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October 26, 2016 / 24 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Land’

New Diaspora Religion: Bagelism

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Last week, the administrator of a popular Facebook group called something like “Kaballah Lite,” asked me not to post blogs on their page that stressed the mitzvah of living in Israel because it made his readers uneasy. First, he wanted to get people involved in “spirituality” and then he’d teach them about Israel, he said.

When I replied that according to the Kaballah everything in Israel is spiritual, the rocks, the trees, the tomato fields, even the secular Jews, and that Eretz Yisrael represents the exalted sefirah of Malchut, without which the spiritual blueprint of the world is shattered and God’s Presence doesn’t appear on Earth, he answered that the uninitiated can’t understand this very basic foundation upon which the Kaballah is based. First, they have to learn about the joy of spiritualism, he said.

That’s a little like baking an apple pie and leaving out the apples. After the pie is finished, you can’t go back and stick in the apples. They haven’t been cooked! So too, you can’t teach Judaism and leave out the Land of Israel, and then stick it in at the end, as if it’s just some added spicing. The apples aren’t something extra – they’re the essence of the pie itself. So too with Judaism – the Jewish life in the Land of Israel isn’t just another ingredient – it’s the filling. It’s the pie itself.

Another Facebook group about being “frum” in New York also kicked me off its list. When I asked why, the administrator said that she was trying to bring unaffiliated Jews closer to the joys of Orthodoxy and my writings about Israel raised uncomfortable “political” issues for liberal New York Jews, and turned them away from pure Judaism. Pure Judaism? Without the Land of Israel?

Sorry, but that isn’t Judaism. It’s a new religion. Maybe, to give her, and others who think like her, the benefit of the doubt, you could call it “Diaspora Judaism.” But it isn’t Torah. Eretz Yisrael isn’t a peripheral matter to Yiddishkeit, or merely a nice place to visit to feel proud to be a Jew. Building the Jewish Nation in Israel is the very goal of the Torah. Over two-thirds of the Mishna concern the commandments that can only be performed in the Land of Israel. “For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of God from Yerushalayim.” Not from Brooklyn, Monsey, Beverly Hills, Toronto, or Mexico City.

So along with Reform and Conservative Judaism, which aren’t Judaism at all, we can add Diaspora Judaism. It’s closer to Orthodox Judaism than the others, but huge chucks of the Torah are still missing. Let’s call this new religion of Diaspora Jews, “Bagel Judaism,” or “Bagelism,” because its center, the Land of Israel, is missing.

The countries of the Diasporas may be very enjoyable places, like the taste of a bagel, but something is missing. Diasporas can come in all sorts of flavors, just like plain bagels, and sesame, onion, pumpernickel, and whole wheat bagels, but they are all empty in the middle. The center, the Land of Israel, is missing! Diasporas have synagogues, and Shabbos, glatt kosher restaurants and yeshivas, but the center, the Redemptional focus of the Torah and Prophets, the desire to return to Zion, and the all-important national component of Judaism are missing. Take for example the “Kedusha” we say during our Shachrit prayers on Shabbat: “When will You return to Zion? Speedily, in our days, may You dwell there forever. May You be exalted and sanctified in Jerusalem, Your city throughout all generations and to all eternity.” Zion and Jerusalem -not Brooklyn, Beverly Hills, Boca, Buenos Aries, or Berlin.

Without the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, without a national Jewish calendar, a Jewish army, a Jewish government, without all of the mitzvot that apply n the Land, children who grow up speaking Hebrew, and Jews who marry Jews and not gentiles, the Judaism of the Diaspora is a hollow Judaism. Just like a bagel, the outside ring is tasty, but the center is missing. Like a bagel, the Judaism of the Diaspora is missing its heart. When you relish the bagel and don’t notice the gaping hole in the middle, then something is wrong with your Judaism.

Tzvi Fishman

A Black Day for American Jews

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Today is a black day for American Jews. Why? I’m sorry to say it, but as the so-called “Palestinian Authority” is gaining entrance to the United Nations as an observer, non-voting state, the Jews of America are out playing golf or watching things on TV, instead of protesting outside the UN with all of their might. “Israel Belongs to the Jews!” their protest signs should declare. “Israel is Our State!” their banners should proclaim. But, except for the few regulars and Rabbis who always show up at the demonstrations in NY, no one is there to protest.

In the upcoming Torah portion regarding the casting of Yosef into a pit, the Torah notes: “And the pit was empty, there was no water in it.” Our Sages inform us that there wasn’t water, but there were snakes and scorpions. A vacuum doesn’t stay empty. The same is true of the Land of Israel. If the Jews of the West had responded to the calls of the Zionist Movement and come on mass aliyah, especially with the founding of the State of Israel, the Land wouldn’t have filled up with snakes and scorpions.

Now these same snakes and scorpions are demanding that the United Nations recognize that Israel is their homeland, and the Jews of America sit at home and watch on TV (a least a fraction of them, since the vast majority our totally lost), and they shake their heads and say, “The Government of Israel is to blame. They should have annexed all of the territory… they never should have agreed to Oslo….”, when, in truth, it is they themselves who are to blame for not having said good-bye to comfortable America, and France, and England, and South Africa, and Mexico, and Canada, and Australia, and returned to the Jewish Homeland to reclaim it for the Jews.

So the Arabs claimed it instead. It’s shameful to say, but when it comes to the Land of Israel, the Arabs have more mesirut nefesh and a readiness for sacrifice than Diaspora Jews. The “Palestinians” are ready to give up their lives for the Holy Land. How many Diasporians can say that? They are prepared to suffer, and engage in armed struggle to win sovereignty over the Land. How many Diasporians can say that? Instead they sit in Brooklyn, and Monsey, and Lakewood, and Chicago, and Dallas, and Beverly Hills, and they shake their heads and say, “Too bad those weak Israelis didn’t transfer them all to Saudi Arabia,” while they go into the kitchen to make another bagel and lox.

So, with the hope that a least a handful of readers will hear these words and recognize their truth, I composed a prayer for Diaspora Jews to say on this black day of our history:

“Dear God, and God of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov; on this black day when Arabs are demanding that world recognize their right to a state in the Land of Israel, I sit here silently in America doing nothing to protest, even though Israel is my Land, not theirs.

“I know it is my Land because I know you commanded Avraham to live there, and You promised it to his descendants  the Jews, as an eternal covenant. I know it is the Land of the Jews, and the place you want me to live, because You told Yitzhak to never leave it, and when Yaakov had to flee from Esav, You told him to return to the Land of Israel to raise his family there.

“And when You freed the Jews from bondage in Egypt, You commanded us to return to Israel. And I know I am supposed to live there because it says so in the Torah over and over again, and all the Prophets all speak about our returning from the exile to rebuild our national life in the Land of Israel, and that our Redemption can only happen there.

“I know that I am supposed to live in the Land of Israel and not let other nations dwell there in my stead, because that’s what the Torah says clearly, and that’s what we pray for in our daily prayers, and that’s what I say myself at the end of every Passover Seder, and at the conclusions of my Yom Kippur prayers, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” yet here I am, still in New York, and Los Angeles and Boca Raton, when I know I should move to Israel.

“But I’m stuck, either because I don’t know how I can make a living there, or I’m afraid to go into the Israeli army, or I don’t want to leave my parents, or I’m comfortable here, or a dozen other reasons, some of them real and others invented, and I know that You know what’s really in the heart of man, so I ask Your forgiveness in that I haven’t done as much as I can, whether in going to live in Israel myself, or helping others in whatever way I can, by forming an aliyah group at my synagogue, or convincing our shul’s Rabbi to urge our young people to go, or help to raise funds so families can make a new start in Israel.

“True, I follow what’s going on in The Jewish Press, and I post articles about Israel on Facebook, and I give whatever tzedakah I can, but I know I could do lots more. Please forgive me that I don’t act on the words of my prayers, and that I ignore the great mitzvah of living in the Land, and even though there are Gedolim who say that aliyah isn’t an obligation today, everyone agrees that it is still a great mitzvah, and though I strive to perform all of the other commandments as best as I can, over this one I am surely remiss, especially when I see how You have miraculous gathered in millions of Jews to Israel, and rebuilt the country in a miraculous way, while here in America, and England, and France, assimilation is eating up our ranks, and we look away as if everything is OK as long as it is down the block with the reformers, and not in the bubble of our wonderful glatt kosher neighborhood. Forgive me, Father, that I sit passively in my home while Arabs proclaim their right to the Land of Israel.

“Even though the Israelis could have handled things differently, I know that I am to blame as well for making America my home over Israel. I am ashamed that the Arabs are acting more Jewish than I am. You have commanded us, the Jewish People, to establish our sovereignty over the borders of Israel, and in my procrastination, the sons of Ishmael are doing it in my stead. Woe is me. Woe is me. My shame spreads out up to Heaven. Please, my Father and King, from this time forth, put in my heart, like a raging fire, the desire and courage to extricate myself from galut and come home to Israel, to be in my own Jewish Land, and not continue on as a stranger amongst the gentiles. And if I can’t make aliyah now for whatever reason, let me encourage my children to do so, and do whatever I can to let others know that our only future is in the Land of the Jews, just like it clearly states, again and again, in the Torah, in the writings of our Prophets, and in our prayers.

“May it be your will, Amen.”

Tzvi Fishman

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty: Zichron Ya’acov

Friday, November 16th, 2012

With the birth of Hodel’s baby, the time had come for Tevye to journey onward. Family was a matter of tantamount importance, but a Jew had an even higher allegiance to God. Had not the Almighty warned that life in the Holy Land must be lived according to the commandments of the Torah? That meant observing the laws of the Sabbath and the holidays, eating kosher food, donning tallit and tefillin, guarding the treasures of marital purity, and observing all of the six-hundred and thirteen commandments – most of which were flagrantly ignored by the young pioneers on the kibbutz. True, they were good, idealistic souls, risking their lives, and giving up material comforts to build a refuge in Israel for the Jews all over the world. Their dedication to making the barren Land bloom was in itself an act of great religious faith, but, to Tevye’s way of thinking, faith in working the Land wasn’t enough. Ultimately, a Jew had to live by the Torah. It was enough of a tragedy that his daughter, Hodel, had been led astray by her husband – Tevye now had to think of Moishe and Hannie, who were bound to be influenced by the other children on the kibbutz. And it was wise, Tevye felt, to whisk Bat Sheva away before she fell victim once again to her passions and grow enamored with some other free-spirited hero.

After Ben Zion’s funeral, the heartbroken girl plunged into a gloomy silence. Tevye also felt troubled. The cold-blooded killing weighed on his mind like an omen. He wondered what would be with the Arabs. True, in his travels through the country, Arab villages were few and far between. Occasional caravans would pass along the road, and Bedouin shepherds would appear now and then in the landscape. But as picturesque as they were to Perchik, Tevye had learned that, like snakes in the roadside, their bites could prove fatal.

Driving his wagon along the trail through the mountains toward Zichron Yaacov, where Shmuelik and Hillel were living, Tevye found himself engaged in deep thought. He even imagined that the Baron Rothschild had invited him into his palatial office to discuss the dilemma of establishing a large Jewish population in the midst of hostile neighbors.

“Well, my respected Reb Tevye, how do you propose we deal with the Arab situation?” the Baron asked in his daydream.

Tevye stood by the large globe of the world in the center of the Baron’s wood-paneled study. Gently spinning the orb, his fingers slid over continents as he pondered his response. Tevye’s footprints, muddied from the barn, had left dark stains in the carpet, but the Baron hadn’t seemed to notice. Why should he? With a staff of round-the-clock servants, why should the dirt of an honest, hard-working milkman disturb him?

“I must confess that I am not a political analyst, but only a simple laborer,” Tevye responded.

“Even a simple laborer has opinions,” the Baron said. “And I respect the opinions of every man.”

“My opinions are the teachings of our Sages, and the pearls of wisdom which I have learned from the Torah.”

“And what does the Torah say on this matter?” the Baron inquired.

Before Tevye could answer, the famous philanthropist held out a mahogany humidor filled with fragrant cigars. Tevye took one and allowed the Baron to graciously light it.

“The Torah says that the Arabs are to dwell in the lands of the Arabs, and the Jews are to dwell in the Land of the Jews.”

“The Torah was written a long time ago. Perhaps political equations have changed.”

“The word of the Lord is forever,” Tevye answered. “The sons of Ishmael have been blessed with lands of their own. The Land of Israel belongs to the Jews.”

“Your faith has strengthened me, Tevye,” the Baron said. “Your faith has strengthened me indeed.”

Of course, daydreams are daydreams, and life is life. True, Tevye generally had mud on his boots, but if Baron Edmond de Rothschild ever summoned him to a chat, his secretary forgot to deliver the message. In fact, the Baron was not to be found in Zichron Yaacov at all. He ruled over his Palestine colonies from his castles in France. “Av HaYishuv,” the settlers called him. “Father of the Settlement.” Others called him “HaNadiv,” meaning, “The Benefactor,” after his beneficent ways. Still others called him less pleasant names. His dignified portrait hung in the JCA office, above the heads of the officials who carried out his commands. Under the dark Homberg hat in the picture was a hawkish profile, patriarchal whiskers, a benevolent smile, and a fur-collared coat. Tevye, who fancied himself a fair judge of character, understood right away that the Baron was a unique individual, deserving great respect. As for the bald-headed Frederick Naborsky, Director of the Jewish Colony Association in Palestine, Tevye was less convinced of the sterling nature of his personality.

Tzvi Fishman

Attacks on Southern Israel, Raising Jewish Children, and Rain in the Land of Israel

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012


Yishai and Malkah kick off this week’s show by talking about recent attacks by terrorists on southern Israel and move on to read recently sent e-mails from listeners. They move on to talk about raising children in today’s world and how important it is to raise them with solid and good influence. At around 16:40, they talk about the recent rains that Israel is experiencing and how rain in the Land of Israel is truly a gift. Yishai and Malkah end the segment by further discussing attacks on Southern Israel and how Israel is always a leader when it comes to providing help for other nations in the world, including following Hurricane Sandy in the United States.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

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).

Robert Klein

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.

Tzvi Fishman

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 !”


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.

Tzvi Fishman

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