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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776
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Microscope Jews


Usually, I don’t have time during the week to travel around the net and see what other bloggers are writing. But during Sukkot, I found a few spare moments, and to my great chagrin, I found some essays penned by Diaspora Jews who succumbed to the Sin of the Spies in their negative reports of the Holy Land.

These writers come to Israel with their high-powered microscopes and seek out everything bad they can find – apparently to justify their love affair with the gentile lands they adore, instead of fulfilling the Torah commandment to live in the Land of Israel.

One blogger visited the new neighborhood of Migron and concluded, “Who wants to live in a country that kicks Jews out of their homes?” Another found things in Meah Shearim too fanatic to his liking and asked, “Why would anyone want to live in a country like this?” Another found the government too secular for his tastes and wrote, “This isn’t the Holy Land we dreamed of,” as he headed back to the idyllic Promised Land of Brooklyn.

All in all, by focusing their microscopes on things which need correction, these writers turn people off from the mitzvah of living in Israel. The Spies in the wilderness did exactly the same thing in their negative report of the Land. To these microscopic Jews, the giants were too big, there were funerals wherever they looked, the cities were too mighty – therefore, they concluded, the Jews were better off staying in the wilderness – in clear rebellion against G-d’s commandment to dwell in the Land.

Thank G-d that Avraham wasn’t a microscope Jew. Even though the Land of Israel was rampant with idol worship, he gladly packed up his suitcases to dwell in the Holy Land.

What the lovers of the exile don’t realize is that the Holy land is holy, in and of itself, whether the Jews there are too religious, or not religious enough. If some Ultra Orthodox Jews are crazy, or some seculars Jews are traitors to Jewish tradition and values, is this a reason to reject the Holy Land and discourage Jews from living there?

Today is the yahrtzeit of the Gaon of Vilna. He taught that the Sin of the Spies appears in every generation, and that people don’t realize that they are caught in the kelipah of the very same terrible transgression of speaking evil about the Land (“Kol HaTor,” Ch.6).

The Gaon also taught that there are only two mitzvot that we do with all of our bodies: dwelling in the sukkah, and dwelling in Eretz Yisrael. Just as sukkah must be built, “v’lo min ha’asuee,” meaning it can’t be ready-made, so too must we take an active part in the building and settlement of the Holy Land, and not wait in Brooklyn or Beverly Hills for the Israelis, or Mashiach, to do all the work before we come.

Criticizing things which need correction certainly has a place, but discouraging people from living in the Holy Land because of faults here and there, is certainly the wrong conclusion – no matter how much a Diaspora writer wants to justify his love of gentile lands, and his failure to take an active role in making Israel the place of his dreams.

Hag Samaoch from the wonderful and eternally holy Land of Israel!

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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