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      Hollywood to the Holy Land
      by Tzvi Fishman
      Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Creativity and Culture

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      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.


      Iyar 16, 5772, 5/8/2012

      50 REASONS to make Aliyah

      50 Reasons to Make Aliyah

      A few people challenged me to list 50 reasons to make aliyah. No problem. Here it is. Like I mentioned, from now on, I’ll be blogging at The Jewish Press, in the blog "Felafel on Rye," so after your daily fix at INN, if you want an injection straight into your veins, I’ll be sharpening my needles there. 

      50 Reasons to Make Aliyah

      1. To get closer to G-d.

      2. To fulfill the Torah commandment to live in the Land of Israel.

      3. To perform the mitzvot in the place they were meant to be performed, and not in a place where we do them as reminders, so that will still remember how to perform them when we return to the Land.

      4. To live in the Land of our Forefathers.

      5. To live in the Land of Prophecy.

      6. To live in the Land that Hashem promised to the Jews.

      7. To break free from being a despised stranger in gentile countries.

      8. To escape gentile cultures and the spiritual pollution of the Diaspora, which clouds and distorts pure Jewish thinking and prayer.

      9. To play a part in the ingathering of the exiles.

      10. To play a part in Israel’s Redemption.

      11. To play a part in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

      12. To actualize our daily prayers to return to Israel and thus be true to the words that I pray.

      13. To make my wish, “Next year in Jerusalem” a reality.

      13.  To have a government of Jews.

      14. To have a Jewish army.

      15. To live in a country according to the Jewish calendar.

      16. To live in a country where the official language is Hebrew.

      16. So my children won’t intermarry.

      17. So my grandchildren won’t intermarry.

      18. So my great grandchildren won’t intermarry.

      19. To forget about Xmas.

      20. To erase the Chillul Hashem of living in a foreign land, where the gentiles mock G-d, saying that He doesn’t have the power to keep His People in Israel.

      21. To live amongst Jews.

      22. To live in the place here prayer ascends to Heaven.

      23. To live in the place of the Shechinah, the Land that Hashem watches over from the beginning of the year to the end.

      24. To live in the Land where Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov lived and are buried.

      25. To live in the Land where every place I walk earns me a higher place in the World to Come.

      26. So my children will grow up to be proud Jews.

      27. So my children will grow up without dual identities and schizophrenic complexes.

      28. Because Israeli women are the real thing, not trying to be like shiksas, and Israeli men aren’t teenagers who never grow up.

      29. Because Israeli mothers still cook meals for the family.

      30. Because there is more Torah in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

      31. Because there are more Torah Gedolim in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

      32. Because there are more frum communities in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

      33. Because there are more yeshivot, heders, Talmud Torahs, religious colleges and schools for girls in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

      34. Because the Kohanim bless the congregation each day.

      35. Because of the extra mitzvot you can only do in the Land.

      36. To become a bigger Jew, ready to give up “the good life” in the Diaspora in order to become a building of our Nation in our Land, even if it means sacrifice, rather than living a small solipsistic life motivated by my own personal interests and pleasures.

      37. To live in a place where my taxes support yeshivot, Tzahal, Jewish charity organizations, terror victims, Jewish hospitals, the city of Jerusalem, the ingathering of the exiles….

      38. To be near Jerusalem.

      39. To be near the Kotel.

      40. To be in the place where the Jewish holidays are natural to the climate of the Land.

      41. Because of the beautiful biblical scenery.

      42. Because the food is great with the most delicious kosher pastries and cakes in the world.

      43. Because you can get bagels there too.

      44. Because radio broadcasts begin in the morning with “Shema Yisrael.”

      45. Because of the modern apartments and fantastic villas.

      46. Because of the thriving economy.

      47. Because Israel’s an international leader in high-tech.

      48. Because of the excellent medical care.

      49. Because of the respect for the elderly.

      50. Because that’s where I truly belong and where G-d wants me to be.

      Is there something I missed? 

      Iyar 14, 5772, 5/6/2012

      The 50 Top Excuses for Not Making Aliyah

      I wrote this for Facebook, but it's too good not to share. From now on, I'll be blogging at The Jewish Press.com. See you there!

      The 50 Top Excuses for Not Making Aliyah

      1. Israel is too hot.

      2. Israel is too cold.

      3. The taxes are too high.

      4. I won’t be able to make a living.

      5. I don’t want to serve in the army.

      6. I don’t want my children to serve in the army.

      7. The Israelis are rude.

      8. I hate getting elbowed.

      9. You can’t find a real bagel.

      10. The cream cheese stinks.

      11. The pastrami is lousy.

      12. They don’t have real rye bread.

      13.  I can’t leave my parents.

      14. No baseball.

      15. I’m afraid to drive there.

      16. I’m afraid of the Arabs.

      17. I’m afraid of my mother.

      18. I can’t learn Hebrew at my age.

      19. The Israelis make fun of American accents.

      20. The State of Israel is traf.

      21. There’s preetzut all over the place.

      22. They kicked Jews out of their homes in Gush Katif.

      23. They hate the Orthodox.

      24. There’s only one golf course.

      25. It’s too far away from the Caribbean.

      26. You can serve Hashem anywhere.

      27. My girlfriend doesn’t want to leave her parents.

      28. It isn’t written in the Torah.

      29. The Gedolim say we don’t have to go.

      30. I’m waiting for Moshiach.

      31. I don’t want to leave my psychiatrist.

      32. I don’t want to leave my neurologist.

      33. I don’t want to leave my hair dresser.

      34. The toilet paper is too thin.

      35. The bathrooms are too small.

      36. There’s no central heating.

      37. There’s no wall-to-wall carpeting.

      38. I’ll miss Xmas shopping.

      39. I can’t stomach humus.

      40. Falafel

      41. They won’t accept my wife’s conversion.

      42. I don’t know anybody there.

      43. No one knows me.

      44. I won’t be able to find a job as a Rabbi.

      45. I still have to pay off college depts.

      46. You can’t get the NY Sunday Times.

      47. The move will be too traumatic for my dog.

      48. Iran is building a nuclear bomb.

      49. I’m proud to be an American Jew.

      50. Hashem wants us to stay in exile – otherwise He wouldn’t have put us here.

      Did I miss anything?

      Unfortunately, the list goes on… and on… and on….


      Iyar 5, 5772, 4/27/2012

      One Last Blog for the Road

      In this week’s Torah portion of Kedoshim, we find the supreme mitzvah,  

      “You shall love your fellow as yourself” (Vayikra, 19:18), which Rabbi Akiva called a great rule of the Torah.

      Though some professional talkbackers claim that I hate my fellow Jews, the exact opposite is the case. Everything that I write is out of a pure and unbounded love for my brothers and sisters, to alert them of the dangers of straying from the paths of Torah, just as a bystander calls out when he sees a blind man heading for a dangerous cliff.

      Therefore, “Set em up, Joe.” Here’s one last blog for the road. And though we have covered this material before, it is certainly good to repeat it, because of its great importance.

      In our time, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook is especially famous for his love for the secular pioneer builders of the Land. Today, when secular leaders in Israel are often engaged in the very opposite, including the destruction of Jewish settlements and the surrendering of large tracts of our homeland to enemies set upon our destruction – what is to be our orientation toward these fellow Jews?

      (In the same breath, we can ask, what is to be our relations to our beloved brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, who have alienated themselves from Judaism completely, or adopted pseudo paths, or versions of “Orthodoxy” which have removed the ingathering of the exiles and building a Torah Nation in Zion as the goal of the Torah, as if it is a mitzvah which belongs to somebody else?)

      I love all Jews with a towering love!

      Rabbi Kook taught that, “The heart must be filled with a love for all” (Midot HaRayah, Ahavah, 9). This love, he wrote, must encompass all of G-d’s creation, non-Jews and Jews alike. He explained that his unbounded love for the Jewish People stemmed from his birthright as a Kohen. It can also be attributed to his immersion in the secrets of Torah, which finds unity and goodness in everything. It was precisely in a Jew’s connection to the lofty and ever-pure soul of Knesset Yisrael, the encompassing Community of Israel, past, present, and future, that the inner holiness and worth of every Jew can be found. Rabbi Kook taught that even the sinners of Israel, as long as they identified themselves with the nation, albeit in distorted fashions, were worthy of unreserved love.

      “The pious of the generation, lofty holy men, must disregard any deficiency or flaw in every Jewish soul that is in any way attached to the Rock from which it was hewn. Instead, they must raise the point of connection to Clal Yisrael (the Community of Israel) that exists in every individual soul to its heights and exalted holiness. Nothing can diminish the unlimited love for the nation, the source of our life, as it says: ‘He has not seen beheld iniquity in Yaacov, nor has He seen perverseness in Israel'” (Orot, Orot HaTechiyah, 24).

      The antagonism of the Ultra-Orthodox zealots against Rabbi Kook’s positive outlook toward the national contributions of the secular pioneers led to many distasteful personal attacks against him, including his being hung in effigy in a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem.

      Once, on the way home from a brit milah in the Old City, a group of zealous Ultra-Orthodox Jews attacked his entourage and threw sewage water all over Rabbi Kook. Later in the day, the Attorney General of the British Mandatory Government visited Rabbi Kook to express his anger over the shameful deed and to persuade the Rabbi to file a criminal suit against the perpetrators. Rabbi Kook replied: “I have no interest in legal actions. I love them despite what they did to me. I love them so much that I am even prepared to kiss them. My entire being burns with love for every single Jew!” (“An Angel Among Men,” Pg. 300).

      Rabbi Kook’s followers often beseeched him to strike back at those who sought to besmirch him and belittle his greatness in Torah.

      “With all of their wickedness,” he wrote, “As long as they cling to the collective of the nation (Clal Yisrael), they are included in the verse, ‘Your people are all righteous’” (Yisheyahu, 60:21; Orot HaTechiya, 20). Rav Kook explained that this outer wickedness served to fortify the strength and faith of the righteous, who must struggle against this darkness by adding more light.

      “Ahavat Yisrael,” Rav Kook stated, “and the work of stressing the good in the Clal, and in the individual, isn’t simply work on the emotional level alone, but a great occupation of Torah, and a profound reach of wisdom” (Orot, Orot Yisrael, 4:1).

      “It is a great and enlightening task to totally remove anger from the heart and to feel unlimited compassion and kindness, to gaze upon everything with a favorable eye, even upon the actions of the most wicked, in emulation of the pure Divine eye, to feel compassion for those sunk in the mire of evil, and to find some good in them” (Orot HaKodesh, Vol. 3, Pg. 326).

      While criticized for his towering tolerance, Rabbi Kook saw the shortcomings of his generation as much as anyone in his time. Nevertheless, he sought to find merit in every Jew – the sign of an enlightened leader. In the chapter on Hasidut in the book, “Mesillat Yesharim,” the famed Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, writes: “These are the true shepherds of Israel, whom the Holy One Blessed Be He greatly desires, those who sacrifice themselves for His sheep, who petition and actively work for their peace and benefit in all of their endeavors, and who forever stand in the breach to pray for them, in order to nullify stern decrees, and to open the gates of blessing for them.”

      “The great love that we feel for our nation does not shut our eyes to its blemishes,” Rav Kook wrote. “Even though loving mankind encompasses everyone, and sometimes an evil person also falls into this general love, this doesn’t in any way interfere with hating evil” (Orot, Orot Yisrael, 4:3).

      Rav Kook taught that hatred should only be directed toward the evil and filth in the world. “It is proper to hate a corrupt person only for his defects, but insofar as he is endowed with a Divine Image, it is necessary to love him. We must realize that this precious dimension of his worth is a more authentic expression of his nature than the lower characteristics that developed in him through the circumstances of his life” (Midot HaRayah, Ahavah, 9).

      While Rabbi Kook’s love for the Jewish People knew no bounds, one should not think that he was some sort of liberal, reform rabbi who believed that everyone was free to do his own thing, G-d forbid. On the contrary, he harshly condemned desecrations of the Torah and did all he could to inspire transgressors to mend their ways. For instance, he writes, “Whoever undermines, through the proliferation of ideas, and, all the more so, through deed, the holy idea which vitalizes the Nation, he is a traitor to the nation, and to pardon him is folly” (Letters, 93). When Eliezer Ben Yehuda, restorer of the modern Hebrew language, wrote an article claiming that the Jewish People “have turned their backs on their past, and that is our praise and our glory,” Rabbi Kook wrote a long, scathing response, “Let him dream to his heart’s content, but when he attests publicly that all of us are dangling limbs like him, and that we have all turned our backs on the past which is the source of our lives, we are obliged to protest and make known that not our hearts, but his, issued these words that shame the dignity of Israel” (Letters, 18).

      In protest to the widespread desecration of Torah in the country’s towns, cities, and kibbutzim, Rabbi Kook penned a passionate appeal: “Turn back, turn back children! Return to the spirit of our people, to the Torah of G-d, the Rock of Israel. Keep the Sabbath free of desecration and turn your hands from all evil. Can it be that we have no other occupation and calling in life, in the Land of Israel, than to pursue the worst customs of other nations, so that we will be a derision to our enemies? Is being carried away by all kind of dances, constantly wasting money and time on motion pictures, and the like, what we lack these days? Must our women follow the most immodest fashions, just to imitate the ways of a dying Europe, and bring them brazenly into this ancient Holy Land, thus shaming the glory of its rebirth and majestic life? And our tables are becoming disgusting, carrion and forbidden foods are eaten in public without any feeling of shame. How can we be as one person, in a bond of brotherhood, if you destroy the most basic foundations which unite us, if you continue to ferment the stench of separatism, which festers fraternal hatred and despair? (Articles of Rav Kook, “Wounds of a Lover”).

      Rabbi Kook warned that the lack of brotherly love in the Jewish Nation causes disunity which weakens the nation, and jeopardizes our continued settlement of the Land. The rifts we see today, whether between political parties, between the religious and the secular, or within the religious world itself, are divisions which prevent us from working together in unison to pull the wagon of nationhood out of the mud. This can only be rectified, Rabbi Kook taught, by an active and encompassing love.

      What was true in Rabbi Kook’s time is true for us today. We have to love our fellow Jews and bring them close to the Torah. And when we see our brothers and sisters straying from the life-giving pathways of Torah, because of a lack of learning or true understanding, whether in the Land of Israel, or in the darkness of exile, we have to warn them and help them to see the error of their ways, precisely out of the great love for them which we feel in our hearts.



      Iyar 2, 5772, 4/24/2012

      Going Down Swinging

      Since INN has yet taken down my blog page, I’ve decided to post one last entry, so that people will remember that I went down swinging.

      Lately, I have been reading a lot of Internet articles critical of Israel, so I decided to respond to one that appeared in The Times of Israel. Here’s what I wrote:

      In his current interesting and informative article “Why Live Here?” Ariel Beery writes about two friends who made aliyah, then left Israel to live in Boston “where it is easier to earn a respectable living, to pay the rent without going into debt; where one can be a Reform Jew without having to apologize and jump through the Rabbinate’s hoops. Twenty years ago this couple may have been labeled “yordim,” and the Zionist movement in Israel would have said it was their personal failure to integrate. But today’s Israeli society justifies them, comparing life in Israel to life in major cities around the world — and finding Israel wanting.”

      While it is certainly desirable that Israel become the most booming job center and modern, market place in the world, I would like to offer a more spiritual look on the matter.

      Almost 30 years ago, during my first year in Israel, very much like Mr. Beery’s experience, I bumped into two friends on the streets of Jerusalem who told me that they were returning to live in the States after a short try at being olim. One explained that he had been offered an attractive job at Israel Aircrafts, but when he arrived in Israel he discovered that the company was struggling with budget cuts and could only give him a post similar to his old one, at half of the salary he had been making in the States. So, with a heavy heart, he decided to pack up his bags and leave.    

      My other friend had been working some time at Hebrew University. Unfortunately, his boss was caught in an embezzlement scandal and all the staff whom he had hired, including my friend, were fired. When I reminded him that he had been offered good jobs in several other places, and that he could surely find work, he replied that his patience was up – he was going back to New York.

      At the time, I was living at the house of a saintly old lady who was letting me stay in a free room in her apartment until I could find something more permanent. I told her about my two friends and asked, “How can it be that G-d throws problems in the path of sincere, idealistic people who come to Israel with the best of intentions, so much so that they get discouraged and decide to leave?”

      The old lady’s name was Serafin Trokman, of blessed memory. She had come to Israel from France as a little girl, fought in several wars, a raised her family in Jerusalem. Her two sons were high-ranking army reserve officers, and her daughter worked for the Mosad. The spirited eighty-year-old woman had piercing green eyes which brought you back to the Biblical days of our Forefathers, and the wrinkled lines of her face seemed to have witnessed the long and tormented history of the Jews.

      “For over 2000 years, the Jewish People have been dying for Jerusalem,” she answered. “The stones of her streets are steeped in our blood. When a person comes to Israel, and especially to Jerusalem, G-d tests him. G-d wants to know if he loves Jerusalem more than anything else. Your two friends loved their careers more than they loved Jerusalem. So the Land vomited them out. They think that they were rejecting Israel, but really Israel was rejected them, as King David said, ‘If I not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.’”

      When a person chooses Boston or San Francisco over Jerusalem, it isn’t Israel which is lacking – it’s him.

      Now I’m not talking about people who can’t find the means to get by in Israel, no matter how hard they try – I’m speaking about those people who can find work but don’t want to sacrifice. That’s what I wrote at the Times, but I would like to add here that, in my opinion, the same holds true for the habitual degraders of Israel who constantly find things wrong with life in this country while they sit and read what’s happening here on their computer screens in the Diaspora. It’s not they who are rejecting Israel – it is Israel which is rejecting them.

      As we learn at the end of this week’s Torah portion, Achrei Mot, unlike other places in the world, the Land of Israel has a living soul which vomits out its unwanted. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook explained this with a metaphor, when speaking about people who abandon Israel to live outside the Land.         

      “It is similar to a girl who was offered a shidduch,” he said. “Before the date, she discovered that she knew who he was and she wasn’t interested at all in meeting him. But she didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so she didn’t wash for several days, didn’t comb her hair, and dressed up in disheveled garments for their meeting. When he saw her, he was repulsed and couldn’t wait to end the date and get away from her. He thought that he was rejecting her, but in reality, it was she who was rejecting him.”

      “It’s the same way with the Land of Israel,” Rabbi Kook said. “G-d doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, even the “yordim” who leave the Land, so he brings things about to make Israel seem unpleasant in their eyes, so they think it is they who are rejecting the Land when, in fact, it is the Land which is rejecting them.”

      The Gemara tells us that no one is more honored in Heaven than the brave souls who sacrificed their lives for their brethren in the Land of Israel. On this Memorial Day, may their memory be for a blessing.   


      Nisan 18, 5772, 4/10/2012

      Thanks For The Memories

      Rabbi Kook teaches that the Exodus from Egypt was not a one-time historic event in the life of the Jewish People, but rather an ever-continuing process of birth and redemption that finds renewed expression at this time of the year. For me, this spirit of rebirth and renewal stirs me to reach out to new audiences this year, in new ways and different channels, in order to bring the light of Zion to brothers and sisters still lost in impure lands of exile and material darkness.

      First, I would like to thank Israel National News for giving me the opportunity these past few years to spread the light of Torat Eretz Yisrael to readers who have never been exposed to the true light of the Torah in all of its national fullness, and for being able to clarify the overwhelming centrality of Eretz Yisrael to Jewish life, as compared to the tragedy of Jewish life in the Diaspora. We are also thankful for having had the privilege of alerting our holy brothers and sisters to the dangers of Internet surfing and for being the first to discuss the subject on the web.

      Last week, with the infinite kindness of G-d, we had the great joy of seeing our eldest son married, and we hope to have another three weddings this year. Accordingly, my free time to write blogs is limited, and I will be devoting, G-d willing, more hours to translating (for parnassah) books which deal with the revitalized national identity of Am Yisrael in our time of Redemption and with the great mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael. For the time being, my ocassional essays will appear on the new “Times of Israel” website, which has agreed to publish my words and even allow me to post an ocassional link to my books.

      So thanks for the memories. I hope that I have illuminated some lives with my writings, and brought fellow Jews closer to Torah and to the Land of Israel. May Hashem soon return all of His People to Zion and ingather the scattered from the four corners of the earth – even the most melted and glued couch potatoes, however difficult that task may be.

      Thanks for the memories