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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.


      Adar 8, 5770, 2/22/2010

      Jews in Drag

      The decree of destruction fell upon the Jews of Shushan because they wanted to stay loyal Persian citizens instead of returning to Israel to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash when the prophesied seventy years of exile drew to an end. They wanted to rub shoulders with the goyim, attend the gala parties of Achashverus, holding up their goblets of kosher Manischewitz wine, while feasting their eyes on the king’s harem of half-naked women.


      Unlike on Hanukah, we don’t say the joyous recitation of Hallel on Purim because even after the great salvation, we were still subject to foreign rule in a foreign land – as King David teaches us, “How can I sing the L-rd’s song in a foreign land?”


      A Jew cannot really be happy in a foreign land. He can find material comfort, physical pleasures, and egotistical highs, but he can’t find true joy of the soul. True joy for a Jew can only be found in the Land of Israel.   


      That’s why the Psalm continues: “How can I sing the L-rd’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem!”


      The Jews in the time of Mordechai wanted to forget Jerusalem and stay right where they were in the flesh pot of Shushan.


      Sound familiar?


      One of the reasons that we dress up in costumes on Purim is to remind ourselves that a Jew who lives in a foreign land is like a person who dresses up in a costume. Whether he dresses up in the costume of being an American, or a Frenchman, or an Englishman, he is living a masquerade. We can try to pretend that we are loyal Persians, or Germans, or Americans, but the Hamans and Hitlers of the world will always eventually come to power to remind us that we are Jews, strangers in a strange land.


      And if Hamans don’t arise to save us by reminding us that we don’t belong in a foreign land, the lavish parties and loose women and career opportunities and open arms of the gentiles devour us all the same.


      The fact is that a Jew doesn’t belong in a gentile land. It is like a man dressing up as a woman. It’s unnatural. Even perverted. It is against G-d’s will for the world.


      You don't have to dress up anymore


      Dear friends in the Diaspora, why continue the masquerade? Why continue pretending to be Americans and Canadians and Englishman and Australians?


      Come home to Israel and discover the joy of being yourself!

      Adar 4, 5770, 2/18/2010

      Earthquake in the National Camp

      I don’t intend to write about the personal side of the tragic scandal that has fallen upon us from out of the blue. Hopefully, all of the painful reports and rumors will prove to be without concrete foundation. Rather, I would like to focus on the social and national aspects of the unfortunate affair.


      It is impossible to ignore the tsunami of media attention, front-page headlines, TV reports, and round-the-clock radio coverage that the story is receiving.  Granted, not every day is a famous rabbi suspected of immoral relations with students. It seems to me that the media’s knives have been sharpened precisely because the rabbi in question is a leading figure in the national religious camp, which, in combining Torah with a love for Eretz Yisrael and all the Jewish People, aspires to be a role model for others to follow.


      When President Bill Clinton of the United States is caught in a disgraceful sex scandal, it is a red light that the culture and society of America is immoral, as well as its commander in chief.


      So too in our case, when a spiritual leader of the dati leumi community (national religious camp) is under the magnifying glass of the media, the entire community is under the spotlight as well. Therefore, we are called upon to make a communal self-accounting and to understand that there is something rotten in our midst, whether the facts of the case prove to be true or not.


      For example, a photograph of the emergency meeting of the “Takana Forum” appeared in the media. The Forum is a distinguished group of rabbis and educators set up to deal with problems related to sexual abuse. In the picture, the rabbis are seen sitting on one side of the room, and the women of the Forum are sitting on the other side. My friends, in the Haredi (UltraOrthodox) world, this would never be. There, rabbis meet with rabbis, and women are free to meet and discuss things in some other room. There isn’t any mixing.


      The time has come to stop pretending that this prudent behavior is some form of unduly saintliness and extreme uncivil crudeness. This is not “ultra” Orthodox. This is the way Judaism should be in guarding the modesty so paramount to a true Torah society.


      The time has come to stop pretending that these types of scandals can’t happen amongst us, as if we are immune from such base temptations. It is time to stop ignoring the warnings of our Sages, as if the dangers don’t apply to us. It is time to stop pretending that the laws of modesty are secondary matters in Halachah and Jewish life, and that we are exempted from them because we are engaged in more lofty matters – the building of the nation and the settlement of the Land. It is time to stop inviting guests to mixed weddings, and to stop holding mass demonstration where men and women are squeezed together like sardines. It is time to stop trying to be just like the secular Israelis, in order to win their favor.


      The time has come to regard modesty as a subject of vital importance, both for the individual and the community, and to understand that sexual holiness is the very foundation of our nation. The time has come for our spiritual leaders to speak about these matters openly, for us to learn the laws, and to rebuild the fences that our Sages have instituted throughout our history to prevent tragic scandals from occurring.


      Certainly, in the Haredi world, there are many moral breaches and sordid scandals as well. Our Sages have warned us that no one is free from the temptations of forbidden relations. Nevertheless, just as our Haredi brothers can learn from us about the love of the Land and the great and holy mitzvah of its rebuilding; we can learn from them about the sacredness of modesty.


      The time has come for us, the national religious Zionist camp, to raise aloft, not only the banner of settlement, but also the banner of kedusha (holiness) as well. Without sanctifying all aspects of our lives, we cannot raise our heads and aspire to assume the leadership role in directing the nation forward. Without sanctifying all of our lives, all the splendor of the settlement movement, and all of the tremendous achievements we have made in all aspects of Israeli life, are in danger, G-d forbid.


      Let’s hope and pray that out of the present darkness, a new light will appear to shine on Zion, and that we will all merit to rise up to a higher level of rectification and tikun, both personally, and for the entire national religious camp as well, in confidence that all of the nation will follow.               

      Adar 2, 5770, 2/16/2010

      All-Stars of Galut

      There is no question that the next best thing to living in the Land of Israel is to be a devoted daily reader of INN, Israel National News.  In its love for the Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and the entire Jewish Nation, no other website can compare to INN. Therefore, by attaching themselves to INN by reading it every day, readers are attaching themselves to the things it stands for – to the Torah, to the settlement of the Land of Israel, and to the Jewish Nation as a whole. For Jews living in the Diaspora who would love to come on aliyah, but who are tragically unable to, for whatever real reasons they have, a lifeline dose of INN a few times a day is the next best thing.


      Even for the likes of Vienna Mike, Roger from Manchester, and Shmuelik from Monsey, their devoted reading of INN demonstrates that their souls are connected to the Land of Israel, even though their heads and their bodies may be embedded in the quicksand of galut. Their criticisms and tirades are merely the warped ranting of brains poisoned by a long and bitter exile. Nevertheless, their faithful reading of INN shows that their souls are pure. We know that it is merely their fears and sins which prevent them from coming to Israel, even though they themselves secretly crave to be here. And on a deeper level, we know that it is the Land of Israel that is rejecting them, and not really they who are rejecting the Land, for this is a jealous Land, rejecting those who don’t set Jerusalem above their chiefest joy. Their incessant talkbacks, no matter how boring they may be, along with Paul from Toronto and Joey from Australia, and too many others to mention, show that they truly want to be here, living a true Jewish life. And for that, they are deserving of accolades and praise. They are our brothers, here in spirit, if not in the flesh. Their longing to be in Israel earns them a portion in the Land. Whether their reasons for not coming be justified or lame, their constant preoccupation with Israel via their love/hate relationship with INN proves their identification with the Land and the Jewish Nation.

      Remember, he's still your brother!


      All of them are our brothers, the healthy ones who truly want to come, as well as the screwed up ones who protest at the top of their lungs. For just as a love for a brother continues even if he be locked up in a mental institution, G-d forbid, so our love for our INN brothers and sisters must be unflinching even though he or she clings to the familiar darkness of galut, fearing (with secret attraction) the great and growing light in Israel that radiates from the screen of his and her computer.

      Diaspora All-Stars


      So my fellow Aliyah Bullies beware! No matter how confused and uptight INN readers may be – they are the cream of the crop, the all-stars of galut. Their fervent addiction to INN and their inner yearning for Israel puts them here amongst us in spirit. Let all of us fortunate ones in Israel pray that their heads and living bodies will follow speedily soon!       

      Shevat 30, 5770, 2/14/2010

      How To Be Happy!

      When the month of Adar begins, a Jew is called upon to be especially happy. Joy is a fundamental ingredient in serving G-d. One of the things that brought about the exile of the Jewish People from the Land of Israel was because of sexual immorality. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches that unhappiness is the principle source of sexual transgression. This helps us understand an additional teaching of our Sages that we were exiled from the Land was because we didn’t serve G-d with joy.


      Today also, the root of sexual sin and depravity is the widespread unhappiness and depression which grips the modern materialistic world we live in. Unhappiness leads people to the fleeting and sordid high of pornography, to homosexuality and other sexually deviant behavior, and to masturbation.


      So, to break bad habits and help everyone achieve an extra measure of happiness this month, and for all of our lives, here’s some advice from Rabbi Nachman, from his book, “Likutei Etzot – Advice.”



      *Depression is like a sediment which covers the heart of the Jew and stops it from burning with passion for G-d.  


      *Seeing the face of the Tzaddik can give you joy and enthusiasm.

      Guess who?


      *Depression is a form of idolatry. How joyous we are depends on our purity and how close we are to the true Tzaddikim, who are the joy of all Israel. If you are joyous, the light of G-d’s countenance will radiate upon you.


      *The main reason for immorality is because of depression. The way to be pure is through joy. If you are happy, G-d will help you to keep yourself pure.


      *Man’s imagination is the source of all temptations. It is one of man’s animal aspects. If it becomes dominant, it is because of depression which is an evil spirit. Forgetfulness gains a hold, and one forgets one’s true purpose of sanctifying oneself in order to merit the World to Come. We have to fight back and aim to be constantly happy in order to shatter the power of the imagination. Then we will be able to set the World to Come always in our minds. 


      *When a person is depressed, his intellect and mind go into exile.


      *Don’t be depressed. The root of depression is in the husks (kelipot) which are at war with all that is holy. Whenever depression takes grip, the Shechinah, which is the joy of Israel, goes into exile. The destruction of the husks of unholiness depends on joy.


      *Because the incense which was burned in the Holy Temple had the power to free the holy life force from the husks, you should recite the passages in the prayer book which deal with the daily incense offering with great concentration. This will help bring you to joy.


      *You should feel so happy when you do a mitzvah that you don’t do it merely to receive a reward in the World to Come. Rather because you want G-d to send you another mitzvah, because your joy is the mitzvah itself. If you pray with intensity and great awe and love, you will be able to experience this joy.


      *The way to come to joy is through Torah and prayer. You should always prayer to attain the level that I hidden from you. And when this is revealed you should pray to achieve the level that is still hidden. This is how to rise from level to level. It is the way to find joy, which is the source of spiritual strength.


      *If you put so much effort into a holy task that you literally sweat, you will be able to experience true joy.


      *It is a wonderful thing when people dance for joy for the sake of a mitzvah! There are times when it is a mitzvah to drink some wine – on Shabbat or Yom Tov, or at a wedding, or other religious celebrations. If you drink on such occasions, your intention should be for the sake of Heaven. Drink moderately, and not to excess, with the purpose of experiencing the true joy of Israel, which is to rejoice in G-d who chose us from all other nations. As your joy begins to radiate, it will spread to your legs and you will literally begin to dance for joy. This will banish the evil forces of the Other Side, which grips the legs. The fire with which we dance is “a fire offering, a sweet savor to the L-rd” (BaMidbar, 28:8). But when one dances in the heat of the evil inclination, it is a “strange fire” (Vayikra, 10:1), and the wine which he drinks is the “wine of drunkenness,” which gives a hold to the forces of the Other Side.


      *The music of one who is truly G-d fearing can help you to be happy. It has the power to break the force of fantasy. You will be able to focus your thoughts on the World to Come and to understand the hints which G-d sends you constantly each day in order to draw you closer to Him.


      *If you are joyous it will bring you to new horizons in Torah.


      *The holiness of the Land of Israel has the power to break the force of depression.


      *A person who examines and judges himself over everything he does thereby frees himself from the harsh judgments that were weighing upon him. He will be so happy that he will literally dance for joy.


      *Once a person decides to be pure and devote himself to serving G-d, it is a very big sin if he allows himself to be depressed. Because G-d hates depression. 


      *There are times when the only way to make yourself happy is by doing something silly or making jokes. There are so many troubles that people have to go through physically and spiritually – trying to make a living, etc. etc. – that the only way they can make themselves happy is by doing something silly and acting a bit crazy. The whole vitality of the body and the soul depend on being happy. And in the worlds above, great unifications are brought about through the joy of the spirit.


      *It is a great mitzvah to always be happy. Be determined to keep away from depression, and aim to be happy constantly. Happiness is the remedy for all kinds of diseases, because many illnesses are caused by depression. You must be resourceful in order to make yourself happy. Often you must do something a little bit crazy in order to make yourself happy.


      *To find true joy is the hardest thing of all. It is harder than all other spiritual tasks. You must literally force yourself to be happy at all times. Put all of your energy into it. Use every kind of ploy. Often the only way is by doing something foolish or childish.


      *Most of all you must be happy while you are praying. Be sure to always pray with joy. The same applies with carrying out the mitzvoth. You should be especially joyous on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Even on weekdays it is a great mitzvah to be happy.


      *It is a great thing to bring joy to the heart of your fellow Jews. Most people are full of pain or worry and all kinds of troubles, and they find it impossible to speak out what is in their hearts. Someone who comes with a smiling face can literally give them fresh life. This is a very great thing. When you make another person happy, you are literally giving new life to a Jewish soul. 

      Mitzvah gedolah!

      Chodesh tov!

      Shevat 27, 5770, 2/11/2010

      For Men Only!

      For Men Only

      One of the most basic foundations of life is the importance of peace at home. Without “shalom bayit” nothing goes well. So for all of us who have trouble maintaining a happy and healthy home, here’s important advice from Rabbi Shalom Arush from his book , “The Garden of Peace - A Marital Guide For Men Only,” translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody, who has a wonderful website of his own.


      Readers who enjoy Rabbi Arush's illuminating teachings can find another essay on marriage at this site.

      Rabbi Arush’s book can be purchased online here.

      Key to a Happy Home




      Rabbi Arush writes that peace in the home, “shalom bayit,” is a great foundation in serving Hashem. A husband must exert great effort in this non-stop mitzvah, working on it, learning about it, and praying to succeed in his efforts. Many times, husbands believe this is a waste of time, that it is more important to spend one’s time studying Torah and doing deeds of kindness to others. But this is a grave mistake. A man’s relationship with his wife is his barometer on how he is serving Hashem, and his real test in life.


      A man who is loved by the world for his saintliness and charitable deeds, but who ignores his wife and causes her sorrow and tears, he is disdained by the Heavenly Court. In serving Hashem, a man must develop Faith (emunah) and humility. These can only be truly acquired by being a loving husband at home.


      Since shalom bayit is of such paramount importance, Rabbi Arush emphasizes that the lessons he offers should be learned and relearned, noting that, very often, distressing matters such as sickness, problems with children, financial difficulties, and the like, stem from a lack of shalom bayit and the sufferings that a husband causes his wife.



      Criticizing one’s wife is as forbidden as pork on the dining room table. The wife of a critical husband is broken, depressed, pained, and she has no vitality.


      One of the most important foundation of shalom bayit is that a husband should never criticize or negatively comment about his wife, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE! Every negative comment is “a crack in the wall of marital bliss.” With more and more cracks, the walls of the house eventually crumble and fall. Rabbi Arush stresses that comments and criticism destroy a wife, for  G-d created her to be especially sensitive to her husband, for her entire vitality and happiness depends on the honor that her husband gives her. “Therefore, any affront to her honor damages her soul, weakens her vitality, and virtually kills her, both spiritually and physically.”


      Even when a husband’s comments are gentle and meant in a constructive way, she still suffers. Harsh comments and outbursts of irritation are brutal in their affect. A woman wants to be perfect and appreciated in the eyes of her husband – this is her honor, happiness and security. Snide and cynical remarks destroy her self-image completely. A woman who lives with a critical husband finds her life unbearable.


      A wife is in need of her husband’s respect, valuation, and encouragement. Negative comments and criticism are devastating to her. A wife’s entire wellbeing depends on her husband’s kind and loving words to her.


      Rabbi Arush relates that often husbands come to him with a long list of complaints about their wife and are startled to discover that their very criticisms are the source of their problems. When a husband criticizes his wife, she becomes argumentative, hostile, and displeased with whatever he does. The house turns into hell.  Husbands who give up belittling their spouses are pleased to discover a new happiness in the homes, instead of mutual badgering and strife.



      A man’ wife is a mirror of himself. Any deficiency he sees in her is actually his own deficiency.


      If a man disrespects his wife, she will disrespect him. If he places her on a pedestal, she will do the same to him. Any shortcomings that a husband sees in his wife are Hashem’s way of telling him what he has to work on in himself. He shouldn’t criticize her, but rather work to improve himself. This understanding can save a troubled marriage, and lead a man to accomplish his tikun (rectification) in life. This is one of the purposes of marriage – to help a man correct his character traits – not to correct the faults he sees in his wife! By improving himself, he will see a change in his wife as well, without even saying one critical word to her!


      Hashem gives each man the exact wife he needs in order to reach his rectification – but he first has to understand this basic point and use it as a tool for personal growth. The problems he finds in his wife are precisely the things he needs to work on in himself!

      Your wife isn't the problem - you are!

      Every husband should pray to Hashem to open his eyes and allow him to see, via the reactions of his wife, the things that he needs to correct.   


      For instance, if she gets angry, it is a sign that he needs to work on his own anger. If she refuses to obey his wishes, it is a sign that he is not obeying the wishes of Hashem. Her behavior toward him is a mere reflection of his behavior toward her. If he treats her like a queen, he will be her king.


      It is important to understand that if one’s wife is a “nagging witch,” she is acting that way as a stick in Hashem’s hand to give him the punishment that he deserves for his sins. So why get angry at her? Let him do tshuva (penitence) instead.


      Rabbi Arush adds: “If you see in a mirror that your hat is on crooked, don’t try to straighten the mirror – it won’t do any good. Likewise, comments and criticism do nothing to correct your wife; they only destroy her joy in life.


      Without this spiritual awareness, a husband is easily upset by the flaws he sees in his wife. He becomes embittered and regrets having married such a woman. He believes he is justified in criticizing, lecturing, blaming, and the like. He can’t love her because he only sees her faults. This attitude a root cause of marital strife.


      Rabbi Arush points out that you didn’t get married to correct your wife. You got married to correct yourself, by using your wife as a mirror to help expose your faults.



      A wife isn’t just as mirror – she is a magnifying glass as well. She exposes all of his flaws, even the tiniest. Hashem does this because no man can objectively see all of his shortcomings. Our Sages have said that a hint is enough for a wise man, but a fool needs to be hit over the head. He must always remember – if his wife revolts against him, he is the cause.



      Some husbands maintain that they are the picture of calmness in the face of their wife’s outbursts. Instead of acting like “Mr. Cool,” a caring husband should try to understand what is bothering his wife and know that it is because of the things in himself that he hasn’t corrected.


      Some husbands insist that they are model husbands, but even when they come home bearing groceries, gifts for their wife, and compliments, they are met with a salvo of anger and complaints. What these “model husbands” forget to mention is how they gazed longingly after other women in the supermarket. A wife’s radar picks up everything. Through her, Hashem let’s a man know that he’s got to clean up his act. 


      Rabbi Arush recommends that every husband have a set time for self-inspection and for “Hitbodedut,” pouring his heart out before Hashem and asking for His help with all of his problems and with recognizing everything he needs to correct. Without this, he is liable to receive shock treatment from his wife in order to arouse him to make tshuva.     



      A husband may have noble intentions, wanting to help his wife be a better person, but his critical comments have the opposite effect. By nature, women don’t like to be criticized or reprimanded for their behavior. Just as it is a mitzvah to offer correction to someone who will heed it, it is a mitzvah to refrain from correcting someone who won’t. Since criticism is anathema to a wife, comments will only cause tension and anger. To a wife, criticism means that her husband doesn’t love her. If a husband knew how deeply his remarks pierced his wife’s heart, he wouldn’t say them.


      A husband’s tendency to constantly criticize is a sign of his own character flaws.


      The yetzer hara (evil inclination) often encourages a husband to criticize his wife with the pretense that it is for her own good to help her change for the better. He feels justified as if his comments are out of his love for her. But the minute he criticizes her, no matter how warranted it may seem, her soul darkens and she is crushed. Her whole world crumbles. Feeling that her very life is threatened, she may react by striking out, like a wounded animal trying to protect itself. This brings him to criticize her further and the tragic vicious cycle is reinforced.


      A husband’s criticism can bring a wife to physical illness or a nervous breakdown, G-d forbid. If he criticizes her in the name of the Torah, accusing her of failing to meet Torah standards in her religious behavior, this can bring her to hate the Torah and be angry toward G-d, may Hashem have mercy. She is liable to throw away her hair covering and abandon Judaism altogether.



      To summarize, a husband must avoid criticizing his wife at all costs!


      And if you say that it is your duty as the husband to point out your wife’s failings so that she can become a better and happier person, this isn’t the way.


      It is not a husband’s job to correct his wife. Instead of focusing on his wife, by correcting himself, he will be doing her the best thing he can, helping her automatically in all areas of her life as well.


      In addition, a husband must always see his wife in a positive light and emphasize her good points, and address her with kind words, compliments and praise.



      If for some pressing reason a husband feels it necessary to point something out to his wife regarding her behavior, he should not do it immediately, but wait a few days at a time when things are loving between, first praying to Hashem that he cause no pain to his wife. He should express himself lovingly in a positive manner, like, “How wonderful it is, sweetheart, to be a positive role model for our children,” and not criticize her for talking lashon hara (evil speech) on the telephone in front of the kids. 


      But this option, if used, should always be an exception to the rule of no criticism whatsoever. Always remember, the peace in the home is dependent upon you, the husband, and not on your wife.

      "Thank you, Sweetheart, for being so loving."