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Gerald A. Honigman
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Life Lessons with Judy Simon
Torah Tidbits Audio
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.
Adar 21, 5770, 3/7/2010
The truth is that the anti-Israel mongers don’t reject Israel – it is the Land of Israel that rejects them.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, used to explain the phenomenon of yeridah (abandoning Israel to live in gentile lands) with a parable of a girl who was fixed up with a shiduch. Before meeting the boy, she realized that she knew who he was. Because of his obnoxious character traits, she wasn’t interested in him at all. But because she was a very kind person, she didn’t want to hurt his feelings by canceling the date, so she dressed up in dirty clothes, and met him looking like a mess, so that he wouldn’t want to meet her again. Thinking that she was a loser, the boy rejected her, but in reality, it was she who was rejecting him.
So too, Rabbi Kook said, with Jews who don’t want to live in the Land of Israel. Hashem, in His kindness, doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so He brings things about that they see everything in Israel in a negative light and think that they are the ones who are rejecting life in Israel, when it is really Israel that is rejecting them.
I am not talking about Jews who would like to live in Israel, but for whatever pressing reason, can’t work it out. Rather, I am referring to those angry bitter souls who are constantly criticizing life in Israel and who discourage others from coming.
There are rejects in every batch
Let me give you another example. To meet the demand for Pesach, matzah factories in Israel are working around the clock. All over Jerusalem you can smell the invigorating fragrance of matzah on the wind. Every year, I join a group of rabbis to supervise over our own baking shift. As the matzot come out of the oven, matzot that are too thick, cracked, or curled over, are plucked out of the conveyor belt and thrown into trash cans lest there be some unbaked dough and chametz in the batch. These rejected matzot are set aside for pre-Pesach consumption by the inhabitants of the Jerusalem zoo.
Our Sages compare chametz to arrogance. They tell us that arrogance (not to mention other abominable traits) drive a person from the world. Hashem and arrogant people can’t get along side-by-side. A person who thinks that he knows everything there is to know about the world is abhorred by the Master of Heaven and Earth. This type of person places his own thinking and intellect over the will of Hashem. His only hope is to do tshuva, lower his head in humility with the understanding that he is nothing without Hashem, and put his life in line with the Torah instead of spouting off against it.
The truth is that Israel is a magnificent place. Come Purim time, the joy of Purim overflows unabashedly into the streets. As Pesach approaches, the aroma of matzah fills the air. There is more Torah learning by far in Israel than anywhere else in the world. There are more Torah Sages in Israel than anywhere else in the world. In Israel, you see kippot and tzitzit everywhere. There are more organizations of Jewish charity and chesed in Israel than anywhere else. There is more Jewish bravery on the part of the settlers of the land, and more self-sacrifice on the part of Israeli soldiers, putting their lives on the line, night after night, in quiet, unpublicized missions. There is Jerusalem, the Kotel, Hevron, Safed, Meron, Tiberias, and an endless list of holy places. There is more Jewish genius, creativity, scientific and medical advancement, and economic growth in Israel than anywhere else.
Wherever you look, there is so much good to see, so much holiness, so much beauty, so much joy, so much hope. May Hashem have mercy on those twisted unhappy souls who see only the bad, and may He help them, in His infinite compassion, to remove the chametz from their eyes.
Adar 17, 5770, 3/3/2010
Unfortunately, it seems that many of our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora still haven’t grasped the message. Since there are talkbackers who encourage me to keep pounding away, and since, every once in a while, I receive a personal letter from a new oleh who says he was positively influenced by my blogs on aliyah, I will try again.
One of our most ardent and erudite lovers of life amongst the gentiles writes:
“If Israel were a less odious place--if it dealt with its Muslim problem effectively and if it did not kick Jews out of their homes… Israel would be more appealing. So, if you really care about aliyah, all you need to do is improve Israel. You will not succeed in aliyah until you do.”
This is like saying, “When you get rid of the cockroaches and mosquitoes in Israel, I will come on aliyah.”
Or, “When English is made the official language in Israel, I will come on aliyah.”
"Or when I can make an American salary, I will come on aliyah."
In other words, “When everything is to my liking, I will come on aliyah.”
Of course, as we have pointed out dozens of times before, this is exactly the reasoning of the Spies in the wilderness, who, in refusing to go to Israel because of their fear of the giants in the Land, brought about the death of the entire generation, and the future destruction of the Beit HaMikdash.
Portrait of an Anti-Aliyah Talkbacker
Yes, like our talkbackers, the Spies were very intelligent and glib. Yes, like our talkbackers, they had degrees in all kinds of academics. What they didn’t have was courage, Emunah (faith), and a true love of G-d.
Fortunately, Joshua and Calev, and the splendid Jewish women of the time, weren’t afraid of the cockroaches and mosquitoes, nor of the giants.
That’s how it is with all of the Torah. We don’t perform the mitzvot because they are pleasing in our eyes. We do them because that’s what G-d wants us to do, and we are happy in doing them, because we know we are doing G-d’s will.
Please remember, my dear friends, that part and parcel of being a Jew is the practice of Judaism. Perhaps if I spell the word differently, it will be more clear. Judaism is really Jewdaism – the Divine code according to which a Jew is supposed to live his or her life. Or, to be even more exact, the word “Jew” should be spelled “Ju,” as a practitioner of Judaism. Being a Ju and Judaism go hand in hand.
Of course, a Ju who doesn’t practice Judaism is still a Ju. Just like a car without a motor is still a car, even though it doesn't drive; and just like a CD that’s scratched is still a CD, even though it hardly plays, a Ju who doesn’t perform the tenets of Judaism still a Ju.
Now when a broken disc of a Ju who doesn’t observe the commandments comes to preach about not making aliyah – that’s a little presumptuous, don’t you think? Even with all the higfalutin arguments and sophisticated political double-talk they blabber, it’s all a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
For those of us who have been blessed by Hashem with the incomparable blessing of living in Israel, we are doing our best, each person in his or her own way, to make the country more in line with the Torah ideal. Instead of crying and badmouthing about the Land of Hashem and the brave Jews who live here, we are observing Hashem’s commandments with joy.
Remember, the Pesach seder doesn’t conclude with the bold and triumphant declaration, “Next year in Jerusalem – if they get rid of the cockroaches and mosquitoes.” It concludes with, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Period!
Adar 15, 5770, 3/1/2010
One of the things that a Jew is supposed to remember each day is that Hashem took us out of bondage in Egypt. Since our Sages tell us that a person should start learning about a holiday thirty days before its arrival, now is a fine time to learn a bit about the message of Pesach.
We are supposed to remember each day that Hashem took us out of bondage in Egypt because Hashem wants us always to remember that we don’t belong in a foreign land. For a Jew, being in a land other than Eretz Yisrael is being in mental, physical, psychological, spiritual, and cultural bondage.
What the heck is that?
This is the big lesson of the festival of Pesach. It comes along every year to remind us that we don’t belong in foreign lands, whether it be the Egypt of old, or the America, Canada, Belgium, or Mexico of today.
Also, in our Sabbath and holiday prayers, we always say that the giving of the Sabbath, and our holidays, are reminders of the exodus from Egypt. The understanding that we don’t belong in foreign lands is the cornerstone of our essence as a Jewish Nation and our personal identities as Jews.
The reason that we are called upon to remember this every day, every Sabbath, and every holiday, is that there is a yetzer (evil inclination) to forget. Someone who lives in foreign bondage in a gentile land doesn’t like to be reminded of it. He’d rather forget the sordid truth of his situation. In a sense, he’s sleeping. Living in a dream world.
He doesn’t want to have his bubble burst, so he pretends that everything is OK. Forgetfulness can happen to creatures of flesh and blood, so Hashem is constantly reminding us in our prayers and our holidays that we’re not supposed be living in gentile lands.
Hey! This blog light almost hit me on the head!
It’s a lot like the movie, “The Truman Show.” It turned out that the hero was living in a fake, illusionary world. He thought it was real, but it wasn’t. Only when a light fixture (like a Fishman blog) fell down from the fake sky did he begin to suspect that something was fishy. It turned out he was living in a sort of sci-fi prison. He thought he was free, but he wasn’t. He thought things were real, but they weren’t. Finally, after a determined struggle, he discovered that the life he was living was fake.
Hey! This isn't Jewish!
The truth is that the exile in Egypt was a lot better than the exile today. At least in Egypt, we knew we were in bondage. We knew we were living in a foreign country. We knew we were imprisoned. We could see the bars.
Today, the Jews who live in the Diaspora don’t see the reality of their situation. They don’t think they’re in bondage. They don’t even feel that they are living in a foreign land. So they don’t see any reason to leave.
In a sense, Jonathan Pollard, for all of the unjust horror of his situation, is better off than everyone else in the Diaspora. At least he knows that he is in prison. Everyone else lives with the myth that they’re free! The truth is that they are just as captive as Jonathan is, only they don’t see the bars. Just like the Truman Show.
So Hashem is always trying to wake us up in a gentle fashion by making us remember in our prayers, and through our holidays, that we don’t belong in foreign countries, no matter how idyllic life may seem to be in Truman Show of galut.
As we approach the Pesach holiday, it’s time to think about its clear and straightforward message, so that Seder night will be more than just munching on matzah and lettuce and getting smashed on the wine.
Have the courage to walk through the door.
Break on through to the other side. Break on through to the other side. Break on through, break on through, break on throuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh. Yeaaaaah!
Adar 13, 5770, 2/27/2010
In an international crackdown, stretching from Hollywood to Jerusalem, Israeli police arrested INN’s star blogger, Tzvi Fleshman, for being the alleged ringleader in a multi-million-shekel pornography racket which was distributing DVD blue movies throughout Israel. Police report that the dirty discs have labels proposing to be Torah lectures.
Early Friday morning, undercover police raided Fleshman’s home in Jerusalem and dragged Fleshman away with cartons of blue movies that were hidden in a storage room with Passover pots and dishes.
Out of the Closet
Covering his face with a Purim mask to avoid being recognized by neighbors, Fleshman refused to speak with the police as he was thrown into a police cruiser, then whisked away to the central police station in Jerusalem’s Russian Compound.
INN blogger busted in porn ring crackdown.
Photos by Magnum Int'l
The sudden arrest has sent shockwaves throughout the Jewish world. In addition to his popular INN blog, read by tens of thousands of Israel lovers daily, Fleshman runs the popular website: jewishsexuality.com, which has been a revolutionary lone voice in cyberspace, raising the banner against the widespread pornography on the net – precisely what Fleshman was arrested for.
“Frankly, I’m not surprised,” said Hallel Fundel, INN news manager. “Fleshman always got under my nerves with his holier-than-thou attitude. I always knew it was a big act. But his blog brought us tons of readers, and sponsors, so we had to put up with him all these years.”
Sigmund Freud, INN’s prize-winning blogger, says he’s glad that Fleshman was rounded up. “Now I’m sure to get back all the readers whom Fleshman stole away from me.”
One question being asked at the INN offices in Beit-El is whether Internet talkbackers can ever believe in bloggers again.
“My faith in the Internet is shattered,” insists talkbacker “sk” from the USA. “I have blow-up posters of Fleshman on all the walls of my apartment. I guess you can say he was my hero, living out my dream of being a real Israeli. I don’t know if I will be able to go on without him.”
Many of Fleshman’s fans, however, are staying loyal to the superstar blogger. At a rally Friday afternoon outside the Jerusalem police station, one of his longtime fans, Moses Black from Dimona, said that even if Fleshman is convicted, he is going to continue reading his blogs from prison. “Tzvi is my man,” the half-illiterate, Brown Hebrew told us. “Dat website, ‘jeweeeshsexualiteee’ saved my life. I wasn’t makin’ any mony, and all of my kids were messed up in all kinds of sh**t, and then I read what Tzvi was teechin’ about bein’ holy with one’s wife, and not lookin’ at pooorn, and all da peeces of da puzzle felled into place. I got my act together and I’m livin’ on eezy street now, thanks to Tzvi.”
Ironically, one of the features at the jewishsexuality.com site is “Pornoholics Anonymous,” which has helped hundreds of thousands of Internet porn addicts kick the habit.
“I hope the judge will take Tzvi’s pioneer work in Internet porn rehabilitation into consideration at the trial,” said Baruch Gardon, INN founder. “While I’m totally against what Tzvi is accused of, you can’t blame a guy for trying to make a buck. We never paid him a nickel for all of his work at INN.”
Blogger, Tzvi Fleshman in Jerusalem Jail lock-up.
Meanwhile, Fleshman is maintaining his silence. It’s another big blow for a country that has been taking a beating for the last four thousand years. A sign at the rally outside the jail seemed to sum up what all of his followers were thinking. “Please, Tzvi,” it read. “Tell us it isn’t true!”
Adar 10, 5770, 2/24/2010
Here’s a serious blog before the joy of Purim takes over the keyboard. We read the portion of Amalek on Shabbat Zachor before Purim in order to remember that victory over our enemies depends on the holiness of our sexual lives. When Israel’s sanctity rises, then the strength of Amalek falls, paving the way for its destruction on Purim ("Yisrael Kiddoshim," Rabbi Tzaddok HaKohen of Lublin, 8:27).
Today, the spirit of Amalek in the world is still trying to uproot the holiness of Israel by exporting all of its immoral culture, homosexuality, and pornography to the Holy Land. In addition, throughout the Diaspora, the spirit of Amalek is working overtime to lure the Jews into sexual transgression via assimilation.
This is what we have to remember, and guard against, and fight with education and counseling, in order to repel this plague of spiritual pollution from our borders, from our streets, and from our homes, cell phones, and computers.
The next time you are tempted to click on a forbidden link and take a peek at some porn, ask yourself if you really want to add power to the enemies of Israel, helping them to carry out their terrorism and slaughter.
The Torah states:
"Remember what Amalek did to you by the way, when you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you by the way and smote the hindmost of you, all that were feeble in your rear, when you were faint and weary, and he feared not G-d (Devarim, 25:17).
Usually, during their Shabbat Zachor sermons, rabbis explain Rashi's third understanding of the verse. Rashi writes that the Hebrew for "how he met you by the way" - "karcha baderech" - comes from the word "kar" meaning cold. In attacking Israel, Amalek showed the nations of the world that, notwithstanding all of the miracles in Egypt, the Jewish People were not invincible, just as when a scoundrel jumps into a scalding bathtub, even though he gets burnt, he cools it off for others to follow after him.
This is all well and good, but it ignores Rashi’s central explanation.
Rashi says that "karcha" should be understood as keri, meaning seminal pollution. Rashi explains that Amalek lured the Jews into homosexual transgression, then cut off their "milot," the sign of their circumcision, and threw them up to the sky, as if to say, "This is what's left of Your holy nation." Rashi concludes that the protective Clouds of Glory spit out these Jews who were feeble because of their sexual sins. These were the Jews whom Amalek killed.
What does all of this mean?
The holy Sage and Kabbalist, Rabbi Tzaddok HaKohen of Lublin, explains the evils of Amalek in several of his works. He explains that Amalek and the gentile nations dominate in the world when Israel falls from its Divine stature through sexual transgression ("Resisae Lilah," 23:1). When this occurs, holiness recedes from the world, and mankind is shrouded by an outer covering of evil. This is because holiness can only be found in a place that is detached from sexual sin, and this can only be found in Israel.
Rabbi Tzaddok explains that ever since the sin of Adam, mankind was infested with lust. The brit milah was given to the Nation of Israel as a tikun, to rectify the world from its fallen state. Sexuality for the Jewish People was to be a commandment in the service of G-d, sanctifying the act and the holy offspring who would derive from it. This sexual holiness was what Amalek was seeking to erase from the world when they came and tempted the weak and erring Jews. Therefore, when they castrated their victims, they threw their milot skyward, and called out to Heaven, "Take that which You chose for Yourself." As if to say that the Jews were no different than the other nations in their submission to animal passions and lust.
For Amalek could not tolerate that there could be a nation, Israel, that sanctified the sexual act. They could not tolerate the idea that G-d had a part in this too (Ibid, 48:17-20). "Thus the verse says, ‘karcha baderech,' meaning that they caused the Jews to spill semen in an unholy way. For when the sexual act is not performed in its intended holy fashion as a mitzvah, but rather after the lustful inclination, which is called evil, this is considered ‘mikre,' spilling semen in vain." And there is nothing which causes the Divine Presence to flee from the world more than the spilling of semen in vain. This was Amalek's goal, to remove the Presence of G-d from the world, so that mankind could be free to wallow in its lusts and evil inclination (Rabbi Tzaddok, "Takanat Hashavin," 10:13).
It is by sanctifying our lives that we blot out the memory of Amalek, giving the armies of Israel the power to uproot and destroy the enemies of G-d from the world, and in so doing, the L-rd G-d of Israel shall be One - King over all of the earth.