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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ezekiel's Vision of Today's Ingathering

Who do you think the two kingdoms are discussed in the 37th chapter of Yechezkel? (It was this past week's Haftora) Do you think it's talking about Lost tribes?

When I was in college I realized that this passage is actually talking about today. The vision of Ezekiel is that the time will come (in the end of days) when there will be, once again, two Jewish kingdoms - two great centers of Judaism. There will be a great rift between them, but in the end they will have to consolidate into one. I realized in NY that the time had come to make this vision come to pass. American Jewry and Israeli Jewry must reunite in Israel...

Read it carefully and you will see that it must be talking about today. The passage before, the famous Dry Bones vision, is the description of the Holocaust and the rebirth of the nation in the Holy Land. Then, in the next passage (below) is the vision of the ingathering that follows the rebirth. This is not about the Second Temple - it's too big.

I know what a hard time we are living in. When a father of 7 is murdered by killers who were already in prison once - it stings and makes us wonder whether we are really 'home'. But, the bottom line is that we are home, and that with all the challenges and pain, the vision is coming into focus.

Where are you in this picture? Are you part of the vision? Are you reuniting the Jewish nation on the Land of Israel? American Jewry, that other great center of Judaism must make its way home. Read the Haftora below with this understanding of who the two kingdoms are and decide whether you want to be part of the new grand coronation of the nation!

16. "And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, `For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions'; then take another stick and write on it, `For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.'
17. "Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.
18. "When the sons of your people speak to you saying, `Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?'
19. say to them, `Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand."'
20. "The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.
21. "Say to them, `Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land;
22. and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms.

23. "They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.
24. "My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.
25. "They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons' sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever.
26. "I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever.
27. "My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.
28. "And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.""'

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Come Close to the Wall

June 1967:
Nasser, Egypt's President, declared his intention to lead the Jihad to destroy Israel and push the Jews into the sea. Militarily, the IDF was outnumbered by a ratio of 20:1, proportionally even a larger enemy than we faced in days of the Hasmonean revolt and the battle of Chanuka. The Chevra Kadisha (burial society) in Jerusalem prepared 10,000 body bags for the expected mass civilian casualties, and contingency plans were made for Jerusalem's parks to be turned into cemeteries. Animals in the city's zoo were put to sleep for fear that they might be set free and create chaos in the streets. The Knesset archives and artifacts in the Israel Museum as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls were secured underground, preserved in shelters.

Rabbonim instructed the Tnuva factory to remain open on Shabbos to make sure that they would produce enough milk to feed the population during war time. Thousands volunteered to fill sandbags; talmidim of the Mirrer Yeshiva were instructed by Rav Chaim Shmulevitz to leave the Beis Medrash to assist in the effort. Israel was in a state of emergency, understanding that the dire situation threatened the very existence of the State.

"Yeshuas Hashem k'heref ayin": What took Yehoshua Bin Nun months to accomplish, took only six days; Israel's size tripled, as the IDF miraculously and heroically recaptured Yehudah, Shomron, the Golan, Aza, the holy cities of Chevron, Beit Lechem, Beit El and Shchem, and reunified Jerusalem.

In the wake of the awesome victory, the Jewish world was euphoric, sensing clear Divine intervention and incredible Yad Hashem.

In Shir Hashirim, Shlomo Hamelech describes how Hakadosh Baruch Hu will deal with our enemies who dare attack us at a time of favor (2:7-8): “You will become as defenseless as gazelles or rams in the field…behold it came suddenly to redeem me as if leaping over mountains, skipping over hills. In His swiftness to redeem me… I thought I would be forever alone , but behold He was standing behind our wall, observing through the windows, peering through the cracks of the latticework.”

Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, the Kedushas Levi uses these two descriptions of the way Hashem watches over us to explain the different ways we perceive Hashem's presence in our lives. First, there are times when Hakadosh Baruch Hu observes us "through the windows": moments of clarity where we can "see" Hashem openly, as if on the other side of a glass window.

The awesome victory of the Six Day War 42 years ago was one of those times of clarity. Following the war, Southern front Paratroop Commander Rafael ("Raful") Eitan remarked that, "...Apparently someone in Heaven was watching over us... every unintended action they took and every unintended action we took, always turned to our advantage." There was no mistaking that victory was God-sent, that we were witnessing open miracles.

There are however, other times, where it is more difficult to sense the Ribbono Shel Olam. Nonetheless, explains the Kedushas Levi, it is upon us to remember that Hashem also “watches us through the cracks of the latticework”: we can not "see" beyond the wall, but are assured that Hashem is always there. In those times of hiddenness, when Hash em is "peering through the latticework" we remain under the constant watchful "eye"- we can't "see" Him; but Hakadosh Baruch Hu is always watching us.

It is easy to see someone though a window; one can even gaze from afar. But in order to see a person watching you through a "crack in the latticework", one must come up very close to the wall and look carefully into the crack. Only then, when we peer deeply into that space, can we see that there was someone on the other side of the wall, watching us the entire time...

Yom Yerushalayim is a day of celebration and thanks where we reflect on the miraculous salvation and open Hand of God. We are also able to strengthen our awareness of Hashem's presence in our lives, so that in times when we face difficulties- personally or on a National scale - we will remember and encouraged that we are under the constant Hashgachas Hashem. As the complicated and sometimes painful process of Redemption continues to unfold in stages, we must draw strength from the knowledge that Hashem is always with us, watching over us and directing the course of our lives, even within the confusion and concealment.

The Six Day War is not a distant historical event for us to 'remember' or 'commemorate'; it is a defining moment in each of our personal lives, where a major step toward the ultimate restoration of the heart and soul of our land and Nation took place.

On Yom Yerushalayim, when I stand at the Holy Wall after a long day of celebration, I rest my head in its cracks, and am able to see clearly that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is right there, "peering through the latticework." I feel blessed to have been born into the final generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption, and pray, that with Hashem's ever-present Hashgacha, we will merit the next stage of Mashiach, with the complete rebuilding of Yerushalayim speedily in our days.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Yishai on Al Jazeera

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bad Excuse For Not Making Aliyah

This is a Dvar Torah for Parshat Lech Lecha by Rabbi Pinchas Winston, who made aliyah from North America. Although it's over a week late, the message is very important. Full Dvar Torah starts in full post, this is just a preview:

Recently, I saw a presentation by someone to explain why “they” did not live in Eretz Yisroel. It was not a new idea, simply stating that the person has been very effective helping other Jews in the Diaspora, “proving” that, in spite of the person’s desire to live in Israel, God prefers for them to remain in Chutz L’Aretz.

That the person is an effective educator in the Diaspora, there is no question. But, to imply that his or her extended stay in the Diaspora is essential to the spiritual success of other Jews, is a mistake, flawed hashkofah. Worst of all, it is misleading to others who might now think the same way as a result, though previously, they might have considered life in Eretz Yisroel.

Dvar Torah starts here
Avram took Sarai his wife, Lot, his brother’s son, all the property that they had acquired, and the souls that they had made in Charan, and went toward the land of Canaan. (Bereishis 12:5)

At first glance, this verse has little insight or advice regarding life as a Jew in today’s world. It has importance to us in terms of understanding Avraham’s life and path to greatness, but little importance in terms of charting our own, or so it seems. However, it is helpful to know, sometimes, that some of the greatness insights the Arizal had came simply from meditating on the verses of the Torah, repeating them over-and-over- again in his mind.

Recently, I saw a presentation by someone to explain why “they” did not live in Eretz Yisroel. It was not a new idea, simply stating that the person has been very effective helping other Jews in the Diaspora, “proving” that, in spite of the person’s desire to live in Israel, God prefers for them to remain in Chutz L’Aretz.

That the person is an effective educator in the Diaspora, there is no question. But, to imply that his or her extended stay in the Diaspora is essential to the spiritual success of other Jews, is a mistake, flawed hashkofah.Worst of all, it is misleading to others who might now think the same way as a result, though previously, they might have considered life in Eretz Yisroel.

Let me explain.

In 1993, when I personally decided to return to Eretz Yisroel from Toronto, I was thrown for a loop when someone I worked with asked me, “Did you ever ask a shailah from a Gadol? You are in the midst of building something good here, and maybe it isn’t so simple that you just pick up and leave in the middle.”

Until that time, I had been working with young couples, to try and help mold them into community leaders, especially to help out with outreach. To this end, I had developed an entire 8-week program, which I taught, with material that was both unique and effective, which, when combined with a mission to Israel, molded us into a community of our own. The program seemed to be succeeding, and warranted being implemented on a regular basis.

Quite honestly, I loved the program and its results, and had difficulty leaving it behind. Nevertheless, I felt that I just had to get back to Eretz Yisroel, and felt confident that others would carry on for me after I left. I was replaceable, but for me, Eretz Yisroel was not.

However, my colleague’s comment made me question my entire judgment again, and I began to become uneasy about my decision. Fortunately, though, as Divine Providence would have it, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, of Eretz Yisroel, was visiting Toronto at that very time, and he had been my posek just before I had returned to Toronto. Therefore, I took advantage of the situation and made an appointment.

I explained the entire situation to the rav, beginning with my intense desire to return to Eretz HaKodesh, and ending with my friend’s concern about my leaving. His answer to me came quick: “Everyone is expendable. If Hashem wants your work to continue here, He will find someone else to do it. You can return to Eretz Yisroel as planned.”

Reassured, I continued on with my plans and made it back “home” later that year, to a small community just off the highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It is where, thank God, I have been more effective over the last 15 years internationally than I ever was locally, before I came back. While here, “things” have happened that I would never have dreamed about years ago, some naturally, many miraculously.

Especially in today’s world, of such advanced technology. Over time, I became a full-time writer, and with the help of the Internet, over 20 families have come to make aliyah, apparently with the help of my essays and books.

Over the years, I have met many people who have become observant, inspired, apparently, by what I have written, or more religious, encouraged by the deeper understanding of Torah I have tried to share.

The first thing we have to know is that, when God wants a job to be done, nothing can stop Him — certainly not physical distance. As much as we’d like to believe that we are indispensable, the truth is, we are not. Rather, what happens instead is that, when God decides He wants something done, He chooses a messenger who has made himself or herself available for such a mission, by choosing to be who he or she has become, and by living where he or she has chosen to live.

It’s like being chosen for a part in a play. The director doesn’t just choose any actors to play the handcrafted roles of the screenplay. Rather, knowing what he wants to see brought out by each character, he looks for actors who can do exactly that, something that becomes apparent only through previous roles the actors have already played, the result of many years of development.

It’s the ultimate middah-k’neged middah — measure-for-measure (Sanhedrin 90a). We get to decide who we want to be, and God uses us for that role. We decide where we want to live, and God uses us in that place. You want to change yourself? God will find someone else to play the role. You want to change your location? God will find someone else to do the job where it has to be done.

Indeed, if you are willing to move up in life spiritually, then God will promote you, and find someone else to do your old job. As the Torah points out, Avraham made souls in Charan. He was Mr. Outreach himself. Yet, when it came time to start Jewish history, God told him to stop what he was doing and move on to Canaan. As important as it was that he “convert” the people of Charan, it had been more important to go west and take possession of Eretz Yisroel.

What about all the potential converts back in Charan? Perhaps, Avraham had already reached all those with the potential to hear his message, just in time to move on. Perhaps, those who remained behind did not merit to be impacted by Avraham Avinu. Or, perhaps, if, indeed, there had been more souls to be “made” in Charan, God had another way of getting the job done. And, knowing that, Avraham did not question the command of God, but confidently went to where he knew he really belonged.

This is not only true on the level of the average Jew, but even with respect to Torah leaders, as the Talmud points out, and the Arizal explains using the following verse:

The sun rises and the sun sets. (Koheles 1:5)

This means that, as a Torah leader leaves this world, a new one is born to replace him (Rosh Hashanah). This is not only true regarding the death of one leader and the birth of his replacement, but even if one moves to a different community, for, the only way such a move can leave a community bereft of its leader is if they lost the merit to have one. As the Talmud points out, and the Maharshah explains, Torah leaders make their decisions based upon the merit of the people they lead (Gittin 56b). Of course, this does not mean that we can whimsically jump from role to role, or from place to place, living wherever we happen to fancy at the moment.

Even if the community for which you were responsible deserved to lose you, nevertheless, you will be judged as if you abandoned them, since you will have failed to leave them for a sound hashkofic reason. Decisions to be who we are, or to live where we live, or to get involved in whatever it is we are doing, have to be for the sake of serving God best.

Only then can everything fall into place after we have made our decision. Only then can our decisions result in win-win outcomes.

Avraham had worked many hard years on himself to become “Avinu.” Once he achieved that status, he merited to become the father of the Jewish people, a prophet, and the owner of Eretz Yisroel. After figuring out, on his own, and over many decades, what God must want from him, God finally spoke to him, and told him first hand what to do next: make aliyah. We should only be so fortunate. If God would only speak to us and tell us when to make the move to Eretz HaKodesh, there would be no room for debate or rationalization. But, alas, we are without prophets today, and making such a monumental decision seems to be a function of personal preference.

Well, not exactly. When one desires to live in Eretz Yisroel to be closer to God, and to take advantage of the kedusha of the land, it shows God where his or her heart truly resides. When one devises a plan to make aliyah, because he or she knows that it is the best place to live as a Jew — even during times of exile — and they yearn to be there with ALL their heart, it will work out for them, if not immediately, over time. It will become apparent to them how doing so is not only possible, but feasible, and life will begin to support such a decision.

Thus, loving Eretz Yisroel and missing it is different from wanting to live there with a complete heart. “I just have to live there …” is a thought and feeling that tells God, “I want to serve You and do Your will, but from Eretz Yisroel. It is imperative for me.” And, it is exactly what God wants to hear before He starts making reality accommodate such a longing.

Until such time, you will find yourself “needed” in the Diaspora. If it’s where you want to be, it’s where you will have to serve Him. That may not sound so bad, but, it was exactly that kind of thinking that put us into exile in the first place, and therefore, it is something that we have been trying to rectify for about two millennia now.

Perceptions, Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Torat Yisrael: Israel's Newest English Torah Publication

How often does the truth become distorted in the Israeli media? We live in a society where the major newspapers run stories of how terrorists are not antisemitic (See J-Post and Haaretz about the recent Jerusalem attack) and where companies who refuse to hire Arab workers are lambasted. In response to this trend, a new publication has been put together called Torat Yisrael. Torat Yisrael is Anglo Israel's first bi-weekly magazine of Jewish political and social thought. Based on Torah values, every article is filled with authentic, historical Jewish ideas and concepts. From economics to warfare, education to law, every topic is approached from the perspective of tradition.

Distributed bi-weekly in the main Anglo centers in Israel, Torat Yisrael is a sixteen page color mini-magazine available free in your synagogue. I am the associate editor, Kumah's co-founder Yishai Fleisher is a regular contributor, as well as such notables as the Likud's Shmuel Sackett and Nahal Hareidi founder, Rabbi Yoel Shwartz.

If you are interested in reading Torat Yisrael online, receiving copies, subscribing to the Torat Yisrael mailing list, or advertising to the English-speaking population of Israel, then you can find Torat Yisrael online at or you can reach editor Shmuel Sokol at or by phone at 0526720779. There is also a Torat Yisrael blog that you can check out at

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sefer Torah procession in Beit HaKarem

Recently there was a ceremony to celebrate a new sefer Torah being brought to the retirement home in the Beit HaKarem neighborhood in Jerusalem. The procession from the center of the neighborhood to the retirement home in and of itself was a great time as there were people of all ages, men and women, frum to secular, coming to join in as well as a live band and much dancing. Unlike America in which our elderly are unfortunately too often put away in the cupboard to be taken out and visited at our convenience so to speak, the residents of the retirement home benefited from all sorts of members of the community taking part in their simcha. But what made this event really incredible? The fact that when the Beit HaKarem neighborhood was founded in 1922, its charter forbade any buildings of a religious nature from existing in the neighborhood. It may have taken several decades, but now this once "devoutly" secular community is home to both a synagogue as well as a yeshiva. In a beautiful twist of irony, the procession of the sefer Torah went right past the building that still houses this charter, almost slapping it in the face with the reality of how times have and continue to change. The land of Israel and its people are waking up to the Torah, come join the excitement.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Beloved Princess

A story inspired by the tales of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and the teachings of Ramchal as well as several other sources:

There once was a kingdom in which lived a beautiful princess. She had a smile and a laugh that could melt the heart of anyone and she was very beloved by the people of her country. Everywhere she went she brought success and happiness to the people and she was the main source of blessing for the country. There was also a prince in the country, and the prince and the princess where very much in love with each other. It was assumed that when they became of age, they would eventually marry each other and rule over the nation as king and queen.

It happened that the prince started to become enticed and seduced by foreign princesses from other lands and began to chase after them. He neglected his own princess and abused her. Eventually it reached the point where she had to leave the palace. She decided to go into hiding, disguise herself, and blend in with the common people. After their beloved princess had left the palace the people of the country became very angry with the prince for being the cause of her leaving. They rose up against him, threw him out of the palace and forced him into exile.

After the prince and the princess had both left the palace great darkness and despair came upon the land. Gangs of wild man started invading and took over all the areas of the land. These men were very dangerous and not only robbed and murdered the people but often fought each other. Life became very difficult for the people of the land and especially for the princess. Used to a life of having catered food, the finest clothes and jewelry, and her every need met, she now had to become accustomed to not knowing where her next meal was coming from and if there would be a roof over her head or not. She never know if she could trust somebody who claimed they were trying to help her of if they may just be trying to take advantage of her and she had to be on the look out for the gangs of wild men.

Things went on like this for many years until eventually the princess grew up into a woman, and the prince grew up to become a man. The prince decided the time had come for him to retake his place at the head of the nation so he mustered his strength and gathered his friends to him and started a war campaign against the wild men to take back his land. Though he and his allies were few and their enemies great, they fought bravely and great miracles occurred for them and they obtained many victories. Soon the prince had reconquered many of his cities and much of his land.

As the prince was walking through one of the reclaimed cities he chanced upon a woman in the shuk. She was very filthy, dressed in rags with natty hair and a face covered with dirt. This woman was his princess from years ago and when she saw him she turned away in shame so that she wouldn't be recognized, but he stopped her, lifted her face and looked deep into her eyes. Though he could barely recognize her, there was something vague yet deep within him that told him this could be her. He told her, “I'm reclaiming my land, I invite you to be first among my wives and sit as queen to the country next to me on the throne.” She replied, “Do you expect me to accept such an offer? You cannot begin to comprehend the pain and suffering you have caused me for all these years. I've spent a lifetime banished from my home in the palace and trying to survive in hiding. How I've yearned to return to my rightful place and now you offer me a show marriage as just another wife in order to advance your cause? I refuse.”

The prince left her and continued his campaign. He and his allies fought a great battle against the wild men and benefited from more great miracles resulting in them capturing the capital city. The prince returned to the palace and sat on the throne to reign as king but the people wouldn't rally behind him. They claimed, “Where is our beloved princess that you caused to leave? Without her as queen we cannot accept you as our king.” The prince was in a dangerous situation as, though he had had great victories, there were still many enemies in the land and without the support of the people it would only be a matter of time before he would be defeated. He was very worried as he knew, this time he would not only once again lose his kingdom, but also his life itself. The prince finally realized that he must be back together with his princess for without her he would never be able to fulfill his destiny properly. He sent for her to be brought to the palace and cleaned off in the royal baths. She was then dressed with fine garments and expensive jewelry, as well as being covered with beautiful perfumes. As soon as the dirt was cleaned off of the princess, suddenly her original beauty came back and radiated from her as before. The prince renounced all the other princess he had sought after and proclaimed his undivided love only for her. He spent countless nights wooing her with poetry and love songs, and profusely apologizing for having ever caused her harm. After much sincere and hard work, the princess's heart began to turn and as she rediscovered her love for the prince, eventually forgiving him for what he had done.

It happened that once the prince had won back his princess's heart, they became married to each other. The people rallied behind them and they took their place on the thrown as united king and queen. They drove all the enemies from the land and ruled in peace and prosperity all their days.

So just who is this princess? She is the shechinah, often understood as Hashem's divine presence in the world. On a deeper level, the Shechinah corresponds in the sefirot to the lowest sefirah of Malchut. Malchut is a feminine sefirah as it is a kli which gathers Hashem's divine light from all the other sefirot and manifests it into this world. That is the relationship between the masculine and the feminine- the masculine gives potential and the feminine gathers the potential and actualizes it into a reality, as with a man who can give seed to a woman with DNA in it that maps out the possibility of an entire human being, and then the woman's body takes that potential seed and forms it into an actual person. Just as Malchut takes all the power of Hashem's divine light and pours it forth into the world as actual blessing, so too the princess was the source of blessing for the whole country.

The prince of the story is the Jewish people. Am Yisrael and the Shechinah are husband and wife and that is why the prince and the princess were destined to be joined together. Just as the prince chased after foreign princesses and ended up driving his own princess away, the Jews used to be united in Eretz Yisrael with the Shechinah but chose to chase after idolatry driving the Shechinah away (as we continue to do with our varied sins today). The people of the country represent Eretz Yisrael, and just like they couldn't accept the prince without the princess and drove him out as well, once the Jewish people rejected the Shechinah the land spewed them out, and it's taught that when the Jewish people went into exile, the Shechinah went as well. When all this happened the land went into darkness and was taken over by gangs of wild men. In the land of Israel, various nations have spent the last several thousand years conquering it, losing it, and sometimes reconquering it. The last group of “wild men” to now be in the land are currently the muslims, descendants of Ishmael. In Sefer Bereshit Hashem refers to Ishmael saying he will be a wild man in constant conflict with others.

But the princess never actually left, she just went into hiding. So too the Shechinah never actually left the world but just became very hidden. She may have been covered in dirt and rags, yet underneath all that, her true beauty was present all along, and as soon as it was able to be revealed it shone forth. Ramchal teaches of this with the Shechinah in his sefer Mishkney Elyon. All things that exist in the lower world have a corresponding counterpart in the upper spiritual realms. Jacob was called Jacob, but had a higher spiritual reality to him known is Israel. In this world we have Jerusalem, and in the upper realms there is Tzion. The Ramchal teaches this is also true of the temple, in which there is a physical temple on earth and a corresponding one in the heavens. When the first temple stood, the corresponding upper temple lined up in design with it perfectly and that's why the Shechinah could dwell there, as opposed to the second temple in which it did not rest. Why is this? Because once the first temple was destroyed the heavenly one was as well, and immediately a new one was built. However the design of this one didn't match up with the physical design of the second in this world and therefore it was destined to not stand forever. So what does this upper temple correspond to in design? Ramchal teaches it is to be the third temple, and that when the proper tikkun olam is performed and the upper worlds become unified with the lower worlds it will come down through the worlds to manifest itself here in this world. At that point we will simply build a corresponding physical building around it.

With this we can now better understand the hidden but always present beauty of the princess which once it was revealed shone forth as before and prepared her to bring the blessings to her people again. The third temple, which will be the source of Malchut/Shechinah to bring blessing into this world is already here, just hidden in the upper worlds, but once it becomes revealed in this world will radiate G-dliness to everything in existence.

The prince's coming of age and conquest of the country represents the Jewish people's return to the land of Israel and founding of the modern state with it's courages battles and many miraculous victories. Though the prince wasn't looking for his princess and his main goal was to rally the people behind him and reign as king (as secular Zionism wasn't concerned with a return to Torah but simply to create a modern Jewish state within the land), once he had started his quest he chanced upon the princess. He could barely recognize her for she was still very hidden but something deep within him remembered her. As we have come back to this land G-d's presence has been calling us and almost every Jew who visits or lives in the land now can feel at least a hint of these stirrings in their heart.

Why did the prince and princess need to be united in marriage as king and queen before their destiny could be fulfilled? Within a person, there is both male and female aspects. In a proper relationship, the man will bring the femininity out of a woman and the woman will bring the masculinity out of a man. When they are together properly each one brings out the essence of the other. Furthermore, animals have relations with the female's back facing the male while human beings have relations face to face. The ten sefirot are within a person's body and like in the sefirot, the left side of a person is gevura while the right side is chesed. When a man and a woman come face to face with each other, their bodies are reversed (meaning one's left side is facing the other's right and their right is facing the other's left). Thus, the man's chesed attaches to the woman's gevura and his gevura to her chesed, and they create an all around tiferet – the beautiful balance.

Yet at first the prince wasn't interested in winning back the heart of the princess. It was only after he couldn't gain complete success in rallying the people and realized that without her in his life he would soon lose his kingdom and his life to his enemies that he figured out that his destiny was interwoven with hers. We may have made very big strides in Israel today, yet for all we've accomplished we still can not stamp out the threat of our enemies and over time the threat they pose to us just gets bigger and bigger until now we have those sworn to kill us surrounding us on all sides, some of them even pursuing nuclear weapons which will only take a mater of time to obtain. As the prince realized he needed the princess, we need to realize we will never make it on our own in this country without G-d's help and the Shechinah in our presence no matter what kind of allies or military strength we may think we possess.

When the prince first asked the princess to marry him he hadn't renounced the other princesses he had sought after and was only interested in the union in as much as it helped him. He was looking for a union akin the animal level where the female may be turned away but the male does not care because he is simply seeking his pleasure, rather than a human union of facing each other in which both mutually want to draw the other into themselves and then may line up correctly spiritually as well as physically. The princess refused because he hadn't worked to fix the damage to her he had caused and show her he really loved her. Therefore, to reveal the Shechinah in this world and bring about the ultimate union between G-d's presence and the Jewish people, we will need to put in much hard work, and with the threats we are faced with we do not have any other options. The time has come for us to let our own princess know how sorry we are for what we have done by doing t'shuva (repentence) for the sins we have committed and denouncing the “foreign princesses” of westernism, secularism, assimilation, and any other mentality or school of thought we have latched onto which is not rooted in Torah (and on a more simple level our desires for sins). As the prince had to woo his princess back to earn her love, we need to commit ourselves to Hashem and make His presence revealed in the world by trying our best to love Him and never leave Him again. May we have success in doing this and realizing our national destiny soon and in our times.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Same Jews

Sometimes I feel like I'm beating the Jews-need-to-return-to-Israel-and-their-collective-lack-of-initiative-is-a-sign-of-their-lack-of-faith-in-G-d issue like a dead horse. I don't know how we could express this seemingly obvious fact any further.

But I'll try.

One thing that really bugs me is when people read the Torah as a legend of days gone by. The Children of Israel coming out of Egypt are usual catalysts for a sort of global Jewish headshaking - we wonder at their ability to be so kvetchy all the time, to make golden gods, to ask for ridiculous things in the face of miracles. Yet I find that the post-traumatic-stress-riddled Jews of Egyptian slavery time are not a whole lot different than the average Moishe of Central Parkway. Granted, the Hebrews saw wildly unnatural-seeming miracles, splitting seas, weirdly selective plagues like darkness and firstborn slaying and what have you. They had a lot of chutzpah being so faithless.

But it's not like your snazzy LA Jew hasn't seen miracles. His bizarre success wherever he goes, the way he is so oddly and frequently spared from tragic or disasterous events, the birth of the State of Israel far across the ocean and its uncannily rapid growth and prosperity in its old haunts, with its old language. Honestly - it's pretty obvious that G-d is still taking care of His people Israel. There are a lot of American Jews who would heartily testify to the omnipotent kindness of our Lord to the Jewish people, and latch on to many of his commandments in loyalty and affirmation.

But when we talk about getting out of good old Flatbush... ooohhh nooooo. Suddenly, everything is too hard, too scary. To me, it sounds something like this: "Let us be and we will serve Egypt, for it is better that we should serve Egypt than that we should die in the Wilderness." This wilderness was a place where the Israelites' every need would be cared for, where they would learn the Torah and eat to satiety. At least we can give them the benefit of the doubt in regard to their disbelief - though they should have known that Hashem would take care of them in the Wilderness, they had no forward lines who had preceded them, whose well-being they could take comfort in.

Yet the American Jew of today has that very thing. Israel is filled with flourishing beauty, holy Torah, rich agriculture and comfortable living, experienced currently by almost 6 million of his relatives. But he sees his road to Israel, his Wilderness, as not being worth the potential costs. Yes, he knows he's giving up SOMETHING. But his lack of faith causes him to seek comfort in that which is killing him, and to see his ladder up and out as certain death.

As an aside, one could say similarly of those living in Israel today who believe that we are sure to face doom and destruction, who mock those of us who begin to get a whiff of the burning offerings in a future Temple or plan our vacation homes in Basra. To them, anything bespeaking growth and uncharted territory is farcical, impractical, or dangerous. Better to be safe than sorry.

How ironic it is that all of these people rely on things which are utterly unsafe and uncertain and don't run like hell for the Wilderness, which is in fact the only safety there is.

May we all embrace our personal Wilderness, and let it lead us on a path to all things holy, right here in our holy land.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Jew & His Homeland

"For a Jew, the land of Israel is more than a place, it is a body for the soul of a people...a place to find where you began, where you belong and what you truly are; A Jew does not travel to Israel, s/he returns there..."

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Friday, November 09, 2007

U'M'Beit Avicha - And From Thy Fathers Home: Realizing the Dream of Lech Lecha

Based on what are the Jewish People deserving of having been chosen? What did Avram do that was so special? Why is Avram chosen to be the beginning of a Chosen Nation who will serve as the vehicle through which God perfects humanity?

Let us take a look at the parsha of Lech Lecha and Chazal's commentary on her, and see whether perhaps we are given an answer to this perplexing question.

At the beginning of the parsha, God commands Avram, "Go from your land, your birth place, and from your father’s house, unto the land which I shall show you." Very interestingly, God continues and says, "I will make you a great nation... and through you all nations of the world will be blessed..." (12: 1-3) So we see already, that from the very first words that God command to Avram (go to the land of Israel) God also tells Avram the reason that God is commanding him to do this, namely that you shall become a "great nation" and that "through you all the nations of the world will be blessed."

We will begin a departure here, that only in the end shall return to our original question with what I hope you agree to be a beautiful answer.

In the Talmud Bavli (Nedarim, Page 32a) it says the following:

R. Ammi b. Abba also said: Avram was three years old when he acknowledged the Creator, for it is written, Because [Heb. 'ekeb'] Avram obeyed my voice: the numerical value of 'ekeb' is one hundred seventy two (since Avram lived to be 175 years old, he "obeyed my voice" for 172 of his 175 years of life).

The Rambam sitting both this Talmudic passage as well as another source that says Avram recognized God at the age of 40, synthesizes the two. Rambam says that from the age of 3 Avram began searching out God, but he did not come to the conclusion of a single god until the age of 40.

A point of significance here. The many stories and details of Avrams life that were just stated (he recognized God at 3, 40, etc) along with the many more to follow are not in the Torah! Why not? Why are such important details such as the reason for Avram having been chosen (for comparison, when Noach is chosen in the previous parsha to be the one saved and continue humanity we are told why. It says that Noach was a tzaddik, a righteous man) left out? We are not told anything about Avram. Why? We will come back to this later. However, already now, we can see a great example of the way in which Chazal fill in these missing pieces with midrashim, which sometimes are claimed as part of the oral tradition and as 'true' and other time are merely being created by Chazal. But even in this later case, they are no less true. Rather Chazal are trying to teach us a very important point (or points) and do so through this method of midrashim and commentary.

Let us now look at one of the most famous midrashim on the entire chumash. Midrash Rabbah, Berishit 38.

AND HARAN DIED IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS FATHER TERACH [XI, 28]. R. Hiyya said: Terah was a manufacturer of idols. He once went away somewhere and left Avram to sell them in his place. A man came and wished to buy one. 'How old are you?' Avram asked him. 'Fifty years,' was the reply. 'Woe to such a man!' Avram exclaimed, 'you are fifty years old and would worship a day-old object!' At this he became ashamed and departed. On another occasion a women came with a plateful of flour and requested him, 'Take this and offer it to them.' So he took a stick, broke them, and put the stick in the hand of the largest. When his father returned he demanded, 'What have you done to them?' 'I cannot conceal it from you,' Avram rejoined. 'A women came with a plateful of fine meal and requested me to offer it to them. One claimed, "I must eat first," While another claimed, "I must eat first." Thereupon the largest arose, took the stick, and broke them.' 'Why do you make sport of me,' he cried out; 'have they then any knowledge!' 'Should not your ears listen to what your mouth is saying,' Avram retorted.

Thereupon he seized him and delivered him to Nimrod. 'Let us worship the fire!' Nimrod proposed. 'Let us rather worship water, which extinguishes the fire,' replied he. 'Then let us worship water!' 'Let us rather worship the clouds which bear the water.' 'Then let us worship the clouds!' 'Let us rather worship the winds which disperse the clouds.' 'Then let us worship the wind!' 'Let us rather worship human beings, who withstand the wind.' 'You are just bandying words,' he exclaimed; 'we will worship nought but the fire. Behold, I will cast you into it, and let your God whom you adore come and save you from it.' Now Haran was standing there undecided. IF Avram is victorious, thought he, I will say that I am of Avram's belief, while if Nimrod is victorious I will say that I am on Nimrod's side. When Avram descended into the fiery furnace and was saved, he [Nimrod] asked him, 'Of whose belief are you?' 'Of Avram's' he replied. Thereupon he seized and cast him into the fire; his inwards were scorched and he died in his father's presence. Hence it is written, AND HARAN DIED IN THE PRESENCE OF ['AL PENE] HIS FATHER TERACH.

There are two aspects to this Midrash that I find fascinating.

The first aspect is the similarity between Avram's pattern of thinking as he comes to recognize the One True God, and the thinking that became so famous and widespread as a result of the Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle in particular. Plato was most famous for his dialectic manner of speaking, the way in which he would engage in conversation through question and answers in an attempt to arrive closer to the truth about the topic at hand. What was most unique was Plato's gifted ability to ask the right questions in the right way, thereby leading the other person engaged in the dialogue to construct their own meaningful and logical truth. How fascinating that the father of philosophy and the father of monotheism and revelation would have such similar ways of thinking and approaching the world. For we see in the midrash that Avram engages in exactly the same sort of conversations. By asking the presumably innocent question of "how old are you" Avram prepares a comment to the answer he knows is coming that will force his counterpart in this conversation to realize the idiocy of avodah zarah (idol worship). [This being done of course, when Avram retorts to the man's answer of how old are you with the following reply, "Woe to such a man! You are fifty years old and would worship a day old object!"]

We see Avram perform the same type of logical and progressive thinking with his father. This time Avram engages in the seemingly destructive act of destroying the idols, which would serve to do nothing for his father's benefit except perhaps to enrage him. This it does. But Avram has his response ready to this as well, making up the story of the idols smashing one another and that Avram is innocent. This time, Avram's set the framework for the other person involved in the dialogue to come ot the same conclusion as Avram even more perfectly than before. For this time, Avram's father doesn't merely concede the point, he states it himself! "Have they then any knowledge?!" Asked Terach. An amazing achievement that Avram should be able to think up a way in which to cause his father to realize himself the silliness of avoda zarah. Avram wraps up this discussion with his reply of "Should not your ears listen to what your mouth is saying." It is implied (through the midrashes silence) that Terach, though extraordinarily upset with Avram, excepted and agreed with his son's point.

Lastly, and perhaps most fascinating, is the way in which Avram finally comes to believe in the One God. These first two examples indicate that Avram rejected avodah zarah, but they do not say with what Avram replaced it (if anything at all). But in Avram's discussion with Nimrod, we discover the way in which Avram came to believe in God. When Nimrod declared, "let us worship fire" Avram retorted with "let us worship the water which extinguishes the fire." And with every new object of avodah zarah named by Nimrod, Avram pushed the cause back further and further. And, as many Greek philosophers also believed, if pushed back far enough, one reached a Single God. This is known as the First Cause Proof of God.

Avram was indeed a philosopher.

As a quick side point, it is interesting to note, that Avram, though he had not had any revelation yet, and his belief in One God was based solely on his thinking and philosophizing, Avram was already willing to die for this belief. Yet Haran, Avram's brother, had no convictions. He was passive. He didn't engage his brain and think for himself. He was not committed to avoda zarah, not was he committed to the belief in God. I have heard Rav Chaim Eisen of Jerusalem say on many occasions, "it is better to be committed to avodah zarah, then to be committed to nothing at all." I always had difficulty understanding that, if it were to be taken at all literally. I think, and hope you agree, that Haran's attitude, his punishment, and this midrash as a whole help to explain it.

It is at this point, at the conclusion of our midrash, that God first reveals Himself
to Avram, and declares, "Lech lecha…"

So, what did Avram, (soon to be Avraham) do to deserve being the person to whom God declared "Lech lecha" and chose as the father of the Holy Jewish Nation? It should be obvious by now. Avram recognized God! Avram recognized God, and he did so by himself. His conviction in this recognition was so fierce, he was willing to die for it, and the truth that Avram was so positive lay behind it.

I heard it suggested by Rav Kahn, that there is no reason to assume that the commandment and revelation of "lech lecha" was given only to Avram. It could very well be that it was being said to all mankind, but it was only Avram who heard it.

Or was it?

In a brilliant suggestion, Rav Kahn of Bar Ilan University stated that Avram and Terach (his father) had a much closer relationship than we often take notice of. The expression that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree has much truth to it. And I see no reason to suspect otherwise in the case of Avram and Terach.

Now, at this point, we can notice a most bizarre pasuk in the torah. For in sentence 31 of our parsha it says:

And Terach took Avram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Avram's wife, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldeans, to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran, and lived there."
Now, why would Terach just all of a sudden take his entire family, including Avram, and pick up from Ur and head towards "the land of Canaan"? Perhaps, it is because Terach heard the exact same revelation that Avram did! That Terach too had this moment of clarity. That Terach also came to believe and understand that there was only one God. At which point Terach was given the commandment of "Lech Lecha" just as Avram was. And Terach, a believer of God, began to take both himself and his entire family to "the land of Canaan."

But it is difficult to make aliyah. Oh so difficult. It is not easy to travel from Ur (or Monsey, or California, or France, or many other places) all the way to Eretz Yisrael (the land of Canaan). And so, Terach, though he begins the journey, he does not finish it. "And they came to Haran, and lived there." Haran, according to many of the opinions of Chazal, was half way between Israel and Ur. Terach made it half way. But then he had to stop. Afterall, we must live in reality. Aliyah is not realistic. We must support ourselves, our family, etc. We must "live" as Terach understood, and so they stopped in Haran, "and they lived there".

God forbid this should ever happen to any of us!

Realize the greatness of the Terach's of the world, and realize the tragedy of their inability to see the mission to the end! Terach was a great human being and made an enormous achievement. He recognized God (as to so many of the Jews in galut today claim to do). And Terach heard the voice of God commanding him to leave, and go to Israel. And Terach listened. He experienced revelation and truth, both through his own thought process (as was seen with Avram in his conversation with Nimrod in the midrash) and also through the revelation of God saying 'lech lecha.'

But it is not easy to hold onto our moment's of clarity. It is exceedingly difficult. To turn dreams into reality, requires great strength. The Psalmist calls us K'Cholmim - As Dreamers. For the dream should never be seen as a fantasy. The dream can be fulfilled.

Avram did make it. Avram did continue. Avram realized the dream of aliyah, and fulfilled this most difficult test of God. Perhaps "Lech lecha" was not all uttered at once. For such would make sense. If Avram and Terach were traveling together from Ur to Canaan, then it was only when Terach gave up at Haran that God added "u'm'beit avicha" ("and from your father's house"). For it was together that Avram and Terach traveled from "m'arzicha, um'moladicha" (from his land and his birthplace). But when Terach gave in, and couldn't continue any more, when Terach "lived in Haran" then God had to say to Avram, "Do not stop! Do not forget your moment of clarity and revelation! Continue the journey! "Lech lecha m'beit avicha".

My wishes for all the members of Kumah and all who are reading this should be that we all keep our moments of clarity alive. That when we hear a "lech lecha" we chase after it, and do not stop walking until we have reached our goal.

"Lech Lecha" Those Who Are As Dreamers! Know that our God is One, that he watches over us, and that he has commanded to us (among his other wonderful and beautiful mitzvoth) to come home to Eretz Yisrael. To make aliyah. Let us not "live there in Haran". Kumah! Arise, it's time to come home.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Where Have You Come From - Where Are You Going?

This is the question that lies at the heart of aliyah. It is a question who was first asked by our sages as well as by Socrates. It is a question, that while seeming very simple to answer can prove incredibly complex.

For a Jew, the answer is even more complex. For I can not answer where I come from without also taking into account where the Jewish People comes from. While the why to that question may be complicated, in the briefest form, it is because the Jew is born into a covenantal community. The Jew is born with obligations and expectations. We are not a 'free people' in the sense that freedom is often used today. We are duty bound. To be identified as a Jew, at least in part, means to partake in the pains and triumphs of the Jewish Nation. To be Jewish is to be part of a nationality.

But that is not all. We all know much more obviously that to be Jewish is to be part of a religion. The covenantal community that is Judaism is a covenant of faith, of Sinai, of revelation, of God's truth as revealed in the Torah. So to be identified as a Jew requires our participation in torah as well.

But that is not all. The third prong to our identity is the hardest for Jews living in exile to recognize, as it requires a reworking of our own identities - a task that is never pleasant. The third aspect of Jewish identity is Eretz Yisrael.

The Land of Israel, pieces of rock, a geographical location, is part of a Jewish identity. It seems absurd, but it is true.

I will not go into the why. This is what usually attracts the most attention when someone is speaking to Jews in America and trying to prove to them why they must move. Why Israel really is so important. And everyone gives excuses ("Rashi didn't live in Israel" is always one of my favorites). People are not convinced by arguments, not when they have so much to lose, not when their hearts are telling them to stay in the rich lands of AmReika.

So I will not answer why Israel is so important. At root, my answers as to why the Torah or the Jewish Nation are so important are also weak - they fall flat on their face if you do not already agree with me. One does not partake in the torah because it was proved to him or her. One partakes in the torah because one has experienced the truth of torah, has experienced the truth of the Jewish God's existence. One has experienced reality.

To be K'Cholmim-As Dreamers, is to partake in the amazing path and mission that is Judaism. But such a path and mission is not an easy one. The reason for this is that we are entirely confused as to what constitutes a dream and what constitutes reality. We are unsure what the right path is for us to take as individual human beings. Therefore, we can not even imagine what is the correct path for us to take as Jews or any other specific group of people. We thus lack the capability to make a choice, let alone a meaningful choice about which path will lead us to take part in our greater community, in this case, to take part in the destiny of the mission of the Jewish People. This is the reason that those of us who are looked on as dreamers (by those who are so confused), and who have visions of a better future, those of us who do still believe in such things as that dirty word, 'idealism' or even worse, actually articulate such an *irrational * belief as our faith in God, or perhaps worse of all for American Jews dare to speak of our desire to make aliyah and join our people, are always met with a reply to "live in reality" and to be "realistic". It is for this reason that I am so attracted to that word K'Cholmim-AS Dreamers. For our vision and goal is not truly a dream, rather it is a goal and ideal of a better reality, a truer reality.

But not many are willing to see such a reality, or recognize its validity and existence. Such has always been the difficulty of those who speak wisdom and truth. It was the battle of Socrates, and it was the battle of the prophets. Rav Soloveitchik zt"l in the last chapter of his masterpiece "The Lonely Man of Faith" comments on our prophet Elisha, using Elisha as a model for all the prophets, that, " many a time he felt disenchanted and frustrated because his words were scornfully rejected." (Page 112) This great prophet Elisha had the same difficulty as all men of wisdom, that their words were "scornfully rejected" because most of us, are unable to tell the difference between true and false, between good and evil. We think Dream is Reality, and Reality a Dream.

Further on in "The Lonely Man of Faith" the Rav will comment on Elisha and his life, and will teach us how this relates to the great danger of living a lie and thinking it is a reality. Of confusing what is dream and reality, what is important and what is not. All of this relates to the vision required by someone living 'the good life' in America must have to even seriously consider aliyah - let alone make it. The Rav says that, "Yet unexpectedly, the call came through to this unimaginative, self-centered farmer. Suddenly the mantle of Elijah was cast upon him. While he was engaged in the most ordinary, everyday activity, in tilling the soil, he encountered God (the Truth) and felt the transforming touch of God's hand. The strangest metamorphosis occurred. Within seconds, the old Elisha disappeared and a new Elisha emerged." (Page 110)

It was not with arguments that Elisha was convinced of the falsehood in his life, but rather a life changing experience. It was the touch of God Himself that changed Elisha from the old to the new. From an Elisha of "an unimaginative, self-centered farmer" - a life of meaninglessness and falsehood to the Elisha of truth and prophecy. To an Elisha who would spend the rest of his days walking around Israel preaching God's truth, and this vision of idealism and Yahadut. And of course this is the greatest difficulty that we as K'Cholmim face, the battle for the truth and the ability to create moments of experience that will wake people up to that truth.

So the question is what experiences have you had? Elisha experiences God, and this changed his life. It wasn't with arguments that Elisha was convinced of what is true and what is not, it was with a simple but profound experience. Many of us are chozer b'tshuva, and we all have our own story about what mundane experience proved so profound as to reframe our entire existence and change the course of our life.

So too with Israel. Israel is to be experienced, not analyzed. Have you experienced Israel? Were you perhaps disappointed? When you were searching for God, were you ever disappointed there? I was. Sunday school is not a 'positive' experience of God and Torah for most Jews. But does that mean it doesn't exist, or that your teachers were inadequate? To experience the real Israel is not easy - especially when the places in Israel most laden with kedusha and history are considered 'too dangerous' to allow Jews to visit, or because low and behold, most of our holy places are on the wrong side of this magical green line and therefore we should not visit. Have you ever seen the mishkan in Shilo? Have you visited the hills of the Shomron? Have you looked over Shchem and imagined the fields in which Joseph and his brothers played, and ultimately, tragically, fought? Have you walked on the Temple Mount and infused yourself with the spirit of God - as you stand in awe of His presence? Have you sat in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, watching hundreds of religious children who at age 8 know more torah than you run around as they fulfill the words of our prophets that children will play again in the streets of Jerusalem? Have you seen the devastation caused to our people at a bus bombing because Jews don't care enough about Jewish blood to do what we must to protect ourselves? Have you seen a desert that after a year was greener because of your presence? Have you?

Israel is to be experienced. Home is a symbol - a symbol is something which has meaning underneath the apparent object. The rocks of Israel are a symbol - a symbol of our home. Chazal say that the redemption will only come when we yearn for the rocks and dust of Eretz Yisrael. Which means, when the Jewish souls remember where home is, when we return home. I can not convince you with arguments WHY Israel is your home. SHE IS! Kacha! And if you have the nerve then you will come and find out why that is true.

So for all those who don't know what the experience of Israel is - come and find it! KUMAH! ARISE! Return home.

But there is one last problem. What of those who HAVE had this experience and yet chose to live in galut? To them, I say, remember with all your might the intensity of that experience. The problem with dream and reality is we confuse them so quickly. My best friend in college and roommate woke me up one morning at 5:30 shaking me hard, "David David". "WHAT?" I asked him. We had been working together non stop to lobby for Israel and had just run two incredibly Aliyah Shabbatonim where we engaged over a 100 Chicago Jews to discuss aliyah - over 50 now live in Israel. So he woke me up and said, "David, I just had the most incredible dream." "Tell me about it" I said. "Well, I was in Israel David, and it was just amazing, I was there" and he started to cry. This friend is not one for tears and I was shocked, but I realized what had happened. He had experienced Israel - without even being there! Because of his commitment to her - she reached out to him. And he cried. And he said, "I have to go David, I have to, how can I go?" So we sat for an hour and a half discussing options and ways he could leave the prestigious education he was receiving at the University of Chicago without enraging his parents and make aliyah this summer. He was so excited. He called his parents. He went to the aliyah agency. And he never came. (I would like to happily add, that since this was written he has made aliyah, married and Israeli, and they are expecting their first native born daughter in the coming months, b?sha?ah tovah!)

But what happened that initially held him back. Why did he not come? He experienced it. There is no question about it. He experienced Israel - but in America he stayed. Why? Because dreams only last for a short while. The experience can shock us into reality, his dream made him wake up to reality - no pun intended. But it doesn't last. You must grab hold of it and act on it right away, or else it dissipates. My friend, for whatever reason, despite all his energies wasn't able to hold on to that dream - a dream with more meaning and reality behind it than many other people's lives. A tragedy. But God willing there will be other moment's of clarity for him (addendum: and there were!), and he will find his way home to Israel again.

I say to you who DO know the experience of Israel - DO NOT LET IT PASS! DO NOT LET IT SIT IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND AND HEART. "One question I asked from God, to sit in the House of God all the days of my life?" The human mind is stubborn and complex, we prefer the easy 'reality' even if it is a lie. Don't live the sheker, remember your moments of clarity, remember what it felt like to walk down a street where there are more people wearing kippot than not, where there is a Jewish Army to defend us, where the air itself has a different taste - a Jewish taste.

Experience Israel, Remember Israel, Come Home to Israel. Your People await you.
Your people need you. Kumah.

Shabbat Shalom

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