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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776
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The Dodgers Never Left Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Dodgers

I’m not talking about Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Joe Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Junior Gilliam, Don Newcombe, Don Drysdale, Johnny Padres, Sandy Amaros, the young Sandy Koufax, and the rest of the old-time Brookline Dodgers.

(For your information, I remembered all those names without having to look them up on Google. In fact, when the old Dodger ballpark, Ebbets Field, was being torn down to make room for apartment buildings, my Dad snuck us into the stadium, where we dug up some earth from center field, where Duke Snider once roamed – as if it were blessed soil from the Holy Land – and took it home to put in our planter as a lasting memorial. Woe that I don’t remember Mishnayos as well as I remember starting Dodger line-ups!)

No, I’m not talking about those famed Brooklyn Bums, who stuffed their bats and gloves into duffle bags and deserted New York for the even smoggier shores of LA. I am talking about the other dodgers of Brooklyn, all those who still linger in Boro Park and Flatbush and Williamsburg and Crown Heights and Ocean Parkway and don’t come on aliyah.

I’m speaking about the Aliyah Dodgers, the Diaspora Giants, the Ultra-Orthodox Williamsburg White Sox, the Assimilated Cardinals, and the OU Washington Nationals.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook would tell his students: “We don’t pick and chose what mitzvot to do. We don’t say, ‘This mitzvah is easy and pleasing to me, I will do it, but this mitzvah is hard and not so pleasing, so I won’t. We aren’t half-believers like the Spies in the Wilderness, about whom the Torah testifies, ‘In this matter, you didn’t believe in the Lord your God’ (Devarim, 1:32). In the matter of making aliyah to Israel they didn’t believe. In contrast, we find the true approach to Torah of, ‘Everything that the Lord said, we will do and listen’ (Shemot, 24:7). We will do it whether it pleases us or not. We believe in all of the Torah with complete emunah” (See, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Ch.1).

Once again, I am not speaking about people who, for whatever valid reason, are unable to come on aliyah. Let’s say, in a rough approximation, that 20% of the Jews in America fall into this category. Whether it’s because they have sick parents to care for, or no way of making a living in Israel, or any other legitimate excuse, let’s agree for the moment that they can’t come – but what about their children? What’s preventing them? Are they any less Jewish than my children? Why should my children have to serve in the Israeli Army (which is a great mitzvah that we are happy to do) and fight to defend the Jewish Homeland, while the Diaspora Dodgers go to ball games and spend the same three years getting stoned in college? And what about the 80% who could come – but don’t?

Let’s remember that the root cause of the destruction that befell our Nation on Tisha B’Av was the unwilling of the Spies in the Wilderness to journey on to the Land of Israel, which occurred on the very same date (Megilla 29A. See The Book of our Heritage, Ch.16, on the month of Av).

My beloved brothers and sisters in the Diaspora- when you are in shul this coming Shabbos, during the Torah reading of Matot, before the typical lavish Diaspora Kiddush and free open bar (which could make even the most ardent Zionist forget about Jerusalem with its line-up of Chivas Regals, Jack Daniels, and Johnny Walker Blacks), try to concentrate on the message of the parsha:

“Now a very great multitude of cattle had the children of Brooklyn, and the children of the Five Towns and Boca, a very great multitude… and they said to Moshe, ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession – bring us not over the Jordan.’ And Moshe said, ‘Shall your brethren go to war, and shall you sit here? And wherefore will you turn away the heart of the Children of Israel from going over into the Land which the Lord has given them? Thus did your fathers when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to see the Land. For when they went up unto the valley of Eshkol and saw the Land, they turned away the heart of the Children of Israel, that they should not go into the Land which the Lord had given them. And the anger of the Lord kindled on that day (Tisha B’Av), and He swore saying, ‘Surely none of these men that came up out of the land of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the Land I swore unto Avraham, unto Yitzhak, and unto Yaacov, because they have not wholly followed Me, save Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua ben Nun, because they have wholly followed the Lord’” (Bamidbar, 32:1-12).

Rashi comments that Moshe addressed the three tribes in astonishment that they could place their concern for their material wellbeing over Hashem’s commandment to enter the Promised Land. Rashi adds, “They had consideration for their wealth more than for their sons and daughters, for they mentioned their cattle before their little ones.”

The same thing happens today when parents place the material comfort over the imperiled futures that their children face in the exile.

The verses go on to describe God’s great wrath against the generation of the wilderness “which had done evil in the sight of the Lord” in not wanting to live in Israel, and how the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half the tribe of Menasha were now once again endangering the entire Nation in not wanting to join in the conquest of the Land.

Shaken by the harsh words of Moshe, and by the fierce displeasure of the Lord, the recalcitrant tribes rally and volunteer to lead the way into battle. Yet Moshe warns them again, “But if you will not do so, behold you have sinned against the Lord, and you should recognize your sin which will find you.”

Is the blood of the Jews on the other side of the Atlantic any less Jewish than the blood of the Jews in Israel? Is the Land of Israel any less of a Homeland for them as it is for us? Yet we, immigrants from countries all over the world, enlist to fight in the defense of our cherished borders. And so should they. Not only the yeshiva students in Mea Shaarim and Bnei Brak, but the able-bodied Jews of Boro Park and Flatbush as well!

That’s what it says in the Torah!

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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