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.
Adar 22, 5767, 3/12/2007
First a blog reader asked the question and then someone phoned me.
“Is this Tzvi Fishman?” he asked.
Fishman Visits America
Adar 21, 5767, 3/11/2007
The problem isn’t the Jews in Israel. The problem is the Jews outside of it.
My friend, Shmuelik, is right when he says that since I do not have rabbinical ordination, who am I to preach about moving to Israel? So let’s hear what G-d has to say. As if to decide the issue Himself, G-d has sent our blog a comment from Heaven through this week’s Haftorah portion. Let’s see what He says about the Diaspora, through the agency of His prophet, Ezekiel:
“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” (Ezekiel, 36:20).
This prophecy is coming to tell us the mere fact that Jews are living outside the Land of Israel is a desecration of G-d. Why? Because in the eyes of the gentiles, our presence in the Diaspora proclaims that G-d lacks the power to keep us in His Land. That was back then in Ezekiel’s days. Now in our time, when G-d has returned the Land of Israel to the Jews, the situation is even worse, for it seems, in the eyes of the gentiles, that in clinging to our Diaspora communities, we prefer foreign lands to His. Everyone knows that the Jews have the money to hop on a plane, but instead, we turn our backs on the Promised Land, and choose to stay in America, Australia, South Africa, and France. This is a desecration of G-d. This is what G-d’s prophet is telling us, and presumably, he has rabbinical ordination.
We are not talking about individual cases where someone must be in the Diaspora to take care of sick parents, or an aging person who feels he is too old to begin life anew. We are taking about the tragic and shameful situation of entire Jewish communities ensconced in the darkness of exile. Based on this verse of Ezekiel, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook taught that the Diaspora is the worst desecration of G-d that there is, since it involves so many Jews. The opposite is also true, he explained:
“Today, we are struggling between the phenomenon of Kiddush Hashem (the sanctification of G-d’s Name) and Chillul Hashem (the desecration of G-d’s Name.) The greatest sanctification of G-d is that which involves all of the Jewish People, as the prophecy of Ezekiel proclaims:
“And I will sanctify My great Name which was profaned amidst the nations, which you have profaned in the midst of them. And the nations shall know that I am the L-rd, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes” (Ezekiel, 36:23-24).
“How will G-d bring about this great Kiddush Hashem in the world?” Rabbi Kook asked, and answered with the continuing words of the prophet:
“For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and I will bring you into your own Land” (Ibid).
“This sanctification of G-d, which comes through the instrument of His nation, isn’t limited to the Orthodox and Haredim,” Rabbi Kook said. “This great sanctification of G-d comes through all of the House of Israel, the righteous and the non-righteous alike. Today, we see that the national body of Israel is returning to its health, and to its healthy Land, from amidst the impurity of the nations. This is the highest sanctification of G-d that we can find.”
Get the message, my friend? The problem isn’t the Jews in Israel. The problem is the Jews outside of it. The return of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel is the greatest sanctification of G-d that there is. This means that the State of Israel, the vehicle that G-d has created and chosen to bring this about, is a sanctification of G-d, irregardless of the level of Yiddishkeit of is citizens.
Ben Gurion Declaring Statehood, 1948
Yes, Shmuelik, it is true that there are shortcomings here, and matters which have to be changed. We don’t hide our eyes from the things which need to be improved. Rather, we have faith that with the passing of time, the problems will be solved. Yet the fact that there are problems does not impinge on the holiness of the State. As Rabbi Kook explained:
“The intrinsic value of the State is not dependent on the number of observant Jews who live here. Of course, our aspiration is that all of our people will embrace the Torah and the mitzvoth. Nonetheless, the State of Israel is holy, whatever religious level it has.
“There are religious Jews who express a type of criticism and say: ‘If the State and its lifestyle were run according to the Torah, we would accept it. Until then, we abstain from it.’ They talk as if the State does not belong to them. The fact is, the State of Israel belongs to all of us, to the entire Congregation of Israel. Anyone who refuses to recognize the State of Israel does not recognize the One who is ‘Returning His Divine Presence to Zion,’ as we say in our prayers” (See the book, “Torat Eretz Yisrael, the Teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda,” Chapters 6-13).
Patience, dear Shmuelik. The Redemption of Israel unfolds in stages, as the prophet Ezekiel assures us. First there is an ingathering of the exiles, and then, after we have returned to the Land, a return to the Torah will follow:
“For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and I will bring you into your own Land. Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean…. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to follow My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel, 36:23-28).
Today, thank G-d, there are more Torah giants, religious Jews, and joyous religious observance in Eretz Yisrael than in any place in the world. So instead of complaining, come join us!
Adar 19, 5767, 3/9/2007
A college student from L.A. wrote our blog, saying that he wants to come on Aliyah, but that his parents are against it. He asked, whom he should listen to – his parents or his heart?
When I decided to make Aliyah, my Mother was very against it. One day, I returned home and found a note from my Father on the kitchen table saying that he had taken my Mother to the hospital with heart pains. I rushed to the emergency room at New York University Hospital and waited until a doctor appeared.
“Do you know what you are doing to your mother?” the young doctor asked me. “She is sick with worry that you are moving to Israel.”
“I am thirty years old,” I answered. “I have my own life to live.”
“I want to tell you something,” the doctor said. “Once upon a time, I wanted to move to Israel, but my mother was adamantly against it. I didn’t have the courage to do what I wanted. So here I am, still practicing medicine in New York. If you want to go to Israel – go. Don’t worry about your mother. She had some slight heart palpitations, that’s all. Her heart is a strong as a lion’s.”
Today, my Mother and Father live downstairs from me in the same building in Jerusalem. While Mom has her share of medical problems, after a year in Israel, she was able to give up all of the heart medications she had been taking for years in the States.
Regarding the college student’s question, I asked Rabbi David Samson for a halachic response, based on Jewish Law. Here is his answer:
Rabbi Kook told my friend that the greatest honor a child could bring to his parents was to live and learn Torah in Israel.
Once, when I was learning at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, a friend of mine wanted to meet the Rosh Yeshiva in order to ask him a question. He was studying for a year in Israel and he wanted to stay on for another year, but his worried parents wanted him to come home to America. He came to ask Rabbi Kook what he should do. Rav Tzvi Yehuda smiled at my friend and said, “You are over the age of bar mitzvah, aren’t you?”
Halachically, after citing a long list of instances where a child must obey his parents, the Shulchan Aruch cites four example cases where a child need not adhere to his parents demands:
1) When a son wants to learn Torah in a specific place and his parents refuse because the yeshiva is situated in a town filled with anti-Semitism. (1)
2) When the son wants to marry a certain girl and the parents don’t agree. (2)
3) When a child wants to pray in a different synagogue from his parents. (3)
4) When a Beit Din says a child cannot go to Israel because it is dangerous,
the child need not obey. (4)
In this last example, the Mabit explains that parents have to be honored even more than a Beit Din. And if parents try to prohibit a child from moving to Israel, the child need not listen. So therefore, the ruling of a Beit Din preventing a child’s aliyah cannot be enforced. (4)
In all of these cases, the parents cannot prevent their child from performing a mitzvah, whether it be learning Torah, marrying, praying, or moving to Israel. When a mitzvah is involved, a child need not listen to his parent’s opposition. This is because everyone is obligated to observe the commandments. (5) However, the Gaon of Vilna extends a child’s independence to all areas of life, not only where mitzvot are concerned. For instance, if a child wants to move to another town, or if he wants to become a farmer, or if he wants to buy a certain commodity, and his parents disapprove, the child need not listen. (8)
A child is to live his own life, and not the life of his parents. He is called upon to honor his parents in matters that directly affect their personal wellbeing, but when it comes to his own life, he is the captain of the ship. (8)
Rabbi Kook told my friend that the greatest honor a child could bring to his parents was to live and learn Torah in Israel.
1. Shulchan Oruch, Yoreh Deah, 250:25, in the name of the Trumat HaDeshen, 44.
2. Ibid, additions of the Rama, in the name of the Maharik, 167.
3. Ibid, Pitchei T’Shuva, 240:22.
4. Ibid, Even HaEzer, Pitchei T’Shuva, 75:6, in Meil Tzedaka, 24
5. Yevamot 6A. Baba Metzia 32A.
6. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, Beor HaGra, 240:36.
7. Responsa, Rabbi Yaacov Ariel, “In The Tent of Torah,” 6:2; and 10.
Adar 18, 5767, 3/8/2007
To INN’S Baruch Gordon and his family on the wedding of their daughter tonight! INN addicts the world over extend blessings for happiness, health, spiritual and material good fortune, and the joy of seeing children and randchildren grow up proud and holy Jews in the Land of Israel, soon to be crowned with the rebuilding of our Holy Temple, may it be now!
Adar 17, 5767, 3/7/2007
Our Sages teach us that the air of the Land of Israel makes a person wise. In the same light, the air of Hollywood fills a person’s head with Looney Tunes. That is why my truly dear Friend from Hollywood can write that the Jews of Israel should come to live in America where the Orthodox communities are thriving. My Friend from Hollywood is happy with his life in a foreign land. He sends his children to Yeshiva, he learns his page of Talmud each day, he sings his jingle of Moshiach on Shabbat, and every morning, bagels and lox appear miraculously on his doorstep, just like the manna in the Wilderness. It doesn’t matter to him that 50-60% of the Jews of America are assimilating all around him. That’s their problem. He has his little Orthodox enclave and his jars of gefilta fish. Nothing could be better.
Indeed, it is a lot like the Spies in the Wilderness. They too decided it was better to stay in the desert of Sinai, rather than continue the journey to Eretz Yisrael. After all, all of their material needs were provided for from Heaven, leaving them free to practice their Judaism to their heart’s content. In the Land of Israel, they would have to become farmers, and soldiers, and build cities, and do all the hard work by themselves. What would become of their Yiddishkeit? Besides, there were scary giants in the Promised Land. So they told Moshe, “No thanks,” we have decided not to journey any farther. We are perfectly happy with our Orthodox community here in the wilderness. We will join you in Israel after the Moshiach arrives.
To judge them in a favorable light, they wanted to be free to learn Torah, and avoid the exhausting, dangerous, and time-consuming work of establishing the Jewish nation in its own Land. Nevertheless, for all of their righteous intention, G-d didn’t agree with them. The purpose of Judaism is to establish the Kingdom of G-d in the Land of Israel, and not to eat bagels and lox in the Wilderness. “You have dwelt long enough in this mountain, turn away and take up your journey… go in and possess the Land” (Devarim, 1:6-8). Again, Moshe rebukes them, saying, “You would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the L-rd your G-d” (Ibid, 1:26). Though they were Torah scholars and leaders of the community, they lacked true faith, and refused to follow the L-rd’s clear command, as it says, “In this matter, you did not believe in the L-rd your G-d” (Ibid, 1:33). In what matter? In the matter of dwelling in the Land of Israel, which our Sages state is equal in weight to all of the commandments of the Torah - because it is only in Israel that the Torah can be actualized in its true national essence, and not just as a community of wilderness Jews in someone else’s land.
In their desire to keep the spiritual side of the Torah alone, and not actualize the Torah in its earthy dimension by taking an active part in the building of the Jewish nation in the Land of Israel, the Spies caused the death of the generation in the Wilderness, and planted the roots of our future exiles in the deserts of Diaspora Jewry, where OrthoConservadox communities continue to pick and chose their mitzvot, saying, “This one pleases me, and this one doesn’t.”
And in regards to my Friend’s assertion that there are spiritual dangers in living in Israel because of the secular Jews, are there no spiritual dangers in Hollywood? What can we do - the Almighty has chosen to bring the Jewish People back to Zion through the vessel of a secular state. A secular state that gives tax money to Jewish hospitals, and poor Jewish people, and Haredi children, and yeshivot, and that also builds mikvahs, and synagogues, and aliyah centers, and leads the way in the supreme mitzvot of gathering the exiles from the four corners of the globe, and in defending the Jewish People from enemies at home and abroad. This is a sanctification of G-d’s Name, not the opposite. Yes there are problems in Israel. But whereas we are like sick hospital patients on the way to recovery, the Jews of the Diaspora are like patients in terminal wards.
My dear Friend from Hollywood does not agree with me because his head is filled up with all kinds of distorted Looney Tune cartoons of Moshiach who will fly down from Heaven on a winged stallion and will build highways, electric plants, industries, farmlands, and cities ready-made with a wave of his wand.
What can you expect? My friend has a head made in Hollywood. Let me try to explain. Lifetimes ago, when I was a beginning baal t’shuva in Hollywood, I heard that Rebbe Yisrael Odesser was in town to raise money for the publication of the books of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Rebbe Odesser was the holy Tzaddik who received the famous “Na Nach Nachman” letter from Rabbi Nachman. So I went to hear him speak. Someone asked him why the skies of Los Angeles were so polluted with an almost constant orange black cloud? “We have to understand that everything physical has a spiritual counterpart,” the ninety-year old Rebbi explained. “The terrible immorality and spiritual pollution in this city manifests itself in the physical pollution of the air above.” Rebbe Odesser didn’t frequent discos and the bars of Sunset Strip. His keen spiritual radar sensed it.
Los Angeles Smog
Therefore, my beloved Friend in Hollywood – beware. This polluted spiritual air enters your lungs and circulates through your bloodstream. When it seeps into your brain, it turns it to mush, like gefilta fish in a jar.
In the more lofty language of Rabbi Kook, “Revelations of holiness, on every level, are clean in the Land of Israel; while outside of the Land, they are mixed with abundant dross and impure husks” (Orot, 1:4).
That’s why my good friend’s thinking is so screwed up. He has smog on his brain. Kosher food isn’t enough for a Jew. To be mentally and spiritually healthy, the air that a Jew breathes has to be holy too.
This polluted spiritual air enters your lungs and circulates through your bloodstream. When it seeps into your brain, it turns it to mush, like gefilta fish in a jar.
My holy brothers and sisters in Israel, please help me explain these truths to my friends in Hollywood, Monsey, Johannesburg, and Marseilles. Perhaps my style is too attacking and blunt. Instead of 20 comments to this article, there should be 2000 coming from you out of Israel. Let all of our friends in the Diaspora know the tragedy of their thinking. Like the steady droplets of water that can bore a hole through a boulder, your words, tempered with wisdom and love, have the power to penetrate even the fossilized brains of the golus. Let this blog be your shofar. Speak out! Speak out! Speak out!