If the recent Sukkot overdose of Shabbat, followed by two days of Yom Tov, and another Shabbat followed by two more days of Yom Tov, isn’t enough to get Diaspora Jews to move to Israel, with its force-feeding of gefilta fish day-after-day, until gefilta fish jelly drips out of people’s noses and horseradish pours out of their ears, I don’t know what it’s going to take until Diaspora Jews are fed up with practicing Judaism in a jar.
With an average of two balls of gefilta fish per meal for the 3 Shabbat meals, and two balls at each of the 2 seudot on Yom Tov times 2 – that makes for 28 gefilta fish balls over the holiday for each and every Jew. For New York’s 1 million Jews, that means that 28,000,000 gefilta fish balls were consumed during Sukkot, not counting the 14,000,000 balls eaten during the two days of Rosh HaShanah and the preceding Shabbat.
It’s a big boom for gefilta fish companies, but a big belly ache for Diaspora Jews, many of whom end up rushing at the end of the holiday to hospitals where emergency rooms are crammed with gefilta-fish-overdosed Jews suffering from Diaspora Poisoning.
[Incidentally, the booming gefilta fish market may get an additional boost from a very unexpected source - U.S. President Obama who, in a bid to attract more Jewish voters, is planning to announce that if he is re-elected, the traditional White-House Thanksgiving Dinner will feature gefilta fish instead of turkey.]
As we’ve written on many occasions, the Torah isn’t meant to be observed in the Diaspora. Judaism isn’t meant to be kept in a jar, but on the mountains and Biblical valleys of Israel. The Torah was given to be performed in Eretz Yisrael. We described how the holiday of Sukkot is natural to the Land of Israel, with sukkah booths all over the country, on terraces, rooftops, street corners, shopping centers, and army bases – not only in back yards in isolated Jewish ghettos. And here in Israel, Sukkot is an official national holiday, with a long 10-day vacation from school, so kids here grow up being proud Jews, and not some minority with a chip on their shoulder for being different than Peter, Paul, and Mary.
Another example is the prayer for rain which we began saying yesterday in the Amidah prayer. As we said it, rain started to fall outside the synagogue window, marking the start of the rainy season in Israel, and a ushering in a united feeling of joy. In America, where it rains all the time, the prayer is meaningless. The same things happens come Hanukah time, when in Israel we say, “A great miracle happened here,” while Diaspora Jews say, “A great miracle happened THERE.” Judaism is happening in Israel.
As long as the curse of the exile was upon us, we had no choice and had to observe whatever individual commandments we could in the Diaspora, but now that everyone can come home to a national Jewish life in Israel, where Jerusalem is once again the center of world Jewry, the practice of Judaism-in-a-bottle, in the ghettos of foreign, gentile lands is no longer necessary.
So, as we all proclaimed at the conclusion of our Yom Kippur prayers: “Next Year in Jerusalem!” See you here soon!