Eretz Yisrael Time

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006
As Israel Independence Day is about to come upon us, I was discussing a question with Jameel, though we still haven’t come up with a satisfactory answer.

The question is, why aren’t religious Jews moving back to Israel en masse?

Reading blogs by religious people in the Galus, the most common answer by the ‘more frum’ seems to be that it isn’t a mitzvah that one is ‘required’ to fulfill, and famous Rabbis are brought in to back up that statement.

I often ask, what exactly do they mouth in Birkat Hamazon, in Musaf, and in their t’fillot in general? Do they not understand what they are reading? Do they read the words and ignore them? Do they read them, and think it is talking about someone else? Are they waiting for a miracle?

These are people that are so incredibly makpid on even the slightest possible halacha or potential minutiae of the law, that you won’t even go into a restaurant without seeing the ‘our water is filtered’ signs everywhere.

The switchover from Judaism from a nationalistic state to a religious state was a deliberate and calculated temporary decision by the Rabbis to help preserve us during the exile until we returned to our land. Judaism was put into a suitcase while we were temporarily locked out of our home with everything still inside.

And the Rabbis purposely kept pumping the message into us about the return to Eretz Yisrael, and Eretz Yisrael being central to Judaism – in our t’filla, our Haggada, everywhere. Yet this message seems to have gotten lost despite it being right in front of our face.

For everyone that spends hours looking for the perfect Etrog, or won’t eat matza after the first day of Pesach because there is a chashash that their might be chometz, don’t you think they would want the opportunity to perform even more mitzvot (not to mention to perform them properly)?

I originally thought this might be a new phenomena. But Jameel pointed out something - Ezra & Nechemia.

When Ezra & Nechemia called for the people to return, what happened? The established Jews refused to come back!

They had the opportunity to rebuild the Temple, to bring the Karban Pesach, to fulfill a proper Simchat Beit Hashoeva. Nevuah! Yet they turned it all down!

Because they questioned if there is a specific mitzvah to do so?

That would perhaps be the answer given by the frum world. They would point to some Galus leader and say, he didn’t go, yet no one today would consider denying Ezra his authority as the then Gadol HaDor.

Yet, more so, why would frum Jews need an explicit mitzvah to return to the land and properly fulfill more (and all) the mitzvoth?

They daven 3 times a day to return to Israel.

They are makpid on some of the stupidest (and non-halachic) things, and have taken the concept of ‘minhag yisroel c’halacha’ to extremes that I’m sure the Rabbis never imagined could happen.

Yet when it actually comes to returning Judaism to its original and preferred state, to performing the mitzvot where they were meant to be (and in many cases, can only be) performed, not this transitional existence it is in now – silence, rejection, rebuttal.

If they are so careful about taking on more and more mitzvoth (and I still don't think a black hat counts), what about Trumah and Maaser and Karban Pesach? There is even an important deiyah that says performing mitzvoth in Galus is only practice, only to keep us from forgetting how to keep them, so we can perform them properly when we return to Israel.

When I speak about Aliyah in shuls in Galus, I get the polite responses, but no one is engraving it in their hearts or brains.

As Israel enters another year as an independent (if imperfect) state where a Jew can fulfill many more mitzvoth as they were meant to be performed, can anyone explain this to me?


Lady-Light said...

It's simple, really; people who try to 'out-frum' the next guy and are worried about every little detail of halacha, can be afraid, too. I believe there are two to three reasons why these people do not move to Eretz Yisrael:
1) Life is easier here; they will forgo (i.e., not really think about)doing the mitzvot t'luyot b'eretz yisrael in order to have, pashut, an easier life, physically.
2) They are afraid - plain and simple. Much is going on there; you have uncertain, worrisome thoughts when getting on a bus or taking a 'tremp' at a trampiada.
In the States, just get in your car and go. Or get on a bus and relax. Whole different ball game.
3) Even if the first two are not true for a given individual, there is the practical problem of making a decent living and supporting your family. Of the hundreds of people I know who have made Aliyah, a good proportion of them return regularly to the States to earn their living. In three months in the US, they make enough money to live in Israel for a year. These people include doctors and lawyers, among others. Not everyone can do that easily.
4) Here's a fourth reason: culture shock: Some people are shocked at the cruder culture of the Levant; they have been accustomed to the more developed, refined, polished culture of the States; the plunge into the "Wild East" shocks them; they are not ready to be halutzim all over again.
I'll bet someone else can think of other reasons as well. I personally think this just about sums it up.
With four kids in Israel, we are planning on our (second) Aliyah. One of these years...

Anonymous said...

You mean give up Teaneck? Woodmere? Englewood? All you need to do is buy an apartment in Jerusalem, and come visit 1 or twice a year.

Son of Deer

JoeSettler said...


I can accept some of your answers (perhaps not really 100% excuse them, but certainly accept them).

But what I don't understand though is the attempt to deny the centrality of Israel on a national and religious level.

If these people said they can't stand Israeli (not Levant) culture, or don't have means to make a living, I could understand that, but that isn't what they are saying.

They are saying there is no mitzva, or it's not an obligatory mitzvah, or Israel isn't really central to Judaism, and so on.

I could accept the answer "We know we are supposed to be in Israel, that is where a Jew is supposed to live and the only place to fulfill (more) mitzvot, etc. but I can't go because of x" - I would find that answer to be more honest than the ones that say "Such-and-such Rabbi didn't go, therefore I don't have to either", or "There is no mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael, btw is that water filtered, I only drink fitered water, and I won't filter it on Shabbat."

The truth is, I can't 100% accept your other answers because then you raise a question about other "difficult" mitzvot. Do we pass on them also because they are difficult?

There's already a p'tur for financial reasons, and I am personally willing to give a p'tur for Israeli (lack of) culture reasons.

But difficult or afraid? I have a problem with those. After all, the Gemorah says that Eretz Yisroel is only acquired through difficulties.

tafka PP said...

Heh: I think it is hilarious that I get more daily "mitzva points" walking down the street/speaking Hebrew than my Charedi relations who stay stuck in "Golus".

And it's "en masse", btw

Rafael V. Rabinovich said...

The issue is more complicated than that. The problem isn't ONLY the golus-perpetuation obsession of the CHU"L communities. It is also, and very seriously so, the galut-perpetuation obsession of the average Joe in Israel.
The Tzemach Tzedek 3rd Rebbe of Chabad, is credited with having coing the chassidishe slogan "macht do Eretz Yisroel" ("Make Eretz Yisrael here"). Israelies today seem to have switch the perspective on the slogan, and declared: "asu CHU"L kan," "make CHU"L here".
Now, tell me, in all honesty, what is a greater problem: not having the Jews phisically move to Eretz Yisrael, or having the Jews in Eretz Yisrael remove themselves mentally and spiritually from there?
Just to pre-empt an unbecoming reply: I do not excuse one thing with the other. It is obvious to me that two wrongs do not make a right.

JoeSettler said...

A.B. Yeshu proves that there is a serious problem with the “Israeli” mentality.

Even Ted Koppel was shocked and upset with AB Yeshu saying that Jews and Judaism have become irrelevant and passe (particularly the ones in Galut) and have been replaced by the new “Israeli” which is the complete Jew (without religion of course).

Obviously AB Yeshu as an “Israeli” wants to replace Jews and Judaism, but this was probably the first time Jews in Chul actually heard the true Left speak openly.

But there is always a touch of truth in every falsehood. To a certain point, AB Yeshu was right that the Jew in Galus are losing their relevancy.

While religious Jews in Israel are dealing with dynamic issues in the realm of Jewish national & cultural life in Israel, the Jews in galus are dealing with invisible somethings in the water. (Admittedly we have our own mishugas here too)

I recently went to the Jewish Museum in NY and was completely unimpressed. For all those millions of donated dollars, this mediocre exhibit simply could not represent the epitome or expansiveness of Jewish culture – yet the museum thought it did (I asked).

The center of Jewish (not Israeli) life is clearly now in Jerusalem not New York, and that will only keep growing.

Lakewood may currently sport the world’s largest collection of students learning Torah, but at some point the in-laws are going to run out of money and someone is going to have to go to work.

But to answer your question as Truth would quote, “It's better to live in Eretz Yisrael in a town of idolators than in exile in a town of scholars...”

Anonymous said...

Joe, the reason people, many of them in every other way very religious, claim there is no Mitzvah to live in Israel is actually very simple, but involves a little history. One of the early Zionist leaders by the name of Echad Haam gave a speech at (I believe) the second Zionist Congress in which he talked of seizing the schools to force religious Jewish children to abandon the Torah. This began a fight by much of the Zionist movement to destroy the Torah. Until this time the Charedei attitude had ranged from extremely positive to indifferent with opinion leaning strongly towards positive. In response to Achad Haam's speech and the ensuing anti-Torah attitude of many Zionists, the Charedim turned against the Zionists and rather then still love the land and hate those Zionists who were evil many turned against Eretz Yisrael as well. This is exceptionally tragic in that this attitude of hating Eretz Yisrael is utterly contrary to previous rulings by just about all Rishonim.

Though there is the psak of the Rambam that when it is a time of intense persecution it is permisable to leave Eretz Yisrael and many people say this is a evil government that persecutes Torah Jews.

Milo said...

Forgive my intrusion. I'm new to this blog, and as a born Gentile, I don't fully understand all of the terms used here. However, what I do understand is absolutely fascinating. If you wouldn't mind, sir, I'd like to bookmark this site and return again to keep reading. Thank you.

Lady-Light said...

To Joe Settler:
"Lakewood may currently sport the world’s largest collection of students learning Torah, but at some point the in-laws are going to run out of money and someone is going to have to go to work" -
that is the best paragraph I've read in a while!! I think you've hit the nail on the head.
Of course Israel is central to Judaism, but (playing devil's advocate)the Hareidim and Neturei Karta believe that the ONLY time Jews are supposed to flock to Israel, is AFTER, not before - the Moshiach comes; 'kibbutz galuyot' is after the coming of Moshiach.
I believe we should do everything in our power to "hasten the coming of Moshiach", and part of that, is being pro-active and making Aliyah.
One woman's opinion...

JoeSettler said...

spc. freeman:
The blog is open for all to read.

I missed your comment before. I changed the mistake, but didn't actually see it was the "purple parrot" who corrected me.

The even more funny thing is that you even get those "mitzva points" when you walk around East Jerusalem!

JoeSettler said...

Katamon on the other hand, I am not so sure about.

tafka PP said...

Yeah, nor me. Just as well I don't live there!

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