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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.
Cheshvan 7, 5769, 11/5/2008
Let’s face it. It doesn’t matter whether the President of the United States is Black or White. Blacks hate the Jews, and Whites hate the Jews. What’s the difference? And it doesn’t matter if the President of the United States is a Moslem or a Christian. Moslems hate the Jews, and Christians hate the Jews. What’s the difference?
The White House Ain't White No Mo
A prophecy in the Book of Daniel describes the four gentile kingdoms that will rule over the world after the destruction of Jerusalem, until the Kingdom of G-d is established by the revitalized holy Nation of Israel (Daniel, 7:1-28).
In Daniel’s nocturnal vision, he sees four frightening beasts, one after the other, which take center stage in the parade of world history. The first three represent the empires of Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The final and most terrifying of the creatures, combines all of the previous kingdoms and engulfs everything in its path:
“After this, I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and exceedingly strong, and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and crushed its adversaries into pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet…and it had ten horns with another small horn….” (loc. Cited).
This fourth monstrous beast represents Edom/Esav – the Roman Empire , including Christianity and all of its metamorphoses, up to the German, Russian, and American superpowers of modern times. Commentators differ in explaining the horns. The Abarbanel identifies the small horn as the Church, while Rav Sadia Gaon connects it to Islam. The Rambam explains it as Christianity, describing it as a new religion that copies the Divine religion with a so-called prophet who declares many haughty things.
At the end of the vision, the blasphemy and falsehood of the arrogantly speaking horn evokes G-d’s anger for having led mankind astray from the one and only true path, and the “high holy ones of the Most High” (Israel) are called forth to vanquish the raging beast. The blasphemy and falsehood which has led mankind away from G-d by denying the Torah and rejecting its commandments must be brought to an end. The anarchy where every man decides for himself what is right and what is wrong has shrouded the world in a plague of darkness and immorality. The world is to be revolutionized not by a beast, but by a nation possessed with the holiness of the Torah and its Divine truths.
In an essay based on this vision, Rabbi Kook calls the deceitful leaders of this last bestial culture “forgetters of G-d in their hearts, carrying His Name on their lips, upon their mouths and tongues” (Orot, 2:8).
Rabbi Kook writes:
“The total annulment of all of today’s cultural machinations, with all of their lies and deceit, with all of their evil pollutions, and their venomous poisons, is sure to come. This entire culture, which praises itself with melodious lies must be erased from the world, and in its stead will be established the kingdom of the high holy ones.”
Rabbi Kook is not coming to negate all of world civilization. Science, technology, literature, and art all have their place. But when the world’s advancements are not lifted up to the service of G-d, they fall into material and moral corruption (See the book, “War and Peace,” Teachings of Rabbi Kook, commentary by Rabbi David Samson and Tzvi Fishman, Ch. 8).
Tolerance is indeed a Jewish concept, but there can be no tolerance for widespread evil. The G-d of the Jewish People is a zealous G-d, abhorring falsehood, idolatry, adultery, and the evils of Western culture. There is no room for tolerance when speaking about cultures that turn their backs on G-d’s holy law. They are enemies of G-d whose cultural roots are founded in evil. For the word of G-d to be established in the world these false cultures must be erased.
Rabbi Kook continues:
“Israel will see with its own eyes the retribution of the wicked, and will march upon the destruction of those who boast of new forms of paganism, just as we trampled upon the remains of Babylon and ancient Greece. Then it will be known and proven that only in Him, in the G-d of Israel, is there salvation. And the salvation of G-d will certainly come” (Ibid).
Cheshvan 5, 5769, 11/3/2008
The Sages of the Talmud have some criticism of Noach. Yes, he was righteous in his generation, but if he were to have lived in Avraham’s time, he wouldn’t have been considered anything special. He was a Tzaddik, but a Tzaddik for himself, as the verse insinuates: “These are the generations of Noach – Noach.…”
Yes, he did what Hashem told him to do. He built the ark, and if someone came by and asked, “Hey, bro, what the heck are you doin’ building that one big mother of a boat?” he would answer that Hashem told him to build it because a Flood was coming. But he didn’t go from place to place to warn people like Avraham would have done. He didn’t go out of his way to teach the generation the wickedness of their ways. That’s why the Flood is referred to as the “waters of Noach,” inferring that his lack of active outreach was the cause of the subsequent disaster.
And just what was the terrible sin that brought about the destruction of the world – the spilling of semen in vain. Hey, wait a minute! The Torah doesn’t say that? Where is it written?
In many places, the Torah is discreet in its language. It teaches us in codes. These are the secrets of the Torah, which were revealed to us by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and set forth in the holy Zohar. The Zohar explains the verse which describes Noach’s generation by comparing it with another verse in the Torah that describes the sin of Er and Onan. Regarding the moral collapse in Noach’s time, the Torah relates: “And he L-rd saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that all the impulse of the thoughts of his heart was only evil (rah) continually” (Bereshit, 6:5). Later it says, “And G-d looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt (nishchetah), for all flesh had corrupted (hishchit) its way upon the earth.
Regarding Er, the Torah states: “And Er, Yehuda’s first born, was evil (rah) in the eyes of the L-rd, and the L-rd slew him (Bereshit, 38:7). His brother, Onan, received the same Divine punishment for engaging in the very same sin. What sin was it? He spilled his seed (shichet) on the ground. From the use of the same words “rah” and “shichet” we learn that the sin that brought about the flood in the time of Noach was the widespread spilling semen in vain (Zohar, Bereshit 66b).
Had Noach gone around speaking to different communities to warn people of the dangers of sexual transgressionת and to call upon them to turn back from their evil ways, he might have prevented the Flood. Instead, he kept quiet, and busied himself with building the ark.
In our time, who can say that sexual transgression isn’t as widespread as it was in the days of Noach? But who hears anything about it? Where are the rabbis of our modern Orthodox communities? Why aren’t they screaming out at the top of their lungs, urging their congregants to dress more modestly, separate the men and women at bar mitzvahs and weddings, stop subscribing to Playboy, and download filters for their computers? Instead of warning the generation of the dangers of sexual sin, by and large, they are busy building their shuls.
True, in Israel, Rabbi Leon Levi, has been warning of the danger for years, going from city to city, night after night, to educate the generation. And a group of religious Zionist rabbis have recently waken up and called for parents to install safe filters for home computers. To give them credit where credit is due, Haredi rabbis have taken the wise step of banning Internet outright. Let’s be honest – out of every ten homes with Internet hook-ups, in at least in six or seven, someone is hooked on porn.
6 houses out of 10
We are not blaming the rabbis for starting the problem, but the rabbis are our spiritual leaders, and it is our task in the world as Jews to rectify the sins of Adam and the generation of Noach by upholding the banner of sexual holiness. This is the covenant between Hashem and Avraham, to safeguard the Brit, a mission that has been stamped in our flesh with the seal of the King, the holy brit milah, which symbolizes our higher, holier mission of sanctifying the sexual urge in the sanctity of marital relations, between lawfully married husband and wife, in this way and this way alone, in accordance with the teachings of our Sages and the Torah. In this matter, each and every one of us can clean up his act, bring Mashiach closer, and return the strength of the Jewish People which has been scattered around the globe due to our sins.
What do you say about that?
Cheshvan 4, 5769, 11/2/2008
The preoccupation with politics is the idol worship of our time. It’s also a colossal waste of time and money. All of the focus on politics takes people away from focusing on G-d.
It is all one huge Golden Calf. Instead of serving Hashem, people put all of their thought and energy into the addiction with candidates and platforms and elections, as if it is politicians who decide what will be in the world, and not Hashem. Let’s face it - Bibi and Tzippi and Ehud and McCain and Alabama are all the same. So stop wasting your time with politics. Put your energy into Torah and settling the Land of Israel. That’s the real way to make the world a better place.
Tishrei 30, 5769, 10/29/2008
I can hear the scorners now. For their sake, I advise them to take a vacation from this blog and to purvey their sarcasm elsewhere. Warning: it is not a wise practice to ridicule the teachings of our Sages.
Someone wrote to our jewishsexuality.com site with the following question:
“Why make such a fuss over sexual transgression? You don’t find websites dedicated to the prohibitions of stealing, or slander, or having a barbecue on Shabbat. What’s so bad about a little hanky panky?”
We will base our very general answer on the Torah portion of Bereshit, which we read in synagogue last Shabbat. Readers who would like to learn more about the subject are invited to explore the underlined links. Others, who would rather not face the seriousness of this subject to the Jewish People and the world, can skip this blog and stick to INN’s team of excellent political commentators.
What's so wrong with a little hanky panky?
While all transgressions of the Torah damage both the transgressor and pollute the world as a whole, the consequences of sexual transgression are especially devastating. After all, it was a little “hanky panky” that brought about man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. In addition, as our Sages teach, it was sexual transgression that brought about the Flood in the days of Noach. And it was primarily sexual transgression that led to the destruction of the Temple and to the exile the Jewish People from the Land of Israel, for, as the Talmud teaches, the Jewish People never believed in idols, but rather pretended to worship them just to take part in the sexual immorality that went hand-in-hand with their worship (Sanhedrin 63a).
And, in our time, to a very great degree, it is sexual transgression that is delaying the rebuilding of the Temple and the coming of Mashiach.
As everyone knows, there are deeper meanings to the Torah than the simple reading of the text. For instance, Rabbi Kook emphasizes that the story of Creation is not be taken literally as a scientific account of the beginning of the world, but rather it is to be understood as a metaphor teaching us important moral principles, including the basic understanding that G-d is the Creator and King of the world, and that we are to follow His commands. Similarly, the holy Zohar teaches that the primordial sin was much more than eating the “forbidden fruit.” In effect, eating the “forbidden fruit,” in defiance of the will of G-d, caused the moral decline that led Adam and Eve to sexual sin. In G-d’s original plan for the world, the sexual act was to be experienced without animal lust. But the serpent’s (the evil inclination’s) temptations caused Adam and Eve to fall from their heavenly level. Instead of waiting for the supreme holiness of Shabbat to engage in the act of marital relations, their sudden moral impurity drove them to engage in the act while it was still day, before the sanctity of Shabbat had set in. Thus their serpent-inspired lust blemished the supreme holiness of their union, bringing about a detachment from their exalted connection to G-d, and their expulsion from the Garden (Tikunei Zohar, 16, Folio 31a). Because Adam and Eve were the pinnacle of Creation, their sin also blemished all the world, causing a distancing of the world from its Creator and Source. Ever since, mankind has been trying to get back to the ideal existence symbolized by the Garden.
It should be of special warning to Internet aficionados that the first sin was caused by a seemingly casual act of viewing, as it says, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good….” Without delving into the secret meaning of the text, mankind’s downfall was brought about by the eyes. Unto this very day, how many countless victims fall prey to the same wandering after their eyes by viewing erotic sites on the Internet! No one is free from this temptation, as we learn from the continuation of the Bereshit story. Even angels, upon seeing the beauty of the women on earth, fell from their celestial standing (Bereshit, 6:4). Without a safe Internet filter, (and entrusting the code to one’s wife,) no man is immune from the danger.
Unfortunately, Adam was not able to rectify his sin completely and lead the world on a holier path, as the Torah portion relates, “And Hashem saw that the wickedness of mankind was great in the earth, and that all the inclination of his heart was only set upon evil all the day” (Bereshit, 6:5). The Zohar explains that the sin of the generation was the wanton spilling of semen in vain, even publically without any shame (see Zohar, Bereshit 56a). The Talmud and many other Torah commentators concur that the sin that led to the Flood in the days of Noach was rampant sexual immorality (Sanhedrin 57a; and see Ibn Ezra, Rashi, Radak, Sforno on Bereshit 6:11-12, and Zohar, Bereshit, 57b).
There's more to life than politics
Thus, once again, the downfall of mankind came about through sexual transgression. Unfortunately, even though Noach was righteous and guarded the laws of sexual holiness, he was not able to stem the continuing immorality of mankind after the waters of the Flood receded from the earth. This task fell upon Avraham and the Jewish People when they entered into the Covenant of the Brit. From that moment on, the Jewish People were commanded to guard their lives in sexual purity and to be an example of this exalted standard to the world.
With G-d’s help, we will write more on this theme in the next coming weeks. In the meantime, it is worth thinking about these very first basic lessons of the Torah, and applying them to ourselves, for upholding the covenant of sexual holiness constitutes the foundation of our lives, both individually and for the Jewish Nation as a whole.
Tishrei 29, 5769, 10/28/2008
When I said that I wasn’t going to call Diaspora Jews names like Couch Potatoes, Cry Babies, Bed Wetters, Squawkers, Modern Day Spies, Grasshoppers, Toy Soldiers, Monday Morning Quarterbacks, Sideline Kibbitzers, Cyberspace Jews, Internet Jews, Virtual Jews, Two-Faced Galut Lovers, and Chickens, I didn’t mean that I would no longer use catchy expressions. An oddball can live anywhere. They come in all shapes and sizes. So don’t start hollering that Fishman has started again.
For instance, only an oddball could maintain that Medinat Yisrael isn’t a Jewish State. You could say that it isn’t yet the Torah State that we all hope for, but it certainly is Jewish. Our Sages teach us that the Hebrew word for a Jewish community is “TZIBOR,” whose letters stand for Tzaddikim, Benonim, and Rashaim. A Jewish community contains righteous religious Jews (Tzaddikim,) average religious Jews (Benonim,) and wicked Jews (Rashaim.) The fact that there are Rashaim in a Jewish community does not cancel its Jewish standing. On the contrary, Rashaim are a fundamental ingredient of the community. Similarly, Rashaim are an essential part of a Jewish prayer congregation, which is not considered complete without Rashaim. We learn this from the spices that were blended together in preparing the incense for the Temple altar. If the incense did not contain the foul-smelling spice chelbenah, it was not considered fitting for the service. This is also the reason why we include the aravot (willow branches) with the four species during our lulav wavings. The aravot, which represent the Jews without Torah or good deeds, are considered a necessary part of the Jewish Nation.
So while the major candidates for Prime Minister in the upcoming Israeli elections are nothing special to write about, at least they are Jews. Thank G-d, I don’t have to vote for a gentile, like my brothers in the Diaspora. In the Jewish State, the top candidates are Jewish, and in the Diaspora, the top candidates are gentiles. (If you don’t like Bibi, you can vote for Marzal.) For that difference alone, every proud Jew should be living in Israel.
The Rambam states that the only difference between the time of galut and the days of the Mashiach is that in the days of Mashiach Jewish sovereignty will be restored over the Land of Israel (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 12:2; also Talmud Berachot 34b).
That time is now. So to all of my oddball friends, be patient, and come join in the process - the Jewish State is the holy, necessary, and Divinely-ordained first step toward the Torah State that will soon burst forth like a magnificent budding flower before all of our startled eyes. Not apart from Medinat Yisrael, but from within Medinat Yisrael itself.
Blossoming out of the weeds