Our Sages teach us that the air of the Land of Israel makes a person wise. In the same light, the air of Hollywood fills a person’s head with Looney Tunes. That is why my truly dear Friend from Hollywood can write that the Jews of Israel should come to live in America where the Orthodox communities are thriving. My Friend from Hollywood is happy with his life in a foreign land. He sends his children to Yeshiva, he learns his page of Talmud each day, he sings his jingle of Moshiach on Shabbat, and every morning, bagels and lox appear miraculously on his doorstep, just like the manna in the Wilderness. It doesn’t matter to him that 50-60% of the Jews of America are assimilating all around him. That’s their problem. He has his little Orthodox enclave and his jars of gefilta fish. Nothing could be better.
Indeed, it is a lot like the Spies in the Wilderness. They too decided it was better to stay in the desert of Sinai, rather than continue the journey to Eretz Yisrael. After all, all of their material needs were provided for from Heaven, leaving them free to practice their Judaism to their heart’s content. In the Land of Israel, they would have to become farmers, and soldiers, and build cities, and do all the hard work by themselves. What would become of their Yiddishkeit? Besides, there were scary giants in the Promised Land. So they told Moshe, “No thanks,” we have decided not to journey any farther. We are perfectly happy with our Orthodox community here in the wilderness. We will join you in Israel after the Moshiach arrives.
To judge them in a favorable light, they wanted to be free to learn Torah, and avoid the exhausting, dangerous, and time-consuming work of establishing the Jewish nation in its own Land. Nevertheless, for all of their righteous intention, G-d didn’t agree with them. The purpose of Judaism is to establish the Kingdom of G-d in the Land of Israel, and not to eat bagels and lox in the Wilderness. “You have dwelt long enough in this mountain, turn away and take up your journey… go in and possess the Land” (Devarim, 1:6-8). Again, Moshe rebukes them, saying, “You would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the L-rd your G-d” (Ibid, 1:26). Though they were Torah scholars and leaders of the community, they lacked true faith, and refused to follow the L-rd’s clear command, as it says, “In this matter, you did not believe in the L-rd your G-d” (Ibid, 1:33). In what matter? In the matter of dwelling in the Land of Israel, which our Sages state is equal in weight to all of the commandments of the Torah - because it is only in Israel that the Torah can be actualized in its true national essence, and not just as a community of wilderness Jews in someone else’s land.
In their desire to keep the spiritual side of the Torah alone, and not actualize the Torah in its earthy dimension by taking an active part in the building of the Jewish nation in the Land of Israel, the Spies caused the death of the generation in the Wilderness, and planted the roots of our future exiles in the deserts of Diaspora Jewry, where OrthoConservadox communities continue to pick and chose their mitzvot, saying, “This one pleases me, and this one doesn’t.”
And in regards to my Friend’s assertion that there are spiritual dangers in living in Israel because of the secular Jews, are there no spiritual dangers in Hollywood? What can we do - the Almighty has chosen to bring the Jewish People back to Zion through the vessel of a secular state. A secular state that gives tax money to Jewish hospitals, and poor Jewish people, and Haredi children, and yeshivot, and that also builds mikvahs, and synagogues, and aliyah centers, and leads the way in the supreme mitzvot of gathering the exiles from the four corners of the globe, and in defending the Jewish People from enemies at home and abroad. This is a sanctification of G-d’s Name, not the opposite. Yes there are problems in Israel. But whereas we are like sick hospital patients on the way to recovery, the Jews of the Diaspora are like patients in terminal wards.
My dear Friend from Hollywood does not agree with me because his head is filled up with all kinds of distorted Looney Tune cartoons of Moshiach who will fly down from Heaven on a winged stallion and will build highways, electric plants, industries, farmlands, and cities ready-made with a wave of his wand.
What can you expect? My friend has a head made in Hollywood. Let me try to explain. Lifetimes ago, when I was a beginning baal t’shuva in Hollywood, I heard that Rebbe Yisrael Odesser was in town to raise money for the publication of the books of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Rebbe Odesser was the holy Tzaddik who received the famous “Na Nach Nachman” letter from Rabbi Nachman. So I went to hear him speak. Someone asked him why the skies of Los Angeles were so polluted with an almost constant orange black cloud? “We have to understand that everything physical has a spiritual counterpart,” the ninety-year old Rebbi explained. “The terrible immorality and spiritual pollution in this city manifests itself in the physical pollution of the air above.” Rebbe Odesser didn’t frequent discos and the bars of Sunset Strip. His keen spiritual radar sensed it.
Therefore, my beloved Friend in Hollywood – beware. This polluted spiritual air enters your lungs and circulates through your bloodstream. When it seeps into your brain, it turns it to mush, like gefilta fish in a jar.
In the more lofty language of Rabbi Kook, “Revelations of holiness, on every level, are clean in the Land of Israel; while outside of the Land, they are mixed with abundant dross and impure husks” (Orot, 1:4).
That’s why my good friend’s thinking is so screwed up. He has smog on his brain. Kosher food isn’t enough for a Jew. To be mentally and spiritually healthy, the air that a Jew breathes has to be holy too.
This polluted spiritual air enters your lungs and circulates through your bloodstream. When it seeps into your brain, it turns it to mush, like gefilta fish in a jar.
My holy brothers and sisters in Israel, please help me explain these truths to my friends in Hollywood, Monsey, Johannesburg, and Marseilles. Perhaps my style is too attacking and blunt. Instead of 20 comments to this article, there should be 2000 coming from you out of Israel. Let all of our friends in the Diaspora know the tragedy of their thinking. Like the steady droplets of water that can bore a hole through a boulder, your words, tempered with wisdom and love, have the power to penetrate even the fossilized brains of the golus. Let this blog be your shofar. Speak out! Speak out! Speak out!