heads (and your hearts) that the Torah is the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth? Since it is the Truth, we should all want to live by its teachings, right? Of course.
The Torah is incredible! Look at this week’s portion, “Ki-Tavo.” It gives a detailed, play-by-play account of what will be in store for the Jews for the 4000 years to come! It predicts with stunning accuracy all of the terrible curses and oppressions that befell the Jewish People during our long and bitter exile. “And the L-rd shall scatter thee amongst all the gentiles, from one end of the earth to the other….” Everything written has come to pass. For people who need proof that the Torah is Divine, surely this otherwise unexplainable forecast of our history and future, with its pinpoint predictions, should make them realize that no author of flesh and bones could have penned this crystal-ball account.
How blessed we are, out of all of the peoples of the world, to have been given the Torah of Truth. How grateful we should feel and be joyous to observe all of its commandments! The gratitude and joy which we should feel toward the Torah also applies to the gratitude and joy we should feel towards Eretz Yisrael, as the Torah teaches at the opening of our portion:
“And it shall be, when you come in to the Land which the L-rd your G-d gives for an inheritance, and possess it, and dwell therein: that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which you shall bring of your Land, that the L-rd your G-d gives you, and shall put it in a basket and go to the place which the L-rd G-d shall chose to place His Name there (Devarim, 26:1).
In other words – gratitude. We should harbor a feeling of gratitude that G-d gave us Eretz Yisrael.
Also note the language of the verse. It doesn’t say “If you come in to the Land….” It says: “When you come in to the Land….” We are expected and commanded to come into the Land – it isn’t up to us. G-d gave it to us and we are to live there. And we are to embrace the gift of the Land with gratitude and love, a Land “flowing with milk and honey.” Yes, there were frightening enemies in the Land, savages, and rampant idol worship, but we are to see the Land in a positive light, a Land flowing with milk and honey. “And you shall rejoice in every good thing that the L-rd your G-d has given you” (Devarim, 26:11). Gratitude and joy – that is to be our orientation toward the Land that G-d has given us.
If not – you can read for yourselves all of the frightening curses of exile with which we were punished. Why? “Because you would not serve the L-rd your G-d with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things…” (Devarim, 28:47).
Gratitude and joy for having been given the Torah of Truth. Gratitude and joy for haven been given our wonderful Land.
Hope to see you all soon.
Elul 15, 5771, 9/14/2011
Didn’t Bob Dylan write: “Something is going on, Mr. Jones, and you don’t know what it is?” The mystery is t’shuva.
I received an email from a person seeking the truth. Here is my answer. Maybe you can add some advice of your own. Since Anonymous seems to be a regular blog reader, I’m sure he’ll see what you write.
I know very little about the mystical aspects of Judaism. I do however, or am at least beginning to realize, that there are things or some unseen forces at work against me. I have spent most of the last couple of years+ looking at, questioning, contemplating Torah and related commentaries, along with following your always thought provoking blogs. It has been the worst and yet the best time spent in my life.
Please explain what I am fighting against, and where is my help?
Since I am not familiar with the details of your situation, I can only respond in general terms. The forces which seem to be against you are really for your benefit, helping you toward your tikun, but since we don't see the "big picture," reincarnations, and our lifetime scorecard of mitzvahs and sins, and the cleansing process we have to undergo to reach atonement, these forces are experienced by us as antagonistic and painful.
Basically, you can't be half and half with G-d. It doesn't work. When you realize that G-d is the real thing, you have to go for it with everything you can, as we say in the Shema, “With all you heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”
I suggest you get yourself a copy of Rabbi Kook's writings on t'shuva with our easy commentary: https://www.createspace.com/3595479. It is great stuff and spiritual medicine, and you'll understand things a lot better afterward. I also recommend Rabbi Kook's writings on Eretz Yisrael since t'shuva cannot be complete without returning to the place where the mitzvot are meant to be kept. https://www.createspace.com/3604549
In the meantime, be comforted that you're feeling real pain. It's a good sign that healing is underway.
PS – With your permission, and for the benefit of the tzibor and you yourself, I am posting this exchange on my blog.