web analytics
April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘exile’

Jews Who Live in Diaspora Houses

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

It seems that the fad at The Jewish Press these days is for contributing writers to declare that Sarah Silverman’s trashy routine is a Chillul Hashem. That may be true, but there’s a bigger Chillul Hashem than Sarah’s. The biggest Chillul Hashem is when Jews choose to live in Chicago, and Dallas, and Los Angeles, and Lakewood, and Brooklyn, when they could live in the Land of the Jews instead.

We learn this from the Hashem Himself, through the words of the Prophet, Ezekiel. The concept of Chillul Hashem appears in Ezekiel’s clear and uncompromising rebuke of Jewish life in the exile: “And when they came amidst the nations into which they came, they desecrated My holy Name, in that heathens said of them, ‘These are the people of the L-rd and they have gone out of His Land’ (Ezekiel, 36:20).

The simple fact that Jews live in foreign, gentile lands brings terrible disgrace to the Name of G-d, far more than a Sarah Silverman video on Youtube. When a gentile sees Jews living in Chicago, or Dallas, or Los Angeles, or Brooklyn, he says, “G-d gave the Jews their own land to live in, yet the Jews prefer to live here with us! What a disgrace!” Others say, “G-d must be weak if He can’t keep His own People in Israel! They have their own Jewish homeland, but here they are, living with us!”

But why listen to me? Let an old writer for the Jewish Press explain it to you – Rabbi Meir Kahane. I turn this blog over to him. Let’s hear what he had to say about Jewish life in the Diaspora:

Rabbi Kahane bases his essay on the words of the Prophet, Ezekiel, who declares that Jewish life in the Diaspora is a terrible desecration of G-d:

“And when they came amidst the nations into which they came, they desecrated My holy Name, in that men said of them, ‘These are the people of the L-rd and they have gone out of His Land.’ But I had pity for My holy Name which the House of Israel had profaned among the nations into which they came. Therefore say to the House of Israel, Thus says the L-rd G-d; I do not do this for your sakes, O House of Israel, but for the sake of My holy Name which you have desecrated among the nations to which you came. And I will sanctify My great Name which was desecrated among the nations, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am the L-rd G-d, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and I will bring you into your own Land” (Ezekiel, 36, 20-24).

“What is this Chillul Hashem which Ezekiel describes? That the nations say of them, ‘They are God’s people and dear to Him, and if He could have helped them not to leave their Land, He would have done it, but He became weak…’ This Chillul Hashem comes through the Jewish People in the Diaspora.

“Therefore, Ezekiel continues: ‘I had pity for My holy Name which the House of Israel profaned among the nations into which they came’ (Ezek. 36:21). When the time for Redemption arrives, God has pity on His holy people, profaned among the nations by Israel’s very presence in exile among them, living under them, subject to and dependent upon them. Even when the nations allow Israel to live in peace among them,Israel still depend on their goodness and tolerance, and that, too, is a Chillul Hashem. The fact that the Jews exists as a minority, constantly dependent on the kindness of the gentiles, this itself diminishes the glory of Israel, and of God, so to speak.

“This is the intent of Targum’s rendering of the verse, ‘There [in the exile] you will serve other gods’ (Deut. 28:36,64): ‘There you will serve nations that worship idols.’ Israel, by being subject to these nations, even if this just means living under their sovereignty as a minority in the territory of the gentile majority, magnify and exalt the gods and culture of the nations, and belittle God’s omnipotence, not to mention the situations where the gentiles humiliate, murder and exterminate the  Jews.

“God, thus, intends to blot out the Chilul Hashem among the nations, occurring through the Jewish People, in the only way that the nations will understand, namely,Israel’s Redemption and their victory over the nations who blasphemed God. Since, in the nations’ eyes, Israel’s weakness and lowliness, and their suffering at the nations’ hands, are interpreted as God’s weakness and inability to save His people, and that is a Chillul Hashem, it follows that Israel’s power, exaltation and victory over their own enemies and the blasphemous enemies of God is a Kiddush Hashem (Sanctification of G-d).

“Therefore, although Israel are unworthy of Redemption in terms of their deeds, which are insufficient, still, a certain time arrives in God’s calculations when He has compassion for His holy Name, profaned among the nations. The Prophecy continues: ‘Therefore, say unto the House of Israel: Thus says the Lord God, I do not do this for your sake, O House of Israel, but for My holy Name, which you have profaned among the nations into which you came’ (Ezek. 36:22). Not for their sake, not because they deserve it, for they have not repented properly, but for the sake of God’s holy Name.

“Thus, God decides to erase this terrible disgrace: ‘And I will sanctify My great Name which was desecrated among the nations, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.’ (Ezekiel, 36:23-24).

“Rashi comments, ‘What does this Sanctification involve?  How does it come about? The answer is in the following verse: ‘I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and bring you into your own Land.’

“The non-Jew understands Israel’s existence in exile, and dependence on them, as God’s inability to help His People, or, Heaven forbid, as proof of God’s nonexistence. This is the greatest Chillul Hashem there is. It follows that only through Israel’s return to Eretz Yisrael and their being exalted, and gaining victory over the nations, will those nations understand that, indeed, the Lord is God, Supreme, Omnipotent King of Kings, and accept His sovereignty.

“The exile, itself, in the eyes of the nations, is the pinnacle of Chillul Hashem, whereas Israel’s return to Eretz Yisrael, the Land from which they were exiled, and the establishment of a sovereign state triumphantly, is the pinnacle of Kiddush Hashem; the proof to the nations that, indeed, a God exists in Israel, and He is the Supreme Master and King of Kings. Thus, His might, valor and victory are revealed through the might, valor and victory of Israel in their return to the Land of Israel.

“Therefore,” Rabbi Kahane concludes: “Depart the corrupt exile, the source of Chillul Hashem! Return to Eretz Yisrael so that you can live and sanctify God’s Name, for it is only through Israel’s return to Eretz Yisrael, and through the exile’s liquidation, and Israel’s revenge and victory over its enemies, that the nations will understand that the Lord of Israel is the One and Only God.”

[Excerpted from “The Jewish Idea,” Vol. 2, Pgs. 800-803.]

Reb Elimelech’s Ascent To Leadership (Part XI)

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

On the sad day that Eliezer Lipman, Reb Elimelch and Reb Zusha’s father, passed from this world, his children gathered for the week of mourning. At the conclusion of the shivah the sons divided their father’s inheritance in the following way: Avraham received the cash and the house was given to Nosson. The jewelry and housewares went to Elimelech and the outstanding debts were to be collected by Zusha.

The division had thus been contrived for Zusha, who was very clever at disguising his ways and who appeared to have plenty of time on his hands. With all that time to spare, it only seemed fitting that he should be the one to go out and collect the debts.

Zusha, however, was in no way suited for this mission, and without a penny from the inheritance was left destitute. Bereft of any means of support, he decided to travel to his uncle, an assistant to the Maggid of Mezeritch.

Lodging with his uncle meant constant exposure to the maggid and, in no time, Zusha became an ardent chassid of the master.

After his stay with his uncle in Mezeritch, Zusha departed for his brother, Elimelech, who had moved to his wife’s hometown of Shineva. The very long and arduous journey to Elimelech took its toll on Zusha’s already very modest attire. His worn-out tatters were far shabbier than those that clad the poorest of beggars.

Ever vigilant of the honor of his in-laws, Elimelech was ashamed to allow his dreadfully-appearing brother into his home. He therefore arranged accommodations for him at the home of a local baker, without providing a heads up that this would be a tenant different from any they had hosted before.

Zusha’s night was not earmarked for mundane sleep. Those precious hours were devoted to learning, prayer and the loud recitation of tikun chatzos. Zusha’s nocturnal agenda effectively brought about an end to his tenancy at the baker’s house and Elimelech had no other recourse but to invite his brother into his own home.

It was there that he was able to observe Zusha’s ways firsthand, which convinced him that they were not as weird as they had initially appeared. This also sparked within him a desire to draw close to the Maggid of Mezeritch. At the very same time, Reb Zusha convinced his older brother to join him in a self-imposed exile that they would devote to elevating the people that they would encounter.

Attired in the clothes of exile, they would travel from village to village to persuade, direct and inspire the people to desist from sin and return to their holy roots. The exile would also, as the Talmud teaches, purify their souls. And… just maybe, Reb Zusha had an added agenda in proposing the exile.

He understood very well his brother’s remarkable and singular talents and spiritual capabilities – but they were still dormant potential. A future leader for those times would not blossom if he were locked inside his books and the four amos of halacha. The situation required an individual who intimately knew his people, their afflictions, and their suffering.

This was the example the Baal Shem Tov had set, for he did not go from the study hall to shepherd his flock. He spent years traversing the land in order to learn and understand the people and their needs. Thus, when he assumed the mantle of leadership, he was no stranger to his brethren – nor were they to him. Likewise, before Reb Dov Ber, who succeeded the Baal Shem Tov, was restricted to crutches, he would travel the countryside as an itinerant maggid.

Dispatching Reb Elimelech to uplift the people, Reb Zusha likely reasoned, would be his apprenticeship for the leadership of chassidus.

Thus, across the length and breadth of the Polish landscape the brothers wandered, bringing the word of the Lord to those that were either unfamiliar or needed to be reminded. The holy brothers, as they came to be known – in a manner all their own – made focusing upon God a central part of people’s lives.

Wherever the holy brothers went on their self-imposed exile, they generated a spirit of repentance. Their standard routine was to admonish themselves out loud for their supposed crimes, when in fact their “sins” were precisely the ones that the villager within earshot needed to rectify.

What Are We Fasting For?

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

A few years ago, I happened to be in Los Angeles for the fast of Tisha B’Av. Towards the end of the fast, between afternoon and evening prayers, the rabbi of the shul asked if I could say a few words to the congregation to explain the significance of the holy day and the fast.

On Tisha B’(the 9th day of the month of) Av, the Jewish people mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is one of the four mandatory fasts of the Jewish faith, and one of the more difficult ones, since it takes place during the heat of the summer months, starting before sundown and ending after sundown the next day.

On Tisha B’Av, even pregnant women and those who have recently given birth are to fast, although they are not required to do so on the other three fast days. All are forbidden not only from eating, but also from bathing and other pleasantries that are permitted during the other fasts.

The reason that the rules of mourning are so strict is that on this day, the Jewish people are remembering the greatest national catastrophe in our history. The devastation of our army, country, and the leadership of our homeland all culminated in that final tragedy, the burning of our holy Temple in our capital city, Jerusalem. The destruction of the central holy place of the nation of Israel symbolized the taking of our land and all of our dignity with it.

This is what we should consider when trying to understand the suicide of the last remaining Jewish fighters at Masada shortly afterward. They saw no home to return to after the war – nowhere to be proud again.

Throughout the long exile that followed, ever since the destruction of our Temple and sovereign country, Jews in every corner of the Diaspora, be they in Yemen, Poland or Morocco, have prayed three times each day to see the rebuilding of the Temple, the holy city and country of Israel.

How amazing it is now, to live in times when the Jewish people have begun to fulfill that ancient dream of returning to the land and rebuilding our national home and reviving our Hebrew language and culture.

But on that hot summer day in Los Angeles, towards the end of the long and hard day of fasting, I looked around at my fellow Jews sitting on the floor of their magnificent and air-conditioned synagogue in their slippers and suits. Their nice cars were parked in the shul’s private parking lot, all not so far from their beautiful American homes and Jewish community schools and other institutions. And when I realized that they were investing more in building their community’s Jewish services, I became sad. I realized that they feel that they are at home, and not in exile. They are making plans to be there for many more years. They have forgotten the essence of what we have been mourning for, for so long. It is heart breaking.

It dawned on me that my Jewish brothers and sisters are comfortable here in the exile (which they prefer to call “Diaspora”). They are acting out the Jewish custom of fasting on this holy day, but have detached it from its true point, since its meaning is to preserve our national aspiration to return to our land, rebuild it, and treasure it forever. They feel content to go one day without food and fun, and follow it up with a kosher Chinese or Sushi treat.

I felt a real pain for my brothers who have become so absorbed in the comforts of the West that they have become deaf to the inner calling of our national soul, to return to our true home in the East. I had the urge to tell my brothers sitting there on the floor some 24 hours into the longest and hardest fast of our yearly cycle that they, their community and beautiful shul, mikvah and kosher food are the greatest evidence of what we mourn for today, the destruction of our Temple and dispersion of our people.

I pray for their return.

 

Podwal’s Lamentations

Friday, July 27th, 2012

The Book of Lamentations: Illustrated by Mark Podwal The National Council on Art in Jewish Life, New York 1974

In 1974 Mark Podwal, noted author, illustrator and physician created a spare, illustrated Book of Lamentations. This complete English translation is graced with 28 black and white illustrations, or more correctly, reflections, on the tragic text. Podwal maintains Jeremiah’s alphabetical acrostic of each chapter containing 22 sets of lines, reflecting aleph to tav, denoting each English set with the appropriate Hebrew letter.

According to Sanhedrin 104a “Rabi Johanan said: Why were they smitten with an alphabetical dirge? Because they violated the Torah, which was given by means of the alphabet,” representing the tragic reality that the Jews of his time transgressed the Torah from aleph to tav, beginning to end. Eicha!

Cardinal (ca.1600) oil on canvas by El Greco
Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Podwal’s visual reflections here all utilize existing works of art to extend his metaphorical reach. The fifth chapter begins:

“Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us. Behold, and see our reproach. Our inheritance is turned over to strangers; our houses unto aliens.”

A vicious beast glares out at us, clasping an 18th century Polish menorah in its teeth and blasphemously wearing a Torah Crown. The midrash comments that “our inheritance” refers to the Temple. In Podwal’s illustration this becomes the ornaments of our synagogues, tragically plundered. And to add insult to injury, the beast is none other than the iconic Capitoline Wolf, a medieval bronze sculpture of the she-wolf who nursed and saved the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. This terrifying pagan image represents the cruel Roman conqueror making off with the symbols of our pillaged faith. Eicha!

Inquisitor (1974) illustration by Mark Podwal
Courtesy National Council on Art in Jewish Life

There was perhaps no greater terror in Jewish history than the fanatical Inquisition faced by the Spanish Jews. While their mandate was only for Spanish Christians, the Inquisition especially preyed upon newly converted Jews and Muslims suspected of secretly practicing their old faith. The methods of spying, intimidation and torture led to harsh imprisonment, forced confessions and frequent execution by being burnt at the stake or beheading. The infamous Auto-de-Fe, a public ritual procession of accusation, humiliation and finally execution by burning, as well as all other investigations, were under the administration of the Grand Inquisitor. Torquemada (1483 – 1498) was the most notorious, especially known for his hatred of the Jews and central role in their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Many more Grand Inquisitors followed him, including Cardinal Don Fernando Nino de Guevara who was painted by El Greco in 1600. Arrayed in his ecclesiastical robes he is the epitome of church power. His black glasses frame a serious and determined face all too accustomed to cruelty.

“Thou hast heard their taunt, O Lord, and all their devices against me. The lips of those that rose up against me, and their muttering against me all the day. (3: 61-62)”

Podwal’s Inquisitor is overwhelmed by the robes of his office, just like his oversized hands emphasize the extent of his reach into innocent lives. The black windows behind him mask the screams of his victims. Eicha!

Ships are so often positive symbols of exploration, hope and prosperity that we must adjust our perspective to understand that for 16th century Spanish Jews they were the tragic means of exile from their homeland. As we recently saw in the frontispiece of the 1553 Ferrara Bible (Jewish Arts, 6-8), the floundering galleon became the symbol of the Spanish Jews in exile. The passage to exile was defined by the ship, combining its very real hardships with the realization that there would be no return home. While the Ferrara Bible image represents nothing but the pain of loss, Podwal’s ship sees the hope of saving their unique Torah and bringing it to new shores to spread its exceptional learning. Nestled in its foredecks the Sephardi tik naturally fits as the primary passenger in this modern understanding of the tragedy of Spanish Jewry.

Why We Mourn on Tisha B’Av

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

On Tisha B’Av, we mourn over the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, over the destruction of Jerusalem, and over being exiled from our Land. Unfortunately, because of the great length and darkness of the exile, there is a totally mistaken and distorted understanding of what exile is. Instead of experiencing it as a terrible punishment, it is all too often experienced as fun. Brooklyn and Boca and Melbourne and Toronto are considered wonderful places to live!

In a weekly Torah lecture, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, and son of the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, of blessed memory, related that he was once in the Diaspora with his father. “One of the Jews in the synagogue approached me and said that he would consider moving to Israel, but that it was too dangerous. When he said it, I felt like tearing my shirt in mourning. I felt like throwing myself down on the floor and begging God to forgive us for our sins. In the darkness of exile, people don’t see that assimilation is eating us up alive, and that in a generation or two, all will be finished, no longer will their children be Jews! As for the Orthodox, who will save them when the gentiles turn their wrath against them again? As our prophets declared, ‘Only in Zion will there be a refuge.’”

My beloved brothers and sisters in exile, don’t let the past three or four decades of calm deceive you. Don’t think that punishment of exile is a thing of the past. The exile continues today. And the exile is a terrible curse. Even in Brooklyn and Beverly Hills. Make no mistake about it. The exile is the worst punishment that there is for a Jew.

Rabbi Eliahu explained:

The Exile Pains Hashem

If a father has to throw a child out of the house, it pains the father as well as the son. The Talmud teaches that Hashem cries over His children in galut. Three times a day, He cries out, “Woe to the Father who has cast His children into the lands of the heathens… and woe to the children who have been banished from their Father’s table,” (Berachot 3A).

The Exile is a Chilul Hashem

When the gentiles see the Jews living in their countries, they say, “These are the children of God who have been cast out of His Land. God doesn’t have the power to guard over them in their Land. We succeeded to uproot them, and their God was powerless to help them” (See Ezekiel, 36:20-24). The presence of Jews in gentile lands in a desecration of God’s Name.

Jews are Helpless in the Exile

When a child is thrown out of the house, he doesn’t have anyone to protect him. Throughout the exile, we were persecuted and slaughtered. Over the centuries, millions and millions of Jews were mercilessly killed. Wherever we wandered, sooner or later, the gentiles turned their wrath against us.

The Exile Alienates Jews from Hashem

When a child is thrown out of his house, he is cast away from his father. The exile distances us from God, as King David said when he was forced to leave the Land, “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). The Gemara in Ketubot explains that living outside the Land of Israel is like serving other gods, because the exiled Jew is cast out of his Father’s house. Rabbi Elazar said, “From the day the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, and iron wall was drawn between Israel and their Father in Heaven” (Berachot 32B).

The Exile Gives Strength to the Gentiles

The Ramban explains that when Jews are in exile, their prayers and Torah learning goes up to the celestial angels that Hashem has placed over the nations, giving them strength to rule over Israel (Ramban on the Torah, Achre Mot, 18:25).

The Exile Shrinks the Torah

Without the Land of Israel, Jewish Statehood, the Temple, and Sanhedrin, Jews outside the Land have only “four cubits of Halachah,” the individual laws governing the private mitzvot like tefillin, kashrut, and Shabbat. The rest of the Torah, over two-thirds of the Mishna, cannot be practiced. Thus the Gemara states, “There is no greater bitul Torah (neglect of Torah) than the exile.” Why? The prophet answers, “For the herd of the Lord has gone into captivity,” (Yirmeahu 13).

In the Exile There is No Prophecy

In foreign lands, Israel has no prophecy, its most unique connection to God. As it says, “Her king and her princes are among the nations; there is no Torah; her prophets also find no vision from the Lord” (Lamentations, 2:9).

Exile Cuts Off Our Prayers

Jerusalem is the gateway to Heaven, the place where all prayers ascend. In the exile, the gates of prayer are closed, as its says, “Even when I cry and call for help, He stops up my prayer” (Lamentations, 3:9). Only the gate of tears remains open.

The Exile Destroys Malchut Hashem

Malchut Hashem, the Kingdom of God, in the world is manifested by the the Kingdom of Israel in Eretz Yisrael. When Jewish sovereignty is lost over Israel, the Jews are not merely scattered amongst the nations, the Kingship of God is destroyed and the Shechinah goes into exile as well. Foreign powers seem to rule in God’s place, and the Jews become servants to foreign regimes, as if God lacks the power to rule over His people alone.

In Exile, Justice and Peace are Lost

From Jerusalem, the world is to learn the true path of justice. In the future, all of the nations will come to Jerusalem to learn from Sages of Israel how to truly base justice in their countries and how to serve God in world peace. In the exile, God’s justice in the world is lost and nations do as they please.

In Exile, Blessing is Lost

The Talmud teaches that when Israel dwells in its Land and obeys the will of Hashem, rain comes in fullness and the world is filled with blessing (Baba Batra 25B). Only when all of Israel is gathered in our own Land can we be freed from the humiliation of foreign dependency. Only when Israel has returned to its Land will blessing return to the world.

In Exile, There is No Joy

The Psalmist laments, “How can I sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Tehillim 137). Only when we return to Zion can our hearts be filled with joy, as it says, “Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with ringing song” (Tehillim 126).

In Exile the Shechinah is in Torment

One Shavuot night in the exile, the Shechinah spoke to Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the “Shulchan Aruch,” and said: “If you only knew of only one one-hundred thousandth of the pain that I must suffer here, you would never have any joy in your heart, when you recall that because of you I have been cast into the dust.” Then the Shechinah told Rabbi Yosef Caro that if he wanted to cleave to Hashem, he and his students should go on aliyah to the Land of Israel.

My friends, how sincere can our mourning be when we spend the week after Tisha B’Av playing golf and tennis in the Catskills and heading up north to spend Shabbos Nachamu on the shores of Lake George instead of the Kinneret?

May the day soon come when our mourning over the exile will lead us to leave it. Then Tisha B’Av will be transformed into a day of joy, as our Sages taught, that all who mourn over the destruction of Jerusalem will merit to see her joyous rebuilding. Amen.

“By the Rivers of Brooklyn”

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

As all readers of The Jewish Press surely know, we are in the “Three Weeks” period leading up to Tisha B’Av, the day marking the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. During these three weeks, certain customs of mourning are observed to emphasize our great sorrow and loss. For instance, weddings are not conducted, and listening to happy music, dancing, and playing musical instruments are not allowed. There is one thing, though, that you could call a break, and that is the recital of Tikun Hatzot, the “Midnight Lamentation,” can now be said in the afternoon. For people who find it difficult to recite the Tikun Hatzot supplications late at night when they are overtired, this is a chance to recite this very powerful rectification with all of one’s concentration and feeling.

Many people think that Tikun Hatzot is something only for devout Hasidim and mystics, but the practice is mentioned on the very first pages of the halachic treatises, the Shulchan Aruch and Mishna Berura, which state: “If one is able to rise at midnight and perform the midnight service, there is nothing more praiseworthy than this, as it says, ‘Rise, cry out, in the night at the beginning of the watches, pour out thy heart like water before the presence of the Lord’” (Lamentations, 2:19). Our Sages tell us that at this time, God cries out, “Woe to My children on account of whose iniquity I destroyed My House, burnt My Temple, and exiled My children amongst the nations” (Berachot 3A). It is the time when the Divine Presence (the Shechinah) weeps for having been cast into the exile with Israel. The holy Zohar compares this to a king who cast his whoring son out from the palace into exile and sent the queen )the Shechinah) along with him to guard him throughout his wanderings. How painful it is for the royal queen to be sullied in foreign impure lands where she must remain with her son until he returns to the palace. So at midnight, we sit on the floor (some don sack cloths), and cry out over the pain of the Shechinah in exile, over the disgraced and exiled Jews, over the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. I try to recite Tikun Hatzot at least once or twice a week. Our Sages formulated the prayers to instruct us how we should feel in our ignominious exile from our Land, dispersed amongst the goyim. The Tikun Hatzot begins with the Psalm:

“By the rivers of Brooklyn and Paris and London and Melbourne and Toronto and Buenos Aries and Johannesburg, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion… How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Tehillim 137).

Make no mistake, my friends. America is a foreign gentile land. Canada is a foreign gentile land. England is a foreign gentile land. A Jew in America and Canada and England and France and Australia and South Africa is supposed to feel the terrible pain and disgrace of his outcast and ignoble situation, living as a minority amongst the goyim in a foreign gentile land. If he doesn’t experience his life in exile in this manner, feeling the spiritual emptiness and the strangeness of his foreign surroundings, while always yearning to return home to Zion and Jerusalem, then something is wrong with his Judaism and his identity as a Jew.

How much agony and anguish we are to feel over the Diaspora! Our once proud Nation has been destroyed! We have been stripped of our own Jewish Nationhood (until the establishment of Medinat Yisrael) and scattered to foreign lands. Our Holy Temple lies in ruins! And we are to feel pain for the disgrace of our mother, the Shechinah, for dragging her down into exile in countries polluted with idol worship and Xmas decorations nearly three months of the year. We read the verses that our Sages composed and tears fill our eyes. Shattered by our fallen condition in exile, a despised minority in gentile lands, and with hearts burning in shame for God, who is mocked and desecrated by the goyim who say, “These are God’s children and they are cast out of his Land,” as if to say that God doesn’t have the power to keep His promise to watch over His People in their own Jewish Land. So our Sages instructed us to wake up from our comfortable beds in the middle of the night and recite Tikun Hatzot over the pain of the Shechinah and the destruction of Jerusalem, just as they instructed us to recite this same Psalm after every weekday meal:

“By the rivers of Brooklyn and Paris and London and Melbourne and Toronto and Buenos Aries and Johannesburg, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion….

“How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

“If I ever forget you, O Jerusalem, withered be my right hand!

“May my tongue cleave to my palate, if ever I not think of you, if I ever not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!”

We are to say this Psalm after enjoying our glatt kosher, triple-decker deli sandwiches with cole slaw, sour pickles, fries and a Fr. Brown’s Celery or Black Cherry soft drink, in order to remind us that Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem are where we really belong, and where our true happiness lies.

How many of you recite this Psalm after eating? How many of you really set Jerusalem over your highest joy? If you do, why aren’t you here now?

The great Hasidic master, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, stated that the main devotion of a Jew is to get up every night for the Midnight Prayer:

“The exile has already lasted so long. God is only waiting for the moment to return to us and rebuild the Holy Temple. It could happen any time. Our task is to see that from our side we do nothing to obstruct the rebuilding of the Temple. On the contrary, we must make every effort to hasten it. This is why we should be careful to get up each night at midnight and mourn for the destruction of the Holy Temple. Perhaps in a previous incarnation we ourselves were responsible for something which brought about the destruction of the Temple. Even if not, it could still be that our sins in our present lifetime are holding up the rebuilding of the Temple, and this is as bad as if we had actually destroyed it. This is the reason why we must weep and mourn every night at midnight. When we do so, it is as if we were actually making a tremendous effort to rebuild the Holy Temple.”

The “Pele Yoetz” states:

“It is true that mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple is something that should be expressed in outward actions, especially during the Three Weeks, when one should put ashes on one’s head at the place where one lays tefillin, and sit by the doorway day and night to recite Tikun Hatzot. Still, the main thing is not the outward actions, but the feelings one has in one’s heart. One should feel brokenhearted, shed bitter tears, and sigh mournfully over the pain of Heaven.

“It may be true that today we have fallen to a very low level, and no one understands the full extent of what we are missing and what we have lost, what we have caused because of our sin, and what the exile of the Shechinah really means. Our very lack of understanding and sensitivity should fill us with anguish. Even so, each person is obligated to do what he can. One should imagine how he would feel if his mother was swathed and garbed in black, and was crying bitterly and shrieking, ‘The pain in my head! The pain in my arm! I brought up children, I raised them, and they rebelled against me!’ One should focus one’s mind and heart on similar bitter images and pour out one’s soul in a bitter cry, and then one may be worthy of seeing the consolation of Zion and the building of our Holy Temple in all of its glory.”

Truly, it is not easy to feel the pain of the exile and shed real tears every time one says Tikun Hatzot. After all, the destruction of Jerusalem happened almost 2000 years ago, and tragically, many Diaspora Jews are so used to the exile, they’ve long forgotten that there can be something totally different. And for the lucky Jews in Israel who have the unsurpassed blessing of living in Israel, with the Kotel only a short ride away, Jerusalem wondrously rebuilt, and a thriving Jewish State once again sovereign in the Land, it is often difficult to enter the proper mind set necessary to experience the terrible pain of the exile.

So to help me feel the anguish of the Shechinah who weeps over her scattered and exiled children, I look at pictures. Before reciting Tikun Hatzot, I sit on the floor and look at pictures of Brooklyn and Toronto and Miami Beach and Palm Springs and Lakewood and Monsey and Moscow. I imagine the Jews there, my brothers and sisters, and I cry over their exile from the Holy Land, over their captivity amongst the goyim, over the shame and disgrace of living in foreign gentile lands (and over the horrible fact that many of them don’t feel it!), and over the terrible plague of assimilation which is devouring the Jews in exile, and they remain there, blissfully denying that it could happen to their children or grandchildren as well. When I look at the pictures of Brooklyn and Toronto, and Boca and Beverly Hills, I pray with all my heart that God open their eyes, and give them a heart of flesh to feel the horror of their plight, living in strange impure lands, living make-believe identities, as if they are Americans and Frenchmen and Australians and Germans, when they are really the descendents of Israelites displaced from their Homeland.

Alas! How foolish and shortsighted we are! For 2000 years, the gentiles made certain to remind us that we were in exile, and made sure that we felt the pain. But today, in the temporary lull, when the gentiles are still resting from the last wholesale slaughter of 6 million Jews, like a rapist who rises from his victim with his lust and violence temporarily spent, we have deceived ourselves into thinking that today in our wonderful exiles, it could never happen again, as if the Almighty has forgotten His vow to return us to Israel, with fury, if need be, dragging us back to Eretz Yisrael by our peyes – chas v’shalom.

May the day come speedily when The Blessed One Holy Be He opens our eyes and give us new hearts to feel the shame and disgrace of our exile in Brooklyn, Boston, Boca, and Beverly Hills. May the flights of Nefesh B’Nefesh begin to be full, day after day, and may this coming fast day and day of mourning turn into a feast of falafel, shwarma, and, yes, yes, even bagels and lox, Israel style, the holiest and most delicious bagels and lox in the world. Amen.

[The full text of Tikun Hatzot, with both Tikun Rachel and Tikun Leah, can be found here]

Mashiach, Mashiach, Mashiach, Da Da Da Da DaDa

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Who is Mashiach? What is Mashiach? What’s he all about? Strange as it may seem, we learn about Mashiach from the wicked Bilaam, in the Torah portion of Balak. While the verses are obscure, the Rambam explains them in The Laws of Kings and Their Wars. Since many Diasporians picture the Mashiach to be some type of fairytale hero who will whisk them back to Israel on some kind of magical carpet when he flies down to earth dressed like Superman, with super powers and X-ray vision, we will try to present a more realistic, down-to-earth picture.

The name Mashiach (often translated as the Messiah) is derived from a Hebrew word meaning the “anointed one” – Hashem’s anointed king. The belief in the Mashiach’s coming is one of the Thirteen Fundamental Principles of our faith (13 Principles of the Rambam, Principle 12). Since in our very time, the Almighty has been gathering our scattered exiles to Israel from all over the globe, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook made a point to explain the concept of Mashiach to his students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, emphasizing that the Mashiach wasn’t only the ideal Jewish king, but also a gradually developmental process which evolves over time.

The Rambam writes:

“Anyone who does not believe in the Mashiach, or who does not anticipate his coming, not only denies all of the prophets, he denies the validity of the Torah and Moshe Rabenu, our teacher, since the Torah gives witness to him, as it says, ‘When all these things will come upon you (all the tribulations of exile), then the Lord your God will turn your captivity and have compassion on you, and return and gather you from the nations’” (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 11:1).

Believing in the Torah means believing in the Mashiach and yearning for his arrival. As part of the 13 Principles of Faith, we say, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Mashiach, and even though he may delay, nevertheless, I look forward to his coming every day.”

This means that when a Jew in the Diaspora is eating a bagel and lox and reading The New York Times, or The Jewish Press, or when he’s going to watch the new Woody Allen movie on Motzei Shabbat, he should be yearning for the Mashiach to come. In the Gemara, Shabbat, it is written, “At the hour when a man faces heavenly judgment, they say to him, did you yearn for the salvation of Israel?” (Shabbat 31A). Yearning for the coming of Mashiach, and the salvation he will bring, is complete Emunah/faith. Thus, the Ramban writes, someone who does not believe in him, or anticipate his coming, denies the prophets of Israel and Moshe, our teacher, since the Torah gives witness to him.

How does the Torah give witness to him? The Rambam answers with the verse, “When all these things will come upon you (all the tribulations of exile), then the Lord your God will turn your captivity and have compassion on you, and return and gather you from the nations” (Devarim, 30:1-3).

Please notice, my friends, that the ingathering of the exiles is proof of the Mashiach. As the Rambam makes clear, the incredible ingathering of our outcasts to the Land of Israel, an occurrence we have witness in our time, this is a revelation of Mashiach, an actual stage in the days of Mashiach, through the concrete aliyah of Jews from all over the globe, and not through miracles.

During the long generation we spent in galut, Mashiach became a misunderstood concept. Partly due to the pernicious infiltration of Xtian doctrines into our collective subconscious, Mashiach was envisioned by many people as a religious superhero who would arrive on the scene in a flash of miracles and wonders, and lead all the Jews out of the ghetto and back to the Promised Land. Helpless and impotent in galut, and constantly at the mercies of the goyim and their governments, we had no way of actualizing our dreams of returning to Zion, and thus this Superman fantasy of Mashiach seemed to be the only way we could be redeemed from the harsh realities of our lives. When centuries passed in waiting and disappointment, a philosophy of passivity arose. We were to pray and wait, and the Mashiach would do all the work when he came. The demand arose that the Redemption occur all at once, and be complete from the start, and not in a gradual, natural, process of historical development and events which came to completion with the passage of time (See our book, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Chapters 11 and 12, from which this essay is condensed.)

I Love All Jews

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

That’s right. I love Jews. All of them. I love good Jews and I love bad Jews. I love fat Jews and I love skinny Jews. I love reform Jews and deformed Jews, progressive Jews and regressive Jews. I love assimilated Jews and Jews who have married gentiles. I love homosexual Jews and lesbian Jews. I love leftist Jews and Peace Now Jews. I love Jews who call me nasty names and Jews who say I’m a lousy writer. I even love Diaspora Jews. Some people say I’m too hard on them, but that’s because I love them so much. If you see a blind man about to fall off a cliff, you yell out to warn him, right? What is this similar to? If a person who never heard about heart transplants wandered into the operating room of a hospital and saw a team of doctors removing the heart of a patient, he’d think they were monsters trying to kill him – but the very opposite is the case. The surgeons are trying to save him. It’s the same thing with me. Precisely out of the passionate love I feel for my brothers and sisters in exile, I am trying to open their eyes. I lived in exile in gentile lands too, and I know what it’s like. Living in Israel, you can’t even begin to measure the difference. Jewish life in a foreign, gentile land cannot be compared to true Jewish life in the Land of the Jews. It’s the difference between night and day.

Since the Three Weeks have started when we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash, this is a good time to stir up the embers of the love we feel for our fellow Jews. Rabbi Kook taught that since the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed because of senseless hatred, it will be rebuilt by gratuitous love. So to help get us started, here are a few things Rabbi Kook wrote about love, from the chapter on Ahavah, in his book “Midot HaRiyah.”

“The heart must be filled with love for all: for all of Creation, for all mankind, and, in ascending order, for the Jewish People, in which all other loves are included, since it is the mission of Israel to bring all the world to perfection. All of these loves are to be expressed in practical action, by pursuing the welfare of those whom we are bidden to love, and to seek their betterment and advancement.”

“The highest love of all is the love of G-d. When it fills the heart, this spells man’s greatest happiness. Consequently, one cannot help but love the Torah and its commandments, which are so intimately linked to the goodness of G-d.”

“Love must embrace every single individual, regardless of differences in views on religion, or differences of race or country. A person must discipline himself in the love of all people, especially the love of the noblest among them, the intellectuals, the poets, the artists, the communal leaders. It is necessary to recognize that light of the good in the best of the people, for it is through them that the light of God is diffused in the world, whether they recognize the significance of their mission or not.

“Hatred may be directed only toward the evil and filth in the world. We must realize that the kernel of life, in its inherent light and holiness, never leaves the divine image in which mankind was created, and with which each person and nation is endowed.”

“Though our love for people must be all-inclusive, embracing the wicked as well, this in no way blunts our hatred for evil itself – on the contrary, it strengthens it. For it is not because of the dimension of evil clinging to a person that we include him in our love, but because of the good in him, which our love tells us is to be found in everyone. Since we separate the dimension of the good in him, in order to love him for it, our hatred for the evil becomes unwavering and absolute.”

“It is proper to hate a corrupt person only for his defects, but insofar as he is endowed with a divine image, it is proper to love him. We must also realize that the precious dimension of his worth is a more authentic expression of his nature than the lower characteristics that developed in him through circumstances.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/i-love-all-jews/2012/07/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: