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"THE LAND OF THE FREE" AIN'T AMERICA, BROTHER

By Tzvi Fishman
4/11/2007, 12:00 AM


Rabbi Kook writes that a man can be physically free yet have a slave mentality. This is the situation of the Diaspora Jew. As long as his identity is centered and saturated in the foreign culture where he lives, he has not yet internalized the lesson of Pesach.

Rabbi Kook writes that a man can be physically free yet have a slave mentality. This is the situation of the Diaspora Jew. As long as his identity is centered and saturated in the foreign culture where he lives, he has not yet internalized the lesson of Pesach.

Rabbi Kook explains: "Intrinsic freedom is the exalted spirit whereby a man, and the nation as a whole, is inspired to remain faithful to his inner essence. But a person with a slave mentality lives life and harbors emotions rooted not in his essential spiritual nature, but in that which is attractive and good in the eyes of another, who thus rules over him, whether physically or by cultural persuasion."

For example, on one of my last trips to America, before my parents came on Aliyah, I went to pray in the Orthodox synagogue in their Florida town and noticed a flyer on the bulletin board. The headline read, "THIS SUMMER VISIT OUR NATION’S CAPITOL WITH THE RABBI." The photo on the flyer showed the Capitol building in Washington D.C. Excuse me, dear reader, if you be one of those who are clinging on to the galut, but one of the lessons of Pesach is that our nation’s capitol is not Rameses, Cairo, or Washington D.C., but Jerusalem. If the summer visit to WDC is the education that the rabbi of the Orthodox shul in Florida, and American Jewish parents, are giving their kids, then they are dooming them to a mentality of slaves. By teaching that Washington D.C. is our nation’s capitol, they are enslaving them to a foreign identity and to all of the non-Jewish values and ideas that America fosters. For instance, while I was in Florida, my parents took me along on a visit to their accountant. The man’s fourteen-year old son took me into his bedroom to show me some pictures he took on a vacation in Israel. On the wall were posters of Rocky, a sexy model whom I didn’t recognize, Bob Marley smoking a joint, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in his muscle man days. This was the nonsense that filled his head. Growing up in a gentile country, he naturally identified with the gentile heroes around him. He may have learned some Yiddishkeit in Hebrew school once or twice a week, but in the onslaught of American pop culture, the lessons of our holy Jewish Sages went in one ear and out the other. For him, Israel was a cool place to visit, like a Jewish Disneyland, nice for a vacation, but since he was a proud American boy, why should he even bother to think about living there?

On another trip to visit my parents, I traveled via Toronto where I had been invited to give a few lectures to the Jewish community. On Shabbat afternoon, I arrived early to one of the Orthodox synagogues and browsed through the local Jewish community newspaper. On the front cover was a picture of the Toronto skyline and the headline: "LOOKING FORWARD TO ANOTHER DECADE OF JEWISH LIFE IN TORONTO." I took the newspaper with me into the lecture hall, held it up for everyone to see, and said, "What is going on here? A Jew is supposed to look forward to the next decade of Jewish life in Jerusalem, not in Toronto. Isn’t that what we vow at the end of the Passover Seder – ‘Next year in Jerusalem’? I have the feeling that if Mashiach came now, it would spoil all of your plans."
Our task on earth is to sanctify the Name of G-d in the world as a holy NATION, and this can only be done in our own Jewish homeland, not in Florida, Toronto, Monsey, or anywhere else.

The sad truth is that Orthodox Diaspora Jewry is founded on a total misunderstanding of Judaism. Diaspora Judaism truncates the Torah by removing its national character, reducing Judaism into a religion like the gentile religions around them, whereby you have your national identity as an American, Frenchman, or German, and your religion is something separate - rituals and holidays that you practice at home and in church. Your identity, cultural values, language, and allegiance are all American, and your religion is Catholic, Christian, Protestant, or Jewish. When it comes to Judaism, this is a tragic distortion. Judaism is not merely a religion. The Torah is the CONSTITUTION for the national Jewish life of the Jewish People. Judaism is much more than kashrut and kiddush on Shabbos. Judaism is our national, political charter, containing laws for the king, the army, the Sanhedrin and Jewish courts. In the center of Judaism stands the Jerusalem Temple, where the Jewish Festivals are to be celebrated, including scores of laws for our national worship, comprising a third of the Mishna. Judaism encompassing countless laws regarding our national Jewish economy, including unique laws for agriculture in the Land of the Jewish People. It turns out that two-thirds of the Mishna deals with the national Jewish life of the Jewish People in Eretz Yisrael. The Torah is the blueprint for building a Jewish NATION in the Jewish Land. We are not to be individual Jews, or Jewish communities, scattered around the globe in other people’s lands. We have a Land of our own, with a Jewish constitution of our own, and with a mighty culture of our own. Our task on earth is to sanctify the Name of G-d in the world as a holy NATION, and this can only be done in our own Jewish homeland, not in Florida, Toronto, Monsey, or anywhere else. In short, a Jew is not to have a Steppinfetchit mentality with dual loyalties, always worried about what the others will think, having to keep up with the Joneses, and to live in the same multimillion-dollar houses as they do and drive the same expensive cars. This is not freedom. This is slavery.

As Rabbi Kook proclaims: Let this year’s Seder night message of freedom ring out in our ears, in the ears of our brothers and sisters throughout the exile: "Now we are slaves – next year we shall be free men." Let this great call awaken the collective voice of the nation in all of its dispersions, to proclaim from the depths of its soul, "Now we are here – next year we shall be in the Land of Israel!" This is our freedom and the message of the holiday of Pesach – to be a free people in our own Jewish Land.