Tzvi Fishman and the Holy Land
Tzvi Fishman and the Holy LandCourtesy

Each week on Shabbat the Haftorah reading comes to teach us important messages contained in the Torah portion. For example, we read in the beginning of the Haftorah of Bereshith, "Thus says the Almighty G-d Who created the heavens and vaulted them, Who spreadeth out the earth (HaAretz) and that which comes forth from it, Who gives a soul unto the people upon it and a spirit to those who walk therein." (Isaiah, 42:5).

Our Sages teach that the word "HaAretz" refers to Eretz Yisrael and that only in the Land of Israel does the Nation of Israel have a spirit and soul. (See the “Sfat Emet” Parshat Massei, 5650). Outside of the Land our nationhood is shattered, and we exist as scattered limbs, individuals in alien lands, lacking our national Israelite spirit or soul, somewhat like zombies. (see the Sfat ). For this reason, in the Book of Psalms, King David refers to the Land of Israel as “the Land of life.”

On an individual level, Jews can be outstanding writers, artists, musicians, doctors, inventors, businessmen, and statesmen wherever they live on the globe, but the Israelite Nation can only come to life in the Holy Land. Thus in the last one-hundred years, with the ingathering of millions of Jews to Israel, Hashem restored the mega-soul of the Nation and the State of Israel was miraculously reborn, rapidly developing into one of the most powerful countries on the globe and the Torah center of world Jewry.

Also in the Haftorah of Bereshith, the Prophet Isaiah foresees the ingathering of the scattered and exiled Jewish People and Hashem promises "to bring forth the People who is blind though it has eyes, and who is deaf though it has ears."

In his vision of the future, Isaiah describes a portion of the Nation as blind because they fail to recognize Hashem’s hand in the beginnings of our Redemption as Hashem gathers the scattered exiles from the four corners of the earth and resurrects our sovereign Jewish statehood (Medinat Yisrael) in the Promised Land in a seemingly natural fashion via international wars and treaties, and via the hard physical work of the early pioneers and the bravery and self-sacrifice of our soldiers.

And we are called deaf because many Jews, even many of those involved in the return to Zion, don’t hear the call of our Prophets booming forth from the pages of the Torah which promise our return, while many remain in foreign Gentile lands failing to heed the insistent call.

Unfortunately this deafness and blindness continues today throughout the Diaspora. For example, once I was in a Five Towns community in New York for Shabbat on Parshat Lech Lecha. I davened at 3 different shuls and each time the Rabbi spoke about some aspect of the Torah portion without once mentioning Hashem's initial command to the father of the Jewish People summoning him to live in the Land of Israel.

Another time I was in Boca Raton during the week of Lech Lecha. One morning I davened shachrit at the palatial Chabad shul across the street from the exclusive Polo Club, a community of villas for wealthy Jews and Gentiles. In the lobby there were free giveaway pamphlets on a dozen aspects of Judaism but nothing about Eretz Yisrael. After the minyan of barely 10 South Florida Jews, I jokingly asked the Rabbi how we know that Abraham wasn't a Chabadnik. "Nu?" he replied. "If Abraham had been a Chabadnik," I explained, "he never would have gone to Eretz Yisrael." The Rabbi responded good-naturedly. “Oh, it isn’t that bad,” he said.

No, the situation it isn’t that bad. It’s worse.If that isn't a description of Diaspora Jewry today I don't know what it is.

Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984, he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbis A. Y. Kook and T. Y. Kook. His other books include: "The Kuzari For Young Readers" and "Tuvia in the Promised Land". His books are available on Amazon. Recently, he directed the movie, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman."