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May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘diaspora’

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.

Twas the Last Night of Hanukah

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

I grew up lighting Hanukah candles, but we also had a Xmas tree, so that we wouldn’t feel different from the other kids in the neighborhood. That’s the way it is with a great many Jews in America. In the Orthodox world, homes don’t have Xmas trees, but that, and Shabbat, is about the only thing separating them from being just as American as everyone else, just as passionate about baseball and football, the latest movies, and the popular American songs. By and large, no one is really waiting for Mashiach to come. He would just mess up their lives and make them come to Israel, as this fun holiday poem I composed points out:

Twas the Last Night of Hanukah

Twas the last night of Hanukah, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The latkes were laid out on the table with care,
In hopes that Moshiach soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my yarmulke cap,
Had just settled into bed for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of midday to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Moshiach.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Who is it? Who is it?” my wife wanted to know.
“Moshiach,” I told her, trembling with fear.
“Wake the children!” I urged. “Hurry and hide them! Don’t stall!”
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

“He’s come to take us away to the Land of Israel,” I said.
“Isn’t that what we pray for?” she asked, her faced flushed and red.
“What?! And give up all that we have? Are you nuts?!”
“Hide the kids in the basement. Now! Without any buts!”

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I crawled under the bed, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Moshiach came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Jews he had flung over his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

My heart was beating so fast, I thought I’d have an attack!
As he went about, looking for Jews he could put in his sack.
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

“Wake up! Wake up from your slumber!” he called.
If you don’t come now, you’re gonna be mauled!”
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl of gefilta-fish jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
But I peed in my pants in spite of myself!
“You’ll all be sorry!” he called, shaking his fist.
Then, with a grunt, I saw him cross our names off his list.

“You forgot to place Jerusalem above your highest joy.”
“So your children will grow up to marry some goy.”
“You had your chance, but I can’t waste my time and delay.”
“Stay here with your bagels and money and continue to pray.”

He spoke nothing more, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings with bagels, then turned with a jerk.
And holding up his finger by his big Jewish nose,
He gave a nod, and up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy exile to all, and to all a good-night!”

It’s About Time! [Video]

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Here’s a video of a settler who was stopped once too many by “non violent” foreign anarchists and Arabs blocking the highway. Her solution was simple – and I must tell you, as a cab driver in NY City back in the 1980s I had to utilize the same reasonable approach to law and order.

All I can say is that if anyone, of any sex, creed, color and ethnicity, tries to block my car with my family in it “peacefully,” in a group of youths who could be wielding rocks – I’m not sticking around to soothe his gripes. One foot on the gas, both hands on the wheel, no looking back.

Pass it on. It might just be that Israelis are finally removing the diaspora brain chip. That’s a reason for a celebration!

Of course, I’m not promoting violence here, I don’t think folks should go out of their way to ram into protesters. But if you’re surrounded by a mob and fear for your safety — put your foot to the pedal and the pedal to the metal.

By the way, all the protesters got off the road after that.

Over 1,000,000 Jews in New York and God Weeps!

Friday, June 15th, 2012

A couple of days ago, The Jewish Press reported that there are over a million Jews living in New York. Nearly half of them are “Orthodox.” What’s the celebration? Hashem gazes down from the Heavens at His children in New York City and weeps. That’s right. That’s what our Sages teach in the Talmud. During the night, the Holy One Blessed Be He sits and roars like a lion, saying, “Woe to the children who I have exiled among the nations of the world” (Berachot 3A). It’s like a King who builds a beautiful palace for his children, but they don’t want to live there. They prefer to hang out with the harlots. If we feel proud that there are a million Jews living in New York (when they could very easily be living in Israel), then something is very wrong with our Jewish Identity. On the contrary, we should all hang our heads down in disgrace.

But why listen to me? Let a real Rabbi explain it to you. Rabbi Meir Kahane was a true Jewish leader. For example, he could have gone into politics in America but he chose to go into politics in Israel instead, because he wanted to teach the Jews of America that they belong in the country of the Jews, and not in the countries of the gentiles. He wanted to teach them that Jerusalem was their capital, and not Washington D.C. Rabbi Kahane wanted to show by his personal example that what was really important for a Jew was what was happening in the Eretz Yisrael, and not when a new kosher pizza shop was opened in Boston or Beverly Hills. Yes, the pastrami and corned beef may be better in Brooklyn, but, personally, I’m happier eating a felafel on rye in Jerusalem, knowing I’m in the place where Hashem wants me to be.

Here’s part two of Rabbi Kahane’s chapter on the Mitzvah of Living in Israel, condensed from his book, The Jewish Idea:

Eretz Yisrael is acquired through suffering and devotion. The deterioration in our values, and the blunting of Israel’s emotional attachment to Eretz Yisrael, emerged because we distorted the halachah, due to the wretched exile which conquered our minds and souls. We are also tempted to flee the difficult challenge and duty of isolating ourselves from the nations, and the hardships of earning a living in rebuilding our homeland. It all goes back to our Sages’ comment in Berachot 5a: “God gave Israel three fine gifts and all come only through suffering: Torah, Eretz Yisrael and the World-to-Come.”

A person’s whole life is a test to see whether he will accept the yoke of Heaven and of mitzvot. There is nothing precious that does not exact a heavy price. Eretz Yisrael, a precious gift, requires self-sacrifice, as befits a treasure of the Chosen People.

Wherever we go, we are obligated to prove our faith and trust in G-d, and certainly so in Eretz Yisrael, the Chosen Land, symbol of Israel’s isolation and their belief that “The Lord alone guides them” (Deut. 32:12). Yet time after time we have failed in this. Our Sages learned (Tanchuma, Tazria, 6):

“A kohen who used to observe plague-spots (see Lev. 13) became poor and wished to leave the Land. He summoned his wife, saying… “Let me teach you how to observe plague spots. If you see that the well-spring of a person’s hair has dried up, know that he is smitten, for God created a well-spring for every single hair to drink from”… His wife replied, “If God created for every hair a well-spring of its own, how much more so will He provide a livelihood for you, who are a human being, with much hair, and have children whom you support!” Therefore, she did not let him leave the Land.

Lack of trust in God’s ability to support and defend us was, from time immemorial, the plague that severed us from the great mitzvah of living in the Land, causing us to distort the mitzvah and contrive all sorts of warped excuses to exempt ourselves from it.

How could we as a nation have failed regarding this mitzvah, fleeing the suffering entailed in the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, when ultimately it is the greatest gift God gave us? As it says (Jer. 3:19), “I gave you a Desirable Land.” So terribly has the cursed exile warped our nation, that many see no personal duty to leave the exile, and they do not at all consider it a punishment! What a perversion this is! This is a distortion of the Torah — through love of the Exile.

Diaspora Youth – It’s Time to Come Home!

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Continuing our Israel Book Week survey of top Torah classics, here’s a chapter from the perennial bestseller, Torat Eretz Yisrael.

The teachings of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, founder of the Gush Emunim settlement movement in Israel and longtime Rosh Yeshiva at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem. The chapter is based on a class he gave to Diaspora youth during their visit to Israel. Since the sin of the Spies was in despising the pleasant Land and not wanting to live here, the only way we can rectify their great sin is by doing the very opposite – loving the Land of Israel and making it our home. Instead of building Jewish life in the exile, the tragic mistake of the Spies, each and every one of us needs to do what he or she can in building true Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Kook stressed again and again that this is what the Torah is all about, as it says, “For from Zion the Torah shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” From Zion, and not from Brooklyn or Boca Raton.

Diaspora educators – stop deceiving your students! Jewish mothers and fathers – stop leading your children astray! Tell them the truth that their futures are in Israel. But you don’t have to listen to a simple blogger like me – here’s what one of the greatest and most influential Torah leaders of our times told a group of young Diaspora Jews just like your sons and daughters:

From the book, Torat Eretz Yisrael:

Our connection to Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) is not solely based on the fact that it is our homeland. There is a reason that it is our homeland. The Almighty created it especially suited to us.

Eretz Yisrael is the land of Clal Yisrael, the land of the nation and community of Israel.

To properly understand our connection to Eretz Yisrael, we first have to know who we are.

We are the nation created by Hashem to proclaim His Name in the world. And just as all other nations belong to a particular land, we belong to a particular land. This is part of the order of Creation that this air, these mountains and hills, these stones and plants in this portion of the globe are uniquely connected to us. Just as Hashem chose us from all of the nations, He chose our land from all other lands, “For the Lord has chosen Zion” (Tehillim, 132:13). The Divinely chosen nature of our nation and of our Land is integral to understanding who we are.

Herein lies the difference between Am Yisrael and the nations of the world. We are a nation brought into existence by the Creator of heaven and earth. Our whole nation is holy. All of our meaning and value is as a holy nation, a holy Clal. And the specifically designated place on this planet for this segment of mankind is here in the Land of Israel.

When Jews meet they customarily exchange “shaloms” and ask, “Where do you come from?” The usual response is, “I come from Belgium, I come from Brazil, I come from Colorado. The Rebbe of Obstrovtza said, “Every Jew is obliged to answer – I come from Eretz Yisrael.” This is a very deep insight telling us that every Jew in his innermost essence belongs to Eretz Yisrael.

Because of our long exile amidst the impurity of the gentile nations, we have become accustomed to think that our life in the Diaspora is normal, and we forget that Eretz Yisrael is our natural, healthy, Divinely-intended place.

Hashem said to Avraham, “Lech Lecha, Get yourself forth…” commanding him to journey to a specific place, “To the land that I will show you.” Even without knowing where he was going, Avraham picked up his family and went to find the place where he was to serve Hashem. There is an expression in Latin – ex orient lux – the light comes from the east. So too, spiritual light comes from the East, from our Middle East. From this spot on earth, Hashem educates mankind. To do this, Hashem wants us here in Israel. We don’t belong in other places. Haven’t we already sufficiently tasted the life in Europe and Auschwitz?

To the Leaders of Diaspora Jewry – Come on Aliyah!

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Since the Sin of the Spies was perpetrated by the leaders of the generation, in order to rectify their sin, today’s Diaspora leaders must rally their congregations and constituents to come on Aliyah. All Rabbis, teachers in Jewish schools, presidents of synagogues, chairmen of Jewish organizations, leaders of the RCAs, OUs, NCSYs, AIPACs, ADLs, Bnei Briths, Hadassah Chapters, Emunah Women, Jewish writers, pop stars, movie directors, and Jewish comedians must all speak out in a clear voice that the time has come to bid farewell to gentile lands and lovers, and come home to the Land of Israel.

For leaders of Diaspora Jewry who try to refute the truth of this call by saying, “Who is a mere blog writer to tell us what we should do?” we answer with the words of the Torah giant, Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal. He was one of the respected leaders of Orthodox European Jewry before World War Two, the head of the Beit Din in Budapest. Witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust, he discarded his fierce anti-Zionist ideology, and wrote a brilliant scholarly treatise on the vital necessity for Aliyah. To continue our celebration of “Book Week” in Israel, we will take a peek at his revolutionary classic, “Eim HaBanim Semeichah,” with the recommendation that it be studied by every Jew who cherishes the truth and who truly longs to serve God.

Rabbi Teichtal writes:

“Furthermore, my brother, know that in order to rectify our ancestors’ sin, everything must be exactly as it was then. At that time, the leaders of the congregation spread evil propaganda against Eretz Yisrael. Therefore today, as well, the leaders of the congregation must propagandize for the sake of Eretz Yisrael in order to pay off their ‘bad debt.’ They must be the first ones to open the nation’s eyes. They must explain that there is no reason for us to remain in the foreign, impure, and polluted atmosphere of the Diaspora, nor to expend our energies in vain while the gentiles rob the fruits of our labor from before our very eyes. The leaders must speak to the people in this fashion and arouse within them a fire and a spark of love for our desirable Land. This alone will make of worthy of Redemption.

“This follows the words of our mentor, the Or HaChaim. He writes that Israel’s leaders throughout the generations will be held responsible for the fact that we are still in exile, because they should have inspired the Jews to love Eretz Yisrael. The leaders of the generation must inspire the Jewish People to help bring the Redemption closer by using the natural means that God has prepared for us. We are not worthy enough for it to occur with manifest miracles, rather only with miracles disguised in seemingly natural events, as in the days of Cyrus.

“I know that the humble ones who separate themselves from the building effort do so for the sake of Heaven. They fear that they and their children may be harmed by joining people whose ways have strayed from the path of the Torah. Behold, we can say about such people that although their intentions are acceptable, their actions are not, for many reasons. First of all, the prophet Yeshayahu said to King Chizkiyah, ‘Do as you are commanded! Why do you involve yourself with the Merciful One’s hidden matters?’ The same applies here. All Jews must be united in order to fulfill the positive commandment of the Torah of building and settling the Land. This cannot be accomplished individually. Therefore, do as you are commanded! Further, no harm will come to a Jew who participates in this great and exceedingly lofty mitzvah. On the contrary, if a large number of Orthodox Jews join in, they will enhance the sanctity of the Land, as I previously cited in the name of the holy Rebbe of Gur and the Ramban. Since we are commanded to build the Land and raise it from the dust, it is forbidden to be overly pious and undermine this endeavor, God forbid. Rather, we must build with whomever it may be and concentrate on enhancing the sanctity of the Land. Then Hashem will assist us.

WARNING! Living in Israel is a Commandment of the Torah

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

No one refutes the Torah greatness of the Ramban. He established that the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel is commandment of the Torah. An Orthodox Jew who doesn’t live in the Land of Israel is like an Orthodox Jew who doesn’t put on tefillin, or an Orthodox Jew who doesn’t keep Shabbat, or like a Frum Jew who doesn’t keep kosher or study Torah. True, if a person wants to fulfill a positive commandment of the Torah, but is prevented against his will, his inability to perform the mitzvah is not considered a transgression. For example, if a man travels to some faraway island where his tefillin are stolen, and there is no other set of tefillin around, then his not putting on tefillin is not held against him. Likewise, if a person wants to live in Israel but is unable to because of circumstances beyond his control, then he or she is freed from the obligation as long as that preventing circumstance lasts. But if he or she could make aliyah and doesn’t, then that person is transgressing a positive commandment of the Torah.

Which bring us to another must book which belongs in every home library: The Jewish Idea, the opus, two-volume work of Rabbi Meir Kahane, in which he clarifies the foundations of Torah.

In addition to his path-breaking struggle on behalf of Soviet Jewry, his unparalleled and fearless activism and total self-sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish Nation and Eretz Yisrael, and his bringing myriads of Jews to Torah Judaism and a new spirit of Jewish pride, Rabbi Kahane was a Torah scholar par excellence, whose banner was TRUTH, the whole TRUTH and nothing but the TRUTH.

For any reader who may be confused about the obligation to live in the Land of Israel, this sweeping halachic and Talmudic overview of Rabbi Kahane will surely put all uncertainty to rest. Because of its vital importance to each and every Jew, we will be presenting it in two installments.

From The Jewish Idea, Volume 2

LIVING IN ERETZ YISRAEL is a mitzvah de’oraita – a mitzvah commanded by the Torah itself. Not only that, but it carries equal weight to all the other mitzvot combined. In fact, it supersedes them in importance, because all of them are dependent upon it, since we are commanded to perform all the commandments there, in the Land of Israel.

The Torah says, “When the Lord your God cuts off the nations whom you are approaching to inherit, you shall expel them and live in their land” (Deut. 12:29). This verse explicitly states the two mitzvot tied to Eretz Yisrael. The first is expelling the non-Jews. The Hebrew corresponding to, “whom you are approaching to inherit,” is rendered by Onkelos as, “Whom you are approaching to banish.” The second is “You shall live in their land.” It is a mitzvah to live in their land, in Eretz Yisrael.

Regarding this verse our Sages said (Sifri, Re’ei, 80):

“You shall expel them”: R. Yehudah ben Beterah and R. Matia ben Cheresh and R. Chanina ben Achi and R. Yehoshua and R. Yonatan were leaving the Land, and they arrived at Paltum and they remembered Eretz Yisrael. Their eyes brimmed over and their tears poured forth, and they tore their garments and they recited this verse: “You shall inherit it [the Land] and dwell therein, and you shall carefully keep all the laws” (Deut. 11:31-32). They returned to their place and they said, “Living in Eretz Yisrael equals the combined weight of all the mitzvot in the Torah.”

Here our Sages state explicitly that living in Eretz Yisrael is not just a mitzvah but such a great mitzvah that it equals all the others in their combined value. Likewise, it emerges clearly from here that the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael does not depend on the existence of the Temple. After all, the anecdote above occurred after the Destruction. All the same, the scholars of the Mishnah established that living in Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah from the Torah, and so is the prohibition against leaving Eretz Yisrael.

Our Sages said further (Tosefta, Avodah Zarah, 5:2):

“A person should live in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city whose majority is idolaters, and not outside the Land, even in a city that is entirely Jewish. This teaches that living in Eretz Yisrael is of equal weight to all the mitzvot of the Torah combined. If someone is buried in Eretz Yisrael, it is as though he is buried under the altar. One should not leave Eretz Yisrael unless the cost of wheat rises to two se’ah for a sela. Rabbi Shimon said, “This refers to where one lacks the wherewithal to buy it, but if he has the wherewithal, then even if it is one se’ah for a sela, he should not leave.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/warning-living-in-israel-is-a-commandment-of-the-torah/2012/06/07/

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