Global Agenda 2:15 AM 3/7/2014
Defense/Security 9:00 PM
Defense/Security 7:48 PM 3/8/2014
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 have been asked to comment about Havat Gilad. I will preface my remarks with a story that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook would tell students to explain the painful phenomena of yeridah.
Once a shidduch was arranged, but before the meeting, the girl realized that she knew who the boy was, and she wasn’t interested in him at all. But she didn’t want to hurt his feelings by calling off the meeting, so she dressed up in soiled and wrinkled clothes and left her hair a mess, so she would appear unappealing when they met. Sure enough, the boy was repelled and decided that he didn’t want to meet her again. He thought he was rejecting her, when, in actually, it was the girl who had rejected him.
“This is what happens with people who leave the Land of Israel,” Rabbi Kook explained. “G-d, in His kindness, doesn’t want to hurt the feelings of any Jew, so he makes the person think that he is the one who rejects Eretz Yisrael, when, in fact, Eretz Yisrael really is rejecting him. G-d sets things in his path that he finds displeasing, so he feels justified in abandoning the Land. But it is really the Land that puts on an ugly countenance in order to expel him for not loving her enough.”
The same is true for people who find all sorts of excuses for not making aliyah. When they look at Eretz Yisrael, they don’t like this and they don’t approve of that. Because they don’t set the Land of Israel over their highest joy, G-d causes them to see only the bad. They’ll tell you that they’ve seen prostitutes in Tel Aviv, and that the government is corrupt, and that Israeli policemen shoot plastic bullets at Jewish settlers. Not wanting to hurt their feelings, G-d makes them think that they are the ones who are rejecting the Land, when, in reality, it is the Land that is rejecting them.
It was the same with the Spies who saw giants in the Land, became frightened, and declared that they weren’t making aliyah because not everything was to their liking. Unlike Joshua and Calev who saw the good, the Spies focused on the bad. So they died in the wilderness, while Joshua and Calev entered the Land with all those who loved the Land more than their personal comfort, their positions, and their egos (Mesillat Yeshurim, Ch.19).
This week, we begin the Book of Vayikra, which records the order of the sacrifices. The Torah portion begins, "Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When a person from you will bring an offering to Hashem...." The expression "from you" teaches us that the sacrifice must come from ourselves - we ourselves must be ready to sacrifice in serving Hashem, even to sacrifice our lives if need be. How much more so to be willing to give up a little comfort from our all too comfortable lives.
I got a little bored hanging around the nursing home today, so to break the monotony, I tried a few simple levitation tricks. Nothing fancy – just levitating a Purim hat above my head. I know you aren’t supposed to use Kabbalah to do tricks, but I figured it would entertain the old timers and bring a smile to their faces.
You know what Mom’s old age home reminds me of? You guessed it – the Diaspora. Actually, the word Diaspora is a pseudo sophisticated Greek term to make the exile seem less of a curse. But that’s what life in golus is – a curse. Only there are a lot of people who think that the exile is a wonderful place for Jews. In a way, that’s a form of dementia. They think that the exile is the best place in the world to be Jewish, just like some people in the nursing home think it’s a 5-star hotel.
There are many types of dementia. One of the worst is Alzheimer’s Disease. A person with Alzheimer’s forgets things. Just the way a lot of people in the exile forget that it’s an exile. They forget Jerusalem and that they really belong in Eretz Yisrael. In fact, the Diaspora is one big old age home. But, to be fair, there is a difference. The people in Mom’s nursing home are always saying that they want to go home. You don’t hear the residents of the exile saying that. They’re content being right where they are. They actually think it’s their home! To me, it’s tragic. When I think about my poor brothers locked up in exile, like the tough cases in the nursing home, it brings tears to my eyes.
One other similarity. The people in Mom’s old age home aren’t going anywhere. They’re just living out their lives. They eat, sleep, and enjoy a little entertainment and TV, but they aren’t getting any better. Just like life in the exile. People eat, sleep, watch TV, but they aren’t going anywhere. They’re just hanging around. It’s a little like the exercise bicycle on the ward. The pedals go around, but the bicycle doesn’t take you anywhere.
I’m Tzvi Fishman, INN blogger, in a nursing home in Jerusalem, signing off.
Today at the nursing home, the ladies made paper cut-out dolls. I told them that the little figures represented the sons of the wicked Haman, and that we were going to hang them up in honor of the upcoming Purim holiday, just as Mordechai did in Shushan.
You can learn a lot hanging around a nursing home. One of them is humility. How often we forget, in the years of our prime and power, that everything is a gift from G-d. Everything! Our ability to eat, to drink, to walk, to think, to go to the bathroom - it’s all by the grace of G-d. As we say in the blessing of thanks that we recite after leaving the lavatory:
“Blessed are thou … King of the universe, who formed man in wisdom, and created in him a system of ducts and tubes. It is well known before Your glorious throne that if but one of these be opened, or if one of those be closed, it would be impossible to exist in Your presence, even for a single hour. Blessed are You … who heals all creatures and does wonders.”
We shouldn’t take things for granted and think we’re such great hot shots. Time passes fast, my friends, and it won’t be long till your back to wearing diapers.
And think about what a big deal people make about going to fancy restaurants, ordering the finest meals, and complaining in loud arrogant voices when the steak arrives too well done, when before you know it, you’ll be eating meals like this:
So, a little humbleness my friends. The next time you think you have all the answers, remember where you’re headed….
This afternoon at the nursing home, groups of kids dressed in Purim costumes came by to bring a little Rosh Chodesh joy to the elderly.
Of course I joined in.
Chodesh tov v'samaoch!
I spent most of the day today with my Mom at her nursing home. The Filipino woman who takes care of her went on a month vacation to Manila, so I’m pitching in with the staff to make sure that Mom gets the best care possible. I’m not sure that she recognizes me anymore, but she probably senses that it’s me on some soul level, and maybe she still recognizes my voice.
A little over a decade ago, I received a phone call from my Aunt Peachy in Florida, saying that something was the matter with my Mother and that I should come to Florida as quickly as I could. When I arrived there a few days later, it turned out that Mom was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and my Dad, who had an assortment of medical problems of his own, couldn’t handle her by himself. So after conferring with their doctors, I bought four jumbo suitcases, filled them with their clothing, and took my parents back with me to Israel, telling my Mother that they were coming to my son’s bar mitzvah. My uncle in Boca put their house up for sale, and before they knew what was happening, they were living with us in Shilo, new pioneer settlers in the wild “West Bank.”
Because of their medical needs, including frequent follow-up visits with an internist, cardiologist, neurologist, urologist, endocrinologist, psychiatrist, orthopedist, dermatologist, dentist, and optometrist, Shilo proved to be too far away from the city. So we moved to Jerusalem where I was fortunate to locate a building that had two apartments available, one for my family and one for my parents.
I wrote a novel about the experience that I hope to post soon on ebooks or Kindle, but to make a long story short, thanks to my angelic wife who put up with a husband who spent more time in the downstairs apartment than with her, I did my best to make their transition to Israel as fun, loving, and interesting as possible. In addition to shlepping them to doctors, I took them out for a drive every day, shopping, eating out, spending time with their grandchildren, running to keep up with my Mother whenever she would bolt from the house during one of her Alzheimer outbursts, until I set Mom up with a Filipino helper, found a tremendous young companion for my Dad who learned Torah with him and took them out during the day to keep them active, I enrolled them in the Melabev senior citizens club for English-speakers, where they met new friends and learned all about Israel, the Jewish holidays, current events, and other stimulating activities several times a week.
Many of the blogs I wrote, and the articles I translated for jewishsexuality.com were written in the hospitals where my Dad spent almost two years battling a cancer. He passed away at the age of 89 and was buried on the Mount of Olives, one of the holiest places in the world, a far cry from being laid to rest in a cemetery alongside some Boca Raton golf course.
After he passed away, we moved Mom into a nursing home with her Filipino worker, where she could get round-the-clock care. So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be cutting down on blog writing to spend more time with my Mother.
The moral of the story is that it is possible to move to Israel and take your parents with you. If they don’t want to come now, chances are they’ll change their minds later when they need more help and want to be near their grandchildren. Life for senior citizens in Israel offers great stimulation, unmatched blessing, and top medical and nursing care. So if you really want to do the best thing you can for your parents, move to Israel and bring them with you, either now or later. There’s no greater blessing in the world.