Title: Land of My Past, Land of My Future
Author: Michael Kaufman
Publisher: Targum Press, 2012
Land of My Past, Land of My Future, a new book by Michael Kaufman, explores a very sensitive issue – religious aliyah today – learnedly and lucidly, with a wink and a bit of humor. As Rabbi Berel Wein says in his introduction, “Kaufman’s book is easy reading on a difficult subject.”
The book begins with Kaufman suddenly and honestly asking himself: “Could there be a galactic obligation to live in Eretz Yisrael? Could it be incumbent on a Jew … living a Torah life, to get up and relocate to Israel?” Kaufman then uses his own personal story as the framework for his research into the halachic issues involved.
Determined to find an answer to his question, he studies Jewish sources throughout the ages and consults some of the leading rabbis of our day. Comfortably and happily living and working in New York at the time, he gives us his own personal reactions each step of the way, from the day his curiosity is awakened until the day he makes the fateful, difficult decision to make aliyah at the age of 35.
Kaufman’s autobiographical saga is selective in a positive way. He shares his thoughts and feelings with us as well as a general description of his very satisfying Jewish life in galut, but no more. He goes into great detail on the exact status of the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael, but makes no mention of sociological, economic, political or security issues which often intrude into any discussion of religious aliyah. Neither is the language difficult for any religious English speaking reader, even for those with little knowledge of Hebrew or of halacha.
The book is divided into two parts: the “story” of Kaufman’s personal halachic investigation and the halachic sources themselves, which comprise about one third of the book. It is not necessary to read both. A layman may enjoy the story and its happy ending without delving into the largely Hebrew bibliography, and conversely, a Torah scholar will benefit from Kaufman’s comprehensive research into the sources and halachic issues involved.
The book has been praised and approved by Rabbis Berel Wein, Zalman Nehemia Goldberg, S. Suchard, Shmuel Kaminetsky, Yitzchak Kaufman, and Zev Leff.
At a time when aliyah no longer involves the physical or spiritual sacrifice it did years ago, it is important to raise awareness of its centrality to the Torah. It is a fact that circumstances have changed: Aliyah is now realizable; it need no longer be a dream.