On Seder night, we are commanded not only to relate the wondrous events of the Exodus, but to incorporate its lessons in our lives. What are these lessons? One of them is that the only place where we can properly carry out our Divine mission is Eretz Yisrael. As Hashem tells Moshe the very first time He appears to him at the Burning Bush: “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of Egypt and to bring them up…to a good and large land to a land flowing with milk and honey” (Shemot 3:8).
Believing – as so many Jews unfortunately do – that we are safe in foreign countries elicits a terrible curse. Rabbi Yaakov Emden writes these chilling words in the introduction to his siddur: “When it seems to us in our present peaceful existence outside the Land of Israel that we have found another Israel and Jerusalem, this to me is the greatest, deepest, most obvious, and most direct cause of all of the awesome, frightening, monstrous, unimaginable destructions we have experienced in the Diaspora.”
It is our duty as Jewish parents to explain to our children that we don’t belong in gentile lands. On Pesach night, therefore, every father should say:
Children, because of the tragedy of the exile, I am here in Brooklyn [or Toronto or Paris or Melbourne]. For 2,000 years, the Jewish people longed to return to the Land of Israel, but we lacked the means. Then, when G-d in His great kindness, established the State of Israel and all Jews could finally return, my parents found it too difficult to pick up all of their belongings and move, so they raised me as if I were an American [or Canadian or Frenchman or Australian].
That’s why, when I became of age, I believed America was my home, and the thought of moving to Israel seemed so impractical since I would have to learn Hebrew and serve in the Israeli army, and get a new job, and leave my parents behind. Now I’m stuck here in this gentile land with a mortgage to pay and elderly parents whom I can’t abandon.
But I want you to know on this Seder night that the teachings of the Haggadah are true – America is not our real home. America is exile. G-d wants us to be in the Land of Israel. Only there can we be a free independent Jewish nation. Only there can we really keep the Torah.
So, beloved children, while you are still young, before you become weighed down by commitments and obligations, your mother and I want to encourage you to build your lives in Israel. Don’t worry about us. We’ll be fine. We’ll come visit, and maybe one day we too will make aliyah. But know without any doubt that your future is in the Land of Israel, not here in exile. There are excellent universities and grad schools in Israel. So go where you belong. Go to Israel.
Every parent should speak to his children in this manner on Seder night. Every rabbi should do the same in shul the next day. Every head of every Jewish organization should make aliyah his number-one priority.
Long before the Holocaust, Rabbi Meir Simcha HaCohen of Dvinsk, the Ohr Somayach, warned, “If a Jew thinks that Berlin is Jerusalem, a raging storm wind will uproot him by his trunk, a tempest will arise and spread its roaring waves to swallow and destroy and to flood forth without pity” (Meshech Chachmah, pg. 171). This destruction can also come quietly in the form of assimilation.
So speak to your children. Tell them the truth. Leave them with the message the Sages wanted to linger in our minds after the Seder: “Next year in Jerusalem”!