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      Hollywood to the Holy Land
      by Tzvi Fishman
      Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Creativity and Culture

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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.


      Iyar 4, 5770, 4/18/2010

      Free Gift for Independence Day

      Yom HaAzmaut is called Independence Day because it marks our personal and national freedom from the 2000 year old charade that we are Germans and Americans and Canadians, and all the rest.   


      For all of you still living in foreign lands, here’s a prayer you can say to help speed your aliyah. Print it out, mount it in an attractive frame, and hang it up in a prominent place in your house so you won’t forget to say it every day.




      My G-d and G-d of my Forefathers, Creator and Master of the universe, who watches over all of my doings and hears all of my prayers with infinite compassion and mercy, who knows all of my uncertainties, doubts, weaknesses, and fears - may my words penetrate the darkness and impurity of my present exile in this gentile and foreign land (of America, France, Canada, England, South Africa, Australia…), which is no more of a home to me than a zoo is to a lion.


      A Jew living in Diaspora is in an unnatural habitat, just like a lion in a zoo.


      Dear G-d, please fill my heart with a longing and love for the Land of Israel. You created me a Jew, and gave the Jewish People a Holy Land to live in. Let a yearning and ardor for the Holy Land of my Forefathers burn in my heart with an ever-growing passion, filling my thoughts like a groom’s love and excitement for his bride. Let my love for the Land surpass all of my longings and joys, as King David said, “If I ever forget you, O Jerusalem… if I not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!”


      Please G-d, place in my heart a burning desire to go up to the Land, to live there and help in its rebuilding, in whatever way I can, in order to do Your will, as clearly set forth in the Torah, and to take part in the 2000 year-old-dream of a Jewish homeland of our own. Make me realize each and every day that the gentile land where I am presently living is a foreign land, a place of exile, a place of impurity and darkness which is poisonous to my holy Jewish soul. Make me to literally feel the estrangement in my gentile surroundings, to feel with every step I take, and every place I go, that my soul does not belong here, so that a holy fire will rage within me to escape the bonds of my exile, and the half-truths that I am living, however comfortable and materially pleasing my present life may seem - to flee as quickly as I can from this treacherous illusion and double identity, to go forth to the Land that You have singled out and chosen for Your holy Chosen People, ever since the time of our Forefather, Avraham, where I can finally be myself.


      Please G-d, open my eyes to see the miracles You have done in re-establishing the Nation of Israel in our Biblical homeland, in our time, in fulfillment of the promises of our Prophets, after a 2000 year exile of wandering and national decay in foreign countries amongst people who hate us. Teach me to be grateful for the State of Israel which rose, in Your great mercy, out of the ashes of the Holocaust. Make me to comprehend with a clear and simple understanding that Germany, and Russia, and America, and all the lands of our exile, are all the same, graveyards for the Jewish People, whether now or in the future, whether through persecution or assimilation, the result is the same.


      Help me, Hashem, to stand resolute against all those who attempt to discourage me from going to live in Israel, whether it be my family, teachers, or friends, or blog talkbackers who spew out poisonous dribble to justify their own love affair with the brothels of foreign lands. Put blinders on my eyes to everything around me, and stuff wax in my ears to blot out all gestures and words intended to weaken my resolve. Set my sight and my ears fixed to the words and true voice of the Torah, that again and again and again calls out for the Jewish People to come up to the Promised Land. Keep my heart glued to the goal of reaching Your Holy Habitation and building my life anew on our cherished holy soil, may it be soon.


      You know, Hashem, how I tremble at the challenge that You have set before me. Truly, it is a humongous undertaking to pick up one’s belongings and follow the example of the brave and holy Jews who have forged the path before me, and who, through sacrifice and hard work, have transformed the desert wilderness into a metropolis of modern life. Give me the inner strength and faith to know that You will stand by me in my journey and bless my path with success, just as You stood by our Forefather, Avraham, when you commanded him to leave his birthplace and get himself forth to the Land.


      And when I come to the Land of Israel, stay with me, Hashem, and enable me to see the good of the Land at all times, knowing that all of the imperfections, hardships, dangers, and challenges that I encounter, are all a necessary part in rebuilding myself, and in rebuilding the Land and the Jewish Nation, just as our Sages have taught in the Talmud, that three things in life are acquired through suffering: the Torah, the World to Come, and the Land of Israel.


      And if, for whatever reason beyond my control, I am unable to make aliyah at this time, let my foremost goal always be to come to the Land as soon as I can. May I instill this goal in the hearts of my children, teaching them that we are exiles, strangers in a foreign land, and that our one and only homeland is Eretz Yisrael. Help me to do everything in my power to make my children love the Land and long to live there, with all of their hearts and souls.


      May it be Your will that my words and requests are pleasing in Your sight. Save me from my exile amongst the nations and bring me home to Israel, to join the millions who have already reached its promised shores, to share in the Divine task of national rebuilding, in order to play my small part in the Redemption of our Nation, and in the sanctification of Your Name, as it says, “And the nations shall know that I am the L-rd, says the L-rd G-d, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from amongst the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own Land.”



      Nisan 30, 5770, 4/14/2010

      Help Me! I'm Drowning!

      The time from Pesach to the holiday of Shavuot is a time of personal introspection, a time of rectifying faulty character traits, and cleansing ourselves of unholy factors which interfere with our receiving the Torah.


      During these weeks, we read from the Book of Vayikra which details how the Jewish People are to live in a holy fashion, eat in a holy fashion, conduct their sexual lives in a holy fashion, and dwell in a unique Holy Land.  We are a unique holy people. Our holiness is what distinguishes us from the nations. While holiness is intrinsic to our holy Jewish souls, it is something that we have to work at in each facet of our lives, in order to give it expression, in line with the Torah’s commands.


      As we have written on numerous occasions, we are also supposed to surf the Internet in a holy fashion. While the Internet has become a part of modern life, without an effective anti-porn filter, it can be devastatingly destructive to our holy Jewish souls. Here is an example of a letter I recently received from a youth hooked on Internet porn:


      “Before i ask my question i must relate to you the gravity of my sins and i am truly sorry to burden you with them. i have been addicted to porn and masturbation ever since i was 12. i am 21 now. every day is a struggle. i live in the prison of my sins. on 3 separate occasions i went about 2 weeks without sinning and then fell to ever lower depths. my mind is a library of erotic images and motion pictures, humans treating themselves and others like objects of no consequence. my body has taken a toll. i am lower than the lowliest animal. even in the magnitude of my sins i am fighting for survival.


      “the one time i felt Hashem opened my eyes and showed me first hand the magnitude of my sins and i couldnt even ask for help to escape them. i was the slave who wished to remain. for years i have felt pulled in every direction finding no peace. now i finally return to the words of the wise and holy sages.

      “i would like to marry. i thought if i prayed to HaShem i could find respite from this terrible illness, in the confines of a holy union, but i fear i am not fit to marry a bas yisroel. what do i have to offer? am i permitted to seek a bas yisroel? or this like a peasant boy lusting after the princess?

      “will i ever be fit to join in a union of holy kedusha? when can i trust that i am even capable of such a thing? must i master teshuvah first, instead of relying on marriage to save me? how long if ever must go by of me wandering alone before i can trust that i am ready for marriage? i yearn for a new lease of life with someone by my side but i dont know if i’m even capable of being side by side with anyone considering the magnitude of my sins. am i permitted to interject myself into someone else's life considering the state of my own? should i marry at the first opportunity and accept my lot?

      “should i quit everything i am doing and take refuge the beis medrish and holy books or is this merely an attempt to escape my prison?


      “what sort of tikkun and learning regiment must i undertake? I apologize.  now I am ready to do anything that must be done. is there a tikkun for my sins?”


      Hopefully, with G-d’s help, and the wise counsel of our Rabbis, my correspondence with this tortured youth will lead him toward a healthy and holy future. Don’t think that he’s a rare case. Internet transgression and sexual laxity are epidemics, endangering millions. Our Sages have warned us that no one is free from the temptations of sexual sin. As we approach Shavuot and the giving of the Torah, I recommend that everyone spend a little time reading the plethora of articles, and questions and answers, on www.jewishsexuality.com. Subjects range from pornography addiction, overcoming masturbation, the importance of mikvah, the problem with tight-fitting garments, the holiness of the marital union, homosexuality, and everything else you always wanted to know about Jewish sexuality but were too embarrassed to ask.


      "Be holy!"


      Remember – you’re holy! But you have to work on it, as the Torah commands. “Be holy! For I the L-rd your G-d am holy.”


      Chodesh tov!

      Nisan 29, 5770, 4/13/2010

      Review Lesson I

      Lucky for us that Yehoshua Ben Nun (Joshua) wasn’t a typical Diaspora lover. If he had been, when Hashem commanded him to bring the Jews into the Land of Israel, he would have answered, “Sorry, find some other sucker. First, clean out the Philistines and the seven hostile nations, and get rid of all the idol worship, and then we’ll think about coming.”


      Sound familiar? That’s pretty much what some of our talkbackers say: “As long as Israeli soldiers kick Jews out of their homes, as long as the Israeli media is biased against the religious, and Iranian missiles are aimed at Israel, we’re not coming!”


      Since they have apparently forgotten what the commandments are all about, this review lesson is intended to help set them straight.


      A religious Jew does what Hashem wants him to do, whether it is pleasing to him or not. He doesn’t say, “I’m not going to daven the morning prayer because it’s too early to get out of bed.” He doesn’t say, “I’m not going to eat matzah because constipation can be dangerous.” He doesn’t say, “I’m not going to keep Shabbos because it impinges on my freedom.” He or she doesn’t say, “I’m not going to have any children because it will harm my career.”


      Reform and Conservative Jews pick and chose mitzvahs, not Orthodox Jews.


      So, if for whatever reason, aliyah is too difficult a mitzvah for you, or circumstances just don’t allow it right now, don’t blame you’re not coming on the situation in Israel. Be honest and say, “I know that a Jew is supposed to live in Israel, but I am unable to do so because I’m afraid,” or “my parents won’t let me,” or “I may have a hard time making a living,” or “I’m too rigid in my ways to adjust to a new language and culture,” or “I don’t have enough faith in G-d.”


      Yes, there are challenges facing us in Israel, but stop blaming the situation in Israel, when the real reason why you don’t come lies within yourself.   


      Nisan 28, 5770, 4/12/2010

      Dry Bones Come to Life

      On Holocaust Memorial Day, we are reminded of the famous Haftorah of the “Valley of Dry Bones” which we read during Pesach (Ezekiel, 37:1-14).


      The valley of dry, lifeless bones which the Prophet Ezekiel envisions is a metaphor for the Jewish People in exile. G-d instructs Ezekiel to breathe life into the bones, and behold, the bones gather together and come to life!


      How do the dry bones of come to life? Through the national restoration of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. As the prophecy relates:


      “So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceeding great army. Then He said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole House of Israel …. Behold O My People, I will open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, and bring you into the Land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the L-rd, when I have opened your graves, O My People, and have brought you up out of your graves, and I shall put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own Land; then you shall know that I the L-rd have spoken and performed it, says the L-rd.”


      This prophecy came to pass in our time with the resurrection of the Jewish People out from the graveyards of the Holocaust to the rebirth of the Jewish Nation in the Land of Israel.


      "And I will open your graves and bring you into the Land."


      But the message of this prophecy is not limited to the Holocaust alone. The Prophet is teaching us that the Diaspora is a grave. Outside of the Land of Israel, the Jewish People are dry lifeless bones. What are these bones? The commandments of the Torah which we carry off with us into exile. Denuded of our Land and our national format, the commandments are all we have left. With only these bones, we are a skeleton of a nation. In the exile, we are stripped of the muscles, sinews, and flesh of our nationhood. In the Diaspora, no matter where it is, and how pretty it may seem, Jewish communities are mere piles of bones without our own Land, without our own government, without our own army, without our own national life. A grave of dry bones.


      Only in the Land of Israel do the Jewish People come to life. Only in the Land of Israel can our bones be dressed in muscles and flesh and a vibrant and growing national body. Accordingly, the commandments only reach their full potency when they are performed in the Land where they are meant to be performed (Rabbi Kook, "Orot," 1:7.) 


      On Holocaust Day, in memory of our murdered brethren, may this be a lesson for all of us.  


      Nisan 24, 5770, 4/8/2010

      Why Isn't it Clear to Everyone?

      We have mentioned more than once that G-d’s first command to the world’s very first Jew, Avraham, was to leave his birthplace and go live in Israel.  Our forefather, Yitzhak, never left the Land of Israel. Yaacov had to flee from the Land to avoid being killed by Esav, but G-d eventually told him to return. Then, following G-d’s master plan for history, Yaacov and his family had to descend to Egypt until G-d sent Moshe to bring them out of Egyptian bondage and bring them back to the Land of Israel. Along the way, the Jews stopped at Sinai to pick up the Torah, but then, after 40 years of punishment in the wilderness for not wanting to make aliyah, they were back on their way home to Israel where the whole of Biblical history unfolds.


      I ask you all once again – could anything be clearer from the straightforward reading of the Torah that G-d wants the Jewish People to live in Israel? A six-year-old child could figure this out. There’s no secret meaning to these straightforward events that mark the foundations of our nation. How can a person think otherwise? If you have an answer, please tell me. I can’t figure out how a Jew could think that G-d wants him to live anywhere else, especially in super gentile places like Canada, Australia, and the United States of Abama.


      Sure, making aliyah is a challenging matter. So what? Who ever said that life is supposed to be easy? We do what G-d wants us to do, whether it be easy or hard. That’s the way it is. The Torah is eternal. The Torah doesn’t change. That’s one of the main principles of our faith. Just like G-d wanted us to live in Israel in Biblical days, He wants us to live in Israel now. Things haven’t changed.


      Yes, for almost 2000 years, against out will, most Jews didn’t have the option of living in Israel, because of the coercion of the gentiles, but now that a fair chunk of it has returned to our hands, and the country has been miraculously rebuilt, the mitzvah of living here has returned with all of its original force.

      Why isn’t this clear to everyone? If you ask me, I think that it is clear to everyone. Any Diaspora Jew who knows something about Jewish history and Torah knows that he should be living here. It's just a very demanding mitzvah, that's all.