Dear Not a Jew – Jew, Beware!
I am enjoying your blogs at The Jewish Press about your journey to become a Jew. The question is – what kind of a Jew will you become? Will you become a proud builder of Israel, living a complete life of Torah in the Land of the Jews, or will you become a Jew of the exile, living as an outsider in a gentile land, surrounded by a gentile culture, voting for a gentile President, speaking a gentile language, and not knowing whether your children will remain Jewish or marry outside of the faith?
As the poet, Robert Frost, wrote: “Two paths diverged in a snowy wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
To help you on your journey, I would like to invite you to read my blogs, right here at The Jewish Press, where I will try my best to clarify just who we are as a People and what is the true meaning of Torah.
For instance, strictly speaking we really aren’t “Jews.” We are the “Children of Israel.” The word “Jew” doesn’t appear in the Torah. The word “Judaism” is an invention of the exile, meaning the “ism” of the People of Judah – which was the last tribe to be exiled from our Homeland – the Land of Israel. The real name of our religion is “Torah,” and Torah is much more than a list of ritual commandments and eating bagels and lox. The Torah is the NATIONAL CONSTITUTION of the NATION OF ISRAEL, including dozens of laws concerning the monarchy in Israel, the army of Israel, the judges of the Sanhedrin, the Holy Jerusalem Temple, and all of the laws that apply uniquely to the Land of Israel – and which cannot be practiced anywhere else. Let me ask you a simple question – can you have a Jewish government in America, or a Jewish army in Lakewood, or will the official language and calendar of the United States ever be Hebrew? Of course not. America is a gentile country. These basic elements of the Torah can only take place in Israel, where the Torah is meant to be observed.
So beware! Some people will tell you that if you put on tefillin in Brooklyn, you’ve reached the pinnacle of the Jewish journey, but it isn’t true. Other people will tell you we have to stay in exile until Mashiach arrives. But that isn’t true either. Hashem isn’t waiting for Mashiach. Before our very eyes, Hashem has brought millions of Jews back to Israel on His own, without waiting for Mashiach to do all the work. And be very careful what you read. You’ll find lots of books about Judaism, and lots of Jewish websites that have taken Eretz Yisrael out of the Torah completely. They’ll tell you everything about Yiddishkeit, but the Land of Israel isn’t mentioned. Yet the whole goal of the Torah, and the focus of our prayers for Redemption (Redemption from the exile), is to build a Torah society in the Land of Israel – and not in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, or Timbuktu.
As a convert-in-progress, seeking your path to Torah, the road which you choose at the beginning of the journey is very important. If you are skeptical about my advice, then let the Torah be your guide. When God first appeared to the father of the Nation of Israel, Avraham, He didn’t tell him to keep Shabbos, or put on tefillin, or to only eat in glatt kosher delis. The very first thing God told Avraham was to journey forth to the Land of Israel, to the Holy Land, the Land which God gave to the him and his descendents, Yitzhak and Yaacov, forever. The Land of Israel is the foundation of all the Jewish Nation, and the place Hashem wants us to be – just as it says again and again and again in the Torah.
So what happened? What went wrong with the game plan? Why are there so many Jews in America, and England, and Australia, and Mexico City? Now that God has once again opened the gates to our Homeland, and gathered millions of our scattered brothers and sisters from the four corners of the earth, and brought them back to the Land, just like He promised He would, just like the Prophets foretold, why don’t all the Jews in Diaspora come home? Why don’t they all rush to the airport to get on the next El Al plane, in order to actualize the yearning of 2000 years, “NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!” which is happening right now, in our time, for everyone to take a part in the dream?