Tzvi FishmanBefore making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter....
To catch up on other matters that we couldn’t write about over the holiday due to the prohibition against writing (true, the halacha allows the writing of novel Torah insights that might otherwise be forgotten over the holiday, but for a mere blog, this heter is dubious) let’s take a look at last week Torah portion of Achre Mot.
At the end of the portion, we learn that the Land of Israel is not like other lands. The Land of Israel has a living, holy soul that cannot tolerate sexual transgression. In response to sexual transgression, the Land of Israel spits out its inhabitants. The revered Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, explains that this is the main cause of “yerida,” whereby an Israeli leaves the Land of Israel and becomes what is called a “yored,” or “yordim” in the plural. The yored thinks that he or she has made his or her own decision to abandon the Land, but, in truth, the Land has vomited them out into exile for having polluted the holiness of the Land due to the impurity of their deeds.
If you ask why isn’t every sexual violator spit out of the Land, the answer is that the calculations of G-d are balanced between good deeds and bad, and He alone decides when and how the judgment will fall upon the sinner. For instance, while a person may have many sexual sins, he may possess a great love for the Land of Israel that outweighs his sexual misdeeds. Or it could be that even though a person isn’t a big sexual offender, he is always complaining about life in Israel, so the Land spits him out for that.
Let me give two examples. A short time after I had made aliyah, I met an acquaintance from New York who had also recently moved to Israel, but who told me that he was going back to the States. When I asked him why, he explained that before he had made aliyah, Israel Aircraft Industries had promised him a more advanced job than his position in America. But when he arrived in Israel, they could only give him the same level job he had in the past because of budget problems. “Why should I stay here when I can get paid almost double in the States for doing the same job?” he explained.
The very next day, I met another friend from New York, who also informed me that he was returning to live in America. It turned out that his boss had been caught in an embezzlement scam and all the people he had hired were fired, including my friend. Even though my friend had been offered a very good job at another firm, he decided to pack his belongings and call it quits.
At the time, I was lodging in Jerusalem at the home of a saintly, 80 year old woman who was one of the secret Tzaddikim of the Holy City. I had not come on aliyah with any savings, having blown my screenplay money on the vices of Hollywood, and this kind woman was happy to take me on as a non-paying boarder. When I asked her why G-d hadn’t worked things out for my two friends in a more successful fashion, especially since they had made the very idealistic move of immigrating to Israel, she answered: “They placed their careers over their love of the Land. A Jew has to set Jerusalem above his greatest joy. They think that they are rejecting Israel, but Israel is really rejecting them.”
Incidentally, the same thing applies to Jews in the Diaspora who speak out against Israel and even try to dissuade other Jews from immigrating to the Land of Israel, G-d forbid. They think they are rejecting Israel, but in truth, Israel is rejecting them. The Land of Israel does not want egocentrics like this to live in her borders, so G-d blinds them from recognizing the supreme essentialness and beauty of living in the Land, letting them see only external sides that are lacking perfection.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, explained this with a parable. He said it was like a girl who was set up with a date with a guy whom she knew wasn’t for her. So she dressed up in dirty, smelly garments so that he would feel turned off. While he thought that he was rejecting her, in truth, she was rejecting him. So too, G-d, in His kindness lets a Jew believe he is rejected the Land, but it is really the Land that is rejecting him.