Middle East 6:12 AM 3/7/2014
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Life Lessons with Judy Simon
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.
I am, of course, referring to the famous talking ass of the Torah. As we mentioned, Bilaam would perform bestial acts with this creature, in order to draw upon himself an impure spirit that enabled him to carry out his nefarious deeds.
The Torah states:
“You shall not lie with a man, after the manner of a woman; it is abomination. And you shall not lie with any beast to defile yourself therewith; neither shall any woman stand before a beast, to lie down before it; it is perversion. Defile not yourselves in any of these things; for in all these the nations are defiled, which I cast out from before you” (Vayikra, 18: 22-24).
Although Bilaam, was a gentile, the Torah also forbids the sons of Noah to behave in this manner, as part of the general prohibition against sexual transgression.
Whatever happened to Bilaam’s ass?
G-d slew it, as Rashi explains: “And now, since she spoke and rebuked you, and you were not able to withstand her rebuke, I have killed her, lest people say, ‘This is the ass which silenced Bilaam with her rebuke, and he was not able to answer,’ for the Omnipresent has consideration for the honor of mankind” (Rashi, Bamidbar, 34:33).
We can all learn from this example. If the Almighty had consideration for the honor of the wicked Bilaam, how careful we all must be in guarding the honor of our fellow man.
This Shabbat we read about the wicked sorcerer, Bilaam. In addition to his appearance in the Torah, Bilaam is one of the characters in my novel, “Fallen Angel.” Remember Harry, the conman Casanova whom the angel is sent down to Earth to warn about his whoring ways? In one of his many infamous reincarnations, he was Bilaam. Here’s where we left off, back at Harry’s apartment after the angel’s unforgettable debut on coast-to-coast TV.
Harry instructed his answering service to tell callers that the whereabouts of the angel was unknown and not to call back. Then he changed into some casual clothes and returned to the living room to watch the movie of his past, which I projected on the large plasma screen on the wall.
The film had all the Technicolor, wide-screen impact of the Bible movies of old, with the additional attraction of 3-D IMAX effects, without the need of special glasses. Harry’s next appearance on Earth was as Bilaam, the sorcerer. To catch up on our Biblical narrative, a famine in the Land of Israel forced the Jews to descend to Egypt, where they became slaves to the wicked Pharaoh. Then, with miracles and great wonders, God sent Moses to lead the Jews out of bondage. Harry kept his eyes on the screen as I tried to make the narrative as lively as possible. Devastating the empire of Egypt with ten Divine plagues, God drowned Egypt’s army in the Red Sea as He brought the Jews through the parted waters to freedom. When the sea split apart, the IMAX effect was so realistic, both Harry and I flinched back in our seats as the thundering waves seemed to jumped out from the wall into the living room.
“Wow!” he exclaimed. “That’s a lot more convincing than Charlton Heston.”
“Being there was even greater,” I told him.
“You mean it really happened, the parting of the sea. It isn’t just some Jewish fairytale?”
“As real as me sitting here in your apartment talking to you now,” I replied.
“Where do I appear?” he wanted to know.
As the Exodus unfolded up on the screen, I introduced him to his next reincarnation as Bilaam. Fearing that the Jews marching back to the Land of Israel would conquer his country on the way, Balak, the King of Moab, sent for the evil sorcerer, Bilaam, to come to his aid. Knowing that his military forces could not overcome the Heaven-helped Jews on the battlefield, he hoped that the magician’s famed curses would stop them in their tracks.
“I read about Bilaam when I was doing research on my voodoo book,” Harry related.
“Did you know that after performing bestial acts with his donkey, Bilaam would draw down an evil spirit of impurity upon himself and engage in supernatural arts,” I asked.
“Can’t say that I did,” Harry confessed.
“He learned these occult practices in the mountains of the east from the fallen angels, Uzza and Azael. Possessed by evil spirits, Bilaam was a master of all divinations and enchantments, and he could even fly. But God turned his curses against the Children of Israel into blessings, and so the Jewish people remained unscathed by his nefarious machinations and evil eye.”
“He does look a little like me,” Harry admitted, staring up at what could have been his double.
“Humiliated by his failure to weaken the Jews, Bilaam returned to his home. But, unwilling to give up so easily, the wicked soothsayer advised Balak to adopt another strategy - to send thousands of immodestly dressed Midianite and Moabite women into the encampment of the Israelites in the wilderness, to lure them into temptation and seduce them into worshipping their idols. Sure enough, when the Jews took the foreign women into their tents, provoking the wrath of Heaven, a plague broke out and twenty-four thousand Jews were slain. Then, in view of all the nation, the head of the tribe of Shimon took a Midianite woman into the Tabernacle of the Lord and brazenly conducted relations with her in the holy Sanctuary. Pinchus, grandson of Aaron the High Priest, rose zealously up from the congregation, took a javelin in his hand, and hurried into the holy chamber. Running forward like an Olympic champion, he thrust both of them through with his spear in their loins, and the Divine anger was stayed from the Children of Israel.”
On the screen, like a skewer of shish kebab, the spear pierced through the groins of the fornicators with a loud, Dolby SPLAAAAAAAAAT!! Harry shivered.
“Hearing that Bilaam had gone to Midian to collect his reward for the twenty-four thousands Jew who had died in the plague, Moses sent Pinchus to assassinate him. Catching site of the zealous Israelite in pursuit, Bilaam used his magical arts to fly off into the air. But Pinchus was ready, armed by Moses with the holy forehead plate worn by the High Priest, and engraved with the secret Name of God. Using it to fly, Pinchus sped into the air after Bilaam.”
The special effects up on the living-room screen were equal to “Star Wars.” Even better. Instead of mere 3-D animation, the fantastic flying scenes were absolutely real. To enhance the excitement, I caused Harry’s seat to rock back and forth as if he were flying through the air with them.
He flies through the sky in a swooping backward circle, grabs a hold of Bilaam, and hurls him back down to the earth.
He crashes down on the ground in a cloud of dust.
Pincus lands beside Bilaam, raises his laser-like sword, and slices the sorcerer into pieces. WAP! WAP! WAP!
They spring to life out of Bilaam’s amputated limbs.
“Because Bilaam lured the Jews to engage in sexual sin and squander the holy fluid of life, he was sentenced to spend his afterlife in unending purgatory, immersed in a vat of boiling semen.”
“In a vat of boiling semen?” Harry asked sheepishly. “That was his punishment?”
“Measure for measure, that’s how it works,” I replied.
You would think that Bilaam’s unpleasant fate would have caused Harry to think twice about continuing in his whoring ways.
But it didn’t.
“Fallen Angel” can be ordered online at: www.createspace.com/3629602
We can all learn a lesson from the Torah portion “Hukkat” which we just read on Shabbat. The Torah relates that “the soul of the People became impatient because of the way (Bamidbar, 4:4). Rashi explains that because the journey to the Land of Israel was difficult for them, they became impatient and uptight. They wanted everything on a silver platter without having to struggle. So they once again started to complain. They blamed G-d and Moshe for their own inability to remain optimistic and steadfast in dealing with the challenges they encountered on their aliyah to Israel, as it says:
“And the People spoke against G-d and against Moshe, saying, ‘Wherefore have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, and there is no water; and our soul hates this light bread’” (Bamidbar, 4:5).
Wait a minute! They had bread and water! What were they squawking about? In this same Torah portion, we learned that in Moshe’s merit, G-d reactivated the miraculous well that had ceased to flow upon the death of Miriam. So they had water. And they had the manna, the miracle bread of many flavors. But they found something to complain about all the same, bitching that it was a light, diet bread, that digested immediately, when they wanted a heavy pumpernickel instead that would sit in their stomachs for weeks.
Instead of being appreciative for what they had, they chose to complain about what in their eyes was missing. Out of their feelings of insecurity and uptightness over the challenges of the journey, they struck out against G-d and Moshe, emphasizing what, in their minds, was lacking, rather than being thankful for all of the good.
These people fell to the advice of the snake. The snake in the Garden of Eden. Among the many evil inclinations that people are prey to, there is a yetzer hara to paint things in a negative light by concentrating on what is seemingly lacking, rather than emphasizing the good. This was the strategy of the snake in the Garden. He seduced Eve into seeing what she lacked, that all of the trees in the Garden were permitted to them except the tree in the center of the Garden. The snake made it appear that because one tree was missing from the list, then all of Creation was rotten. That’s how he seduced her into betraying G-d’s command not to eat from the tree. The rest of the story is history.
And that’s why G-d sent snakes to strike at the complainers in the wilderness, to make them understand the root of their snake-like sin, in concentrating on what they seemingly lacked, rather than being thankful for all of the good.
The only difference is that in America, they’ve discovered a new way to get rid of the Jews, by accepting them to death.
If you happen to be a Jew who lives in America, today is not Independence Day for you. Call it what you will – Bondage Day, Subjugation Day, Exile Day, Alzheimer’s Day, Forget Jerusalem Day, Make Believe Day….
First of all, you may think you are an American, but you’re not. You are a Jew. You are a member of the Nation of Israel. It may say that you are an American on your passport, but in G-d’s eyes you are an Israeli – a displaced citizen of Israel, an Israeli refugee in someone’s else’s land, an Israeli whose great great great grandfather was exiled from the Land of Israel, thrown out by the Roman usurpers, thieves who pillaged the country and stole the heritage of your forefathers.
You are as much an American as German Jews were German, and Soviet Jews were Russian. Sure, America has found a more gentile way of exterminating you, but it’s all the same. No, it’s even worse. At least, the Jews of Germany and Russia eventually woke up to the myth they were living, as if they were real Germans and full-fledged Russian citizens. The only difference is that in America, they’ve discovered a new way to get rid of the Jews, by accepting them to death.
The Jews of Brooklyn and Monsey might holler, “Hey, it’s all hunky dory with us!” But that’s like a man who’s lost his arms and legs, trying to convince you that everything’s all right. “I’ve still got my head,” he insists. The fact remains that the Jewish People are dying out in America. So what’s there to celebrate on the 4th of July?
How it pains me to see the kids who come on the Birthright trips. Of course, I am happy they’re here, but they’ve been so pasteurized, homogenized, Americanized, that they hardly know that they’re Jews. They don’t know how to read Hebrew. They don’t know how to say Kiddush. They don’t know their left from their right, nor their right from their left. From birth, they were lied to, brainwashed, and duped into saying the Pledge Allegiance to the flag of America and believing that making lots of money was the main thing that mattered.
Let me give you an example. This past Shabbat, we hosted a couple of guys from the Birthright program. The moment I saw one of them, call him Tony, I was reminded of myself back when, an all-American poster boy trying my hardest to pretend that I didn’t have a Jewish nose. I ushered the guys inside with a big grin and Israeli bear hug, as if they were my long lost brothers. Tony was going to college in Colorado, where grass was legal and available in every corner grocery, he said. He was a good-looking guy, with long hair, pony-tailed in back with a cookoo, muscular, with a practiced cool demeanor, so typical of Jewish American kids who try so hard to fit in. While I was asking them some preliminary questions, he showed me a photo of his dog and his girlfriend, Cindy, a shicksa if I ever saw one. The other two guys were more the straight type, so I concentrated my blitzkrieg on Tony. I use the term blitzkrieg because these guys have been deceived all of their lives, and I have only two hours with them to set their heads straight, so I have to give them all I’ve got.
First, I give everyone a full glass of sweet wine at the Kiddush. Then, once the meal starts, I bring out a new bottle of dry wine and explain the blessing “HaTov V’HaMativ,” and fill up their glasses again. “Hey, this is really cool!” they say, realizing that they’re in for a good time. When they’re gobbling up the spicy Mediterranean salads, I give each guy a bottle of beer. “Colossal!” they say, really beginning to feel relaxed. While they’re drinking, I tell them about their great great great grandfathers, how they came from the Land of Israel, and how we were all Israelis until the Babylonians and Romans expelled us from our Land. I transport them through history, telling them that every time we tried to be good Persians, or Spaniards, or Germans, or Russians, the goyim always reminded us we were Jews and that we didn’t belong in their lands. Then, before my wonderful wife serves the main course, I bring out my special bottle of etrog liqueur. The other two guys were smart enough to politely decline, but Tony was all for it. “This is humongus!” he said. “This is the best time I’ve had on this trip!”
With a big, “I love you, Tony,” smile, I pour out a solid shot glass of the power-packed Golan Heights liqueur and slide it over to my guest.
“L’chaim,” I say, downing a shot glass myself.
“L’chaim,” Tony toasts, shlushing it down his throat. Within seconds, his face turned pink and his forehead started to sweat. “Oh, wow,” he exclaimed. “This stuff is cool.”
He looked like Joe Frazier, after he’d been tagged the twentieth time with a stunning Ali combo. I could see that he was dizzy, and trying to keep his cool, but his cheeks were burning, as if he had eaten a hot potato.
That’s when I show them my old Hollywood picture.
“Wow, that’s really you?” they always marvel.
Then I tell them that, once upon a time, I was just like they are today, trying to live the big American lie, trying to be as cool and good looking as all the goyim, working out with Schwarzenegger at the sports club, cruising around LA in my spots car, prowling the discos at night, making believe that everything was as dynamite as could be, but feeling empty and lonely and all screwed up inside, just like I knew they felt because that’s how a Jew has to feel when he grows up in a foreign land, pretending to be someone he isn’t, living an alien culture, contorting his precious holy Jewish soul into the caricature life of a Davy Crocket, Sylvester Stallone, Donald Trump impersonation, when all the while the Jew inside is screaming for redemption, no matter how many uppers and downers and joints and booze and shrinks and perverted somersaults he performs like a poodle who’s dressed up in a baby suit and taught to jump through a hoop.
While the other guys started wolfing the aromic main course, Tony was still reeling from the liqueur. I could see he was doing his best to follow my every word, but he was already on the ropes. So I poured myself another shot of the holy elixir and offered him one too. He knew he shouldn’t, but he wanted to show me he was as macho as I was, so he accepted. This time I thought his eyeballs would pop out. I made sure he ate a little something, because it was Shabbat, and the hospital is a long walk away, and I didn’t want him drinking on an empty stomach. As usual, the other guys asked me what movies I wrote in Hollywood, but I brushed aside their questions with a wave of the hand. My wife, great partner that she is, explained that I didn’t like to talk about movies on Shabbat, because of the special holiness of the day.
Then I spoke about the Torah, how it’s our true culture, giving them a tour of all the hundreds of books in our living-room library, explaining how it’s been denied them all of their lives, their true identity, until they were programmed to sing the Star Spangled Banner with tears in their eyes, get stoned on New Year’s like all their heathen friends, and celebrate the 4th of July.
“What’s wrong with celebrating the 4th of July?” Tony asked.
That’s when I stand up from the table, walk into the kitchen, open the freezer, and take out the chilled and frosted bottle of “Arak,” a liquorish-tasting liqueur a little like Ouzo. The alcohol is so cold and concentrated, it goes straight to brain like a 10,000 watt electric charge. I poured myself a full shot glass, downed it with a smile, and handed one to Tony. The good sport gulped it down innocently. Then BOOM! His head trembled, his eyes fluttered closed, and he swooned off his chair. My little son was waiting with a throw pillow to cushion his fall. I’ve got my family trained. While I knelt down on the floor with the Birthrighter, my wife and older sons kept the conversation going with our other guests. In the beginning of the Birthright program, my wife didn’t like my antics, and she would get angry at me, but when she saw that it was all needed to break down the walls and walls of defensive barriers that these kids are encased in like vaults, she became a true helpmate in my efforts.
“Tony? Do you hear me?” I asked, sitting beside him under the table.
“Yeah. Wow. You’re such a cool rabbi.”
“Tony. Repeat after me. I’m not an American!”
“I’m not an American!” he said.
“I’m not an American!” I shouted louder.
“I’m not an American!” he yelled.
“I’ve been lied to all my life!”
“I’ve been lied to all my life!”
“I’m an Israeli!”I barked
“I’m an Israeli!” he echoed.
“I’m an Israeli!”
“Oh, man. You’re blowing my mind,” he said. “I don’t believe it. I’m an Israeli! My whole life’s a big lie. I’m a Jew. I’m an Israeli. I’m not an American at all!”
Once again, he looked like he was going to faint. Quickly, I whipped out the small sack of smelling salts I keep in my pocket whenever we entertain. Immediately, his eyes opened wide.
“Noam,” I called to my son, the soldier. “Bring me your rifle!”
Quickly, my son rose from the table, went into his bedroom, and returned with his big, sci-fi looking Tavor automatic rifle and laser night scope. Normally on Shabbat, we give the rifle a rest, but this was a case of saving a life, so I pulled Tony into a sitting position and put the rifle in his arms.
“I don’t believe this,” he said. “This is so friggin cooool.”
“You’re an Israeli!” I told him. “Not an American wimp!”
“I’m an Israeli,” he said proudly, hugging the rifle.
“You want to live in Israel!”
“I want to live in Israel!” he agreed.
“You want to study Torah!”
“I want to study Torah!”
“I’m fed up with America’s crap!”
“I’m fed up with America’s crap!”
“I want a Jewish girlfriend!”
“I want a Jewish girlfriend!”
Then I stood up and pulled him to his feet. Strapping the rifle over his shoulder, I grabbed his hands and started singing. “Hava negilla, hava negilla….” I figured it was the only Israeli song he knew. My sons brought the other Birthright guys over to join us, and we all danced a happy “hora” in the middle of the living room. “Hava negilla, hava negilla….” Around and around and around.
The guys had a great time. By the time they left, satiated with delicious, homemade desserts, they were all pickled out of their minds. I sent my army boy with them to show them the way back to their hotel. I gave them all a big loving hug and escorted them out the door. At the top of the stairwell, I gave Tony a real kick in the rump. Not in the Jewish side of him. I kicked the American imposter. As it says, “A time to speak, and a time for a good kick in the rear.” He tumbled down a few stairs and looked back up at me with a big happy smile.
“Thanks, Rabbi Fishman,” he said. “Thanks for such a colossal Shabbat. You’re the first person in my life who’s ever told me the truth. I’ll never forget you.”
I don’t know if Tony will end up living in Israel. But if he marries a Jew instead of his American Cindy, then the hangover I’ve had until now will be worth it.
Do you know what your children are watching when you aren't at home?
The danger of Internet pornography is certainly one of the greatest threats to the Jewish People today. We are grateful to the Almighty that, in addition to having had the opportunity on this blog to point out the many dangers of Diaspora existence, we were the very first blog to deal with the subject of Internet pornography and the devastating damage it causes individuals and the Jewish nation as a whole. Also, our website, www.jewishsexuality.com, led the way in alerting the Jewish public to the importance of “Shmirat HaBrit” and kosher Internet surfing, for every Jewish household.
Now, we are pleased to announce the publication of a comprehensive book on the subject. “The Mouse Made Me Do It!” is a clear, illuminating, and in-depth Torah guide, designed to help people who suffer from an addiction to pornography on the Internet. It is also designed to give people the understanding needed to break free from masturbation and other sexual transgressions, according to the teachings of the Torah and the Kabbalah. The famous “Twelve Step Program” in battling addiction is converted to a dynamic Torah approach to overcoming the powerful temptation of the web. The knowledge presented will allow people to regain control of their lives, break free of negative habits, and direct their energies in healthier, more positive paths by forging an active, joy-filled connection to God.
Here’s just one of the many letters of recommendation which I received.
Letter of Recommendation from Rabbi Shlomo Aviner:
"Yasher koach! Words of praise are due to the author and Torah scholar, Tzvi Fishman, for his work, “The Mouse Made Me Do It!” With good taste, and in a clear, illuminating, logical, and comprehensive fashion, the book sets forth the dangers of Internet surfing, and offers pathways to escape its addictions. Without doubt, this book will bring a blessing to every reader, young and old, and to every educator and rabbi."
With blessings of the Torah,
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner
Rosh Yeshiva, Ateret Cohanim, Jerusalem
The book can be ordered online at: https://www.createspace.com/3629345
If you are embarrassed that someone may catch you reading it, put a book cover on it, or keep it in a brown paper bag – but read it. If you don’t have a problem, maybe your children do, so it’s a good thing to have it in the house so they can browse through it and discover ways to escape the temptations and pitfalls of Internet surfing. Don’t be naïve. This is a constant challenge for everyone, and the only cure is through knowledge and by forging a renewed connection to G-d.
Happy, healthy, and kosher summer surfing!