Photo Credit:
Rabbi Dov Lipman

Life is filled with challenging decisions and we often say to ourselves, “If only God, Himself, would tell us what to do.”

If we open our ears when listening to this week’s Torah portion we will hear God settling one of life’s challenges – deciding where we should live.

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In His very first words to a Jew, God instructs Abraham to leave the comforts of his homeland and go to the land of Israel (Genesis 12:1), clearly establishing that Israel is the land where a Jew should live.

But this first command to Abraham teaches us much more than just the importance of Israel to the Jewish people. Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin1 wrote the following on God’s promise to Abraham that he would transform Abraham’s family into a “great nation” in the land of Israel (12:2):

“This is a sign for his descendants. One who is unsure whether he should immigrate to the land of Israel must first think about the good of his nation. It is impossible for the Jewish people to be a great nation outside its land. This is true both quantitatively – for the lands of our enemies consume us – and qualitatively, for the Divine Presence does not dwell in the Diaspora.”

In fact, God could not even appear to Abraham while he was dwelling outside of the land of Israel. The Torah relates: “The Lord appeared to Abraham and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’” (12:7) The Kli Yakar2 comments:

“The reason God did not appear to him immediately when He said, ‘Go forth from your land,’ is because Abraham was still in the Diaspora at the time…and the Divine Presence does not reveal itself outside the Land…Rather Abraham just heard a voice speaking. This is why he did not build an altar there…As long as God did not appear to him, however, he did not want to build an altar in a place where the Divine Presence does not rest.”

Aside from learning from God’s command, we can also learn from how Abraham responded to that command: “And Abraham went as God had spoken to him.” (12:4) The Netziv3 teaches:

“It means that he left immediately, while God was still speaking. He did not wait to take care of all the necessary preparations. He left immediately so that the selling of his estate and the like would not prevent him (from going)…After he began his journey and knew that nothing would prevent him from actually going, he saw fit to worry about his money…In the beginning, however, he estimated that staying back to protect his money could undermine the whole trip. He therefore decided to leave immediately. No matter what.”

Abraham heard that God told him it would be best for his nation and for himself to go to the land of Israel, so he did so without hesitation.

Earlier we referenced the first mention of this gift: “To your descendants I will give this land.” But a later reference has even greater implications. God says: “I will give to you and to your descendants after you the Land in which you sojourn, the entire Land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession, and I will be for them a God. (17:8)” Says Rashi, “There I will be for them a God, but a Jew who dwells in the Diaspora is like one who has no God.”

This Shabbat we will be inspired by Abraham’s relationship with God. We will experience Abraham’s excitement and anxiety in fulfilling God’s command to move to Israel. We will read God’s declaration that the Jewish People cannot fulfill their greatness as a nation outside of the Land of Israel. We will read how Abraham embarked on his journey to the Land of Israel immediately, ensuring that nothing hinder his fulfillment of God’s mission for him. We will read that only in the land of Israel can the apex of a harmonious relationship with God come to fruition.

Abraham did not have the luxury of a free flight in a jumbo jet to get to Israel – his travel was by foot, through the desert. Abraham did not have the convenience of contacting Nefesh B’Nefesh and learning about all of his employment options, housing options, and education options for his children in Israel. He did not have the opportunity to apply for a grant from NBN to help cover his moving costs, and there was no State of Israel to provide him with an absorption basket to help get himself on his feet in his new country. And to be sure, Abraham did not have Skype and Facetime to stay in visual touch with family members who remained behind.

So what’s holding you back from taking a serious look into making aliyah?

I hope that Jews around the world act on their inspiration from this week’s Torah reading. Following in the footsteps of Abraham is part of our DNA.4 I welcome you to simply contact Nefesh B’Nefesh and meet with them to explore all your options, and to make a smart decision. No cost, no obligation. They will tell you all you need to know.

For those who ultimately determine that they cannot move to Israel right now, either due to family or employment concerns, at the very least share the message with your children, and raise them to move to Israel. The message of the parsha and the gift which God has given us is crystal clear.

Now it’s left in your hands to accept and reap the benefits from God’s gift.


1. 1881-1966, vice chairman of the Council of Torah Sages in Israel and author of Oznaim LaTorah
2. Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz, 1550-1619
3. Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, 1816-1893, dean of the famed Volozhin Yeshiva and author of Ha’amek Davar
4. Rabbi Chayim of Volozhin (1749-1821) explains that Abraham accomplished certain things through very hard work, and this paved the way for these actions to be “like second-nature to his children who can achieve them with little effort.” He then notes that the awakening which people feel today to go to the Holy Land comes from the act of Abraham leaving his homeland to go to the land of Israel. It is ingrained in our DNA to give up the comforts of home to move to Israel. (Ruach Chaim Avot 5:3)
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