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July 6, 2015 / 19 Tammuz, 5775
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Graveyard, New York

Thriving and prospering, materially and even spiritually in galut, with an abundance of Torah learning and observance, is nevertheless defined by the Torah, our Prophets and Sages, as death.
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Photo Credit: Howie Mischel

Before Chanukah, we mentioned that the hottest selling book at the Central Bus station in Yerushalayim is “Binyan Emunah,” by Rabbi Moshe Bleicher, the book which I am presently translating into English. The book is based on the approach to Torah fostered by Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, the Gaon of Vilna, and Rabbi Kook, who all warned that the understanding of Judaism and Torah that was being learned in the exile wasn’t the true understanding of Torah, and consequently, the Jewish People were losing their true understanding of God.

These great Rabbis, giants of their generations, taught that the Torah was much more than a list of the ritual commandments we could still practice in galut; and that Judaism, and that Emunah, the faith in G-d, were much more than keeping kashrut and Shabbat, and learning Gemara and Halacha.

True Judaism, they taught, was building a Torah NATION in the Land of Israel, the Holy Land unique to Torah, and not just the practice of ritual commandments by individuals or scattered Jewish communities in foreign impure lands. The complete service of God by the Jewish People was the NATIONAL service of God of the Israelite NATION in its own Jewish Land. This is what leads the way to the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the world, when all nations will come to serve the God of Israel, as the Prophet declares: “For from ZION shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the Lord from YERUSHALYIM.”

The book, “Binyan Emunah,” which means, “The Building of Faith,” is a detailed explanation of this central foundation of Torah – something which is totally lacking in exile where the Jewish People don’t have their own Jewish NATIONHOOD and sovereign Jewish LAND. Jewish NATIONHOOD in the Land of Israel is the heart and soul of the Torah. Without them, we are like a body without a soul, or, in the words of the Prophet, Yehezkel, like dry lifeless bones.

Here is a condensed segment of the book explaining this crucial point, based on the words of our Prophets and some of our greatest Torah giants.

The Valley of the Bones

The Prophet Yehezkel declares:

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and the Lord carried me out in a spirit, and set me down in the midst of a valley, and it was full of bones; and He caused me to pass by them round about, and, behold, there were many in the open valley, and, lo, there were very dry.

“Then He said unto me: ‘Son of man, the bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say: Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost; we are completely cut off. Therefore prophesy and say unto them: Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O, My People; and I will bring you into the Land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, O, My People. And I will put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own Land; and you shall know that I the Lord have spoken and performed it, sys the Lord” (Yehezkel, Ch.37).

The Prophet Yehezkel describes the situation of Am Yisrael in exile as being similar to the dead in a graveyard. In contrast, the Geula, Redemption, comes when the revitalized bones leave the cemetery of exile and come to Eretz Yisrael.

There are those who will say that this only a metaphor, and that the Prophet doesn’t really mean to say that we are like dead people when we are in exile, for, as anyone can see, we are living, breathing, and learning Torah. The Prophet, they claim, exaggerates in order to highlight a particular aspect of Galut, but he doesn’t mean to teach that there is an essential, absolute, difference between the time of Galut and Geula, like the difference between the dead and the living. However, as we shall learn, the words of the Prophet are meant to be taken literally, at face value.

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." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon.

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3 Responses to “Graveyard, New York”

  1. Robin Rosenblatt says:

    Help defend the Galilee Judea and Samaria and the Negev: a nonviolent means for solving this problem:
    Israel Ranches are being attacked, their land being stolen and their passive European cattle are being mutilated and killed by local Palestinians, jackals and wolves. Israel needs desert cattle that fits its environment and can defend itself and its calves. That breed of cattle is Texas Longhorn. The will be self-sustainable in 5 years. We will help East Africa as well. Help us raise $240,000, to start. A 501c 3 nonprofit # 74-3177354.

    Thank you

    Robin Rosenblatt
    Israel Longhorn Project.
    815 Hill St Apt 5.
    Belmont, Ca 94002.
    650.631.9270/03.722.6108
    robin@longhornproject.org
    http://longhornproject.org/

  2. Yehuda Cohen says:

    Wonderful blog, Tzvi!
    The dead in Florida, everyone except Jews, are either shipped out for burial or cremated. The Jewish dead in Florida are put into a vault and a hole is punched into the bottom so that it will sink into the water. Florida has a high water table so nobody is allowed to be buried without being inside a vault otherwise the body would rise to the surface after a rain. Isn’t comforting to think that your relatives’ DNA might be in every glass of water that you drink? In Israel, everyone is buried into the Holy Land.

  3. Ah unnerstan’ th’ livin’ daid (spiritually) in Noo Yawk. Ah’s shocked thet th’ Jewish daid is re-consoomd in Flo’ida.

Comments are closed.

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