“The non-observant Jew knows. Deep in his heart he knows. He knows that the path [he treads] is a false one, that the Judaism he professes is a mockery.... His moment of truth lies within him. His is the power to call it into being. Let him but dig deeply into his Jewish resources and draw from them the traditional Jewish qualities of courage, determination and sacrifice."
Why be a Jew!!! It is an agonizing cry from the souls of tens of thousands of young Jews who assimilate, integrate and disappear into the outer space beyond Judaism. It is THE cry, THE question. It is asked by young men and women who have seen the emptiness and the vapidness of the Judaism they grew up with.
The fact that a Reform Jew wishes to adopt a counterfeit form of “Judaism” is his affair. But the religious Jew is not bound by that. The State of Israel does not have to recognize on an official level the falsehood that every Jew may adopt on a private level.
When a Jew makes Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, the letters of his soul shift into high gear and multiply in size. All of his being gets bigger. He grows closer to God. Compared to the person he was in Galut, he becomes larger than life. He transforms into a giant, filled with greater valor, greater holiness, greater happiness and wisdom.
Those of you who can come, and there are millions out there, we are waiting to welcome you. And those of you who would like to come, but just can’t seem to put the right pieces together, then you can get involved, in every way that you are able, by encouraging others to come, by coming on frequent visits, by donating money, and by volunteering your time at organizations that have Israel at the top of their programs and agenda.
Yes, the Ribono Shel Olam, the Master of the World is a Zionist. So was Avraham Avinu, Moshe Rabeinu, Yehoshua, King David, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the Macabbees, all the Prophets of Israel, including Ezra and Nechemia who led a seemingly motley crowd of sinners back to the Land of Israel from Babylon to rebuild the Holy Temple.
One of the questions a person is asked when he reaches his Heavenly rest is, "Did you yearn for Salvation?" If a Jew does not long for the Redemption, for Salvation from the exile, then something is wrong. If he is happy in the Diaspora, then his Judaism is out of focus, and he is out of touch with his soul's deepest yearnings. As The Kuzari poignantly declares, his prayers for Jerusalem and Zion are like the chatterings of a nightingale, melodious but empty of meaning.
The thought that Eretz Yisrael is an accessory to Judaism, and not a central pillar in itself, is a tragic distortion which was caused by the nearly 2000 year exile of the Jewish People from the Land of Israel. After years of wandering - scattered among the gentiles, separated from our homeland- our orientation to the Land of Israel became distorted and confused.
Do you have a teenager who is doing badly in school? Do you have a kid who hates to pray? Does the tiny kippah he wears come off his head the moment he’s down the block? This may be the reason. Nothing desensitizes a person from Torah more than an exposure to porn. Don’t delude yourselves – when it comes to computers, children are geniuses. They know how to navigate through the intricacies of the web like private eyes.
Here I was, just out of New York, not knowing what the Torah was really about, surrounded by tens of thousands of ecstatic davening Jews, with the choruses of “Amen, yihe shamai rabbahs” ringing in my ears like the blasts of the shofar on Mount Sinai. What can I tell you? New York and Hollywood were blown out of my brain, like a dream that never happened, just like the Psalm says: “When the Lord brings back the captives of Zion, we were like those who dream.”
This blog is not coming to reject, or condemn, any practice of Judaism which is based on a sincere fear of Heaven, nor to reject or condemn any Jew, or Jewish community, God forbid. The blogs we write come to reject only the misunderstanding of Judaism which negates the centrality of the Land of Israel to the Torah and to the vitality of Jewish life.
All of the directors and presidents of the Jewish organizations and federations and committees and leagues and unions who didn't and still don't call upon their members to pack up and go, they all should be replaced with braver souls. With the scourge of intermarriage decimating our ranks, all of the rabbis who didn't and still don't urge their congregations to go en mass to Israel should read through the Torah once again.
Avraham Avinu packed up his belongings without saying a word and hastened to the Land, even though it was loaded with savage heathens, prostitutes, idol worship, murderers, and rapists, even though there wasn’t one synagogue, kosher butcher, or luxury villa to be found.
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.
It is no secret that American Jewry is being decimated by assimilation. The longer the Jewish community remains in America the more the assimilation will grow. So I ask – what’s the point in working to strengthen something that is destined to dwindle out and end? The exile is a curse which is not supposed to continue forever.
Not only are the streets of Jerusalem inundated with the smoke of burning embers; but hillsides and streets all over the country are lit up with the fiery love of Torah which kindles in every heart. Not only the streets, but the smoke of these holy bonfires penetrates into every single apartment and house, like the aroma of incense on the Temple’s altar, penetrating through windows and concrete walls to reveal the inner spirit of every Israeli soul, of every Israeli home.
Now that everyone is talking about elections, I’m thinking of throwing my kippah into the ring. In all modesty, my novels have won me a pretty fair following in the religious community, so I could very well garner the necessary number of votes to get elected to the Knesset.
When I finally made aliyah, I knew lots of people, and was already half “Israeli”. I lived in Jerusalem with the saintly old lady I had met on my first visit, and spent my days running around with Rabbi Hazani, designing street posters and helping him with the campaign to free the Jewish Underground until he dragged me to the Machon Meir Yeshiva
"Dear God," I said. "I don’t know why you have come into my life and done this great miracle for me. But I am certainly grateful, and I would like to make You happy some way in return. Tell me what You want me to do, and I will do it."
My bar-mitzvah ceremony was held in a Unitarian church. To me, that’s a perfect symbol for being a Jew in America, where you are totally immersed in a foreign, gentile culture. Even if you live in a strictly-kosher ghetto, the World Series, Michael Jackson, Christmas decorations, the Oscars, and the NY Daily News are waiting for you the minute you cross the street.
“Gevalt!’ I thought to myself. “My very first day in Israel, and my mother would turn on the TV in America and see her son making a protest speech against the Israeli government on behalf of the Jewish Underground!”
I was going to start out this blog by saying that I am happy to be back at The Jewish Press. But, in truth, I have mixed feelings. After all, I’ve been living in Israel now for 28 years, yet The Jewish Press is still in Brooklyn, along with its myriads of faithful readers.