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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Land’

Cleverer than God

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

This Shabbat marks the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Meir Kahane, may Hashem avenge his murder. To honor his memory, our next two blogs will feature essays he wrote for The Jewish Press, which appear in the incomparably thought-provoking collection of his articles, “Beyond Words.” May his memory be for a blessing.

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Cleverer Than God

By Rabbi Meir Kahane

December 1, 1978

It has been three weeks now since I left Israel to speak to the Jews of the American Galut. My most profound impression has clearly been the attempt of American Jews — especially the practitioners of ritual — to be clever; to be cleverer, cleverer than our Maker. The words of the prophet Isaiah (45:9) ring out across the ages, saying: “Woe to him who argues with his Maker! . . . Shall the clay say to Him who forms it: ‘What are you doing?’”

In every generation this would appear to have been so. The created striving to be cleverer than the Creator. And in every generation, forgetting the words of that Creator: “I made the earth, and created mankind upon it . . . !” (Isaiah, 45:12).

A mere cursory look at the Torah reveals an unmistakable fact: Amidst any and all of the punishments and warnings issued by the Creator, one continually stands out as the ultimate national one: Galut, exile. Whatever else it may be considered: sin, impurity, akin to idol worship — the Galut is, first and foremost, primarily a curse and a punishment. Here are just a few examples:

“And you will perish quickly from off the good Land that the Lord gives you” (Deuteronomy 11:17).

“I call heaven and earth this day to bear witness against you, that you will soon be utterly removed from off the Land, into which you are crossing theJordanto inherit.” (ibid., 4:26)

“That the Land not vomit you out, when you defile it.” (Leviticus 18:28).

And, of course, the two classical Tochachot, admonitions, the first in Leviticus and the other in Deuteronomy. In both, a long series of punishments, and tribulations. In both, curses taking the place of blessings. In both, an escalating warning: “And if you continue to refuse to listen to me . . . ” followed by yet another punishment, worse than those that preceded it.

And in both, the final, ultimate, most dreaded of all punishments: “And the Lord will scatter you among all the nations, from one end of the earth to the other . . . ” (Deuteronomy 28:64).

Galut. Exile. The worst of the punishments, the most dreaded of the curses. To be driven out of our Land. Thus did the Almighty decide to show His wrath and teach the Jew the magnitude and enormity of his sins.

I have seen the Jew of America. Non-observant and observer, both. And they are clever. Cleverer by far than their Maker. For the Almighty planned to “scatter the Jew among all the nations,” and the Jew of Los Angeles and Chicago and Monsey and Boro Park and Monroe and a hundred other fleshpots, winks and sighs: “Very well, then, I suppose I will have to suffer in Los Angeles, Chicago, Monsey, Boro Park and Monroe . . . ”

Really, dear Jew, give the Almighty a little credit for cleverness. Do, indeed, consider that He conceived of your “cleverness” and prepared for it. Are we really so contemptuous of the Creator that we believe that He drives us out of our Land so that we can enjoy a better material life in that Exile that he conceived of as a punishment? Are we, indeed, so irreverent that we truly think that the words of the Torah become a game and a plaything to be outwitted so easily? Ah, what a difficult time we will have in the Galut of Great Neck . . .

No, dear Jew, the G-d of Israel is not as simple and foolish as we think. He did not conceive of the ultimate punishment of a Jewish people driven from their Land, merely to have them enjoy a fabulously better material life in the Exile. For that very same chapter that booms forth: “And the Lord will scatter you among all the nations” continues and decrees: “And among those nations you will find no tranquility, neither will the sole of your foot have rest . . . ”

I watch as the comfortable American Orthodoxy unfolds in Flatbush and Flattest bush. We buy our houses and discuss the inflated price. We furnish them with delectable possessions, above our heads the sheitel, and above that the chandelier. We plan our vacations. We buy our women their expensive garments (lest they be shamed by those that have them). We build a comfortable and relaxed Judaism that mockingly proclaims our clever victory over the plans of our Maker. There is not the slightest serious thought to life inIsrael. There is not the slightest qualm of conscience as we luxuriate in the fleshpots of idol worship. The clay figure basks in the American sun, turns to its Maker and sighs: “And because of our sins we were exiled from our Land.” And having paid the obligatory obeisance, the clay then turns on its color television set to watch the football game, or goes off to purchase a sheitel that will clearly make every male’s eye turn.

Ribono shel Olam, Sovereign of the Universe, what a bitter exile . . .

I offer an urgent suggestion. Let us understand that we are not as clever as we think. Let us understand that the Almighty is a bit wiser than we give Him credit for. If the Galut was conceived by the God of Israel as a curse, then there is nothing that can turn it into a blessing. If it was designed to be a punishment, it can never become a reward. Rationalize away, dear Jew, in the 150 ways that you think you are able to purify the impurity. It is to no avail. Your political science (“But America is different! It is a democracy!”) will not help you. Your religiosity (“But we must stay here to build Yiddishkeit!”) will avail you naught. Be not cleverer than your Creator. “Be not overly wise — why should you destroy yourself?” (Ecclesiastes 7:16).

That which is crooked cannot be made straight and that which is impure cannot be made holy, and that which was designed as a curse, punishment and tribulation cannot ever, ever be turned into enjoyment, pleasure and permanent safety. For a while, the Almighty may allow us to delude ourselves, hoping we will regain our sanity. He gives us time to do the right thing.

Invariably, we mistake His kindness for our cleverness, but the day of reckoning must come, and does. The lights of the chandeliers dim and then are extinguished. The sheitel withers away, and the impure crawling insect that we “purified” proves to be impure indeed. That which is crooked cannot be made straight, and that which is Exile can never be anything but tragedy. Jew, stop listening to those who cannot see. Do not repeat the tragedy of 40 and 50 years ago. Clay, know your place. The Maker is cleverer by far. Go home before it is too late.

Get Angry at Rashi – Not at Me!

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Once again, I ask you – isn’t it interesting that the very first words that God says to Avraham, the father of the Jewish People, is to go to the Land of Israel?

What are we suppose to learn from that? Can there be any question at all? One plus one is two. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out a simple equation like that.

We don’t just read the Torah like it’s “Harry Potter” or the “DaVinci Codes,” God forbid. We read it to learn from it. We read about our holy Forefathers to learn from them and to follow their example. In telling Avraham, the father of the Jewish People, to live in Eretz Yisrael, God is teaching us as well that He wants us to live in Israel too.

Let’s face it. If God wanted, Avraham could have been born in theLandofIsraelto begin with. That would have saved Avraham the hassle of such a long shlepp with camels and donkeys and the rest of his entourage. For Someone who created the heaven and the earth, giving birth to Avraham inIsraelis peanuts. But God chose to have Avraham start off in the Diaspora precisely to teach all of the Jewish People in the future that wherever they lived, God wants them to pack up their belongings, just like Avraham, and relocate to Eretz Yisrael. As the great Torah commentary Ramban teaches, “The deeds of the fathers are signs for their children.”

What was Avraham’s reaction to God’s command? Without even calling Nefesh B’Nefesh, he departed immediately, as God had spoken to him. (Bereshit, 12:4. See the commentaries of Lekach Tov and Ibn Caspi). Even though the Land of Israel was filled with immorality, idol worshippers, and heathens that he would have to conquer, he didn’t say, “I’m not going because I don’t want to go into the army.“ Or, “I’m not going to Israel because there are Russian prostitutes there.” Or, “I’m not going because the politicians in the Knesset are corrupt.” Or, “I’m not going because the Moshiach hasn’t come.” He set off without listing 50 excuses and did what G-d commanded.  Period.

In reward for Avraham’s obedience and faith, God gave him, and his children after him, the eternal inheritance of the Land of Israel, as it says, “And I will give you, and to your seed after you, the Land where you sojourn, all the Land of Canaan for an everlasting possession, and I will be their G-d” (Bereshit, 17:8).

The great Torah commentator, Rashi, explains this verse as follows: “There, I will be their God, but a Jew who lives outside of the Land is like someone who has no God” (Rashi, loc cited).

Don’t get angry at me. Get angry at Rashi. Do you think he should apologize for insulting Jews in the Diaspora! How could he say such a thing?! What chutzpah!

Actually, he isn’t to blame. The Talmud says the very same thing (Ketubot 111A), and this is the law brought down by the Rambam: “IN ALL GENERATIONS, a Jew should live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority of the inhabitants are heathens, and not live outside of the Land even in a city where the majority of the inhabitants are Jews” (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:12).

Hmmph! What chutzpah! The Rambam, Rashi, and Fishman! The Jewish Press should ban all of them!

But Avraham heard God’s command and immediately obeyed. That’s  what makes him the father of the Jewish People – his complete Emunah (faith), as the Torah testifies: “And he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness” (Bereshit, 15:6).

The opposite of this is where people have crises of Emunah, like in the case of the Generation of the Wilderness who refused to obey God’s command to make aliyah, as the Torah record: “And when the Lord sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, ‘Go up and possess the Land which I gave you,’ and you rebelled against the Lord your God, and you did not have Emunah in Him, and did not listen to His voice” (Devarim, 9:23).

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook explained that there are two types of Emunah – the complete Emunah of Avraham Avinu, and the partial Emunah of the Spies in the wilderness, and their followers, of whom it is said, “And in this matter, you did not have Emunah in the Lord your G-d” (Devarim, 1:32).

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.]

Ask Any Eight-Year Old

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Give this week’s Torah portion, “Lech Lecha,” to an eight-year old to read, ask him where God wants the Jewish People to live and he will answer “the Land of Israel” right away. Give it to a gentile to read and ask him the same question. “The Land of Israel” he will answer without batting an eye. Give it to a Jew in the Diaspora and ask him the same question, and you’ll get a dozen different answers:

“Well, it depends….”

“It’s not the same for us today….”

“What was true for Avraham isn’t a general rule….”

“In Brooklyn, New York….”

“In Australia….”

“Until the Moshiach comes, a Jew can live anywhere he wants….”

But the fact is that God starts off His relationship with the Jewish People by telling our first forefather, Avraham, “Get thee forth to the Land that I will show you.” God doesn’t tell him to keep Shabbat. He doesn’t tell Avraham to keep kosher. He tells him to live in Israel. This is where a Jew belongs. This is the only place where a Jew can truly serve God. This is the only place where the Kingdom of God can be established, and where Torah will go forth to all the nations. The Holy People are to live in the Holy Land. This is God’s plan for the world and for the Jewish People. This is the very first lesson that God teaches Avraham and his children who will follow after him. “Get thee forth to the Land.” Ask any eight-year old. Ask any gentile. If a monkey could read, he would reach the same conclusion. Living in the Land of Israel is the foundation of the Jewish Nation. #1 on the list.

To live in the Land of Israel, we need to keep the Torah, yes. But the first, basic understanding that God wants us to know is that just as every nation needs a land, the special holy Nation of Israel needs a special Holy Land. The Land of Israel is a part of our national identity. It is a part of our spiritual being. It is not something extra to Judaism. It is not just another extra mitzvah, or a nice place to visit. It is not something external like a new car or a summer vacation. It is a part of who we are. We cannot be the NATION of Israel without the Land of Israel. We can be scattered individuals, in scattered Jewish communities around the world. We can be advisers to gentile presidents and assimilated novelists and famous pop singers, but we can’t be a NATION with our own land unless we are congregated in the Land of our forefathers, the Land of the Jews. For a Jew to be true to himself, and to God, he has to be in the Land of Israel.

This is the very first lesson of the Torah: “Get thee forth to the Land.” It’s a part of our genetic make-up as the children of Avraham.  Just as Avraham left his birthplace to start a new life in Israel, we can too. It’s in our blood. It is a part of our psycho-historic heritage. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, it is difficult. But as the children of Avraham Avinu, we have what it takes.

During the 2000 year exile from the Land of Israel, we didn’t have a choice. So the Torah became our principle connection to God. But now that G-d has re-opened the gates to our Homeland, now that He has brought back millions of Jews to Israel, and given us a Jewish airline, and thriving Jewish communities, and a re-built Jerusalem, and more yeshivot than anywhere else in the world, it is time to remember the very first lesson He taught us: “Get thee forth to the Land.”

If you don’t believe me, ask any eight-year old.

Sarah Silverman is Not to Blame

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

To be perfectly honest, until yesterday, I had never heard of Sarah Silverman. I never saw a photo or a video of her; I never heard her jokes, nothing.  While a great deal of junk American culture seeps into the Land of Israel, still we are sheltered from much of it, thank G-d, and I never heard her name mentioned in Israel at all. Until yesterday, when to my surprise and chagrin, I saw the immodest photo of her on the homepage of The Jewish Press, in her sleeveless top and her butt sticking into the air. Gevalt!

Reading on about the silly fuss, I was further chagrined. Rachmonis on rabbis in America if this is where their heads are at. First of all, looking at photos and videos of young ladies like Sarah is the Torah transgression of straying after one’s heart and one’s eyes. From the description of her comedy routines, listening to her is a violation of taking part in a gathering of mockers and scorners. So what is a rabbi doing in a place he doesn’t belong?

Furthermore, is he now going to set out on a campaign to rebuke every Jewish comedian in Hollywood, and every Jewish actor, director, playwright, musician, politician, Facebook inventor, and Jewish Federation president who married a gentile? Why single out Sarah? Pick on Simon and Garfunkel instead.

But I want to say something much deeper than this. Why blame Sarah? She’s the product of the culture she grew up in. Why should she believe in the Torah? Why should she follow the Torah when the rabbis in America don’t follow the Torah either? If they did, they’d all live in Israel.

Sure, they do more mitzvahs than Sarah. She honors her parents, and gives charity, and don’t worship idols, or murder; and they observe all these commandments and more, but as long as they’re not living in Israel, they’re picking and choosing the mitzvahs they do, just like Sarah, so what’s the big squawk? Why point a finger at Sarah?

For the last two thousand years, three times a day, religious Jews have been beseeching God to bring us back to the Land of Israel, and now that God has opened the doors of aliyah and miraculously rebuilt the Jewish Homeland into one of the leading nations in the world, as He promised He would, why linger and languor in Dallas of all places? Where is Dallas, Texas mentioned in the Torah? If rabbis in America don’t want Jewish children growing up with their heads filled with trashy American culture and slang, then let them move to Israel and set an example for others, just like our forefather Abraham did.

If the rabbis of America want the young Jews in America to respect and love the Torah, then let them champion a true version of Torah and move to Israel, just like it says in the Torah over and over and over again.

Of course Sarah Silverman thinks the Torah is phony. That’s what she sees all around her – Orthodox Jews keeping the Torah in a place the Torah isn’t meant to be kept; Orthodox Jews who prefer living in the impure land of the gentiles rather than living in the Holy Land of the Jews; Orthodox Jews who tell their kids that they are Americans with wonderful American futures waiting for them, when the Torah and all of the Prophets of Israel call to us from the Torah to come home, come home, come home – and now that the Almighty has given us our own Jewish State, with a solid Israeli economy, more Torah learning and Torah giants in Israel than in any other place in the world, and a free airplane ride with Nefesh B’Nefesh, what are the Orthodox Jews waiting for? Of course, Sarah thinks that the Torah and its Orthodox practitioners in America are phony. But why attack Sarah? Physician heal thyself!

Rashi Was a Zionist Racist

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Almost everyone is familiar with the famous first Rashi on the Torah. He asks why does the Torah begin with the account of Creation? After all, since the Torah contains the commandments which Hashem gave to Am Yisrael, it should have begun the precept concerning Rosh Chodesh – the first commandment given to the Israelite Nation.

Rashi answers his question by quoting a Midrash of Rabbi Yitzhak which explains that if the nations of the world claim that we stole the Land of Israel from them, we can answer that since the Holy One Blessed Be He created the world and appointed different countries to different peoples, He can take Eretz Yisrael away from them if He chooses and give it to us.

Did Rashi have political savvy? Did he foresee the day when the Arabs, the U.S. State Department, the European Union, the Chinese, and the Zulus in Africa, would callIsraelthieves, claiming that we stole Eretz Yisrael from the Palestinians? Maybe, but I don’t think he was meaning to tell Bibi what to answer in one of his UN speeches.

Furthermore, the Land of Israel isn’t even mentioned in the first verse of the Torah, or in the second, or the third. Why does Rashi talk about it here? True, Adam was born on the Temple Mount and only later placed in the Garden of Eden, but that’s learned from different source, and not from the very first verse of the Torah. So why talk about the Land of Israel here in a commentary, in Rashi’s own words, that deals with the straightforward meaning and pashat of the text?

The answer to our question is that Rashi is coming to inform us that without Eretz Yisrael there is no Torah, no Am Yisrael, nor Kiddush Hashem in the world. Eretz Yisrael is the foundation of the entire Torah. The Torah was given to be kept in Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish People can only be a Nation in Eretz Yisrael. And theKingdomofGod– the goal of the Torah – can only be established in the world when Am Yisrael dwells in their Land.

Yes, I know, the geniuses in the peanut gallery will jump up and protest, “Am Yisrael survived in exile for 2000 years without Eretz Yisrael, with only the Torah!”

First of all, fellas, the Jewish People are not meant to survive. We are meant to live. Without Eretz Yisrael, we can only survive from one pogrom to the next. Or we can assimilate ourselves into extinction. That isn’t living. That isn’t the ideal of the Torah which promises us, again and again, a good and peaceful life in our Land.

“The Torah protected the Jewish Nation, not Eretz Yisrael!”  they continue to holler.

Protected the Jewish Nation? You call individuals scattered all over the world, without a country or Jewish government of their own, a nation? That’s not a nation. A ghetto in Brooklyn orLakewoodisn’t a nation. Without Eretz Yisrael, the Jews are defenseless minorities in other peoples’ lands, dependent on the goyim for everything.  That’s not a Sanctification of God – it’s the opposite!

“Torah! Torah! Torah!” they scream.

Well, my dear friends – what you call Torah isn’t Torah. The Torah of the exile is the remnant of Torah, the shadow of Torah, the dry bones of the Torah, a reminder of what the Torah really is, as our Sages have explained by the verse, “Set yourself waymarks,” telling us to continuing to keep whatever few precepts we can while in exile, so we don’t forget them, lest they seem new to us when we return to Eretz Yisrael, because the Torah is meant to be kept in the Land of Israel, the only place it can be observed in all of its fullness, with its many laws relating to the Land of Israel, the Kingship of Israel, the army of Israel, the justice system of Israel, and the Beit HaMikdash which you can’t build in Lakewood. Yes, Orthodox Judaism in America is much better than conservative Judaism, and reform Judaism, and yoga, but it isn’t the Torah as the Torah was meant to be kept. That can only take place in Israel.

That’s what Rashi is coming to tell us at the very start of the Torah.

You’re welcome. I thought you’d want to know.

‘Hear O You Deaf and Look O You Blind!’

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

We live a short walk from the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem. Over the holidays, the hotel was packed with Diaspora Jews from all over the world, but now that the holidays are over, the lobby is pretty deserted. I can’t understand how a self-respecting Jew can leave the Land of Israel and go back to the Lilliputian Jewish life of Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, Melbourne, or Brooklyn after being in the Land of our Forefathers.

It’s like a Jewish husband abandoning his Jewish wife for a gentile whore. However kosher his ghetto in Chicago,Toronto, or Brooklyn may seem, it’s a ghetto all the same, in a foreign gentile land, surrounded by a foreign gentile culture, with foreign gentile values, and foreign gentile holidays, and a foreign gentile language, and a foreign gentile identity.

Some readers accuse me of harping on the mitzvah of living in Israel, but it isn’t me – it’s the Torah, as it says, “I am the Lord, your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God” (Vayikra, 25:38).

Rashi explains the meaning of “to be your God,” stating: “For whoever resides in the Land of Israel, I am a God to him; and whoever leaves it is like one who worships idols.”

This emphatic teaching is also stated in the Talmud. It applies not only to  Jews who leave the Land of Israel, but also to Jews who make the Diaspora their home, as it says:

In all generations, a Jew should live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority of inhabitants are idol worshipers, and not live in the Diaspora, even in a city where the majority of residents are Jews, for everyone who lives in the Land of Israel is like someone who has a God, and everyone who lives in the Diaspora is like someone who has no God, as it says, ‘I am the Lord, your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God,’ for someone who resides in the Diaspora is like someone who worships idols (Ketubot 110B).

I’m sorry if this hurts your feelings, but this is what it says in the Torah. This is what Rashi says. This is what the Talmud states.

This is the halacha as recorded by the Rambam:  A Jew is allowed to temporarily leave the Land of Israel for business, or to learn Torah, or to get married, and then he must return, but to dwell there is forbidden (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:12).

That’s right – a Jew is supposed to live in Israel even in a city where the majority of residents are idol worshipers, and not live in Chicago, Lakewood, Monsey, Brooklyn, or Timbuktu, even if the majority of residents are Jews. This means that a Jew is supposed to live in Israel even if the Land is filled with self-hating leftists, Haredim who spit at women, corrupt politicians, and impolite taxi drivers. The commandment to live in Israel is not dependent on whether a Jew from Chicago likes the weather in the Holy Land or finds it too hot in the summer for his tastes.

The Haftorah we read on Shabbat teaches that Hashem gives a soul to the Jewish People who live in the Land of Israel “and a spirit to those who walk therein” (Isaiah, 42:5). The Nation of Israel only has national vitality in the Land of Israel. Everywhere else, we are a minority in someone else’s land. We can excel as individual comedians, and film directors, and Facebook wizards, and businessmen, but we can’t be our own JEWISH NATION – not in Chicago, or Lakewood, or Brooklyn. How can a Jew prefer gentile countries over his own Jewish Land?

The Prophet Isaiah cries out: “Hear O you deaf, and look O you blind that you may see! For who has been so blind as My servant, so deaf as My messenger?”

Jews visit Israel for the holidays as if it is some Jewish Disney World, and then go back to their gentile lovers and the embrace of foreign gentile lands, gentile World Series, and gentile presidential elections.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/hear-o-you-deaf-and-look-o-you-blind/2012/10/14/

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