Photo Credit: Jewish Press

There are divergent views amongst our people regarding the status of the State of Israel. Though all will agree that Eretz Yisrael is a key element to the philosophy, indeed the survival, of the Jewish people, there are different opinions regarding the present state of affairs in Israel and specifically the present government of Israel.

There are those, thankfully few, of our number who reject the entire concept of the present State of Israel, and in some cases join our enemies for the ultimate purpose of destroying our people. These are the same people who side with the Arabs and “Hamas” and who actively support them. Such people are, in my eyes, an aberration, and further discussion of their views is gratuitous.


There is a second group of Jews who recognize the importance of Israel in biblical times but do not recognize the present government of Israel. This lack of recognition includes the Israel Defense Forces as well as any government-controlled agency. They further do not credit the present government with anything, despite the vast amount of Torah that is studied in present-day Israel and despite the fact that in our history there have been much more oppressive and pagan governments under Jewish rulership which lacked any Torah learning. This group reaps the profits of all the good that is in Israel, while refusing to be a part of that society and participate in its daily workings.

There is a third group of our people who recognize and totally support Israel. Though they understand that the government and the society do not echo in all cases their religious views, they have an underlying appreciation for their land. These people actively support the army, and dutifully send their sons to defend the country by being soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces. These soldiers in many cases are the best and most dedicated because for them, Israel represents the promise that G-d gave to the Jewish people.

Many of our sages from previous generations have also dealt with the Jewish relationship to Eretz Yisrael. Rashi in his famous commentary writes that when the Torah states “V’samtem et devarai,” and you shall place My words, it is teaching us: “Even when you are exiled, place tefillin upon you daily and hang mezuzot on your doorposts, so that when you return and live in Israel you will know how to properly fulfill these mitzvot.” Rashi in essence posits that performing mitzvot outside of Israel is only a preparation, and that fulfilling mitzvot is dependent on living in the land of Israel – that’s when we really get the credit for the mitzvot!

Yeshivot and Day Schools in the United States usually fall into one of these categories and tailor the philosophy of their school to coincide with those views. Day Schools throughout the Diaspora teach about Israel, but few bring home the message of the importance of fulfilling the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael (living in the land of Israel). We present to our students a “galus mentality” that posits that as long as we support Israel, we can live comfortably in the United States and that performing mitzvot there has the same importance.

But this is just not so! Mitzvot performed in Eretz Yisrael have far greater significance and impact. Living in Israel, as I do, one can feel the vibrancy of the Torah and how it relates to our daily lives. When we are at war, as in the present situation, we study the laws of fighting battles and how to best perform the mitzvot when engaging in battle. Halacha in Israel is alive and engaging. Soldiers are taught how to act on Shabbat – what they are permitted or forbidden to do. They are taught of the obligation to fight despite the dangers and the possible terrible consequences of war on their families and personal lives. They are proud. They are our modern-day heroes.

Truly religious Jews don’t find excuses to not live in Israel, claiming that today it is only a “mitzvah kiyumis,” one that is optional for Jews to perform. For them it is an obligation – for Torah without Israel is a contradiction in terms.

Judaism in Israel is not theoretical. It is alive and pulsating in every person. It is our guide to living our lives with the vitality and vibrancy of our Torah.


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Rabbi Mordechai Weiss has been involved in Jewish education for the past forty-six years, serving as principal of various Hebrew day schools. He has received awards for his innovative programs and was chosen to receive the coveted Outstanding Principal award from the National Association of Private Schools. He now resides in Israel and is available for speaking engagements. Contact him at [email protected] or 914-368-5149.