Tzvi Fishman
Torah Commentator, Novelist, and Film Director

Diasporavirus

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Just as we all sympathize with, and pray for the speedy recovery of all people stricken with Coronavirus, we must empathize with, and pray for the speedy recovery of our brothers and sisters suffering from the devastating plague of Diaporavirus, which is dwindling the ranks of Am Yisrael outside the Land of Israel. As painful as the subject is, now is an appropriate time to address this fast-spreading and global Jewish pandemic. While Coronavirus is accompanied by a fever, making an early diagnosis possible, Diasporavirus is far more difficult to detect. In fact, most Jews carrying the virus don’t notice it at all. This is because the virus has damaged their sensory system, numbing their spiritual receptors. Because of this, they don’t feel the Jewish soul’s anguish being imprisoned in a foreign, Gentile land. They don’t hear the horrifying scream of the Shechinah in its captivity in a polluted non-Jewish environment. Because of the neurological disorder caused by the Diasporavirus epidemic, a Jew’s thinking becomes confused, believing that he or she has found the Promised Land in America, Australia, and Mexico. In severe cases, they forget Jerusalem entirely and believe are genuine Americans, Frenchmen, Germans, and Englishmen, rather than their true selves – Israelites dwelling in Exile in foreign lands, after having been cast out from their eternal Homeland.

Yesterday, on Lag B’Omer, I attended a small wedding on a moshav outside of Jerusalem. The number of guests was limited because of Coronavirus restrictions, but everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. As for me, while I was happy over the joy of the young hatan and kallah, and over the fact that another block was being added to the rebuilding of the Jewish Nation in the Jewish Homeland, the odor which saturated the breeze coming from the moshav’s turkey coops made me nauseous. Judging from the smiles on the faces around me, it seemed that no one smelled the offensive odor but me. Maybe, I thought, the Corona-proof surgical masks of the wedding guests around me were better than mine, preventing the stink from reaching their nostrils. Then, I realized the difference. Most of the people at the wedding were members of the moshav and accustomed to the stench. They had lived with the odor for years. Many had grown up on the moshav and knew nothing else. To them, the pungent aroma of turkey coops was a natural part of life. But for a visitor like me, a city boy, the order was simply overwhelming.

So too with Jews who grow up in the Diaspora. They are so accustomed to the alien Gentile culture around them, they simply don’t notice it. They don’t experience the strangeness. Even worse, they come to like it. Their sensitive Jewish souls have become numb to the alien environment around them. As the song says, “That’s life.” Fortunately for me, an uncomfortable feeling, similar to the one I experienced on the moshav, befalls me whenever I am forced to leave the Land of Israel to visit America, usually to fulfill some family obligation. The minute I walk off the airplane and enter the terminal, I feel like I have landed on a different planet. I feel like I can’t breathe, as if there isn’t any air in Florida or New York. In addition, all the signs and billboards are in English. Everyone is talking in English. And it is immediately obvious that the inhabitants of the planet are Gentiles, not Jews, and their non-Jewishness sticks out. Furthermore, wherever you look, there is no Kedusha to be found. No holiness. No fear of God – just as our father, Avraham, said to Avimelech, “There is no fear of God in this place.”

Rabbi Kook discusses this phenomena in his book, “Orot.” In his opening chapter on Eretz Yisrael, he writes:

“The more one is incapable of tolerating the air outside the Land of Israel; the more one feels in the Diaspora the impure spirit of the defiled land – this is a sign of a person’s more interior absorption of the Kedusha of the Land of Israel, of the sublime kindness which will never abandon the person who has merited to take refuge in the clear umbrage of the Land of Life, even in his distant journeys, even in his exile, and in the land of his wanderings. The strangeness that one feels outside of the Land of Israel causes a greater bond with the inner spiritual desire for Eretz Yisrael and its Kedusha. The yearning to see the Holy Land increases, the Land which the eyes of God are always upon, from the beginning of the year until the end, becomes deeper and deeper.”

Which brings us back to Diasporavirus. Another problem the Diasporinian has in identifying his infection stems from the fact that its symptoms resemble healthy states in the Gentiles amongst whom the Jews mingle and live. For example, a Jew with Diasporavirus loves to act just like the non-Jews around him, until it is hard to tell the difference between them. Many Jews in the Diaspora don’t think there is anything wrong in celebrating Xmas or Easter. When the virus becomes ensconced in their blood cells, they develop a passionate longing to marry foreign spouses, and to forget about their Jewish heritage completely. While religion has proven to be a vaccination against the disease, the effect of the Judaism pill is only partial, as Rabbi Kook writes, in a somewhat different context, also in the first chapter of “Orot.” In an Orthodox Jew infected with Diasporavirus, the yearning for Salvation from the Exile gradually wanes and disappears, until he or she longs to remain in the Diaspora forever. The Land of Israel is seen as a nice place for a visit, but not as a life goal, and all of the national facets of the Torah, such as the command to build a Nation in the Holy Land, which the Children of Israel are commanded again and again in the Torah, these national foundations of Torah become external to his existence – something for the Israelis to deal with, but not for him since (in his Diasporavirus-inspired confusion) he feels that he is an American Jew, content with keeping Shabbos and munching on Glatt Kosher hotdogs, while he watches TV news as the Israelis and their children risk their lives to defend the Promised Land, so that he can continue to say, year after year, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” even though he really doesn’t mean it.

What’s the cure for Diasporavirus? Unfortunately, there is only one. Aliyah. This is the message which the Rabbis, and Jewish Leaders, and editors of Jewish newspapers, and Jewish Op-Ed writers in the Exile, must communicate to the Jews in order to save them. The problem is, most Diaspora Rabbis and Jewish Leaders, and editors of Jewish newspapers, and Jewish Op-Ed writers in the Exile, suffer from Diasporavirus themselves.

About the Author
Before making Aliyah in 1984, Tzvi Fishman taught Creative Writing at the NYU School of the Arts. He has published nearly twenty novels and books on a wide range of Jewish themes, available at Amazon Books and the tzvifishmanbooks.com website. He is the recipient of the Israel Ministry of Education Award for Creativity and Jewish Culture. Recently, he produced and directed the feature film, “Stories of Rebbe Nachman” starring Israel’s popular actor, Yehuda Barkan. Presently, he is working on Volume Four of the Tevye in the Promised Land Series.
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