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Gerald A. Honigman
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Life Lessons with Judy Simon
Torah Tidbits Audio
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 Bet 25, 5771, 3/31/2011
In Mom’s nursing home, there’s an automatic bicycle machine. All you have to do is strap the old timer’s feet onto the pedals and turn on the motor. The machine does all the work. It gets the blood circulating, even though the cyclist is just going through the motions, but of course it’s not like riding a real bicycle.
Just going through the motions.
For a lot of people, that’s what Seder Night is like. They go through the motions of reading the Haggadah, eating matzah, and drinking four cups of wine, but they don’t internalize the message of the Seder and act on its teachings. Like with the automatic bicycle, there’s a lot of action, but they really aren’t going anywhere.
With Pesach approaching, it is appropriate to ask what is the message of Pesach and the Passover Seder?
Pesach is called the holiday of freedom. It commemorates our freedom from galut. That initial galut (exile) happened to be in Mitzrayim (Egypt), but it could have been in Brooklyn, Toronto, Manchester, or Melbourne as well. For a Jew, exile means living outside of the Land of Israel. Some exiles seem worse than others, but as long as a Jew is living outside the Land of Israel, he or she is in exile. He’s living in someone else’s land. He is a stranger. A minority. Nothing is his. Everything belongs to the gentiles who rule there. Sure, there are Jews who will protest and say, “I’m an American just like everyone else,” or “I’m a Canadian just like everyone else,” but this is just a delusion. A Jew is a Jew. He is a member of the Children of Israel. He may have a birth certificate from the United States and a US passport, but those are external to his true essence, like the travel decals you stick on a suitcase.
Wherever he wanders, a Jew is just passing through.
Because he is a Jew, he has an eternal, inner attachment to the Torah and its commandments. Just as he can’t say, “I don’t believe in the Torah, therefore I don’t have any obligation to keep kosher,” he also can’t say, “Because I was born in America, I don’t have any connection to Eretz Yisrael.” No way. Because he is a Jew, he is part of G-d’s gift of Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish People. He is a part of the Divine commandment to live there. Eretz Yisrael is the Land of the Jews, not Canada or Japan. As long as he is outside of the Land of Israel, he is in exile. And if he thinks that it is not exile, because he feels free there and the gentiles accept him, it is exile all the same. Ironically, the worse an exile is, the better it is for the Jew, because at least he realizes that he is in exile. When the exile is comfortable, like in Brooklyn and Toronto, a Jew can easily fool himself into thinking that he isn’t in exile at all, and that’s the worse bondage there is.
So, first and foremost, the holiday of Pesach comes to teach us that G-d chose us as his special Nation and freed us from bondage to take us out of exile and establish us in Eretz Yisrael, as the Haggadah begins:
“This is the bread of affliction that our forefathers ate in the land of Mitzrayim. All who needs may come and eat, all who need may come and share in our Pesach meal. This year we are here, next year may we be in the Land of Israel. This year we are slaves, next year may we be free men.”
This means that the goal of our lives should be to leave the galut and live in the Land of Israel. Our Sages are teaching us that no matter where we recite the Haggadah, whether it be in Warsaw, Moscow, Berlin, New York, or sunny Miami Beach, we are in exile. We are in bondage in a foreign land, in a foreign culture. Only when we live in Eretz Yisrael are we free men.
This teaching is repeated at end of the Seder when we declare, “Next year in Jerusalem!”
Therefore, this year, make your Seder Night meaningful. Make it real. Don’t just go through the motions. Strive to internalize its teachings. In the great Divine illumination that comes on Pesach night, understand with all of your being that you are living in bondage in exile amongst the gentiles, in a foreign land, and all you have to do to get free is pack up a few clothes and hop on a plane to Israel. Everything else is here waiting.
Next year in Jerusalem!
It’s as simple as that!
Adar Bet 23, 5771, 3/29/2011
There are many types of impurity. In the Torah reading on Shabbat, we learned about the impurity (tumah) of certain creatures, like worms and lobsters and pigs and vultures, which makes them off limits when it comes to food. We also learned about the parah adumah, the red heifer, and the impurity of death. In the Haftorah, we learned about the impurity that results from living in the Diaspora and G-d’s promise to heal us from this spiritual uncleanliness by bringing us back to Eretz Yisrael and putting us through a gradual, step-by-step spiritual overhaul (Ezekiel, 36:16-38).
Outside of Israel, the land of the nations is impure and the air is impure as well (see Tractate Shabbat 14B). Recently, this has been made clearer with the nuclear plant disaster in Japan and the cloud of radiation that is spreading over the Diaspora, but even without this, there is a spiritual radioactivity that envelopes the Diaspora, and this impure atmosphere has a devastating effect on the Jews who chose to live there.
Rabbi Kook writes: “The poisonous air of the Diaspora sustains the life of the nations that live there, providing them with what they need, but it cannot provide even a millimeter of the unique idealism vital to the Jewish People. The air there pollutes the Jewish heart and brain, causing weakness and clouded thought” (Ikve Hatzone, pg.114).
Elsewhere, Rabbi Kook writes: “Revelations of holiness, on whatever level, are clean in Eretz Yisrael, while outside the Land of Israel, they are mixed with abundant dross and impure husks” (Orot, 1:4).
The air in the exile causes mental impurity and dullness. It is filled with the polluted influence of the strange and foreign cultures of the gentiles, which cloud the spiritual vitality and national idealism of the Jewish People. The clear thought processes of the Jewish People, and the spirit of true national Israeli life, can only be found in the pure holy air of the Land of Israel.
The Gaon of Vilna, certainly one of the most outstanding Torah giants of the last 500 years, compared the Diaspora to a grave, in that “the national body of the Jewish Nation is destroyed in the exile, our flesh is eaten away by the worms of the foreign cultures which are omnipresent there, which devour us physically and spiritually, until even the bones of the nation, the Torah scholars, become rotted away” (Likutei HaGra, at the end of his commentary to Safra D’Ziniuta).
For example, the spiritual pollution and dullness of thought in the Diaspora finds expression in the belief that life in the exile is perfectly OK and even enjoyable. When you explain to Diasporians that the very opposite is the case, that Jewish life in the Diaspora is polluted, they have no idea what you are talking about. They simple can’t fathom what you are saying because of the cloud that has settled over their hearts and their brains. Just like with radiation, they can’t see it. But a Geiger counter of a soul like Rabbi Kook’s, and the soul of every Jew whose heart pulses with a love for Eretz Yisrael, can actually feel the spiritual pollution of the Diaspora when he’s there.
"What is he talking about? The air couldn't be cleaner!"
What’s the solution? The Prophet Ezekiel tells us:
“For I will take you from amongst the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own Land. Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all of your uncleannesses and from all your idols, I will cleanse you….” (Ezekiel, 36:24-25).
G-d has given us El Al Airlines and money to buy a ticket. He has built up the Land into a thriving, modern country, a world leader in all fields. Why live in a grave in Japan, New York, or Toronto when you can live in the place where G-d wants us to be?
Adar Bet 18, 5771, 3/24/2011
When Meir Indor saw that the Fogel massacre in Itamar was given scant notice in the world media, he set off to America. He’s there now, and maybe you can help him.
Lieutenant Colonel Meir Indor has been the head of the Almagor Terror Victims Association in Israel for twenty five years. Almagor is an organization made up of terror victims and their families, who have come together to make the fight against terror a public battle. I have worked with them on a volunteer basis since their inception, helping to bring their case to the media.
Acting on their behalf
Indor says: “After the brutal Fogel family murders, the missiles falling in Beer Sheva and Ashdod, and the bus bombing in Jerusalem today, the voice of the victimized Israeli families must be heard. One cannot dismiss them. People who have lost a loved one to terror have a right to speak out loudly and be heard. They are the moral voice that the world must hear to crack down on Arab terror. In addition, by carrying the torch in the fight against terror, they are able to create a more meaningful life for themselves. After the devastation of having parents, relatives, or children killed by terrorists, by lobbying the Israeli government of Israel to crack down on terror, they are helping Israel and Jews the world over. This gives their lives more meaning and provides a channel for their anger and pain.”
Meir Indor - Victim of Arab Terror
Immediately after the Fogel massacre, Indor, who himself was recently wounded when Arab high school students pelted his car with rocks as he drove with his wife on the Mount of Olives, demanded that the Israeli government institute the death penalty for terrorists. Ever since the “Jabril Exchange” in 1986, he has led the fight against the mass release of imprisoned terrorists, stressing the fact that many return to kill again.
Indor was one of the first commanders of a special IDF espionage unit fighting terror in Gaza. Son of Holocaust survivors from Poland, he was twice wounded fighting terrorists in battle. He fought in the Six-Day War, War of Attrition, Yom Kippur War, the Litani Champaign, and Operation Peace for Galilee. In 1979, he founded the Atzmona settlement in the Gaza Strip. A year later he set up the Hebron Fund for the settlement of Hebron, and established, along with Rabbi Yehuda Hazani, the Sarel-Volunteers for Israel projects which has brought tens of thousands of volunteers to Israel. In 1984 he established the Habaita Organization to assist Soviet Jewry, and founded the IDF Shomer Israel Project which trains Diaspora youth for army service. The Almagor Terror Victims Association, which he began in 1986 with other terror victims, has spearheaded a powerful public lobby against terrorism which has prevented successive governments from becoming soft on terror in order to please the Palestinians and foreign pressure. In addition to the social services it provides to the families, holiday gatherings, summer trips for teenagers, counseling and legal services to make sure the victims receive their full rights, the organization wages a constant battle in the Israeli media to counteract pro-Palestinian tendencies, and the international demand for Israeli concessions, like closing down roadblocks, which endangers the security of the Jewsish State and its Jewish citizens.
As Indor sees it, the most pressing problem facing Israel today is the need to prevent the creation of a Palestinian State. No matter how small such a state would be, he maintains that the danger is enormous. Among other things, Palestinian sovereignty means that the Israeli Army would lose the ability to enter areas under Palestinian control in order to capture terrorists, gather vital intelligence, and stop rocket launches and other planned attacks.
Letting the Almagor volunteer staff attend to the traditional distribution of Purim Mishloach Manot to the families of terror victims, Indor flew to America to gain support for the continuing battle against Islamic terror. During his meetings in Florida, New York, and Washington, Indor hopes to raise funds for two urgent projects:
To derail the government of Israel from establishing a Palestinian (soon-to-turn Hamas) state, Indor is planning to put together a forum of retired army commanders and dozens of bereaved parents of terror attacks, and hold an open conference at Bar-Ilan University before Netanyahu's anticipated speech outlining his peace plan. The media conference would address the danger and folly of creating a Palestinian state, especially in light of the recent escalation of terrorist attacks in Israel, and the great instability in the Middle East, where Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise.
Concurrently, Indor wants to send a large delegation of terror victims to Europe and the United States, to meet with the media, local Jewish communities, world leaders, and members of the Congress and Senate in Washington DC. While the Israel Foreign Ministry is prepared to help with materials and logistical support, private funding is needed to bring the group to America and European capitals. Indor is currently looking for communities that can host the delegation. He believes that the media and public opinion battle are vital in order to afford Israel the freedom to crack down on terror and guarantee the safety, sovereignty, and secure existence of the Jewish State.
If anyone would like to help the terror victims, their families, and the Almagor organization in presenting their case to the world, so that our side of the story be heard, please send in a talkback explaining how you can help, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone Hedva, the organization’s volunteer director in Jerusalem, 054-8071882.
Adar Bet 17, 5771, 3/23/2011
It frequently occurs that the old timers in Mom’s nursing home don’t want to eat. When that happens, they have to be forced fed. It doesn’t look so pleasant to see, and it’s less pleasant to be the one handling the spoon, but what can you do? Though it looks like you’re hurting the person, you’re really doing a big mitzvah. Sometimes a stubborn person will clamp his or her teeth shut like iron, and you have to cajole, and raise your voice, and push the spoon into the mouth with more force than you would have liked, but the food has got to get down the throat in order to keep the person alive.
It’s the same with writing about aliyah. A lot of people clamp shut their teeth and don’t want to imbibe the message, but they have to be fed anyway, in order to save their lives. In the famous prophecy of the Dried Bones, the Prophet, Ezekiel, compared the exile to a graveyard. The Gaon of Vilna teaches that the foreign cultures in foreign lands are like worms that eat away at the bones of the Jewish People (even the the Torah scholars) until our true understanding of the Torah becomes decayed and we forget that we really belong in the Land of Israel.
Since Pesach is a month away, it is the custom to already begin learning about the holiday. As we have written in the past, the goal of our exodus from Egypt was to bring the Jews to the Land of Israel, as G-d tells Moshe at their very first encounter: “I have surely seen the affliction of My People who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of Egypt to bring them up out of that land to a good and large Land flowing with milk and honey….” (Shemot, 3:7-8).
The goal of the exodus is to re-establish the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. Along the way, there is a stop at Mount Sinai to receive the holy code of life, the Torah, which will allow the Jews to live a life of prosperity and blessing in their unique Holy Land. But Sinai is only a way station. The destination is Israel. We are to live our lives as Jews as part of the Jewish Nation, the Nation of Israel, in the Land of Israel, and not in Egypt, the wilderness of Sinai, America, Canada, or Japan.
The terrible sin of the Spies was in rejecting G-d’s plan for the Jewish People in Eretz Yisrael. They wanted to stay put in galut. After all, they had the comfort of the manna, the miraculous well, and the protective Clouds of Glory – why journey on to Israel where they would have to fight savage enemies and work hard to make the holy soil give forth its fruit?
That’s why some people have to be forced fed. Even though they don’t want to imbibe the message, it’s for their own good. Sure they think I’m a monster trying to shove a spoon down their throat, but it’s really because I love them, the same way that I love my Mom.
"It's good for you!"
Adar Bet 16, 5771, 3/22/2011
It is told that Hillel once saw a skull floating on the surface of the water. He said to it: Because you drowned others, others have drowned you; and those who drowned you shall themselves be drowned (Avot, 2:7).
During the evil expulsion of the Jews from Gush Katif and settlements in the Shomron, Moshe Katzav was the President of Israel, and he didn’t protest. Time and again, settlers cam and begged him to speak out, but he kept silent, or said, “That’s democracy, that’s the law, that’s the decision of the lawmakers of the State.” And now, just as the decent Jews of Gush Katif were raped by the government, he himself has now been raped by the very establishment he represented.
In a similar fashion, just as Ehud Olmert aided Sharon in stealing the homes and property of the disengaged settlers, he is being indicted for theft in the Holyland scandal and other cases of fraud. And so too for many others who lent their help to the shameful surrender from our Land and ousting of Jews from their homes. Measure for measure.
I don’t believe that Katzav raped those women. While there is generally some truth to the expression, “There’s no smoke without fire,” I wouldn’t call it rape. He may have had fire in his pants and done some stupid things which he certainly shouldn't have done, but it wasn’t rape. When a woman parades half naked around the office, day after day, advertising her wares like the neon sign outside a sleazy striptease joint, she can’t pretend she’s an innocent victim. When she agrees to go to a hotel room with a man she has heated up like a coffee pot, she can’t pretend she didn’t play a part in what follows. Furthermore, I don’t know how you can rape a woman in a hotel room. If she wasn’t interested, all she had to do was scream. Obviously, the women urged him on, led him to believe it was perfectly OK with them, then screamed “rape!” a few years later in the dirty backstage political scheme that brought Katsav down.
Who's to blame? The coffee pot or the finger that turns it on?
True, he should have known better. But that’s what the yetzer hara does to a person. But is wasn’t rape. He wasn’t sentenced to seven years in prison for that.
In the past, I’ve made clear my feelings clear about women who dress up like Paris runway models. In my opinion, they should be fined like drunken drivers or people who smoke in public places. They are a nuisance and a threat to the community. Women who do not dress according to the guidelines of Jewish modesty are a danger to the Jewish Nation. The Chofetz Chaim and a long list of Torah giants have emphasized the terrible sufferings and punishments that come upon the Jewish People when the daughters of Israel ape the unbridled fashions of the gentiles. The beauty of a Jewish woman lies in her modesty. Her modesty is the secret of a healthy and happy home, and the bond of love that connects husband and wife throughout all their years of marriage. A woman who flaunts her body to win the attention of other men is not only betraying the trust of her husband, she is uprooting the foundations of Judaism and breaking down the holy walls that have guarded our Nation from the time of our holy and modest forefathers.
And woe to the husband who allows his wife to set off to work looking like someone who has forgotten her clothes at home. Since a husband and wife are one, her sins are his sins too. As the Talmud teaches: “Any man who has the ability to protest (against the improper behavior) of the members of his household, and doesn’t protest, is held accountable for their sins” (Shabbat 54B. See also, Rambam, Laws of Sotah 4:19. Aslo Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 178:21). The man of the house should teach his wife and children the laws in a pleasant loving fashion, taking the time to explain the reasons behind the laws and their great importance to the family and the Nation. But if he gives in to the ways of the times and let’s his wife and daughters dress according to the newest fashions, then he is responsible for all of the transgressions which result from their immodest behavior, may Hashem have mercy on us.
Therefore, Mr. Katsav, if it’s any conciliation, I don’t believe you raped those women. But why didn’t you speak out against the rape of the Land of Israel and the brave and holy settlers who lived in Gush Katif?