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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Fly Me to the Moon

Vacation

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Planning a summer vacation? Let’s say you have enough money to go to Israel, but for the same price you can get an extra few days in Honolulu or Paris. Where should you choose?

Browsing through the pages of weekly Exile Edition of The Jewish Press can make you dizzy, trying to decide between all of the fantastic glatt kosher tours to every exotic spot in the world. Of course, if you are a Jew living in Israel, you don’t have this question at all. Why? Because it is halachically forbidden to leave the Land of Israel simply to go on a pleasure jaunt overseas (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 531:4). This is because the Land of Israel is holy, and the rest of the world is not. Leaving Israel adversely affects a Jew’s holiness and blemishes his worship of God. This is what King David meant when he said, “For they have driven me out this day from being joined to the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go and serve other gods” (Shmuel 1, 26:19). Certainly, King David wouldn’t engage in idol worship, but as the Talmud explains, “Any Jew who lives outside the Land of Israel is like someone who has no God” (Ketubot 110b). This is because Hashem has appointed an angel over every country to run the affairs of that place. There’s a nice-smelling, sweet-talking French angel who is in charge of France; there’s a drunk, vodka-drinking angel in charge of Russia; and the angel in charge of America spends most of his time watching old I Love Lucy Show reruns on TV. However, over the Land of Israel, Hashem rules alone, directly, without any intermediary agent. That’s why the worship of God in Israel is far superior to everywhere else (Ramban, Achre Mot, 18:25). Therefore, a Jew is only allowed to leave the Land of Israel to do a mitzvah. He can go to the Diaspora to visit family, find a wife, to study with a certain Rabbi, for medical reasons, or go on a business trip for livelihood reasons, but to remain there is forbidden. Once he has accomplished his mitzvah, he must return to Israel (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:9). But if his trip is just for a fun vacation, then the Diaspora is off limits.

What about a Diaspora Jew? Because of the curse of the exile, Jews were scattered around the globe to the four corners of the earth. Even though The Master of the World built the Ben Gurion Airport over sixty years ago so that His children could finally come home, planeloads of Jews apparently still haven’t heard about it. What’s the case of a Jew who was born in America? If he goes on a vacation to Paris or Hong Kong, he isn’t affecting his level of holiness, because his surroundings are impure to begin with wherever he is. According to Jewish Law, the Diaspora possesses the spiritual status of a grave (Shabbat 14B, beginning “Yosi ben Yoezer…”; Nazir 54B, Tosefot beginning “Eretz…”; Vilna Gaon, Likutei HaGra, end of Safra D’Tzinuta). Some graves are known for their hot dogs, while others have the aromas of expensive perfumes. Some graves are surrounded by beautiful beaches and tropical fish, while others have buildings that reach up to the sky. But a grave is a grave whether it is the French Riviera or the Virgin Islands. Whether a Diaspora Jew visits the London Tower or the Champs Elysses, it doesn’t make a difference. A land filled with idol worship is spiritually polluting whether the idol is worshipped in English or French. Sure, the Jew may have a grand time at the museums and theaters. And if he is religious, and takes off his yarmulke for a few days, well, what’s the big sin in that? He can always wear a baseball cap to hide the fact that he’s Jewish.

However, if a Jew from America decides to vacation in Israel, then he is doing a mitzvah. Every four steps that he takes, he earns a place in the World to Come. In contrast, a Jew can walk along the entire Great Wall of China and all he will get is sore feet. Plus by spending his vacation money in Israel, the American Jew is helping the Jewish People resettle the Holy Land. In boosting the economy of Israel by paying for hotel rooms and renting cars, he is playing an active part in Israel’s Redemption. The Israel Tourist Ministry reports that for every 100,000 tourists coming to visit Israel, the country gains 9 million dollars and 4,500 permanent places of employment. So his contribution is no small thing.

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About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." For the past several years, he has written a popular and controversial blog at Arutz 7. A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press


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12 Responses to “Fly Me to the Moon”

  1. Emet Sheva says:

    In certain American Olim communities of Israel, many leave annually to USA for 2 month summer visits. Seeing family is important. But the influence of diaspora is sensed when it is absorbed in large quantity like this: many have installed direct TV reception from USA – are completely in tune with TV/media/culture, clothing, attitude – taken all together it feels like America in Israel. Sometimes it manifests in "looking down" at Israel and Israeli's and creates false "us & them" perception.

  2. Yehuda Cohen says:

    Rav Aviner has some stories about leaving Israel which might be interesting.
    http://www.ravaviner.com/search/label/Stories%20about%20Leaving%20the%20Land%20of%20Israel

    I've always enjoyed reading your blogs Tzvi Fishman. Hashem has blessed you with a skill that you are putting to good use. It is hoped that we all will put our skills to good use in becoming one with Hashem in Eretz Yisrael!

  3. Liad Bar-el says:

    Okay, Tzvi, I’m not a rabbi but I’m in touch with many and I can say that you’re right about not leaving Israel for a pleasure trip; however, if one visits a grave of a righteous Jew during this “trip” then the trip becomes acceptable. As far as I know that there are written three reasons and maybe even four or five reasons that justify one leaving Israel: Marriage, Study Torah, Business, Shalom Bayit and visiting the grave of a Tzadik (righteous Jew). Of course, there are many circumstances involved with making halachic rulings and following them as well such as it is forbidden to erase Hashem’s Name; however, He allowed His name to be erased for the reason of maintaining Shalom Bayit. (Sota)

    One thing that I can say for sure and without asking a rabbi is that I feel a lot better by drinking Wheat Grass Juice from Israel than thinking about traveling to some polluted foreign country. Now, all I have to do is to get my wife to agree to this also.:-)

  4. Added to that, as nice as the writing is, the majority of diaspora rabbis in no way promote the idea that one must be in Israel. Most of the Judaic theological schools now have upheld that that idea is incorrect and so they do not teach it.
    Not everyone accepts all the writings of the Rambam or any other sage today. Today their writings are mostly seen as just their opinion on matters, with no more authority than any other opinion.
    Other than the Torah itself, and the Oral Laws that are necessitated by logic, everything else is speculation.
    This is why, in the end, I honestly doubt much of what gets around on FB will change much of anything because they are going to go to either their rabbi for confirmation if they have doubts or to their own opinions.

  5. Rahel Sherman says:

    I love your articles. We have serious health and $ issues preventing aliyah now but in the past kind people have helped us visit. Wow. It is the only country to visit and I'm happy to buy the few things we buy to contribute to the people. one yr we helped pack food for victims of terror. We LOVE Israel. Israel is home to the soul. Is it better to visit Israel when we can or save up to try to make aliya eventually, I wonder.

  6. Tzvi Fishman says:

    Rabbi Kook teaches that someone who lives and dreams about Israel 24 hours a day the way you do already has a share in the blessings of the Land. You're already Israeli!

  7. Rahel Sherman says:

    ohh, my eyes water.Thank you very much. That's how i feel, Tzvi. That's what we have been told by israeli friends but not quite the way you worded it.We shop israel when we go to the grocery store. We buy Israel through the internet and give tzedaka there. It might sound silly but I even carry a stone from Israel in my purse and on tisha b' av carry it all day and night. Even the dust is precious. We became religious older and even though it is harder to learn a language older, we keep taking ivrit classes and slowly improve our skills. Keep writing, Tzvi.May the Jewish community in the galut come to truly love Israel and yearn for geula. Bless you.

  8. Julian Kaye says:

    What a bunch of self serving baloney

  9. Joey Aranov says:

    I am Jewish. Brother, this article is revolting. The way you denigrate other cultures, calling them "spiritual graves," based purely on your own subjective interpretation of external conditions without any thought of the inner heart of the people living there is shocking. You are suggesting that no matter how many people are striving for God in their thoughts and deeds, no matter how many souls spiral upwards towards the Divine in their contemplations or even unwittingly by partaking of an idea or behavior that has its origins in spiritual practice and is therefore infused with the ineffable substance of divine blessings – because such people are not in Israel or Jewish, they are in a spiritual grave? They are the walking dead? The great artists of those countries that have changed our perceptions and sensitized our hearts to subtle realities beyond what was known before; the political revolutionaries that lost their lives so that people could live free of government oppression and practice (or not practice) whatever faith they desire: were these people spiritual zombies, and not liberators? Oh, how ignorant, how sad a concept. How mean and vile & filled with fear. If these ideas were not so dangerous in the minds of people who are near to or control the levers of power, I would probably sympathize for your plight, for you are indeed plunged in a dark doctrine. O You Lacking Understanding & Foresight, it is precisely these racist notions – among other falsities, distortions, and cruelties – that must be removed like a cancer from the nation of Israel if it is to be Redeemed. And yet you focus the Redemption of the Holy Land on the economic activity brought by tourists: to your materialistic mind, the more hotels with a high occupancy rate, the more rented cars, the quicker will be the arrival of the Mashiach. As if this holy being's arrival is predicated on Israel's GDP! How shameful the mind that is exposed to God's word and continues to carry such pedestrian notions. Who was your interpreter of Scripture? You should ask for your money back, for I have no doubt some pecuniary interest was the basis of your learning. Thank God there are Jews who refuse to live in any house or abode, and Jews who feel the State of Israel should not even exist – for even if their dogmas are to an extreme, at least they serve to "balance out" the worldy, temporal focus of too many Jews, such as the "author" of this "article," and point to another way of seeing and experiencing Reality. I never thought someone discussing what appears on the surface to be "affairs of the spirit" could do so with such a materialistic view. You wrote: "a nice-smelling, sweet-talking French angel who is in charge of France; there’s a drunk, vodka-drinking angel in charge of Russia…" Your contempt and condescension for other cultures is barely hidden by your poor attempt at humor and sarcasm, and reveals how limited your understanding is of the Higher Realities described or alluded to by Torah and other (non-Jewish) Scriptures. One who understands the precarious Balance that we are in, which is indeed sustained by Hasem and the agencies under Hashem's direction, would never dare utter such a triviality for fear of offending Him. What is worse is that this article is merely a travel ad, the kind of thing you find in travel magazines under the heading "Special Advertising Section" (for no editor other than one who sympathized with these lies would ever allow this to be included among the actual articles of a magazine) – and yet you cloak this economic motive with Biblical citations and thoughts of spiritual aspiration. This is the very definition of prostituting sacred ideas for worldy gain. Jesus spoke about this 2,000 years ago when he overturned the moneychanger's tables in the Temple, cleansing it of impurities and dross. If you happen to be one of those many Jews who disregards anything under the mantle of "Jesus Christ," well, many other Jewish authorities have spoken about this awful tendency, so there is no excuse for your failure to root it out. You should be thoroughly ashamed and straight away submit yourself to God's revivifying chastisement by examining where you lost your footing. The mind of this pseudo-article's Philistine author reeks of parochialism, racism, fear, vulgarity and condescension. It could not be further from the liberatory truth contained within Torah. As for me, with regards to what places to visit on earth, I will take heed to the sensible and sincere words of the Prophet Muhammad: "The whole world is a place of worship." For the Glory & Truth of the Everlasting God does not confine itself to one people, place, or time – He is the Most Generous, Above what we associate with Him.

  10. Flower Star says:

    "….maybe even four or five reasons that justify one leaving Israel… " – you could include: Kibud Av v'Em, if parents are living overseas & one goes to visit them!

  11. Flower Star says:

    Tzvi, why have you not replied to the last two posters? You MUST, as their comments are 100% absurd! It is obvious that Joey Aranov has completely misunderstood your article [likewise Julian Kaye], otherwise they wouldn't have posted what they did! For the former poster, who calls herself "Jewish", I find it incredibly strange that she quotes JC & Muhammad! What is that all about? A non-member of the tribe sneaking in under the radar? These 2 individuals need to be enlightened, because "J.A." is seriously lost!
    Your article was 100% on the mark. I can, also, tell you that after having lived her for a while and having had to return to the states for personal reasons, the more time I remain in the diaspora – the more my neshama feels as if its battery is being drained. It's amazing. Now that I am so plugged into the Geulah & Mashiach and the importance of living in E"Y, it's pretty unhealthy when I have had to leave. I literally become depressed and non-functional after 2-4 wks. A friend told me a similar situation occurring to her [secular] friend when he goes back to Russia to visit or business [don't recall]. She told me that he begins to get depressed and not able to function & rushes to get back "home".
    Everything you wrote is the EMET! If people don't wish to hear the truth, they have a problem… and there are so many who fit into that category.
    Keep up the articles – perhaps, you'll inspire and/or enlighten those who are in the diaspora and are reading your column! Yashar Ko'ach and thanks.

  12. Flower Star says:

    Tzvi, why have you not replied to the last two posters? You MUST, as their comments are 100% absurd! It is obvious that Joey Aranov has completely misunderstood your article [likewise Julian Kaye], otherwise they wouldn't have posted what they did! For the former poster, who calls herself "Jewish", I find it incredibly strange that she quotes JC & Muhammad! What is that all about? A non-member of the tribe sneaking in under the radar? These 2 individuals need to be enlightened, because "J.A." is seriously lost!
    Your article was 100% on the mark. I can, also, tell you that after having lived her for a while and having had to return to the states for personal reasons, the more time I remain in the diaspora – the more my neshama feels as if its battery is being drained. It's amazing. Now that I am so plugged into the Geulah & Mashiach and the importance of living in E"Y, it's pretty unhealthy when I have had to leave. I literally become depressed and non-functional after 2-4 wks. A friend told me a similar situation occurring to her [secular] friend when he goes back to Russia to visit or business [don't recall]. She told me that he begins to get depressed and not able to function & rushes to get back "home".
    Everything you wrote is the EMET! If people don't wish to hear the truth, they have a problem… and there are so many who fit into that category.
    Keep up the articles – perhaps, you'll inspire and/or enlighten those who are in the diaspora and are reading your column! Yashar Ko'ach and thanks.

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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