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Life Lessons with Judy Simon
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.
It is thirty days to Purim, and it is customary to start reviewing the laws of the holiday. Everyone knows that Purim celebrates the victory of the Jews over the wicked Haman. But do you know why the perilous decree fell upon the Jews of Persia in the first place?
Because they all rushed to party at Achashverosh’s ball when the prophecy of Redemption seemed not come true. Instead of rejoicing at the return to Jerusalem, they rejoiced at Achashverosh’s feast. Yes, they made sure to keep kosher, but they couldn’t wait to mix with the goyim, rub shoulders with the elite of the town, google at their immodestly dressed women, and take a part in the drunken immorality of the bash. In short, they wanted to assimilate and be like the Persians. When the holy vessels of the Jerusalem Temple were brought out on display, the Jews didn’t protest. They had forgotten Jerusalem. “For from Persia will go forth the Torah, and the word of the L-rd from Shushan,” they loudly declared, craving to be accepted citizens of a foreign land, rather than returning home to Israel.
Just like the Jews of the Diaspora today.
This is what Rabbi Kook teaches, based on the way we eat fruit during our festive Tu B’Shvat seders.
Tu B’Shvat, the holiday of trees, was celebrated just a few days ago. In Israel, families sat down for joyous holiday meals, highlighted with the fruits indigenous to the Land of Israel. Long ago, in the time of the Talmud, the question arose, which fruit should be eaten first? The answer is derived from a verse in the Torah that numerates the seven special fruits of the Land of Israel: “A Land of wheat, and barley, and grape vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a Land of olive oil and date honey” (Devarim, 8:8).
The Talmud asks – if you have pomegranates and dates before you, which do you eat first? You might think that a pomegranate should be eaten first since it appears in the verse before dates. But, in fact, the date should be eaten first because it is closer to the word “Aretz” (Land) in the second half of the verse. Even though this is the second time the word “Aretz” appears in the verse, dates are only two spots away from it, while pomegranates are five places away from the first mention of “Aretz.” Thus, we learn that something that is closer to the Land of Israel has preference (Berachot 41).
Using this lesson of Talmud as his base, Rabbi Kook writes that someone who is closer to Eretz Yisrael and exerts himself more in its development, he is first in blessing and closer to perfection (“Ayn Iyah,” Berachot 41; and “Olat Rayah,” Vol. 1, pg. 375).
Thus if you have two Jews of equal religious observance, but one lives in the Diaspora and the other in Eretz Yisrael, the Jew who lives in Israel is first in blessing and closer to Jewish perfection.
Not only this, Rabbi Kook writes, even if Shimon is religious, and Reuven is secular, when it comes to their general wellbeing and psyche (nefesh), Reuven is still first in blessing and closer to Jewish perfection.
“The “nefesh” of the sinners of Israel at the beginning of the Redemption, those who lovingly join the causes of the Jewish Nation, Eretz Yisrael, and the national revival, is more corrected than the “nefesh” of perfectly religious Jews who lack this advantage of the essential feeling for the good of the people, and the building of the nation and the Land” (Orot, Orot HaTechiya, 43).
This means that when it comes to a person’s mental health and general wellbeing – Reuven, a secular, leftist kibbutznik in Israel, is closer to Jewish perfection than the Orthodox Jew in Boro Park, or Vienna, Virginia, or Monsey, New York. Rabbi Kook admits that the spiritual world of the Orthodox Jew, Shimon, is healthier and more developed, but his psychic life is tragically out of whack (Ibid).
True, a leftist kibbutznik can think some pretty stupid things and make a lot of sick choices, but in being connected to the Land of Israel, his head is screwed on a lot straighter than his Orthodox Diaspora brother who believes he is an American, or a Frenchman, or a German, and acts out his life like one, identifying with the foreign country and culture where he lives. To the extent that he estranges himself from the Land of Israel, he is more and more screwed up.
He’s like a Caucasian who claims he is a Black American, or a penguin who thinks he is a chimpanzee, or a mental asylum patient who swears that he is the President of the United States.
In the very same light, while Shimon’s religious awareness (ruach) is indeed superior to Reuven’s, his psychic world is far more bonkers than his secular Israeli counterpart, simply because Reuven identifies his life with the building of the Eretz Yisrael.
If 100,000 Israel National News readers had been here to vote for rightest parties, instead of passively waiting to learn the election results from their fleshpots in the Diaspora, Israel would be a much stronger and safer country today.
Those extra 100,000 votes (worth 4 Knesset seats) would have given the national Zionist camp an overwhelming majority that would have allowed Israel to stand strong against its enemies, instead of bowing down to international demands.
I am not talking about Diaspora Jews who would like to live here in Israel, but who simply can’t make aliyah for whatever true reason. I am referring to my brothers and sisters who could come, but don’t.
Now, no matter who forms the next government, the Land of Israel is faced with the very grave danger of being carved up again. All because of those readers of INN, lovers of Israel who could have been here to vote, but who prefer to live their lives in foreign lands, trying not to look too Jewish when they go out of their homes, so that they can rub elbows with the goyim.
Well, not everything is lost. At least, Thank G-d, it’s raining.
That’s what I’m predicting. Because starting tonight, I am going to start praying for a Tuesday snowstorm. Not just an ordinary snowstorm, but an all-day blizzard, with rain and sleet and hail. And 100 mile-an-hour winds. Let G-d throw in some leftover Egyptian locusts, and lice, and boils, and giant hailstones to keep apathetic voters at home. That way only the most dedicated, most Zionist diehards will come out and cast their ballots. And who are they? The lovers of Eretz Yisrael. The settlers. The hilltop youth. The orange army, and everyone who still has enough sense to want to save the country from the chopper’s block of Kedima, Lieberman, and the Likud. If everyone prays for a voting-day blizzard, then the next Israeli government will be run by religious Jews with “Ketzaleh” at its head.
Fantasy? Wishful thinking? No way. Anyone who has been following the last few Torah readings about the Exodus knows that it can happen. Join me in praying for even a torrential downpour and the religious will sweep the elections. The secular won’t want to get wet. Instead, they’ll spend their day off watching TV and getting stoned. Only the Jews who really care about the Land of Israel and the Torah will brave the stormy weather, and that’s, first and foremost, the supporters of the “Echud HaLeumi.”
After I vote for them in the morning, I will be spending the day driving elderly voters to the polling stations in my car, so they can also vote for Ketzaleh and the “Echud HaLeumi.” I have already put on my snow tires and got new windshield wipers. But I need your help, so start praying now.
I don’t know about snow, but if it doesn’t rain cats and dogs on Tuesday, then, blee nader, I quit this blog. You hear that up in heaven? If it doesn’t rain on Tuesday, then I quit this blog! Is that what you want – to give the lovers of galut the satisfaction of being finished with Fishman? Who will yell at them? Who will expose their charade?
Let’s face it. It’s a simple question of numbers. If the religious Jews in the Diaspora would come to live in Israel, the government in Israel would be religious. The Prime Minister would be religious. It’s as simple as can be. The lovers of the exile can find fault with a million things in Israel, but they are the ones to blame.
By being alienated from the recognition of the secrets of Torah, the holiness of Eretz Yisrael is understood in a foggy, unfocused fashion.
By alienating oneself from the secrets of G-d, the highest treasures of the deep Divine life become extraneous, secondary matters which do not enter the depths of the soul, and as a result, the most potent force of the individual's and of the nation's soul will be missing; and the exile is found to be pleasant in its own accord.
For to someone who only understands the superficial level, nothing basic will be lacking in the absence of the Land of Israel, the Jewish Kingdom, and all of the facets of the nation in its built form. For him, the foundation of the yearning for Salvation is like a side branch that cannot be united with the deep understanding of Judaism, and this itself testifies to the poverty of insight which is found in this juiceless perspective.
We are not rejecting any form or contemplation which is founded on truthfulness, on sensitivity of thought, or on the fear of Heaven, in whatever form it takes; but rejecting only the specific aspect of this perspective which seeks to negate the secrets of Torah and their great influence on the spirit of the nation – for this is a tragedy which we are obligated to fight against with counsel and wisdom, with holiness and with valor.
By Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, from his book, “Orot,” 1:2. To read a commentary on this essay, click here.