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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.


      Tishrei 14, 5770, 10/2/2009

      Happy Sukkah!

      For someone who wants to live in Eretz Yisrael, it is a good thing to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot as best as you can.

      When I was first becoming religious and Sukkot came around, I build myself something that sort of resembled a sukkah on the roof of my apartment building in Manhattan. I took four poles and stretched a blanket between them to make a canopy, and that was my sukkah. No walls. No schach. Just the four poles and a blanket for a roof, like something an American Indian might put up on a mountaintop as part of some buffalo rite. Of course it was completely non-kosher, but since I hadn’t yet begun to study the halacha of sukkah building, I didn’t know the difference. I slept on the roof of my Manhattan apartment building, and I think that G-d was pleased with my efforts to get close to him, even though I did it in such an off-the-wall fashion.

      There are people who say that when it comes to serving G-d, the most important thing is what is in a person’s heart.  That may be true of other religions, but when it comes to Judaism, it is only partially true. G-d wants us to put our hearts into His service, and also to do things in the proper manner that He set forth for us in the Torah. This is the complete service of G-d which Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi emphasizes in his classic book, “The Kuzari.” When the King of the Kuzars asks the Rabbi why he has decided to make aliyah, the Rabbis answers that the complete service of G-d can only be attained there, in the Land that was created especially for G-d’s worship.

      The following year, after I had begun learning, I was invited for Sukkah to the home of an Israeli family who was in New York on shlichood to help bring families on aliyah. When it started to rain at the start of the Kiddush, the father said that we would have to continue with the meal in the house, since one doesn’t have to stay in the sukkah if it is a hardship. I refused to budge, saying the Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught that the mitzvah of Sukkah was a “segula” (special charm) for coming to Eretz Yisrael, because of its special inner connection with the Land of Israel. For one thing, the mitzvah of sukkah is done with one’s entire body, by dwelling in the sukkah, just as with the mitzvah of living in Israel. As the rain came down harder, my rabbi-friend said that I wasn’t allowed to continue in the sukkah, because their was a danger to health, since it was a chilly night in Queens, along with the steady rain. But I was stubborn and ate my meal and slept in the sukkah, believing it would help get me out of America and home to Eretz Yisrael.

      Sure enough, a few minutes after the Yom Tov ended, the phone rang. It was Meir Indor calling from Israel. Today Meir is head of the Almagor Victims of Terror Organization, but back then he as one of the founders of the Sarel Volunteers for Israel program.

      “Where is Fishman?” he asked my host.

      “In the sukkah,” the Israeli replied.

      I couldn’t speak on the telephone because as a Diaspora Jew, I had to keep two days of Yom Tov, where my Israeli friends only had to keep one.

      “Tell Fishman there is a ticket to Israel waiting for him at El Al at Kennedy Airport. We want him to escort a TV news crew who is coming to do a story on the volunteers.”

      “You see,” I told my astonished host, “Rebbe Nachman was right. Sukkah is a segula for coming to Eretz Yisrael!”

      So happy Sukkah holiday to everyone, and I hope to see all of you here soon in Eretz Yisrael where the holiday of Sukkah is meant to be performed.

      (People interested in learning about the secrets of Sukkah can find an eye-opening essay at jewishsexuality.com)



      Tishrei 13, 5770, 10/1/2009

      Moshe Blows Anonymous Away

      The truth is that a long list of great Torah giants supported the return to Zion inherent in the Zionist enterprise and saw it as the beginning of Redemption. Moshe from Yerushalayim begins to explain this in a talkback that I am posting as a blog on its own. It will help clear up the falsehoods and smokescreens deceminated by people who don't know the true story, which, as Moshe writes, demands an in-depth investigation and study. Here is Moshe's reply to a fellow talkbacker concerning yesterday's blog:  


      The list of those who recognized the redemption process despite its sometimes apparent concealment is too long (not only big in quantity but in quality as well) for  a  "comment " and includes Rabbis throughout history with this deeper approach (Ramban, Radak, Maharal, the Gra, Ramchal, Or HaChaim HaKadosh, Rabbis Kalisher, Guttmacher, Mohliver, Spektor...  to name a few) but may I suggest reading the 2 volumes of R. Yitzchak Dadon -  "Itchalta Hee, " where he brings down scores of Torah giants saying explicitly that we are in the time of redemption (including Rabbis Z.P. Frank, Isser Zalman Meltzer, Meshulam Rotte, Eliezer Valdenburg, Y. Kahaneman (of Ponevez, who put up the Israeli flag at the Ponevez Yeshiva!). See also the list of rabbis (printed in HaTekufa HaGedola of Rav Kasher, author of Torah Shelema Encyc., pp.374-381) who called to vote in the elections of the State calling it Itchalta deGeula - you won't believe the list!

      The sefer HaTekufa HaGedola is mandatory reading, an encyclopedia of sources on redemption (fitting of the author Rav Kasher).

      Also see  "Shivat Tzion, " a collection of letters from Torah giants to Rav Slotzki who asked the gedolim what they thought of the new Zionist movement (in 1892). 

      You also wouldn't believe how many Rabbis' opinions were  "fixed " in books about them or  "censored " to 'fit the line' - but that is another (sad) topic. [Recently some tried to publish a sefer without the author's  "Zionist " intro until Rav Eliashiv reprimanded them and had them put the intro back!]

      I already mentioned Em HaBanim Semeicha by Rav Teichtal who brings hundreds of pages of sources to show that this is the redemption and the returning to the Land is fulfilling G-d's will even when brought through non-religious Jews! See what HE writes about the Spies who were [and are] against this process.

      To be fair (!) I will close with the mention of  "Tikkun Olam ", a pamphlet of Rabbis against Zionism, in which Rav Teichtal is included. And this is what HE writes in his abovementioned sefer (p.469 Eng. edition), that he wrote that because he  "had never delved deeply into this issue. Now, however, after examining this halacha in depth, I realize that I was mistaken. " Let that be a lesson for us all.

      The truth is I don't believe comments on a blog are the way to seriously discuss such a deep Torah concept and to learn to see the ways of Hashem in the world - this is not some public debate where anyone can wave his opinion. Rather one should devote to it in-depth study of the great works of our Torah giants until one develops a heightened spiritual sensitivity and vision (and then there will be fewer dissenting  "opinions ").

      Tishrei 11, 5770, 9/29/2009

      What Do You Do When There Are Worms in The Apple?

      What do you do if you find a small worm sticking out of a beautiful apple? You cut the worm out and eat the rest of the apple. You don’t have to throw the apple away because of the worm.

      You don't have to throw the apple away!

      The same is true for Medinat Yisrael. You don’t have to throw Medinat Yisrael away because of the worms. You just have to work to get rid of the worms.

      Imagine a country in the world where all traffic stops for 24 hours in reverence to G-d. A ridiculous fantasy, isn’t it? But that’s exactly what happens in Israel on Yom Kippur. For those 24 hours, the nation’s true colors are seen. We are a nation that fears G-d. For those 24 hours, the whole world can see that the Name of G-d is called on the Nation of Israel. For those 24 hours, the Name of G-d is sanctified in a national manner like nowhere else on earth. This is the true Israel.

      Of course, come the next day, the evil inclination returns with full force, doing everything it can to prevent us from being who we truly are – G-d’s holy Nation. But during those 24 hours when the Nation is fasting and praying, we reveal who we truly are, and what the Jewish State will be like in the near future.

      As for the worms who seek to ruin this vision by painting everything as rotten, they are tiny, bothersome detractors that can simply be removed and thrown in the trash.

      Just 65 years ago, the Jewish People were the scorn of humanity. The world stood by and watched as 6 million Jews were slaughtered. In the eyes of the gentiles, G-d was impotent to help His chosen Nation. In the eyes of the gentiles, G-d had abandoned the Jews. The wholesale massacre seemed to prove the Christian doctrine that G-d had rejected the Jews and chosen the Christians instead. The Name of G-d was desecrated like it had never been before. G-d was helpless and too weak to prevent the mass destruction. With the erasure of vast communities of His People, it was as if G-d Himself was erased from the world.

      That was the case until the miraculous rebirth of the State of Israel. Suddenly, the whole world saw in astonishment that G-d was still very much alive. They saw in amazement and trembling that G-d had not abandoned His People. They saw that the word of G-d was eternal and real. With the establishment of the State of Israel, the Vatican’s doctrines of falsehood exploded like a bubble. All of Islam’s pompous proclamations of being the new chosen nation were shot full of holes. With the establishment of the State of Israel, G-d’s Name and honor were restored, with the renewed honor of the Jews.

      The State of Israel is proof that the G-d of the Torah is the one and only G-d, and that Israel is His Chosen Nation.  That is the real reason that all of world is against Israel. By erasing the Jewish State, the nations of the world think they can erase G-d from the world, leaving them free to frolic in their quests for power, fame, and evil lusts.

      But the promises of G-d to the Jews via the Prophets of Israel will not be thwarted, no matter how hard the gentiles try. And the way that G-d has chosen to bring about the restoration of His Name in the world, as ruler over all of the earth, is through the vehicle of the State of Israel.

      It is G-d working incognito through the State of Israel that has made possible the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel after 2000 years of foreign occupation and the desecration of G-d’s Name inherent in our exile from our Land. It is G-d working incognito through the State of Israel that has made possible the ingathering of millions of Jews back to the Land of Israel. It is G-d working incognito through the State of Israel that has made possible the rebuilding of Jerusalem. It is G-d working incognito through the State of Israel that has made possible the miraculous rebirth of the desert land. It is G-d working incognito through the State of Israel that has made possible Israel’s meteoric rise within 60 years to being a major world power. It is G-d working incognito through the State of Israel that has made possible the unparalleled quantity and quality of Torah that is being learned all over the country. It is G-d working incognito through the State of Israel that has made possible the clear and irrefutable recognition that Israel is the Jewish People’s only salvation from the worms of assimilation eating away at the Diaspora.

      Every Jew must thank G-d for giving us the State of Israel. Even the worms. What else would they eat?       



      Tishrei 9, 5770, 9/27/2009

      Next Year in Jerusalem

      “Next year in Jerusalem” is the proclamation that concludes our Yom Kippur prayers. Year after year, the cry echoes out in synagogues from Brooklyn to Toronto to Paris to Manchester to Moscow, Melbourne, and Mexico City. This is because the tshuva of the Jewish People can only be complete when we return to Jerusalem.

      Please note the wording that our Sages prescribed for us. We don’t say “Next year in Jerusalem if the government is to my liking.” We don’t say “Next year in Jerusalem if I don’t have to serve in the army.” We don’t say “Next year in Jerusalem if the Mashiach comes and brings me there.” We say “Next year in Jerusalem” without any pre-conditions.  

      The longing of every Jew should be that, the minute he can, he should want to pack up his belongings and come to Jerusalem. Returning to Jerusalem is what our Yom Kippur tshuva is all about. Returning to Jerusalem is what Judaism is all about. According to the Torah and the Prophets of Israel, the Jewish People are to return to Jerusalem. Nothing could be clearer. We do this by saying goodbye to foreign lands and coming home to Eretz Yisrael.

      Today, thank G-d, after 2000 years of exile, we have a Jewish airline to take us home. Today, thank G-d, most Jews have the money to buy a ticket. Today, thank G-d, there are agencies that help with plane fare, housing, job placement, learning Hebrew, tax breaks, and other benefits. Today, thank G-d, there are beautiful apartments and houses in the Land of Israel. There are synagogues on almost every street. There are more Torah learning, shuls, yeshivot, heders, and Torah giants in Israel than anywhere else in the world. Today, thank G-d, Jerusalem is a modern, rebuilt city. And the State of Israel is one of the superpowers of the world.

      There’s no reason to wait for Mashiach’s arrival. G-d has made our return to Israel possible for everyone who wants to come. Already, G-d has returned millions of Jews to Israel without Mashiach. Of course, we all hope and pray that Mashiach will come any moment now, but his coming is like icing on the cake. G-d has already worked things out so that we can come home to Israel even before Mashiach comes. This is a clear discernible reality. It is obvious for anyone who wants to open his eyes and see it.

      It’s like the old joke about the guy who climbs onto the roof of his house to escape the waters of the flood, and cries out for G-d to save him. When a boat comes along to rescue, he refuses, saying that he is waiting for G-d to save him. When a helicopter hovers overhead and lowers a rescue basket, he refuses to climb in, saying he is waiting for G-d to save him. After he drowns and is brought up to Heaven for Judgment, he complains that G-d didn’t save him. “Who do you think sent the rescue boat and the helicopter?” G-d asks.

      "Who do you think sent the helicopter?"

      G-d has rebuilt the Land of Israel in a miraculous fashion. G-d has built modern cities, suburbs, highways, industry, technology, agriculture, tennis courts, swimming pools, movie theaters, and everything else that a person could want. G-d has given us the ability to but plane tickets, and He has set up all kinds of organizations to help with the move. All He wants us to do is come. Not by waiting for Mashiach to fly down from Heaven in a winged chariot and wave a magic wand that will morph us to Israel with a fairytale poof! G-d wants us to act, on our own, to make the proclamation “Next year in Jerusalem” real.

      G-d has made it as easy as He can. Now it is up to us. 

      We realize that because living a Torah life in Israel is the greatest mitzvah, it is also the most difficult. Not everyone has the means, circumstances, and ability to carry it out. But the message of "Next year in Jerusalem" should be in everyone's hearts, and we all must do everything in our power to help restore, return, and rebuild the Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael now.    

      May the Almighty inscribe all of His People in the Book of Life, and may the cry, “Next year in Jerusalem,” fill all of our hearts with true longing to return home to the place we all belong.

      Tishrei 6, 5770, 9/24/2009

      Thank G-d For Getting Me Out of America

      Ladies and Gentlemen, there is only one G-d. There are not two, or three G-ds, or personalized G-ds to fit your beliefs and pleasures. Unlike ice cream, the real G-d doesn’t come in different flavors to fit your tastes.

      The one and only real G-d is the G-d who chose the Jewish People and gave them His Torah and the Land of Israel. Someone, like the President of the United States, who says that he believes in G-d, but that the Jews don’ have a legitimate right to Judea and Samaria, he does not believe in G-d. Maybe he believes in some Walt Disney fantasy of G-d, but it isn’t G-d. The one and only real G-d gave the Land of Israel to the Jews.

      And someone who says, like the Arabs, that they believe in G-d, but that Israel is their enemy, then they don’t believe in the real G-d either. G-d loves the Jewish People. Someone who truly loves G-d also loves His children. Someone who doesn’t love the children of G-d, really doesn’t love G-d. As Rashi states, the enemies of Israel are the enemies of G-d.

      Tower of Babel

      Yesterday at the United Nations, the President of the United States declared war against G-d. It reminded me of the Tower of Babel and the “Generation of the Dispersion,” when all of the peoples gathered together to declare war on G-d.

      When you proclaim that the Jewish People do not have legitimate rights to Judea and Samaria, you are saying you do not believe in the Bible. You are saying that you do not believe in G-d. You are saying that your personal belief and historical understanding  are above what G-d believes and wants for the world. Like the people who built the Tower of Babel, you are saying that you are above G-d. In effect, you are declaring war on G-d.

      This week’s Torah’s portion, “Haazinu,” states: “When the Most High divided among the nations their inheritance; when he separated the sons of Adam; he set the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the Children of Israel. For the L-rd’s portion is His People; Yaacov is the lot of His Inheritance” (Devarim, 32:8).

      When G-d created the world, He divided it among the different peoples. He gave Russia to the Russians, Egypt to the Egyptians, America to the Indians, and Israel to the Jews.  

      How sad! Here, a few days after the Jewish People prayed two days straight on Rosh Hashanah for the benefit of all the nations of the world, the President of the United States, at the United Nations of Babel, wedges a knife in the back of G-d’s children. Just a few days after the Jewish People prayed that the fear of G-d spread to all peoples over the earth, the peoples of the earth, led by America’s new President, spit in G-d’s “face,” by spitting on his People, in the Tower of the United Babelonians.  

      This, of course, does not come as a surprise. Rashi, in his very first comment on the Bible, tells us that the Bible starts with the story of Creation, and not with the laws of the Torah, in answer to the gentile peoples of the world, who will claim in the future that the Jewish People stole the Land of Israel – so the Torah states right off that the same G-d who created the world, also gave the Land of Israel to the Jews.

      For my part, I thank G-d with all of my heart and soul that I live in the Land of G-d, and not in the land of the haters of G-d. If I lived in America, I would be so embarrassed to be an American today that I would stay locked up in my house, too ashamed to show my beard in the street, lest a gentile think that I agreed with the President. Then, in the darkness of night, I would sneak off to the airport to get on the first plane to Israel, where the Jewish People belong.

      As we say in our prayers during the Days of Awe, “May the day come soon when all wickedness will vanish from existence like smoke, when You will remove from the earth the government of those who purposefully plan evil.”