Is a Jewish kid in Brooklyn, or Chicago, or Beverly Hills less Jewish than my kids are? Is the Land of Israel less of a homeland for American Jews than it is for Israelis? Why should we, the Israelis, be the ones to fight the enemies of Israel, and not Diaspora Jews as well?
If you answer, “Because I’m an America citizen,” that doesn’t cut the cake. I’m an America citizen too, but I served in the IDF. The fact that a Jew is a United States citizen, or a German citizen, or a citizen of Zululand, is merely a technicality. So what if you have a U.S. passport? If you move to England, you can become a citizen of England, and from there, you can move to Switzerland and get a Swiss passport too. It’s all just an administrative technicality. A Jew is a Jew. That’s what the Nazis taught us. Whether a Jew was a German, or a Pole, or a Rumanian, or a Hungarian, they were all herded onto trains for the ovens.
Let me try to explain something, please. In this week’s Torah portion, as we receive the Torah at Mount Sinai, we are “like one man with one heart.” At Sinai, we didn’t only receive the Torah, we received a national Israelite soul that made us, and our descendants forever after us, a part of the Israelite Nation. The Jewish People aren’t like other people in the world. Yes, we all have eyes and ears and legs, but whereas other people possess individual souls, we possess the national, collective soul of Clal Yisrael, the Community of Israel, Knesset Yisrael.
Our Sages teach that this national soul is something unique to the Jewish People. Other nations are groupings of individuals who come together for some common interest and purpose, whether it be for self-defense, or economic strength, and the like. They are like individuals who buy stock in a company, in order to benefit from its revenues, but they aren’t the company itself. The Nation of Israel is different. Wherever we may be, we have the unique national soul of the Jewish People who stood at Mount Sinai, which makes a Jew, first and foremost, a Jew wherever he may wander. He may hold an American passport, but his soul is 100% strictly kosher – Hebrew National, to make a pun.
This national soul makes us Israelis wherever we may wander. We are members of the Nation of Israel – the Children of Israel. The word Jew doesn’t exist in the Torah. It’s a deviation of the exile, as in Mordechai the Jew, meaning someone who was exiled from the kingdom of Judah. In our essence, we are the Children of Israel, whether we live in Boston or LA.
True, this national soul doesn’t come to expression when we are alienated from our Land and exiled amongst the nations. Without our own Land, we exist as individuals, operating on a low-level individual soul, while our national soul is in the garage getting fixed. But with our return to our national Land, our giant national soul returns too. In effect, we become giant Jews, part of a powerful Jewish Nation, the reborn Nation of Israel, with a Jewish government, and Jewish economy, and Jewish army. Instead of tiny, lilliputian individual souls, we become national giants – Israelis, Divinely empowered with new found courage and strength.
The Jews of the Diaspora have this giant national soul too, but it’s defused, deactivated, in hibernation, like a vestigial organ, as long as they’re outside of the Land of Israel. But they are the Children of Israel nevertheless. Israel is their one and only true Land, and they have the duty to defend it just like the Israelis who live there.Tzvi Fishman