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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.
Already on Thursday, we rode up to Tiberias and Meron with the elder Kaballist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, to pay honor to the memories of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess, Rabbi Akiva, and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. We went a few days early to beat the well-meaning but over-pressing crowds who flock around Rav Leon, anxious to receive his blessing.
Rav Leon spoke of the importance of adding the "Zohar" to one's Torah repertoire. The holy "Zohar" adds to a person's love and reverence of G-d, and has the power to improve a person's character traits. Studying its teachings helps a person in the battle against the yetzer hara.
"Isn't it foolish," Rav Leon stated, "to succumb to the yetzer hara for five minutes of pleasure, in pursuit of some sexual transgression, and then to be cut off from G-d for an eternity?"
He emphasized the teaching of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, as emphasized again and again in the "Zohar," that the foundation of the Torah and the service of G-d is sexual holiness. The holiness of a Jew depends on his eyes, he said, saying that this was the number one test of our times, "Not just outside on the street, but right in our homes with the advent of television and Internet."
Happy Lag BaOmer!
I need $100,000. That’s right. I need $100,000 to make a movie of the classic treatise on Jewish faith, “The Kuzari.” It’s been a dream of mine for a long time now. Some years ago, not having the money for a film, I produced a beautifully illustrated, condensed version of the Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi masterpiece, for young people, and for adults who never studied the original.
My condensed, illustrated version of “The Kuzari” is used in many schools in Israel to get students interested in learning about the Torah, and the book’s clear and visualized treatment of basic Jewish themes has been a great eye-opener for adults as well.
“The Kuzari” tells the story of a gentile king who is seeking to find the proper way to worship G-d. The story is based on the actual history of the kingdom of Kuzar in southern Russia, a thousand years ago, when the king of the country discovered the wisdom of the Torah, and converted himself and his subjects to Judaism and to the worship of the one true God.
At the beginning of the tale, an angel appears to the king and tells him to seek out the path of worship that is pleasing to G-d. Beginning his search, the king speaks with a philosopher, then a priest, then a Moslem, but he is left skeptical by their shallow and unsubstantiated answers. So he decides to ask a Rabbi, even though the Jews are a scorned and downtrodden people.
The king’s stimulating conversations with the Rabbi make up the body of the book. Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi uses many wonderful parables to explain the deep foundations of Judaism, and these I was able to illustrate with the help of a gifted artist.
It is these parables which will be cinematically portrayed in the film, G-d willing, helping all people, both those far from Judaism and those who understand matters in a superficial fashion, to see the true beauty and depth of the Torah, and the centrality of the Land of Israel in serving G-d.
It is not my attention, at this point, to make a theatrical release topping “Star Wars” for box-office grosses, but rather to distribute this important, educational film via the Internet and CD’s to as many homes and schools as possible.
Adding to the success of the film will be the authentic historical background of costumes and settings, and well known and top-quality actors, playing the roles of the king and the Rabbi, who will attract people, religious and non-religious alike, to see the film.
It is time that we start using the film media to bring our people back to the fold. The language of film speaks to people today in the most powerful fashion, and it is through this media that we can reach out in the widest way possible to all of our brothers and sisters.
In Israel, the financial governmental grants available to filmmakers are controlled by non-religious, leftist committees, and look askance at fanatical religious rightists like me.
Therefore, I am turning to you, faithful readers, to lend a hand in this worthwhile endeavor. Since, each of my blogs is read by an average of 1000 people and more, if each of you would donate $100 toward the film, I will have attained the $100,000 budget.
I realize that $100 is a respectable sum, and that it is not easy for every blog reader to contribute that amount, but people can contribute what they can, with the hope that others will give more.
I also know that the effort of writing a check and sending it off in the mail is a burden that will hinder many people, but for those of you who really care about the Jewish People and Judaism, you will be taking part in a very important and far-reaching endeavor that can literally save Jewish lives, prevent intermarriage, and bring people back to Torah and to Eretz Yisrael..
I will not cash any checks until the production gets underway. I am also trying to raise funds through other channels. If I don’t obtain an amount necessary to produce a quality film, I will not cash checks which are sent to me, so that no monies will be misused.
If someone would like to contribute a more substantial amount, a US tax-exemption can be obtained via a registered tax-exemptible charitable organization based in the US, who will forward the monies on to the non-profit organization in Israel that will be working with me on the film. In such a case, checks earmarked for the “Kuzari Film” can be made out to the Central Fund For Israel and forwarded to me. All other donations, can be made directly out to me, or to the Israeli non-profit educational organization, Am K’Lavi, by check or post office money order, and mailed to me at:
Tzvi Fishman, 19 Shoshana Street, Jerusalem, Israel 96149.
Questions and leads to other possible financial sources can be e-mailed to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your help in this important and ground-breaking project. G-d willing, this is only the beginning.
Readers ask why I don’t just delete Mike’s talkbacks and thus make the earth a better place to live. Since his comments are always the same ranting on about chopping off heads and raping young Jewish girls (who were assaulted at Amona but not raped,) I don’t bother to read them anymore. Nonetheless, his arguments, and the blab blab of others, does serve a purpose, in forcing us to clarify issues and explain matters which people haven’t had an opportunity to learn, because the questions surrounding the Redemption of Israel simply aren’t addressed in the traditional frames of Diaspora learning.
For instance, there are talkbackers who always write about the bad things in Israel. They cite the imperfections of Israeli society as their reason for not coming to live here. They write as if things are supposed to be perfect. This is simply a total misunderstanding of Torah.
Life in Israel wasn’t perfect in the days of our Forefathers, when idol worship filled the Land, nor was the situation any better when G-d commanded Yehoshua to bring the Jews into the Land when it was occupied by seven corrupt and immoral pagan nations.
Our job is to roll up our sleeves, conquer our enemies, dry up the swamps, and rebuild our desolate cities. Not to wait comfortably in exile and wait till G-d waves His magic wand and makes all the bad things vanish. G-d created the Jewish People, not to run away from the work of improving the world, but to lead mankind to “tikun,” or rectification. We have been put into the world to become partners with G-d in bringing an imperfect world to completion. To fix, not to complain.
The problems, corruptions, weaknesses, and challenges in building a Torah State, which characterize an aspect of life in Israel today, don’t mean that we are on the wrong course. Not in the least. This is precisely the course which G-d wants us to travel. For instance, the highway leading to Jerusalem isn’t straight. There are many windings in the road, steep inclines, and plummeting descents. Just as there are aliyot and yeridot on the way to Jerusalem, there are aliyot and yeridot on the way to Redemption. This is the way it is. Only a child thinks otherwise. Only a child expects to receive things immediately, and that everything be complete from the start.
How do I know that this is way that things are supposed to be? For one thing, our Sages have taught us that this is how things would be, as it says in the Talmud: in the generation of the Mashiach’s coming, Torah scholars will grow few in number, there will be great suffering and harsh decrees, so that before a hardship passes another one will already begin. Institutions of learning will turn into brothels, and settlers from the border towns will wander around from place to place without rest. The wisdom of rabbis will decrease, the fear of sin will be ridiculed, there will be no upright judges and policemen, truth will disappear, and the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog (Sanhedrin 97A-98B).
The Talmud goes on to report that Rabbi Ula and Rabba said that they don’t want to be alive to witness the suffering that will precede the time of Mashiach’s coming. Rabbi Yosef answered them by saying that he would be glad to sit in the shade of a pile of the dung of Mashiach’s donkey to have the merit of being alive in those times. In other words, even though the material corruption of those times will be so abundant, that you can sit in the shade of its dung, he would be happy to play a part in the Mashiach’s coming.
According to Mike, the dung heap in Israel couldn’t get any higher than it already is. Which means that G-d’s plan for Redemption is right on schedule. Things are exactly the way they are meant to be at this stage of Jewish history. So be happy – don’t worry! The Mashiach is on the way!
If you are sick and tired of INN bloggers reminding you that you should be living in the Land of Israel, don’t blame us. The same message was broadcasted millennium ago by the holy bloggers of the Talmud:
“The Rabbis taught: At all times, a Jew should dwell in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority of residents are idol worshippers, and not live outside of the Land, even in a city where the majority of inhabitants are Jews. For everyone who lives in the Land of Israel is like someone who has a G-d, and everyone who lives outside of the Land is like someone who does not have a G-d, as it says, ‘To give you the land of Canaan to be your G-d’ (Vayikra, 25:38). Can it be that everyone who doesn’t live in the Land of Israel has no G-d? Rather, it comes to say to you that everyone who lives outside of the Land of Israel is likened to someone who worships idols. In this light, it is written concerning David, ‘For they have driven me out this day from being joined to the inheritance of the L-rd, saying, Go and serve other gods’ (Shmuel 1:26:19). Now, who told David to go and worship other gods? Rather, it comes to tell you that whoever lives outside of the Land of Israel is like someone who worships idols” (Ketubot, 110B).
With King Shaul pursuing after him, David had to temporarily flee from the Land of Israel, which is known as “the inheritance of the L-rd.” Certainly, the pious David didn’t worship other gods. How can we understand this?
In this week’s Torah portion of “Achre Mot,” the Ramban explains that G-d has assigned angels to rule over the countries of the world. There is a gentile angel in charge of the affairs of America, and a gentile angel over Germany, and a funny-sounding gentile angel over France. The only exception is the Land of Israel, over which G-d rules alone. Therefore, when a Jew prays and studies Torah outside the Land of Israel, his prayers and learning rise up to the angel in charge of that gentile nation, giving strength to the angel and to the affairs of that foreign state. In this sense, Jews outside of the Land of Israel are likened to people who serve other gods, since their worship goes up to an intermediary, rather than straight up to G-d Himself (See, Commentary of the Ramban on the Torah, Vayikra, 18:25).
(In light of this explanation of the Ramban, how ironic and frightening it is to realize that in pressuring Israel to surrender Judea and Samaria, and half of Jerusalem, G-d forbid, Obama is getting his power from the Jews of America!)
From this Gemara, and Ramban’s stunning revelation, it is absolutely clear that Eretz Yisrael is the one and only place to live for the Jewish People to live.
Keeping these insights in mind, we can also better understand why Eretz Yisrael is called the Holy Land. It is completely under the auspices of G-d, unblemished by impure and unholy forces, like those which rule over the nations of the world.
The Land is so holy that it actually vomits out those who defile it through sexual aberrations, as we learn at the end of this week’s Torah portion. In contrast, you can sleep with everyone from Boston to LA and you’ll always have a place in America.
Also, at the very beginning of parshat “Kedoshim,” we are commanded, “You shall be holy!”
Just what does being holy involve?
Rashi explains: “Be removed from arayot and from sin.” Arayot include the most serious sexual transgressions such as incest, adultery, and relations with a woman during her menstruation period. Rashi uses the term “sin” to mean sexual sin, as is found in tractate Yoma 29A and Sotah 3A, regarding sexual fantasies and sexual relations.
Rashi continues: “For wherever you find (in the Torah) a fence against sexual immorality, you find holiness.”
For example, every time a man is tempted to click on a forbidden image on the Internet, and succeeds in overcoming the urge, he draws down upon himself a spirit of holiness. If he breaks the urge 100 times in one sitting, he draws down 100 doses of holiness. It can add up to quite a lot. In doing so, he saves himself from several other serious transgressions as well.
For instance, parshat “Kedoshim” in the holy Zohar, relates: “Rabbi Abba said, It is forbidden for a man to fix his gaze upon heathen idols and gentile women.”
Now your run-of-the-mill “youtube” bimbos in bikinis, exercise-class “instructors”, and runway models are lowlife, empty-headed pagans. It may all seem like harmless entertainment to you, but by watching these clips, you are frying your brain and your soul.
More than that. As it further states in the Zohar:
“We have learned that it is forbidden for a man to gaze at the beauty of a woman lest evil thoughts be provoked in him and he be incited to something worse. When Rabbi Shimon had to walk through the town, followed by his companions, when he came to a place where beautiful women were apt to be found, he would lower his eyes and say to them, ‘Do not stray (after their gods!)’ For whoever gazes at the beauty of a woman by day will have sinful thoughts at night. And if these thoughts overcome him, he transgresses the commandment, ‘You shall not make for yourselves molten gods.’ Furthermore, if he has marital relations with his wife while thinking of these evil images, the children born from such a union are called ‘molten gods.’ For this reason it is written, ‘You shall not make for yourselves molten gods’” (Zohar, Vayikra, 84A).
To summarize what we have learned:
A holy Jew in the Holy Land living a holy life. That’s what this week’s Torah portion is all about.
As usual, after the traditional Yom HaAtzmaut barbecue with the family, I went rolling in the Holy Land to demonstrate my love for the Land. Sometimes, its rolling down the sand dunes in Ashdod, sometimes in the desert of Judea or the Negev, sometimes in the aromatic cattle fields of the Golan. Yesterday, I lovingly embraced a verdant lawn in Ashkelon.
The sanctity of the Land of Israel is often misunderstood. Some people think that the holiness of the Land derives from the special commandments concerning the Land which are only performed in Israel. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook would explain the error of this way of thinking. He emphasized that Eretz Yisrael is holy, in and of itself. As the classic book, “The Kuzari,” makes clear, for this reason alone, every Jew should long to live here:
“Your Forefathers chose it as their abode in preference to their birthplaces, and lived there as strangers, rather than as citizens in their own country. They did this even at a time when the Divine Presence was not yet visible, and when the country was full of unchastity, impurity, and idol worship. Your Forefathers, however, had no other desire than to remain there” (Kuzari,2:23).
Because of the holiness of the Land there are special commandments that apply to it, and not visa versa (See also, “Chatam Sofer, Responsa,” Yoreh Deah 234).
In the Talmud, at the end of tractate “Ketubot,” the love of the Land by the Sages is expressed:
“Rabbi Abba kissed the stones of Acco, and Rabbi Chia Bar Gamda rolled himself in its dust” (Ketubot 112B).
They did this to actualize the verse, “For your servants desire her stones and cherished her very dust” (Tehillim, 102:15).
Notice that Rabbi Abba did not kiss the ground, over which the special commandments of the Land are performed. He kissed the boulders to emphasize the inherent holiness of the Land itself, even its stones.
Because of the confusion and lack of understanding surrounding the mitzvah of living in Israel, we will take advantage of the next few blogs to review fundamental matters which are often misunderstood in the Diaspora because of the incompleteness of the learning there.
Without any criticisms or putdowns, may our eyes and hearts be enlightened to the holiness, richness, and completeness of Jewish life which can only be achieved in the Land of Israel.