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May 24, 2015 / 6 Sivan, 5775
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Major League Judaism

When it comes to Judaism and true Jewish life, Israel is the big leagues.
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Browsing through a news website, I noticed that the World Series is just two weeks away. I haven’t followed baseball for 30 years, ever since making aliyah. When I lived in America, and thought I was an American, I loved baseball, like everyone else. But baseball doesn’t interest me anymore. I don’t even know what teams are in the running this year. The World Series has absolutely nothing to do with the Redemption of Am Yisrael, so who cares?

But maybe we can borrow a few metaphors from baseball to help America Jews understand that Judaism in the Diaspora is the Little Leagues. Now that we all can come home to Eretz Yisrael, there’s no reason to remain in the exile, getting all excited about foreign gentile pastimes, cheering gentile center fielders and first basemen who date Hollywood floosies, in a world where one out of a thousand players is a Jew. Let’s face it – Medinat Yisrael is the Yankee Stadium of Jewry and  Jewish life in Israel is the Major Leagues.

For example, everyone knows that the real baseball is the Major League baseball in America. In comparison, baseball in Japan is a laugh. No matter how skilled the players may be, Japanese baseball just doesn’t look real. It’s out of place. Baseball doesn’t belong in Tokyo. At best, it is a poor imitation of the real major leagues, with the unmatchable CRACK of a Louisville Slugger bat pummeling a fastball into the bleachers at Yankee Stadium to the unmatchable ROAR of the crowd and the smell of American hot dogs, spilled beer and roasted peanuts.

Just as Japanese baseball league is a poor imitation of Major League baseball, the Judaism of the Diaspora is a poor imitation of the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael.

As we wrote regarding the holiday of Sukkot, you simply can’t compare Jewish life in Israel versus Jewish life in foreign gentile lands. No matter how much private Yiddishkeit there is in Monsey or Boro Park, it’s the minor leagues compared to the NATIONAL Jewish life of the Land of Israel, which has all of the Yiddishkeit of Boro Park in Bnei Brak and Mea Shearim, plus a thousand things more. This is obvious. No one can argue this. The attention of the entire world is focused on Israel. In comparison, who cares what is going on in Monsey or Melbourne? The real Jewish news is happening here in Israel. When it comes to being a Jew, there is nothing like it at all.

In a letter, Rabbi Kook writes:

The source of the moral baseness which continues to darken the world stems from the lack of recognition regarding the value and wisdom of the Land of Israel. Thus the sin of the Spies, who spoke derogatorily about the pleasant Land, remains uncorrected. To rectify this, the Land’s praise, splendor, holiness, and honor must be declared to all the world (Letters, Vol.1, 112-113).

Our Sages have long ago noted the exalted level of Eretz Yisrael in saying, “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael” (Bereshit Rabbah,16:7). There is so, not only because over two-thirds of the Mishna deals specifically with Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael, and because of the many mitzvot which can only be performed here – the Torah of the Land of Israel is immeasurably more elevated because the Jewish people possess true NATIONAL vitality only in the Land of Israel.

Outside of the Land, Jews can excel as individuals in all fields of endeavor; including great Torah scholars, but the light of God cannot appear in its intended NATIONAL format. Only in the Land of Israel can the Jews be a KINGDOM of priests and a holy NATION (Shemot, 19:6). The Zohar emphasizes that the Jews can be a NATION only inIsrael, and not outside of it, where we are minorities in other people’s lands. (Zohar, Vayikra, 93B). Prophecies of Redemption all involve the return of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Land. The Jewish people’s unique prophetic talent is dependent on being in the Land of Israel (Kuzari, 1:95; 2:8-24). The Temple can only be rebuilt on the Temple Mount, and the full revelation of God’s Presence is exclusive to Eretz Yisrael, as the prophet teaches, “For Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem” (Isaiah, 2:3).

For the world to reach perfection, God decreed that the Jewish People must live a life of Torah in Israel. God’s first commandment to Abraham is to go to the Land of Israel in order to serve God in the most complete way. Afterwards, God commands Moshe to bring the Jews out from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael. Over and over, the Torah repeats that the Jewish people are to live their unique Torah life in the Land of Israel. When the holy Jewish nation lives a holy life of Torah in the Holy Land, the vessel is formed to bring the light of God to the world. The NATION of Israel becomes an international beacon, an example and light to all of the goyim (Isaiah, 42:6). It follows then that a Jew who is able to return home to the Land of Israel, yet chooses not to, is holding up his part in the Redemption of Am Yisrael.

At the time of the Second Temple, when we failed to uphold the high moral standard demanded of us by the Torah, we were punished and exiled from the Land. God’s worldly vessel, the Kingdom of Israel, was shattered. Israel was conquered, Jerusalem was razed, the Land was laid waste. God’s Chosen People were scattered and debased. Like the Jews, God’s Presence went into exile (Megillah, 29A). His light in the world became hidden. In effect, mankind was cut off from God, given rise to many false religions like Christianity and Islam. To rectify this tragedy and return the entire world to God, the Jewish people must return to their previous spiritual stature, including a NATIONAL life in Israel, the only place in the world where the Torah can be observed in all of its wholeness because of the many commandments unique to the Land (Ramban, Vayikra, 18:25).

On an even deeper level, each Jew has a bit of the Shechinah, or the Presence of God, within him. When a Jew returns to the Land of Israel, he is, in effect, bringing the Shechinah back with him (Rashi, Devarim, 30:3). Since the soul of a Jew is infused with the light of the Shechinah, when the Jewish people return en masse to Israel, the light of God in the world returns en masse with them.

Already, the eyes of the world are turned to Israel. Headlines about the tiny country of Israel fill news reports on a day-to-day basis from all over the globe. In just a few miraculous decades, Israel has become a world leading in science, medicine, agriculture, computer technology, and a gamut of other fields. Israel has become, by far, the world center of Torah and boasts the greatest concentration of Torah Gedolim and students. To be a Jew in Israelis to be a part of a world-leading NATION, soon to be #1 in the world, and not just a member of the local community shul.

Make no mistake, my good friends. When it comes to Judaism and true Jewish life, Israel is the big leagues. The real World Series is taking place here.

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 views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press


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One Response to “Major League Judaism”

  1. Liad Bar-el says:

    Time for a grand slam home run, Tzvi and living the Torah in unity in Israel will do it. Many diaspora Jews say that they are waiting for the Mosiach to come before they unite with their brothers/sisters in Israel. In V’Zot HaBrachah 1, Deut 33:5 states: “He became King in Jeshurun [another name for Israel], when the heads of the peoples assembled, and the tribes of Israel were united.” Me’Am Lo’Ez, Vol 19 pg 154 explains this by saying that “Moses has praised G-d for giving the Torah and Israel for accepting it. This verse implies that Torah establishes unity among the people, and causes the nation’s heads to come together and the tribes to units. Sifri views Jewish unity as a cause and not a result of G-d’s kingship. Thus, “When will G-d be King in Israel? When the heads gather together and the tribes unite.” G-d will only reveal Himself as King over Israel when they show unity and harmony. If they are torn by strife and friction, He will remove His Presence from them. Malchut Yisrael, the kingdom of Israel, is only possible when each individual binds himself to the nation’s collective whole.

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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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