Personal thoughts on current events, cultural events, Israel, Judaism, Jewish/Israel innovations and life from a Jewish perspective - read into that what you may.

Wednesday, April 04, 2001

The Rav on Eretz Yisrael

Erev Chag Kasher V'sameach to all,

Lately, I have been very distressed about the
situation in Israel. As we all know, Eretz Yisrael is
the neshama of Am Yisrael, so we are all hurting.
Unfortunately, it pains me greatly to see many
friends, community members and peers not greatly
pained by today's situation. Not that we should all
be sad, but the situation should make us all think a
little bit harder about what it means to be an Am and
how what is happening in Israel really does effect us
all as well, not just our brothers and sisters in

The following is a letter I wrote to Gary Rosenblatt
at the Jewish Week a while ago in response to an
editorial he wrote about Israel. I wanted to take
this opportunity to share it with you. (I did make a
line change reflecting today's situation)

L'shana Habah B'yerushalayim, not just in word but in

'Today, most Jews who live in Israel have originated
from either Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East
or Ethiopia, all arriving there to escape their home
countries. (Only a small minority of Jews who live in
Israel today moved there from countries of
prosperity.) Yet I know of no source in the Torah
that teaches us that Israel is a land for Jewish
refuges! It is the homeland for the whole Jewish
people, not just those
who need a safe haven. Imagine how different things
might have turned out in Ezra’s time if all Jews, both
rich and poor, had returned to the land of Israel with
him. Now imagine how things could turn out if all
committed American Jews would move to Israel. (Note:
Seder Hadorot cites the S’ma, who saw the following in
Ma’aseh Nissim (by Rabbi Eliezer of Worms, author of
the Roke’ach): Ezra sent letters to all of the
communities urging them to ascend with him to the land
of Israel. One such letter arrived in the city of
Worms, Germany. The Jews residing there answered,
"you may dwell in the great Jerusalem, we will dwell
here in the small Jerusalem". Years later the second
Beit Hamikdash was destroyed and the Jews in Israel
were sent out to exile once again.)

I spoke with a Rabbi recently about the situation in
Israel, asking him and pleading with him to do more to
raise the current issue of what Eretz Yisrael and all
of Am Yisrael are going through. To my surprise he
reponded to me by saying that our Religious community
in Israel is to blame for todays situation, for not
making Isreal into the Jewish culture and country that
we should have helped make it into. Regardless of
whether he is correct or not, how can we, here in
America, sit back and make such a complaint about the
situation in Israel today without taking a look at
ourselves first? We are also responsible because we
are not there to make a difference.

In 1943, while living through the horrors of the
Holocaust in Budapest, Rabbi Yishachar Shlomo Teichtal
wrote a book titled ‘Eim Habanim Semeichah’ (A Joyous
Mother of Children). (Rabbi Teichtal wrote this
book for the religious Jews in Europe in response to
the many Rabbis who told them not to move to
Palestine, but to stay in Europe instead.
Unfortunately, Rabbi Teichtal perished in the
Holocaust together with
countless of other Jews who decided to heed the call
of their Rabbis and not leave for Palestine.)

In the preface to the book (on page 30 of the English
translation) he wrote "If Jews continue to refuse to
participate in rebuilding the land (in its totality
and in its details), and if they do not keep a
eye over the state of affairs, refusing to dedicate
their money, their minds, and their spirits to this
cause, they will have no say whatsoever in the land’s
management…and they will lose their spiritual
over them as well. Thus, the entire young generation
will fall into the hands of others." He then asks "
what will be the consequences of this?"

In 1956, eight years after the establishment of the
State of Israel, Rabbi Soloveitchick tz"l wrote an
essay titled "Kol Dodi Dofek". In this essay he
delineated six miracles that occurred which brought
about the establishment of the State of Israel. He
wrote that committed American Jews had a
responsibility to heed God’s miracles (in
establishing the State of Israel) by helping settle
the land of Israel. He then wrote ‘it is eight years
now and God is still waiting for us to heed his
miracles and act.’

It is now 52 years and God is still waiting, but I
don’t know how much longer he will wait for us to act
and help make the land of Israel a spiritually strong
Jewish homeland. We continue to rely on Israel’s
current leadership which does not have enough of a
following to ensure a spiritually strong country proud
of being a Jewish nation. Our presence is needed.

Thank God, Israel today is a thriving first world
country, with much thanks to many American Jews who
contributed in many ways. However, although the
physical building of the land seems complete, we have
only begun building the real essence of Israel, it’s
spiritual basis.

Those of us who understand the importance of a Jewish
state can still make a difference,
we can make aliyah. Imagine how the face of Israel
would be if one million committed American Jews moved
to Israel. We can still do it. All we need are
leaders and Rabbis who are willing to constantly teach
us why living in Israel is so important for our
existence. But most importantly, we must listen to
what they have to say. We all have reasons to stay in
America, all very good ones. But are they more
important than living in Israel to ensure a Jewish
homeland for ourselves, our children and

We should not live in Israel because Israel needs us,
we should live in Israel because we need Israel.

For anyone who would like to understand this issue
better, please consult your local Rabbi as well as the
above mentioned books.'

My family planned on making aliyah in 1990. The Guld
War broke out and we still planned on making aliyah!
Everybody asked us how we can still go, a war is about
to break out?! To that, my father responded with a
line that I will never forget "there is always a
reason not to make aliyah" and we went. Today, many
people are asking Rachel and me the same question, how
can we be making aliyah in the Fall with the situation
the way it is today in Israel. Even though I wish we
did not have these tzarot, I believe that davka times
of tzarah are A good time for people to make aliyah,
because it shows that no matter the tzarah, Am Yisrael
has Emunah in the notion of Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael
and Torat Yisrael.

Chag Kasher V'sameach.