Last week, the administrator of a popular Facebook group called something like “Kaballah Lite,” asked me not to post blogs on their page that stressed the mitzvah of living in Israel because it made his readers uneasy. First, he wanted to get people involved in “spirituality” and then he’d teach them about Israel, he said.
When I replied that according to the Kaballah everything in Israel is spiritual, the rocks, the trees, the tomato fields, even the secular Jews, and that Eretz Yisrael represents the exalted sefirah of Malchut, without which the spiritual blueprint of the world is shattered and God’s Presence doesn’t appear on Earth, he answered that the uninitiated can’t understand this very basic foundation upon which the Kaballah is based. First, they have to learn about the joy of spiritualism, he said.
That’s a little like baking an apple pie and leaving out the apples. After the pie is finished, you can’t go back and stick in the apples. They haven’t been cooked! So too, you can’t teach Judaism and leave out the Land of Israel, and then stick it in at the end, as if it’s just some added spicing. The apples aren’t something extra – they’re the essence of the pie itself. So too with Judaism – the Jewish life in the Land of Israel isn’t just another ingredient – it’s the filling. It’s the pie itself.
Another Facebook group about being “frum” in New York also kicked me off its list. When I asked why, the administrator said that she was trying to bring unaffiliated Jews closer to the joys of Orthodoxy and my writings about Israel raised uncomfortable “political” issues for liberal New York Jews, and turned them away from pure Judaism. Pure Judaism? Without the Land of Israel?
Sorry, but that isn’t Judaism. It’s a new religion. Maybe, to give her, and others who think like her, the benefit of the doubt, you could call it “Diaspora Judaism.” But it isn’t Torah. Eretz Yisrael isn’t a peripheral matter to Yiddishkeit, or merely a nice place to visit to feel proud to be a Jew. Building the Jewish Nation in Israel is the very goal of the Torah. Over two-thirds of the Mishna concern the commandments that can only be performed in the Land of Israel. “For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of God from Yerushalayim.” Not from Brooklyn, Monsey, Beverly Hills, Toronto, or Mexico City.
So along with Reform and Conservative Judaism, which aren’t Judaism at all, we can add Diaspora Judaism. It’s closer to Orthodox Judaism than the others, but huge chucks of the Torah are still missing. Let’s call this new religion of Diaspora Jews, “Bagel Judaism,” or “Bagelism,” because its center, the Land of Israel, is missing.
The countries of the Diasporas may be very enjoyable places, like the taste of a bagel, but something is missing. Diasporas can come in all sorts of flavors, just like plain bagels, and sesame, onion, pumpernickel, and whole wheat bagels, but they are all empty in the middle. The center, the Land of Israel, is missing! Diasporas have synagogues, and Shabbos, glatt kosher restaurants and yeshivas, but the center, the Redemptional focus of the Torah and Prophets, the desire to return to Zion, and the all-important national component of Judaism are missing. Take for example the “Kedusha” we say during our Shachrit prayers on Shabbat: “When will You return to Zion? Speedily, in our days, may You dwell there forever. May You be exalted and sanctified in Jerusalem, Your city throughout all generations and to all eternity.” Zion and Jerusalem -not Brooklyn, Beverly Hills, Boca, Buenos Aries, or Berlin.
Without the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, without a national Jewish calendar, a Jewish army, a Jewish government, without all of the mitzvot that apply n the Land, children who grow up speaking Hebrew, and Jews who marry Jews and not gentiles, the Judaism of the Diaspora is a hollow Judaism. Just like a bagel, the outside ring is tasty, but the center is missing. Like a bagel, the Judaism of the Diaspora is missing its heart. When you relish the bagel and don’t notice the gaping hole in the middle, then something is wrong with your Judaism.
That’s why our Sages commanded us to recite Psalm 137 before the “Birchat HaMazone” Grace after Meals on weekdays, to constantly remember, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, withered be my right hand! May my tongue cleave to my palate, if I not always think of you; if I not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!”
In the Diaspora, if we can make aliyah but don’t, then like the bagel, all our prayers for Redemption are hollow. For nearly 2000 years, we didn’t have the ability to return to the Land Israel in a national way, so we had to make do with Diaspora Judaism, with the fervent yearning in our hearts to return to Zion; but now that Hashem has established the State of Israel and transformed it into the Torah center of the world, if we say our Kedusha prayers for deliverance from the exile without acting on them by getting on a plane, then Diaspora Judaism turns into an even more hollow “Bagel Judaism,” or “Bagelism,” stripped even of its former yearning to return to Zion, which gave it a lifesaving focus for 2000 years.
Some people just don’t want to understand that the main goal of Judaism is to build the Jewish NATION in the Land of Israel, in all of its earthy facets, agricultural, political, industrial, technological, military, scientific, jobs, hospitals, electric companies, police, highways, sewage, supermarkets, firemen, etc etc etc ad infinitum, in order to establish the KINGDOM of God in the world and sanctify His Name in a national format, so that all the gentile nations will learn that theyt too must serve Hashem as nations, and not merely as individuals.
The lovers of Diaspora act as if it is enough to put on tefillin in Brooklyn or Toronto, eat gefilta fish, read the Internet edition of The Jewish Press, and trust that Israel’s cities and highways will all appear miraculously from out of the sky without them having to get their hands dirty in the nitty gritty job of building the Land. In the meantime, the Israelis, the “shabbos goys” of Medinat Yisrael, are doing all the work for them, and their children, in building the foundations of Malchut Hashem, the Kingdom of God, in the world, which can only take place in the Land of Israel, as the Torah and the Prophets of Israel declare over and over again.
With great sadness, the Torah giant, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, would often speak about this shameful situation, how segments of the Torah world rejected Medinat Yisrael. He said the very same blindness and small mindedness took place at the time of the Second Temple:
“When we returned from Babylon in the time of Ezra, Israel did not return to the full glory of its past, but even so, prophecy flourished on a minor scale with Haggai, Zacharia, and Malachi. Similarly, the Second Temple was not on the same exalted level as during the time of King Shlomo’s Beit HaMikdash. From all over the Land, people came to see it, but in the eyes of elders who still remembered the magnificence of the First Temple, the Second Temple seemed to be an affront. They would weep and express criticism, saying, ‘This is the Temple?’ The Prophets scolded them for this attitude, saying, ‘Who has despised the day of small things?’ (Zachariah, 4:10). The Gemara answers: ‘The small minded among them who didn’t have faith in the Almighty’ (Sotah 48B). You are disbelievers, the Prophet told them. Ezra called the exiles to come back to Zion and many didn’t listen. The majority remained in Babylon, Torah scholars amongst them, with their businesses and wealth. In our days also, there are Torah scholars and ‘Tzaddikim’ who criticize the Almighty for the way He is returning the Jewish People to Zion.
“Is all of this great rebuilding and renaissance of our Land mere happenstance? It is Nature’s wanton anarchy? No! This is all Hashem’s doing! The Prophet Isaiah exclaimed, ‘Hear O deaf, and look, O Blind, that you may see! Who is blind but My servant, or deaf as the messenger that I sent? Who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the L-rd’s servant? (Isaiah, 42:18-19).
“There are so many things to see and to hear! Be quiet, pensive, and listen. Then you will see the Almighty who disguises Himself in the events which unfold in the world.”
So my dear friends, instead of impulsively reacting with angry comments, banning me from your Facebook groups, or deciding you aren’t going to read Fishman’s blogs anymore – be quiet, pensive, and listen. Then you too will see the Almighty who disguises Himself in the events which unfold in the world in the restoration of the Jewish People in Israel. Then you too will come to understand that in your practice of “Bagel Judaism,” something very important is missing.Tzvi Fishman
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. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" will be available soon as a DVD.The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.
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