Birthright On My MInd
Tzvi FishmanBefore making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter....
The last few Shabbats, the Birthright/Mayanot Program has been sending guys over to our house for the morning meal, as part of their free, ten-day tour of Israel. Yesterday, after waiting a half hour, when they failed to show up, we started to eat. I was describing to my children what happens if a child turns away from the Torah, G-d forbid, after his family has guarded it for thousands of years. Since it is a man’s mission in life to pass the Torah down to his children, if a child abandons the teaching of his father and marries out of the faith, then in a very real sense, the father has failed in his mission. Since the father has failed, then the grandfather has failed, and the great grandfather after him. I gave an example of dominoes, whereby one falls and knocks down all the others. The family chain is cut off. The line of generations upon generations is broken. Thousands of years of love and allegiance to Torah is lost.
To drive the point home, I let out a scream, the scream of generations, the scream of grandfathers and great grandfathers and great great grandfathers all the way back to Yaacov and Yitzhak and Avraham. I screamed at the table, at the top of my lungs, for almost a minute.
Just at that moment, the three young Birthright visitors arrived at my doorstep. Startled by the scream, they were afraid to knock. When the terrifying scream continued and continued, they were about to bolt. Just then, the son of a neighbor came by and knocked on the door. When I opened it, I found the three Birthrighters standing outside, tongue tied. With a warn handshake and bear hug, I herded them in. After guiding them through Kiddush and HaMotzei, and filling up their plates with mountains of home-cooked food, I explained to them why I had screamed. Repeating the story, I screamed again, just as loud and long as before, to get the point across to them what their estrangement from the Torah was doing to their grandfathers and grandmothers in Heaven.
Then I told them about the Jungle Story, about the shipwrecked boy who is raised by apes and grows up thinking he is an ape too. That’s what happens to Jews like them who grow up in America – they think they’re Americans and forget that they’re Jews. It could be that their parents told them they were Jews, and they’ll say that they’re Jews, but they don’t know what being Jewish is all about. That’s why the Birthright founders send them to Israel – to give them an adrenaline shot of Jewishness in the hope that they won’t marry gentiles. But they don’t mention the Torah on the trip, so I have two hours with them to jam four thousand years of Jewish history and Torah down their throats along with my wife’s potatoes and chicken. (They knocked off a bottle of wine while I was at it.)
Then, so they don’t think I’m some crazy old man with a beard, I show them my cheesecake glossies from Hollywood when I tried to look as gentile and American as Paul Newman, to let them know I was there once upon a time where they are today, in no-where’s land, and that my kids are growing up speaking Hebrew in Israel because in addition to touring the country, I deleted the movie-screen reels of American lies and refilled my brain with the hundreds of holy Jewish books on the shelves of our living room library, especially the shelf with the volumes of books written by Rabbi Kook which explain how the tiny Torah of galut has been transformed into the colossal Torah of Eretz Yisrael in our time with the re-establishment of NATION OF ISRAEL in the LAND OF OUR FOREFATHERS.
Surprisingly, at the end of the meal, they always thank me and tell me what a great time they had learning what hapless dummies they are. Now I know that Americans are polite and they’re trained to say things like that, but these guys really mean it. Why? Because, finally, someone told them the truth. At least most of them seem to truly appreciate my efforts. There are always the diehard Americans who are totally shocked and appalled by my non-stop bombardment, which makes Israeli air strikes on Gaza look like the cheap Chinese fireworks that they are.
The truth is, even though these poor jungle boys don’t know anything, and even after four years in the best American colleges, studying all kinds of books, they have never seen a Chumash or Gemara in their lives. Most of them can’t read Hebrew, and they know nothing about the Israeli-Arab conflict, since it literally plays absolutely no part in their lives, but even with all of their innocent ignorance, they are still a lot closer to true Judaism than the readers of this blog who think they know what Judaism is all about from the mind-warping distortions they’ve learned in the Diaspora. At least the heads of the Birthright visitors are blank. Once you get them to realize that they’ve been duped by their parents and forced fed non-kosher American sausages and bacon all of their lives, once they realize they are as American as the Chinaman who runs the corner fruit stand, once they realize that they don’t know who they really are at all, at least then you have something to work with. Once you blow away the house of cards of their phony American identity and make them realize that George Washington isn’t their forefather, and introduce them to Avraham Avinu and the rest of the glorious tribe, then you can teach them what real Judaism is. But for someone who thinks he already knows, and believes that Judaism is a religion like Christianity and Buddhism with its private, ritual service of G-d, and who rejects coming to Israel because it would mess up his game plan, well you can talk to him until you’re blue in the face and write hundreds of blogs, but his head is so polluted with his solipsistic foreign ideas and aspirations, he’ll never catch on that Judaism isn’t just another religion but a NATIONAL CONSTITUTION for a HOLY NATION that has its own HOLY LAND, and that it involves a lot more than eating bagels and gefilta fish in America and getting picked drunk after shul on Shabbat.
Our Birthright isn’t visiting the Land of Israel. It’s living here. It isn’t reading Israel National News. It’s making Israel National News by being here.
I hope you understand the difference.