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“It is forbidden to leave the Land of Israel to outside of the Land, except to learn Torah, or to find a wife, or to save Jews from the heathens, and then the person must return to the Land. It is also permitted to leave the Land temporarily for business. But to settle down in the Diaspora – this is forbidden.” (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:9)

On Shavuot, we read the Megilla of Ruth. When Elimelech and his two sons, Machlon and Kilyon, abandon the Land of Israel, they are struck down and killed in Divine displeasure. The Rambam cites this in emphasizing that a person should think twice before he leaves the Land of Israel, unless he has a solid halachic reason.


While I am in America, I will also see some relatives, another reason for temporarily leaving the Land which the “Mishna Berura” permits. Someone in the family is getting married and I’ve been invited. The “rabbi” presiding at the wedding ceremony is some guru who was born in India, or Tibet, or one of those places, to a Hindu mother, or some other idolatrous sect – I don’t remember the details. Since the wedding is being held on Shabbat, in some remote place in the middle of nowhere, I won’t attend the ceremony, but I’ll go the family gathering on Sunday. I haven’t seen some of my relatives for years, and it’s about time that their crazy uncle from Israel showed up with his big Santa Claus beard.

It pains my heart. All of my cousins and second cousins have married gentiles. All of them. My brother sent me a photograph of one of the weddings. It was held on a fancy yacht on a pier in Manhattan. Among the well-dressed guests, you can see a clean-shaven, rabbi-like figure, in a small shoulder tallit, standing between the groom and the other groom. That’s right. Two grooms, the rabbi, and no bride. A nice Jewish wedding. And all the guests are smiling. It breaks my heart. When you look at the “Jewish Press,” and flip through its colorful pages, it seems like the Judaism of America is thriving. But the truth is that 70 percent of the Jews in America are assimilating, and the Judaism of America is on the way out. It may take another decade or two, but the figures don’t lie and the writing is on the wall.

In the meantime, family is family, so I’ll go to the after-wedding party and be a good uncle. I may look a little strange in my astronaut suit, but what can I do? In their eyes, I’m their astronaut uncle from Israel. But if I don’t wear the suit, I’ll fall down on the grass and expire, just like Spielberg’s E.T. – the Extra Terrestrial who couldn’t breathe the air on planet Earth. Besides, the heavily padded suit will protect me from all of the hugs and kisses of women I hardly know. What was it that E.T. said with great yearning, a stranger in a strange land? “Home.” What every Jew in the world should be saying. “Home. Take me home to the Land of Israel. I’m dying where I am. I want to go home!”

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Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" The DVD of the movie is available online.