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 several years now, I have been trying to help people understand the simple truth that a Jew belongs in Israel. Many people find the concept difficult to grasp because they have never learned about the intrinsic unity of the Jewish People, Torah, and Eretz Yisrael. It simply isn’t taught in the Diaspora. Because of the length of the exile, Jews have come to identity with the places where they live, believing they are Americans or Frenchmen or Swiss. They learn about the rituals of Judaism: tefillin, Shabbat, keeping kosher, and the like, but they are never introduced to the bigger picture. After all, if the rabbis taught their congregants that they were supposed to be living in Israel, it would mean the end of the Diaspora – or the rabbis.
So I will try once again to switch on the old light bulb in your heads with the hope that some Jew, somewhere in the world, may wake up to the bigger picture of what Judaism is really all about.
Before we perform a mitzvah, we recite a blessing in which we praise G-d for sanctifying us via His commandments. The mitzvot add to our holiness. When we eat kosher food, our bodies become holier. When we study Torah, our minds become holier. When we wave the lulav, our hands and arms become more sanctified. When we dwell in the succah, everything becomes holier, our eating, our talking, our studying, our sleeping. Kabbalists refer to this as “ohr hamakif,” or being surrounded by G-d’s encompassing light. In the succah we are enveloped by holiness. It saturates us and elevates all of our existence, like being in a spiritual sauna.
Now if our succah booth is in the Land of Israel, then it is like we are in a little sauna inside of a giant sauna. We get a colossal, magnified spritz of holiness. For all of the Land of Israel is surrounded by G-d’s encompassing light. Just by living in the Land of Israel, everything in our life is sanctified in G-d’s encompassing light – our homes, our cars, our jobs, our military service, our speech, our thoughts, our deeds.
And because we are surrounded by the holy geodesic bubble of the Land of Israel, all of the Jews living here are joined together, bumping into each other like atoms in an atomic fission centrifuge, each one giving added power to the next, so that everything a Jew does is multiplied scores and scores of times, making him into a bigger Jew.
By living in the encompassing light of the Land of Israel, a Jew joins the “clal,” the encompassing unity of the Jewish People. His private life becomes attached to the greater life of the clal. Instead of being an individual Jew, he becomes a NATIONAL Jew. His life becomes magnified in his bonding with the NATION. Just by going to the grocery store he is helping to rebuild the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, in fulfillment of prophecy and our prayers. That’s why the Chofetz Chaim declared that a mitzvah performed in Israel has 20 times more mitzvah power than the same mitzvah perform anywhere else. Because of the mega-power of the clal, and the incredible chain reaction that occurs when we are gathered together in our Land.
And for those who want to say that they can play a part of the greater life of America just as well – what can I say? Mazel tov for being a part of a gentile nation! Do you really believe that’s the goal of Judaism? I’ve never seen it written in the Torah.
In addition to our exalted Ushpizin: Avraham, Yitzhak, Yaacov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and King David, we have so far had the pleasure to host in our humble succah Jews from Mexico, Yemen, England, and New York. How wonderful to see the ingathering of the exiles taking place in one’s one yard! The guest from New York was especially interesting. During the ten years he spent in prison for alleged involvement in a serious crime, he became a baal t’shuva. What was especially amazing is that when his sentence was over, he actually left the penitentiary! Unlike so many of our brothers and sisters in the prison of exile in Diasporas around the world, this brave individual had the courage to pack up his few belongings and walk out the prison door to freedom the moment he had the chance! What a hero!
Make no mistake, my friends – the exile is a prison! In the holiday Musaf prayer, we say, “Because of our sins, we were exiled from our Land and were cast far away from our soil.”
Exile is a punishment. Whether it’s the most kosher ghetto in Brooklyn, Miami Beach, Toronto, Manchester, Melbourne, or Johannesburg, it’s exile all the same.
That’s why we pray. “Bring back our outcast exiles from amidst the gentiles, and our scattered ones gather together from the corners of the globe, and bring us to Zion, Your city in joy!”
Can anything be clearer than this? Our Sages fixed the wording of our prayers to teach us what our proper aspirations should be. Judaism, and being a Jew, means having a constant burning desire to return home to Zion. For nearly 2000 years, the gates of the prison were closed. But now they are open.
Hope to see you here soon!
If you planted an etrog tree in Brooklyn it wouldn't grow. If it did, it would die. Just the way the Diaspora is destined to die. The etrog tree doesn’t belong in Brooklyn. The climate isn’t right for it. It’s the same with the lulav, hadasim, and aravot. The four species are indigenous to Eretz Yisrael, just as the Torah is indigenous to Eretz Yisrael, and the Jewish People are indigenous to Eretz Yisrael. We belong in Eretz Yisrael. All of the holidays are intrinsically connected to Eretz Yisrael. The Torah was designed and fashioned by the Almighty to be observed in Eretz Yisrael, not in America, Canada, Australia, or Timbuktu.
How wonderful to be in the Land of Israel where you hear hammers pounding away the week before the holiday and see sukkah booths wherever you look!
I remember living in New York City and walking the length and width of the city on the holiday of Sukkot and not seeing even one sukkah on the street. Finally I found a mini sukkah, the size of a telephone booth, in the back alley of a kosher dairy restaurant, adjacent to the bathroom.
How wonderful to be in the Land of Israel where you don’t have to be embarrassed or afraid to sit in your sukkah out on the street! Where apartment buildings are built with terraces designed for the Sukkot holiday! Where the Kotel and the place of the Temple are a short walk or car ride away! Where there are sukkah booths outside of every restaurant! Where it’s a national holiday with school vacation, and not some strange mumbo-jumbo practice of the Jews.
How wonderful to be in the Land of Israel where you can be proud to walk down the street adorned in your tallit and proudly carrying your arba minim in your hand!
Thank G-d for having brought us back to the Land of Israel!
“For some time now, I have been struggling with an inner battle. A powerful force is impelling me to speak on the subject of t’shuva.”
Thus Rabbi Kook begins his inspiring book, “Lights of T’shuva.” While psychiatrists offer many theories about man’s existential dilemma and pain, Rabbi Kook reveals that the real cause of humanity’s suffering stems from mankind’s alienation from G-d. The solution, he teaches, is t’shuva.
I had the great honor of working with the distinguished scholar, Rabbi David Samson, in translating and explaining Rabbi Kook’s writings in a book we called “The Art of T’shuva.” With the Day of Repentance approaching, I sincerely recommend readers to look at the abridged chapters that we have posted. You will find many new ideas there that can greatly improve your lives and lead you to a newfound happiness.
For example, because of this blog and my writing at jewihsexuality.com, I sometimes get letters from people who are suffering from all kinds of problems. Many of them feel a lack of self worth, and this leads them to depression and serious transgressions. Often, their lack of self worth stems from the sick and distorted values of Western culture which places undue emphasis on material success, fame, honor, and physical beauty. If you don't have a $100,000 salary and a fancy car, you're a bum.
Rabbi Kook sets things straight. True success in life is getting closer to G-d. More important than all the money and fame in the world is being a good person. In the eyes of Judaism, the most successful person is the one who sets his life on a course of constant t'shuva. Even if he still has a long way to go, just the fact that he is on the t'shuva train means that he is a winner.
So happy t’shuva, my friends!
And once again, I hope that all readers who I have offended will find it in their hearts to forgive me, as I certainly forgive any talkbacker who offended me.
Our Sages have taught us that everything that G-d created, He created for His glory. Let’s take the Internet and television for example. The Midrash tells us that the entire world heard the blast of the shofar when the Torah was given to the Jews on Mount Sinai. How is this possible? Surely it’s just a story. Yet with the age of Internet and television, an event can occur in some remote spot on the globe and be seen and heard by everyone, all over the world, at the very same instant.
Through G-d’s miraculous gift of global communication, everyone is going to be a witness to the Mashiach’s arrival in Jerusalem, not just the fortunate Jews who live here. This great day, may it come soon, will be a magnificent revelation of G-d’s unsurpassed glory, thanks to the Internet and TV.
Google Earth is another fine example. Using satellite technologies, cameras in outer space can zoom in on any country, city, street, and house in any place in the world.
This is to remind us that G-d is watching us everywhere. The King of the Universe, who created us, and told us via the Torah what he wants us to do on this planet, He sees and records everything, at every second, in every place, every single day of the year. Thanks to Google Earth, we can more fully grasp what we often forget during our busy lives – that the King of the World watches everything little thing we do and keeps an irrefutable video record in His film archives in Heaven.
Every time we lied, or got angry, or gazed at a forbidden image on the Internet – or performed a good deed or studied Torah, it’s all been recorded in living color!
I don’t know about you, but picturing it gives me the willies. Thinking about some of the whoooooooopies I’ve done in my life makes me blush all over in shame. How am I ever going to be able to stand before the Heavenly Court and argue my case when all of the evidence is up on the gigantic, IMAX, Dolby Stereo, Screen in the sky?
Why am I writing about this? Because the Days of Awe are upon us, and the King of the Universe is watching, and recording all our deeds, just as He has been doing all of our lives, in Super Zoom.
Let me give you a few examples. One hot day this summer, one of my wife’s old childhood friends came to Jerusalem from Kfar Saba to visit. She called from Meverserret, a ten minute drive away, saying that her daughter had to drop her off there and could I come and pick her up. I was nervous that day, with lots to do, and still having a blog to finish, I told her no, even though I knew that she had been having some troubles with her leg, and was overweight to boost. A while later, my wife phoned and asked me to do the same simple act of kindness and go get her friend. I told her that our son could take our car and pick her up. After he brought her to our home, I took the car to do an errand. On the way, the radiator overheated and the motor was completely destroyed. It cost me ten-thousand shekels to replace it – all because I didn’t rush to do the mitzvah of helping a fellow Jew with the car that G-d, in His goodness, had lent me.
Another time this year, I got angry at my wife on Shabbat. Within a minute, a main fuse blew in the house and we spent the rest of the day without electricity. Coincidence? No way.
On another occasion, I was walking down the street when an attractive women crossed my path dressed in a mini-skirt and flimsy blouse. Instead of averting my gaze, I did a double take, sneaking a second look as she passed. Immediately, a sharp pain ran up and down my spine, my neck tightened like a vice, and I had to walk around for a week with a neck brace, chewing painkillers.
Believe me, my friends, every second is computerized, everything we do, along with the reward and the punishment for all of our actions, if not in This World, then in the Next.
Thankfully, G-d is a compassionate and loving Father, and He is always happy to accept our prayers for forgiveness, and He has given us these days of penitence to make a new start.
So, right here and now, I want to ask G-d to forgive me for all of the things I did this year, and all other years, against His will. And I want to ask my wife to forgive me for getting angry at her, and sneaking peaks at other women now and again, and for spending more time with my laptop than with her. In fact, right now I am going out to buy her a gift for the holiday! And I am going to phone her friend and ask her forgiveness once again for not having come to pick her up immediately on that hot and expensive summer day.
And I want to ask all of you to forgive me for all of the things that I wrote that made you angry, or insulted your feelings, or caused you to have negative feelings about the Torah, or Eretz Yisrael, or religious people, G-d forbid. I also extend my apologies once more that your talkbacks get held up so long in the INN editing warehouse.
Finally, I want to thank G-d for His kindness and patience and willingness to let penitents begin anew. And to thank Him for bringing me to Torah, and to Israel, and for providing for all my needs, and giving me a wonderful wife and children, and thank Him for our health and wellbeing, and thank Him for letting me use the talents He gave me to magnify His Name and spread the teachings of His Torah.
This coming year, blee nader, I hope to be blogging less, and spending more time helping my wife around the house, and taking her for fun outings, and spending more time learning Torah with my children.
May the good L-rd bless you, and all the House of Israel, with a year of health, happiness, prosperity, and peace, and with the special blessing of living in the Land that G-d watches over from the beginning of the year to the end. May all of the evil governments of the nations be obliterated, and may all peoples come to know that the G-d of Israel is the one and only King.
Shana tova v’tikatavu v’tikatamu!