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Good News, Bad News

By Tzvi Fishman
8/24/2008, 12:00 AM

One day, an old friend phoned me and said, “I have good news to tell you and bad news – which do you want to hear first?”

“The good news,” I said.

“I’m getting married,” he happily announced.

“What’s the bad news?” I asked him.

“She’s a shicksa,” he answered.

I tried to explain to him the tragedy to his decision, how their children wouldn’t be Jewish, and what a serious transgression it was in itself, blemishing the Holy Covenant between the Jewish People and Hashem. But he wouldn’t be swayed.

“I know that what you are saying is true,” he admitted. “But our sex is fantastic.”

Over the years, we continued to keep in touch, and maybe because of the badgering I always gave him, he decided to become a baal t’shuva. He took his repentance seriously, taking a sabbatical from work to study day and night.  He koshered his kitchen, kept all the stringencies of Shabbat, and was among the very first to pray at the synagogue every morning. How happy he was to have returned to his roots! But he didn’t give up the shicksa. “I can’t,” he confessed to me. “Our sex is too fantastic.”

To what is his situation analogous? To a Diaspora Jew who does t’shuva, but continues to live in some foreign land. He returns to the Torah, performs all the mitzvas he can, sends his kids to Heder, but continues to live in a gentile land. Perhaps a part of his head has done t’shuva, but his body and heart are still wallowing in the cesspool of an alien land. He says he loves the Torah, but he can’t bring himself to give up his foreign lover, the gentile land and culture that he is married to in his heart.

But I love her.

In fact, he doesn’t understand the Torah at all. Because over and over and over again in the Torah, Hashem tells the Jews to live in Israel. He pretends that when he recites the blessing after meals, when he thanks G-d for the food and for the Land, the Torah is talking about America. He pretends that the daily prayers to come back to Zion are just words on a page. He likes to think that “Next year in Jerusalem” is just an expression. He persuades himself that all the stories in the Torah about the Jews living in the Land of Israel are Biblical history that has no bearing on his life. He is just like my old friend who did t’shuva, yet still lives with his gentile wife.

This coming Elul, may we all do t’shuva shlema, a complete and honest t’shuva, by returning to G-d all the way.