We live a short walk from the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem. Over the holidays, the hotel was packed with Diaspora Jews from all over the world, but now that the holidays are over, the lobby is pretty deserted. I can’t understand how a self-respecting Jew can leave the Land of Israel and go back to the Lilliputian Jewish life of Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, Melbourne, or Brooklyn after being in the Land of our Forefathers.
It’s like a Jewish husband abandoning his Jewish wife for a gentile whore. However kosher his ghetto in Chicago,Toronto, or Brooklyn may seem, it’s a ghetto all the same, in a foreign gentile land, surrounded by a foreign gentile culture, with foreign gentile values, and foreign gentile holidays, and a foreign gentile language, and a foreign gentile identity.
Some readers accuse me of harping on the mitzvah of living in Israel, but it isn’t me – it’s the Torah, as it says, “I am the Lord, your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God” (Vayikra, 25:38).
Rashi explains the meaning of “to be your God,” stating: “For whoever resides in the Land of Israel, I am a God to him; and whoever leaves it is like one who worships idols.”
This emphatic teaching is also stated in the Talmud. It applies not only to Jews who leave the Land of Israel, but also to Jews who make the Diaspora their home, as it says:
In all generations, a Jew should live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority of inhabitants are idol worshipers, and not live in the Diaspora, even in a city where the majority of residents are Jews, for everyone who lives in the Land of Israel is like someone who has a God, and everyone who lives in the Diaspora is like someone who has no God, as it says, ‘I am the Lord, your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God,’ for someone who resides in the Diaspora is like someone who worships idols (Ketubot 110B).
I’m sorry if this hurts your feelings, but this is what it says in the Torah. This is what Rashi says. This is what the Talmud states.
This is the halacha as recorded by the Rambam: A Jew is allowed to temporarily leave the Land of Israel for business, or to learn Torah, or to get married, and then he must return, but to dwell there is forbidden (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:12).
That’s right – a Jew is supposed to live in Israel even in a city where the majority of residents are idol worshipers, and not live in Chicago, Lakewood, Monsey, Brooklyn, or Timbuktu, even if the majority of residents are Jews. This means that a Jew is supposed to live in Israel even if the Land is filled with self-hating leftists, Haredim who spit at women, corrupt politicians, and impolite taxi drivers. The commandment to live in Israel is not dependent on whether a Jew from Chicago likes the weather in the Holy Land or finds it too hot in the summer for his tastes.
The Haftorah we read on Shabbat teaches that Hashem gives a soul to the Jewish People who live in the Land of Israel “and a spirit to those who walk therein” (Isaiah, 42:5). The Nation of Israel only has national vitality in the Land of Israel. Everywhere else, we are a minority in someone else’s land. We can excel as individual comedians, and film directors, and Facebook wizards, and businessmen, but we can’t be our own JEWISH NATION – not in Chicago, or Lakewood, or Brooklyn. How can a Jew prefer gentile countries over his own Jewish Land?
The Prophet Isaiah cries out: “Hear O you deaf, and look O you blind that you may see! For who has been so blind as My servant, so deaf as My messenger?”
Jews visit Israel for the holidays as if it is some Jewish Disney World, and then go back to their gentile lovers and the embrace of foreign gentile lands, gentile World Series, and gentile presidential elections.
“Much did you see, but you did not observe it,” Isaiah rebukes. “Ears were opened for him and he did not hear!” (42:18-20).
The Master of the World has miraculously returned us to our cherished homeland after an exile of 2000 years. What are Diaspora Jews waiting for? Why do they prefer gentile lands over our own? Why do they cling to foreign identities and raise their children to believe that they are Americans, and Canadians, and Frenchmen?
For an assimilated Jew who has no connection to his Jewishness, or to Israel, OK, I realize that convincing him to come on aliyah is like talking to the deaf. But for a reader of The Jewish Press who goes to shul and prays to come home toIsrael three times every day, what is he waiting for? That everything be 100% to his liking?
It’s truly exasperating!
But there’s comfort in the end. Even if they don’t come of their own free choosing, Hashem will drag them here by their peyes if need be, as the Prophet assures:
From the east I will bring your descendants and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up! And to the south, Keep not back! Bring My sons home from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth… to bring forth the People who is blind though they have eyes, and who is deaf though they have ears (Isaiah, 43:5-8).
So my beloved brothers and sisters from Chicago, and Lakewood, and Brooklyn, and Facebookland – if you really want to affect change in Israel, and transform it into the place of your dreams, then come and help with the work.
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.The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.
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