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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.

       

      Adar 15, 5767, 3/5/2007

      MARITAL UNION - PART II


      THE MARITAL UNION – PART II

      Religious Jews too can benefit from a short refresher course in modesty, by being reminded of things that are easily forgotten because of the powerful temptations surrounding the marital act.

      Of course, the Internet is the proper place for an educational forum on modesty. First, it will be a tikun to counterbalance the cyberspace pornography that has become a leprosy in Jewish homes the world over. We know that a little light can expel walls of darkness. Certainly, the light of our Torah, and the mystical light of our Tzaddikim, will deal a devastating blow to the forces of Amalek and Midian that are purveying their smut on the web, precisely to damage our holiness and separate us from our G-d, may Heaven help us. In the merit of our holy Torah and Sages, may all Jews download porn filters today, and may pornography be banned from the Internet, Amen.

      Secondly, because the Internet reaches people worldwide, it is such a valuable tool in spreading the light of the Torah. Beginners to Judaism must begin with the truth, rather than be allowed to fall into ways of sexual transgression, that bring damage to themselves, their families, the entire community of Israel, and to all spiritual worlds. Religious Jews too can benefit from a short refresher course in modesty, by being reminded of things that are easily forgotten because of the powerful temptations surrounding the marital act.

      Thirdly, as we will explain in a forthcoming blog, sexual modesty is the foundation of our exodus from Egypt and the inner theme of the Pesach holiday.

      Furthermore, guarding our sexual modesty is the foundation of the Covenant between G-d and the Jewish People. It is the foundation of our holiness as G-d’s chosen nation. It is the key to our settlement of the Land of Israel, and it is the key to our security and defense. With G-d’s help, we shall explore all of these critically important matters in the upcoming weeks. Even if all of my readers should abandon this blog, I will continue to write, if only to remind myself of things that stand at the pinnacle of Creation, and at the core of our identity as holy servants of the Holy One Blessed Be He.

      Therefore, let us press onward. Before moving on to the Book of Vayikra, we can learn some additional secrets about the marital union from the service of the Kohanim in the Mishkan. The master Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, sets them forth in his book, “Kedushat Yisrael.” He writes:

      It is written, “And Aharon and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet when they come into the holy sanctum.”
      Kohen Washes Hands and Feet
      TempleInstitute.org

      The explanation of this is that the holy Torah requests that when Aharon and his sons wash their hands, they immediately raise them up, so that the spiritual lights that are emitted from the fingers will be ready to return to the head. In doing this, harmful, external spiritual forces (chitzonim) will not be able to feed off the lights of the fingers, thus insuring that the thoughts of the Kohanim remain lucid and pure. Similarly, when we come to perform the holy marital union, we must be very careful to wash our hands in the proper manner from a vessel, three times in an alternating manner, then raising them up to the head, as we have written, without reciting a blessing. This is to safeguard that your thoughts will be holy, and you will thereby merit righteous children, who will be devoted to Torah and the service of G-d. Thus we learn that great care must be taken to have holy thoughts during the holy marital union, for G-d looks down from Heaven and knows all thoughts, including the holy thoughts you have when you are with your wife, engaged in the marital union.

      Regarding the kohanim, it is also written, “You shall make linen breeches to cover the nakedness of your flesh.”

      This verse teaches that the holy Torah wants Aharon and his sons to dress in a very modest fashion, and not expose parts of the body that should be covered. Due to this guarding of modesty, blessing with rest on them. Similarly, when a husband and wife come to engage in the marital union, they must be careful to do so in a very modest manner. At the very least, they must cover themselves with a sheet over most of their bodies. This will prevent harmful spiritual forces (chitzonim) from negatively influencing their union.

      It is also written: “A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate…. And its sound shall be heard when he goes in to the holy place before the L-rd.”
      Bells and pomegranates of the blue robe of the High Priest
      TempleInstitute.org
      This verse teaches that Aharon HaKohen and his sons are to shake their robes so that the bells will make a loud noise when they go into the holy place. From this we can learn wise and proper behavior that no Jewish person so enter his house without permission, or before he rings the bell or knocks on the door, even though it be his own house – he stills needs permission to enter! In this way, he will not frighten his children or his wife. Similarly, when a husband comes to have holy marital relations with his wife, he must be sure that she is in a happy mood. He should speak words of love to his righteous mate, things that please her and make her feel love toward him. In other words, he should be sure to ring the bell – that is get her permission, and thus when the marital union is performed with great happiness between them, this gives much satisfaction to our Creator.

      “He shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire… and bring it inside the veil, and he shall put the incense upon the fire before the L-rd, that the cloud of the incense may cover the covering that is upon the Testimony…”

      The holy Torah commands Aharon to place the incense on the burning coals so that the cloud of burning incense will fill the inner sanctum with darkness. Similarly, when a husband and wife engage in the holy marital union, it should be in darkness. According to the secrets of Torah, it is forbidden for a husband and wife to see each others sexual organ, in order to guard the sanctity of their eyes, and in order that they be enveloped in holiness.

      When marital unions are conducted in this holy fashion, great material and spiritual blessing will be drawn upon us, upon our homes, and upon our nation, from our holy Father in Heaven, and we will merit to raise righteous children, and to receive great pleasure in them. And we will merit the coming of Mashiach, our righteous one, may he come soon in our time, Amen.

      [From the book, “Kedushat Yisrael.”]


      Adar 15, 5767, 3/5/2007

      PURIM IN MY VEINS



      The story of the Megilla isn’t just something that happened back then. The story of the Megilla is being replayed today.

      It is a few hours after Purim in Jerusalem. The Almighty has blessed me with the ability to write, but I am not able to describe Purim in Jerusalem. I am not able to capture in words the incredible holiness and spiritual roller coaster of a Purim in Jerusalem. It is beyond time, beyond space. I am not the same person I was before Purim began. I feel like the last time I sat down at my computer to write was ages ago, in some past lifetime. My sons reminds that I have a blog to write. “I am tired,” I tell him. “But, Abba,” he says, “The blog must go on.” After all, there are people out there in cyberspace, perhaps not a lot, my brothers and sisters, who want to hear words of truth from Jerusalem.

      Readers, I am sorry to trouble you, but the wine and the meaning of Purim is still in my veins. Are we to move ahead to tomorrow, like flipping the pages of a book, and so easily forget about the Jews of Shushan and the wicked Haman? Brothers and sisters, WAKE UP! The story of the Megilla isn’t just something that happened back then. The story of the Megilla is being replayed today. We are the Jews of Shushan who want the nations of the world to love us, while the Haman of Iran is building his deadly arsenal of bombs and missiles to remind us that we are Jews! Brothers and sisters, WAKE UP! The United Nations isn’t going to help us. The nations of Europe won’t help us. The United States won’t come to our aid. Our political leaders don’t have the guts to NUKE IRAN NOW! Only the G-d of Israel can save us, just like in the days of Purim of old. That’s the message of Purim for today. And now is the time to cry out. Not when the missiles of Haman are already on their way!

      Yes, we have to use our air force. Yes, we have to use our bombs. But we just learned in Lebanon that our bombers and bombs can’t do the job if G-d doesn’t help us. This past summer, we learned that we have no defense against rockets from the north if G-d doesn’t help us. So what must we do? We have to paint on our bombs the message, “In G-d We Trust,” just as David declared before he went out to battle to smite the wicked  Goliath, “That all the earth may know that there is a G-d in Israel!” We must fight our enemies with all of the military power and weapons we have, but we must do so with the recognition that our salvation is from G-d.

      There is a Jewish law that says we are to begin learning about upcoming holidays 30 days before their arrival. Brothers and sisters, Pesach is on the way. On Pesach, the Almighty stretched his hand out from behind the curtain of history, and took our nation, Israel, out from Egypt to be His unique chosen nation. Our calling was to be a uniquely holy nation, with a uniquely holy lifestyle, the Torah, which was to be our holy national constitution, lived out in our uniquely Holy Land.

      What was true then is true today. The Almighty hasn’t changed. The Torah hasn’t changed. We are to be a holy people, living according to our holy Torah, and living in our Holy Land. Like it or not, that’s the way it has to be.

      G-d does not want us to be good American Jews who keep Shabbat. G-d does not want us to be Londoners who keep kosher. Nor does G-d want us to be Israelis who try to imitate the ways of the West. A Jew is to be holy. He is to live a distinctly holy life and be a part of a holy nation, and that holy nation is supposed to live in the Holy Land. It is as simple as that. Everyone can gage where he is holding according to this simple truth.
      If you don’t like hearing it, then don’t read this blog. Keep running away from the truth. Keep trying to be a good Jew in Shushan.

      This is our national destiny – to be a holy people in the Holy Land. Whether we like it or not, the Almighty will bring this to pass. “The eternal One of Israel will not lie.” Either we return on our own, by turning back to our Torah and Holy Land, or the Hamans of the world will persuade us the hard way, G-d forbid. Just as the tables were turned suddenly upside down for the Jews in Shushan, so it can happen today in Paris, and London, and yes, even New York. And yes, it can happen too in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, G-d forbid, if we don’t WAKE UP and return to being real, holy, true Torah Jews. This is the message of Purim. It is time to stop the masquerade of dressing up in the costumes of the good American Jew, and the loyal French Jew, and the cultured English Jew, and the Westernized Israeli Jew, and to start being 100% holy Torah Jews in G-d’s chosen Land. 



      Adar 13, 5767, 3/3/2007

      HAPPY PURIM TO JEWS THE WORLD OVER!


      HAPPY PURIM!

      What do Rabbi Meir Kahana, Rabbi Kook, and Rabbi Kook’s son have in common? Only someone who reads this special triple-decker Purim blog will know. Purim Samaoch!

      CONFUSED                                                     
      It is clear what is happening; there is a decree to exterminate the Jews! What place is there for confusion?

      By Rabbi Meir Kahana
      [Rabbi Kahana wrote this article in 1973 in Jerusalem. He said that he hoped his thoughts would survive the test of time. Unfortunately, its message still holds true today.]

      It is Purim in Israel, though not yet here in the capital where the festival — as in the case of all cities walled from the days of Joshua — will not be celebrated till this evening. The weather, which has been quite fickle, alternating between extremes of tem- perature and precipitation, has again begun to turn warm and we look forward to a Jerusalem day in the 60-degree range (Farenheit). Yesterday, I sat in the synagogue commemorating Shabbat Zachor, the Sabbath of Remembrance, and afterwards, at the Sabbath meal, discussed Megilat Esther, the Book of Esther and its lessons for our time. I believe that some interesting thoughts emerged.

      “The couriers went forth hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was given in Shushan, the capital. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; and the city of Shushan was confused” (Esther 3:15).

      “And Mordechai perceived all that was done, and Mordechai tore his garments, and dressed himself in sackcloth with ashes. He went out into the midst of the city, and cried out with a loud and bitter cry” (ibid., 4:1).

      It appears to me that this is both a difficult and wondrous portion. It also holds an incredible truth and insight that we would do well to learn, understand and act upon.

      What is happening here? Haman has just emerged triumphant from his efforts to win approval for genocide against the Jews. The king has agreed; has removed his ring and given it to Haman; Haman has chosen a day for the Final Solution and the messengers go off “hurriedly by order of the king.” “The decree was given in Shushan” and, presumably, the whole Jewish population — metropolitan and sophisticated, knows of the electrifying news. What is their reaction? “And the city of Shushan was CONFUSED.”

      Confused? What an incredible reaction! Say terrified, fearful, broken — but “confused”? What is there to be confused about? It is clear what is happening; there is a decree to exterminate the Jews! What place is there for confusion? More. We have just learned that the decree is given in the entire city of Shushan, and that the Jews of the city are confused upon hearing it. Everyone knows; everyone is “confused.” What in the world, then, is the meaning of the next verse, “and Mordechai perceived all that was done.” Certainly, Mordechai knew, but not just Mordechai. Everyone knew and what is the purpose of singling out Mordechai as if he had some special knowledge? More, one may ask, given the general knowledge, why was it that only Mordechai reacted with mourning, sackcloth and ashes while all the rest limited themselves to “confusion”?

      Listen carefully to Biblical insight; its lesson could well be our own salvation. What is Shushan? The sophisticated, modern capital of the Persian empire. The largest, most exciting and most cosmopolitan city of its time. (Say, Berlin 1928 or New York City 1973.) The Jews, more sophisticated and more cosmopolitan than everyone else, clever and eager to climb, are ready to cast off their Judaism at the drop of an emancipated opportunity. The king invites them to his banquet? They flock there against the protests of Mordechai, and sup happily from non-kosher food served temptingly on uncircumcized dishes.

      What joy reigns at the banquet and at all the other banquets, not so much for the food and the entertainment, but because here is proof absolute that the Jew has been accepted in Persia by the progressive, sophisticated and enlightened Persian. He can assimi- late calmly and without fear. Farewell to insecurity and the need to contemplate return to Zion where the living is so not-easy and hardships abound. Farewell to the concept of Exile. We are now home; Shushan is our Jerusalem (as in later years, the descendants of these Jews would joyfully substitute “Hamburg” or “Vienna” or “Charleston, South Carolina”). We are Persians of the Mosaic persuasion. Joy and tranquility reign among the Persian Jews, and assimilation amongst their fellow equal citizens goes on at a mad pace.

      And suddenly, the shock bursts upon them like a bolt from above! A decree from the king that his Persians of the Mosaic per_ suasion be exterminated! Not some, but all! Not just the reactionary and medieval ones with the kaftans and earlocks and infuriating habit of tradition who live in the squalid part of Shushan known as William-shan, but even the intellectual and the radical on the Upper East Shan of the city. My L-rd, what is happening? What has happened to all the emancipation and liberation and equality and dreams of integration? Gone up before the mocking words of Haman, “there is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom . . . ” (Esther 3:8). The poor modern, sophisticated and assimilated Jews of Shushan sit stunned. They cannot believe their ears. It is not fear or panic that is their initial reaction but exactly — “confusion.”

      It cannot be happening to us. We are not Jews, we are Persians. Our world cannot be turned upside down overnight and our illusions so burst. All that we believed in cannot be completely wrong! “Confusion,” that is the precise word. So, of course, they knew — as did Mordechai. But his “knowing” was of quite a dif- ferent kind. He knew, and he understood, not with confusion — BECAUSE HE NEVER ALLOWED HIMSELF TO BELIEVE THAT THE JEW IN THE EXILE COULD EVER FIND A PERMANENT HOME. Mordechai is the Jew of honest tradition who knows that there is only one home — the Land of Israel — and that all the rest, the most progressive and the most enlightened states, in the end, turn upon the Jew and demand his head. He hears the news and he is not “confused”; he is not startled into paralysis. He knows that this is possible and, now that it has come, he acts and cries out: Jews, repent! Pray unto G-d! Learn the bitter lesson of Exile!

      Jews of Shushan, 1973. Leave off confusion. Go home!


      THE TEACHINGS OF HARAV TZVI YEHUDA

      Until the day of his death, 25 years ago, on Purim, at the age of 91, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook championed the principle of Jewish settlement in all of Eretz Yisrael. The only son of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, and Rosh Yeshiva of Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem, he was the spiritual father of the renewed Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, East Jerusalem, Gush Katif, and the Golan Heights. As a memorial, we are presenting a few of his teachings, may his memory be for a blessing.
      Thus the establishment of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel is a fundamental precept of the Torah.


      *
      “The time has come to return home. Whether we want to or not; whether we recognize this truth, or whether we want to run away from it. ‘And I will bring them back to their Land.’ Hashem has decided that the time has arrived.”

      *
      “Because of our long exile amidst the impurity of the gentile nations, we have become accustomed to think that our life of exile is normal, and we forget that Eretz Yisrael is our natural, healthy, Divinely-intended place. We need to foster the understanding, and the feeling, that we must live in Israel, that this is our normal place, in terms of religion, and in terms of our nationhood. If we are not here, we are unhealthy. And from time to time, the gentiles forcibly remind us that we are living in their domain, in an alien land.”

      *
      “The wholeness of the Jewish People appears only in Eretz Yisrael. The Divine value of this great nation appears only when it is situated in its own Land, in all of its health and stature. The revelation of Hashem’s honor in the world comes through this nation in this Land. This is the order of Creation, that ‘There is no G-d in all of the earth, except in Israel’ (Melachim 2, 5:15). When this portion of mankind is situated in this particular Land, the Torah is revealed in all of its truth.”

      *
      “The Ramban clearly establishes that this Land, which has Hashem has promised to our forefathers, must be kept under our control, and not under the control of any other nation. This is clearly meant in a national sense, for everyone understands that ruling a land means the establishment of a state in that land. Thus the establishment of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel is a fundamental precept of the Torah.”

      *
      “We are indivisibly attached to Judea and Samaria, and to all the expanses of our Land, through the eternal bond between the Holy Nation and the Holy Land. We must stand in defense of this to the uppermost limits of dedication and self-sacrifice, without any surrender at all. There is absolutely no room to entertain thoughts of relinquishing even a single square meter of Hashem’s inheritance to us. There is not to be any blemish in our borders, G-d forbid. We are to battle for this end with all of our strength.”

      *
      “There isn’t any man who is permitted to make territorial concessions over this Land. Are these kilometers ours? Is someone the owner of them? These kilometers belong to the millions of Jews in Russia and America and throughout the world, no less than they belong to us. How can a person not feel ashamed by the thought of making do with a truncated state? No one has the right to relinquish lands which belong to the millions of Jews of all generations. This is a disgrace, a sorrowful shame, and a violation of the Torah.”

      *
      “The setbacks we face are temporary. All steps backwards are transitory and passing. Advances sometimes come in hidden stages. One must look at the global upheaval involved in bringing us back to our Land, and recognize that this is the Divine unfolding of, ‘When the L-rd brings the exiles back to Zion.” Because of its staggering scale, the process naturally undergoes difficulties and problems. The greater a thing is, the more complicated it is. The unfolding of our Redemption is an historical event of colossal proportions. All of the disturbances and temporary setbacks are trivialities which have no substance in this sweeping historical pageant. The actions of the gentiles, or of superficially thinking Jews, which oppose this Divine plan, carry no weight whatsoever. They are null and void in the light of the Torah and Hashem’s promise and providence over His people.”


      “GATHER THE JEWS TOGETHER”

      “The purely righteous,” Rav Kook wrote, “Do not complain about wickedness - they increase righteousness. They do not complain about heresy - they increase faith. They do not complain about ignorance – they increase wisdom.”

      On Purim, in addition to the joy of salvation, our transcendental simchah comes from the feelings of love and brotherhood that the holiday fosters, as Mordechai commanded, “Gather the Jews together.” In this week’s Torah portion, we meet the Kohen HaGadol and the Kohanim, who are to take their place in the center of national life as servants in the Mishkan, the spiritual light and heart of the nation. In addition to the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Vayikra, 19:18), which is incumbent on every Jew, the Kohanim also have the special mitzvah to “bless His nation of Israel in love.” In our time, this role was filled by the saintly, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, the High Priest of Redemption. In his towering love for the Jewish People, Rav Kook was the personification of Hillel’s teaching: “Be like the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving thy fellow man, and drawing them close to the Torah (Avot, 1:12). His whole life and being were devoted to gathering the Jews together.

      Rav Kook is especially famous for his love for the secular pioneer builders of the Land. Today, when secular leaders in Israel are often engaged in the very opposite, including the destruction of Jewish settlements and houses of Jewish worship; the surrendering of large tracts of our homeland to enemies set upon our destruction; and setting a shameful standard of corruption, public scandal, self-interest, and greed, the question can be asked – what is to be our orientation toward these fellow Jews?

      Rabbi Kook taught that, “The heart must be filled with a love for all” (Midot HaRayah, Ahavah, 9). This love, he wrote, must encompass all of G-d’s creation, non-Jews and Jews alike. He explained that his unbounded love for the Jewish People stemmed from his birthright as a Kohen. It can also be attributed to his immersion in the secrets of Torah, which finds unity and goodness in everything. It was precisely in a Jew’s connection to the lofty and ever-pure soul of Knesset Yisrael, the encompassing Community of Israel, past, present, and future, that the inner holiness and worth of every Jew can be found. Rabbi Kook taught that even the sinners of Israel, as long as they identified themselves with the nation, albeit in distorted fashions, were worthy of unreserved love.

      “The pious of the generation, lofty holy men, must disregard any deficiency or flaw in every Jewish soul that is in any way attached to the Rock from which it was hewn. Instead, they must raise the point of connection to Clal Yisrael that exists in every individual soul to its heights and exalted holiness. Nothing can diminish the unlimited love for the nation, the source of our life, as it says: ‘He has not seen beheld iniquity in Yaacov, nor has He seen perverseness in Israel'” (Orot, Orot HaTechiyah, 24).

      The antagonism of the Ultra-Orthodox zealots against his positive outlook toward the national contributions of the secular pioneers led to many distasteful attacks, including his being hung in effigy in a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem.

      Once, on the way home from a brit milah in the Old City, a group of zealous Ultra-Orthodox Jews attacked his entourage and threw sewage water all over Rabbi Kook. Later in the day, the Attorney General of the British Mandatory Government visited the Rav to express his anger over the shameful deed and to persuade the Rav to file a criminal suit against the perpetrators. Rabbi Kook replied: “I have no interest in legal actions. I love them despite what they did to me. I love them so much that I am even prepared to kiss them. My entire being burns with love for every single Jew!” (“An Angel Among Men,” Pg. 300).

      “The purely righteous,” Rav Kook wrote, “Do not complain about wickedness - they increase righteousness. They do not complain about heresy - they increase faith. They do not complain about ignorance – they increase wisdom.”

      Rabbi Kook’s followers often beseeched him to strike back at those who sought to besmirch him and belittle his greatness in Torah.

      “With all of their wickedness,” he wrote, “As long as they cling to the collective of the nation (Clal Yisrael), they are included in the verse, ‘Your people are all righteous’” (Yisheyahu, 60:21; Orot HaTechiya, 20). Rav Kook explained that this outer wickedness served to fortify the strength of the righteous, who must struggle against this darkness by adding more light.

      “Ahavat Yisrael,” Rav Kook stated, “and the work of stressing the good in the Clal, and in the individual, isn’t simply work on the emotional level alone, but a great occupation of Torah, and a profound reach of wisdom” (Orot, Orot Yisrael, 4:1).

      “It is a great and enlightening task to totally remove anger from the heart and to feel unlimited compassion and kindness, to gaze upon everything with a favorable eye, even upon the actions of the most wicked, in emulation of the pure Divine eye, to feel compassion for those sunk in the mire of evil, and to find some good in them” (Orot HaKodesh, Vol. 3, Pg. 326).

      While criticized for his towering tolerance, Rabbi Kook saw the shortcomings of his generation as much as anyone in his time. Nevertheless, he sought to find merit in every Jew – the sign of an enlightened leader. In the chapter on Hasidut in the book, “Mesillat Yesharim,” the famed Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, writes: “These are the true shepherds of Israel, whom the Holy One Blessed Be He greatly desires, those who sacrifice themselves for His sheep, who petition and actively work for their peace and benefit in all of their endeavors, and who forever stand in the breach to pray for them, in order to nullify stern decrees, and to open the gates of blessing for them.”

      “The great love that we feel for our nation does not shut our eyes to its blemishes,” Rav Kook wrote. “Even though loving mankind encompasses everyone, and sometimes an evil person also falls into this general love, this doesn’t in any way interfere with hating evil” (Orot, Orot Yisrael, 4:3).

      Rav Kook taught that hatred should only be directed toward the evil and filth in the world. “It is proper to hate a corrupt person only for his defects, but insofar as he is endowed with a Divine Image, it is necessary to love him. We must realize that this precious dimension of his worth is a more authentic expression of his nature than the lower characteristics that developed in him through the circumstances of his life” (Midot HaRayah, Ahavah, 9).

      While Rabbi Kook’s love for the Jewish People knew no bounds, one should not think that he was some sort of liberal, reform rabbi who believed that everyone was free to do his own thing, G-d forbid. On the contrary, he harshly condemned desecrations of the Torah and did all he could to inspire transgressors to mend their ways. For instance, he writes, “Whoever undermines, through the proliferation of ideas, and, all the more so, through deed, the holy idea which vitalizes the nation, he is a traitor to the nation, and to pardon him is folly” (Letters, 93). When Eliezer Ben Yehuda, restorer of the modern Hebrew language, wrote an article claiming that the Jewish People “have turned their backs on their past, and that is our praise and our glory,” Rabbi Kook wrote a long, scathing response, “Let him dream to his heart’s content, but when he attests publicly that all of us are dangling limbs like him, and that we have all turned our backs on the past which is the source of our lives, we are obliged to protest and make known that not our hearts, but his, issued these words that shame the dignity of Israel” (Letters, 18).

      In protest to the widespread desecration of Torah in the country’s towns, cities, and kibbutzim, Rabbi Kook penned a passionate appeal: “Turn back, turn back children! Return to the spirit of our people, to the Torah of G-d, the Rock of Israel. Keep the Sabbath free of desecration and turn your hands from all evil. Can it be that we have no other occupation and calling in life, in the Land of Israel, than to pursue the worst customs of other nations, so that we will be a derision to our enemies? Is being carried away by all kind of dances, constantly wasting money and time on motion pictures, and the like, what we lack these days? Must our women follow the most immodest fashions, just to imitate the ways of a dying Europe, and bring them brazenly into this ancient Holy Land, thus shaming the glory of its rebirth and majestic life? And our tables are becoming disgusting, carrion and forbidden foods are eaten in public without any feeling of shame. How can we be as one person, in a bond of brotherhood, if you destroy the most basic foundations which unite us, if you continue to ferment the stench of separatism, which festers fraternal hatred and despair? (Articles of Rav Kook, “Wounds of a Lover”).

      Rabbi Kook warned that the lack of brotherly love in the Jewish Nation causes disunity which weakens the nation, and jeopardizes our continued settlement of the Land. The rifts we see today, whether between political parties, between the religious and the secular, or within the religious world itself, are divisions which prevent us from working together in unison to pull the wagon of nationhood out of the mud. This can only be rectified, Rabbi Kook taught, by an active and encompassing love.

      Rabbi Kook’s only son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, took over his father’s mantle as head of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, and labored over his father’s prodigious writings, compiling them into books. “My Father said that since groundless hatred caused the destruction of the Second Temple, to bring about the Temple’s rebuilding, we have to increase unlimited love. This love is not dependent on anything. It is like G-d’s unconditional love for Israel. This love exists regardless of any shortcomings in the beloved, or without any conditions that have to be met. Even with all of the deficiencies and imperfections in people, love must be total. There can be great differences in personalities, or disagreements in learning, or debates over the right thing to do, but true Ahavah transcends all of this and surrounds all of the Jewish People, like the eternal love of G-d for His people.”

      What was true in Rabbi Kook’s time is true for us today. We have to love our fellow Jews and bring them close to the Torah. May your Purim be filled with great joy and love for every Jew, no matter how unlearned and misguided he may be.


      Adar 11, 5767, 3/1/2007

      DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR CHILDREN ARE WATCHING?


      DO YOU KNOW
      WHAT YOUR CHILDREN ARE WATCHING?


      parents who have Internet in the house without a site-screening service, are transgressing against their children.
      As we mentioned, from time to time, we will be turning this blog over to people who have important things to say. Rabbi Elisha Aviner is considered one of the top educators in the religious Zionist movement in Israel, specializing in the complex world of teenagers and their parents. We have translated portions of an article he wrote for the weekly Hebrew journal, “B’Ahavh V’B’Emunah,” published by the Machon Meir Yeshiva. Basing the article on research statistics, he warns the parents of religious teenagers, and the heads of their schools, to wake up to the very real dangers of pornography on the Internet. As we approach Shabbat Zachor, when we are obligated to remember what Amalek did to us, our fight against pornography in our homes takes on added importance:
                                                                                                                       
      “A research study conducted at the University of Haifa, regarding the teenage viewing of Internet pornography revealed a wide difference between what young people admitted watching and what their parents thought they were watching. 60% of the young people admitted they regularly visited porn sites, while only 16% of their parents believed that their children would do such a thing. 60% of young people are watching pornography and smut!!!! This is a staggering percentage! It has to set of a red light for everyone who is concerned with their children’s future. There was no specific survey for the religious
      public. However, other less professional surveys amongst religious teenagers have indicated that while the percentage of porn site surfers is less, it is not less by any dramatic degree. This is a blow that we can not run away from. The illusions of parents are also a source for concern. An intense campaign of education is needed to counteract this. Since there is a simple and inexpensive solution – the installation of a censorship filter that prevents entry into immoral websites – one must ask the question, why don’t religious parents equip their computers with this readily available service? Perhaps this stems from a lack of awareness. Perhaps from a too naïve attitude, as if to say, “This could never happen in our home.” Perhaps it is laziness or parental carelessness. The fact is - parents who have Internet in the house without a site-screening service, are transgressing against their children.

      “While a school’s responsibility is toward the children and not the parents, sometimes positive educational goals cannot be reached without also educating the parents. It is impossible to educate a young person toward the values of holiness and the reverence of G-d while the Internet drags him down and down into an abyss of pollution.”

      Therefore, Rabbi Elisha Aviner concludes, schools must undertake an urgent campaign to educate parents, even to the point of refusing to register children who have uncensored Internet at home. The Torah prohibition against viewing pornography, he notes, applies to both adults and children alike. Thus parents cannot evade their responsibility by hiding behind the flag of freedom of expression and their right to view what they please.

      Let’s face it. Any society that allows the evils of pornography to flourish under the banner of free expression is an evil society. We don’t have to feel embarrassed in demanding the obliteration of this evil from the world. That is one of our missions as G-d’s holy nation on earth. This is one of the ways that we can fulfill the commandment to blot out the memory of Amalek, whose strategy has always been to sever the connection between the Jewish People and G-d by luring us into sexual transgression. And if it is not yet in our power to rid the world of its cyberspace garbage, at least we can be sure to do so in our homes - for the sake of our children.



      Adar 10, 5767, 2/28/2007

      THE COSMIC CONNECTION - Torah Portion "Terumah"



      we became loyal Americans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen, lovers of baseball, connoisseurs of cognac, admirers of the Queen
      THE COSMIC CONNECTION
      Torah Portion “Terumah”

      One of the tragedies of our long exile away from our Jewish homeland, scattered amongst the nations of the world, was that we gradually forgot who we were. While the ultra-Orthodox Jew managed to preserve a Jewish identity of sorts (the downtrodden Jew) by secluding himself in the ghetto, the modern Jew, including the modern Orthodox, came to identify himself with the gentiles and foreign culture around him, until we became loyal Americans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen, lovers of baseball, connoisseurs of cognac, admirers of the Queen. Outwardly, the only difference between a Jew and a gentile was that a Jew kept some different holidays, ate gefilta fish, and munched on bagels and lox. We forgot that we are the pinnacle of G-d’s Creation (Kuzari, 1:39-43), with a unique Divine soul, “a holy nation and a kingdom of priests” (Shemot, 19:6). We forgot that planted in each and every one of us, as an inheritance from our forefathers, is the blueprint of the universe, a miniature Mishkan, connecting us to all of the secrets of the cosmos, including the ability to overturn the forces of nature, make seas and rivers part, cause the sun to stand still, and draw the Presence of G-d back down to the world.

      Sometimes, people say that the great miracles of our history were something from the past which don’t occur today. The truth is that they still occur, but that G-d camouflages them in the seemingly natural events of nature and history, very much as in the Purim story, where G-d is not mentioned even once in the Megilla, but it is obviously He who is pulling all the strings behind the curtain. Likewise, the establishment of the State of Israel and the incredible revival of the Jewish Nation in our time is a great miracle hidden in the historic occurrences like the Balfour Proclamation, the courage of the early pioneers, the Six Day War, and the ingathering of the exiles in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. True, G-d’s Name doesn’t appear in any newspaper accounts of these events, but obviously, He is the mastermind behind everything.

      Little miracles happen too. For instance, one Shabbat, my wife felt pains in her leg throughout the day. Come Motzei Shabbat, I suggested calling the saintly Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, to ask for a blessing. I knew the Rabbi would be on his way to the Kotel, so I telephoned the driver of his car. Without specifying the problem, I told the Rabbi that my wife wasn’t feeling well. He told me to give her the phone. First, he told her to stand up (she was lying down.) Then he told her that her right leg was hurting. “That’s right,” she said. He told her to place her hand on her knee, and that he would concentrate on a blessing. My wife says she felt a wave of heat warm her whole leg. “It’s gone,” the Rabbi told her. “Your leg is fine. You can walk around the block and clean the whole house.” Sure enough, the pain had vanished. Spending time with the Rabbi, I have witnessed small miracles like that on dozens of occasions. The point is that a Jew who has fully developed his inner potential, and who has learned how to connect with the spiritual Internet, can bring about miracles, just by closing his eys and thinking. All of the great Tzaddikim were known for that.

      Based on the holy Zohar, the “Nefesh HaChaim” explains how the Jew, the Mishkan, and the world are intrinsically one:

      “The Mishkan, and the Mikdash, encompassed all of the powers of existence, and all of the worlds. The construction of the Mishkan was equaled to the Creation of the world, and all of the order of Creation was contained in it. Thus, a member of the holy Jewish nation, who also contains within him the blueprint of Creation, and the workings of the Divine Chariot, and all the secrets of the universe, he is also structured in the model and pattern of the Mishkan, the Mikdash, and all of its vessels. For his bodily anatomy, his organs, joints, and sinews, and all of his powers, all parallel the construction and vessels of the Tabernacle. This is implied in the verse, ‘And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them’ (Shemot, 25:8), implying that they themselves were to be, ‘according to the pattern of the Tabernacle and according to all its vessels.’ The command to do so was made in the future tense, meaning also for all Jews for all generations to come (Sanhedrin 16b). Thus, we can postulate that this was coming to say, ‘Don’t think that the ultimate goal of My intention is to have you construct an external Tabernacle, but rather to hint that you should see it and pattern yourselves after it, that you yourselves should be, by your doing the proper deeds, like the pattern of the Mishkan and its vessels, all of them holy, fitting, and prepared for the actual dwelling of My Shechinah (Divine Presence) within you’" (Nefesh HaChaim, Gate One, Ch. 4, Addendum).

      Thus, each and every one of us is a potential Tabernacle, capable of drawing the exiled Shechinah back into the world. This is our real identity. But, for it to work, we have to remember it, believe in it, and develop our special Divine talents. For those of us who have been blessed with coming home to Israel, each of us has already returned a portion of the exiled Shechinah to the world just by coming back to Eretz Yisrael (See Rashi on Devarim, 30:3). But, we can’t rest on our laurels and trust that the nation will continue forward on its own. King David taught that there are two stages to aliyah and spiritual progress: “Who will ascend the mountain of the L-rd, and who will stand in his holy place” (Tehillim, 24:3). It is not enough to make aliyah and live in the Land of Israel. We have to stand strong in the raging winds of Redemption and live here in a holy fashion. We have to keep working in order to keep G-d’s Presence upon us, as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai explains on the opening verse of our Torah portion:

      “Speak to the Children of Israel that they bring Me an offering; of every man whose heart prompts him to give, you shall take My offering.”

      “This signifies that a person who exerts himself in the performance of a mitzvah, and in rectifying the Shechinah, must not be lax and wanting in his efforts, but rather, he must exert himself with all of his resources and strength” (Zohar, Terumah, 128a).

      Rabbi Shimon teaches that the work of rectification (tikun), effected through our good deeds, cannot be accomplished in a lackadaisical fashion, but must be paid for in full price, in a spirit of self-sacrifice, like an offering from the heart. “Otherwise, the doer will not succeed in drawing upon himself a spirit of holiness from Above. For the spirit of impurity constantly tempts the heart of man with many easy allurements, in order to dwell in him. But the spirit of holiness is not so – its attainment demands sacrifice and a strenuous effort, in both small and great matters, including purification of one’s self and one’s dwelling, and devotion of the heart and soul. Therefore, a person must walk in a straight path, straying neither to the right nor the left; for otherwise, the Shechinah will immediately depart from him, and it will be most difficult to restore it to its place” (Ibid).

      In other words, we have to keep on our toes and strive to maintain a high level of holiness, as befits our identities of miniature Sanctuaries. We have to live with the moment by moment recognition that all of our thoughts, and words, and doings have profound cosmic influence, for good, and also for evil, as the “Nefesh HaChaim” (source cited) makes clear:

      “A man of Israel must understand, know, and establish in his mind and heart that every detail of his deeds, speech, and thoughts, at every second and time, all rise up according to their root source to influence the most exalted worlds. When a wise person recognizes this truth, his heart will greatly tremble in the face of his wrongdoings, realizing the awesome and devastating damage that even a small transgression can cause, even more than the destruction wrought by Nebuchadnezzar and Titus. For their deeds had no damaging effect on the upper worlds, for they have no portion or root source in those worlds that would enable them to cause damage there. Rather, it was our sins that polluted the celestial Temple, so to speak, and that gave Nebuchadnezzar and Titus the power to destroy the Sanctuary below….Therefore, when a man entertains an impure, licentious thought in his heart, G-d forbid, he in effect brings a prostitute into the most exalted, celestial Holy of Holies, giving strength to the forces of impurity and evil in this transcendently holy place, to a much greater extent than the impurity caused by Nebuchadnezzar and Titus when they brought a prostitute into the Holy of Holies in the Temple Sanctuary on earth. And this is also true regarding every transgression a Jew commits in his heart, whether the thought of idol worship, anger, or any other evil lust, these are the fires which destroys our Temple.”

      It isn’t the Mashiach who is holding up the works. It’s us! Every time we get angry, or watch some smut on the Internet, we pollute not only ourselves, but also the planet, and all of Creation! Studying the Torah portions which deal with the Mishkan is not ancient history. It is a profound personal overhaul and a cosmic tikun, rectifying all of the worlds.