What a group that was. By the end, more than half the bus was sick, including myself and the medic, and we had certainly assured our place in the annals of IsraelExperts infamy. Oy, my neshama hurts.

Still, when the participants come up to me and say that they FEEL something in this place, even when they don’t know what that is, it makes it all so, so worthwhile.

Working with birthright israel is amazing. It reconvinces me that there is something magical about this place and the Jewish connection to it. Many of the participants have a weak connection to Israel and their Judaism at best, they can be goofing off and not really paying attention to what they tour guide is trying to convey, and then we get somewhere and without intellectualizing, somethings clicks and they just connect. In a deep way. It’s phenomenal to catch.

We had an interesting speaker talk to us towards the end. One Rabbi Lee Diamond. He said the following;

“Being a Jew in the Diaspora is like masturbation; you can do it anytime you want, you don’t need any help, and it’s not authentic. Being a Jew in Israel is like real sex. All the time.”

At that I think all the kids considered aliyah for just one moment.

His thought was that Judaism is neither a culture, nor a religion, it’s a civilization. And a civilization has its own unique language, arts, literature, history, folklore, dress, customs, and yes, its and religion also. In Israel, we speak, breath and live Jewish. But when our ancestors came to America, they saw that to “make it” there they needed to be a part of the American civilization, and left most uniques aspects of the “Jewish civilization”, leaving just religion and cultural quirks. The next generation got the message, and left off most of the religion part too, and consequently, what my generation in the Diaspora has been left with is a fundamentally flawed idea of what Judaism is.

And that only in Israel can it be rediscovered.

I can’t say I totally disagree.

About the author

Laya Millman

62 Comments

  • “Being a Jew in the Diaspora is like masturbation…Being a Jew in Israel is like real sex.”

    Feh! First off, the majority of what we know to be Judaism is from the diaspora. Where to begin? The Babylonian Talmud. The vast majority of acharonim were diaspora Jews, and their halakhic works were written in the diaspora. Rambam went to Israel and didn’t stay. Hassidism… that’s a diaspora movement. Modern orthodoxy? Well, Hirsch was a German as well as the leader of neo-orthodoxy and his writings on the ideal of Jewry don’t seem to suggest that the diaspora lifestyle is for the self-pleasuring.

    I might turn the statement around, in fact. One could make a good argument that being a Jew in Israel is “masturbation.” After all, you separate yourself off from the other to make the Jewish as easy as possible all the time. When you’re out in the diaspora, you have to deal with non-Jews…ample opportunity for being a light to the nations. Sure, there are mitzvot that we can only do in Israel. And, we should long to do those. But, I think that R’ Diamond was being disingenuous. The highly Israel-centric view that he expresses is, in many ways, a modern invention, too–incorporated into orthodoxy after Israel became a reality. This has left our generation with a fundamentally flawed view of what Judaism is, all right. Suddenly, the religion seems secondary to many people, with Israel as the prime value. And the whole Jews are a civilization could be coming right out of the earlier secular Zionist handbook.

    Look, HaShem told us to be a nation of priests, not monks. While monks may close themselves in to make it easier to focus on God alone, priests have a duty to the people…a pastoral duty. It would be a heck of a lot easier for me to keep kosher, shabbat, and so on, in Israel. But, then my public relations with the non-Jewish world would be focused on making Israel look good via my actions. Here in the diaspora, my duty is making God look good.

    I have been told that the value in the religious deed lies, in part, in sacrifice. It isn’t easy to slip out of a meeting to say Mincha, or to carry kosher food on a trip, or to make up lost time from leaving early on Shabbat. But, the meaning of those acts would be lost if no effort was involved. For me, being in Israel, as wonderful as that would be, would mean making my mitzvot less meaningful. Here, I do things because I choose to and make an effort to. There, I could do mitzvot because, why not, it wouldn’t hurt me.

    So, while I can’t say I “totally disagree,” either, I do largely disagree.

    Feh!

  • The advancements of Diaspora Jewry that you mention though (Talmud Bavli, Hassidism), came about from a profoundly different situation than American Jewry is in. Jewish attitudes about Judaism changed when they hit Ellis Island. Before that, Jews, particularly in Eastern Europe and Arab countries were made to live pretty separate from the general population and in that way were able to retain much more of a unique identity than we have managed in America.

    As far as the idea that doing mitzvot in Israel comes easy, I would challenge to to keep strictly kosher in Tel Aviv for a while and to explain the value of it to proudly secular and treif-eating Israelis. In America you may be able to make “god look good” in a general way, to the general population, but here you get a chance to make Judaism look good to Jews, no easy task, there’s a lot of damage to be undone, and my feeling is that charity starts at home.

  • I dunno, Fineline, there’s a reason we’ve been saying “Next year in Jerusalem” for many, many centuries.

  • “I dunno, Fineline, there’s a reason we’ve been saying “Next year in Jerusalem” for many, many centuries.”

    I have to get something off my chest. We say “Next Year in Jerusalem”, but most don’t mean it, and I’m not talking about ordinary folks, I’m talking most religious Jews. Sure there’s two or three Zionistic couples in every shul, planning their lives around Aliyah. But my God, how many people do I know moved to Israel, only to return back to North America. And they do so with glee (let’s not forget about the exodus of Israeli folk who turn up in LA, NY, Montreal, Vancouver, etc…promising to never return). So for me, “Next Year in Jerusalem” will remain a metaphor.

  • I think perhaps they mean it, Shtreimel, but it’s not as if living in Israel is easy and it’s not as if Israel is a perfect country. It’s tough to live there and that may affect some of the dreams of those who would move there otherwise.

  • “next year in jerusalem”

    israel and the diaspora are the same with regard to judaism with the exception of various mitzvot connected to the land. wether we like or not, the galut continues and will continue until the messiah comes. jerusalem is not a complete city that we mention in “next year in jerusalem” because the temple is not in use, there is no monarchy and the sanhedrin has not been reconvened. plus of course, the whole notion of a synagogue came about as a result of the decentralization of the faith. i personally think that the rabbi should’ve kept his mouth shut, rabbis are meant to be holy, not draw comparisons about sex.

  • “It’s tough to live there and that may affect some of the dreams of those who would move there otherwise.”

    I don’t disagree with you. But I chalk this up to my Modern Orthodox friends’ interpretation of Shomer Negiah. While they look down at their Liberal Jewish counterparts, they too don’t take seriously some of the central tenants of Orthodoxy. Every one of my Modern Ortho friends fondled their boyfriend/girlfriends…..EVERYONE. And yet they sing the virtues of a virtually unchanged Halacha throughout the ages, etc., etc. Kaplan was bang on when he said communities reinterpret Halacha to suit their needs. My Modern Ortho friends will say: “But I’m saving sexual intercourse for marriage” or “We don’t do oral”. Ok, fine…but that has nothing to do with Shomer Negiah and the whole “spilling the seed” shtick.

    All I’m saying is that there are certain components to modern Jewish living that sound great in spirit, but are rarely practiced day to day. And I wish we wouldn’t dance around it so much. I’m not asking for a reinterpretation of Halacha, but it’s unerving to experience Mordechai Kaplan’s observation of Jewish behavior and psychology.

  • I agree Mr Elder of Zion. Everytime I go to Israel I get fed the whole: “This is your home shit”. Again, I don’t feel it. And until Moshiach, I don’t feel guilty or less of a Jew when I express my love for Canada, and that Banff moved me more than anything I’ve experienced in Jerusalem, Tzvat, etc.

  • Oy! Banff moved you more than Jerusalem?!

    I’ve been to both on a number of occasions, as well as some other choice destinations around the world, and there’s just something about Jerusalem..l.

  • Worked in Banff for 5 months. Spent one day following the rail lines out of town, and stopped in a clearing. Just the the Mountains and a breeze swooshing the tall grass. I’ve never felt such an overwhelming presence of beauty/perfection.

    Don’t get me wrong…I love Jerusalem. And Mea Shearim is great way to kill a Shabbos afternoon.

  • this crosses the essence of why so many of the “rightwing” orthodox jews have problems with zionism. essentially speaking orthodox jews (no offense to everyone else, i cant talk for u guys) abhor the replacement of “diaspora” values and traditional “shtetl” judaism behind the curtain of Zionism as the true calling of jews, which it certainly is not. personally i feel that SECULAR zionism is a farce and amounts to the creation of a nation like the rest of the nations with the same values and problems as other secular nations.

  • Elder Punk, early Zionists said the exact opposite about Orthodox Jews, considering them to be weak “shtetl Jews.” Early Zionism was all about creating the New Jew. However, you really shouldn’t dismiss secular Judaism in Israel so quickly. Read your bible and note how often God is telling the Israelites that they’re sinning or doing wrong by him. In other words, they were living on his Holy Land, just like modern Jews, and violating his laws, just like modern Jews. Of course, his laws are not the laws of Orthodox Jews, just the inspiration for those laws which were actually written by rabbis. As such, you may want to remember that they, the rabbis that is, were human and fallible. For all we know, entire interpretations of the Torah that are now part of the laws of Judaism, could be entirely…wrong.

    🙂

  • The fact is that “Next year in Jerusalem!” always meant “Next year in a rebuilt, messianic era Jerusalem!” Man, how I’d love that whole world peace, no antisemitism, universal acceptance of HaShem and Jewish values thing. But that is very, very different from being a Zionist member of your shul preparing to move to Efrat. That’s the point, really. At some point in the past 75 years, the concepts of political Zionism and religious mission and hope have become conflated. We have swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, the idea that “Next year in Jerusalem” means a kosher, post-Havdalah hangout on Ben Yehuda St. I just don’t buy that.

    Look, its great to be able to visit Israel…to have that safe haven where you can just be Jewish. I’m sure that while Moshe was hanging around up on the peak of Mt. Sinai, he “felt it” and was quite moved. He maybe didn’t even want to really come back down. But, there is a midrash which tells that Moshe didn’t really understand what the Torah and mitzvot meant until he had descended again. I’d put forth that if you look at Jewish history, from the very beginnings of Jerusalem as our capital, that Jews didn’t really “get” what the point of our existence was until we were dispersed.

    Laya, sure the American Jewish experience has been unique. I never argued with that. It’s just that the rabbi was contrasting it with being Jewish in Israel without pointing out that for most of Jewish history, we have been proud, believing, diaspora Jews.

  • Fineline,

    I have to disagree once more. The whole messianic idea is one that developed over time. If I may remind you, “By the rivers of Babylon…,” “If I forget thee, o Jerusalem…” What Jews have been pining for has been a return to our previous capital and thereby to our previous days of glory. Which is, if you think about, the embodiment of the Zionist ideal. The notion of it becoming part of a messianic dream of return and the role that has played in the development of rabbinical Judaism and its descendant Jewish sects today may be valid, but it is a patina worn over the initial, simple, non-mystical ideal of physically returning to our homeland from exile, and re-estabishing our presence within that homeland. This is not a modern 75-year old ideal, this is an idea that goes back to the Babylonian exile.

  • TM

    the belief among orthodox jews is that the written law and the oral law was handed down from sinai directly from G-d. we understand the arguments contained in the mishna and gemara as attempts to understand the law tht was clear in the past and forgottern over time. it is not the case that the rabbis are actually coming up with new stuff. until i understood this point i had a lot of trouble understanding the our tradition.

    i used the word “shtetl jew” in the context that you understand it to mean. the zionists underestimated the importance of this tradition in their manufacturing of the “new jew”.

    the reason for the exile percieved by us is that the sinning and betraying G-d on a regular basis was the cause of the exile.

  • The belief of Orthodox Jews is one thing. The practice is another, and the practice is derived from rabbinical, hence, human interpretation. Are you slaughtering livestock and making them an offering to God on an altar?

    The rabbis are interpreting the Torah in order to make sense of a world where centralized worship in Jerusalem and the Temple no longer exist. We’ve discussed on this blog the idea of a kid in its mother’s milk evolving into prohibition of dairy and meat. If that’s not a man-made idea, what is?

    The Zionists underestimated nothing. They thoroughly abhorred and rejected the image of the shtetl Jew. If you look at Israel today and you consider that the haredi population as well as some other Orthodox streams almost always do not serve in the IDF while secular Israelis almost always do, you realize that Israel reveals the dichotomy between the two views while serving as a laboratory where both sides can live side by side (although the “shtetl” culture would be unable to survive in its current form without the secular culture, while I’m pretty confident the opposite is false).

    The reason for the exile is thought to be Israel’s sinning, although we then get into whether the Prophets, books written by man, are as holy as books given by God in the Chumash, no? The real reason is there were better and stronger armies around. 😉

  • No, Elder–on har Sini, Moshe received the written Torah and the understanding of the secrets (what ever) needed to explain the Torah through an intense form of meditation. While God may be One and Truth, people are not. A great factor in deriving what makes up the Oral Law is Ruach haKodesh. With regard to that, I disagree with TM. True, the Rabbis who wrote down the Oral Law were only human and may have made mistakes, but I do believe that they truly achieved a higher relationship with God than I have and therefore were closer to the Truth. The closer you are to the Truth–you might not be able to see it, but you can feel it stronger–the stronger you feel it. They had a strong sense of something like a Divine Inspiration. However, the Oral Law was not given word for word to Moshe to pass along because there are some things in the Torah (like that you must observe the Sabbath) that are black and white no matter what time period you’re living in while others are meant to be reapplied each generation and therefore weren’t set in stone but rather, the ability to find the answers passed down (Goodness how my grammar gets lost when I’m tired). So, for example, the Rabbis explain that resting from work means blah blah blah and not making a fire. Nowadays, they develop that to mean electricity because it is not something set in stone for that reason! The negative part of that is that the Rabbanim (not taking away from their brilliance or Torah-knowledge or respect) were influenced by the times there were living in. Nowhere in the Torah does it say that men should be grateful for not being a woman, but the rabbis set this as a prayer because no one in their right mind in those days would have wanted to be a woman!

    And Elder, again, I believe the reason the Temple was destroyed and the Jews exiled is because of Sinat Chinum–baseless hatred between Jews. Yikes! At this rate it seems we’re never going to get it back.

  • Living as a Jew in Israel is like real sex and living as a Jew in the States in like masturbation? Please, you have got to be joking. I live in Jerusalem, and I agree that there is something very special about living in a city that goes according to a Jewish clock. That being said, Jerusalem is not the whole country; the feeling in Tel Aviv or Haifa is radically different. We are a country, not a museum. On the other hand, you can get the “Jewish” feel from a solid Jewish community in the States. I also do not believe that Israel is right for all people, any more than NY is. Again, we are a country, with real people, with a culture and with a distinct personality. Not everyone is going to enjoy it. I get so irritated from people who expect Israel to be just like their home-towns, only more Jewish, and I find even more irritating those who try to recruit new olim on the basis that this is what they will find. For that matter, a lot of great stuff comes out of the diaspora Jewish community–why knock it?

    My view is like this: think of the Jewish people as one person. Israel is the heart and the diaspora is the body. A body without a heart isn’t going to go far…but neither will a lone heart on its own, with no body. We are all a part of the same thing–working together.

  • shtreimel,
    if there’s one thing that I remember about banff, then it’s those ‘coffee beans’ spread out around the entire area.

    As for not getting the ‘feeling’ in Israel, than I feel sorry for you wasting the airfare on wasted trips. After 11 years of being in Israel, I can say that I’ve felt this ‘feeling’ much more often than the rare time in Canada which might be limited to skiing illegally ‘off-piste’ into the middle of nowhere. Here, I get to feel it many times a year; whether it’s on miluim on manoevers in the negev taking my tank crew into the middle of nowhere shutting the engine off and experiencing the isolation, or on jeep border patrol on the Jordan border area ‘loaded up for bear’ knowing, feeling, and understanding that only me and my crew are preventing some asshole from crossing to kill Jews, or picking up hitchhikers and ‘by coincidence’ being able to drop them off exactly where they need to go without going out of my way, or the ‘feeling’ when I can go out of my way and drop a hitchhiker off, being an example of ‘Jewish’ to Jews who’ve had little exposure to Judaism, etc…

    I get to be a ‘light upon nations’ when I fly on business overseas, but frankly, I found myself wasting my time when I lived in Canada. I’d rather affect a few Jews in Israel than dozens of goyim. If you feel that that’s your mission in life, than yashir koach.

    Elder,
    next year in Jerusalem

    Well, the reason often given to keep praying the same monotonous routine prayers everyday, even though we might not understand them, say them properly, think about girls at the same time, and/or be so tired that you don’t even relaize that you prayed is so that maybe in the future, the time will come that it WILL mean something. That that might come at 30, 50 or even 70, but if agree with me that if someone waits until these ages to start, surely they won’t get it right the first time. So the next year in Jerusalem is not as hollow as you think, even for those not contemplating aliyah at the moment. One day, it might mean something, and frankly, I can say that it finally does mean something to me.

    Anyway,
    whatever anyone’s opinion is about living in Israel, at least no one should continue living in denial that the diaspora is deteriorating right now. It warms my heart to see small pockets of yiddishkeit truly flourishing in certain neighbourhoods spread out around the world, but in general, IMO, it’s a losing battle: decreasing birthrates, increasing assimilation, anti-semitism, though still rare, is just the icing on the cake. At the same time, Israel is getting better everyday.

    Daphna,
    I think that I can agree with you if I modify what you said: ‘I think that Israel might not be right for all people’ at this moment. Some people aclimatize to Israel sooner or later, some give up too early, but I think that eventually, everyone can find their place here.

  • Next Year in a rebuilt Jerusalem isn’t going to happen on its own folks, unless you’re getting really messianic on me. But understand that if you leave the work to others, you don’t get much a say, so please don’t bitch and moan if you don’t like the architecture 😉

    Elder punk:
    Mitzvot in and outside the land are not the same. There’s actually an opinion that says the keeping of mitzvot anywhere outside the land is essentially practice for the real thing.
    and dude, sex IS holy. don’t be swayed by the Christian world around you.

    Fineline: there is nothing holier than a post-havdala hang out on Ben Yehuda, you obviously just don’t have the eyes to see that. I’m sorry.

    And sure, maybe we needed to move in to exile for 2000 years to “get” something about being Jewish, or to be a light to the nations up close and personal, but i don’t believe that the six million of us who are back here right now is a fluke of history. On one level, it’s quite possibly the most ambitious sociological project ever undertaken; to gather a historically common people from around the globe, bring them to their ancestral homeland and let them rediscover who they really are, now that they have so many differences, while never giving them a moments peace to concentrate on the task.

    But based on our history, here’s the truth as I believe it: only in Israel are the Jewish people strong, and I’m not talking about the army.

    Daphna. I live in Jerusalem too, but anywhere in Israel, Saturday IS Shabbat, and while most people here don’t “keep” it, the majority do celebrate (family dinner, trip to beach etc.) and remember it (remembering being half the mitzvah).
    Our laws are based on Jewish Law, there are Mezuzzot on the doors of every hotel room. Secular schools teach the bible as a primary source book. Kids learn Jewish history, not American history, and everyone speaks in Hebrew. There is something really amazing about that, and you’re not gonna get it in Far Rockaway.

    I don’t think Israel is for everyone either, but it is infinitely a more real and authentic Jewish experience.
    Here we can rebuild our own civilization, and play by our own rules, not by Americas, or anyone else’s. And only when we can do that can we figure out what it REALLY means to be Jewish.
    I think that was the rabbi’s point.

  • daphna: that’s right!

    about your comments/conversation came to my mind one of my long-ago teacher’s words (he’s talked about hinduism, but – i think – that’s true in line with judaism too): to be a hinduist in india – it’s easy! but to be a hinduist at home (in this case: in hungary) that is the challenge! i mean, when i was in israel i felt freedom and i felt: i’m at home. there is evident _to be_ jew. but _to remain_ jew in budapest/galut that’s right another thing. especially, when to be jew (for me – but not just for me…) isn’t means religion and belief, but socialization, culture and attachment to some inexplicable but collective. i don’t know, what it is exactly, just i feel.

  • T_M–

    When I mention the messianic ideal, I am not referring to one line of thought or specific belief. The messianic conceptions of R’ Akiva, Rambam, Hassidic movements, etc. are all extremely varied. Those early yearnings to return to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile fit quite well into the Messianist mold. What did they want in Jerusalem? A reinstituted kingdom with a Davidic descendent at the helm. That’s where our messiah idea began. You first say that the exiles in Babylon wanted to regain our glory days, but then you say that it was about simply re-establishing a presence. There is a very important distinction between those two Zionist motivations. I’d like both to regain our glory and re-establish a presence. I just feel that too often the latter is given too much value over the former.

    Israel is, in so many ways, a city on a hill. Think about it. This tiny, itsy-bitsy country so dramatically fills the world’s consciousness and media. What does that mean for Jews in Israel? It means that every little thing they do will be observed and scrutinized. That is why I think that merely settling the land and then imagining that somehow it will snowball into “redemption” is naive. If you’re going to climb into the spotlight, you darn well better be ready to shine.

  • Laya,

    Aside from being somewhat condescending, your remark that “there is nothing holier than a post-havdala hang out on Ben Yehuda, you obviously just don’t have the eyes to see that.” is just plain silly. Ok, so maybe you didn’t really mean it literally (I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, here), but seriously. Hanging out with a bunch of fellow Jews on Ben Yehuda after havdalah can be fun, inspiring, and give you a real warm, fuzzy feeling. I grant that. But, next Saturday night, find a place where you and your friends can go volunteer to help feed some of Jerusalem’s homeless or make some rounds to some home-bound sick folk. Don’t do it because it makes you feel good about yourself. Do it because, well, its the right thing to do. That’s holy. Holiness is dedicating yourself to something bigger and more important than your own wants and needs. Being a leader like you’re doing certainly fits the bill. My whole issue here is that people think that simply populating Ben Yehuda street with lots of Jews is such a “bigger and more important” task. How about trying to get those Jews on Ben Yehuda to all be friendly to each other?

  • Man, I’m being annoying today. Sorry. I’m planning a Shabbat dinner for 165 tonight at shul, and I’m burnt out.

  • The Muffti missed something along the way: what’s wrong with masturbation? Why is it ‘inauthentic’?

  • Josh Said:
    “As for not getting the feeling’ in Israel, than I feel sorry for you wasting the airfare on wasted trips.”

    When did I say it was wasted? Actually, I think our f’ed up Jewish education process is, at times, “wasted” by pumping up folks with “…and then you’ll be moved to tears when you see the Western Wall”. Why? Everyone is moved by different things. I’m moved by Rocky Mountains. You’re moved by being in a Merkava, defending the State of Israel.

    So Josh, what do you do inside the tank? Gunner? Commander?

  • Laya Said:

    “Fineline: there is nothing holier than a post-havdala hang out on Ben Yehuda, you obviously just don’t have the eyes to see that. I’m sorry.”

    Oh c’mon now. I’ve hung out many ‘o times on Ben Yehuda street post Shabbos. Look, it’s nice eye candy, I’ll grant you that. But holy? Please. I agree with Fineline, holiness is so very personal…to try and market it – and my oh my do we “professional israel trip folk” try – dilutes the whole experience.

    This quote:
    “Nice place to visit, wouldn’t want to live there”
    rings very true for me.

  • “Muffti, have you heard of “women?”

    TM,
    Have you heard of “bad technique?”

  • Well, why else would GM be questioning masturbation as an authentic form of sexual behavior. Perhaps he’s experienced one of those infamous adolescent fondlings that were less than pleasurable. Of course, he just might not date that much, and then self-pleasure would be a very authentic form of sexual release.

    Curious…do you think any male, I mean ANY MALE, has actually heeded to the rabbinic wisdom of not wasting one’s seed? I remember reading Ari Goldman’s “My Search for God at Harvard” where he discusses how the Yeshiva boys would play with each other, etc., etc. And that it was known amongst staff and student (sorta like how all Modern Ortho rabbis, leaders, etc., know why NCSY is so popular amongst teens).

  • Muffti is joking.

    I hope.

    As for your next paragraph, I would recommend that yeshiva boys should have more mixed classes with the opposite sex!

    Anybody else loving this post and comments?

  • Muffti never realized what an uncharitable set of readers he was facing! Muffti has heard of ‘women’, and his dating life is at times a little sporadic but generally pretty fulfilling. He wasn’t suggesting masturbation as a life plan for sexual gratification. But it shouldn’t follow from that that there is anything wrong with masturbation. And he doesn’t really understaned what notions like ‘authentic’ have to do with sex. It’s not like masturbating is a ‘fake’ sexual experience. It’s just one amongst the innumerable pleasurable ways that hashem has privilidged you with a body to enjoy. And my technique, thank you, is stellar! 🙂

  • Muffti, thank you for clarifying the above. I am especially pleased to hear that your masturbation technique is stellar and not “fake.”

    That is indeed Jewlicious. 😆

  • “It’s not like masturbating is a ‘fake’ sexual experience. It’s just one amongst the innumerable pleasurable ways that hashem has privilidged you with a body to enjoy.”

    This is absolute caca according to our tradition. And you know it. Kinda like the whole : “God is all loving, kind…” Not only that, I know a few secular therapists focusing on male intimacy issues that warn of the problems that masturbation can cause.

    Not that I have a problem with it or anything…

  • Muffti admits that sarcasm is hard to detect; but he would hope that Shtremiel would be charitable enough to realize that the Hashem bits were meant tongue in cheek! For what it’s worth, I am friends with some therapists as well and they unanimously tell me about how badly things can go when people take generally negative views of masturbation. Especially if they don’t get laid a lot.

  • Commander.

    Anyway,
    Masturbation technique? What a way to kill another decent discussion about Israel and Aliyah. No one even bothered to mention what the Micheal Jackson rabbi says about it.

    FWIW,
    the messiah is not going to come only by having Jews move to Israel, but it will be a major milestone in that direction. And BTW, he will be revealed sooner than most of you think.

  • “Fineline: there is nothing holier than a post-havdala hang out on Ben Yehuda, you obviously just don’t have the eyes to see that. I’m sorry. ”

    “wow, shadowrider, daphna, i think you guys really have it backwards, but hey, whatever gets you through the night. ”

    Wow, Laya, is this how you relate to the students on your course? What I (memememe!) say is holy, and if you disagree, clearly you are blind or stupid? Not good marketing technique.

    My first time in Israel was as a student at Ben Gurion University’s overseas student program. In the course of things, we went on a tiyul to Jerusalem. The Kotel was nice from a historical point of view, but did nothing for me, really. The midrahov was full of drunken students and the smell of alchohol makes me feel physically ill. So nothing spiritual there. The view from the Jerusalem forest, now that was another story. To look around at all that green, hear about how all this green used to be brown and barren and to say “hey, we did that!” –that just took my breath away. I wanted to be a part of the building. Maybe you would disagree, but hey, it got me here and 3.5 years later it keeps me here; this feeling that I am building something. And that is what really counts, not whether or not this meets some other person’s standards for acceptable. G-d is quite capable of speaking to each person in words that s/he will understand.

    Incidentally, the scantily clad shrieking teenagers on the Midrahov on Havdalah…no, somehow that just doesn’t do it for me. Don’t get me wrong…so far as I can tell, they are, all in all, good kids, and don’t appear to be bothering anyone and I am glad that they are having fun…but it just does not add up to a spiritual experience.

  • Ok, I really did not mean to start a comment strand about masterbation.

    back onto topic.

    Are you guys trying to tell me that it’s more meaningful to be a Jew outside the land of Israel? cause that sounds really ridiculous and flies in the face of our tradition. Unless you don’t believe in our tradition, but it sounds like at least some of you do, cause you’re talking about keeping mitzvot and such. So i found some quotes from this tradition of ours.

    “Living in Eretz Yisrael equals the combined weight of all of the Mitzvot in the Torah.” (Sifri, Re’ei, 80)

    How do you get around that one?

    Fineline, you said that the Israel-centric view of orthodox Judaism is a relatively modern invention…have you picked up a Tanach lately? It’s the biggest Zionist manifesto in the world.

    Hanging out on Ben Yehuda isn’t holy?
    “A person should live in Eretz Yisrael , even in a city whose majority is idolaters, and not outside the Land, even in a city that is entirely Jewish .” (Tosefta, Avodah Zarah, 5:2)

    Idolaters, fineline, it is better to live (and hang out on Ben Yehuda) in Eretz Yisrael among idolaters than doing anything in Munsey.

    Just cause it may be harder to keep mitzvot in Galut (which I still disagree with, just move to any secular town in Israel), and that harder might make it seem more meaningful to you, harder does not render it holier.

    fineline said “Holiness is dedicating yourself to something bigger and more important than your own wants and needs”
    Exactly. Why do you think I live in Israel? I’ll give you a hint– it’s not cause it’s easy.

  • Folks, masturbation or no masturbation, why is this becoming a series of accusations and attacks of a personal nature? Let’s stick to the issues at hand (heh) and keep the nice spirit of our discussion where it should be: intense and meaningful…and pleasant.

  • daphna, its not what I say, that the point, its what our tradition has been saying ever since God said to Avraham “Lech Lecha” (see additional quote in comment above)

    The kids who come on the trips i staff have no pretense of being religious, but for fineline to try to pawn off the idea that keeping mitzvot outside israel is harder and therefore better, well I’m sorry, but yes, i think that’s silly.

    And thanks TM, for keeping us in check.

  • josh wrote BTW, he will be revealed sooner than most of you think.

    Bimhera beh yameinu.

    Also, if you think its easy being religious here, well … heh. Come visit. Israel is as fiercely secular as any place. Even downtown Jerusalem was full of folks partying on shabbat. Just sayin …

  • Hey, CK, am I the only one seeing the main content on the front page in italics and the italicized content in regular font?

  • Yeah TM, it was there earlier, but i think i fixed it (small problem with open tags in the code…yawn!) (*secret whisper* that was completely gratuitous, and only mentioned to show off my newfound web skills 😉 ).
    regardless, its fixed on my screen, not on yours?

  • Laya says:
    “How do you get around that one?”

    How did we get around sacrifices in the temple?

    Rabbi’s are excellent at finding loop holes for all sorts of things (think: eruv).

    I’m going to take this one step further. But from what I understand and it isn’t a lot on this issue, Neturei Karta have valid points regarding their critical take on Zionism. I’ve spoken with a Modern Orthodox rabbi (a very, very cool guy in Vancouver who’s open to all sorts of Jewish opinions) who agrees with this sentiment. So one might argue, from a Halachic perspective, that deifying a secular, modern state is counter to what the Rabbeim were saying after the Second Temple was destroyed.

    And then there’s the whole deification of the Western Wall…that has always smacked of idol worship (at times) and gets under my skin.

  • Ummn, Laya with all due respect, Muffti wonders if there is any shallower and cheaper way to argue theologically than to take some obscure quotes (with no context whatsoever) and then say ‘how will you get around THAT?’

  • Muffti, the quotes are not so obscure (re’ei is one of the parashot, sifri, commentary on it) , here’s a another, more famous one for you though

    “Whoever lives in Eretz Yisrael is like someone who has a God, and whoever lives outside of Eretz Yisrael is like someone who has no God, (Ketuvot 110b)

    (i assume you know that reference, yeah?)

    Seems to state, at the bare minimum, that our tradition holds that living in Israel is something different, and does seem to imply it to be preferable to living in the Diaspora. One could even use this to back up the rabbi’s claim that living in Israel is a more “authentic” Jewish experience (assuming that Jewish experience involves a relationship with this entity called “God”)

    Here’s the thing, i would never drudge up quotes from old rabbis for a secular audience, but if fineline is going to talk about the value of keeping mitzvot in Israel etc., then, in that case, what our tradition has to say about it matters and is fair game.

    shtreimel says So one might argue, from a Halachic perspective, that deifying a secular, modern state is counter to what the Rabbeim were saying after the Second Temple was destroyed.
    I’m not sure i totally understand what you mean…
    I don’t think us Zionists are deifying Israel, well, not more than God (or whoever narrates the Bible) does, and Judaism has traditionally taken its cues from that. The kotel issue we may agree on however, but thats another topic entirely.

    As far as post 2nd temple Rabbaim, The Rambam, just one example, holds that the Mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael is in effect at all times, and encompasses all the other mitzvot. Your Vancouver rabbi, i’m sure he is very cool, can disagree all he wants.

    But again, this is only from a religious perspective, then there’s the fact that Israel is just sexier, and the only place where any other Judasim but that of the orthodox variety is sustainable (statistically speaking), and whether living in the diaspora is an authentic Jewish experience, which is where this all began.

  • You know what Laya, we’d probably get along swell. I’m in constant awe of my friends who make aliyah or do kiruv or plan creative, innovative Israel trips. What gets me going is when somebody tells me what is a “true” Jewish spiritual experience, where it can happen and how it will occur. I never understood this attitude.

    Stay safe and have fun.

  • Laya,

    So what you are saying is that FOR YOU, the teenagers hanging out on the Midrahov is a holy/spiritual experience.

    Can you please accept that this is not going to be a spiritual experience for everyone? And that this is okay. Some people might find volunteering in Jerusalem to be a holy/spiritual experience. Some people might find wandering through the desert to be holy and spiritual. And some people might consider spiritual and holy their participation in the Jewish communities in the Galut.

    Rabbanit Esther Jungreis, in her book The Committed Life, tells a story of a woman who was brought back to Judaism by a cat. Her point: everyone has their own path. You have your path. Other people have theirs. It’s okay. G-d is big enough to handle the complexity.

    I actually feel a little guilty about leaving the States sometimes. I jumped ship. In the US, my community is in trouble–people are leaving in droves. They intermarry or have no connection to Judaism or feel that Judaism is just a cultural thing with no real substance. I was one of the people who would try to stem the flow. I had Shabbat dinners to which I invited many a completely secular friend, Rosh Hodesh stuff and the like. And then I left. Who knows how many people won’t have a Shabbat dinner because I left? I have the greatest respect for those who are in the States and who continue either through activity or through simple example to send out the message that “Judaism is living”. Every person who wakes up and says “hey, what have I been missing all of these years”…and that decides to go find out is to their credit. (The Pardes program teachers is a great example of that–I look at those grads as sort of rescue workers; MDA for the soul).

  • daphna, there is a notable difference between something being holy and being spiritully pleasing to you. I believe Shabbat is always holy, even when i fail to have any sort of spiritual connection to it and can’t wait for it to end (i hate those phases).

    Israel just IS holy, at least if you subscribe to the sages of our tradition. It’s not a matter of whether it feels like it to me, or doesnt feel like it to you. Holiness is not dictated by the whims of human spirituality.

  • Muffti recognizes all of Laya’s references. By ‘obscure’, he meant out of context and without obvious point. No one doubts that people have had strong convictions about Israel and that those people are part of our tradition. But Muffti still doesn’t see how a few stranded quotes do much to illuminate anything. This isn’t to say yo are wrong, but surely proper theological dispute shouldn’t be settled by a few stranded quotes, whose import really isn’t all that clear (are they metaphors? what does it mean to be like someone ‘who has no god’? Are there random quotes from other rabbis suggesting otherwise?)

    For example, a quick look at anti-zionist jewish web pages will yield many ‘quotes’ from reputable traditional sources designed to tel us that there ought to be no state of Israel:

    What is the meaning of the Scriptural term ‘tzefunah’? Rabbi Yitzchok teaches: Says the Holy One, blessed is He, “Wait for the King Moshiach to come, and you will thereby be fulfilling the Scriptural promise, “How great is Your goodness which You hid away for those who fear You” (Midrash Rabbah, Devorim 1:19).

    Or

    Ben-Dovid will come only when the most minor form of government will have ceased from the people of Israel. Rashi explains this as follows: [The Moshiach will come to save the Jewish people only when they have no government, i.e., at a time when] “there will be absolutely no governmental body controlling Israel-even the most minor or trivial form of government” (Talmud Sanhedrin 98).

    (I assume you know those references, yeah?)

    So, now i deduce that our tradition actually forbids what you are doing since your presence there supports a governmental body and prevents the moshiach. Thanks a lot! I take it that no one buys my ‘argument’ (at least not as stated with a few random quotes) and as stated, no one should buy yours.

    How do you get around that one?

  • Laya,

    Sure, lots of rabbis have had memorable quotes talking about how important Israel is to Jews. But Rambam, who you quote, not only spent a time in Israel and chose not to stay, but them moved to Egypt. If I remember correctly, there are other halakhic statements (or maybe they’re flat-out biblical in origin) forbidding living in Egypt. Hmmmm… Maybe some of these statements are hyperbole?

    “Living in Eretz Yisrael equals the combined weight of all of the Mitzvot in the Torah.” (Sifri, Re’ei, 80)

    Yeah, well, find me a rabbi who actually says that it would be better for me to live in Israel and break all of the other mitzvot than live in the States. Not likely. Maybe the quote means that when all Jews keep all the mitzvot, we will merit to all live in Israel in that whole messianic scenario. Doesn’t seem improbable that that’s what it means.

    “A person should live in Eretz Yisrael , even in a city whose majority is idolaters, and not outside the Land, even in a city that is entirely Jewish .” (Tosefta, Avodah Zarah, 5:2)

    Again, a very large number of rabbis, far more versed in halakha than any of us ever will be, chose to stay in galut instead of making Aliyah. Clearly, there is some reason for that. Look, we know from the Torah that a city that is idolatrous in Israel should be destroyed. So again, the above statement is clearly hyperbole to beat into our heads the importance of Israel.

    Many, many Jewish thinkers have felt that to believe that anything other than HaShem is inherently holy to to practice Avodah Zarah. We can make the land of Israel holy by our actions. We can also degrade and debase it. Modern religious Zionist thought can come dangerously close to idolizing the land…making it some weird sort of God proxy. Just saying that ain’t for me.

  • Truthfully guys, religious issues are the least compelling reason why I live in Israel. Still, i disagree with fineline’s stance that keeping mitzvot outside the land is somehow more important, or being a jew in Galut is more authentic. No matter how nice a host country might treat us, it’s not our own.

    That having been said, I’m not the kind that says every Jew needs to make Aliyah. Like a relationship, you if don’t have the desire for it, and aren’t willing to stick it out through hard times and work for it cause it’s something you want, then it’ll just never happen. If you are, then you might just find something great

    But if you don’t have that kind of desire, then honestly and unjudgementally Israel is probably not the best place for you.

    But i still do think it is a naturally more authentic Jewish experience living in Israel, which was the rabbi’s original point.

  • Everyone has been attacking Laya, fact is even though a few neturai carta rabbis can put a few quotes on their website, It is clear
    “Ki Mitzion Tatza Tora” It doesen’t say Torah comes from New York or LA or Montreal Torah is from Zion, our holy land. and even if you say a rabbi would suggest you spend time in a frum community outside Israel vs a community of Idol worship here, this would be for practical reasons, the statement was presumambly itntended and assumed that one would be strong enough to continue serving hashem, nowadays many would fail the test, but this is only practical appliaction. why don’t you think of the real meaning behind that statement and te other quotes posted here (and many others) of the Rambam and Sifri.

    So even if in your own personal situation it may be better to stay in the states the fact is that Israel – Eretz Yisrael – Is OUR HOME it is our only home and it where we as a NATION belong, even if some of us as individuals may prefer or may even have legitamate reasons to staying away from home. Home is Home.

    just a few thoughts to a few of the earlier thoughts, the Kotel doeasent always do it for us and rarely does it do it for anyone the first time! But when thinking about it and realizing where we are when at the Kotel and Tzvat and various other places, I think can be very inspiring to many of course this is personal and open to debate. and I certainly agree that it doesn’t do it for eveyone and not every time.

    to Shtreimel and various others who have issues with secular Zionism, welcome to religious zionism, read some of Rav kook’s works, understand that we have returned to a land we have yearned for 2000 years, understand that this is the beggining of the moshiach process, -Kibbutz Galuyot – sure more Jews in places like America are not coming but look at the thousand and thousands of Jews and communities filled with young Anglo Jews here (of course joining fellow Jews from throuought the world).

    If you wish to follow Neturai Karta, by all means, but go live amongs them and be true to their word, otherwise don’t use them they are a minority of minorities in the Jewish world.

    Like I said many may have valid reasons for not being here, but please don’t find silly reasons for making it out to be that living away from Israel is better cause this is clearly wrong, The home of the Jews is Israel.

  • “Being a Jew in the Diaspora is like masturbation…Being a Jew in Israel is like real sex.” — Sounds almost like a witty, down-to-earth parallel to a more sublime religious truth. But the spiritual side falls under a disturbing light when we imagine some phrase like “But if this is an authentic religious view, then this religion implies the fucking of a land’s inhabitants (the ancient Canaanites, the current Palestinians). As in sex, it seems that the urge should be satisfiable in mutally consenting ways. Moses wouldn’t agree, certainly, but the prophets would.

  • Well, let’s see…1937, 1947 and 2000 were years when the Jews seemed agreeable to “mutually consenting” solutions. The Palestinians were not.

    So does that mean that the Jews should not be allowed to enjoy self-determination because the others do not want them to enjoy it?

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