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August 24, 2016 / 20 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘reasons’

Responses to Reasons to Not Make Aliyah

Sunday, July 31st, 2016
Once again, this summer, hundreds of new Olim have arrived (and will beH arrive) on group flights, charter flights and individual flights. The excitement with each arrival is palpable and, as someone who experienced this thrill seven years ago, I can say it is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Many people watch streaming live video by Nefesh B’Nefesh as planeloads of new Olim arrive. Some are watching to see their friends come off the plane. Some watch because their family member is making Aliyah. Others watch for the feeling that they get watching all of these lives change before their very eyes.

And there is another category of people who sit opposite their computer screen watching: Those who wish to make Aliyah but feel they can not do it for various reasons. Before we made Aliyah, I firmly believed that Aliyah was for everyone. I no longer feel that way. I do believe it is for the vast majority of world Jewry, though. Below, I address various reasons given by people as to why they believe Aliyah won’t work for them, and my comments about each reason commonly given. (For marriages in which one spouse wants to make Aliyah and the other does not–an EXTREMELY common occurrence–I will address that in a future post beH)

Before addressing all of the various issues below, it is important to understand a fundamental issue: Is Aliyah a Mitzvah and assuming it is, what “form” of Mitzvah is it? While it is an entire “shiur” in itself, this post will work with the perspective that there is no doubt that there is a Mitzvah to make Aliyah. The only issue to “discuss” is whether this is a Mitzvah “Chiyuvit” or “Kiyumit.” The difference between these two types of Mitzvot is fairly simple to explain. A Mitzvah “Chiyuvit” is one that MUST be done. For example, a man must put on Tefillin. A Mitzvah “Kiyumit” is one that, upon meeting certain conditions, the Mitzvah kicks in. For example, one is not required to build a doorway in order to put up a mezuzah. However, once such a doorway does exist in the home, then a mezuzah must be placed there.

The question, therefore, that has been discussed is the status of Aliyah: Is one required to make Aliyah (Chiyuvit) or one is not required to, but if the individual moves to Israel then a Mitzvah (Kiyumit) is accomplished. For the record, a number of months ago, one of the greatest decisors of Halacha alive, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky שליט”א said it is a Mitzvah to make Aliyah. (The article I wrote and the video can be seen here.) Again, in my humble opinion, after years of research and learning the subject, I see it is indeed a Mitzvah Chiyuvit, no different than Tefillin, Shabbat, eating Matza on the night of the Seder, etc.

With this background, we can now take a look at some of the reasons that are given for not making Aliyah and comments on those reasons.

Parnassah

In a very un-scientific poll conducted by me over the years, I believe that this is probably the Number One reason given for not wanting to make Aliyah. The statement usually goes:” Of course I would like to make Aliyah, but I need to make a living! How can I make a Parnassah in Israel?!”

There is no doubt that the salaries in Israel are FAR lower than those of chu”l. Having said that, two of the biggest costs that one incurs outside Israel that are supremely less in Israel are health insurance and education (especially Higher Education). In addition, there are some costs that are cheaper and, certainly, some that are greater. Once you realize that you are not in need of Parnassah that will be up to the needs of chu”l but to the needs of your life in Israel, the perspective begins to shift. Material items, that may seem critically important, tarnish when put into perspective of a life in Israel. Do people have trouble finding jobs? Certainly! Do people, in general find themselves employed after X amount of time? Definitely. In some cases, this is accomplished by reinventing one’s self. What you do now and the way you earn a living can either be adapted for Israel or you can seek out a new area altogether in which to grow and earn a living.

Parnassah is one of the most common items one davens for. Parnassah is an issue of Emunah in Hashem. As is crystal clear from Tefillat Chana , Parnassah is 100% in the hands of Hashem. Have you made inquiries? Have you looked into job opportunities in Israel? Have you thought of other ways to make a living? If you are willing to have Emunah in Chu”l that you can make a living, why can’t that Emunah be expressed in Israel, as well. Incidentally, statistically speaking, the majority of Olim arrive in Israel without a job. But, some do and some are fortunate enough to transfer their job to Israel. If you do not check; if you do not investigate, the answer will always be “no.” Just saying you won’t make Aliyah due to Parnassah issues is not a proper expression of Emunah.

Lack of Hebrew

Of all possible reasons given, this is perhaps the weakest one of all. First of all, NOT that I advocate this, but it is quite easy to navigate most days with only English. Besides, there are always friends, family, neighbors willing to help out in translation. Once you make Aliyah, you are entitled to five months of intense Aliyah. There are Youtube videos, books, etc to work on your language skills. If there is the slightest chance you will be making Aliyah, begin TODAY on Hebrew. It is the Number One most important skill you can bring with you. Think of your chosen profession: In that profession, you needed to learn the language of that job. The “job” here is the Mitzvah of Aliyah, and the language of Hebrew is the language of that Mitzvah. Resources are endless on this subject.

I Can’t Leave My Family

There is no doubt that Skype, Facetime and other modes of communication are no substitute for the real thing; nevertheless, the various means of connecting to someone outside of Israel are vast and modern. Today is much different than just ten years ago. Yes, you are potentially giving up many things; family smachot, as just one example. But do know that while it is cliche to say this, your neighbors, your community become your family. Besides, perhaps it is YOUR move that will spur others in your family to decide to make that move. You will be affecting the course of the future generations of your family. There are not many Mitzvot or decisions that can make that claim!

Safety

Really? Do you see what is happening around the world? Whether it is France, Germany, the USA, or many other countries, the world has become a much less safe place to be. And while security personnel always have the citizens best interest in mind, no where else on Earth is there a security network whose main purpose is to protect the Jewish people. Besides, that, we also see that counties all over the world, while vilifying Israel, acknowledge that Israel’s security systems are the tops in the world. Do you feel safe walking around your neighborhood at night? Do you feel a sense of personal security? I can just tell you from my own personal experiences, I have never felt safer as a Jew anywhere else, like I do in Israel.

Cultural Differences

“There is no customer service.” “People don’t say excuse me, when they bump into you.” “People drive too fast.” The list of Lashon Hara against the Land of Israel and against the People of Israel is worthy of a footnote to the Parasha of the Spies who spied out the Land. To choose to not keep a Mitzva because culturally it is not up to your needs is a very slippery slope down which to slide. Yes, indeed, the Middle East has different rules by which it plays. Yes, people can be more brusque than you may be used to. Yet, at the same time, we look at ourselves as one big family. Whether in the park, on the bus, in the Bet Knesset–anywhere–people are your FAMILY and you feel a part of something bigger. Part of living in Israel is getting used to a different culture, true. But that would be true if you moved to Ireland or Spain or Timbuktu. But only in Israel do you get a Mitzvah to live!

There are other very common reasons given for not making Aliyah, and this is not an exhaustive list, by any means. As I mentioned at the beginning, one of the other very common situations is when one spouse wants to move and the other does not. I hope to address that issue in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, here is a link you will find most helpful in your (potential) quest to fulfill the Mitzva of Aliyah.

Rav Zev Shandalov

INTO THE FRAY: Israel and American Liberal Jewry: The REAL Reasons for the Rift

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Israel’s accomplishments have been remarkable.  Israel has created a thriving economy, and has been a refuge for hundreds of thousands of the displaced and the needy. Israel has generated a rich and diverse cultural life and its scientific and educational achievements have been exemplary.  In spite of these achievements, however, Israel in my view has gone astray…sadly, after a life and career devoted to Jewish community and Israel, I conclude that in every important way Israel has failed to realize its promise for me. A noble experiment, but a failure.

– Rabbi David M. Gordis, Reflections on Israel 2016, Tikkun, February 22, 2016

 

Like the United States of America, the modern state of Israel is a country born from the aspiration for freedom, and standing out among the nations as a beacon of democracy and humanity. Israel is…an exceptional country that shares our most essential values. It is the only country in the Middle East where freedom of speech and freedom of religion are found. Therefore, support for Israel is an expression of our Americanism

–  Republican Party’s 2016 Platform

 

‘Name a single country in the history of the world faced with internal and external threats comparable to those faced by Israel that has ever had a better record in human rights; a better record with compliance of the rule of law; a better record of concern for civilians?’ I have been asking that question now for 20 years probably to a million people around the world, and I’ve never gotten a single person even to stand up and name a country, because you can’t do it.

– Alan Dershowitz, a longstanding supporter of Democratic Party, Jerusalem, June 9, 2015

 

In recent years there have been frequent reports of a growing rift between liberal Jewry in the US and Israel, and of the increasing difficulty liberal American Jews—particularly the younger generation—have in identifying with the Jewish state.

Neither inevitable nor irreversible

This is of course an entirely absurd state of affairs.

After all, if logic, common sense and truth had any significant role to play in determining the “liberal” discourse on Israel or “liberal” attitudes toward it, Israel would be enthusiastically embraced by all who purport to cherish liberal values, such as civil liberties, socio-cultural diversity and religious tolerance. Indeed, Israel would be held up as source of pride, celebrated as a shining example of how such values can be sustained in the most inclement of circumstances, which in many other places might well have been considered justification for considerably more authoritarian governance (see Dershowitz’s quote above).

Various profound explanations have been proposed to account for the emerging disconnect between the “liberal” Jews in the US and Israel, ranging from philosophical differences to divergent societal shifts in both countries. But while there might be some measure of validity to these claims, to my mind, they largely miss the point and the dominant reason for the rift is far more mundane.

Accordingly, this alleged “animus” is neither inherently inevitable, as several pundits appear to have to resigned themselves to, nor is it inherently irreversible—other than by some far-reaching transformation of Israeli society.

Narcissistic hypocrisy vs indolent incompetence

At the root of the “liberal” Jews disaffection with the Jewish nation-state lies a dual fault—the one of “liberal” Jewry, the other of the Jewish nation state itself.

On the one hand, liberal Jewry in the US has been gravely afflicted by a narcissistic hypocrisy, which sets unattainable standards for the Jewish state to avoid being the target of its disapproval. On the other hand, Israel, as the nation-state of the Jews, has been deplorably derelict in presenting its case to the world in general and to US Jewry in particular. This has left them gravely misinformed, allowing disapproval of its policy and disinformation as to its nature to go unchallenged—and hence to flourish.

Indeed, much of the disappointment expressed by liberal Jewry is rooted in a misperception of what Israel once was, and what it has become today.

In order to illustrate this, the moronic—and often self-contradictory—lament by David Gordis (not to be confused with his nephew Daniel Gordis) as to Israel’s alleged moral degradation, is perhaps a good place to start (see introductory excerpt).

After summarily dismissing Israel’s “remarkable accomplishments” in creating “a thriving economy”, providing “refuge for hundreds of thousands of the displaced and the needy” and generating “a rich and diverse cultural life and…scientific and educational achievements [that] have been exemplary”, Gordis perversely declares Israel a failed experiment—despite its staggering successes.

Totally detached from fact & reason

Gordis then goes on to elaborate on his abstruse indictment of Israel today:“Jewish life and thought have successfully navigated between three pairs of values that are in tension with one another. First, the Jewish experience has balanced the rational with the affective, the assertion with the question…Second, it has embraced both particularism with universalism, probing Jewish interiorities but looking out to the larger world, recognizing the common humanity of all people. Third, it has shaped positions which looked to the past for sources and inspiration but at the same time projected a vision for a world transformed in the future into something better than its current reality.”

Then in a wild diatribe, totally divorced from any semblance of reality, he blares:

“Present day Israel has discarded the rational, the universal and the visionary. These values have been subordinated to a cruel and oppressive occupation, an emphatic materialism, severe inequalities rivaling the worst in the western world and distorted by a fanatic, obscurantist and fundamentalist religion which encourages the worst behaviors rather than the best”.

In reality, “present day Israel” is—demonstrably—far closer to the model of Gordis’s ideal than it ever was, certainly far more than it was back in the days for which he allegedly yearns.

Wrong on every count

Today Israeli society is driven far less by ideological zeal; it far less ideologically monolithic, far less under the sway of a doctrinaire socialistic hegemony, for which Gordis waxes nostalgic. How does that make it less rational?

Israel has been in the forefront in extending aid to “the other” whenever disaster has struck: In Nepal, in Haiti and even in providing life-saving medical treatment to the victims of the Syrian civil war–to name but a few of present day Israel’s humanitarian initiatives. How is that indicative of “the worst behaviors rather than the best”?

Israeli innovation and inventiveness in medicine, agriculture, water conservation is saving/improving the lives of multitudes across the globe? How is that indicative of Israel discarding the “universal?”

And Israel’s cutting edge activities in the field of space research and exploration have put it in the world’s top five countries in this sphere of human endeavor. So has Israel really discarded the visionary?

This is merely a small sampling of how intellectually dishonest the derogatory drivel of Israel’s “liberal” detractors has become.

This narcissistic hypocrisy was aptly exposed in a perceptive piece in a Washington Post blog by David Bernstein, professor of Law at George Mason University. He wrote: “Israeli Arabs have never been more integrated into Israeli society, or made more rapid economic and social progress, than…under Netanyahu… surrounded by hostile enemies, absorbing about four times its original population in refugees, very few of whom came from countries with a longstanding liberal or democratic traditions, expecting a progressive utopia to emerge was ridiculous. Creating a reasonably liberal, multiethnic, democratic state with religious freedom in a region where there aren’t any others should be more than enough to satisfy all but the most starry-eyed idealists.”

Indeed, it should.

Beneath the disingenuous gobbledygook

Of course, denigrating Israel because it fails to meet some unattainable criteria of human behavior, conjured up by disenchanted “liberal” Jews, serves no useful purpose other than to expose their self-centered insincerity—especially when they refrain from applying the same stringent standards to any other country, including their own.

For, once one strips away all the disingenuous gobbledygook, one comes to the core reason for “liberal” chagrin with Israel. This has nothing to do with how diverse or tolerant Israeli society has become, or the level of humanitarian relief it may extend to others, or how Israeli enterprise contributes to the betterment of mankind at large. It has to do with one – and only one—politically partisan issue—Israel’s interaction with the Palestinian-Arabs across the pre-1967 Green Line (a.k.a. the “Occupation”). The only remedial measure that “liberals” advance to deal with the “undemocratic blight” is to implement a “two-state-solution”.

Incredibly therefore, according to Israel’s “liberal” detractors, the only panacea for Israel’s “democracy deficit” is to facilitate the establishment of yet another Muslim-majority tyranny, whose hallmarks will be homophobic persecution of homosexuals, misogynistic discrimination against women and girls, intolerance of religious diversity, and repression of political dissent.

But this is not only wildly irrational in terms of its internal logic, it is equally imprudent in terms of its operational implications. After all, every time Israel has transferred territory to Arab control, it has sooner or later, become a platform to launch deadly attacks against it. Yet with unswerving doctrinaire zeal “liberals” cling to the perilous prescription of touting tyranny and bringing hundreds of kindergartens within the range of rockets and mortars along Israel’s eastern flank.

Down to the last Israeli

It would thus seem that much of US Jewry is so blinded by its obsessive attachment to the failed formula of two-states-for-two- people that they are prepared to defend it—paradoxically under the banner of liberal political philosophy – down to the last Israeli. Indeed, in its mindless subscription to the two-state notion as the touchstone of Israeli democracy, “liberal” Jewry disregards Israel’s many merits and highlights its inevitable defects—thus greatly contributing to its international de-legitimization across the globe. After all, who better for the Judeophobes to cite than the Jews themselves?

But beyond disregard for Israel’s virtues, US liberal Jews seem to be blind to the nature of its adversaries. Despite ample evidence, they refuse to acknowledge that Arab (including Palestinian Arab) animosity is not rooted in anything the Israel does—or does not do; but in what Israel is: Jewish. Concessions will not satiate Arab appetites, only whet them.

But if US “liberal” Jews frown upon the coercive measures that Israel is compelled to use against the Palestinian-Arabs, were they to apply the same criteria to their own country, they would have good reason to feel even more disenchanted. For when faced with threats far less severe than those faced by Israel, the US has responded far more vigorously and less discriminately than Israel, whether in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and even Yemen, with “collateral” civilian casualties dwarfing anything Israel has been accused of.

Yet strangely, few if any, embittered Jewish liberals have distanced themselves from the USA because they have been disappointed by American brutality and its failure to live up to their immaculate standards of state behavior.

Expose and inform

Given the facts on the ground, Israel should in fact be the proverbial “apple of the eye” of US liberal Jewry, an object of pride it is eager to be identified with—especially in light of the harrowing circumstances under which it is forced to exist.

Sadly, Israel has done inexcusably little to harness the facts to rebuff the attacks on its democratic credentials and has allowed imperative coercive actions to ensure the security of its civilians against an implacable foe, to be portrayed as racist brutality.

Thus, Israel is losing the support of the US diaspora by default. By spending a pittance on public diplomacy, it is by its own incompetence and impotence fostering the narratives of its adversaries.

The Spring 2016 edition of the Columbia University journal, “Current”, ran an interesting piece entitled “Reclaiming Alienated Liberals: Israel’s Imperative for Diaspora Jews” by Benjamin Davidoff, self-professed pro-Israel advocate. There are many things I disagree with in the article -such as the need for a Palestinian state and the call for Israel to empower J-Street, but on one matter Davidoff was spot on. He conveyed the feeling that pro-Israel advocates had been abandoned by Israel. He aptly notes: “Israel has an obligation to aid in pro-Israel advocacy on university campuses. Israel has largely ignored those fighting for Israel on campus and has failed to offer any true support for diaspora Jews… this issue directly affects the viability of the Israeli state in the future and should be of primary concern for Israel.”

On this he is quite right – and Israeli officialdom will ignore this obligation at the nation’s peril.

Dr. Martin Sherman

YCT, Heterodoxy, and Agudah

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Agudath Israel has come out with a new statement about Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT). They are ‘deeply troubled’ that YCT is hosting a group of 4 non-Orthodox rabbis at the installation of their new president, Rabbi Asher Lopatin. They will be involved in a roundtable discussion entitled “Training New Rabbis for a New Generation”.

I have mixed emotions about this. But I am in fact pleased that Agudah has responded to it – even if in a negative way. This shows that they must recognize YCT as an Orthodox institution. Which it is, in my view. I don’t for example believe they would be criticizing the Conservative Movement if they invited Reform rabbis to a roundtable of their own.

My feelings about this issue are mixed for the following reasons.

On the one hand – there is the rather well known decision by the Gedolei HaDor of the previous generation to forbid any interaction with non Orthodox movements. The fear was that by doing so, it would tacitly imply recognizing their legitimacy. Orthodoxy rejects heterodox movements and considers them illegitimate.

It is also rather well known that Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik made a distinction between interacting with them on any theological matters – which he also forbade; and interacting with them on non theological matters that impacted on the welfare of all of Jewry – which he permitted.

I agree with Rav Soloveitchik’s perspective. The question is whether this round table falls into the category of theological discussion or not. I’m not sure – but if I had to peg it, I would lean toward putting such a roundtable on the theological side of the argument and thus forbid it.

That said, I wonder if that would be true if matters of actual theology were expressly left out of the discussion. And the round table was limited to a discussion of practical non-theological rabbinics. Like psychological counseling or how to go about giving advice to congregants. The truth is that heterodox rabbis probably have a lot to offer in the realm of practical non theological rabbinics. As would say a mental health professional or even a priest or minister for that matter.

On the other hand, since this is a Yeshiva hosting heterodox rabbis I would be hard pressed to say that there would be no theological aspect to it. It is a virtual impossibility to completely leave out theology in such a discussion. Which is why I would be opposed to it.

There is, however, another thing to consider. What is extant today was not extant when the Gedolei HaDor forbade such interactions. Times have changed in ways which make me wonder if we should re-examine our positions. Let me hasten to add that I do not advocate the policies of Open Orthodoxy that YCT represents. They have rejected the prohibition of interacting with non-Orthodox rabbis and now freely advocate full engagement with them at all levels – including theological ones.

But I think it is fair to evaluate the reasons they have done it. Times have indeed changed. When the prohibition was made, it was a time that Reform and Conservative movements were on the ascendancy. They were a real threat to Orthodox Judaism. Orthodoxy in America was in relative infancy then. To wit – Rav Aharon Kotler who was the driving force behind the prohibition headed a Yeshiva of about 300 students when he died. Today there are over 6000 students there and they are growing exponentially. There are also now many smaller Yeshivos like Lakewood that are now thriving. They did not exist at that time.

There is no question that the small group of Orthodox Jews at the time were seen by most non Orthodox observers as a dying relic of an ancient past. While Heterodox movements were flourishing and growing by leaps and bounds. It is very understandable that the Gedolei HaDor did not want to give any semblance of recognition to them. Their ‘David’ was fighting a very large Goliath.

But today – the tables have turned. We are the ones growing. They are either shrinking (Conservative) or redefining Jewishness to include non Halachic Jews (Reform).

It is therefore a fact that heterodoxy is no longer the threat to Orthodoxy it once was – if at all. It is now apathy and indifference that is the enemy. Jews are leaving Judaism in droves. They do not see any denomination as relevant to their lives. They see themselves as secular human beings in the brotherhood of man – without the slightest connection to Judaism. One might even say that Conservative and even Reform Judaism today is at least trying to get them to retain their Jewish identity if nothing else.

In the light of all this, perhaps this is a Hora’as Shah – time to act and change the paradigm. Maybe YCT is not so terribly wrong headed in partnering up with these movements. I do not see legitimizing them as a danger anymore. The danger is in the growing numbers of unaffiliated Jews who have no problem with intermarriage and tend to buy into the ‘Apartheid’ narrative about Israel found in the secular liberal/leftist environment in which they live.

This is not to say that I agree with YCT. I don’t. I am not qualified to make judgments about Hora’as Shah. I am just thinking out loud. For example one might argue that giving them legitimacy in any setting, no less a Yeshiva, is forbidden in principal – having nothing to do with whether doing so is some sort of existential danger to Orthodoxy. I can just as easily see this argument as I can YCT’s argument.

Perhaps the fact that there is another aspect to this now that did not exist before is why Agudah has not thrown YCT out of Orthodoxy – as publications like the Yated have advocated. They must realize that they are Orthodox in that they follow Halacha… and that their intentions with respect to heterodoxy are good – even if badly mistaken for the reasons stated. And for that, I applaud them.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Harry Maryles

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