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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.


      Iyar 27, 5767, 5/15/2007


      When the tens of thousands cry out "Shema Yisrael" with one great voice and one great heart, the heavens are pierced, and the Holy One of Israel is abundantly pleased with His children.
      I cannot think of any event during the year that radiates more spiritual energy, transcendent holiness, national Jewish might and joy than the parade to the Kotel on Jerusalem Day. It is truly an overwhelming religious event. Thousands of religious youths stream through the streets of Jerusalem on their way to the Old City, proudly waving a sea of blue and white flags. Families are a part of the throng, wheeling baby carriages and running after straying toddlers. Yeshiva students sing songs of Jerusalem and Redemption as they surround their Rosh Yeshiva on the parade to the Kotel. Boys converge on the gates of the Old City from one direction, and girls from another direction, on separate routes, in order to safeguard the modesty and holiness of our sacred, cherished city. Like battalions of Jewish soldiers, the marchers pour through the Damascus Gate, Yafo Gate, Zion Gate, Lion’s Gate, and the Dung Gate in a metaphorical reconquering of the Old City, just as our brave soldiers did 40 years ago to the day. When the myriads unite in the Kotel Plaza, an atomic chain reaction occurs, sending out waves and waves of joyous spiritual energy. When the tens of thousands cry out "Shema Yisrael" with one great voice and one great heart, the heavens are pierced, and the Holy One of Israel is abundantly pleased with His children.

      True, our secular brothers are missing. And hardly a Haredi hat can be seen in the crowds. We are all sincerely sorry for that. But we are encouraged by the knowledge that the Redemption comes slowly, and we are certain that soon they too will join in thanking G-d for the kindness and miracle of Jerusalem Day.

      Marching to the Future

      There is one personal sadness that I have on this day, and that is because the founder of the celebration, Rabbi Yehuda Hazani, of blessed memory, is not physically with us to join in the march which he initiated some 30 years ago when he was a student at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. Rabbi Hazani was my first Rabbi and mentor when I came to Israel. He encouraged me to make Aliyah and helped guide me in the process of shedding my confused galut identity for a new Israeli life and Torah vision. His joy was the joy of Jerusalem, and his giant spirit was the match that kindled the flame of Jerusalem that lay dormant in all of our hearts, giving us a means to express our love for the city in the flag-waving parade of the day, and through the dancing and mass prayer of thanks at the Kotel.

      This unparalleled joy does not stem merely from our awareness that it was G-d who brought this triumphant day about. Nor from the joy that our beloved city is back in our hands after a long painful exile. These joys are further elevated by the longing in our hearts to see the fulfillment of our dreams in the future, when the nation will march to Jerusalem on the Festivals and join with the Leviim and Kohanim in praising the L-rd in our rebuilt Holy Temple. The energy, electricity, and joy we feel as we stream en masse to the Kotel comes from plugging in to this resplendent future and the clear knowledge that we are on the way.

      This is how Rabbi Kook describes this uplifting bond to our future, in reference to the time when we will ascend to Jerusalem to bring our agricultural tithes, like the great joy we have in bringing the Bikurim on the upcoming Festival of Shavuot:

      "When we now fulfill the mitzvah of tithes, even though we do not have all the actual requirements upon which this mitzvah is based, ‘neither a Kohen at the service, nor a Levite at song,’ behold the vision of Redemption appears before us, and we are filled with a spirit of song, as exalted as the flight of eagles, in view of the light of the happy days that await our nation on our blessed soil: here is the Temple on its foundation, a pride and an honor for all of the nations and kingdoms, and here we carry with joy the sheaves of our Land of Delight... There also appear before us the Kohanim, holy men, servants of the L-rd, G-d of Israel. Their hearts are full of love and kindness, the holy spirit flushes their faces, and we recall the crescendo of holy feelings that filled us at the time when we saw their faces, when we went up on the pilgrimage, when we saw them standing to serve within our Temple, pride of our strength and delight of our eyes... And behold, we envision the Levites, these sensitive ones who captured our hearts with their harmonious music in the holy place during the festival, when we went up to see the glorious Temple of G-d in Jerusalem, to behold the face of the Master, L-rd, G-d of Israel. Soon we will meet once again on the Mountain of G-d. ‘Happy the people who has this; happy the people whose G-d is the L-rd!’" (Orot, Orot HaTechiya, 5. See the translation by Bezalel Naor.)

      This bond to our exalted future is the source of the inexpressible joy that we feel on Jerusalem Day. This joy, and this exalted connection, is ours, Rabbi Kook teaches, even today, even in a time of our lowliness. We long for this wholeness, for this link from our glorious past to our glorious future. The time is close. Our souls sense it. Our joy mounts and mounts. It is not only to the Old City that we are marching. We are marching to our future. To the Temple. To Mashiach. Wish you were all here to join us!

      Iyar 26, 5767, 5/14/2007

      Fishman Charged With Blog Fraud

      I learned about the charges via a pop-up on my computer. Somehow, the pop-up denied me access to my blog. I am writing this "underground" on a friend’s computer. The charges were sent from something called the "Hague Blog Tribunal." Perhaps I should have had a forewarning of this when my blog was not nominated for any category if this year’s blog awards. At the time I thought it was due to an oversight, for not having submitted my blog for nomination. I was not even aware that there existed such a competition. The truth is I don’t surf the Internet at all. After all, surfing is a big waste of time, when one could be learning Torah instead. Now, after having received this indictment, I see that the writing was already on the wall.

      The charges against me are:

      ONE: Writing blogs that exceed statutory standards in length.
      TWO: Writing blogs that contain religious content.
      THREE: Writing blogs which excessively quote non-registered bloggers, including Moses, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, God.

      To further substantiate the charges, the indictment cites the fact that I have never written a political blog, in clear contradiction to the International Blogger Code.

      Blog Tribunal

      Being somewhat of a stranger to cyberspace, I didn’t know how to fight the indictment of the Tribunal. Then I remembered that several years ago, I helped families of Israeli terror victims in bringing a lawsuit against Yasser Arafat in the International Court in Hague. So, to prepare a defense against the charges of blog fraud, I asked the French lawyer who represented our case to check out the source of the accusations. The next day, he phoned me and said that a friend of his with connections inside the Hague had spoken to one of the judges on the Blog Tribunal. When asked why the court had taken action against me, the judge, an assimilated Jew, responded: "No one is going to tell me what I can do in my bedroom."

      I should have known. It isn’t the first time that the world has tried to suppress the truth. Wasn’t Rabbi Akiva thrown into jail for teaching Torah? And what about the Rambam? His opus treatise on Jewish Law, the "Mishna Torah," was banned when it appeared. And what about the books of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lutzuto? They were burned! Since today mark’s the beginning of his 300th memorial year, to do our small part to honor his memory, and to continue in his footsteps, even in the face of opposition and threats, we will quote from the first chapter of his classic book, "The Path of the Just." I confess – in doing so, I will be once again violating the International Blogger Code by posting a long religious essay. But why should I trouble you to read what I have to say, when you can read the holy words of a true servant of G-d, even though he isn’t a registered blogger?


      From the book, "Path of the Just"
      By the holy Kabbalist Sage, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lutzuto
      CHAPTER I "Man's Duty in the World"

      THE FOUNDATION OF SAINTLINESS and the root of perfection in the service of God lies in a man's coming to see clearly and to recognize as a truth the nature of his duty in the world and the end towards which he should direct his vision and his aspiration in all of his labors all the days of his life.

      Our Sages of blessed memory have taught us that man was created for the sole purpose of rejoicing in God and deriving pleasure from the splendor of His Presence; for this is true joy and the greatest pleasure that can be found. The place where this joy may truly be derived is the World to Come, which was expressly created to provide for it; but the path to the object of our desires is this world, as our Sages of blessed memory have said (Avorh 4:21), "This world is like a corridor to the World to Come."

      Pathway to Heaven

      The means which lead a man to this goal are the mitzvoth, in relation to which we were commanded by the Lord, may His Name be blessed. The place of the performance of the mitzvoth is this world alone. Therefore, man was placed in this world first - so that by these means, which were provided for him here, he would be able to reach the place which had been prepared for him, the World to Come, there to be sated with the goodness which he acquired through them. As our Sages of blessed memory have said (Eruvin 22a), "Today for their [the mitzvoth's] performance and tomorrow for receiving their reward."

      When you look further into the matter, you will see that only union with God constitutes true perfection, as King David said (Psalms 73:28), "But as for me, the nearness of God is my good," and (Psalms 27:4), "I asked one thing from God; that will I seek - to dwell in God's house all the days of my life..." For this alone is the true good, and anything besides this which people deem good is nothing but emptiness and deceptive worthlessness. For a man to attain this good, it is certainly fitting that he first labor and persevere in his exertions to acquire it. That is, he should persevere so as to unite himself with the Blessed One by means of actions which result in this end. These actions are the mitzvoth.

      We thus derive that the essence of a man's existence in this world is solely the fulfilling of mitzvoth, the serving of God and the withstanding of trials, and that the world's pleasures should serve only the purpose of aiding and assisting him, by way of providing him with the contentment and peace of mind requisite for the freeing of his heart for the service which devolves upon him.

      The Holy One Blessed be He has put man in a place where the factors which draw him further from the Blessed One are many. These are the earthy desires which, if he is pulled after them, cause him to be drawn further from and to depart from the true good. It is seen, then, that man is veritably placed in the midst of a raging battle. For all the affairs of the world, whether for the good or for the bad, are trials to a man: Poverty on the one hand and wealth on the other, as Solomon said (Proverbs 30:9), "Lest I become satiated and deny, saying, `Who is God?' or lest I become impoverished and steal..." Serenity on the one hand and suffering on the other; so that the battle rages against him to the fore and to the rear. If he is valorous, and victorious on all sides, he will be the "Whole Man," who will succeed in uniting himself with his Creator, and he will leave the corridor to enter into the Palace, to glow in the light of life. To the extent that he has subdued his evil inclination and his desires, and withdrawn from those factors which draw him further from the good, and exerted himself to become united with it, to that extent will he attain it and rejoice in it.

      And in truth, no reasoning being can believe that the purpose of man's creation relates to his station in this world. For what is a man's life in this world! Who is truly happy and content in this world? "The days of our life are seventy years, and, if exceedingly vigorous, eighty years, and their persistence is but labor and foolishness" (Psalms 90:10). How many different kinds of suffering, and sicknesses, and pains and burdens! And after all this - death! Not one in a thousand is to be found to whom the world has yielded a superabundance of gratifications and true contentment. And even such a one, though he attain to the age of one hundred years, passes and vanishes from the world. Furthermore, if man had been created solely for the sake of this world, he would have had no need of being inspired with a soul so precious and exalted as to be greater than the angels themselves, especially so in that it derives no satisfaction whatsoever from all of the pleasures of this world. This is what our Sages of blessed memory teach us in Midrash (Koheleth Rabbah), "'And also the soul will not be filled' (Eccelesiastes 6:7) What is this analogous to? To the case of a city dweller who married a princess. If he brought her all that the world possessed, it would mean nothing to her, by virtue of her being a king's daughter. So is it with the soul. If it were to be brought all the delights of the world, they would be as nothing to it, in view of its pertaining to the higher elements." And so do our Sages of blessed memory say (Avoth 4:29), "Against your will were you created, and against your will were you born." For the soul has no love at all for this world. To the contrary, it despises it. The Creator, Blessed be His Name, certainly would never have created something for an end which ran contrary to its nature and which it despised.

      Man was created, then, for the sake of his station in the World to Come. Therefore, this soul was placed in him. For it befits the soul to serve God; and through it a man may be rewarded in his place and in his time. And rather than the world's being despicable to the soul, it is, to the contrary, to be loved and desired by it. This is self-evident. After recognizing this we will immediately appreciate the greatness of the obligation that the mitzvoth place upon us and the preciousness of the Divine service which lies in our hands. For these are the means which bring us to true perfection, a state which, without them, is unattainable. It is understood, however, that the attainment of a goal results only from a consolidation of all the available means employable towards its attainment, that the nature of a result is determined by the effectiveness and manner of employment of the means utilized towards its achievement, and that the slightest differentiation in the means will very noticeably affect the result to which they give rise upon the fruition of the aforementioned consolidation. This is self-evident.

      It is obvious, then, that we must be extremely exacting in relation to the mitzvoth and the service of God, just as the weighers of gold and pearls are exacting because of the preciousness of these commodities. For their fruits result in true perfection and eternal wealth, than which nothing is more precious.

      We thus derive that the essence of a man's existence in this world is solely the fulfilling of mitzvoth, the serving of God and the withstanding of trials, and that the world's pleasures should serve only the purpose of aiding and assisting him, by way of providing him with the contentment and peace of mind requisite for the freeing of his heart for the service which devolves upon him. It is indeed fitting that his every inclination be towards the Creator, may His Name be blessed, and that his every action, great or small, be motivated by no purpose other than that of drawing near to the Blessed One and breaking all the barriers (all the earthy elements and their concomitants) that stand between him and his Possessor, until he is pulled towards the Blessed One just as iron to a magnet. Anything that might possibly be a means to acquiring this closeness, he should pursue and clutch, and not let go of; and anything which might be considered a deterrent to it, he should flee as from a fire. As it is stated (Psalms 63:9), "My soul clings to You; Your right hand sustains me." For a man enters the world only for this purpose - to achieve this closeness by rescuing his soul from all the deterrents to it and from all that detracts from it.

      Iyar 25, 5767, 5/13/2007


      The results of the poll regarding the need for Jewish sex education on the Internet are conclusive. A definitive 55% of the voters believe that an open forum of issues of Jewish sexuality has a positive influence. 28% of the voters feel that the subject has positive value, but should be reserved to specialty sites like jewishsexuality.com, and not be posted on Arutz 7. 9% feet the issue should be dealt with only in closed discussions and classes, and 8% believe that exposure to the subject has a negative influence and does not belong on the Internet.

      Interestingly, an INN news article posted yesterday reports that the National Council of Synagogue Youth has initiated it own website (www.negiah.org) dealing with Jewish teenage sex in order to educate Jewish youth of the dangers of premarital sex. This is the first time that a major mainstream Orthodox organization has taken the issue out of the closet, with the hope of stemming the tide. The announcement of the new program stated that it stemmed from NCYS's deep disturbance at the fact that "teenagers, including Jewish teens, are increasingly engaged in sexual experimentation." INN writer, Hillel Fendel, reports that the NCSY website uses frank language to convey the risks faced by young men and women engaging in sexual experimentation. The NCSY leadership became convinced that the only effective response to the troubling state of affairs was a comprehensive educational program in the modality (i.e., the Internet) and language to which teens relate. Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Dean at Yeshiva University, and Jewish-legal consultant for OU Kosher, approved the program, noting that the language was straightforward but not so graphic as to render it too unsuitable for observant teens to read.

      Boker tov, fellahs! Welcome to the battle!

      We took a look at the site, and we recommend it highly. It is missing some of the major stumbling blocks that teenagers encounter, like the Internet itself, the problem of masturbation, sex with gentiles, and abortion, but it is a very good beginning. The Zohar teaches that three things drive out G-d’s Presence from the world: sexual relations with non-Jews, relations with women considered "Niddah," and abortion, and these are all likely to occur in situations of pre-marital sex involving Jewish teenagers.

      Tonight marks 41 days of the Omer, associated with the Kabbalistic sefirah, "Yesod of the Yesod." This day is associated with sexual purity. For this reason, hundreds of Hasidim will make a pilgrimage tonight to the city of Shechem and the Tomb of Yosef, who is known for his great valor in overcoming sexual transgression.

      In addition, tonight marks the 300th anniversary of the yahrtzeit of the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lutzutto. It would be a good idea if the new NCSY website included his writings on separation and cleanliness from sexual sin. In the meantime, in tribute to his memory, here are a few reminders to teenagers of all ages, excerpted from his classic work, "Mesillat Yesharim:"

      "We shall now consider the sin of illicit relations. One who desires to be completely clean of this sin requires no little effort, for its prohibition takes in not only the act itself, but anything that approaches it, as Scripture clearly states: "Do not come near to uncover nakedness" (Vayikra, 18:6). And our Sages of blessed memory have said, "The Holy One Blessed Be He said: Do not say, ‘Since I may not have relations with this woman, I will hold her and be free of sin, I will hug her and be free of sin, I will kiss her and be free of sin.' The Holy One Blessed Be He said, ‘Just as when a Nazarite takes a vow not to drink wine, he is forbidden to eat grapes or raisins, or to drink grape juice, or to partake of anything that comes from the grapevine, so it is forbidden to touch any woman but your own wife; and anyone who does touch a woman other than his wife brings death to himself'" (Shemot Rabbah, 31:6).

      "By applying this principle to the area of illicit relations, the Sages prohibited anything partaking of the nature of fornication, or anything approaching it, regardless of the particular avenue of approach, whether that of deed, sight, speech, hearing, or even thought."

      We see then that all of one's faculties must be clean of licentiousness and anything relating to it. This goes for adults as well as for teenagers, and INN readers too!

      Iyar 23, 5767, 5/11/2007


      A reader protested that this week’s raging fire in Los Angeles had nothing to do with the Jews. As a special treat for Shabbat, we are going to have a guest speaker answer, the world's greatest blogger. His name if G-d. In case you have never heard of Him, He decides what happens in the world, whether it be floods in New Orleans, hurricanes in Florida, tidal waves along nude beaches in Thailand, and forest fires in LA.


      Since the first portion of this week’s Torah reading, "Behar," deals exclusively with the Land of Israel, and not with the Jews of the exile, we will skip over it for now. While the Jews in Israel will be busy with the mitzvah of Shmitta this year, with Otzer Beit Din, Heter Mechira, buying permissible foods, and working the land in permissible ways - b’kitzor, living a complete Jewish life - the Jews in the Diaspora will be able to continue their golf games and tennis lessons uninterrupted. To compensate, they have other mitzvahs to celebrate, like Ground Hog Day, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving, President’s Day, and the Fourth of July.
      What exactly is "walking contrarily unto G-d?" This means not recognizing the Hand of G-d in forest fires of LA, and the floods in New Orleans, in the missiles that fall on Sederot, and the evacuation from Gush Katif.

      Let’s take a look at the Torah portion of "Behukoti" and see what G-d Himself has to say. The legendary Moroccan Kabbalist, Rabbi Yaacov Abuchatzera, grandfather of the Baba Sali, explains that all of the terrible punishments mentioned in this Torah portion stem from sexual transgressions, when the Jewish People break the Covenant, also known as the Brit. Readers interested in his powerful commentary, based on secrets of Torah, can find it translated at jewishsexuality.com.

       In the beginning of the Torah portion, in reward for keeping the commandments, G-d promises the Jews that there shall be ample rain in the Land of Israel, agricultural blessing, abundant harvests and produce, victory over all enemies, and peace in the Land.

      But should the Jews stray from the Torah, and fall into sexual transgression by violating the Brit, then great trouble and hardship begins:

      "But if ye will not hearken unto Me, and will not do all these commandments; and if ye shall reject My statutes, and if your soul abhor Mine ordinances, so that ye will not do all My commandments, but break My covenant; I also will do this unto you: I will appoint terror over you, even consumption and fever, that shall make the eyes to fail, and the soul to languish; and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. And I will set My face against you, and ye shall be smitten before your enemies; they that hate you shall rule over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you."

      The first wave of punishment comes as a warning. However, if we do not take heed, more terrible punishments follow, including the sword that executes the vengeance of our betrayal of the Brit, until we are destroyed by our enemies and cast out of our Land - prophecies that all tragically came true:

      "And if ye will not yet for these things hearken unto Me, then I will chastise you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass. And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield her produce, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruit. And if ye walk contrary unto Me, and will not hearken unto Me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. And I will send the beast of the field among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your ways shall become desolate. And if in spite of these things ye will not be corrected unto Me, but will walk contrary unto Me; then will I also walk contrary unto you; and I will smite you, even I, seven times for your sins. And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute the vengeance of the Brit; and ye shall be gathered together within your cities; and I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy."

      What exactly is "walking contrarily unto G-d?" This means not recognizing the Hand of G-d in forest fires of LA, and the floods in New Orleans, in the missiles that fall on Sederot, and the evacuation from Gush Katif. This means thinking that life is happenstance, that events take place accidentally. It means forgetting that everything comes from G-d, and that we are commanded to walk in His statutes and laws. Walking contrary to G-d brings upon us the curses of the exile:

      "And I will make your cities a waste, and will bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. And I will bring the land into desolation; and your enemies that dwell therein shall be astonished at it. And you will I scatter among the nations, and I will draw out the sword after you; and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste."

      Dear Readers, all of this happened two thousand years ago in Israel. All of this came true.

      "And as for them that are left of you, I will send a faintness into their heart in the lands of their enemies..."

      "And the sound of a driven leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as one fleeth from the sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth. And they shall stumble one upon another, as it were before the sword, when none pursueth; and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies."

      "And ye shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies' lands."

      Whether we perish through intermarriage and assimilation, through an another Holocaust, G-d forbid, or through tidal waves and earthquakes, the tragedy is the same. Only in Israel will there be a refuge, for as the conclusion of the Torah portion promises, G-d will remember the Covenant of our Forefathers and bring us back to the Land.

      Brothers and Sisters in your comfortable exiles. Do not be mistaken!! The word of the L-rd is forever. If you walk contrary to Him, He will walk contrary to you, and then all of the firemen in America will not be able to save you.

      Iyar 22, 5767, 5/10/2007

      L.A. IS BURNING!!