The last time I happened to be in America, it was around Parshat Lech Lecha. On Shabbat, I prayed in three different shuls and heard three different sermons. Not one of them mentioned Eretz Yisrael.
In one opulent shul, there were a plethora of free brochures in the lobby on the fundamental building blocks of Judaism – talmud Torah, tefillin, Shabbat, kashrut, family purity, and the like. A brochure on the Land of Israel, though, was nowhere to be found.
I glanced through some of the books in the shul library. In many of the scholarly English books on Jewish philosophy and belief, Eretz Yisrael didn’t even appear in the table of contents or index.
Last year, The Jewish Press published a list of top excuses for not making aliyah, such as: taxes are too high, we don’t want our children to serve in the army, the government is too secular; the hot water takes too long to heat up, etc. etc.
The truth is, though, that the mitzvah of aliyah is not dependent on the level of religious observance in Israel or whether you can find a New York bagel there. Avraham Avinu made aliyah when only idol worshippers filled the land. He came even though there were no deluxe apartments, no Jewish army, no flourishing yeshivot, no synagogues, and no kosher pizza shops as there are in abundance today.
He came because he believed in Hashem. Therefore, in honor of Avraham and Parshas Lech Lecha, let me list some of the top reasons to make aliyah:
- To come closer to Hashem.
- To perform, according to the vast majority of poskim, a biblical mitzvah incumbent on everyone.
- To live in the place where the commandments were meant to be performed.
- To dwell in the land of our forefathers.
- To live in the land of prophecy.
- To actualize our daily prayers for the ingathering of the exiles.
- To play an active role in the redemption of Israel.
- To make the proclamation “Next Year in Jerusalem” a reality.
- To live under a sovereign Jewish government.
- To have the privilege of serving in the Israeli army.
- To live in a country run according to the Hebrew calendar, where Christmas and Easter decorations are hardly seen.
- To live in a country where Hebrew is the official language.
- To live in a place where your children and grandchildren won’t intermarry.
- To live amongst Jews.
- To live in the place where prayer ascends in purity to Heaven without the spiritual pollution of chutz l’aretz.
- To live in the place of the Shechinah – in the land that Hashem watches over from the beginning of the year to the end of the year (Deuteronomy 11:12).
- To live in the land where the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish nation lived and are buried.
- To live in the Torah center of the world where there are more gedolim than anywhere else in the world.
- To live where frum communities are everywhere, with an endless choice of yeshivot, cheders, Talmud Torahs, religious colleges, and religious ulpanot for girls.
- To live in the only place where kohanim bless the congregation each day because of the unique simcha of living there.
- To perform the extra mitzvot you can only fulfill there.
- To live in a place where your taxes support yeshivot, Tzahal, Jewish charities, Jewish hospitals, the city of Jerusalem, and the ingathering of the exiles.
- To be near Jerusalem, the Kotel and the Temple Mount.
- To live in a country where the national radio station begins broadcasting with “Shema Yisrael” in the morning.
- To live in the place where Jews truly belong and where Hashem wants them to be – as the Torah states over and over and over again.