He Ru Follow us: Make a7 your Homepage
      Free Daily Israel Report

      Arutz 7 Most Read Stories


      Hollywood to the Holy Land
      by Tzvi Fishman
      Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Creativity and Culture

      Subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed

      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.


      Nisan 29, 5767, 4/17/2007


      Slain Israeli Professor Saved Others in Va. Tech Massacre

      Our ongoing debate is important, and necessary, but it is time to pay tribute to a true Jewish hero in galut.
      by Gil Ronen
      (IsraelNN.com) As Israel observed Holocaust Day, thousands of mlies away, A Rumanian-born Holocaust survivor gave his life in another senseless murder - and apparently in an act of heroism. Among the 32 people killed by a lone gunman at Virginia Tech Monday is 77 year old mechanics professor, Liviu Librescu, a citizen of Israel. According to eyewitness accounts, Livrescu ran to the door of his classroom and blocked it with his body – preventing the gunman from entering but getting shot to death himself as a result.

      Alec Calhoun, a 20 year old student who had been in Librescu's class in room 204, told a reporter that at 9:05 a.m. the heard screams and a loud banging sound from the next door classroom. When the students realized it was gunfire, he said, some hid behind tables, and others leapt from the classroom's windows. Calhoun himself was among the last to jump. "Before I jumped from the window, I turned around and looked at the professor, who stayed behind, maybe to block the door. He had been killed."

      Librescu is survived by his wife of 42 years, Marlena, who was with him in Virginia, and sons Aryeh and Joe who are in Israel. They intend to bury him in Israel.

      Asael Arad, an Israeli student who visited the widow after the tragedy, told Army Radio Tuesday that Marlena had been receiving e-mails from students who credited Prof. Librescu with saving their lives. "I lost my best friend," the widow told a reporter for NRG at her home near the Blacksburg campus. "He was a great person, who loved teaching more than anything." Marlena said someone had initially informed her that her husband was injured in the shooting. "I looked for him in the hospitals all day but I didn't find him," she said.

      The Librescus are Rumanian Jews who came on aliyah (immigrated to Israel) in 1978 – after then-Prime Minister Begin interceded on their behalf with the Rumanian government, according to Marlena. The couple went on a sabbatical to the United States since 1986 and has been living there ever since.

      Nisan 28, 5767, 4/16/2007


      ********************EMERGENCY NEWS FLASH*********************
      At the same time that this blog is being posted, news flashes from Virginia report that a berserk gunman has opened fire on a university campus in a deadly massacre. At first, I feared it was Mike, from Virginia, who is always calling for armed struggle in his comments to our blogs. When breaking reports described the killer, or killers, as Asians, we sighed with relief that a Jew won’t be blamed. Right now, I, and tens of thousands of INN readers, are worried for Mike’s safety, fearing that he be in the danger zone of the campus. PLEASE, MIKE, LET US KNOW IMMEDIATELY OF YOUR WHEREABOUTS AND THAT YOU ARE OK! You laughed at my story, "On Eagles Wings," claiming it could never happen in America. See what G-d is showing you in your very own beloved Virginia. Face it, my friend, your life is in danger. See the writing on the wall! Save yourself while you can! Come to Israel now!

      I’m taking the day off. Here is a dramatic reader exchange. Let Mike and Daniel slug it out with Aviva. As the Rabbis say: "One Jewish woman in Eretz Yisrael is worth one thousand Jewish men in America and Japan."

      God will protect you only if you act to protect yourself. For example, in the time of the Chofetz Chaim, the Etzel and Lehi took bloody revenge on the Arabs and the Field Companies of the Hagana acted in defense of the Jews. Today, however, the Jews of the Holy Land DO NOT take vengeance against their Ishmaelite oppressors, DO NOT act to defend themselves and DO NOT do anything except pray and wait for a miracle. We witnessed despicable spectacles showing this. The sight of the Cowards of Gush Katif surrendering their weapons and tearfully praying next to the curtain of the ark in their synagogue even as the pogromschiks dragged them away one by one could not help but fill any normal man with revulsion. How any woman could continue to live with them in marriage or any son continue to respect them I do not know. Frankly, I do not know how any of them can live with themselves, for that matter. The horrible pogrom at Amona could not help but arouse a desire for revenge in every normal man, yet 10,000 Amona Criminals still walk unharmed among the Jews of the Holy Land. You want analogues from the Torah? Do not look to the story of the spies. Look to Pinchas and to the story of the Golden Calf. While you are engaged in your search for historical analogues, look also to the story of the Maccabees. Ask yourself, Mr. Fishman, what would Mattathias Maccabee do in response to Amona? What would Pinchas have done at Gush Katif? Since the Jews of the Holy Land do nothing to defend themselves and insist on the horrible hillul Hashem of depending on miracles and worshipping in an idolatrous fashion the secular Israeli state, it is self-evident that their punishment is not long in coming. Why should the Jews of the diaspora weaken their ranks and come to join a doomed people in their ghetto? Now, if the Jews of the Holy Land were to turn around and act like men, certainly Hashem would protect them. THEN aliyah would be meritorious despite the danger. I've said it before and I will say it again: Torah can obligate us to walk into danger, but not to commit suicide. mike, Vienna, VA (13/04/07)
      You are right that there is a problem in Israel amongst the national religious - namely to revere the state and to exhibit an almost pathetic desire for acceptance in Israeli society, which is why many of the nationalist rabbis told their flock not to refuse orders before the expulsion.

      This is true and I understand your frustration. Yet your conclusion is to sit in chutz l'aretz and do nothing, until someone else does the job for you. You accuse Jews who live in Israel, who have chosen to move here or to stay here (everyone could leave if they wanted to) of passivity. Yet you are the one who is passive - just waiting for someone to fix the situation for you.

      It is easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize. "Where there is no man, be a man". If you are really troubled by what is happening here, why don't you come and be part of the solution. You will never be part of the solution outside of Israel. Aviva, Jerusalem (13/04/07)

      You are wrong. Of course you can be a part of the solution outside Israel. Arguably, you can be much more a part of the solution outside Israel because you have much more power, financial and otherwise. And you have many more opportunities to do much more.

      An old lady once said that she never knew there was a stupid Jew until she came to Israel. Here we can have power and do meaningful things. In Israel we are garbage, to be kicked around and thrown out by thugs in grey. How many Jewish criminals do you think there are in Gallus? How about prostitutes? Now let's compare average income for Jews in Israel and in Gallus. Average level of education. Average standard of living. And you know what? Take a strong place like Mexico, and Israel loses in "average level of Yiddishkeit" hands down as well.
      There will be a time b"h when Israel will become the right place. But not yet. Not for many/most people.

      Your dogged determination in believing that your avodat Hashem is holier in chul,and in Japan of all places is, sorry, just ridiculous.

      I am not writing this to Daniel, because I feel that he is entrenched in rigid views. I am writing this to show that there is a response to what he says. (I do not have time to respond to every point as it is late, and sorry, it is very unedited).

      "An old lady once said that she never knew there was a stupid Jew until she came to Israel."
      There are no stupid Jews in chutz l'aretz? Not even one? An argument based on one person's opinion??

      "Here we can have power and do meaningful things."
      What does this mean? Specifics please? If American Jews are so free, why are the majority either indifferent or terrified to do something for Jonathon Pollard? I think that if he were a different color, they might be crying out for his release. What are you so powerful to do? Are you implying that no-one does anything meaningful in Israel? What are you trying to say?

      "How many Jewish criminals do you think there are in Gallus?"
      Unfortunately many.

      Israel prison stats from the Israel Prison services 2006:
      18,157 total prisoners (of whom 5,666 are "security prisoners", i.e Arab). Of the remaining 12,500 not all will be Jewish as not everyone in Israel is Jewish.
      (Israel Prison Services http://www.ips.gov.il/NR/exeres/05ED735A-FC64-4E7B-BC67-8394061D746E.htm)

      As for the US: the only stats I could find were from the Jewish Prisoner Service (http://www.jewishprisonerservices.org/index.htm). Their survey of American prisons regarding Jewish prisoners yielded over 20,000 requests for Rosh Hashana cards.

      20,000 requests (therefore possibly more) vs less than 12,500. (I don't know exactly how these statistics bear out scientifically, but at least they give some indication that Diaspora Jewry may not be an island of lily white purity, and possibly have just as many if not more Jewish criminals than in Israel). Sorry Daniel.

      As for your other measures: income, standard of living, education - so you have a higher income, and how many years did it take to pay off your law school debts??? and how much does it cost to send your child to a Jewish school? Standard of living is measured by completely material things - some people do not feel it necessary to have a television in every room including the bathroom, or in any room at all. They don't feel the need to own a cadillac or take foreign holidays - that does not make them poor. As for education, in addition to the high proportion of phds in Israel, did you know that Israel has the highest rate of volunteerism in the world and that when the Arab population is removed, the proportion jumps even higher (according to the UN)? Education is not just about grades, it's also about character. And the comment about Mexico? Over half of all school children going into first grade last year in Israel were in religious schools - and you think that there is more yiddishkeit in chul?? The majority of Israelis are either religious or traditional. Out and out "secular" are a minority, and even amongst them you'd be surprised by the extent of their Jewish knowledge. And what about intermarriage in chutz l'artetz? Utterly rampant outside of the strictly orthodox. You forgot about that.

      Daniel, you seem to base your opinions on black and white thinking, glorification of the wonderful exile and vilification of Eretz Yisrael. Real life is not like that. There is good and bad everywhere, but that is not the point. Just as a non-Jewish person may be a truly wonderful person with whom one could share a wonderful life, a Jew is not permitted to marry that person. So even if in some ways life is "better" for a person in chutz le'aretz - a bigger house, more 000s in the bank (ie positive 000s), more cars - more of everything material, etc, whilst a Jew is permitted to live there not only is it not the ideal, Jews are commanded to live in Israel. It is understandable that it is hard to let go of your materialism, but your dogged determination in "believing" that your avodat hashem is holier in chul,and in Japan of all places is, sorry, just ridiculous. Do what you have to do there. Make your money. But to conceptually make that your holy land?

      I love Israel and I know that there are many terrible things that happen here, things that you probably do not even know about. But that does not make me love Israel any less. I do not love Israel because of the government, or because of the criminals, the prostitutes or the yassamniks. I love Israel because it is, was and always will be the Jewish homeland. This is unconditional love. A Jew belongs in the land of Israel. It's quite simple. You write to me as if I, and I alone, made this stuff up. I was lucky to have naturally had a love of the land from when I was a small child before I ever came here. Long before I had heard of the Rambam, yishuv haaretz and of the many words of chazal emphasizing its central importance in Judaism. I just knew that a Jew belongs in Israel.

      Do you love Japan and feel passionately about it? Or will you quit as soon as your 5 million yen a year contract comes to an end. Trouble in Europe time to move away. As you yourself said, it is all temporary.

      Yet, over 3000 years later Israel is eternal. As is (or at least as was) the Jewish yearning for it. All of us who have the merit to live here, we are the embodiment of the 2000 year old dream of all of our ancestors to return to Zion. I think of my own grandparents (z"l) who came from the shtetl, for them the land of Israel was still a dream, and I am living that 2000 year old dream. I think that they would be proud of that.

      Of the problems here - some are social problems that are found everywhere and some are particular. But the joys of Israel are truly unique - after eight years of living in Israel I seem to have a special Israel moment nearly every day and am always meeting extraordinary people people who are driven by their idealism and passion. Also, here and only here can I literally walk in the footsteps of the avot, of the kings and the prophet - can you put a price on that? Life in Israel is constantly vibrant and exciting and challenging. Living in Israel is to feel a part of Clal Yisrael totally and in every sense. You are not a "German on the street and a Jew at home". You are just yourself, a Jew, anywhere you go.

      I know that for many Jews it is hard for them to truly believe that they are capable of making aliya -leaving behind emotional ties, starting over professionally in a country where they don't speak the language, in a country beset by political problems. The prospect can be daunting. But you should know that it can be done, and that it is being done on a daily basis.

      I don't work for the Jewish Agency or Nefesh B'Nefesh or the government. I am just writing what I feel in my heart, because maybe someone else out there also feels it in his or her heart. But maybe that person has bought into the myth of the "impossibility" of aliya. I just want to say that if the thought of Israel moves you and draws you, even though you have no idea how you are going to do it, if you can dream of it, if you can feel it in your heart, you can do it.
      Aviva, Jerusalem (16/04/07)

      Ladies and Gentlemen! Your attention! The decision of the judges has reached ringside. They award, 3 points to Mike from Virginia; 4 points to Daniel from Kyoto; 11 points to Aviva from Jerusalem. And the winner is AVIVA FROM JERUSALEM by a unanimous decision!   

      Nisan 27, 5767, 4/15/2007


      This evening, somber torchlight ceremonies commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day will be held all over Israel. Restaurants, bars, cinemas will all be closed in honor and respect for the millions who were murdered in the gas chambers of modern enlightened Europe. Tomorrow morning at ten, a memorial siren will blare out for two minutes all over the country. Hearing it, everything will stop. Schoolchildren will stand quietly in school playgrounds; pedestrians will stand frozen on sidewalks; motorists will stop their cars in the middle of highways. For those two minutes, the hearts of all the country are united. There is nothing like it in the world, certainly not in Monsey, New York; Vienna, Virginia; or Kyoto, Japan. True, in some of Israel’s institutions for the insane and mentally handicapped, some patients won’t notice the siren, and there are some mentally deranged still at large who will continue about their business, detached in their psychopathic cocoons from the real world around them, but the overwhelming nationwide feeling is one of profound respect and remorse. Our Sages tell us that it is the person who shares in the sorrows and struggles of Jerusalem who shall merit to share in its joys. May the memory of the martyrs be for a blessing.
      When the time comes for Redemption, complications arise and large portions of the nation are embedded in the tar of the galut. The facts bear witness – multitudes of Jews grew accustomed to the impurity of the Diaspora, and refused to extricate themselves from it.

      Many writers and scholars have put forth theories which attempt to explain the Holocaust. One Haredi point of view focuses the blame on the reform Jews in Germany who broke away from the Torah. Another attitude blames the secular Zionists for having brazenly established a non-religious settlement in the Land of Israel before the Mashiach’s coming. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook had a different understanding. These theories, he said, failed to embrace the whole sweep of history. The workings of Divine Providence cannot be isolated to any one moment, or group, but must be seen in the context of the Divine historical plan which spans generations. Accusations that blame this group, or that group, fracture the unity of the Jewish Nation. Just as G-d is One, the Nation of Israel is one. Only from this encompassing perspective, which embraces all of Jewish history, can one hope to fathom the Divine Will in the horror of the Holocaust. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda spoke these words on Holocaust Memorial Day at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem:

      "Everything that happens in the world is a Divine mystery. The understanding of Divine Providence, in all of its complexity, is not revealed to us. Analytical studies of the Holocaust are a juvenile activity. Only with great sensitivity, and with a mature spiritual perspective, is it possible to approach this awesome topic. First, one must remember that there is a difference between human comprehension and Divine reckoning. The true understanding of the world, and the true understanding of faith, demand an understanding of the Torah verse, ‘Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations’ (Devarim, 32:5). This sweeping historical perspective includes a deep faith that everything comes from G-d. But along with this, one must remember that, ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts; My ways are not your ways, says the L-rd. For My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts’ (Yishayahu, 55:8-9).

      "A weakness of faith, and a narrow world outlook, causes one to measure Divine Providence according to the yardstick of our understanding, which is limited. Human understanding is finite and cannot grasp the workings of ‘Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom’ (Tehillim, 145:13). Our reckoning is a reckoning of the here and now, whereas the Divine reckoning is an accounting of ages. Sometimes, man forgets that matters are not dependent on, nor begin with him. In truth, events are connected by a Divine historical plan. Thus our comprehension of them is dependent upon our ability to elevate ourselves and recognize the overall Divine reckoning.

      "Rising to this level is not easy. Therefore, there were people who abandoned their faith on the heels of the Holocaust, because they did not succeed in lifting themselves up to the knowledge of the true G-d. Obviously, one sympathizes with them. As our Sages said about Job, ‘A man is not blames for what he utters in his agony’ (Baba Batra 16B). There is room to understand errors committed in an hour of suffering. Yet difficulties do not justify abandoning faith. One must not subject G-d to our reasoning and perception. Only with this understanding is it possible to approach, in fear and awe, a comprehension of a tiny part of the Holocaust. In our generation, we have seen an awesome new form of destruction (the Holocaust) and an incredible new revival and building (the State of Israel). There are people who don’t agree with this order of Divine Providence. They become confused when they encounter these events. But nothing happens randomly. There is not a thing which transpires that isn’t carried out according to the Providence of the Almighty. Not only the good events, but also the things which appear evil to us, they all happen according to the Divine plan.

      "There are not words to describe the shocking, frightening, and horrifying atrocity of the Holocaust. It will remain this way forever. It is impossible to stop the anger one feels against the Nazis, may their names be erased. They not only perpetuated an unspeakable evil against us, they also damaged our psyches, leaving us psychologically scarred. All of our national identity and pride was uprooted by them. This is even more pernicious than the killing and murder. All of the national, social, and political uncertainty we now experience, all of our confusion in our world outlook and lifestyle, follow from this destruction of the Israeli community. The Holocaust caused an upheaval in our attitudes and worldview, and it damaged our faith in G-d.

      "We are commanded to rise up to a sublime vision, to ‘Contemplate the years of many generations,’ to rise up over trivial explanations, to peer beyond mere superficial perception. One must guard against thinking in a condensed and myopic fashion when clarifying the historic reckonings of Clal Yisrael. The nation of Israel is a single unity which arrives at its wholeness only after a continuum which spans all ages. The whole truthful vision beholds the entire Nation of Israel in all of its generations. It is true that there are many levels in the Nation of Israel, from the completely righteous, to people average deeds, to doers of evil. However, all of these categories compose one complete entity. Just as ‘The Torah of the L-rd is whole’ (Tehillim, 19:18), so is the nation of Israel whole. Like the body of a man, that is made up of different organs having various functions and levels of importance, yet which together, each performing its task, constitute the complete man – so is the Nation of Israel, each tribe has its unique value, and all of them together make up the nation. A perspective of the Nation of Israel which divides the whole into parts (religious and secular, Zionist and anti-Zionist), without sensitivity to the overall oneness of the nation, is a narrow-minded perspective that brings many divisions and crises in its wake. All of Israel’s millions are bound together, in one body, in one soul.
      The Master of the World arranges history in such a way that for a certain time we are confined to exile, and afterwards He brings about historical events which cause the national body of the Jewish People to awaken in a developing process spanning generations.

      "This single, complete body of the Nation of Israel is whole only in Eretz Yisrael. In the exile, we are not in our normal national situation, nor in our vibrant state. The return to the Land of Israel is a return to national normalcy and to health. G-d’s presence among the Jewish People on appears in its true form in Eretz Yisrael. There is even a difference in the value of a mitzvah which a Jew performs in the Land of Israel, compared to the value of the same precept when performed outside the Land. The actualization of Israel in all of its wholeness is only in Eretz Yisrael. Outside of the Land, we are not healthy because the national component of Clal Yisrael is shattered, and we exist as solitary individuals, the remnants of Israel. The exile causes a delay in G-d’s light on the nation. Galut destroys our national format, and we remain isolated souls. However, the bones of Yechezkel’s prophecy do not disintegrate forever, and we wait the appearance of a new burst of life (Yechezkel, 37:3-5). And now the time has come to return to health. The end of exile has arrived. Everything has stages, and the Redemption does not appear all at once, but gradually, a little at a time (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 1:1). The Master of the World arranges history in such a way that for a certain time we are confined to exile, and afterwards He brings about historical events which cause the national body of the Jewish People to awaken in a developing process spanning generations. This awakening builds in momentum toward a complete revival.

      "There are situations where it is difficult to separate from the galut. However, the time has arrived for our nation’s revival, and for the redemption of our Land. The Revealed End has come, the time when, ‘You O mountains of Israel shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they will soon be coming’ (Sanhedrin 98A). The time approached for Israel’s return to Zion, and this caused the rebirth of the Land. But as the time arrives for our departure from the darkness of the exile, situations arise which resemble the Hebrew slave who rejects freedom and says, ‘I loved my master’ (Shemot, 21:5). Jews fell in love with the exile and refused to come back to Israel. But the Diaspora cannot continue forever. The Diaspora is the worse Desecration of G-d that there is, as we find in Yechezkel: ‘And when they came to the nations into which they came, they profaned My holy Name, in that men said of them, these are the people of the L-rd, and they are gone out of His Land’ (Yechezkel, 36:20).

      "When the time comes for Redemption, complications arise and large portions of the nation are embedded in the tar of the galut. The facts bear witness – multitudes of Jews grew accustomed to the impurity of the Diaspora, and refused to extricate themselves from it. Thus begins a Divine surgery, a deep inner, esoteric purification from this decay, a treatment of amputation and healing. All of Israel’s millions are one single body, an indivisible organism, and when it is delayed from returning to health because of its clinging to a foreign land, then a cruel Divine amputation is needed. The time came for the Jewish People to return to their Land, but since they refused, there was no way to bring them back other than, ‘He took me by the sidelock of my head’ (Yechezkel, 8:3), in order to bring them against their will to Eretz Yisrael. When the end of exile arrives, and all of Israel fails to recognize it, there is a need for a cruel Divine amputation and severance. We are not speaking here about a reckoning against this person or that person, since this is a secret matter of G-d belonging to the secret world of souls. We are speaking of a reckoning that encompasses all of the nation, which arises from a situation of, ‘They despised the desirable Land’ (Tehillim, 106:24). This is an amputation which causes the nation as a whole to separate from the Diaspora and return to its life in the Land of Israel."

      (From the book, "Torat Ertez Yisrael - The Teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook.)

      Nisan 24, 5767, 4/12/2007


      In light of our ongoing discussion about a Jew’s obligation to live in the Land of Israel, and in response to a reader who had the straightforwardness to admit that he was scared to make aliyah because of dangers in the Land, we will first pay tribute to Yehoshua bin Nun, of blessed memory, and then cite an interesting tale about the great Chofetz Chaim, the master of Jewish Law in modern times.
      Tragically, there are still those of little faith who speak derisively against G-d’s desired Land, and who still refuse to hear G-d’s call to "Go up and inherit the Land!"

      Not coincidentally, tonight is the memorial yartzheit for Yehoshua bin Nun, known in the West as Joshua, devoted student and successor to Moshe, our teacher. In tribute to his memory, hundreds of Jews will make the pilgrimage to his burial site this evening on a hillside in the Shomron near the city of Ariel. It was Yehoshua who led the Children of Israel into the Promised Land, miraculously conquering the walled city of Jericho on his way. Earlier, when Moshe sent ten of Israel’s greatest leaders to spy out the Land, only Yehoshua and Calev came back with a positive report, declaring that the Jews could indeed successfully conquer the Land of Israel as Hashem had commanded. The other Spies, however, broke the spirit of the nation, proclaiming that the Jews were no match for the fierce giants that inhabited the fortified cities of the Land. As the Torah records:

      "Then Yehoshua bin Nun and Calev ben Yefunne, of those who spied out the Land, rent their garments, and they spoke to all of the Children of Israel, saying, ‘The Land which we passed through to spy it out is an exceedingly good Land. If the L-rd delight in us, then He will bring us into this Land and give it to us, a Land flowing with milk and honey. Only rebel not against the L-rd, nor fear the people of the Land, for they are bread before us, their defense is departed from them, and the L-rd is with us, so fear them not.’"

      Yehoshua’s great cry of faith fell on deaf ears. The people wept in their tents and longed to return to the bondage of Egypt. This rebellion against Hashem in not wanting to live in the Land, and the people’s lack of belief in G-d’s providence and power, brought about G-d’s wrath and decree of punishment - death for the entire generation in the wilderness. Our Sages tell us that this tragic day in our history was the Ninth of Av, and that this lack of faith in G-d subsequently led to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, generations later on the very same day. Only Yehoshua and Calev, who remained faithful to G-d’s command, were spared the decree of dying in exile, and it was they who led the next generation of Jews, who were born into freedom, into the Promised Land.

      Tragically, there are still those of little faith who speak derisively against G-d’s desired Land, and who still refuse to hear G-d’s call to "Go up and inherit the Land!"

      And now in response to the comment that a Jew does not have to make aliyah because of the dangers in the Land, here is an answer written by Rabbi David Samson, where he cites the definitive ruling of the Chofetz Chaim that no such exemption exits:

      Several times during the year, I am invited to speak to groups of yeshiva students
      from the Diaspora whom are studying in Israel. One of the questions that I am frequently asked is "Is it a mitzvah to live in Israel in a time of danger?" Sometimes, the question takes different forms. "Is it permissible to live in settlements in Israel where there is a clear danger, for example, Hevron." Or, "Is it permissible for my parents to visit me in Israel during the Intifada?"

      A story told about the Chofetz Chaim can serve as a background for our halachic investigation. As Yose ben Yoezer says in the Mishna, "Let your house be a meeting place for Sages; sit in the dust of their feet; and drink in their words thirstily" (Avot 1:4). In our times, who was a greater Torah scholar than the Chofetz Chaim?

      The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisreal Meir HaCohen, from Radin, composed the unparalleled halachic work, the Mishna Berura, the definitive compendium of Jewish law. In addition, his writings on good deeds and kindness, "Ahavat Chesed," and his treatise on evil speech, "Shmirat HaLashon," show his great piety and saintliness. He is known never to have spoken unfairly about anyone.

      The following story is brought down by the revered Rabbi Dichovsky, of blessed memory, in his book, "Neot Desha," on the Talmud. In the introduction, he recounts his visit to the Chofetz Chaim to ask him this very same question about moving to Israel at a time of clear and present danger. We quote:

      "I saw it proper to record a statement made to me by the most pious of all of the kohanim, the Rabbi of all Israel, the glory of the generation, the holy of all Israel, may he be blessed in memory, in the matter of Aliyah. I asked him about this question, and the following are the details of our encounter.

      "It was the beginning of the year, 1933. There was a group of Torah scholars who had organized themselves to go together to Israel to learn Torah. I too was amongst them, but I had many doubts, because I knew that many of the great gedolim (Torah scholars) of Israel were opposed. The heads of my yeshiva were especially opposed to the idea that yeshiva students would go to Eretz Yisrael, even for the sake of studying Torah. They said that the proper conditions had not as yet been established in order to facilitate Torah study with the proper diligence in the Holy Land, to the extent that we are able to study Torah in the yeshivot in the Diaspora. Therefore, I said in my heart, that I must not ask my rabbis in this matter, for obviously the answer will be no.

      "Like Rabbi Zera, who ran away from his teacher, Rav Yehuda, when he wanted to make Aliyah to Israel (Tractate Ketubot, 110B,) I decided to go and ask the counsel of the righteous tzaddik of our generation, our revered master, and to receive his blessing before I departed. Therefore, just before the Day of Atonement, I journeyed to the yeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim in the town of Radin, where I stayed in the shadow of this great, righteous individual. This was, as is known, the last Yom Kippur of this special tzaddik, for at the end of the year, in the month of Elul, he was taken to the yeshiva Above, may his merit be a shield to us and all Israel.
      "Concluding his words to me, he said, ‘Nevertheless, fear not. There is no reason for this to prevent you from making Aliyah to the Land of Israel.’ "Then he blessed me, saying, ‘Go in peace, and the L-rd will bless your path.’

      "In spite of his great physical weakness, a Heavenly Providence was with me, and I merited to see him the day after Yom Kippur. I told him my situation, and that I had a good chance of making Aliyah to Israel as a Torah student, only I had lingering doubts if I would be able to learn Torah with the same diligence with which I was learning now. Immediately, he answered, in his famous sweetness of speech, that there was no room at all for my wariness. Why in the world would I not be able to learn Torah there with absolute diligence – just the opposite would seem to be true, for the Land of Israel, without question, was more conducive for steadfast immersion in Torah. He recited the verse, ‘The gold of the Land is good,’ on which the Midrash says, ‘This gold are the words of Torah, for there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael; and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael.’

      "Before I could express the rest of the doubts that I harbored - especially the fear of the danger in Israel because of the children of Ishmael who were marauding violently against the Jews, for only a few years had passed since the end of the Hebron Massacre in the year 1929, which made clear to everyone the wild, bestial nature of the Ishmaelites, who with savagery and unbounded cruelty massacred Yeshiva students and showed no mercy even to the women and children - before I was able to confess all of my apprehensions, the Rabbi answered the question himself.

      "In the following words of Torah, he said: ‘The holy Torah tells us regarding Ishmael that he is a ‘perei adam,’ a wild beast of a man. It is know that our Torah is eternal, and if it says about Ishmael that he is a wild beast of a man, then Ishmael will remain forever a wild beast of a man. Even if all of the cultured nations of the world will gather together and try to educate Ishmael and transform him into a cultured individual, so that he will no longer be a wild beast of a man, obviously this will be impossible in every fashion or form. They will not be able to do this through any means whatsoever, because he is not capable of being a cultured individual, for behold, the Torah testified regarding him that he is a wild beast of a man. This means that forever, for all eternity, Ishmael is by definition a wild beast of a man. Even if Ishmael will be involved in intellectual endeavor, like being a lawyer, or some similar profession, then he will be a beastly lawyer. If he will study diligently to be a professor, then he will be a beastly professor. This means that the bestiality of Ishmael will never cease.’

      "Then the Chofetz Chaim let out a long, painful sigh and said, ‘Who knows what this wild beast of a man is capable of perpetrating against the Jewish people in the end of days?’ "Concluding his words to me, he said, ‘Nevertheless, fear not. There is no reason for this to prevent you from making Aliyah to the Land of Israel.’
      "Then he blessed me, saying, ‘Go in peace, and the L-rd will bless your path.’

      "So I left him, and journeyed in peace to the Holy Land."

      So, my brothers and sisters in Hollywood, Japan, Monsey, Germany, and France, do not be afraid. G-d will protect you. You too can be like Yehoshua! Come, rise up and inherit the Land!

      Nisan 23, 5767, 4/11/2007


      Rabbi Kook writes that a man can be physically free yet have a slave mentality. This is the situation of the Diaspora Jew. As long as his identity is centered and saturated in the foreign culture where he lives, he has not yet internalized the lesson of Pesach.

      Rabbi Kook writes that a man can be physically free yet have a slave mentality. This is the situation of the Diaspora Jew. As long as his identity is centered and saturated in the foreign culture where he lives, he has not yet internalized the lesson of Pesach.

      Rabbi Kook explains: "Intrinsic freedom is the exalted spirit whereby a man, and the nation as a whole, is inspired to remain faithful to his inner essence. But a person with a slave mentality lives life and harbors emotions rooted not in his essential spiritual nature, but in that which is attractive and good in the eyes of another, who thus rules over him, whether physically or by cultural persuasion."

      For example, on one of my last trips to America, before my parents came on Aliyah, I went to pray in the Orthodox synagogue in their Florida town and noticed a flyer on the bulletin board. The headline read, "THIS SUMMER VISIT OUR NATION’S CAPITOL WITH THE RABBI." The photo on the flyer showed the Capitol building in Washington D.C. Excuse me, dear reader, if you be one of those who are clinging on to the galut, but one of the lessons of Pesach is that our nation’s capitol is not Rameses, Cairo, or Washington D.C., but Jerusalem. If the summer visit to WDC is the education that the rabbi of the Orthodox shul in Florida, and American Jewish parents, are giving their kids, then they are dooming them to a mentality of slaves. By teaching that Washington D.C. is our nation’s capitol, they are enslaving them to a foreign identity and to all of the non-Jewish values and ideas that America fosters. For instance, while I was in Florida, my parents took me along on a visit to their accountant. The man’s fourteen-year old son took me into his bedroom to show me some pictures he took on a vacation in Israel. On the wall were posters of Rocky, a sexy model whom I didn’t recognize, Bob Marley smoking a joint, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in his muscle man days. This was the nonsense that filled his head. Growing up in a gentile country, he naturally identified with the gentile heroes around him. He may have learned some Yiddishkeit in Hebrew school once or twice a week, but in the onslaught of American pop culture, the lessons of our holy Jewish Sages went in one ear and out the other. For him, Israel was a cool place to visit, like a Jewish Disneyland, nice for a vacation, but since he was a proud American boy, why should he even bother to think about living there?

      On another trip to visit my parents, I traveled via Toronto where I had been invited to give a few lectures to the Jewish community. On Shabbat afternoon, I arrived early to one of the Orthodox synagogues and browsed through the local Jewish community newspaper. On the front cover was a picture of the Toronto skyline and the headline: "LOOKING FORWARD TO ANOTHER DECADE OF JEWISH LIFE IN TORONTO." I took the newspaper with me into the lecture hall, held it up for everyone to see, and said, "What is going on here? A Jew is supposed to look forward to the next decade of Jewish life in Jerusalem, not in Toronto. Isn’t that what we vow at the end of the Passover Seder – ‘Next year in Jerusalem’? I have the feeling that if Mashiach came now, it would spoil all of your plans."
      Our task on earth is to sanctify the Name of G-d in the world as a holy NATION, and this can only be done in our own Jewish homeland, not in Florida, Toronto, Monsey, or anywhere else.

      The sad truth is that Orthodox Diaspora Jewry is founded on a total misunderstanding of Judaism. Diaspora Judaism truncates the Torah by removing its national character, reducing Judaism into a religion like the gentile religions around them, whereby you have your national identity as an American, Frenchman, or German, and your religion is something separate - rituals and holidays that you practice at home and in church. Your identity, cultural values, language, and allegiance are all American, and your religion is Catholic, Christian, Protestant, or Jewish. When it comes to Judaism, this is a tragic distortion. Judaism is not merely a religion. The Torah is the CONSTITUTION for the national Jewish life of the Jewish People. Judaism is much more than kashrut and kiddush on Shabbos. Judaism is our national, political charter, containing laws for the king, the army, the Sanhedrin and Jewish courts. In the center of Judaism stands the Jerusalem Temple, where the Jewish Festivals are to be celebrated, including scores of laws for our national worship, comprising a third of the Mishna. Judaism encompassing countless laws regarding our national Jewish economy, including unique laws for agriculture in the Land of the Jewish People. It turns out that two-thirds of the Mishna deals with the national Jewish life of the Jewish People in Eretz Yisrael. The Torah is the blueprint for building a Jewish NATION in the Jewish Land. We are not to be individual Jews, or Jewish communities, scattered around the globe in other people’s lands. We have a Land of our own, with a Jewish constitution of our own, and with a mighty culture of our own. Our task on earth is to sanctify the Name of G-d in the world as a holy NATION, and this can only be done in our own Jewish homeland, not in Florida, Toronto, Monsey, or anywhere else. In short, a Jew is not to have a Steppinfetchit mentality with dual loyalties, always worried about what the others will think, having to keep up with the Joneses, and to live in the same multimillion-dollar houses as they do and drive the same expensive cars. This is not freedom. This is slavery.

      As Rabbi Kook proclaims: Let this year’s Seder night message of freedom ring out in our ears, in the ears of our brothers and sisters throughout the exile: "Now we are slaves – next year we shall be free men." Let this great call awaken the collective voice of the nation in all of its dispersions, to proclaim from the depths of its soul, "Now we are here – next year we shall be in the Land of Israel!" This is our freedom and the message of the holiday of Pesach – to be a free people in our own Jewish Land.