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November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Land’

My Response to the Monsey Rabbi

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

An American orthodox rabbi in Monsey recently wrote a response on Facebook to a post about the importance of living in the Land of Israel. His response was as follows: “You’re in exile, too. Last I checked, there is still a mosque on the temple mount, with Arabs shooting rockets [at you].”

This is my response to him and to every orthodox Jew who shares that mistaken view.

1. There are more mitzvot here in Eretz Yisrael (E”Y) than in chu”l (the diaspora). In all other facets of life, orthodox Jews prefer to put themselves in a position to perform more mitzvot, and in a more mehudar way. Unfortunately, when trying to find a heter to not have to live in E”Y, Jews in chu”l irrationally choose gashmi’ut over ruchni’ut (materialism over spirituality). I’ve had long discussions with my American orthodox friends, and though it usually takes an hour or more, eventually they all admit that that’s exactly what they are doing. I’m sure if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see that truth as well. You don’t choose to live in America as a matter of religious principle, but rather out of convenience and inertia.

2. No religious Zionist claims that the galut is over, or that it is entirely over for Jews residing in E”Y (though Rashbi said that only one kicked out of E”Y is called an exilee). Rather, the question is one of where a Torah-observant Jew should choose to live. There has always been only one legitimate reason for not living in E”Y: pikuach nefesh (preservation of life). It was indeed dangerous to travel, and dangerous to live in E”Y. But that has changed with the emergence of the State of Israel and modern travel standards, such that the pikuach nefesh argument actually supports living in Israel, which has the 3rd highest life expectancy in the world (and 2nd for men)! By contrast, according to Wikipedia, the U.S. is number 37 on the list.

As you can see, the issue of missiles, terror and war, are blown out of proportion by the media. In fact, American men on average live 4.4 years less than their Israeli counterparts. If we look at stats for just Israeli Jews, life expectancy jumps 1-2 years for men and women, while for American Jews, the stats are the same as the general population. Life here is just plain healthier than in the States, and on a number of levels. I hope one day America will be as safe and healthy a place to live as Israel, but certainly one cannot justify refusing to make aliyah based on safety or health issues.

3. I presume you are familiar with the Gemara’s position on where to live when pikuach nefesh is not a factor. If not, here is the key passage from Ketubot 100b:

“Our Rabbis taught: One should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a town most of whose inhabitants are idolaters, but let no one live outside the Land, even in a town most of whose inhabitants are Israelites; for whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a god, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no god. For it is said in Scripture, To give you the Landof Canaan, to be your God. Has he, then, who does not live in the Land, no god?  But [this is what the text intended] to tell you, that whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who worships idols. Similarly it was said in Scripture in [the story of] David, For they have driven me out this day that I should not cleave to the inheritance of the Lord, saying: Go, serve other gods. Now, whoever said to David, ‘Serve other gods’? But [the text intended] to tell you that whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who worships idols. ” 

4. Pikuach nefesh aside, there is a philosophical question of whether the Jews should be passive or pro-active in the redemption process. Rather than make the case myself, take the time to read the Vilna Gaon’s position as presented in the first chapter of Kol HaTor (found here).

Over Here, my Rain Is Happy!

Monday, November 12th, 2012

“I’m singing in the rain, I’m singing in the rain, what a wonderful feeling, I’m happy again!”

Before Shabbat, the Heavens opened with a symphony of thunder and lightning, and the great blessing of rain washed over the Land of Israel in answer to our prayers. Like I do every year with the very first rain, I hurried outside and danced in joy, laughing happily as the raindrops splashed on my face.

“Raindrops keep falling on my head… da da da da da da da da da da da… nothings worrying me!”

Back in the house, I opened the door to the terrace so I could hear the splattering of rain on the aluminum roof. What a wonderful sound! “What a glorious feeling! I’m happy again!” The clatter of raindrops sounded like the clinging of coins in a beggar’s cup. “Rain, rain, don’t go away – stay with us another day!”

When lightening lit up the sky and thunder shook the heavens, I recited their special blessings with exuberant joy. What a privilege to be in the Holy Land when it rains! It’s like every drop is a kiss from Hashem, assuring us that He loves us.

Yesterday, driving to Tel Aviv, it was pouring. I sang all the way! What a blessing to be stuck in a long traffic jam in Israel because of the rain! For nearly 2000 years, we’ve prayed to come home to Israel, and now that Hashem, in His infinite kindness, has allowed us to rebuild our Land, what a joy that we have long traffic jams! It’s a sign that the country is booming!  Would Moshe Rabanu have complained to sit in a traffic jam in Israel? Would Rashi have grumbled? No way!

I can’t help comparing our great joy in Israel over the rain to the recent devastating rains in New York. There it was a disaster. You want to know why? Look at this, from the Torah giant, the “Ohr Somayach,” Rabbi Meir Simcha HaCohen from Dvinsk, from his famous commentary on the Torah, the “Meshech Chochmah,”

“If a Jew thinks that Berlin (New York) is Jerusalem, then a raging storm-wind will uproot him by his trunk – a hurricane will arise and spread its roaring waves, and it will swallow and destroy, and flood forth without pity” (Meshech Chochmah, Pg. 171).

In the same light, the Torah giant, Rabbi Yaacov Emden, writes in the Introduction to his famous siddur, “The Beit Yaacov,”

“When it seems to us, in our present peaceful existence outside of the Land of Israel, that we have found another Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, this is to me the deepest, most obvious, most outstanding, and direct cause of all of the awesome, frightening, monstrous, unimaginable destructions that we have experienced in the Diaspora.”

In the meantime, I’m yours truly, just singing and dancing in the rain.

Don’t Tell My Wife!

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

We spent Shabbat in Ashkelon, visiting my wife’s parents. On Motzei Shabbat, my wife stayed in Ashkelon (in the red glare of the rockets fired from Gaza) so that she could take her mother for a medical treatment in the morning. I drove back to Yerushalayim with my children. Along the way, we passed a stretch of fertile farmland. The heavenly rains that had fallen during Shabbat seemed to have awakened the earth, and the pungent aroma of fresh cow manure wafted into the car. My younger boys started gagging and making jokes, the way children do about such things.

“Sheket!” I told them. “I love the smell of fresh bovine in Eretz Yisrael more than any other smell in the world. To me it’s like perfume.”

“Come off it, Abba,” my 22 year-old Golani commando responded.

I switched on the car blinker and started to pull off the highway to the side of the road.

“What are you doing?” my daughter wanted to know.

“Aahhhhhhh,” my youngest son gagged, as the overpowering smell of manure filled the car. “Are you crazy? Don’t stop here!”

But I wanted to teach them a lesson. After all, they were born in Israel. Sometimes they take it for granted. Having grown up in the Holy Land, they can easily forget that things weren’t always that way, that for nearly 2000 years, we were exiled in impure, foreign lands, and that still today, half of our Nation is wallowing away in gentile countries, not knowing the incredible blessing and joy of living in your own Jewish country, upon your own Holy Land.

“Abba! What are you doing?!” my daughter called out, as I got out of the car and trekked off into the dark field.

The truth is, if my wife had been with us, I probably wouldn’t have done it. She doesn’t like me rolling in cucumber fields. The last time I did it, she stayed angry at me for a week. She said that I ruined my clothes and stank up the car. But like my kids, she grew up in Israel too. Don’t get me wrong. They are all crazy about the country, but what smells to me like Chanel #5, smells to them like just plain and smelly cow doo.

“Abba, come back !”

“Abba!!”

Happily, I prostrated myself on the Holy Land and started to roll over and over. The earth was still damp from the rain. The soil of the fertilized field stuck to my beard. The most beautiful fragrance in the world filled up my nostrils, more exhilarating than any reefer I ever smoked in the past.

“Yeeech!” my daughter screamed.

“I’m calling, Ema!” my youngest yelled out.

The rain clouds had passed, and stars twinkled in the heavens. The Rambam writes how the greatest Sages of old would kiss the soil of the Holy Land upon reaching its borders (Laws of Kings, 5:10). The Talmud describes how Rabbi Chia bar Gamda would lovingly roll in the dust of The Holy Land in order to actualize the verse of Tehillim, “For your servants desired her stones and cherished her very dust.”

Rabba Abba would kiss the stones of Acco (Ketubot 112B). Rabbi Kook explained that he wouldn’t merely kiss the ground, which is the basis of the agricultural mitzvot dependent upon the Land, but he kissed the boulders to show the inherent holiness of the Land itself. Rashi, in his commentary to the Gemara, duplicates the verse, “For your servants desired her stones,” without adding any new information, to emphasize the holiness of the very stones of the Land of Israel – up and beyond the Land’s holiness because of the commandments that are performed in its soil.

At the very end of the classic treatise on Jewish Faith, “The Kuzari,” when the Rabbi sets off on aliyah for the Land of Israel, he quotes this same verse of Tehillim: “For your servants desired her stones and cherished her very dust,” saying, “This means that Jerusalem can only be rebuilt when the Jewish People yearn for it to such an extent that they embrace her stones and her dust” (Kuzari, 5:27).

That’s how you bring Mashiach – not by singing, “Moshiach, Moshiach, Moshiach,” but by rolling in the dust of the Eretz Yisrael and doing whatever you can to rebuild the our Nation in our Land.

I Love Hevron

Friday, November 9th, 2012

As part of our effort to attract our beloved, Diaspora readers with honey, rather than to smash them repeatedly over their heads – in the next few blogs, we will travel the length and breadth of Eretz Yisrael, just like our forefather Avraham did in obeying God’s command, “Arise, walk about the Land through its length and breadth! For to you I will give it!”

Based on a Gemara in Baba Batra 100A, the Ramban explains that Hashem commanded Avraham to walk through the Land out of His love for him, that his offspring might more easily conquer the country, since walking the length and breadth of the Land signified Avraham’s taking possession of it.

So, in honor of the week’s Torah portion of “Chaya Sarah,” let’s start our love affair with the Land of Israel in Hevron. I love Hevron. It’s so powerfully “Biblical.” That’s the best word to describe it. Whenever I’m there, I feel like I’ve traveled 5000 years back through time. The transcendental holiness of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs still saturates the air. The kedusha is so thick, you feel that you can actually reach out and grasp it. Not only is Hevron the gateway to Gan Eden, our Sages teach that all of the Land of Israel is mystically folded up, like a roadmap, under the city. That’s one of the reasons why the Tomb of the Patriarchs is called “Maarat HaMachpelah,” meaning “the Cave that is doubled” or “folded up.” That is also why Jewish settlement in Hevron is so strategically important – whoever possesses Hevron, possesses the Land.

Just like Hevron was a city of giants in the past, so it is today. The Jews who live there are giants. What can I say? Boro Park and Monsey belong to a completely different world. A totally different planet. On my second date with my wife, I took her there, to see how she would react. In addition to praying in the Maarat HaMachpeleh, we visited my good friend, Baruch Marzel, and Rabbi Moshe Levinger. She passed the test with flying colors. I wasn’t surprised – her brother was learning in the yeshiva there.

Before, Rosh HaShanah, I took my two youngest boys to Hevron to ask Hashem to inscribe all of the Jewish People into the Book of Life, in the merit of our holy forefathers. One of our boys studies in a high-school yeshiva in Maale Hever, just ten minutes away, so I visit Hevron often. What a blessing to live so close to this Heavenly place, just a 50 minute drive from my house!

Here are some photos I took on recent visits. As they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Enjoy! And Shabbat Hevron shalom!

PS – There are a few photos of giant banners hanging on the Peace House during the struggle to prevent the government from ousting its Jewish residents. I made the banners and hung them up with my dear friend, Noam Arnon, spokesperson for the Hevron community. Now that the court has sanctioned our ownership, with G-d’s help, the Jews will be moving back soon!

 

 

 

Wisdom from Fighting for the Land of Israel for 40 Years

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai is joined by Lt. Col. Yedidya Atlas to share wisdom gathered from fighting for the Land of Israel for 40 years.  Yedidya also discusses studying at Merkaz HaRav under Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook and the roots of Arutz Sheva, the radio station where Yishai was formerly the Programming Director.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

50 Reasons to Make Aliyah

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

A few readers have written me lately, saying that my blogs are too hard-hitting, and that I would have better results with honey than with smashing people over the head with a sledgehammer.

I am not totally convinced.

Many people have barricaded themselves in Diaspora ghetto communities who walls are as thick as bomb shelters when it comes to the mitzvah of living inIsrael, and a sledgehammer is needed to chip their defenses. But for a change, I’m willing to give honey a try, so I’ll try to post a few blogs that are dripping with love and see what reactions I get. Let’s start out with listing 50 reasons for making aliyah. Oh – there’s one that I forgot – Obama may be re-elected tonight. Gevalt!

50 Reasons to Make Aliyah:

1. To get closer to G-d.

2. To fulfill the Torah commandment to live in the Land of Israel.

3. To perform the mitzvot in the place they were meant to be performed, and not in a place where we do them as reminders, so that we will still remember how to perform them when we return to the Land.

4. To live in the Land of our Forefathers.

5. To live in the Land of Prophecy.

6. To live in the Land that Hashem promised to the Jews.

7. To break free from being a despised stranger in gentile countries.

8. To escape gentile cultures and the spiritual pollution of the Diaspora, which clouds and distorts pure Jewish thinking and prayer.

9. To play a part in the ingathering of the exiles.

10. To play a part in Israel’s Redemption.

11. To play a part in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

12. To actualize our daily prayers to return to Israel and thus be true to the words that we say.

13. To make the wish, “Next year in Jerusalem” a reality.

13.  To have a government of Jews.

14. To have a Jewish army.

15. To live in a country according to the Jewish calendar.

16. To live in a country where the official language is Hebrew.

16. So your children won’t intermarry.

17. So your grandchildren won’t intermarry.

18. So your great grandchildren won’t intermarry.

19. To forget about Xmas.

20. To erase the Chillul Hashem of living in a foreign land, where the gentiles mock G-d, saying that He doesn’t have the power to keep His People in Israel.

21. To live amongst Jews.

22. To live in the place here prayer ascends to Heaven.

23. To live in the place of the Shechinah, the Land that Hashem watches over from the beginning of the year to the end.

24. To live in the Land where Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov lived and are buried.

25. To live in the Land where every place I walk earns me a higher place in the World to Come.

26. So my children will grow up to be proud Jews.

27. So my children will grow up without dual identities and schizophrenic complexes.

28. Because Israeli women are the real thing, not trying to be like shiksas, and Israeli men aren’t teenagers who never grow up.

29. Because Israeli mothers still cook meals for the family.

30. Because there is more Torah in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

31. Because there are more Torah Gedolim in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

32. Because there are more frum communities in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

33. Because there are more yeshivot, heders, Talmud Torahs, religious colleges and religious schools for girls in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

34. Because the Kohanim bless the congregation each day.

35. Because of the extra mitzvot you can only do in the Land.

36. To become a bigger Jew, ready to live for the Clal, to become a building of our Nation in our Land, even if it means sacrifice, rather than living a small private life motivated by my own personal interests and pleasures.

37. To live in a place where my taxes support yeshivot, Tzahal, Jewish charity organizations, terror victims, Jewish hospitals, the city of Jerusalem, the ingathering of the exiles….

38. To be near Jerusalem.

39. To be near the Kotel.

40. To be in the place where the Jewish holidays are natural to the climate of the Land.

41. Because of the beautiful biblical scenery.

42. Because the food is great with the most delicious kosher pastries and cakes in the world.

43. Because you can get bagels in Israel too.

44. Because radio broadcasts begin in the morning with “Shema Yisrael.”

45. Because of the modern apartments and fantastic villas and the most beautiful men and women in the world.

46. Because of the thriving economy.

47. Because Israel’s an international leader in high-tech.

48. Because of the excellent medical care.

49. Because of the respect for the elderly.

50. Because that’s where I truly belong and where G-d wants me to be.

Is there something I missed? Please send them in with your comments!

The Secret of Making a Living after Making Aliya

Monday, November 5th, 2012

A lot of people say they can’t come on aliyah because they don’t know how they will make a living. The issue of aliyah and livelihood is a legitimate concern. For instance, here’s an email I received from a potential oleh seeking advice:

“I am a professional film producer based in NY who is looking to make aliyah.  My only reservation in moving to Israel is the lack of a job.  How can someone like myself, who was very successful in the business, and never compromised his Yiddishkeit, make a living in Israel?  I am not looking to make millions, just a living wage to support a family of six.  Do you have any suggestions?”

This is what I answered:

I’m not up to date on the film business in Israel, so I can only share some general thoughts. The Zohar teaches that our forefather, Avraham, searched for the place in the world where he could get as close to God as possible. This burning desire of Avraham was the catalyst that brought God to command him, “Get thee forth to the Land that I will show you.” To truly get close to God, the Jewish People have to be in Israel, serving God as a Nation, and not as mere scattered individuals and communities in foreign gentile lands.

Rashi explains that the double language of the verse, “Lech lecha,” literally meaning, “Go, go for yourself,” was to reassure Avraham that the move was for his ultimate good, and that it would bring him and his descendants great spiritual and material blessing. After all, it is no small challenge and test of faith to give up your country of birth, social standing, and livelihood to move to another land. And indeed, at first, things did not go easily for Avraham. When he arrived in Israel, there was a famine in the land! But, eventually, Avraham became a very rich and famous man.

This uncertainty, challenge, and difficulty, is common to all olim. The word “Canaan,” as in the land of Canaan, also has the meaning of humbleness and poverty. The lowering of one’s status is part of the immigration process, helping to break impure traits of pride and ego which prevent a person from forming a deep connection to God. Aliyah means to go up, and therefore, the first and foremost goal of each new immigrant to Israel should be spiritual – to get closer to God. When a person holds fast to this goal, clinging to it at all times, even through periods of difficulty and change, God’s bountiful blessings flow in its wake.

In practical terms, when you first make aliyah, you indeed may not be able to make a living as a film producer. You may have to get to know the right people first, learn the language, etc. You may have to make videos of bar mitzvahs and weddings to have some income coming in before you make the bigger, professional films that you are accustomed to producing in NY. Personally, I’ve made some money making videos in Israel for organizations and the Department of Education, and I’ve taught screenwriting at a film school in Jerusalem. I have several friends from the U.S. who work in the film business here on a regular basis, and they seem to be supporting their families. Even so, it may turn out that you won’t be able to find a niche in the film industry in Israel, and you may have to change your profession.

But always remember, “Is God’s hand too short that He cannot provide for you and your family?” Just like He provided for us in the Wilderness, He provides for us still today, each person according to what is best for his needs. Keep saying to yourself, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” These reassuring words of King David should be your mantra during your planning stages and time of transition in Israel.

The main thing about your coming to Israel is not to make finding a job your Number One concern. Let me give two examples. A short time after I had made aliyah, I met an acquaintance from New York who had also recently moved to Israel, but who told me that he was going back to the States. When I asked him why, he explained that before he had moved to Israel, the Israel Aircraft Industries had promised him a more advanced job than his position in America. But when he arrived in the country, they could only give him the same level job he had in the past because of budget cuts. “Why should I stay here when I can get paid almost double in the States for doing the same job?” he told me.

The very next day, I met another friend from New York, who also informed me that he was returning to live in America. It turned out that his boss had been caught in an embezzlement scam and all the people he had hired were fired, including my friend. Even though my friend had been offered a very good job at another firm, he decided to pack his belongings and call it quits.

At the time, before I started studying in yeshiva, I was lodging in Jerusalem at the home of a saintly, 85 year old woman who was one of the secret Tzaddikim of the Holy City. I hadn’t come on aliyah with any savings, having blown my screenplay money on the vices of Hollywood, and this kind woman was happy to take me in as a non-paying boarder. When I asked her why God hadn’t worked things out for my two friends in a more successful fashion, especially since they had made the very idealistic move of immigrating to Israel, she answered: “They placed their careers over their love of the Land. A Jew has to set Jerusalem above his greatest joy. The Jewish People have been shedding their blood for the Land of Israel since the beginning of our history. The Land tests us when we come here. She makes things difficult at first to see if we really love her. Your two friends think that they are rejecting Israel, but Israel is really rejecting them.”

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, explained this with a parable. He said it was like a girl who was set up on a shidduch with a guy whom she knew wasn’t for her. But she didn’t want to embarrass him. So she dressed up in dirty, smelly garments so that he would feel turned off. While he thought that he was rejecting her, in truth, she was rejecting him. So too, God, in His kindness, lets Jews who decide to leave Israel believe that they are rejected the Land, but it is really the Land that is rejecting them.

Surely, aliyah is the most difficult and challenging mitzvah – the true test of a Jew’s faith in God. But hundreds of thousands of new olim have made it, and so can you.

Hopefully, other readers will have even better words of advice.

May you remain strong in your holy decision, and may Hashem bless you and your family with success in the great adventure ahead.

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