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Amb. Alan Baker
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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.
The sin of the Spies was in rejecting the Land of Israel, speaking derogatively about it, and not coming on aliyah. Thus to rectify their sin, we must love the Land, speak its praises, and come on aliyah.
Today, more and more people are studying the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. After reading some of his reflections on the Land of Israel, you won’t be surprised that all of the leading Breslov rabbis live in Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Nachman said that wherever he went, he was going to Eretz Yisrael, and he prayed every day to step foot in its holy borders. To help counter the poison of the Spies, here are a few things he taught to his followers:
To be a member of the Jewish People is to move always to higher and higher levels. To do this is impossible except through the sanctity of the Land of Israel. Every upward movement which we have to make towards holiness can only be accomplished through the Land of Israel. The same is true of prayer. The ascent of prayer comes only about in the Land of Israel.
It is impossible to come to the Land of Israel with difficulties and suffering. The root of all the difficulties and suffering lies in the slanderous image of the Land which is put forth by the wicked. They are the source of all the obstacles. But the power which we draw into ourselves enables us to overcome all the obstacles, the difficulties and suffering. The more profound a person’s grasp of the Torah and the greater the tikun he brings about through his attainment, the greater his victory over the obstacles, and he will succeed in reaching the Land of Israel.
When a person attains to the level of the Land of Israel, he is worthy of being called, “a man of strength and valor.” Before he attains this level, “Let him not who girds on his armor boast himself as he who puts it off” (Melachim 1:20:11). But when he has gone through the battle successfully, he is worthy of the name “man of war.”
When people give charity to causes in the Land of Israel, they become merged in the air of the Land of Israel, which is holy breath that has no taint of sin. Through this breath the forces of severity and darkness are banished from the world. This is also how it is possible to escape from the distracting, alien thoughts which come during prayer. The mind and the thoughts become clear and refined. This is a tikun habrit – a rectification for abuse of the sexual covenant.
The mitzvah of Succah is a segula (special charm) for coming to the Land of Israel.
Through the revelation of the sanctity of the Land of Israel we will witness the destruction of the wicked. Not only will we be delivered from their hand; we will see them suffer the very evil they sought to inflict upon us.
The motive for making the journey to the Land of Israel should be purely spiritual – to draw closer to G-d. A person who goes there with this as his aim will certainly benefit. Merely by stepping foot on the Land he will become merged with it and transformed by its sacred character. That is why even “one who walks four cubits in the Land of Israel will assuredly inherit the World to Come” (Ketubot 111A). On the other hand, if a person’s motive has nothing to do with devotion to G-d and cleansing himself of evil, then what help will the Land be to him? The Land will vomit him out “as it vomited out the nation that was before you” (Vayikra, 18:28).
Pray to G-d to give you desire and yearning for the Land of Israel. Then you will succeed in reaching there. And pray also that He should plant yearning for the Land in the hearts of all the Tzaddikim.
G-d repays man “measure for measure.” Nowhere is the repayment more exacting than in the Land of Israel. But this is really a great kindness. If we know that G-d repays us according to our deeds, then by thinking about the situations G-d sends us, we can gain an insight into our own behavior and learn how to improve.
The holiness of the Land of Israel is the epitome of holiness, encompassing all other levels of holiness. It is there that we can free ourselves completely of the materialistic viewpoint which claims that events take place naturally. We can come to know and believe that everything comes about only through the Hand of G-d. When man knows this, he resembles G-d’s power to divide light from the darkness. Genuine enlightenment and wisdom come only in the Land of Israel. But even Jews outside the Land have the power to draw enlightenment and wisdom from there. According to his share, so is the wisdom he draws from the Land. But those who insult the honor of the Almighty, G-d forbid, are cut off from the radiance of the Land of Israel, and they fall into the mentality of “outside the Land” which is one of conflict and divisiveness. This is the source of all of the conflicts and divisions which have become so rampant.
Readers interested seeing more of Rabbi Nachman’s teachings on Eretz Yisrael can click here.
May the love of Eretz Yisrael fill our hearts through study, prayer, and heeding the advices of the Tzaddikim, and may we all do our part in remedying the sin of the Spies by praising the Land and coming to dwell in its borders.
[Excerpted from the book “Likutei Etzot” (Advice), written by Rabbi Nachman’s student, Rabbi Natan. Translations by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum]
From the beginning of time, straying after our eyes has gotten us into a lot of trouble. Adam and Eve strayed after their eyes and caused mankind to be cast out of the Garden. Yehuda strayed after his eyes and brought disgrace and family tragedy in its wake. The Jews in the wilderness strayed after the daughters of Midian and 24,000 girl-watchers were slain by a plague. Samson strayed after his eyes and was humiliated and blinded in return. And Kind David got himself into hot water by gazing at Bat Sheva as she was bathing up on the roof.
Straying after their eyes also brought about the downfall of the Spies. Seeing the giants in the Land of Israel, their hearts melted in fear, as it says: “Moreover, we saw the children of the giants there,” and “We saw in it men of great size, and there we saw the Nefilim, the sons of the giants, who come of the Nefilim, and we were in our eyes as grasshoppers.” Just like the new grasshopper, Bibi, caving in to the big bad giant Obama.
At the end of the Torah portion of “Shelach,” which we read on Shabbat, Hashem gives us the commandment of tzitzit to help rectify the sin of the Spies:
“And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, Speak to the Children of Israel, and bid them that they make fringes (tzitzit) in the corners of their garments throughout their generations… that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of Hashem, and do them; that you stray not after your own heart and your own eyes after which you go astray, that you may remember and do My commandments, and be holy to your G-d.”
Actually, there are two commandments here; to wear tzitzit, and not to stray after our hearts and our eyes.
The book, “Sefer HaHinuch,” explains that “not to stray after your hearts,” refers to entertaining opinions or beliefs that are contradictory to the foundations of Torah, since this can lead to heresy. If it should occur that a person finds himself thinking about heretical teachings, like those inherent in false religions, he should cast them from his mind and replace them with thoughts about Torah.
In a similar light, a person is not to chase after the deceptive visions and lusts of this world that lead him away from the Torah. The Talmud categorizes “not to stray after your eyes” as “znut,” meaning erotic, sexual imagery.
Every time a person gazes at an immodestly dressed woman on the street, or at an immodest image on the Internet, he is violating the Torah command not to stray after one’s heart and one’s eyes. It turns out that by the end of the day, a man can violate the Torah hundreds of times!
Our Sages teach that a forbidden thought is worse than actually engaging in the forbidding act itself. They explain that this specifically applies to sexual fantasies. According to this, gazing at a woman and fantasizing about having forbidden relations with her is worse than actually committing the transgression! How can this be? They explain that straying after one’s eyes and fantasizing is something that can happen a thousand times before a person acts on it because committing adultery or engaging in forbidden relationships involves great intrigue, planning, and there is always the danger of being caught, which makes a person think twice before committing the transgression. Whereas fantasizing at one’s computer is so easy, one can easily deceive himself into thinking he really isn’t doing something so terribly wrong and thus transgress again and again and again.
Additionally, someone who engages in forbidden relations is often moved to repent, owing to the guilt he feels; whereas when one’s “merely” fantasizes about a woman, “what’s the big deal – I didn’t hurt anybody?” he thinks.
However, when a Jew gazes at a forbidden image, whether on TV, the Internet, a movie, a photo in a magazine, a pretty girl on the street, or the like, he severs himself from holiness. The Shechinah flees from him. He may experience a physical charge, but he disconnects himself from the Divine electricity known as “Chashmal.” If he is the type of guy who engages in casual conversations with women, in the grocery store, at mixed weddings, on the yishuv, and the like, without averting his gaze from looking at them straight in the eyes, besides ignoring the advice of our Sages not to speak more than one has to with women, he brings about a dulling of his spiritual sensitivities. If he is a regular TV watcher, Internet surfer, women talker, he pulls out the plug connecting him to Torah. Rabbi Leon Levi says that a person like this may go through the motions of praying and studying Torah, but his prayers and Torah study don’t rise more than a centimeter into the air before they crash. Someone who doesn’t guard his eyes may think he is connected to Torah, but he isn’t. The plug is lying disconnected on the floor. Only, he doesn’t feel his lack of holiness because his spiritual vision and sensitivity has become dulled until it is practically switched off.
What does this have to do with the Spies?
A straightforward understanding of their terrible crash of faith and the tragedy it brought upon the Nation is that they looked at the giants with a superficial vision, seeing the physical side of things only. And so they were afraid. Joshua and Calev, on the other hand, looked upon the giants with the deep faith of security in G-d, and knew that the giants presented no danger at all. The superficial vision of the Spies is shared by many Jews in the Diaspora who when looking upon things in Israel see only the superficial physical side of things, the giant problems in the Land, and not on the great inner light of building and redemption that is taking place. With their superficial vision, they forget Hashem. Cut off from the deep faith that trust in G-d brings, they see Israel as “a land that devours its inhabitants” – just like the Spies did - and they use this as an excuse for not coming.
So what does this have to do with looking at woman? I’m glad you asked. Rabbi Levi explains that when the Spies left the Clouds of Glory to spy out the Land, they were indeed prominent scholars and community leaders. But when they left the protective walls of their yeshiva, they encountered the immodest women of Midian and this is what brought about their fall. Straying after their eyes, they lost their connection to Hashem and the invincible faith that comes with it. Without trust in G-d, they quivered upon seeing the giants.
This is hinted at in the verse regarding tzitzit which says, ”You shall not stray after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you go astray,” where the Hebrew for “after which you go astray” comes from the word “zonim” to prostitute yourselves, from the word “znut” for forbidden sexual activities, including gazing at immodest women.
And since we are talking about tzitzit, I recall a trip to Florida to visit my parents before they came on aliyah. Seeing me and my kids walking along the sidewalk of a shopping mall, several Jewish senior citizens pointed to us in happiness and called out, “Oh look at the tzitzit!” as if they hadn’t seen tzitzit in years. Because in America, many Orthodox Jews hide their tzitzit inside their pants so they won’t look different from the goyim. That alone should make a Diaspora Jew realize that he doesn’t belong in a foreign land, where he has to hide his Jewishness on the street.
So come home already to Israel where you can walk proudly anywhere you please with your tzitzit flying in the wind. You’ve got what it takes. Stop worry about all the problems you see. Remember the good old American motto:
“In G-d we trust.”
I hope this blog doesn’t offend anyone. I truly love my brothers and sisters in the Diaspora. Caring for their wellbeing, the way I would if I saw someone about to fall off a cliff, I try to point out that G-d wants the Jewish People to live in Eretz Yisrael, and not in Brooklyn or Japan.
This is obvious to anyone who reads the Torah, since it is repeated over and over again, more than any other commandment. This week’s Torah portion about the Spies, who rebelled against G-d by refusing to make aliyah to Israel, is completely dedicated to this understanding. No person can read the account of the Spies and not understand that G-d wants the Jewish People to live in the Land of Israel. Nothing could be simpler or more straightforward.
INN readers who get angry at me, and my fellow bloggers, for repeating this clear and straightforward eternal truth, know in their hearts that we are right. This knowledge is an innate part of every Jew. Every Jew knows that Eretz Yisrael is the Jewish homeland, and not America or France. If this is the case, why do they attack us so hysterically whenever we write about the commandment of living in Israel? The answer is that, though they know the truth in their inner hearts, they don’t want to face up to it and have to deal with all of the difficult challenges which moving to Israel implies. Uprooting one’s life and beginning anew in another country is a heavy burden and not everyone has the courage, strength, faith, wherewithal, opportunity, and good fortune to do so. Being confronted with the mitzvah of living in Israel, the Diaspora Jew’s conscience is threatened, and to quiet his guilty feeling, he is liable to strike out in hysterical, venomous attacks against the proponents of aliyah, and against all of the things he finds wrong in the State of Israel. It’s a form of self defense. Deep inside, the Diaspora Jew knows that he or she is living a falsehood, and when they are confronted with the truth by Jews who are fortunate to be living their lives in the Land of Israel, in accordance with the truth of the Torah, they feel that they have to protect themselves, so that the house of playing cards which they have built for themselves won’t come tumbling down.
I am not criticizing them. As I wrote a few blogs back, they are not to blame. No one ever taught them the truth. True, any grade-school child who reads the Bible will tell you that G-d wants the Jews to live in the Land of Israel, but to protect their glass communities, many parents and Jewish educators pretend that what the Torah says about aliyah applied only back then, not today - even though they will admit that the other commandments like Tefillin and Shabbat and keeping Kosher certainly apply today as well.
It’s a little like gefilta fish. Everyone knows that Diaspora Jews loves gefilta fish. What makes gefilta fish so popular? It isn’t only the taste. Gefilta fish is boneless. The backbones of the fish have been removed and the meat of the fish is grinded up so that no bones whatsoever remain. This makes eating fish on Shabbat a lot easier, since there is a complicated law which prohibits the removal of bones from fish on Shabbat. Since there is a custom to eat fish on Shabbat, gefilta fish makes life a lot easier.
In the same light, living in the Diaspora makes Judaism a lot easier. You don’t have to deal with all of the problematic “bones” that living in Israel involves, like making the desert bloom, producing your own agriculture, learning how to shoot a rifle, serving in the army, establishing viable political and courts systems, taking care of garbage pick-up, and the like. When you live as a minority in someone else land, the gentiles take care of the government and agriculture and defense and garbage pick-up. This is the boneless brand of Judaism that the generation of the Spies wanted to live in the wilderness where all of their needs were met by the manna, miraculous well, and invincible Clouds of Glory. They didn’t want all the hassle of plowing, and sifting wheat, and building houses, and serving in the army, and paving highways, and the complications of running a government that living in their own Land would require.
However, this was exactly what G-d wanted – that the Jewish People show the world that it is possible to sanctify all of earthly existence in the service of G-d, not just in the yeshiva study hall and home, but in the army and government and life of the farmer, postman, and garbage man as well.
So come join us! Yes, in many ways, living is Israel is more difficult. Here, we have to do the work ourselves in getting rid of the bones. But this is precisely what G-d wants. Be honest with yourselves, and with your children. Why settle for a boneless Judaism in Brooklyn when you can be a Jew with a backbone in your own Land!
If my paintball warnings don’t keep immodestly dressed women at home, then at least the Tzunami of jellyfish heading our way will keep them from strutting half-naked along the beaches of the Holy Land.
Yesterday INN reported the following News Brief:
(IsraelNN.com) A global increase in jellyfish populations is expected to hit Israel, scientists warned this week. Large numbers of jellyfish have been spotted in the Mediterranean Sea, on their way to Israel's coasts.
The jellyfish are expected to hit Israeli beaches in the near future. Those seen on their way to Israel are not usually dangerous, but they can leave swimmers with painful stings.
[End of News Brief]
Without question, G-d is sending the swarms of jelly fish our way to keep all of those itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikinis in the closet at home where they belong.
Modesty is the hallmark of a Jewish woman. A Jewish woman is not supposed to go strutting around with everything showing, not in her home, not out on the street, and not at the beach. Just because there is sand and surf and sun at the beach doesn’t provide a heter (allowance) for Jewish women to strip off their clothes. Even if it’s a hot summer day, immodest bathing suits are strictly against halacha. Even on a beachfront restricted to Women Only, a Jewish woman is not supposed to parade around outside under the Heavens with all of her flesh spilling out. The beaches of Israel may be great places to cool off, but they are still a part of the Holy Land.
And as far as guys are concerned, someone who cares about his soul is wise to avoid busy beaches. Don’t feed me a line about separate beaches for men and women. Unless the beachfront is absolutely hermetically sealed, far removed from regular bathers, a beach just for men doesn’t exist.
For example, the other day, I took my boys to the “Men’s Only” beach in Ashkelon. Yes, there were barriers along the beach blocking off the area from co-ed bathers, but the barriers ended well before the water. And of course, just for spite, there were scantily clad women who had nowhere else to frolic than on the beachfront directly in front of all of the religious kids and fat bearded men like me. It’s a free world, right?
One after another, as if at orchestrated intervals, they paraded along the shore like models walking down the runway of some sleazy Paris fashion show.
“Nachash Tzefah! Nachash Tzefah!” I screamed out, gathering my little ones and herding them back to our car.
As we have written on several occasions, when a man gazes at an immodestly dressed woman, whether at the beach or while surfing on the Internet, the Divine Presence flees from him and he is enveloped in a terrible impurity.
The Sages of the Kabbalah inform us that at the same moment that a girl watcher is enjoying an immodest sight, his soul is attacked by the impure spiritual forces the image creates. His soul, they warn, is mercilessly beaten with vicious blows, more painful than the sting of a thousand jellyfish, causing it to scream out with such horror that the man would pass out from fright if he could hear it.
So my fellow Bearers of the Brit, please think twice before taking an outing to a crowded beach, even if it supposedly “Men Only.”
And to my dear Jewish sisters, why put a stumbling block in front of the blind? Why cause your brothers to sin? And why bring needless punishment on yourselves and your families by violating the tenets of modesty that the Jewish Nation is founded upon? Remember, our beaches, are not international waters,but a part of the Holy Land too. How you behave on the shores of Tel Aviv affects not only the men on the beach, but the future wellbeing of Judea and Samaria settlements as well.
If you don’t believe me, then go ahead to the beach. Maybe the jellyfish will convince you.
The sin of the Spies in the wilderness is arguably the greatest transgression in Jewish history. It resulted in the destruction of the entire generation that left Egypt. Because of the refusal of the Spies to journey on to live in the Land of Israel, the Jews had to wander for forty years in the wilderness until a braver and more G-d-fearing generation arose. Additionally, 0ur Sages tell us that the sin of the Spies paved the way to the destruction of the First and Second Temples. After touring the Land of Israel, the Spies returned with their evil report on the Ninth of Av, the same day that the Temples were later destroyed. Because they rejected the Promised Land, we were later expelled from its borders.
However, there is a very big difference between the Spies in the wilderness who refused to make aliyah, and Diaspora Jews of today who also don’t come on aliyah.
The Spies in the wilderness, and their entire generation, KNEW they were supposed to journey on to Israel. Moshe told them over and over again. G-d commanded them again and again. They knew they were leaving Egypt to return to the Promised Land. They knew it because it was their heritage. Their fathers told them, their mothers told them, their grandparents told them. All the time that they were slaves in Egypt, they waited for the moment when a redeemer who come to take them out of Egyptian bondage and return them to Eretz Yisrael, to the Land of their Forefathers, Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov.
Furthermore, the Spies knew that their mission was to spy out the Land so that their reconnaissance information could help in its conquering. But instead of going up to Israel and settling the Land, as G-d had commanded them, they wanted to stay in the wilderness where the Cloud of Glory protected them with arrow-proof walls and year-round air conditioning and comfort.
There, in the hermetically-sealed dome of the Cloud, they could study Torah while their physical needs were miraculously provided by the Manna from Heaven and the pool of Miriam that followed them wherever they went. That was their surface excuse. The book “Mesillat Yesharim” explains the underlying reason, stating that the Spies, who were the leaders of the community, feared to journey on to Israel lest they suffer a lessening of their prestige and honor, since a new type of leader would be needed upon entry into the Land, in order to actively confront the many physical and spiritual challenges they faced (“Mesillat Yesharim,” Ch. 19, On Saintliness.) In rebelling against G-d by not making aliyah to Israel, they brought about the death of their generation and caused great future tragedy as well.
In contrast, the Jews of the Diaspora today are very different.
The main difference is that, by and large, they simply don’t know that they should come on aliyah. No one teaches them. Not their rabbis, not their high-school yeshiva teachers, not their shul presidents, not their parents, no one. So they simply don’t know that the true goal of Judaism is to establish the Kingdom of G-d in the world via the Jewish People leaving a Torah life in Israel, as it says, “For from ZION shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the L-rd from JERUSALEM.”
Even in the books they read about Judaism, Eretz Yisrael has been deleted. Take a look at a few indexes of the most popular books in English on Jewish Philosophy. You won’t find a word about Eretz Yisrael.
True, a Jewish Internet surfer might be carried by a wave one day to Arutz 7, where he will be confronted with the importance of aliyah, but not having heard about this great foundation of Judaism commandment from his teachers and parents, he or she won’t take it to heart.
For this reason, the Jews of the Diaspora are like “children who were kidnapped and raised amongst the gentiles.” This category includes Jews who were never taught about Judaism. Not having been exposed to the tenets of the religion, unfortunate Jews like these can’t be expected to keep the Torah’s laws, because they have never heard of them. The secular Zionists pioneers and kibbutzniks fall into this category, as do the secular Russian Jews in Israel today, even though they have heard of the Torah, they never had anyone to teach them, so it is something foreign to them, like Chinese.
A metaphor for this is the story of Tarzan, who was lost at sea as a child and raised in the jungle by the apes. When he grew up, he thought he was a monkey too. There was no one around to tell him that he was a man. So he identified with the apes. Just as they felt perfectly at home, living in the jungle and swinging from tree to tree, he felt perfectly at home too. Not having been raised in civilized surroundings, he didn’t know the difference.
But, of course, a human isn’t an ape, even if he grows up in the jungle. And a Jew isn’t a gentile, even if he grows up in a gentile land. A Jew isn’t an American, or a Frenchmen, or a South African, even if he grows up there. A Jew has a homeland of his own, with his own code of life, the Torah, which is meant to be lived in Israel.
The Jews of the Diaspora don’t know this, because no one ever taught them. They are not to blame, no more than Tarzan was to blame for believing that he was a monkey. It’s as simple as that.