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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.
Yes, there are problems and difficulties in the Land of Israel, but there were even greater challenges in the times of Avraham and Yehoshua, yet G-d told them to live in the Land.
The Almighty commanded Avraham to go to the Land of Israel even though idol worship was rampant there. He commanded Moshe to take the Jews to Israel even though all of its inhabitants were immoral savages. At that time there wasn’t even one kosher pizza parlor in the country, yet G-d still insisted that the Jews pack up all of their belongings and move there. Jewish Law states that a Jew is always to live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority of inhabitants are idol worshippers, rather than live in the Diaspora, even in a city like Monsey or Boro Park, where the majority of inhabitants are Jews. Not making Aliyah to Israel because the government is corrupt, or because salaries are smaller, or because police beat up settlers, or because there is a danger of war, or because the Mashiach hasn’t come, is all a huge excuse. One of the reasons Mashiach hasn’t come, is precisely because the Jews of the Diaspora have not responded to G-d’s resounding call to the Jewish People to come home and help in the rebuilding of the reborn Jewish State. You can squawk all you want to response, but this is the truth.
This week’s Torah portion tells the story of the Spies in the wilderness, and the tragic failure of the Jewish People to follow G-d’s command to journey on and go up to the Land of Israel. We will briefly recount this painful episode of our history in order to make it clear that this same sin of the Spies hangs over our heads today, in our failure to abandon the flesh pots of galut and come home to our Land.
Needless to say, our words are not aimed at the devoted readers of Arutz 7 throughout the Diaspora, all of whom are passionate Zionists, lovers of Eretz Yisrael, who would certainly rush home to Israel if not for their businesses and commitments to their local Jewish Community Centers, country clubs, and shuls.
The Torah relates that following the Exodus from Egypt, ten of the nation’s leaders were chosen to infiltrate the borders of Israel and spy out the country’s cities, inhabitants, and terrain, on the eve of our entry into the Promised Land. Only two of the spies, Yehoshua and Calev, returned with a brave and optimistic report, their hearts brimming with an unshakable faith in G-d and a towering love for the cherished Land. The other Spies discouraged the people with their alarming stories of fortified cities and unconquerable giants, recounting that they felt like grasshoppers in comparison to the colossal inhabitants of the Land.
Hearing the report of these grasshopper Jews, the spirit of the people was broken. Wailing from fear in their tents, the people refused to heed G-d’s commandment to journey on into the Land. After all, if the leaders of the wilderness Jewish community disagreed with the plan of the Almighty, who were the people to say otherwise?
Yes, they believed in G-d in general, but not in the matter of coming to Israel. Because of their rebellion against Him, it was decreed that the generation would all perish in the wilderness, save for the faithful Yehoshua and Calev, the young children, and the women who were all willing and ready to go had their husbands possessed the inner mustard to meet the challenge.
The Zohar teaches that the scholarly, intellectual leaders who did not want to venture into the Land discouraged the people for selfish, personal reasons. They understood that once the nation was in the Land, a new type of leadership would be needed, leaders who were energetic in working the Land and fighting in its defense. They felt that in journeying on to Israel, they would lose their prestige as elders of the community. Thus, they convinced the people that it was better to stay where they were in the wilderness where they had jars of gefilte fish, bagels and lox, and the Wall Street Journal miraculously delivered to their doorsteps each day. Why abandon their luxurious air-conditioned shuls where they could daven and study Torah in comfort? Why leave their country clubs where they could play golf, tennis, and swim all year round under the weather-proof dome of the Clouds of Glory? Why give up this wilderness paradise for the hardships of war, insect-ridden swamps, and the backbreaking work of plowing and harvesting the Land?
So it remains today. Since the rebirth of the Israel, only two out of every ten Jews have heeded the Divine call of the Torah and returned to Israel. The rest have chosen to remain ensconced in the wildernesses of exile, in the laps of foreign lovers and foreign lands, enjoying the curse of galut, while leaving the work of rebuilding the Jewish Homeland to their brothers and sisters in Israel. When confronted with their failure to move to Israel and take a share in the holy endeavor (excluding the readers of Arutz 7) they whine and complain about the dangerous heathens in the Land, and the lack of true "Yiddishkeit," and the governmental corruption, and the burdensome taxes, and homosexual parades, and a long list of other feeble, transparent excuses for not coming.
The famed and respected Torah giant, the Gaon of Vilna, taught that the sin of Spies haunts the Jewish People throughout all generations and that many are caught in its self-deceptive web, including Diaspora leaders. "Many of the transgressors in this great sin of, ‘They despised the cherished Land,’ including many of the guardians of Torah, will not know or understand that they are caught in this sin of the Spies, will not sense that they have been sucked into the sin of the Spies in fostering many false ideas and empty claims. And they cover their beliefs with the already proven fallacy that the commandment of settling the Land of Israel no longer applies in our day, an opinion which has already been proven false by the Torah giants of the world, both the early and later halachic authorities" (Kol HaTor, Ch.5).
Print out this blog and circulate in your shul. E-mail it to friends who don’t read Arutz 7. Ask them to take a good look at themselves and be honest. Let them ask themselves to which camp they belong? The camp of Yehoshua and Calev, or to the camp of the Spies?
Yes, there are problems and difficulties in the Land of Israel, but there were even greater challenges in the times of Avraham and Yehoshua, yet G-d told them to live in the Land. Tell your friends to take a good look in the mirror. What do they see staring back?
And if they ask you, "Why don’t you live in Israel, buddy?" Tell them that you read Arutz 7 instead.