Defense/Security 8:36 PM 3/8/2014
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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.
One of the major themes of the book of Ruth, which we read on Shavuot, is the great value of kindness. When Elimelech abandons the Land of Israel with his wife, Naomi, and their two grown sons, Machlon and Kilyon, during a famine, he is slain in Divine punishment. While the halacha allows a person to leave the Land of Israel during a severe famine, it is not a saintly manner of behavior. Since Elimelech was the leader of the Jewish People at the time, his behavior was particularly reprehensive. After marrying women from Moav, his sons were also Divinely stricken for their actions. Instead of resuming her life with her people in Moav, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, Ruth, vows her unflinching loyalty to Naomi, to the Jewish People, and to G-d. Her great kindness to Naomi is one of the great lessons of the story. Boaz, too, demonstrates great kindness in helping them when they return to Israel, and in taking Ruth for his wife. It is out of this great foundation of kindness that the seeds of King David were planted.
One of the pillars of the Jewish holidays is to make sure that poor people have what they need to celebrate at the festival meals. Yesterday, Rabbi Leon Levi, distributed tzedakah and 5 chickens per family to dozens of Torah scholars who learn in kollels, and who are financially hard pressed to meet the expenses of the holiday.
Another type of kindness is to teach a person something that can benefit him in his life. While a school child may not want to learn arithmetic or a foreign language, this knowledge can prove to be important tools in his life. Similarly, a child may resent being told that playing in the street can be dangerous, but the warning is for his benefit.
This brings us to the question: why was the Torah given in the wilderness of Sinai? One answer, favored by Diasporites, is that the Torah was given in the wilderness of Sinai to demonstrate that the Torah can be kept anywhere, not only in the Land of Israel. This reasoning ignores the teaching of “The Kuzari” and the Torah itself, that the Sinai Peninsula is a part of the Land of Israel, which extends southward until the Nile River. According to this understanding, the Torah was indeed given to the Jewish People in Israel, to show that this is where the Torah is supposed to be kept.
But even if we want to grant credibility to the “anywhere in the world” point of view, the Torah itself soon teaches us otherwise, when Hashem tells the Jewish People that they have lingered in Sinai long enough, and that it is time to go up and take possession of all of the Land of Israel (Devarim, 1:5-8).
Thus the Torah was given in Sinai precisely to teach us that the Torah and the commandments aren’t meant to be performed there, but rather in the Land of Israel.
The festival of Shavuot is but a few days away. A student asked the saintly elder Kabbalist, HaRav Eliahu Leon Levi, “How can we prepare for the holiday?”
“Love your fellow Jew,” Rabbi Leon answered. “In the World to Come, the most important thing is not how much Torah a person learned, or how many mitzvot he performed, or how zealous he was in his service of Hashem, but his love for his fellow man and the acts of kindness he performed in their behalf.”
Rabbi Leon wasn't inferring that someone who does good deeds, even though he doesn't observe the Torah, is on a higher level than a Torah-observant Jew who doesn't shine in the area of helping others. He meant that among those who keep the Torah, the person who does acts of kindness for others is on a higher level than those who learn Torah and amass mitzvot for their personal greatness alone.
We have an indication of this in this week’s Torah portion, which begins with a counting of the Children of Israel. Rashi explains that each counting in the Torah shows G-d’s special caring love for the Jewish People. Just as Hashem loves and cares for the Jewish People, we also have to love and do all in our power to promote the welfare of our brother, whether he be someone in our family or a stranger, we must strive to do whatever we can to afford him material and spiritual benefit and blessing.
This coming week, when we look over our middot (character traits) and deeds, in preparation for receiving the Torah, hoping to correct faults and put our service of Hashem on a holier track, I feel that in my ardent love for my fellow Jews, especially those in the Diaspora, in striving to awaken them to the transcendental blessing of living in Israel, I too often wrote in a derogatory manner, shining a harsh and judgmental light on shortcomings, rather than stressing the good.
I am sorry for this and will strive in the future to add healing light, rather than focus on darkness.
Certainly, the Jews of the Diaspora, especially those who read Arutz 7, have a great love for the Jewish People and the Land of Israel. Their sometimes critical talkbacks are certainly rooted in their deep concern for the Jewish Homeland and their longing to see Israel develop onto the true Torah utopia that it is gradually heading for, in the slow process of unfolding Redemption with its long path of ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks.
Just like each tribe in the wilderness had its unique talents to offer to the overall success of the nation, so too do our brothers in the Diaspora have much to offer in the breadth, knowledge, and constructiveness of their observations.
This coming week, as we approach the great festival of Shavuot commemorating the giving of the Torah, may the words of our holiday Musaf prayer be realized with the joyous ingathering of all of the exiles from the four corners of the earth, with all of their diverse talents and views, culminating in the long-awaited ascent to the House of the L-rd in Jerusalem by all of the united nation. Amen.
The neighborhood of Kiryat Moshe, where I live in Jerusalem, near the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, is an interesting blend of religious Zionists and Haredim and Hasidim, who live in the adjoining streets of Givat Shaul. Sometimes in the morning, depending on which mikvah I go to, I daven in one of the Haredi shuls in the area. This morning after prayers, I said shalom to a Hasid acquaintance, who runs a bakery, and wished him a “Hag Samaoch” holiday greeting on this evening’s “Yom Yerushalayim” – Jerusalem Day.
“Azeh hag?” he replied in a deriding tone. “What holiday?”
“Yom Yerushalayim,” I reminded him.
“I’ll be saying Tachanun,” he assured me, referring to the daily penitential prayer which religious Zionists omit on the joyous Yom Yerushalayim.
“A person has to thank Hashem for the kindnesses which He grants us, including returning us to Yerushalayim. Is that an insignificant thing in your eyes? After all, that’s what we’ve been praying for these last 2000 years.”
“This non-kosher Medinah isn’t what I’ve been praying for,” he assured me. “Who needs your corrupt Zionist buddies and your pork-eating soldiers?”
“Tell me,” I answered. “How long do you think you’d survive in your comfortable Jerusalem apartment if not for those soldiers? Maybe a half hour before the Arabs would arrive to slit your throats.”
“Nonsense,” he retorted. “Before the Zionists came here, the Jews and the Arabs lived together in peace.”
“Tell the Jews of Hevron and the Old City who were slaughtered in pogroms that they were living in peace.”
“It was the Zionists who stirred up the Arabs,” he insisted.
“You know I like you,” I told him. “But you talk like a jerk. If it weren’t for the State and the army, you and all of your friends would either be slaughtered or back in Poland by now.”
“All a Jew has to do is pray and HaKodesh Baruch Hu will take care of enemies,” he insisted.
“I don’t mean to give you a lesson in Torah and history, but in the war against Amalek, Moshe didn’t just pray – he sent Yehoshua into battle. When we entered the Land, we chopped up the Canaanites with our swords not only with our siddurs. And while David HaMelech left half of his troops to study and pray, he led the other half in hand-to-hand combat with the Philistines. He didn’t conquer Jerusalem by praying, he led his soldiers in a surprise attack through the underground tunnels of the city and chopped off as many Jebusite heads as he could.”
“Ahhh, who has time for your stories?” he answered.
“When you eat, do you just say a blessing, or do you put the food in your mouth?” I asked.
“What’s the connection?” he asked.
“And do you just pray for a livelihood, or do you go to your bakery and work?”
“What’s all this and your rotten Medinah?” he asked.
“If your tooth aches, G-d forbid, do you just daven, or do you go to the dentist?”
“Who can talk to you?” he said, brushing me away with his hand. “The trouble with you people is that you don’t learn Torah.”
With that he walked away.
The period of “Sefirat HaOmer” is a period of self-examination and character improvement as we prepare ourselves to receive the Torah on the upcoming holiday of Shavuot. On the past, we have written about the Kabbalistic aspects of the counting, and how each day of the counting is connected to a different “sefirah,” or spiritual channel that brings G-d’s light into the world. This is the week of the sefirah of “Yesod” which is connected to the sexual aspect of our lives. One of the foundations of being a Holy Nation which has been chosen by G-d to be the bearers of the Torah is that we live our sexual lives in a holy fashion as well.
One day a week, on Thursdays, Rabbi Leon Levi meets with people who come to seek his advice with all kinds of problems, from serious health matters, marital strife, livelihood worries, and troubles with children. Out of every 10 cases, approximately 8 are due to sexual transgression, in one form or another, whether it be adultery, internet pornography, not keeping the laws of family purity in the proper fashion, or immodest marital relations in a lighted room, or while uncovered, or in ways that lead to the spilling of semen in vain. When the holy source of life is misused and wasted, the spiritual channel of the “Yesod” becomes blocked, and one’s pool of Heavenly blessing dries up, causing all kinds of shortages and problems in a person’s life, whether it be health, livelihood, peace in the home, and with the kids. (Other factors that cause G-d's caring blessing to abandon a person, in order to bring him or her to tshuva, are things like anger, arrogance, lashon hara, mocking Torah scholars, and the like.)
This week’s Torah portion of “Behukotai” tells of all the horrible punishments which will befall the Jewish People in the course of exile in foreign lands. The renowned saintly Kabbalist, Rabbi Yaacov Habuchatzera, grandfather of the Babi Sali, writes that all of the calamities mentioned in the Torah portion are the result of sexual transgression, known as transgression to the Brit, which is mentioned several times in the reading.
Therefore, my friends, as we approach the holiday of Shavuot, and the giving of the Torah, it is a good time to stop and reflect on our lives, our marriages, our children, and to think how we can improve things. One of the ways is to look over the laws of marital relations and the guidance of our Sages, and make an effort to apply them in our lives.
Uncle George is back in Jerusalem trying to impose peace in the region by stripping the Jews of their land. In my opinion, as a former American, I think Israel should take a chapter from American history and adopt the American Solution to the conflict.
When the Americans were fighting the Indians to take over the American continent, the Americans simply slaughtered them all. Not even women or children were spared in the wholesale massacre.
Of course, the equation is not exactly the same as the situation in Israel. Back in the early days of the USA, the Indians were the rightful settlers of the land, and the Americans were the invaders. In Israel, the situation is reversed. Israel is the rightful homeland of the Jews, and the Arabs are the foreign invaders. Thus adopting the American Solution to the Indian problem would be perfectly just in its application here.
Isn’t it strange that even though the Americans wiped out and effectively exterminated an indigenous people, you don’t hear any bleeding-heart leftist or liberal group complaining about it. The United Nations have never charged the Americans with war crimes or demanded judicial investigations. And the Europeans never even mention the matter. That’s because of the old saying, “Might is right.”
In my opinion, Israel should have adopted the American Solution from the very beginning, right after declaring statehood. That would have finished the conflict once and for all. The problem with Israel is that it is still frightened by all of its might and Divine assistance, and acts as if it were still a persecuted minority in a foreign land. After 2000 years in exile, it takes a while to give up the galut mentality and to stop being afraid of what the goyim will say.
We should agree to a two-state solution just like the Americans agreed to a two-state solution with the Indians. America took control of the entire country and gave the Indians a couple small reservations. After the American Solution has been imposed in Israel, we could give the remaining handful of Arabs a reservation or two in the Negev.
For a country that tries so hard to copy America, that would be best way of all to follow in the noble American tradition of fairness and freedom for both Israelis and for Arabs, if any are left after the war.