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September 24, 2016 / 21 Elul, 5776
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Get Angry at Rashi – Not at Me!

Two Torah scholars arrived in Babylon and told the Jews there, "if you detach yourselves from the centrality of Eretz Yisrael, you have no portion in the God of Israel!”
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“In this matter, in not making aliyah toIsrael, they didn’t have Emunah,” Rabbi Kook taught. “In other matters, they did believe. They believed, and yet they didn’t believe. This is a state of half-Emunah. Rashi, in the name of our Sages, cites this in regard to Noach, saying, ‘Noach was small in Emunah. Though he possessed Emunah, he did not truly believe in the flood’s coming, and did not enter the ark until the water forced him in’ (Bereshit, 7:7). Noach believed, and he didn’t believe. However, the foundation of our Emunah begins with Avraham Avinu. He wasn’t a half-believer. He believed with a complete faith.”

As I have stated and restated, I am not coming to criticize any  true awe and fear of God to be found amongst our beloved brothers in the Diaspora, but rather against the viewpoint that denies the centrality of theLandofIsraelto Judaism. There are many wonderful God fearing Jews throughout the Diaspora, who are serving Hashem and the Jewish People in many true and noble ways, in their charity, good deeds, Torah scholarship, prayer, and strict adherence to the fine details of the mitzvot. However, if they fall in love with the Diaspora and try to make a secondJerusalemout of Brooklyn orToronto,ChicagoorDallas, then something is wrong with their Judaism.

Rabbi Kook would emphasize this further by citing a Gemara (Berachot 63A and B), regarding Rabbi Haninah, a great Torah scholar who went down from Eretz Yisrael to the Diaspora. At that time, the Israelite Nation was in a sorrowful state, and many Gedolei Yisrael remained in galut. Rabbi Haninah was a leader of the generation, a giant in Torah. He began to intercalate years and determine the beginnings of the new months outside of the Land of Israel, something completely forbidden. Therefore, two Torah scholars were sent from Israel to fight against this.

Upon their arrival in Babylon, they took part in official ceremonies and didn’t reveal the purpose of their visit. They were received with great honor. Gradually, they started to vent their opposition. Finally, they entered a crowded assembly and said to the Jews of Babylon, “Behold, you are a great congregation. You can be independent. You don’t need Eretz Yisrael. You don’t need Mount Moriah.” Their sarcasm was purposely stinging in order to shock the Babylonian Jews. “And you’ve also got Rabbi Ahia here. Let Ahia build an altar, and let Haninah play on a harp. But know that if you detach yourselves from the centrality of Eretz Yisrael, you have no portion in the God of Israel!

The Gemara concludes, “Immediately, the people cried out in tears and exclaimed, ‘G-d forbid. We do have a portion in the God of Israel. For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

Get angry at the Gemara – don’t get angry at me!

Tzvi Fishman

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" The DVD of the movie is available online.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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