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December 23, 2014 / 1 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘diaspora’

Another Milestone for the Jewish People in America

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

For those who have been in a coma for the last couple of days, Jack Lew who is an Orthodox Jew and currently the President’s Chief of Staff will be nominated by the President for the cabinet position of Secretary of the Treasury. Although as of this writing it has not been made official – It seems that this will indeed happen. I also believe that he will sail through the confirmation process.

First let me echo the OU’s congratulatory response. I could not be prouder of my co-religionist, Jack Lew, my country, the United States of America, and my President, Barack Obama.

That’s right. I said I am proud of the President for looking beyond the criticism he got from the Jewish community about Hagel and choosing the best man for the job at Treasury even though he is Jewish. I believe the President is a man of integrity. Though I strongly disagreed with him about Hagel, I think he truly believes Hagel to be the best man for the Secretary of Defense.

I think Hagel will be a negative influence vis-à-vis Israel. But I believe (or at least hope) that the President will stick to his polices with respect to Israel. His polices are for the most part very supportive of the Jewish state. Although I still don’t like the fact that someone who has shown great antagonism towards “The Jewish Lobby” will be a member of his cabinet – I do not believe that the President sees us that way. He has certainly never referred to any of us that way.

That Jack Lew, an Orthodox Jew whose Sabbath observance might seem to be a hindrance to his duties has the confidence of the President says a lot about both men. Apparently the President cares that his employees do not sacrifice their principles for their job. In fact the President himself has seen to it that Mr. Lew does not violate the Sabbath. He has been Jack Lew’s Shomer in that regard – reminding him on Friday’s that sunset was approaching and he better hurry up and get home before Shabbos begins.

It is interesting to note an article that appeared a few days ago in the Forward. It was about just how far an observant Jew can go in the workplace these days despite some apparent obstacles. Avital Chizhik, an Orthodox woman, writes about her experiences in seeking a job.

When asked about there indeed her religious observances would hinder her – she replied that she was not that religious. Her interviewer laughed and offered her the job saying he was glad to hear that.

She felt guilty afterward realizing that indeed she was ‘that’ religious. But after thinking about it, she realized that she was really responding to an image and not reality. Unfortunately our image as observant Jews does not always project confidence in an employer about our dedication to our jobs. Her reaction was made to counter that notion. She goes on to say that the sense of purpose that drives her religious beliefs and actions is also channeled into her work – making for a much better employee.

Although I am very happy for Ms. Chizik’s success, there is no better role model for an Orthodox Jew achieving career success than Jack Lew. Of course he is not the first Orthodox Jew to achieve it. Former Vice Presidential candidate and senator from Connecticut, Joe Lieberman did it first.

The job Mr. Lew is about to take on is not an easy one. Which adds to his prestige. His job will perhaps be the most difficult one in the President’s entire cabinet. He will be presiding over an economy that has yet to completely recover from the recession of 2008. Whatever improvement or deterioration happens in the economy will be under his watch. He will either get credit or blame.

Which leads me back to a common fear many Jews have about a Jewish public servants in positions of power in the government. Some people will say that they regret the choice of any Jew, let alone an Orthodox one, being in such a position. They fear that if the economy goes really south, “the Jews” will be blamed for it. As they always have in the past by European governments. The last government to blame the Jews for their problems ended up with the Holocaust!

I understand their fear. It is based on a very long and sad history of persecution of the Jewish people by governments that were at first friendly and welcoming to us. They will say it happened “there” when no one expected it, it can happen here just as easily. “The Goyim don’t need much to turn on us.” Germany was great to the Jewish people for generations of Jews. And look what happened. We should not be naïve about our standing here… that it’s all smoke and mirrors and when the chips are down we are going to be the first ones to be blamed.

Like I said, I understand it. But it’s just plain wrong. Aside from the fact that this country was founded precisely on the principle of religious tolerance, the American people are a fine and decent people who know not to blame their troubles on any one ethnicity. There has unfortunately been many examples where high profile religious Jews have done wrong.

The American people have had ample opportunity to blame “the Jews” for a variety of behaviors of its miscreants. Bernie Madoff could have easily sparked an anti-Semitic backlash… as could any one of a number of high profile Jewish miscreants. High profile because of their obvious Jewishness. How many Orthodox Jews wearing Kipot and other religious artifacts have been arrested or convicted of financial fraud? How many Orthodox Jewish molesters have been in the news lately? There is certainly enough of that kind of thing to bring out any latent Antisemitism. And yet it hasn’t.

Instead we have a President nominating an Orthodox Jew to perhaps the most important cabinet position in America right now… a nomination that should – as I said – sail through congress. So even if God forbid the worst happens and the economy really tanks, perhaps Jack Lew will be blamed. But in no way will “the Jews” will be blamed. Those among my coreligionists who don’t understand this and think I am naïve, are themselves naive. They truly do not understand what this great country is all about nor what the American people are made of.

What a Country!

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Get Out While You Can!

Monday, December 31st, 2012

The reason for America’s precarious economic situation is clear. At the beginning of our history, God informs Abraham that he will be a blessing to the world. The nations that are good to Abraham’s offspring will be blessed, and the nations that suppress Israel will be cursed.

In the past, the United States helped the State of Israel in many ways, but now, instead of helping Israelis settle all of the Land that God gave to the Jews, America has the gall to tell us where we can live in Jerusalem and our Biblical homeland, and where we cannot. That certainly is not blessing the Jewish People. So it isn’t surprising that America is being threatened with economic collapse – along with Europe and the rest of the countries that are against our free and unlimited settlement in the Land of our Forefathers.

The first plague in Egypt turned the Nile River to blood. Rashi explains that when God punishes a nation, He begins by punishing their gods. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile, just as America worships money. That’s why America’s economy has been taking a beating.

The only solution is to stop pressuring Israel not to build in Jerusalem and the rest of Biblical Israel. If America hopes to escape the financial collapse that is coming, the United States must support Israel’s settlement in every way it can. As God told Abraham – whoever blesses the Children of Abraham will be blessed, and whoever curses them will be cursed in return.

In the meantime, it’s time for the Jews of America to get out of the country with their money while they can. All of a sudden, all the money in America will be frozen by the US Treasury in order to bail out the government dept, just like the Pharaoh did in Egypt during the famine. So, brothers and sisters, don’t wait. Get out while you can.

Why Celebrate the Circumcision of Jezeus?

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

I’ve got news for everyone! Rosh Hashanah is the real New Year’s. Not just for Jews. For everyone. As it says in the Mishna: “On Rosh Hashanah all the inhabitants of the world pass before Him, like flocks of sheep….” (Rosh Hashanah, 1:2).

Since a few readers wrote that there’s nothing the matter with celebrating the secular holiday of New Year’s Day of the goyim, I did a little research to prove my point.

First of all, what a difference! While Jews spend the day in shul, a day of fervent remembrance of God, listening to the blasts of the shofar, and praying for the welfare of everyone in the world, the gentiles spend their make-believe New Year’s getting smashed and stoned out of their minds, puking up their guts, and bedding down with anyone within reach, while imbibing whatever weeds and chemicals they can to forget about God.

True, there are some who go to church first, but afterwards many of them also spend their make-believe New Year’s getting smashed and stoned out of their minds to forget about God.

That’s one of the reasons we thank God every morning for having made us Jews, and for having separated us from those who go astray after vanity and emptiness.

What then is the great charade and drunken orgy of January 1st? Why is it called New Year’s Day? Here’s some stuff I gleaned from the net. All in all, it’s as Jewish as a pig:

In 46 B.C.E. the Roman emperor Julius Caesar first established January 1 as New Year’s Day. Janus was the Roman god of doors and gates, and had two faces, one looking forward and one back. Caesar felt that the month named after this god (“January”) would be the appropriate “door” to the year. Caesar celebrated the first New Year by ordering the violent routing of revolutionary Jewish forces in the Galilee. Eyewitnesses say blood flowed in the streets. In later years, Roman pagans observed the New Year by engaging in drunken orgies – a ritual they believed constituted a personal re-enacting of the chaotic world that existed before the cosmos was set in order by the gods.

As Christianity spread, pagan holidays were either incorporated into the Christian calendar or abandoned altogether. By the early medieval period most of Christian Europe regarded Annunciation Day (March 25) as the beginning of the year. According to Catholic tradition, Annunciation Day commemorates the announcement to Mary that she would be miraculously impregnated and give birth to a son.

After William the Conqueror became King of England on December 25, 1066, he decreed that the English return to the date established by the Roman pagans, January 1 as New Year’s. This move ensured that the commemoration of Jesus’ birthday (December 25) would align with William’s coronation, and the commemoration of Jesus’ circumcision (January 1) would start the New Year – thus uniting the English and Christian calendars and his own Coronation. William’s innovation was eventually rejected, and England rejoined the rest of the Christian world and returned to celebrating New Years Day on March 25.

On New Years Day, 1577, Pope Gregory XIII decreed that all Roman Jews, under pain of death, must listen attentively to the compulsory Catholic conversion sermon given in Roman synagogues after Friday night services. On New Year’s Day, 1578, Gregory signed into law a tax forcing Jews to pay for the support of a “House of Conversion” to convert Jews to Christianity. On New Year’s, 1581, Gregory ordered his troops to confiscate all sacred literature from the Roman Jewish community. Thousands of Jews were murdered in the campaign.

Throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods, January 1 – the marking the beginning of Christianity and the death of Judaism – was reserved for anti-Jewish activities: synagogue and book burnings, public tortures, and murder.

The modern Israeli term for New Year’s night celebrations, “Sylvester,” was the name of the “Saint” and Roman Pope who reigned during the Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.). The year before the Council of Nicaea convened, Sylvester convinced Constantine to prohibit Jews from living in Jerusalem. At the Council of Nicaea, Sylvester arranged for the passage of a host of viciously anti-Semitic legislation. All Catholic “Saints” are awarded a day on which Christians celebrate and pay tribute to that Saint’s memory. December 31 is Saint Sylvester Day – hence celebrations on the night of December 31 are dedicated to Sylvester’s memory.

January 1st is Not New Year’s

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Imagine the Jews wanted to take down the giant Xmas tree in Rockefeller Center, or the huge Xmas tree on the White House lawn! First of all, no Jew in America would have the guts to demand such a thing. But that’s what happened this week in Jerusalem. Some clown at the Jerusalem Municipality gave his approval to place a Xmas tree at the entrance to the Old City’s Jaffa Gate. Residents of the Jewish Quarter complained, along with a representative of the Shas party, and the Xmas was removed. That’s one further example of the difference between living in a foreign country and our own Jewish State. Here in Israel, public Xmas trees are out.

Let’s face it. America is a Xtian country. So are most of the countries of Europe – that is, where Islam hasn’t yet taken over. Yesterday was the fast day of the 10th of Tevet, marking the beginning of the siege on Jerusalem. But the siege continues even today. Look how all the countries of the world condemned Israel for wanting to expand building in Jerusalem. They want to keep us under siege, in compartmented areas of the city, without a chance to grow.

Who are they, the Europeans and Americans who go bananas every time one of their spy satellites spots a Jew in Jerusalem clearing ground to build a house? The same Crusaders of old, now dressed in suits and ties. They don’t want the Jews getting any stronger in Jerusalem, because all of humankind, in its deepest unconscious psyche, knows that the nation which controls Jerusalem is the Chosen Nation, chosen by God to bring His word to the world, and they don’t want it to be the Jews and our Torah, because they want to be free to continue paying lip service to God while carrying on with their fornicating, robbery, and murder.

And while we’re talking about the upcoming pagan holidays, we should all remember, that for Jews, New Year’s is Rosh HaShanah, a time of judgment and prayer – not drunken orgies. Celebrating January 1st as the beginning of a new year, in the manner of the gentiles, is following after their ways, and a practice that all pious Jews should avoid. After all, for a Jew, counting the years from the birth of the founder of Xtianity is absurd, to say the least, and sadly schizophrenic. Think about it. Why count the years from the birth of Jezeus? The world was around a long time before he appeared. Why mark that as the beginning of history? Why identify with Xtians? Why should the calendar start with them?

But that’s what happens when a Jew is cast out from his own Jewish Land and compelled to wander among the gentiles. He begins to identify with the culture around him. It’s a sad but natural phenomenon. That’s what happened to the Jews in Egypt too. They descended to Egypt just to sojourn there during the famine, but they ended up staying. That’s what happens. It’s happened again and again, from Berlin to Brooklyn. We forget that our real home is in Israel.

We learn this from the end of this Shabbat’s Torah portion of “Vayigash.” The verse tells us: “Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt in the region of Goshen; they possessed property in it and they were fruitful and multiplied” (Bereshit, 47:27).

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook would say, “They settled and sank,” referring to our propensity to get stuck in galut. Citing the commentary of the “Kli Yakar,” Rabbi Kahane explains that this verse is a condemnation of their behavior. Hashem had told Avraham that his descendents would be temporary “aliens” in a foreign land, but they sought to become permanent settlers by acquiring property and building villas for themselves – just like we see today in many Diaspora communities.

Interestingly, the Hebrew for “they possessed property in it, “ויאחזו” is written in the passive form, literally meaning that “they were possessed by it.” That is the situation in galut. We become possessed by the foreign lands and cultures where we live. We come to identify with foreign languages, customs, values, holidays, and nationalities – very much like the Jews who were slain in the plague of darkness in Egypt, a staggering 80% of the Jewish community, because they didn’t want to leave Egypt and go on aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. They actually liked Egypt! Would you believe it? Just like Jews like Brooklyn and Berlin.

While Yaakov only came to Egypt to temporarily sojourn in the land, his descendants let themselves become gripped by it. This is why Yaakov gave his children the order to bury him in Israel – so they would never forget that Eretz Yisrael was their homeland, not Egypt, America, France, Canada, Mexico, or Australia, and that Rosh HaShanah was their New Year’s and not January 1st.

I can understand how an assimilated Jew who doesn’t study Torah could come to love a foreign Xtian place – but for a religious Jew who believes in the Torah, I simply cannot understand it at all. Can you?

Why Should I Move to Israel?

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Recently, I received an email from a reader who admitted being troubled by a lot of the new understandings of Judaism he was encountering for the first time in my Jewish Press blogs. He asked me a question that I have heard from other people as well. It may very well be that hundreds of thousands of Diaspora Jews have thought about the very same question at one time or another, so I’m sharing my answer with everyone.

Question: We live in a thriving Orthodox community in Monsey, New York. It offers the best in Jewish education for our children, a wide gamut of synagogue activities for the whole family, Torah classes throughout the day, and real joy during the Jewish holidays, all of which foster a sense of Jewish identity and pride. Why should we move to Israel where the influence of the secular Israelis is so pervasive, and where our spiritual (and physical) well being will be jeopardized?

Answer: There aren’t any spiritual dangers living in America? Is Monsey so hermetic that you don’t feel the influence of the Christian culture that surrounds you? For instance, if you have to leave your shtetl at this time of year, aren’t you immediately confronted by Santa Clauses and mangers? And if my memory serves me right, wasn’t some synagogue in Monsey torched not long ago, and a giant Chabad menorah vandalized? And aren’t there also secular Jews in Monsey, and in the surrounding towns, and on the campuses where your children go off to college? Not to mention their non-Jewish friends and the skyrocketing rate of intermarriage, which hardly exists in Israel.

Furthermore, if you enjoy your life in the ghetto, we have dozens of Monsey-like communities in Israel that dwarf Monsey in size and in religious observance, places like Mea Shaarim, Geula, Ramot Dalet, Bucharim, Sanhedrin Muchevet, Romema, Har Nof, Bnei Brak, Betar Illit, Modiin Elite, and the dozens of Orthodox settlements in Yesha, Haredi and Dati Leumi alike. In almost every city in Israel, there are Orthodox neighborhoods which offer everything you describe, with the added bonus of being in the Holy Land.

Don’t make the mistake of underplaying the holiness of the Land of Israel. Nothing in the world compares to it. Just look at the Torah portions that we have been reading. When our forefather, Yaacov, awakes from his famous dream, he realizes that he is in the “House of God” and at the “Gateway to Heaven.” Can Monsey boast that? And notice how the angels of the Land of Israel refuse to accompany Yaacov in his exile from the Land because of the spiritual impurity of the Diaspora. And our Sages teach us that on his return home to Israel, Yaacov feared Esav, even though Esav was a wicked man, and even though Hashem had promised to guard Yaacov, because all the time that Yaacov was away, Esav had the merit of observing the commandment of living in the Land of Israel, which is equal in weight to all of the commandments of the Torah. And see how Yaacov made Yosef swear to bury him in Eretz Yisrael, and not in Mitzrayim, so his offspring would always remember that the Land of Israel was their home, not impure foreign lands.

But beyond these reasons for living in the Land of Israel, I am afraid that your understanding of Judaism is incomplete. Judaism isn’t a private religion such as Christianity, Protestantism, and the like. Judaism is the NATIONAL CONSTITUTION of the Nation of Israel that is to be played out in Jerusalem and over the mountains and valleys of Eretz Yisrael. In addition to private individual commandments like tzitzit, tefillin, and keeping kosher, Judaism includes commandments for the Jewish Nation as a whole, like conquering and settling the Land of Israel, enlisting in the Jewish army, rebuilding the Temple, establishing the Sanhedrin and Jewish Monarchy, and keeping the agricultural mitzvot that are dependent on the Land.

The proper understanding of Judaism is that each individual Jew put his life in line with the goal of the Nation of Israel as a whole (the Clal), and not just live a private, ritual Judaism, practicing personal precepts, stripped of our national essence. The Jewish People are to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, and this can only be accomplished in our national format in the Land of Israel, as it says, “For the Torah shall go forth from Zion, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem.” When we choose to dwell in foreign lands, instead of in the Land that God promised us, it makes Hashem seem weak in the eyes of the gentiles, as if He lacks the power to keep us in our own Land, and this is a Chillul Hashem.

We Ain’t Got a Soul in America

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

In our previous blog, where we saw how the prophets of Israel and our greatest Rabbis described the exile as a zombie-like existence for the Jewish People, because when we are scattered in foreign lands, our national format is destroyed, and we are left like dry lifeless bones. To understand this more deeply, we will continue with our translation of the book, “Binyan Emunah,” by Rabbi Moshe Bleicher, a longtime student of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and Rosh Yeshiva of the Shavei Hevron Yeshiva in the city of Hevron.

Please note that these are very deep matters, and our condensed excerpts from the book don’t present the total overall picture that readers will glean from the entire book itself.

From the Chapter, “Exile and Redemption”:

In order to understand why the exile is a situation of death for the Jewish People, we have to first meditate on the meaning of life. As much as life is familiar to us, there is a secret of life which we cannot fathom, and this is the force of life itself, a Divine Creation.

An example will make this clear. A human being’s body contains many organs, some of which are extremely complicated and sophisticated. For instance, the eye is an advanced optical mechanism which functions in a wondrous manner. However, if we were to remove the eye and mount it on a wall to serve as a security camera, the eye wouldn’t work at all. Only through its connection with the body, and with the general life force that exists in it – the soul – can an eye fulfill its function.

Why is this? Isn’t the eye sophisticated enough to operate by itself? Is the fact that it can’t function apart from the body a sign that it is a more primitive mechanism than some electronic optical devise which can? No. The reason that the eye cannot function without it being attached to the body is because the eye isn’t a private organ which exists by itself. This is also true for the other organs of the body – the ear, the brain, the heart, etc. If you were to take out all of the organs of the body and connect them together, a man wouldn’t result – only a big, lifeless doll. The thing which gives man his essence as a man is the general life force inside of him. This is what enlivens and operates all the organs of the body, determines their function, and also gives man his consciousness as a man. Isn’t the eye which sees, and the ear which hears, but rather, the general force of life in a man, his soul, which hears via the ear, and sees via the eye.

Just as a life force animates an individual, the same is true for the Clal, for Am Yisrael, as a Nation. Hashem created us as a Nation at Sinai, to sanctify His Name in the world – precisely in our National format in Israel, and not in the wilderness of Sinai, or in other foreign places in the world. Am Yisrael is capable of illuminating existence by revealing the Divine Ideal in life, and through this, to raise existence out of its darkness, and to attach it to its Divine Source. The nations of the world also call upon the Name of God and praise His greatness, but in the very same breath, they are capable of murdering millions and carrying out the most savage and bestial acts. In contrast, when Am Yisrael calls upon the Name of G-d, it is to reveal and establish the Divine Ideal and Morality in the world, with the altruistic aspiration of bettering the life of all mankind.

This lofty moral recognition is the innovation which Am Yisrael brings to the world. “This Nation have I created for myself, they will declare My praise.” The ability of Am Yisrael to declare the praises of Hashem, to illuminate the world and liberate it from its truncated framework of private interests and egotistical concerns, from its bondage to individual lusts, by attaching all of the forces of life to their ideal Divine Source, this stems from the unique vision of Am Yisrael that recognizes the existence of a single unifying Divine Goal which stands at the foundation of the world – the recognition that there is a single unifying force of life that lends ideal meaning to all of the details of life. This is a great Kiddush Hashem, the ability to reveal in life the Universal Unity which gives life to everything.

The Soul of Existence, the Ideal Goal which stands at the foundation of life, is not a mere spiritual thing, but rather a powerful and dynamic life force which activates all of the wheels and gears of existence, pushes them toward greater and greater perfection and expression in life. For example, with an apple tree, the “goal of the tree” isn’t an abstract matter, but a concrete life force which dictates the stages of the tree’s development up till the appearance of its fruit. Similarly, the soul of a person isn’t a spiritual entity disconnected from the body and its powers, but is the very life force which activates and gives meaning to every organ and faculty of life. This same understanding holds true for the Soul of Existence as well.

Applying this metaphor to the world, Am Yisrael is the “body” which is able to absorb this Inner Truth that there is a Divine Soul to existence, and which is able to attach all branches of life to their inner, general, all-encompassing, Clalli, Source. This Clalli Soul appears in Am Yisrael as a dynamic and empowering life force. This is what gives the Nation its life, and from its driving force, the Israelite Nation has the motivation and willpower to establish and build a State in its Land, an army, and a thriving economy. All of its National life surges forth from this inner, exalted Truth, to the point where the Nation of Israel has no private, egocentric interest in attaining glory and accolades on the stage of history, but only to sanctify the Name of God in the world, and to reveal how all of the systems and frameworks of life, with all of their details, stem from the ideal, universal, Divine Life-Force which activates all of existence.

As we mentioned, the principle Kiddush Hashemoccurs when we reveal how the Source of Divine Unity stands behind all of life, uniting everything. Am Yisrael was created to illuminate this Truth, to declare the praises of God. When Am Yisrael gathers in its Land, every Tribe in its inheritance, and with the Beit HaMikdash rebuilt on the Temple Mountthis Clallilife-force appears in the life of the Israelite Nation, in all aspects of its National existence, in their most ideal and healthy format.

Like with an individual man, whose soul gives life to all of his organs and limbs, so too, when Am Yisrael returns to Eretz Yisrael, its unique, Clalli life-force,which only comes to life within the Nation when it dwells in its Land, radiates its powers to all of the national faculties of the Nation, and to every vista of its life. The more the Nation is true to its inner essence, and knows how to direct its varied endeavors to draw vitality and strength from the Source of its life, the healthier it will be, and it will succeed in achieving its mission in the most complete and ideal fashion.

This is a life of national Kiddush Hashem, where the Divine Presence is revealed in our midst, through the realization of the ideal, universal, Divine Goals and Aspirations in the life of the Nation as we live our National Torah life in our unique Holy Land.

However, when the Nation of Israel is exiled from its Land, and its general, Clalli, life force is lost, all of its life undergoes a drastic descent. Its general, Clalli soul ascends to the celestial heights, and no longer functions as the battery source of the now scattered and splintered Jewish People. Now, exiled from its Land, and unable to exist in its National format, the individual, private side of life becomes dominate, and the forces of life appear separately, seemingly independent, one from the other, without stemming from a unifying, general life-force. In this way, the level of life changes, and the entire observance of Torah and its commandments falls into the category of“Set way-marks up for yourselves,” (Yirmeyahu, 32:20), as described in the vivid words of our Sages, concerning a verse found in the second paragraph of the Shema“And you will quickly perish from the Land….” (Devarim, 11:17).

Our Sages teach: “Even though I am exiling you from the Land to outside of the Land, be distinguished by the mitzvot, so that when you return they won’t seem new in your eyes. This can be compared to a king who became angry with his queen, and sent her back to her father house, telling her to continue to wear her royal jewels so that they would not seem new to her when she returned to the palace. Thus said the Holy One Blessed Be He to Israel: My son, keep adorned with the mitzvot so that when you return they will not seem new. This is what Yirmeyahu told them, ‘Set up way-marks for yourselves’ – these are the commandments by which Israel is distinguished”

These words of our Sages are eye-opening and even staggering. Concerning the performance of the commandments in the Diaspora, the inner truth of the matter is that outside of the Land of Israel, where theClalli, life force of the Nation doesn’t appear, there is no essential meaning in observing the commandments. The only reason for our still keeping the precepts inChutz L’Aretz is because of our past connection to theClalli soul of the Nation which vitalized us when we lived in our Land, and because of our connection to the future when the Clalli soul will return and reveal itself in our resurrected national life with the ingathering of our exiles to Zion.

A living holiness, filled with vitality, is the “electricity” which activates the soul of the Nation and the general,Clalli, life force within it. This force is what gives life to the details of the Torah and to its commandments. Thus, when the Nation isn’t living, when it is exiled from the Land and its organs are scattered throughout a netherworld of impure and unholy places, there is no essential value in keeping the mitzvot, and we are commanded to continue to perform them only so we don’t forget how to do them, so they won’t seem new to us when we return to our own Holy Land, where theClalli soul comes to life with the union of the Nation and the Land.

It is important to understand that the startling new insight revealed by our Sages is not that the precepts practiced in the exile are merely road signs to help us remember the way home, as indicated by the Prophet’s command, “Set up way-marks for yourselves,” but that it is possible at all to learn Torah and perform commandments in our altered and “decomposed” situation in exile, where we merely exist, without life, like in the prophesy of the valley of lifeless bones. The ability to do so only stems from our deep inner, historic, and genetic connection, even in our disintegrated situation in exile, to our complete, former, national, Clalli life as a Nation in its Land.

All of our life changes when we are in Galut. Not only does our Clalli soul disappear, but every detail of our life is affected. Regarding the teaching of the Gemara, “Everyone who dwells outside of the Land of Israel is like someone who has no God” (Ketubot 110B), Rabbi Pincus HaLevi Horewitz, author of the commentary,“HaHafla’a,” writes that this is speaking about a person who observes the Torah and mitzvot in Chutz L’Aretz – but because he doesn’t live in Eretz Yisrael, he is like someone who doesn’t have a G-d. The reason behind this is that outside the Land of Israel something profoundly essential is missing – our general, Clalli soul.

Therefore, in the exile, Jewish Belief (Emunah) and the worship of God appears in an incomplete form. If Emunah was merely a philosophical and intellectual discipline, there wouldn’t be any meaningful difference between its revelation during the Galut or at the time of Redemption (Geula). However, as we shall continue to explore, Emunah is the encounter with Divine Existence as it is revealed in our midst when we are a sovereign Nation in our Land. Thus, during the time of exile, when the general, Clalli life-force is withheld from us, and where God only appears in “the four cubits of Halacha,” in the life of individuals, the entire encounter with the lofty goals of the Torah, which appear in a dynamic living fashion in the national life of the Nation in our Land, is lost. It follows that the deeper levels of Emunah also are missing, and the individual Jew encounters his Maker on a shattered level, which is only a shadow of true and complete Emunah.

Graveyard, New York

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/graveyard-new-york/2012/12/18/

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