Middle East 3:00 AM
Jewish World 4:32 AM
Inside Israel 7:37 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.
For the past decade, as my children have grown older, they have taken the bagrut post-high school examinations, so I am pretty familiar with test formats and questions. One format presents a general text and then asks questions to gage a person’s comprehension of the subject matter.
So here is a list of general statements, followed by some questions. You have ten minutes to complete the quiz.
1. Jews who live in Israel speak Hebrew. Jews who live in America peak English.
2. Jewish children who grow up in Israel speak Hebrew, think in Hebrew, and dream in Hebrew. Jewish children who grow up in America speak English, think in English, and dream in English.
3. Jews who live in Israel vote for the Prime Minister of Israel. Jews who live in America vote for the President of the United States.
4. Jews who live in Israel pay taxes to the Jewish government of Israel. Jews who live in America pay taxes to the gentile government of America.
5. Jews who live in Israel serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Most Jews who live in America don’t serve in the army at all.
6. The majority of students in Israeli Universities are Jewish. The majority of students in American universities are gentiles.
7. All of the major holidays in Israel are Jewish. All of the major holidays in America are gentile.
8. Jews who live in Israel perform a mitzvah every second of their lives, even when not engaged in observing religious precepts, when they sit, walk, shop, and even sleep, millions of mitzvah minutes are compiled just by being in Israel and thus strengthening Jewish settlement in the Land. Jews who live in America don’t perform any mitzvah at all when they are not engaged in acts of religious observance and are just wasting time.
9. Jews who live in Israel perform the commandments in the place where they were meant to be performed. Jews who live in America perform the commandments in order to remember them, so they will know how to do them when they come back to Israel.
10. Every step a Jew takes in the Land of Israel earns him a higher place in Olam Haba. Every step a Jew takes in America only wears out his shoes.
11. Every day in Israel, the Kohanim bless the congregation. In America, the Kohanim only bless the congregation on the Festivals.
12. Any Jew who is buried in Israel, his sins are atoned for, as if he was buried beneath the Temple Altar, and he will be among the first to return to life at the time of Resurrection. Any Jew buried in America will have to roll through painful underground tunnels to Israel in order to be resurrected.
1. Who lives a more complete Jewish life – Jews in Israel, or Jews in America?
2. Whose children are more likely to grow up with a confused and watered-down Jewish identity – Jew in Israel, or Jews in America?
3. Whose grandchildren are more likely to intermarry – Jews in Israel, or Jews in America?
4. Who makes G-d happier – Jews in Israel, or Jews in America?
5. Who will have a greater reward in Olam Haba – Jews who lived in Israel, or Jews who lived in America?
Please think for a few moments before you answer.
A friend sent me an article written by Shmuley Boteach in the Jerusalem Post. Since one of the foundations of the new movement which he proposes is the erasure of distinctions between gentile and Jew, it seems very anti-Torah to me, and exceedingly dangerous. Rather than drawing Christians closer to Judaism, it will draw Jews closer to Christianity, G-d forbid. Here are a few random excerpts:
“Let’s confront a painful truth. Judaism has failed.
“Judaism for Jews is too narrow, too particular to really inspire.
“There is, therefore, only one solution: Judaism for non-Jews. A global movement to disseminate Jewish values and spirituality to all Earth’s inhabitants, making no distinction between Jew and gentile.
“Two thousand years ago a still mysterious man named saw that the ideas and values behind Judaism were so breathtaking that they could change the world, if only they could be stripped of their ritual demands and be mixed with a human deity who was more accessible than Judaism’s invisible God. Thus, from the foundations of Jewish spirituality Christianity, and later Islam, was born. The time has come for the original progenitors of the ideas to offer the world the original source, not by converting non-Jews to Judaism but by reviving an ancient “associate” status that allows them to live lives deeply influenced by Jewish spiritually and values while retaining their own identity.
“For the past six years I have been working on a book, to be published shortly, on a new understanding of Jesus as prophet rather than deity, based exclusively on the New Testament. The real story of Jesus as teacher of traditional Jewish spirituality to his disciples lies explicitly in the text.
“But this campaign needs the investment of global organizations like the World Jewish Congress, the Jewish Agency and even Birthright Israel, which might create a program for non-Jewish youth to visit Israel.
“Having non-Jews become excited about Judaism is the most effective way to address assimilation, because Jews would now be blending into a culture that embraces and honors their tradition."
For some reason, I am reminded of an old Broadway musical, “Oklahoma,” in which a carnival conman travels around the country, sweet talking innocent yokels into give him their hard-earned money.
What’s your opinion?
After a reader wrote in about a chronic couch potato problem that was negatively interfering in his life, I did a little browsing on the web.
To my surprise, I discovered that the problem is very widespread, affecting millions of people. It even has a name, “couch potato syndrome.” Some of the unpleasant side effects include: an increased risk of osteoporosis, bad posture, back pain, increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis; little to no energy, lethargy, bad sleeping habits, little to no strength (particularly in the upper body for women), low metabolism, very high body fat percentages, unsocial behavior, schizophrenia, paranoia, manic depression, and other forms of mental instability.
Reading about the devastating effects of the syndrome, I realized that it also inhibits Jews from coming on aliyah. It’s similar to the false sense of reality that Jews have when they live in large Jewish communities like Boro Park, Monsey, Lakewood, the Five Towns in Long Island, Toronto, and others. The abundance of kosher bakeries, butcher shops, shteibels, mikvaot, yeshivah day schools, Jewish little leagues and bowling, can fool a person into thinking that he or she is living real Torah Judaism.
What they forget is that Hashem hates the galut and doesn’t want His children to live there. As the Talmud teaches: “The night has three watches, and at each watch the Holy One Blessed Be He sits and roars like a lion and says, ‘Woe to the children, on account of whose sins I destroyed My House and burnt My Temple, and exiled them amongst the nations of the world… Woe to the father who had to banish His children, and woe to the children who had to be banished from the table of their father’” (Berachot 3A).
The Talmud also teaches that it is better to live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where most of the inhabitants are heathens, than to live in the Diaspora, even in a city where the majority of residents are Jews (Ketubot 110B).
Furthermore, the Talmud declares that a Jew who lives outside the Land of Israel is like one who worships idols (ibid). This is because he is serving Hashem in a different way than Hashem wants. Hashem wants the Jewish People to observe the Torah in Israel. Anywhere else is a situation of b’dieved, k’elu, after the fact. L’chatchela, in their original Torah essence, the commandents are meant to be observed in Israel, as is obvious to any reader of the Torah.
In the same way, a couch potato who spends hours each day, staring zombie-like at his TV and computer screens, flipping from CNN, to Fox News, INN, the Jerusalem Post, HaAretz, and other Jewish related websites, enters a schizophrenic, fantasy world where he thinks he is really in Israel, an active player building the Land alongside everyone else. Thinking he is right in the middle of all the action, there is no reason to come on aliyah. In his mind, confused by the lack of borders in cyberspace, he’s in Israel already!
This bubble of delusion resembles the fantasy world of internet porn addicts who believe they are getting love from their harem of virtual women until they can cut themselves off from life and reality completely.
Please note: I am not writing about your normal internet surfer who controls his time on the web and doesn’t let it impinge on the reality of his family and surroundings; nor am I criticizing any sincere service of Hashem on the part of Diaspora Jews, but rather only the viewpoint which denies the centrality of Eretz Yisrael to Jewish life and Judaism.
To help these unfortunate souls who are trapped in the “couch potato syndrome,” I am listing some tips I gleaned from my web search, to assist people in breaking this pernicious habit.
First, recognize that you have a problem. See what it is doing to you physically, mentally, and in your relationships with people, and in your relationship with G-d. Then, set a limit to your time on the couch. Try starting out with only one hour a day. Third, join a health club or gym. Start being more physical to get your blood circulating. When you’re watching TV or sitting at the computer, take a break every 15 minutes and do some exercise. Replace your unhealthy junk-food snacks with carrots, cucumbers, pumpkin seeds, and herbal tea. Get one of those big exercise balls and start rolling around on the floor. Get out of the house. Don’t let yourself be alone. And most important, make contact with aliyah-minded groups like Nefesh B’Nefesh. Come on a pilot trip to Israel, and start making concrete plans to stop living a fantasy life and make your life real. Counselors can be very helpful in the difficult process of change, and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed if you need their aid.
Most importantly, if you’re stuck on the couch, pray to G-d, and He will surely help you to get off.
That’s what he claims. That’s what he shouts out whenever hecklers accuse him of chopping up the Land and handing it over to the enemy.
“Don’t lecture me about the love of this country,” he answers. “No one loves the Land of Israel more than me.”
That’s a little like a husband who claims that he loves his wife, yet allows her to shack up with other men. The husband, in his way of thinking, truly does love his wife. The fact that other men enjoy her as well doesn’t interfere with his love for her at all. He fancies himself “enlightened,” and imagines that his love far surpasses the ordinary run-of-the-mill love of other men, marked by jealously and the craving for possession.
We all remember the famous story about King Solomon who awarded the baby to the woman who wasn’t willing to see it cut in half. This is an example of true love.
Now, I am sure that Benjamin Netanyahu really does love the Land of Israel. In fact, I am sure he would sacrifice his life for the country if he had to put on his old uniform and return to his old army unit. His history in the army demonstrates this clearly.
What I don’t understand is how someone who loves the Land of Israel can be willing to give away its very center, biblical heartland, and strategic heights, to the enemy?
A friend of mine in the Likud said that Bibi loves the Land of Israel, but he lacks a fear of G-d.
Ariel Sharon also certainly loved the Land of Israel, but look what happened to him.
Yitzhak Rabin certainly loved the Land of Israel, but looked what happened to him.
Menachem Begin certainly loved the Land of Israel, but looked what happened to him.
Without a fear of G-d and a true commitment to Torah, to the true Torah of Eretz Yisrael, it is simply impossible to stand up to the pressures of the world against us. To stand up firm and proud, and tell them all to go to hell. Which is precisely where all of the Jew-haters belong. And where they are headed.
As we say in our Rosh Hashanah prayers, “May all the evil kingdoms be obliterated from the earth.”
But to Bibi’s credit, at least he lives in the Land of Israel. He might not want the entire baby, but he wants part of it at least. He’s even willing to fight for it. He’s willing to die for it as well. So are the Arabs. They are willing to fight, and even die, for what they believe is their share of the baby.
In contrast, Mike and his handful of admirers sit on their couches, in the comforts of their Vienna, Virginia hideouts, and watch the battle for Israel unfold on the screens of their living-room laptops and TV's, as if all the squabble is over someone else’s baby.
As least Bibi Netanyahu lives in Israel. That’s a lot more than one can say about them.
Friday morning, I was walking down the street when a Jewish helicopter flew overhead. I still react with a happy shiver whenever I see a Jewish helicopter soar by up in the sky.
“Baruch Hashem,” I said. “Thank you, Hashem, for giving us helicopters and rescuing us from the lands of the gentiles.”
I spent over thirty years in New York, and New England, and California, and an assortment of other places in America, and I never saw a Jewish helicopter. Moments later, as if to reward me for my enthusiasm and gratitude, Hashem sent three Israel Air Force jets streaking through the sky over Jerusalem. “Thank you, Hashem,” I said once again, “For giving us Jewish fighter planes and Jewish pilots.” After all, as I mentioned, I spent over thirty years in New York, and New England, and California, and an assortment of other places in America, and I never saw a Jewish fighter plane. It just isn’t possible. Why? Because America isn’t Jewish. America belongs to Esav, our arch enemy.
These past few weeks, we have been reading in the Torah a capsule blueprint of world history. First, we met Avraham, the father of the nation chosen by G-d to bring G-d’s word to the world through our living a life of holiness in the Land of Israel. Then we met Yishmael, the wild beast of a man, whose descendants, the Arabs have been contesting our right to the Land of Israel, right down to this very day. Then, we met the hairy ape, Esav, or Esau. From the very womb, he has been contesting our place as the Divine chosen nation, doing everything in his power to usurp us from our G-d given role. Esav is Edom. His descendants became the Romans, and the Germans, the Russians, and the Americans.
Edom is Christianity and the whole Christian world. America is a Christian country. How can Jews live there?
So when a Jewish helicopter flies overhead, I get goose pimples, and remember to thank G-d for all of His kindness and goodness that He has rescued us from the lands of Edom and returned us to our own Promised Land. To me, that’s the greatest miracle there is. To me, that’s the greatest revelation of Hashem in the world. Just as He promised our forefathers, He has returned us to our Land. There is no greater historic evidence of G-d’s existence than this. The State of Israel is the greatest sanctification of G-d in the world.
Some people just don’t seem to have caught on to the idea that the main goal of Judaism is to build the NATION in the Land of Israel, in all of its earthy facets, agricultural, political, industrial, technological, military, scientific, jobs, hospitals, electric companies, police, highways, sewage, supermarkets, firemen, etc etc etc ad infinitum. They act as if it is enough to write talkbacks, or sway back and forth in prayer, and trust that cities and highways and the Beit HaMikdash will all appear miraculously from out of the sky without them having to get their hands dirty in the nitty gritty job of building and oiling the rifles needed to protect them against the descendants of Yishmael who are drooling to slit their throats. In the meantime, the “shabbos goys” of Medinat Yisrael, which they reject, are doing all the work for them, and their children, if they have any, in building the foundations of Malchut Hashem in the world, and supplying those who already live here with water and electric and sewage and medical care and protecting Jewish lives from the daggers of Yishmael.
This simpleminded mentality is shared by all of the critics of Medinat Yisrael with all of their Peter Pan schemes for replacing it with something else that fits their fancy like Medinat Yehudas and Shmahudahs.
With great sadness, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook would often speak about this shameful situation, how segments of the Torah world rejected Medinat Yisrael. He said the very same blindness and small mindedness took place at the time of the Second Temple:
“When we returned from Babylon in the time of Ezra, Israel did not return to the full glory of its past, but even so, prophecy flourished on a minor scale with Haggai, Zacharia, and Malachi. Similarly, Israel was not on the same exalted level as King Shlomo’s Beit HaMikdash. From all over the Land, people came to see it, but in the eyes of elders who still remembered the magnificence of the First Temple, the Second Temple seemed to be an affront. They would weep and express criticism, saying, ‘This is the Temple??’ The Prophets scolded them for this attitude, saying, ‘Who has despised the day of small things?’ (Zachariah, 4:10). The Gemara answers: ‘The small minded among them who didn’t have faith in the Almighty’ (Sotah 48B). You are disbelievers, the Prophet told them. Ezra called the exiles to come back to Zion and many didn’t listen. In our days also, there are Torah scholars and ‘Tzaddikim’ who criticize the Almighty for the way He is returning the Jewish People to Zion.
“Is all of this great rebuilding and renaissance of our Land mere happenstance? It is Nature’s wanton anarchy? No! This is all Hashem’s doing! The Prophet Isaiah exclaimed, ‘Hear O deaf, and look O Blind, that you may see! Who is blind but My servant, or deaf as the messenger that I sent? Who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the L-rd’s servant? (Isaiah, 42:18-19).
“There are so many things to see and to hear! Be quiet, pensive, and listen. Then you will see the Almighty who disguises Himself in the events which unfold in the world.”
So my dear friends, and all of my blind brothers and sisters, instead of impulsively reacting with a flood of loud and angry talkbacks - be quiet, pensive, and listen. Then you too will see the Almighty who disguises Himself in the events which unfold in the world.