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Ask the Rabbi
News & Call-In with Tamar Yonah
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.
The Rambam teaches that repentance and Yom Kippur only secure forgiveness for transgressions against G-d; as, for example, when one has eaten a forbidden food or indulged in illicit intercourse. However, transgressions against one’s fellow man, like cursing one’s neighbor or stealing something from him, are never forgiven until the injured party has been compensated and appeased (Laws of Repentance, 2:13).
The Rambam emphasizes: “Even if a person only annoyed another in words, he has to pacify the latter and entreat him till he has obtained his forgiveness” (Ibid).
This is an especially tough one for bloggers whose words go out to all corners of the globe. Go find the person you offended in cyberspace!
Now, I am sure I have offended many fine people who live in faraway places like Brooklyn and Toronto and Manchester and Australia and the Jews of Timbuktu. To mention only a few. So I would like to take this opportunity to ask for your forgiveness for the things that I have written that have caused you embarrassment, discomfort, and emotional and spiritual pain.
While my intention was purely educational, to alert my cherished brothers and sisters to a better, holier way of life, my sarcastic, bombastic, and often exaggerated style surely offended not a few, and for this I ask your forgiveness.
To judge my readers fairly, many simply have never had the privilege to learn Torah; or to have learned Torah in its proper perspective; and many are respectfully following the teachers who taught them things that I have taken exception to in this blog.
Whatever the causes for our disagreements, I apologize for presenting the Torah and the teachings of our Sages in a way that offended you. I am sorry if anything I wrote caused any of my brothers and sisters to have negative thoughts about the Torah, or about the Land of Israel, or about religious Jews, or about G-d.
As for me, I whole-heartedly forgive anyone who wrote something nasty or offensive about me in a Talkback. You don’t need to ask forgiveness – I forgive you carte blanche without your asking.
It is my prayer to the Almighty that you, and all the people of the Brit, be inscribed immediately in the Book of Life for blessing, prosperity, salvation, and peace.
The Fast of Gedalia, which falls the day after Rosh Hashanah, is a fast over the destruction of the first State of Israel. That’s right. After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, The King of Babylon appointed Gedalia Ben Achikam to govern over the remnant of Jews still in the Land of Israel. When Gedalia was murdered, the Jewish government in Israel was terminated, and the remaining Jews were exiled from the Land. As the Rambam states, we are fasting and mourning over the loss of Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael.
As everyone knows, sovereignty over a land means political statehood. At that time, Gedalia was the leader of the State of Israel. Our Sages decreed that the Fast of Gedalia be held for all generations to come, in order to teach the transcendental importance of the Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisreal.
Ironically, many of the Jews who are fasting today are against the State of Israel, and make a pastime of condemning its shortcomings – yet they are fasting because of its very destruction. We don’t fast today over the destruction of the Temple – we have Tisha B’Av for that. We fast over the cessation of the first Jewish commonwealth in Israel, which was the first State of Israel. Without the State of Israel, the Jewish People and Judaism are in exile, and G-d’s honor is scorned and belittled in the world.
The truth is that many Jews don’t appreciate the State of Israel because they were never taught that Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel is a fundamental principal of the Torah. In fact, it is the goal of the Torah, because it is through Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel that the honor of G-d is manifest in the world, as the Psalm says: “Then it was said amongst the nations – the L-rd has done great things for them” (Tehillim, 126:3). In out time, the ingathering of the exiles, with the revival of the Jewish State, is the greatest sanctification of G-d that there is.
This should be obvious to everyone. Without Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel, the Torah is chopped up into little pieces, with a lot of big chunks missing. Without Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel, the Torah is merely a compilation of personal mitzvot, like keeping the Shabbat, eating kosher food, and putting on tefillin. If this was all the Torah was about, we could have kept it in Egypt, or in the wilderness. But G-d wanted us to keep the Torah in the Land of Israel, precisely because the Torah is the national constitution of the Jewish Nation, not just a list of individual commandments. And to have our own Divinely-ordained government, justice system, army, economy, and society according to G-d’s laws, we need our own Holy Land. Our control over the Land of Israel is the underlying basis of all of the Torah. Without it, we are scattered and disgraced. In order to sanctify G-d’s Name in the world, and to bring the Jewish People honor as G-d’s chosen nation, Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel is a must. Its re-establishment in our time, via the State of Israel, is a supreme step forward in returning us, and the world, to G-d.
There are seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. So why is it called the “Ten Days of Repentance?” The answer is that the two days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are included in the count. This is obvious regarding Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is spent in fasting and confessional prayer. But there is no confession or vidui on Rosh Hashanah. Unlike Yom Kippur, we don’t clop our hearts in sorrow over the long list of our sins. We spend our two days in shul proclaiming the Kingship of G-d over our lives and over the world. So why is Rosh Hashanah considered part of the Ten Days of Repentance (T’shuva)?
The answer is simple. Proclaiming G-d’s Kingship over our lives is the very essence of t’shuva. This is because when a person sins he forgets about G-d.
For instance, when an Internet watcher clicks on an erotic website, he is ignoring G-d. He is in essence saying, “OK, G-d, you may be King, but not now. Go away for awhile.”
Or he rationalizes by saying, “G-d is King, but He doesn’t bother Himself with little transgressions like this.”
Or he is saying, “King or not, I am going to do what I want.”
In the time that he spends watching forbidden sites, and transgressing the commandment, “Thou shall not stray after your hearts and your eyes,” he rejects G-d’s Kingship and makes himself king instead. He allows his lusts and evil inclination to rule over his life.
Obviously, if a king of flesh and blood were standing by a person’s computer, gazing over his back at what he was watching, the person wouldn’t sin. Now G-d, who is the King of Kings, is there all the time watching. So if we watch things we shouldn’t be watching, we are forgetting Him, or pretending that He isn’t there.
Of course, most people don’t transgress G-d’s commandments willfully in a spirit of open rebellion, but because they give in to their passions and let evil forces rule over them.
So when we proclaim G-d’s Kingship over the world on Rosh Hashanah, we are making atonement for all of the times that we forgot about Him, or conveniently dismissed Him from our lives for an hour or two, so we could follow after our passions and pollute the world that He created with our sins.
May it be His will that this Rosh Hashanah we accept G-d’s Kingship over our lives with a willing heart, and keep His Presence forever before us, recalling that He is ever present, gazing over our shoulders, listening to all of our words, and recording all of our thoughts.
On Erev Rosh Hashanah, Friday, Sept. 18, at 12:00 noon Jerusalem time, the "Tikun HaKlali" is being simultaneously recited all over the world. Since the month of Elul and the High Holy Days are propitious times to rectify sexual transgressions, it is a wonderful opportunity to magnify the healing power of this prayer by joining Jews from all over the world.
This year, I am going to strive to be a holier person by guarding my eyes and my speech more diligently. I have started out by reciting this prayer every morning. Rav Leon advises all of his students to say it, and he says it each morning too.
FOR GUARDING ONE’S SPEECH AND ONE’S EYES
Composed by Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi
MASTER OF THE WORLD, holy Father, may it be Thy will that You enable me and my family, along with all of the Jewish People, to guard our eyes from seeing unholy matters, and to guard our mouths from evil speech, and from vain and impure utterances, and guard over us from hearing these kinds of things and accepting them as true.
I will be very careful not to suspect any Jew of improper doings, and enable me, my Father, to have the daily merit of speaking in the praise and defense of the Nation of Israel, for their benefit and blessing, happiness and joy.
From this day forth, I will endeavor to guard over my speech from falsehood, flattery, cynicism, bitter arguments, arrogance, anger, misleading communication, and embarrassing others. For these things can, G-d forbid, bring us to a spiritual and moral decline in the ways that You have chartered for us in Your Torah. From this day forth, I will endeavor, my dear Father, to speak holy matters intrinsic to the betterment of my soul, and I will strive, from this time forth, that my deeds be in the honor of the L-rd G-d of Israel, for the sake of Heaven.
Our Father, Father of Mercy, may I merit, from his day forth, to guard my ears and my eyes from hearing, seeing, and reading profane matters, empty of Your honor, things like heresy, atheism, words of division, and forbidden images, whether prohibited by the Torah or the enactments of our Rabbis.
Our Father in Heaven, I beseech You to help me, to erase from my mind everything that I heard or saw that was not in light with Your honor – may all of these things be forgotten and nullified from my psyche like earthenware that has been shattered, which is considered as naught. Likewise, grant me the merit, that from this day forth, I won’t hear or see things that are not in Your honor. May my ears and eyes be sanctified, hearing and seeing only holy matters.
May this prayer ascend to the uppermost celestial reaches before our Father in Heaven, and may we be elevated, along with all of our kinsmen, the Nation of Israel, in the fear and love of G-d, and in the love of our fellow Jew, with the coming of our righteous Mashiach, Amen, may it be Your will.
I thought I had seen just about everything there is to see, but this video blew me away. Remember, I wasn’t born a frum religious Jew. I was a part of the Age of Aquarius/Woodstock Generation. My heroes, may G-d forgive me, were Lenny Bruce, Henry Miller, and the Doors. I spent a few too many sordid years as a screenwriting in Hollywood and a novelist in New York. But this video made my hair stand on end. With the Day of Judgment just around the corner, this guy’s true, out-of-body, afterlife adventure is a great way to wake up to the heavy-duty fate awaiting us if we don’t get our acts together now.
To see it, click on the link and scroll down the page. Your teenagers should see it too.