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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.


      Elul 6, 5769, 8/26/2009

      How You Can Help Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu

      The best way to help the Torah giant, Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, in his battle for life this moment at the Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem, is to pray and study Torah on his behalf (HaRav Mordechai Tzemach ben Mazal). You can do this by studying the seven chapters dealing with the laws of marital relations from his book, “Darkei Taharah,” which we have translated on our jewishsexuality.com website.

      Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu

      The book, “Darkei Taharah,” which means “The Ways of Purity,” is a definitive and concise guide to the subject of Family Purity (Taharat HaMishpachah). For years, the book has been used to prepare brides and grooms for their wedding and the sacred ways of married life. These laws are the foundation of the Jewish Nation, and the Jewish family. Their observance has a direct influence on the health, happiness, and prosperity of the family, and on the physical and spiritual wellbeing of the children.

      In addition to helping the Jewish Nation via his book, Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu has guided countless Jewish couples in private meetings over the last several decades. We first went to him for advice when my wife needed a break between babies. When he heard our request for a temporary hiatus, he frowned and glanced up toward the ceiling of his office in serious concentration, as if waiting to receive a fax from Above. The grave seriousness of his expression made me realize how profound was the holiness surrounding marital relations, and the importance of every soul to the building of Am Yisrael.

      After several moments of deep reflection, he gave his consent in a clear, no-nonsense manner, and told us exactly what to do, adding that we should return to consult with him again in another six months.

      While some people scoff at my postings dealing with this subject, the silent majority indeed click on the links, some 600 people a day, and read a total of 3000 pages, demonstrating that the wise of mind and heart gladly take advantage of these translations.    

      So to help Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu – pray, study, and whatever change for the better that you can make in your lives after studying his teachings will add more weight to the scale of merit in his behalf, and accompany him, please G-d, to a complete and speedy recover.

      Av 30, 5769, 8/20/2009

      Laws of Marital Relations Part 2

      The month of Elul, which began today, is the time most suited to t’shuva (repentance). It is a period of Divine favor, because it was at this time that Moshe went up Mount Sinai to receive the second Tablets of Law, after the sin of the Golden Calf.

      The forty days that Moshe was on the mountain, beseeching G-d to forgive the Jewish People, includes the 30 days of Elul and the first 10 days of the month of Tishrei, which are known as the Ten Days of Repentance. This period of intense t’shuva climaxes on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when forgiveness was granted.

      Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches that the dominant theme of the month of Elul is “Tikun HaBrit” – the rectification of sexual sins, known as blemishes to the Covenant:

      "For the forgiveness that Moshe won for the Jews was actually over transgressions to the Brit (the Covenant), for the sin of the Golden Calf was over sexual misconduct, as our Sages have taught us - the Jewish People only worshiped idols to provide an excuse for publicly engaging in sexual licentiousness. (Sanhedrin 63A; Rashi, Shemot, 32:6). This rectification of the Brit made this day, the Day of Atonement for all generations."

      To help people in their t’shuva, and to give husbands and wives a chance to review the many laws dealing with marital relations, we are continuing to translate Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu’s codification of these laws. Readers are recommended to read over these chapters, which are the foundation of the Covenant between Hashem and the Jewish People.

      Those who are interested in learning the deep secrets of Elul can find an essay on the theme on our jewishsexuality.com website. Included is a powerful prayer of rectification written by Rabbi Nachman’s foremost student, Rabbi Natan.

      For everyone else, here is a partial checklist of transgressions to the Covenant to remind people of things we can all too easily forget during the course of the year:   

      Thou shall not look at pornographic sites on the Internet.

      Thou shall not have a computer at home without a filter.

      Thou shall not engage in sexual fantasies.

      Thou shall not stray after your hearts and your eyes which lead you astray.

      Thou shall not masturbate.

      Thou shall not engage in pre-marital sex.

      Thou shall not hug or kiss a woman whom you are not married to (except for your mother).

      Thou shall not have sexual relations with a non-Jew.

      Thou shall not engage in oral sex.

      Thou shall not engage in homosexuality.

      Thou shall not commit adultery.

      Thou shall not covet another’s man’s wife.

      Thou shall not think about another woman when having relations with your wife.

      Thou shall not have marital relations with your wife (nor touch her) during her Niddah (menstruation period).

      Thou shall not have marital relations in the daytime.

      Thou shall not have marital relations by candlelight, moonlight, electric light, and the like.

      Thou shall not have marital relations uncovered.

      Thou shall not spill semen in vain – even when engaging in marital relations.

      Thou shall not have marital relations in unnatural positions, other than what is known as the missionary position.

      Thou shall not have marital relations using a method of contraception without first consulting an Orthodox rabbi.

      Thou shall please one’s wife before pleasing oneself.

      This is only a partial list. For a detailed review of the topic, please check out the link to Rabbi Eliahu’s compilation of the laws.

      Chodesh tov!

      Av 27, 5769, 8/17/2009

      Talkbackers - The Time for Repentance Has Come !

      The month of Elul, the time most suited for repentance, is just a few days away. To get in the mood, here’s a little story that just happened.

      When I first came to Israel, I had a friend, let’s call him Moshe, who was also exploring the world of Orthodox Judaism. But instead of having faith in the Torah, and in the Rabbis who were teaching him, he would always play a game of intellectual ping-pong, finding loopholes and doubts in every explanation he heard. I remember telling him at the time that he should flush his arrogance and ego down the toilet, along with all of his pseudo knowledge of the world, and open himself up to the wisdom of our Sages, but Moshe just couldn’t take the leap. He ended up leaving Israel, convinced that he was rejecting all of the imperfections he found in the religion and in the country, when in reality the Land was vomiting him out.

      Back in America, giving up all ritual observance, the poor guy met one misfortune after the next, with his marriage, with his children, with his work. Then after almost 25 years, he began to have second thoughts, and began reading Arutz 7 and taking peeks at this blog and others. One day, not long ago, he wrote me, saying he was coming back to Israel for a short trip.

      This Shabbat, he spent some time at our house, and filled me in on the sad events that had dominated his life since abandoning the Land. When he mentioned that he hadn’t put on tefillin in 25 years, I suggested he have his tefillin checked out, since tefillin should be checked every seven years, and I related some mystical, but true, stories about how a person’s behavior and transgressions affected their tefillin and caused blemishes in the letters of the parchments.

      Time to check your tefillin!

      I told him where he could have his tefillin checked, and yesterday morning he took them to the place I recommended. Sure enough, a word was missing in a parchment on the tefillin of the arm, making the tefillin not kosher. The missing word was in the verse, “you shouldn’t have chametz.” It blew him away.

      This morning, he called me still dizzy from the revelation.

      “Amazing!” he said. “It’s amazing. Chametz represents arrogance and pride, and that’s exactly what I have.  I know it. My heart is full of arrogance. Until now, I’ve been closed to believe what other people were trying to teach me about Judaism and to take their advice when I was here in Israel. For the first time, I feel that Hashem is really there, looking at me, one-on-one, giving me another chance to get my act together.”

      With Elul a few days away, it’s a good time for everyone to check their tefillin –especially some of our more cacophonous talkbackers who are so arrogantly sure that they are right in their asinine opinions (like it's better to live amongst the obamanations in foreign lands than to live in Israel). I guarantee you, some of you are in for real surprises!


      Av 19, 5769, 8/9/2009

      The Laws of Marital Relations

      Every Motzei Shabbat, I go to the Kotel to read Tehillim with the revered Kabbalist, Rabbi Leon Levi, and students. At the end of the recital, Rabbi Leon speaks about the Torah portion.

      Rabbi Leon Levi

      According to the secrets of Torah, the opening verse of the Torah portion, “Ekev,” is talking about sexual transgression. G-d promises the Jewish People that if we guard ourselves from sexual transgression, He will guard over his side of the Brit, or Covenant, that he made with our Forefathers, and grant a unique, Divine kindness to us, blessing us in the Land of Israel with a life filled with material bounty, health, and victory over our enemies (Devarim, 7:12-16).

      As usual, a large gathering crowded around to hear Rabbi Leon speak. He reminded everyone that the organ of the Brit, which is graced with the “stamp of the King” upon circumcision, possesses a special holiness. He said it had the holiness of a Torah scroll, and reminded us that both Avraham and Yaacov had made Eliezer and Yosef takes oaths by placing their hands under this sacred place. He said that the dream of Yaacov of a ladder reaching up to heaven symbolized the exalted holiness of the place of the Brit, and the spiritual sefirah (channel) of “Yesod” which is associated with it, as it says:

      “How awesome is this place! This is no other than the house of G-d, and this is the gateway to Heaven! (Bereshit, 28:17).

      Rabbi Leon said that the measure of a man’s holiness, and the determination of a “Tzaddik,” is the purity of his sexual life, as exemplified by Yosef, who is known as “Yosef the Tzaddik” for having overcome the temptations of Potifar’s wife.

      A person’s attachment to G-d, he said, depends on the measure that he safeguards the Brit. If a man conducts his married life in a modest and holy fashion, then the blessings of health, livelihood, and security, stated in the Torah, will be granted to him. But if he falls into sexual transgression and wastes the holy, Divine energy contained in seminal seed, which is infused with holy souls, and radiates with the precious power of the Divine source of life, than the opposite will be his portion – sicknesses, hardships with children, and other painful sufferings, G-d forbid.

      Because of the great importance of this fundamental matter to every person, and to the Jewish Nation as a whole, we are undertaking to translate the Laws of Marital Relations, from the book, “Darkei Taharah,” by the saintly Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, former Chief Rabbi of Israel. The first chapters have been posted on our website, jewishsexuality.com, and, with G-d’s help, we will endeavor to post additional chapters in the coming weeks. Like all aspects of Torah learning, these matters should be reviewed to strengthen our observance of the proper Torah conduct and in the many details involved. Especially in a matter where the evil inclination is so great and temptations abound, it is wise for all people to go over these laws, along with the guidelines that Rabbi Leon has set forth in his writings to help people achieve enhanced health and blessing in their lives.        

      Av 13, 5769, 8/3/2009

      The Land of Giants

      If we could dissect a soul, what would we discover inside? What would a microscopic examination reveal? What are a soul's components? Its atoms? When we probe as deeply as we can into the anatomy of the soul, suddenly under our high-powered lens, an Alef comes into focus. Then we see a Mem, and a Taf. If a soul had a genetic make-up, we would discover that its DNA helix is made up of Hebrew letters.

      Hebrew Letters - the DNA of Creation

      In the wisdom of the Kabbalah, letters are understood to be powerful, life-giving forces. The Gemara teaches that the Hebrew letters were used to create the heaven and earth (Berachot 55A). Bezalel knew how to combine the letters which were used in Creation. It was this secret wisdom which enabled him to build the Mishkan (Ibid).

      Just as the Hebrew letters are the building blocks of Torah, and of the world, they combine to form the molecular blueprint of the soul. What atoms are to the physical world, Hebrew letters are to the spiritual.

      Rabbi Kook writes:

      “The soul is filled with letters which are infused with the light of life, full of knowledge and will, full of spiritual seeking, and full existence," (Orot, 1:7).

       The soul is filled with letters which contain the Divine life-force which grants us existence. They themselves have knowledge and will and a quest for spiritual inspiration. All of a Jew's primary activities, whether his thought, will, deed, and imagination, stem from the letters of his soul. Different combinations of letters make for different types of souls. There are high-powered combinations, and there are souls of lesser might. According to the brilliance of these life-giving letters, a man's soul radiates with more and more energy.

      Not only is the soul filled with Hebrew letters, mitzvot are filled with them too. Rabbi Kook writes:

      "Upon approaching a mitzvah, the mitzvah is always full of the light of life of all of the worlds - every mitzvah is filled with letters, big, incredible letters from among all of the 613 precepts” (Ibid).

      The mitzvot are the channels which enable letters to flow from their Divine source to the soul. The life-force in the mitzvot adds vitality to the life-force in man. They are the circuits and conduits of life. And they too, like the letters, are microcosms of existence, bursting with the energy that G-d supplies to the world.

      When a Jew performs a mitzvah, he receives a new dose of energy and life. When the letters of his soul collide and combine with the letters of the mitzvah, an explosion occurs. Like a fusion of atoms, new life is released to the soul and to all of the worlds. The union of the soul and the mitzvah is what gives the world its constant renewal. And because each individual mitzvah is integrally connected to all of the 613 precepts of the Torah, when we perform one mitzvah, we release the power of them all in a chain reaction which sends waves of holiness and light throughout the universe. This is the mechanism which brings life to the world. Thus, our Sages have taught that if the Jews were to stop learning Torah, G-d forbid, for even a moment, the whole world would come to an end (Shabbat 88A).

      This is how Rabbi Kook describes it:

       "As soon as we approach a commandment's performance, all of the living letters which constitute our essence expand - we grow bigger, and become stronger and more forceful in the light of life and sublime existence which is resplendent and rich with the wealth of universal holiness and with the light of Torah and of wisdom....and all of the universe is renewed with light and life. The judgment of the world turns meritorious because of our deeds; light and truth, good will and inward satisfaction grace every face."

      When a Jew performs a mitzvah, the letters of his or her soul are magnified with an accelerated life-force. Letters of Torah from the upper worlds of existence merge with the letters of the individual soul. This "wedding" between the upper and lower worlds causes a union of splendor and joy. Our will and G-d's will become one. We and the world are filled with supernal strength, wisdom, holiness, valor, harmony, and joy. The same wholeness which returned to the world upon the giving of the Torah now returns to our souls. In the meeting of man and the mitzvah, the purpose of life is achieved. Man stands in line with G-d's will for existence. The soul cleaves to G-d. Worlds merge, and the union brings rebirth to all of Creation.

      Because of the soul's connection to all the world, each seemingly small mitzvah is, in truth, a cosmic deed which fills the world with untold blessing. The performance of a mitzvah fills the world with Torah, and with inner goodness and truth. We hold in our hands the fate of existence. Our good deeds infuse the world with merit. By observing the commandments of the Torah, we not only elevate our own life, we make the world a better place. In the Heavenly court, G-d's judgment is sweetened.

      In effect, the Almighty has put in our hands the key to existence. Divine blessing and life are released in the world according to what we do (Nefesh HaChaim, Gate 1:3).

      Now, my friends, fasten your seat belts.


      Rabbi Kook writes:

      "In Eretz Yisrael, the letters of our souls grow bigger; there they reveal shining light; they are nurtured with independent life from the light of life of the whole Congregation of Israel; they are directly influenced from the secret of their original creation."

      In simple language, Rabbi Kook is saying that if there were a Geiger counter which could measure the existence of Hebrew letters, it would start to crackle with a thunderous noise the moment it approached the borders of Israel. For Eretz Yisrael is the land of gigantic, 3-D letters. It is the land of indigenous ALEFS and BETS. Like the giants which the Spies encountered in Hevron, and the gigantic fruit they found in the Land, the alphabet of Eretz Yisrael dwarfs the Lilliputian alphabet of the Diaspora. The letters thrive in the air of Israel and draw body-building nutrients from its holy soil. In contrast, the letters of Chut'z L'Aretz (outside of the Land) are stunted, like plants grown outside of their natural climate.

      When a Jew makes Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, his letters shift into high gear and multiply in size. All of his being gets bigger. He grows closer to G-d. Compared to the person he was in Galut, he becomes larger than life. He transforms into a giant, filled with greater valor, greater holiness, greater happiness, and wisdom.

      Jew from Israel (right) with friend from the Diaspora

      What is the secret of this change?

      IN ERETZ YISRAEL, OUR LETTERS, LIKE OUR SOULS, BECOME THE GIGANTIC LETTERS OF CLAL YISRAEL. They are no longer small, private, individual letters of the Diaspora, living private individual lives - THEY MULTIPLY AND MULTIPLY THROUGH THEIR UNION WITH THE NATION OF ISRAEL. IN THE LAND OF CLAL YISRAEL, OUR LETTERS MERGE WITH THE MEGA-SOUL OF THE NATION, and not just with the neighborhood shul.

      In his connection to the NATION, the Oleh (immigrant) to Israel becomes a more complete Jew. He becomes a co-builder of the Jewish NATION. He becomes independent in his own Land. His aspirations are filled with idealism. He becomes an architect of history, an active partner of Redemption. His outlook and psyche are exponentially expanded by his new identification with the NATIONAL aspiration and will.

      Because he is living in Israel, his whole life is a mitzvah. A mitzvah which is equal in weight to all of the mitzvot of the Torah (Sifre, Reah, 12:29). Divine life flows and flows into his being through the infinite channel of his new mitzvah life. His house is a mitzvah, his job is a mitzvah, every step which he takes in the Holy Land is a mitzvah, every four cubits earns him a greater share in the world to come (Ketubot 111A). Every holy breath he takes fills him with holy life. Letters and letters of Torah pour into his soul.

      In his essay, Rabbi Kook quotes a verse from the book of Isaiah:

      "And it shall come to pass, that he who is left in Zion, and he that remains in Jerusalem, they shall be called holy, everyone in Jerusalem who is written to life" (Isaiah, 4:3).

      In Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, the letters of our souls are inscribed for eternal life. Like the Land's giant letters, the mitzvot of the Land are giant mitzvot too, performed where the commandments are supposed to be performed, as the Ramban writes: “For the essence of all the mitzvot is that they be performed in the Land of Hashem (Ramban of the Torah, Vayikra, 18:25; also Kuzari, 5:22). They burst with energy and life through the full force of their value. In Israel, the performance of the mitzvot is pure, without static and pollution, when performed in the land of G-d. In Israel, each mitzvah reverberates through the myriad of souls of the Clal, multiplying beyond measure, echoing through the universe, filling the world with harmony, completeness, and order. When the nation is living its true Torah life in Israel, G-d's will for the world is fulfilled. The vaults of heaven spread open, and Divine blessing flows uninterrupted to all of creation.

      So too, the Torah of Eretz Yisrael is the complete Torah. As our Sages teach: “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael” (Midrash Tehillim 105). The Torah in Israel is the all-encompassing Torah, the Torah of the nation, the Torah of the Clal, none of whose mitzvot or letters are missing. In the Land of Israel, The Torah is in its true place, radiating its influence in intimate pleasantness, its heavenly letters glowing with the light of the Shekhinah (Ketubot 75A).

      I ask you my friends, could anything be better than this?

      (Excerpted from the book, “Lights on Orot” by Rabbi David Samson and yours truly. Chapter Seven)