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Life Lessons with Judy Simon
Torah Tidbits Audio
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.
Tammuz 2, 5771, 7/4/2011
First of all, you may think you are an American, but you’re not. You are a Jew. You are a member of the Nation of Israel. It may say that you are an American on your passport, but in G-d’s eyes you are an Israeli – a displaced citizen of Israel, an Israeli refugee in someone’s else’s land, an Israeli whose great great great grandfather was exiled from the Land of Israel, thrown out by the Roman usurpers, thieves who pillaged the country and stole the heritage of your forefathers.
You are as much an American as German Jews were German, and Soviet Jews were Russian. Sure, America has found a more gentile way of exterminating you, but it’s all the same. No, it’s even worse. At least, the Jews of Germany and Russia eventually woke up to the myth they were living, as if they were real Germans and full-fledged Russian citizens. The only difference is that in America, they’ve discovered a new way to get rid of the Jews, by accepting them to death.
The Jews of Brooklyn and Monsey might holler, “Hey, it’s all hunky dory with us!” But that’s like a man who’s lost his arms and legs, trying to convince you that everything’s all right. “I’ve still got my head,” he insists. The fact remains that the Jewish People are dying out in America. So what’s there to celebrate on the 4th of July?
If you think this is your capital, something is out of whack with your Jewish identity.
How it pains me to see the kids who come on the Birthright trips. Of course, I am happy they’re here, but they’ve been so pasteurized, homogenized, Americanized, that they hardly know that they’re Jews. They don’t know how to read Hebrew. They don’t know how to say Kiddush. They don’t know their left from their right, nor their right from their left. From birth, they were lied to, brainwashed, and duped into saying the Pledge Allegiance to the flag of America and believing that making lots of money was the main thing that mattered.
Let me give you an example. This past Shabbat, we hosted a couple of guys from the Birthright program. The moment I saw one of them, call him Tony, I was reminded of myself back when, an all-American poster boy trying my hardest to pretend that I didn’t have a Jewish nose. I ushered the guys inside with a big grin and Israeli bear hug, as if they were my long lost brothers. Tony was going to college in Colorado, where grass was legal and available in every corner grocery, he said. He was a good-looking guy, with long hair, pony-tailed in back with a cookoo, muscular, with a practiced cool demeanor, so typical of Jewish American kids who try so hard to fit in. While I was asking them some preliminary questions, he showed me a photo of his dog and his girlfriend, Cindy, a shicksa if I ever saw one. The other two guys were more the straight type, so I concentrated my blitzkrieg on Tony. I use the term blitzkrieg because these guys have been deceived all of their lives, and I have only two hours with them to set their heads straight, so I have to give them all I’ve got.
First, I give everyone a full glass of sweet wine at the Kiddush. Then, once the meal starts, I bring out a new bottle of dry wine and explain the blessing “HaTov V’HaMativ,” and fill up their glasses again. “Hey, this is really cool!” they say, realizing that they’re in for a good time. When they’re gobbling up the spicy Mediterranean salads, I give each guy a bottle of beer. “Colossal!” they say, really beginning to feel relaxed. While they’re drinking, I tell them about their great great great grandfathers, how they came from the Land of Israel, and how we were all Israelis until the Babylonians and Romans expelled us from our Land. I transport them through history, telling them that every time we tried to be good Persians, or Spaniards, or Germans, or Russians, the goyim always reminded us we were Jews and that we didn’t belong in their lands. Then, before my wonderful wife serves the main course, I bring out my special bottle of etrog liqueur. The other two guys were smart enough to politely decline, but Tony was all for it. “This is humongus!” he said. “This is the best time I’ve had on this trip!”
With a big, “I love you, Tony,” smile, I pour out a solid shot glass of the power-packed Golan Heights liqueur and slide it over to my guest.
“L’chaim,” I say, downing a shot glass myself.
“L’chaim,” Tony toasts, shlushing it down his throat. Within seconds, his face turned pink and his forehead started to sweat. “Oh, wow,” he exclaimed. “This stuff is cool.”
He looked like Joe Frazier, after he’d been tagged the twentieth time with a stunning Ali combo. I could see that he was dizzy, and trying to keep his cool, but his cheeks were burning, as if he had eaten a hot potato.
That’s when I show them my old Hollywood picture.
“Wow, that’s really you?” they always marvel.
Then I tell them that, once upon a time, I was just like they are today, trying to live the big American lie, trying to be as cool and good looking as all the goyim, working out with Schwarzenegger at the sports club, cruising around LA in my spots car, prowling the discos at night, making believe that everything was as dynamite as could be, but feeling empty and lonely and all screwed up inside, just like I knew they felt because that’s how a Jew has to feel when he grows up in a foreign land, pretending to be someone he isn’t, living an alien culture, contorting his precious holy Jewish soul into the caricature life of a Davy Crocket, Sylvester Stallone, Donald Trump impersonation, when all the while the Jew inside is screaming for redemption, no matter how many uppers and downers and joints and booze and shrinks and perverted somersaults he performs like a poodle who’s dressed up in a baby suit and taught to jump through a hoop.
While the other guys started wolfing the aromic main course, Tony was still reeling from the liqueur. I could see he was doing his best to follow my every word, but he was already on the ropes. So I poured myself another shot of the holy elixir and offered him one too. He knew he shouldn’t, but he wanted to show me he was as macho as I was, so he accepted. This time I thought his eyeballs would pop out. I made sure he ate a little something, because it was Shabbat, and the hospital is a long walk away, and I didn’t want him drinking on an empty stomach. As usual, the other guys asked me what movies I wrote in Hollywood, but I brushed aside their questions with a wave of the hand. My wife, great partner that she is, explained that I didn’t like to talk about movies on Shabbat, because of the special holiness of the day.
Then I spoke about the Torah, how it’s our true culture, giving them a tour of all the hundreds of books in our living-room library, explaining how it’s been denied them all of their lives, their true identity, until they were programmed to sing the Star Spangled Banner with tears in their eyes, get stoned on New Year’s like all their heathen friends, and celebrate the 4th of July.
“What’s wrong with celebrating the 4th of July?” Tony asked.
That’s when I stand up from the table, walk into the kitchen, open the freezer, and take out the chilled and frosted bottle of “Arak,” a liquorish-tasting liqueur a little like Ouzo. The alcohol is so cold and concentrated, it goes straight to brain like a 10,000 watt electric charge. I poured myself a full shot glass, downed it with a smile, and handed one to Tony. The good sport gulped it down innocently. Then BOOM! His head trembled, his eyes fluttered closed, and he swooned off his chair. My little son was waiting with a throw pillow to cushion his fall. I’ve got my family trained. While I knelt down on the floor with the Birthrighter, my wife and older sons kept the conversation going with our other guests. In the beginning of the Birthright program, my wife didn’t like my antics, and she would get angry at me, but when she saw that it was all needed to break down the walls and walls of defensive barriers that these kids are encased in like vaults, she became a true helpmate in my efforts.
“Tony? Do you hear me?” I asked, sitting beside him under the table.
“Yeah. Wow. You’re such a cool rabbi.”
“Tony. Repeat after me. I’m not an American!”
“I’m not an American!” he said.
“I’m not an American!” I shouted louder.
“I’m not an American!” he yelled.
“I’ve been lied to all my life!”
“I’ve been lied to all my life!”
“I’m an Israeli!”I barked
“I’m an Israeli!” he echoed.
“I’m an Israeli!”
“Oh, man. You’re blowing my mind,” he said. “I don’t believe it. I’m an Israeli! My whole life’s a big lie. I’m a Jew. I’m an Israeli. I’m not an American at all!”
Once again, he looked like he was going to faint. Quickly, I whipped out the small sack of smelling salts I keep in my pocket whenever we entertain. Immediately, his eyes opened wide.
“Noam,” I called to my son, the soldier. “Bring me your rifle!”
Quickly, my son rose from the table, went into his bedroom, and returned with his big, sci-fi looking Tavor automatic rifle and laser night scope. Normally on Shabbat, we give the rifle a rest, but this was a case of saving a life, so I pulled Tony into a sitting position and put the rifle in his arms.
“I don’t believe this,” he said. “This is so friggin cooool.”
“You’re an Israeli!” I told him. “Not an American wimp!”
“I’m an Israeli,” he said proudly, hugging the rifle.
“You want to live in Israel!”
“I want to live in Israel!” he agreed.
“You want to study Torah!”
“I want to study Torah!”
“I’m fed up with America’s crap!”
“I’m fed up with America’s crap!”
“I want a Jewish girlfriend!”
“I want a Jewish girlfriend!”
Then I stood up and pulled him to his feet. Strapping the rifle over his shoulder, I grabbed his hands and started singing. “Hava negilla, hava negilla….” I figured it was the only Israeli song he knew. My sons brought the other Birthright guys over to join us, and we all danced a happy “hora” in the middle of the living room. “Hava negilla, hava negilla….” Around and around and around.
The guys had a great time. By the time they left, satiated with delicious, homemade desserts, they were all pickled out of their minds. I sent my army boy with them to show them the way back to their hotel. I gave them all a big loving hug and escorted them out the door. At the top of the stairwell, I gave Tony a real kick in the rump. Not in the Jewish side of him. I kicked the American imposter. As it says, “A time to speak, and a time for a good kick in the rear.” He tumbled down a few stairs and looked back up at me with a big happy smile.
“Thanks, Rabbi Fishman,” he said. “Thanks for such a colossal Shabbat. You’re the first person in my life who’s ever told me the truth. I’ll never forget you.”
I don’t know if Tony will end up living in Israel. But if he marries a Jew instead of his American Cindy, then the hangover I’ve had until now will be worth it.
Tags: Jewish World