Should a person who wants to make aliyah
do so even if his or her parents object?
As with much of Jewish law, there is a controversy among our Sages as to whether in the case sited it is permissible to make aliyah against the wishes of one’s parents.
What is at stake here is the known law that if parents demand from a child to desecrate the Shabbat, the child can go against the will of the parents, even though by doing so one would transgress the law to honor one’s parents.
In our case as well since it is a mitzvah for one to make aliyah, and according to some Sages, even a mitzvah dictated by the Torah, one can therefore make aliyah over the objections of one’s parents.
However, some say that the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents takes precedence.
Having said this, one must also be very careful before making a decision to make aliyah against the will of their family, for such a decision can create dissension and strife within the family which could cause great hardship.
A better solution might be to persuade one’s parents on the benefits of aliyah and the great mitzvah that one would be doing by making aliyah.
– Rabbi Mordechai Weiss lives in Efrat Israel and previously served as an elementary and high school principal in New Jersey and Connecticut. He was also the founder and rav of Young Israel of Margate, New Jersey. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Making aliyah against the express wishes of a parent is one of the most difficult dilemmas that a person can face.
In a teshuvah on this very question, Rav Shaul Yisraeli (Amud Ha-Yemani 22) offers an approach that I think frames the issue very well. The Gemara in Kiddushin describes how Rav Yochanan permitted Rav Asi to leave Eretz Yisrael to tend to his elderly mother. Some poskim infer from here that one should not make aliyah if it means giving up the mitzvos that children have toward their parents, and other poskim limit the scope of Rav Yochanan’s permission to a short amount of time.
Rav Yisraeli presents a novel approach. In the Gemara’s telling, Rav Yochanan first tells Rav Asi to come back the next day. After gauging Rav Asi’s mood, he tells him to go and return in peace. Why did Rav Yochanan wait a day before answering?
The mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael is called “yishuv.” The mitzvah is to settle in Eretz Yisrael, to make a life here, not just to have a physical presence here. We know that there are several valid reasons for leaving Eretz Yisrael: to find a spouse, to earn a livelihood, and to study Torah. Each of these matters are central to what it means to live a fulfilling life in accordance with the Torah. One who cannot attain these things in Eretz Yisrael is not really “settling” in Eretz Yisrael, but is rather unsettled. Thus, when Rav Yochanan saw that Rav Asi’s mother’s wellbeing was weighing heavily on him, he permitted him to leave Eretz Yisrael.
Rav Yisraeli outlines an important rubric for thinking through this issue on an individual basis. The decision will ultimately be based on a variety of factors, depending on the reason for the parents’ disapproval. Perhaps their disapproval is temporary or based on unwarranted concerns. Perhaps they can be assuaged by frequent visits. I know of cases where the parents initially disapproved of their children’s aliyah but ultimately made aliyah themselves, to be with their children and grandchildren.
Children are obligated to honor and revere their parents, and those two mitzvos have very specific parameters. Complete obedience, however, is not part of the mitzvah, and when it comes to major life decisions, like who to marry, adult children have the freedom to make their own decisions. The decision, therefore, is ultimately up to the child. However, this does not absolve the child from consult with parents (and rabbanim) about the decision, trying to obtain their blessing and encouragement, and making every effort to maintain the familial bond.
– Rabbi Elli Fischer is a translator, writer, and historian. He edits Rav Eliezer Melamed’s Peninei Halakha in English, cofounded HaMapah, a project to quantify and map rabbinic literature, and is a founding editor of Lehrhaus. Follow him @adderabbi on Twitter or listen to his podcast, “Down the Rabbi Hole.”
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In both his commentary to the Torah (Bamidbar 33:53) and in his addenda to the Rambam’s list of the mitzvos of the Torah (No. 4), the Ramban makes it clear that there is a requirement for Jews to settle in Eretz Yisrael. Indeed, he himself eventually went to live there and worked to revive the land’s Jewish community. Numerous authorities agree with the Ramban, and even though the Rambam does not in fact list this mitzvah there, many assume that he fundamentally accepts this position as well, or that he maintains that one fulfills a mitzvah by residing there, even if there is no actual obligation to go there. While there are undoubtedly acceptable reasons to live elsewhere, there is a consensus that a mitzvah to make aliyah certainly exists if feasible.
At the same time, however, there is also a mitzvah to honor one’s parents, as well as a mitzvah to fear them (in the sense of reverence). What, then, should one do if a conflict between the above values arises, and a child wishes to make aliyah while the parents express their objection to this plan? It should be noted that a child is not in general obligated to obey everything his or her parents insist upon, as the aforementioned mitzvos do not require that. But in this case, by being far away from one’s parents, one will be unable to do for them that which the Torah does demand, and hence there is in fact a potential conflict here.
Without referring specifically to the mitzvah of aliyah, the Gemara teaches that a child may not fulfill a parent’s wish if it conflicts with something that the Torah already obligates the child to do or not to do. The rationale for this is that the parent is also bound by the Torah and therefore has no right to ask the child to disregard something which the Torah requires. (It may be noted that the same is true regarding rabbinic laws and even regarding customs.) The simple answer, then, is that a child who decides to make aliyah may do so even if his or her parents are opposed; this is indeed the ruling of both early and contemporary halachic authorities. The mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael thus overrides the mitzvos governing one’s relationship with one’s parent, though some point out that the child’s motivation to move to Eretz Yisrael must be for the sake of the mitzvah and not some extraneous concern.
It should be added, however, that this might not be the case if the child who wishes to make aliyah is responsible for the care of his or her parents, such as if the parent is elderly or sick. In such a situation, one should consult with competent rabbinic authorities for guidance. Moreover, it is advisable for the child to investigate why his or her parents object to the move. While a parent’s ideological or political concerns can be disregarded, concerns for the child’s safety, livelihood, or ability to find a suitable place to live and raise a family should not be dismissed so quickly, as the life experience and maturity of a parent can sometimes help prevent a child from making an irresponsible decision. The best approach would seem to be for the child and the parents to have a meaningful “meeting of the minds” where each party can articulate his and her position and may ultimately come to at least a begrudging acceptance of the other side even if not everyone will be happy with the final decision.
– Rabbi Michael Taubes has been involved in Jewish education, formal as well as informal, for over 40 years, serving both in the classroom and in various administrative posts. He is presently a Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS and Yeshiva University High School for Boys. In addition, he is the spiritual leader of Congregation Zichron Mordechai in Teaneck, N.J.