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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.


      Tevet 20, 5770, 1/6/2010

      Don't Bury Me in Boca

      The Hebrew meaning of the word Torah is law and instruction and teaching. We are not to read the weekly Torah portion as mere history, but as instructions on how to live. This is true not only for the commandments, but for the accounts of the lives of our holy Forefathers. As our Sages teach, “the doings of the fathers are signs for their children,” meaning that we are to derive lessons from the lives of Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov, and the other great personages of our Biblical past.

      We mentioned the example of Avraham. G-d could have brought things about so that Avraham be born in the Holy Land. Instead, G-d chose to have Avraham born in a foreign land, and then to command him to come to Israel, in order to teach all generations after him that like with the example of our father, Avraham, the command of “Lech lecha,” get thee forth to the Land, applies to all Jews wherever they might be born, in all times and in all places.

      This teaching is reinforced in the concluding Torah portion of the Book of Bereshit when Yaacov makes his son, Yosef, promise to bury him in the Land of Israel. “Don’t bury me in Egypt,” he tells him. Because the eternal truths of the Torah speak to us today, and because “the doings of the fathers are signs for the children,” Yaacov is saying, “Don’t bury me America. Don’t bury me in England. Don’t bury me in Australia.”

      Dying Out in America

      One reason that Yaacov insisted being buried in the Land of Israel is that the resurrection of the dead will only come to pass in the Holy Land. He didn’t want his body to have to roll through bumpy and painful underground tunnels on its way to Jerusalem, as our Sages explain. And Egypt is close to the Holy Land. Imaging how unpleasant the journey will be for Jews buried in Los Angeles and Toronto!

      The Midrash cites a few other reasons why Yaacov insisted on being buried in Israel, but the main reason was his fear that if he were to be buried in Egypt, his sons would chose to stay permanently in Egypt to be close to him. Yaacov wanted them to know that their one and only real home was in the Land of Israel, not in foreign lands, as the Psalm says, “How can I sing the L-rd’s song in a foreign land?” Egypt is a foreign land. America is a foreign land. France and England are foreign lands, no less polluted than Germany and Russia. According to Jewish law, the lands of the nations are halachically impure, possessing the status of a grave.

      Yaacov was especially concerned because whereas he had come to Egypt to temporarily “sojourn” there during the famine, his sons began to “settle down” there. On the verse, “And they possessed property in it,” (Bereshit, 47:27), the Torah commentary, the Kli Yakar, condemns their behavior, explaining that, according to the prophecy to Avraham, they were supposed to be “aliens” in a land not theirs, but they sought to become landholders. He notes that the Hebrew verb form of “possessed” is passive, so it really reads, “And they were possessed by it.” The Midrash explains that the land took possession of them. That’s why a Jew in America thinks he is an American, and a Jew in France identifies with being a Frenchmen. A land has a mystical inertia or pull, like gravity, that makes a person feel like he belongs after living there for a time. Understanding this, Yaacov wanted to be sure that his sons remembered that their real home was Israel.  

      Abraham was commanded to leave his birthplace and go live in the Land of Israel, Yitzhak was told not to leave the Land of Israel at all, and Yaacov commanded his sons to take him out of Egypt after his death and bury him in the Land of Israel, so Jews for all generations to come would remember that G-d wants His Holy Nation to live in the Holy Land.

      Exile was a punishment. Now G-d has rebuilt the Land of Israel, opened the gates of return, ingathered millions of Jews on Jewish airplanes, and transformed the disgraced and exiled remnant into a world superpower in a land that lay farrow for two-thousand years without them – what more obvious signs do we need to realize that it’s time to come home?

      But why only be buried in Israel when you we can live here? Our Forefathers are calling out to us from the Torah. Their lives are like guideposts, pointing the way.

      "Get thee forth to the land!"


      Hope to see you here soon!   


      Tevet 19, 5770, 1/5/2010

      Today and Not Tomorrow!

      Every week, Israel’s former Chief Rabbi, HaRav Rav Mordechair Eliahu, shlita, puts out a Torah bulletin for Shabbat, called “Kol Tzofiyech,” which is distributed to synagogues throughout the country. Rabbi Eliahu has long been one of the outstanding halachic authorities in Israel. During his prolong illness, his son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, the Chief Rabbi of Safed, has been delivering the weekly satellite-broadcast lecture upon which the Torah bulletin is based.  The recent lecture is on the six-week period of “Shovavim” which begins this week. We can see from the importance that Rabbi Eliahu places on “Shovavim” that it is not something limited to a few fringe Hasidic communities, but an important and worthwhile practice for Jews everywhere.

      May the learning of the laws and customs of “Shovavim,” that we are translating (in a condensed version) from the bulletin, bring a blessing of health and complete and speedy recovery to HaRav Eliahu (HaRav Mordechai Tzemach ben Mazal), along with all of the other ailing people in Israel. Amen.

      (Excerpted from the bulletin)


      During the next six Torah readings, we will be re-experiencing the liberation of the Jewish People from the exile Egypt and from the 49th level of impurity to which we had sunk, to the great elevation of reaching the 49th level of purity and the 50th gate with the giving of the Torah. The revered Sage, the Shlah HaKadosh, states that this period is a time of intensified tshuva for the Jewish People, as our earlier and later Sages have written. The hardships which we suffered in Egypt came to cleanse us in the purifying furnace of the exile. So too today, during the “Shovavim” period, we strive for a greater purity from the transgressions which have blemished our souls. The famous Kabbalist, the Arizal, states that the Shovavim period comes to purify us particularly from sexual transgressions, known as blemishes to the Brit. It is thus a period in rectification, known as “Tikun HaBrit” and "Tikun HaYesod."

      Just as every year on Pesach we are called to look upon ourselves as if we too had escaped from Egypt, we are also called upon to cleanse ourselves of the terrible impurity that characterized Egypt’s immoral culture. In the time of Moshe, there were people who protested against the holy lifestyle that the newly-formed Nation of Israel was called upon to lead. They longed to return to the immorality of Egypt, and in fact, were not permitted to travel on to the Holy Land. These people cried in the doorways of their tents over the Torah laws which restricted sexual conduct to married couples only. They didn’t want to give up the immoral practices of Egypt’s perverted culture.

      This same immoral culture spread out from Egypt over the world and its influences are very prevalent until this day. The dominion of the nations of the world over Israel stems from this sordid source, and only when we expel this polluted culture from our midst, will Israel gain its rightful prominence. Sexual immorality was the mainstay of Egyptian culture - men married men, and women married women, and one woman took two husbands (Rambam, Laws of Illicit Sexual Relations, 21:8). This licentious behavior is what the Torah means when it tell us: “Do not conduct yourselves after the doings of the land of Egypt” (Vayikra, 18:3). And this is the moral, physical, and spiritual pollution that we are to purify ourselves from during the weeks of Shovavim, both men and women alike.         

      Twice each day, in the paragraph of the Shema dealing with tzitzit, we say that Hashem took us out of Egypt to sanctify us, with special emphasis on our hearts and eyes: “Thou shall not follow after your heart and your eyes which lead you astray.” After your heart is referring to thoughts of sexual licentiousness. After your eyes refers to seeing forbidden images. For these things impair a person’s holiness and go against the goal of our leaving Egypt – to become a holy nation dedicated to serving Hashem.


      The great Sage, the Orach HaChaim HaKadosh, explains why this cleansing is dependent on guarding one’s eyes and one’s thoughts. “It is known that all of the commandments which Hashem has given to His holy nation are matters that we can do and which follow after the will to do them. One exception is separating oneself from illicit sexual conduct which a man’s nature pulls him toward with an overpowering lust if he doesn’t guard himself from two matters: seeing sexually inciting images and thinking sexual thoughts. If a man doesn’t guard himself from these two things, he cannot overcome and escape the ruling passions that stem from them. And if he tastes even a little of this poison, he will be a slave to his lusts” (on Vayikra, 18:2).

      One of the greatest dangers today of falling prey to these base passions is via the Internet. Thus, the first rectification during the days of Shovavim is to rectify this damaging agent. If someone has Internet in his home and does not have a filter that prevents entering forbidden sites, and seeing erotic images, he or she must correct this immediately before any other tikun. This includes cancelling access to Internet via cell phones. Everyone must make sure that these steps are taken. Everyone! Today and not tomorrow!

      [The remainder of Rabbi Eliahu’s discussion on Shovavim, including rules for not-eating fasts, and for not-speaking fasts, and other important rectifications, is posted on our jewishsexuality.com website.]

      So you see – it’s not just a former Hollywood screenwriter who’s encouraging you to grab the opportunity, but also the respected Chief Rabbi of Safed. 





      Tevet 18, 5770, 1/4/2010

      Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

      For the last several years, come this time of year, I try to invite friends to an uplifting night of "Shovavim" prayers designed to cleanse a person from the stains of sexual transgression. The people who come along always have a great time, but others reject the idea outright, saying, "That's Kabbalah," "That's Hasidut," or "Where is it written in the Shulchan Aruch?"

      Others say they will consider it, but never call back. My question is, why are so many people afraid when it comes to facing up to their sexual errors? It is like finding a spring of water in a desert and offering a drink to a friend, who shakes his head and says, "Who says that it's water?”

      I'm in perfect control of the situation

      On billboards throughout Israel, posters announcing the commencement of "Shovavim" are beginning to appear in an assortment of bright, attractive colors. According to the Kabbalistic tradition, this six week period, paralleling the Torah's account of the Exodus from Egypt, is especially conducive to rectifying sexual transgressions, known as transgressions to the Brit (Arizal, Shar HaYichudim, 4:3). These transgressions include masturbation, pre-marital sex, sexual relations with non-Jews, violations of niddah laws, adultery, Internet pornography, and marital mishaps which bring about the spilling of semen in vain.

      An in-depth article on Shovavim can be found on our jewishsexuality.com website.

      The elder Kabbalist, Rabbi Leon Levi, shlita, will be leading the first all-night tikun of the Shovavim season this coming Thursday night, January 7, in the city of Holon, at the Challelei Tzahal Synagogue, 7 Savion Street, commencing at 11:00 pm. Bring a towel for pre-dawn mikvah, and tefillin for morning prayers. Women’s section open.


      Tevet 17, 5770, 1/3/2010

      For Jews Only!

      This blog is for Jews. It’s a Jewish blog. There’s no reason for non-Jews to read it. I write about the importance of Jews living in Israel and matters concerning the Brit between Hashem and the Jewish People. It’s a Jewish blog on a Jewish website. My purpose is to share Torah insights with Jews, not with our good gentile friends. Some non-Jews complain that my blog is offensive, but the simple truth of the matter is that the blog is not for them.  I am sure there are plenty of gentile blogs in cyberspace. Our non-Jewish friends should read them instead.

      While there is definite value in teaching non-Jews, the seven commandments of the children of Noah, which G-d expects them to perform, this is not the goal of this blog. For those of you who may not be familiar with these seven commandments beholden on the gentiles, they are: not to engage in idolatry, not to murder, not to steal, not to engage in sexual immorality, not to blasphemy the Name of G-d, not to eat the flesh of a living animal, and to set up a court system to enforce these very basic laws.

      Thou shall not worship idols!

      Most non-Jews these days don’t murder, steal, or eat the flesh of living animals, so they are doing all right on those counts. They pretty much have court systems, though not necessarily concerning all of these issues. Of course, there is still a lot of murder and theft, both individually and among nations, but the majority of gentiles are not guilty of these transgressions on a regular basis. The commandment not to blasphemy the Name of G-d is more problematic, given all the false forms of worship that they practice, and the general hatred of Israel among the nations, for, as Rashi teaches, anyone who hates Israel, hates G-d. As far as idol worship, that’s another stickler with all of the river gods, monkey gods, voodoo gods, fertility gods, Buddhas, holy ghosts, and plastic statues standing on the dashboards of cars. Immorality is another big problem too with all of their pre-marital activity, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, and the like, but all of these things, for non-Jews who are interested in learning more, can be found elsewhere on the net, not on this blog.

      No Jews Allowed!

      I realize the difficulty in selective screening on the Internet, but just as Jews were barred for thousands of years from gentile country clubs, businesses, organizations, and restaurants, and from traveling to places in Israel controlled by the Arabs today, this blog is persona non-grata regarding our good friends, the children of Noah.

      No Jews in the West Bank!

      This week, the beginning of “Shovavim,” we will be dealing with some deep family issues concerning the Jewish People, and therefore, it is important that our non-Jewish friends respect their borders and not intrude.

      Shavuah tov!    

      Tevet 14, 5770, 12/31/2009

      Danger! Dungheap!

      Brothers! Don’t venture out tonight when evil is lurking and darkness holds sway! Get into your bunkers! Secure the hatches! Learn Torah! The only way to combat the darkness of the nations is by adding light.

      Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi Studying the Zohar in Meron

      Whatever Torah you can learn will give strength to the forces of goodness. The Book of the Zohar, “The Book of Light,” is one of the most powerful weapons. Our greatest rabbis, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the Arizal, the Baal HaTanya, the Gaon of Vilna, and Rabbi Kook, to name but a few, emphasized that the key to Israel’s Redemption was in the learning of the Zohar. Even if you don’t understand all of the codes and esoteric meanings, just reading its passages illumines the world with millions and millions of holy watts! But be warned! Stay away from translations by charlatan rabbis who teach Kabbalah to Hollywood floosies who prance around lewdly on stage in devil’s costumes with deceitful words on their lips.

      "Can I buy you a drink?"

      Here is some mega-laser ammunition to help you tonight in the battle against the evil forces of Darth Radar which prowl through the streets and cities at midnight looking for prey. Don’t fall to their empty temptations! Cling to the Torah at midnight, not to emptiness and folly, as the Zohar admonishes on the verse from this week's Torah portion:

      *”ISSACHAR IS A STRONG ASS COUCHING DOWN BETWEEN THE SHEEPFOLDS .” Rabbi Eleazar said: ‘Why should Issachar, because he studied the Torah, be called an ass, rather than a horse, or a lion, or a leopard? The answer given is that the ass bears a burden patiently and does not kick like other animals, and is not fastidious and will lie down anywhere. So Issachar bears the burden of the Torah and does not kick against the Almighty, and is not fastidious and cares not for his own honor but for the honor of his Master. He therefore “couches between the sheepfolds”, as we say of the student of the Torah that he is “willing to sleep on the ground”. He also, in explanation of this verse, quoted the text: “To David. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1). ‘Those who study the Torah’, he said, ‘are beloved before God, so that they have no fear of evil hap, being protected above and below Nay more, such a one subdues all evil haps and casts them down into the great abyss. At nightfall the doors are closed, and dogs and asses commence to roam about the world with permission to do damage. Men sleep on their beds and the souls of the righteous ascend to the bliss above. When the north wind awakes at midnight, then there is a holy stirring in the world, as has been explained in many places. Happy is he who rises at that hour and studies the Torah. For as soon as he begins, all those evil beings are cast by him into the great abyss and he binds the ass and throws him down into the dungheap. Therefore Issachar, who was a student of the Torah, bound the ass and brought him down from the ladder which he had mounted to do injury to the world, and made him abide between the sheepfolds, that is, in the dungheap.’ (Zohar, Bereshit 242a)

      By studying Torah tonight, we cast the forces of darkness into the dungheap where they belong. These passages from the Zohar are taken from this week’s Torah portion. Other passages from the Zohar can be found on our website. To rectify the sexual transgression that darkens the world on this night, learning the laws of sexual holiness brings down mercy and healing from on High.

      The blog end here. The rest is Pure Torah for those who want to cling to the side of right in the battle against falsehood and evil. If you can study these passages at midnight after reciting Tikun Hatzot, all the better, to counteract the evil and bring victory and salvation to the forces of the Almighty and Israel.

      *Rabbi Hiya discoursed on the text: And thy people are all righteous, they shall inherit the land for ever, etc. (Is. 60:21). ‘Israel’, he said, ‘have been favored above all the gentiles in being entitled by G-d righteous (tzaddikim), that they may obtain an everlasting inheritance in the world to come, as it is written: “Then thou shalt delight in the Lord” (Is. 58:14). Why is this so? Because they attach themselves to the Body of the King, as it says: “Ye that cleave unto the Lord your G-d are alive every one of you this day” (Devarim, 4:4).’ Rabbi Isaac said: ‘This text of Rabbi Hiya contains a deep allusion for “the reapers in the field” (students of the esoteric doctrine.) For Rabbi Simeon has laid down in the esoteric aggadah that the exalted inheritance of that other land is acquired by none save him who is called “righteous.” For the Shechinah cleaves to the Righteous One and finds delight in him, and the Righteous One assuredly inherits the Shechinah. So G-d in His love for Israel called them righteous and they are therefore meet to inherit the Shechinah. The reason is that they are circumcised, according to the dictum: “Whoever is circumcised and enters into the covenant and observes it becomes attached to the Body of the King, and enters into the Righteous One”, and they are therefore called righteous, and so “they shall for ever inherit the land”, to wit, the “land of the living”. They are further called in the text “the branch of my planting”, to wit, one of those shoots which God planted when He created the world, referred to in the verse,, “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden” (Gen. II, 8). According to another explanation, the words “And thy people are all righteous” refer to Jacob and his sons, who went down to Egypt among a stiff-necked people and all remained righteous, wherefore “they shall for ever inherit the land”, since from there they went up to inherit the Holy Land.’  (Zohar, Bereshit 216a)

      *PUT, I PRAY THEE, THY HAND UNDER MY THIGH. Rabbi Jose said: ‘Jacob made him swear by the sign of the covenant which was stamped on his flesh, since the patriarchs assigned more importance to this than to anything else, and this covenant, too, is symbolized by Joseph.’ Rabbi Simeon said: ‘We find the formula, “put thy hand under my thigh”, in connection with both Abraham and Jacob, but not with Isaac, the reason being that Esau issued from him. Again, we may suppose Jacob's idea to have been: “Swear to me by that holy impress which has brought holy and faithful seed into the world and which has ever been preserved from defilement that you will not bury me among those unclean who have never guarded it, and of whom it is written, “whose flesh is the flesh of asses and their neighing the neighing of horses” (Ezek. 23:20).’ Why, it may be asked, was Joseph, who also guarded the covenant, buried among them? The answer is that it was to meet a special emergency, like the appearance of God to Ezekiel outside the Holy Land. God saw that if Joseph were removed from there, the Israelites would sink under the bondage; therefore He said: “Let his burial place be here in a spot which will not be defiled (for Joseph's coffin was thrown into the river), and so the Israelites will be able to endure the captivity.’ Rabbi Jose said: ‘Jacob saw that he was fitted in every way to form part of the holy chariot like his fathers, but he thought it impossible that his body should be attached to his fathers if he was buried in Egypt.’  222b

      *AND THE DAYS DREW NEAR FOR ISRAEL TO DIE.  Rabbi Hiya said: ‘Why is the name Israel used here in connection with his death, whereas above it says, “And Jacob lived, etc.”?’ Rabbi Jose said in reply: ‘Note here the word “days”, which is somewhat peculiar, since a man only dies on one day, in fact, in one instant. The reason, however, is, as we have learnt, that when God desires to take back a man's spirit, all the days that he has lived in this world pass in review before Him. Happy, then, is the man whose days draw near before the King without reproach, not one of them being rejected because a sin was committed thereon. Hence the term “drawing near” is used of the righteous, because their days draw near before the King without reproach. But woe to the wicked whose days cannot so draw near, because they all passed in sin, wherefore they are not recorded above, so that of them it is written: “The way of the wicked is like thick darkness, they know not on what they stumble” (Prov. 4:19). So here it says that the days of Israel “drew near”, that is, without reproach and with unalloyed joy; and hence the name “Israel” is used, because it points to a greater perfection than the name Jacob.’ 221b

      *Rabbi Simeon said further: ‘With regard to Solomon's words, “What profit hath man in all his labor?” (Eccl. I:3), these do not apply to labor in the study of the Torah, since the statement is qualified by the words, “wherein he laboreth under the sun”, and the study of the Torah is above the sun.’ 223b

      *Rabbi Eleazar said: ‘Though a man should live a thousand years, yet at the time of his departure from the world it seems to him as if he had only lived a single day.’ 223b

      *Rabbi Judah said: ‘How deaf are men to the warnings of the Torah, and how blind are they to their own condition that they are not aware that on the day when a human being comes forth into the world, all the days that are assigned to him come forward and fly about the world and descend and warn the man, each day in its turn. And when a man has been so warned and yet sins against his Master, then the day on which he sinned ascends in shame and bears witness and stands by itself outside, and so it remains until the man repents. If he becomes virtuous it returns to its place, but if not, then it goes down and joins the outside spirit and returns to its house, and assumes the exact shape of that man in order to plague him and dwells with him continually in his house. If he is virtuous it proves a good companion, and if not, an evil companion. In either case, such days are missing from the full number and are not counted with the others. Woe to the man who has diminished the number of his days before the Almighty, and has not left days for himself with which to crown himself in the other world, and to approach the Holy King. For if he is worthy he ascends by means of those days, and they become a glorious vesture for his soul, those days in which he acted virtuously and did not sin. Woe to him that has diminished his days above, since when he comes to be clad in his days, those days that he spoilt by his sins are lacking, and his vesture is therefore defective; all the more so if there are many of them and he has nothing at all with which to clothe himself in the other world. Then woe to him and woe to his soul, since he is punished in Gehinnom for those days, many days for each, because when he departed from this world he had no days with which to clothe himself and no garment wherewith to cover himself. Happy are the righteous whose days are all stored up with the Holy King, and form glorious vestures with which they may robe themselves in the other world. This is the esoteric explanation of the verse, “and they knew that they were naked” (Bereshit, 3: 7), that is to say, that the glorious raiment made of those days had been impaired and none of them was left to clothe themselves with. And so it was until Adam repented and God pardoned him and made him other garments, but not of his days, as it is written: “And God made Adam and his wife coats of skins and clothed them” (Bereshit,3:21). Observe that of Abraham it says that “he came into days” (Bereshit,24:1), because when he departed this world he literally came into possession of his former days and was invested with them, his robe of glory being full and complete. Job, on the other hand, said of himself: “Naked came I out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return thither” (Job, I:21), because no material was left wherewith to clothe himself. Our teachers have said: “Happy the righteous whose days are without reproach and remain for the world to come, so that after death they are all joined together and formed into robes of glory through which they are privileged to enjoy the delights of the future world, and in which they are destined to come to life again. But woe for the sinners whose days are defective, so that there is not left from them wherewith to cover themselves when they depart from the world.” We have further learnt that all the virtuous who have acquired a robe of glory through their days are crowned in the future world with crowns like those of the patriarchs, from the stream that flows continually into the Garden of Eden, and of them it is written, “the Lord shall lead thee continually and satisfy thy soul in dry places” (Is. 58:11), but the wicked who have not acquired such a garment will be “like the heath in the desert that shall not see when good cometh, but inhabits the parched places in the wilderness” (Jer. 17: 6).’ Rabbi Isaac said: ‘Of all men Jacob had the fairest prospect, because he was entitled to a robe on account both of his own days and of those of his fathers; hence he said: “I shall lie with my fathers.” 224a

      (Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai teaches here that the Torah cannot be understood in its depth in the darkness of the Diaspora.)

      *Said Rabbi Simeon: ‘When I visit the Companions in Babylon they come together to hear me, and I discourse to them openly, but they go and seal up my teaching under an iron padlock which makes it inaccessible to all. How often have I taught them the ways of the Garden of the King and the doctrine of the King! How often have I taught them all the degrees of the righteous in the future world! But they are all frightened to repeat these things and only mumble them, on which account they are called “mumblers”. However, I account this fear in them creditable, because they are denied the air and the spirit of the Holy Land and inhale the air and the spirit of an alien region.224b

      *Rabbi  Judah said: ‘We have a dictum that if a man dies in foreign soil and his body is buried in the Holy Land, to him may be applied the verse, “And ye came and defiled my land and my inheritance ye made an abomination” (Jer. 2:7). How, then, could Jacob ask to be buried in the grave of his fathers, seeing that he was dying on alien soil?’ Rabbi Judah said: ‘Jacob was different, because the Shechinah was closely attached to him. Hence it is written, “I will go down with thee to Egypt” (Bereshit, 46:4), to wit, to abide with thee in captivity; “and I will also surely bring thee up again” (Ibid.), to attach thy soul to Me, and to obtain burial for thy body in the graves of thy fathers-and this even though he departed life on an alien soil. He was further promised that Joseph should put his hand on his eyes, the reason being that God knew that he was the firstborn in intent, and that he was most attached to Joseph.’ 226a

      *What was the idea of this promise of putting his hands on his eyes? Rabbi Jose said that it was as a sign of honor to Jacob, and to inform him that Joseph was alive and would be with him at his death. Said Rabbi Hizkiah: ‘I have learnt something about this which I hardly like to disclose, showing how wisdom is embodied in a common practice.’ Rabbi Abba clapped him on the shoulder, saying: ‘Speak out and do not be afraid; in the days of Rabbi Simeon there is no need for secrecy.’ He then said: ‘I have seen in the chapter of Rabbi Jesse the Elder regarding customs, that if a man has a son, when he dies the son ought to put dust on his eyes at the time of his burial, and this is a mark of respect to him, being a sign that the world is now concealed from him, but his son inherits the world in his place. For the human eye represents the world with its various colors. The outer ring of white corresponds to the sea of Oceanus which surrounds the whole world. The next color represents the land which is surrounded by the sea. A third color in the middle of the eye corresponds to Jerusalem, which is in the centre of the world. Finally there is the pupil of the eye, which reflects the beholder and is the most precious part of all. This corresponds to Zion, which is the central point of the universe, in which the reflection of the whole world can be seen, and where is the abode of the Shechinah, which is the beauty and the cynosure of the world. Thus the eye is the heritage of the world, and so as the father leaves it the son inherits it.’226a

      *“I have made a covenant with my chosen.,’ This covenant is the secret of faith. Or we may interpret the  “chosen one” of the Tzaddik from whom issue blessings to all the lower creation, all the holy Hayyoth being blessed from the stream which flows forth to the lower world. “I have sworn unto David my servant”, to wit, that he will always be established in this Tzaddik, the foundation of the world, save in the time of galut, when the flow of blessing is cut off, and faith is defective, and all joy is banished. During this period, at nightfall, joy no longer enters before the King. Yet, though rejoicings do not enter, angels stand outside and chant hymns, and at midnight when the impulse from below arrives on high, G-d arouses all the hosts of the heaven for lamentation and strikes the firmament, causing upper and lower worlds to quake; nor is there any respite save when those below commence to study the Torah. Then G-d and all those with Him listen with joy to that voice, and relief is felt. For on the day on which the Sanctuary below was destroyed, G-d swore that He would not enter the celestial Jerusalem until Israel should enter the earthly Jerusalem. Now all those singers stand outside and chant hymns in the three watches of the night and intone praises, and all the hosts of the heavens sing at night and Israel by day, nor is the sanctification recited above until it is recited by Israel below, and only then do all the hosts of heaven sanctify the holy name together. Hence, Israel are holy and are sanctified by upper and lower angels, since the sanctification of the holy name is complete only when uttered above and below together.’ 231a

      *AND JACOB CALLED TO HIS SONS AND SAID: GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER, ETC.  Rabbi Abba discoursed on the verse: He turned to the prayer of the lonely one and did not despise their prayer (Ps. 102:I8). He said: ‘The use of the word “turned” here, instead of “hearkened” or “listened”, is significant. The prayer of an individual man only enters before the Holy King with great difficulty, because before it can be crowned in its place G-d examines it closely and weighs the merits and defects of that individual. He does not so with the prayer of a congregation; for congregational prayers are offered by many who are not virtuous, and yet they all come before G-d and He does not regard their sins. Therefore it says, “G-d turns to the prayer of the solitary one” and weighs and considers it, and examines in what spirit it is offered and who is the man that offers it, and what is his conduct. Hence a man should pray with the congregation because “G-d does not despise their prayer”, even though they do not all pray with devotion. 234a

      *Rabbi Abba discoursed on the verse: “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O mighty One, thy glory and thy majesty.” He said: ‘Is this glory and majesty, to gird on weapons and to practice the use of them? To study the Torah and to fight battles in the Torah and to arm oneself with it-this is praiseworthy, this is glory and majesty. The truth of the matter, however, is this. G-d has given men the sign of a holy covenant, and imprinted it upon them for them to preserve and not impair in any way. He who impairs it is confronted with the sword which avenges the insult to the covenant. Now he who desires to preserve this place should brace himself up to meet the evil prompter, and when the latter assails him should set before his eyes this sword, which is girded on the thigh to punish those who impair this place. Hence it says: “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O mighty One.” Such a one is called “mighty”, and hence it is his “glory and majesty”. 240b

      If you have made it this far, you are an official holy warrior in the battle against evil. Kol hakavod!

      (Translations from the Soncino Zohar)