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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.
Driving through Jerusalem tonight on the way to the Kotel, I didn't see one Xmas decoration. Not one. "Thank G-d," I said out loud to the passengers in the car. "At this time of the year in America, a Jew is inundated with Xmas and all of the idol worship that surrounds it - on the street, in stores, in the newspaper, and on TV. You can't get away from it. If only for this, it is worth everything in the world to live in Israel. To live in the Holy Land. The Land of the Jews."
Let's face it. Living in America is like living in ancient Greece. It is a totally foreign culture. A Christian culture. A Jew who chooses to live in America (or England, France, Australia, South Africa, and the like) is saying, "I want to be a son of America, or a son of England or France. Judaism is just my religion. My nationality and identity is an American, or a Frenchman, or a subject of the queen." His head is filled with reindeers, Santas, and virgin marys.
All I can say is "Thank G-d that I am a son of Israel, a Bnei Yisrael through and through."
"Thank G-d I am living where a Jew is meant to be."
"Thank G-d I am living in a place where there are only Hanukah decorations on the streets."
All I can say is "Thank you G-d for opening my eyes to see the truth. Thank you G-d for taking me out of America and bringing me to Your Land."
And as the Holiday of Lights approaches, I pray that G-d will lighten your eyes also, and let you see the darkness around you, and bestow upon you the miracle that He bestowed upon me by bringing me to His Holy Land where He wants all of His Jewish children to be.
The star of this week’s Torah portion is Yosef, who is called “the Tzaddik” because he conquered his sexual passion.
I can hear your groans, “Here he goes again with his hysterical warnings.”
In response, allow me to quote the opening sentences of the classic book, “The Path of the Just,” written by the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Haim Luzzatto:
“I have written this work not to teach men what they do not know, but to remind them of what they already know and what is very evident to them. But to the extent that these matters are well known, and their truths revealed to all, so is forgetfulness in relation to them extremely prevalent.”
Day after day, dressed in the most seductive outfits, the wife of Potiphar would approach the young Hebrew slave, Yosef, and beckon him to her quarters to lie with her. She would whisper immodest things in his ear. Yosef’s great test wasn’t just a onetime challenge. Egypt’s most beautiful woman kept after him for months on end, doing everything in her powers to cast her spell over him. On that fateful day when she threw herself at him with all of her charms, she made sure that she and Yosef were alone in the house. The only thing standing between Yosef and the forbidden act was his fear of G-d. His father and family were hundreds of miles away, he was in the prime of his strength, she was the most seductive woman in Egypt, and still he resisted.
What was his immediate reward? He was thrown into prison for years. What in heaven’s sake for? Rabbi Leon Levi answers: because in a moment of weakness, he thought about succumbing to temptation and actually lying with her, and Hashem punished him for that fleeting thought alone.
If Yosef was imprisoned and bound up in chains for that one little slip, what awaits Internet addicts like us for the times that we allow our eyes and thoughts to wander and view images we shouldn’t see?
In our time, the Internet is Potiphar’s wife. Every time we sit down at the computer, we are tested with the very same test as Yosef. Thousands of seductive women are just a quick click away. And who has the strength to resist?
For us, Divine assistance comes in the form of an anti-porn filter. Thank G-d, there are many on the market. Many can be downloaded for free. In Israel, the new Rimon filter is highly recommended. So grave is the danger of Internet watching that many Torah authorities have ruled that Internet surfing without an anti-porn filter is strictly forbidden. Rabbi Leon Levi calls it the greatest spiritual danger of our time. Viewing erotic pictures on the Internet, whether they be in ads, on the Yahoo home page, or in adult sites, cause a person to violate a long list of Torah commandments, including:
“You shall be holy, for I the L-rd your G-d am holy!”
“Thou shall not turn astray after your hearts and after your eyes which lead you astray.”
“Therefore shall your camp be holy, that He see no unclean thing in you and turn away from you.”
“And you shall guard yourself from every evil thing.”
“Do not turn astray after their gods!”
“Thou shall not bring an abomination into your house.”
If you have children at home, and you haven’t taken measures to guard their viewing habits, then you are also violating the Biblical injunction "not to put a stumbling block in front of a blind man."
And if you insist that gazing at women is a harmless endeavor, and that you haven’t done anything at all, please be aware that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and that this seemingly “harmless endeavor” severely damages a person’s connection to G-d.
So if you haven’t installed a censoring filter on your computer, install one now. Let that be your gift to yourself and to your children on Hanukah.
We live in a thriving Orthodox community in Monsey. New York. It offers the best in Jewish education for our children, a wide gamut of synagogue activities for the whole family, Torah classes throughout the day, and real joy during the Jewish holidays, all of which foster a sense of Jewish identity and pride. Why should we move to Israel where the influence of the secular Israelis is so pervasive, and where our spiritual (and physical) wellbeing will be jeopardized?
There aren’t any spiritual dangers living in America? Is Monsey so hermetic that you don’t feel the influence of the Christian culture that surrounds you? For instance, if you have to leave your shtetl at this time of year, aren’t you immediately confronted by Santa Clauses and mangers? And if my memory serves me right, wasn’t some synagogue in Monsey torched this past year, and a giant Chabad menorah vandalized? And aren’t there also secular Jews in Monsey, and in the surrounding towns and on the campuses where your children go off to college?
Furthermore, if you enjoy your life in the ghetto, we have dozens of Monsey-like communities in Israel that dwarf Monsey in size and in religious observance, places like Mea Shaarim, Geula, Ramot Dalet, Bucharim, Sanhedrin Muchevet, Romema, Har Nof, Bnei Brak, Betar Illit, Kfar Sefer, etc etc. In almost every city in Israel, there are Orthodox neighborhoods which offer everything you describe, with the added bonus of being in the Holy Land.
Don’t make the mistake of underplaying the holiness of the Land of Israel. Just look at the Torah portions that we have been reading. When our forefather, Yaacov, awakes from his famous dream, he realizes that he is in the “House of G-d” and at the “Gateway to Heaven.” Can Monsey boast that? And notice how the angels of the Land of Israel refuse to accompany Yaacov in his exile from the Land because of the spiritual impurity of the Diaspora. And our Sages teach us that Yaacov feared Esav, even though Esav was a wicked man, and even though Hashem had promised to guard Yaacov, because all the time that Yaacov was away, Esav had the merit of observing the commandment of living in the Land of Israel, which is equal in weight to all of the commandments of the Torah.
But beyond these reasons for living in the Land of Israel, I am afraid that your understanding of Judaism is off the mark. Judaism isn’t a private religion like Christianity, Protestantism, and the like, that can be bottle in a jar like gefilta fish.
Judaism is the national constitution of the Nation of Israel that is to be played out over the mountains and valleys of Eretz Yisrael. In addition to private individual commandments like tzitzit, tefillin, and keeping kosher, Judaism includes commandments for the Jewish Nation as a whole, like conquering and settling the Land of Israel, enlisting in the Jewish army, rebuilding the Temple, establishing the Sanhedrin and Jewish Monarchy, and keeping the agricultural mitzvot that are dependent on the Land.
The proper understanding of Judaism is that each individual Jew put his, or her, life in line with the goal of the Nation of Israel as a whole (the Clal), and not just live the private, ritual Judaism of the galut, stripped of our national essence. The Jewish People are to establish the Kingdom of G-d on earth, and this can only be accomplished in our national format in the Land of Israel, as it says, “For the Torah shall go forth from Zion, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem.”
To do this, the Jewish People must return in its entirety to Zion. This is the teaching of our Prophets, and the rebuilding of Israel has been the driving force of Jewish history over the last one-hundred and fifty years.
Take a look at our preliminary morning prayers to see that the goal of Judaism is to live a life of Torah in the Land of Israel, and not in Monsey, New York. After reciting the “Akeida” we ask G-d to remember the Brit with our forefathers and return us to the Land of Israel. We repeat this request over and over in the following dozen verses, which all have the same plea: “Bring us back to our Land, bring us back to our Land, bring us back to our Land (these verses are omitted in many prayer books published in the Diaspora).
A little further on, after the preliminary recital of the Shema, we ask Hashem to sanctify His Name in the world by granting us salvation. What is this salvation? Salvation from the exile. “Gather our outcasts from the four corners of the earth so that all the inhabitants of the world we recognize and know that that You are the exalted and unique one G-d over all the kingdoms of the globe.” How is this great sanctification of G-d to come about? Through our return to live in the Land of Israel.
To our great shame, we recite these verses, but fail to act on them. A Jew can hop on the train of Jewish destiny and join the ingathering, or he can make his last stop in Monsey, Melbourne, and Manchester, and become another nail in the coffin of galut.
The eyes of the whole world are focused on Israel because everyone knows that this is where history began, and this is where the unfolding saga of world history is destined to reach its climax. Let’s face it. Who cares about Jewish life in Monsey except for the handful of Jews that live there? Can you imagine an international website frequented by hundreds of thousands of readers: www.MonseyNationalNews? Of course not.
I strongly recommend that new and old readers alike look over some of the teachings of HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook and his son, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, regarding Judaism and the Land of Israel that we have posted on our jewishsexuality.com website. By and large, the leaders of Diaspora Jewry have hid their eyes, and the eyes of their congregants, from these teachings, but they illuminate the deepest truths about Judaism, and anyone who seeks to serve G-d with all of his heart, with all of his soul, and with all of his might will surely find great wisdom and enlightenment in encountering the magnificent, transcendental, and world sweeping picture of Judaism which they present.
I am a professional film producer based in NY who is looking to make aliyah. My only reservation in moving to Israel is the lack of a job. How can someone like myself who was very successful in the business (and never compromised his Yiddishkeit) make a living in Israel? I am not looking to make millions, just a living wage to support a family of six. Do you have any suggestions?
The issue of aliyah and making a living is a legitimate concern. The Zohar says that our forefather, Avraham, searched for the place in the world where he could get as close as possible to G-d. This burning desire of Avraham was the catalyst that brought G-d to command him, “Get thee forth to the Land that I will show you.” Rashi explains that the double language, “Lech lecha,” was to reassure Avraham that the move was for his ultimate good and that it would bring him and his descendents great spiritual and material blessing. After all, it is no small challenge and test of faith to give up your country of birth, social standing, and livelihood to move to another land. And indeed, at first, things did not go easily for Avraham. There was a famine in the land! But, eventually, Avraham became a very rich man.
This uncertainty, challenge, and difficulty is common to all olim. The word canaan, as in the land of Canaan, also has the meaning of humbleness and poverty. The lowering of one’s status is part of the immigration process, helping to break impure traits of pride and ego which prevent a person from getting closer to G-d. Aliyah means to go up, and therefore, the first and foremost goal of each new immigrant to Israel should be spiritual - to get closer to G-d. When a person holds fast to this goal, clinging to it at all times, even through periods of difficulty and change, G-d’s blessing flows in its wake.
In practical terms, when you first make aliyah, you indeed may not be able to make a living as a film producer. You may have to get to know the right people first, learn the language, etc. You may have to make videos of bar mitzvahs and weddings to have some income coming in before you make the bigger, professional films that you are accustomed to making. And it may turn out that you won’t be able to find a niche in the film business here, and you may have to change your profession. But always remember, “Is G-d’s hand too short that He cannot provide for you and your family?” Just like He provided for us in the Wilderness, He provides for us still today, each person according to what is best for his needs. Does a shepherd not provide for his sheep? Remember, “The L-rd is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” These reassuring words of King David should be your mantra during your passage and time of transition.
Hopefully, other readers will have some words of advice.
May you remain strong in your holy decision, and may Hashem bless you and your family in the great adventure ahead.
I have question regarding the proper attitude toward Medinat Yisrael, in light of the Oslo Agreement, the disengagement from Gush Katif, Amona, and the expulsion from the Peace House in Hevron.
I know that Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook taught that the statehood of Israel is holy, but for a long time now the government in Israel has been turning against Jews who don't conform to its secular agenda. Certainly, surrendering pieces of the land of Israel to the enemy isn’t holy behavior. It seems to me that by looking at the State of Israel as holy, this paralyzes us from taking the necessary steps to bring about the drastic changes needed to put things back on their proper Torah course.
As we have written in many blogs, there is a positive commandment of the Torah for the Jewish People to conquer and dwell in the Land of Israel. This commandment is repeated time and again in the Torah. The settlement of the Land of Israel is the foundation for all of the Torah. As the Ramban explains, the commandments were given to be performed in the Land of Israel. The Torah can only be observed in all of its fullness in the Land of Israel. So important is this mitzvah, our Sages have said that it is equal in weight to all of the commandments in the Torah.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook explained that conquering and dwelling in the Land of Israel means establishing a national state to impose Jewish sovereignty over the land. We are commanded to establish a Jewish State in the Land of Israel. Thus, Medinat Yisrael is holy in its being the vehicle which enables the Jewish People to perform this all-encompassing mitzvah.
But here a distinction must be made. Yes, Jewish statehood over the Land of Israel is a holy mitzvah. Nevertheless, governments may arise within the State that flagrantly transgress the Torah. While these governments may be corrupt and work in opposition to the true goals of the Jewish People as set down by Hashem in the Torah, they do not nullify the holiness of the State, which continues to enable the Jewish People to dwell in the Land of Israel.
A few examples may help shed light on his important distinction. Let’s say that a man erects a succah. On the second day of the holiday of Succot, hooligans show up and take over his succah. They kick him out and open a gambling hall in the succah. Now even though the succah is being used for evil purposes, gamblers can still sit in it and recite the blessing over dwelling in a succah. The succah retains its holiness even though it is being used in a sinful way.
Similarly, when the Greeks took over the Temple in Jerusalem and set up idols in the sanctuary, the Temple did not lose its holy standing. As soon as the Maccabees regained control, Temple services could continue as before.
In a similar way, the fact that hooligans have taken over the political leadership in Israel does not nullify the intrinsic holiness of the Jewish State. It is the political leaders and their governments who are corrupt. Not the State. For instance, if all of the religious in Israel would unite into one large political party that would attract a large block of voters, and if all of the faithful readers of INN would make aliyah, the tables could be overturned in swift fashion, and a Torah government could be established to replace the band of hooligans who have presently hijacked the State.
For our part, we must do all we can to bring about this turnaround by opposing the hooligans at every turn, without giving in to weariness or despair. This isn’t a simple task for the faithful readers of INN have a hundred excuses for not making aliyah, and the religious parties have a hundred excuses for not joining together. In the meantime, the hooligans continue to damage and destroy. But just like the Hellenists of old, their downfall will come, and Hashem’s promise to the Jewish People will be fulfilled, “For Torah will go forth from Zion and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.”