Cultivating a Love of Eretz Yisroel

From the moment I first came here to work on kibbutz, looking to experience the cleanest expression of communism in the Free World (…remember this was the 60’s!), and experienced the Land of Israel – the hills, the people, the smells, the songs, the connections – I knew that I was in love. It took me many years to go from disgruntled and passionate anti-Vietnam War protester to contented but still passionate resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, and I have logged many miles in my “wandering Jew” journey. But my love for Eretz Israel has never left my heart, and my desire to take my place among our people in Hashem’s precious land never wavered.

As I study our history, I understand what the leaders and tzadikkim of previous generations overcame in order to be here – the piracy, plagues, and poverty they endured in order to live here and do their mitzvas here – and how dear the mitzvah of settling in Eretz Israel was to them. Although I firmly believe that a Jew’s place is here, were I to be faced with the same hardships they had to endure, I don’t know if I would have the fortitude to come or to stay. And that’s for the same reason that I sometimes find it hard to mourn on Tisha B’Av (that I don’t really understand what we once had in the Bais Hamikdash). Here, I don’t think I really understand how precious this land is to Hashem. Even though our Torah is filled with references to how much Hashem loves this land, and how He desires to unite His Torah, His People and His Land together – I don’t think I really understand how important it is that I/we are here.

I’m fortunate, though. I don’t really need to understand it, in order to be here. My heart sings when I’m here. I want to be here, over all places in the world. Traveling to work on the bus every morning, traveling up through the hills to Yirushalayim, surrounded by Jews of the world who have all now come home, I bless Hashem with gratitude that He brought me back as well (although, granted, I did some hishtadlus myself). This is a mitzvah that comes easily to me, unlike for example, covering my hair or dressing b’tznius, where I’ve really had to work hard.

But the question I am asking now is: Granted that we don’t all feel the desire to be here…. But why aren’t we all working on cultivating the proper kavannah towards this mitzvah as we do towards other mitzvas? Why isn’t the mitzvah of settling, or even desiring to settle, in the Land of Israel treated the same as other mitzvos? Why don’t our Rabbis discuss it? I have a lot of trouble reconciling my understanding of the importance of Eretz Israel with the silence I hear from our rabbis.

Finally after 2,000 years, we have the ability to come home, and it seems like we are repeating the actions of the Jews from the Babylonian exile – we are ignoring the tremendous bracha that Hashem is giving us, and choosing galut over geula.

31 comments on “Cultivating a Love of Eretz Yisroel

  1. At the risk of going beyond a travelogue, I will preface and close this post with two stories, with a Dvar Torah interspaced in between them.

    R Berel Wein relates in this week’s Dvar Torah that his father, a Litvishe rav, visited EY in the 1920s. When he returned, he talked excitedly about the cultivation and development of EY.When he was asked whether the farmers wore kipot, he responsed that his eyes were so wet with tears because of the fulfilment of a lifelong dream to see EY being developed and cultivated by Jews that he was blinded as to whether he could see the presence or absnece of kipot.This morning, we went to the Museum of the Palmach in Tel Aviv. It is an interactive museum that depicts the training and activities of the Palmach, the shock troops of the Haganah and the predecessors to the IDF. When I saw the young men and women who died for the protection of the entire Yishuv and their butchery by the Arabs, I thought of RYBS’s words that any Jew who died in those conflicts and in any of Israel war’s died Al Kiddush HaShem. On the way home, the tour guide, a frum Jew described how R Aryeh Levin ZTL , ustilized the Goral HaGra to identify the remains of fighters who had been killed and buried in a manner whereby it was otherwise impossible to identify the names of the victims. One can read more about this in the wonderful book “A Tzaddik in Our Time”, but I was brought to tears by the description of this incident. While one can call such a museum the secular Israeli version of Tom Brokaw’s books on the generation that fought WW2, IMO, the actions of R Levin ZTL and the statements of R Wein’s father as well as the words of RYBS place what could have been a totally secular Zionist museum into a Torah context.

    Back to the travelogue. We then returned to Geulah and Meah Shearim. I bought some sefarim in Manny’s, an incredible store, and davened Mincha/Maariv in the same location . We then met our daughter’s roommate and her parents for dinner. Over dinner, we agreed that we enjoyed spending money on items that we might not be so ready to pay for in the States because it was a way of supporting Acheinu Bnei Yisrael BEY-a form of Tzedakah, so to speak.

  2. Today, we took a long bus ride to drop off some things that we brought with us for a daughter and son in law of friends who live in Kiryat Sefer, a brand new city that consists almost exclusively of Litvishe Kolleleit and their families.( FWIW, those who think that NY bus drivers are skilled at their work simply should compare their work with that of any of the bus drivers in Yerushalayim who navigate their buaes as if they were motorcycles!) The view of the Arei Yehudah was awesome.I thought of the verses in Tehilim that describe them in such amazing terms. When you enter KS, you are struck immediately by the simple fact that every street is named after a Gadol. There are tons of baby carriages, strollers and bicycles. Watching these families exit a bus is an exercise in seeing how the midos of chesed are instilled from a very young age. There are yeshivos, chaderim, BYs and beautifully built buildings with gorgeous views of the countryside. There are stores owned by residents who run them but manage to learn two sedarim a day in the same fashion ala the CC and CI. I would highly reccomend the community, Emmanuel or Brachfeld for any kollel couple that wants to live in such a beautiful atmosphere of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus CHesed but is financially unable to afford either Bnei Brak or Yershalayim.

    We then returned back to Geulah. While Linda purchased some gifts and necessities,I was able to find a minyan for Mincha and Maariv in a seforim store ( not Manny’s which had closed already for Channukah).I was asked to be the Shaliach Tzibur among a minyan that comprised Litvishe, Chasidishe and MO/RZ. I thought after my silent Shemoneh Esreh of all of the talk here about integration of BTs and I thought that noone in that minyan even raised a boo aboout my serving as the Shlaliach Tzibbur.FWIW, I thought that the kavanah during those two tefilos was simply awesome. We hope to take in a few tours and return to Geulah and Meah Shearim for some serious sefarim shopping. This Shabbos, we will be in one of our favorite neighborhoods=Bayat Vagan, the home of YU’s Gruss/Torah Shragah campus. Michlala and Yeshivas Kol Torah. I hope that we will get a chance to sample the davening around the neighorbood and attend many shiurim with our daughter on Monday.

  3. Today, we spent the better part of our day touring the archaelogical dig and park of Ir David ( The City of David). For anyone who has learned Navi, especially about how David HaMelech conquered the city ( via the water tunnels) , the annointment of Shlomoh HaMelech , the defeat of Sanncherib , Churban Bayis Rishon and Mei Shilocach-I cannot recommend this site highly enough. The Nach and many Mishnayos will take on an entirely new vistas. I also learned and davened Maariv in the mini Kotel ( which is adjacent to the left of the Kotel). There can be very few events as inspiring as learning Shekalim (which deals with paying for communal karbanos) and davening as close to Har HaBayis)as possible. There is a the equivalent of a wonderfully equipped Beis Medrash with minyanim and mispallelim around the clock and an ezras nashim that overlooks the mini Kotel. Tomorrow, we will be BeEzras HaShem visiting children of friends in Kiryat Sefer, a new city whose main insdustry is Limud HaTorah and Chesed on a 24/7 basis.

  4. The Gemorah mentions that one of the requests that the Cohanim make to Hashem is that He “not listen to the prayers of travellers”. This is because travellers always wish that it does not rain and EY is a country that is very much dependent on rain. It seems that every tourguide in Israel, even the most irreligious, is familiar with this gemorah.

    In addition to this being a truism, if we really take it to heart, it allows one to be happy with a personal sacrifice (a sunny vacaation) for the greater good.

  5. Ora-There is an amazing institution known as Taanis Gshamim which AFAIK was resorted to by the Gdolim very recently because of the absence of rain in EY a few years ago. If this rainless weather keekps up,I would not be surprised to see at least some introductory measures that are described in Masectah Taaniis and SA decreed. The absence of rain at the proper time may seem like gorgeous weather to the unititated but is not exactly a Siman Bracha for those aware of why, when and where HaShem arranges for rainfall-especially here where HaShem’s presence is felt “Merishis HaShanah ad Acharis HaShanah.”

  6. Steve–
    sounds like an excellent trip.
    however, not to nitpick, but it is NOT gorgeous weather, we need rain!! this is officially the longest that Israel has gone without rain in Nov/Dec since someone started keeping track (1948). :( very sad. anyway have lots of fun with your daughter and son-in-law and friends and such. my mom is coming soon, i hope she’ll be as happy here as you seem to be.

  7. while the facts surrounding this post defibnitely involve our visit to EY, I think that they also could be posted under either the future of kiruv or varieties of kiruv discussions as well. I leave that decision to our capable moderators.

    A few years ago, I mentioned elsewhere on the web that I received a first hand tour of the Mir in Ywerushalatyim and spent the better part of an afternoon learning bchavrusa there. I walked out resolved with a determination and a resolve that noone should ever put down a Beis Medrash, Yeshivah , etc without spending some time on the inside.As I mentioned earlier, our host is the creator and director of Ohr Sanmeach’s Center program for post collegiates.

    Tonight, I attended a Chanukah party for Ohr Samaeach’s Center Program which was addressed by the RY and Mashgiach of Ohe Samaeach. I was bowled over by their Divrei Torah from the RY and Mashgiach, humbled by an inspiring Dvar Torah from one of the talmidim as well and the many post collegiates who were atternding the program from the US, Candada, UK and
    S Africa.( In fact, if Mark coukld use any connections that he has with Ohr Samaeach, IMO, R Shlomo Weiner, the Mashgiach Ruachani of Ohr Samaeach, would make a fabulous speaker for a Scholar In Residence weekend!).
    Contrary to some misinformed opinions, these young men were not engaged in looking the act without seriuosly growing in Torah.I saw no evidence of glazed brainwashing or similar factless allegations that some have raised here or elsewhere. These young men were learning Perek Hamaniach in Bava Kama.Their tables consisted of sefarim that one would find in any beis medrash of any yeshiva worthy of that name. Their attire ranged from classical yeshivish to collegiate attire. FWIW, none are allowed to wear a black hat in the first year of their program simply because they are not ready for such a statement as part of their lifestyle.IMO, Ohr Samaeach has successfully tapped the market of Jewish post graduates from all sorts of backgrounds and created a program that helps realize their potential as Bnei Torah who then progress to yeshivas across the Torah spectrum.Ohr Sameach deserves a major Yasher Koach for developing this program.

    The question remains whether YU’s rebuilding of the long declining JSS program as the reconstituted Mechinah program will create an option for MO post high school youth. IMO, just as Ohr Samaeach found and created an option in the Center for Post collegiates, YU could and should focus JSS/Mechinah for post high school youth who want to learn how to learn, grow in their level of observance and get a college education Based upon what I have seen and read, YU had in fact remodeled and retooled JSS and is now actively marketing the program in the manner that I have mentioned and advocated here and elsewhere.

  8. One more point-This morning, we took a bus from Ramot into the center of town. A Charedi man invited me to sit next to him even though the bus did not appear to be Charedi in nature.I noticed that many of the Charedi men and women either were learning Mishnayos, Tehilim , etc. It was amazing not being the only person learning on a bus. IMO, the only comparison in ChUl would be the “Chasid buses” to NYC from Monsey or a similar bus to Lakewood.

  9. Rather than engage in discussion re the pros and cons of living in EY and what IMO is a very tired discussion of the halachic and hashkafic issues, I think that I just will mention what I have noticed and will be doing.We are staying with friends this week and with my daughter’s brother in law and spouse next week. The weather has been gorgeous. Our friend is the director of the Center for Ohr Sameach and invited me to its Channukah party. I hope and am sure that my visit there will have the same effect there as my visit a few years ago to the Mir. We will tour the excavations at Ir David and sit in with our daughter at her classes in Michlalah with Rav Leff, Rav Hartman and R Cooperman, just to name a few of the excellent Rebbes on the staff of Michlala. I hope to make my usual stops in Geulah and Meah Shearim as well for a few sefarim as well.

    Channukah here is awesome. One sees Menorahs in every apartment window and even some outside as well. There are sbiurim and concerts for men and women.

  10. JR–what kind of decreased standard of living was Rav Kamenetsky talking about? Is this written somewhere? I’m kind of surprised, it seems to me that pretty much every mitzva we keep requires a “decreased standard of living” (from the physical side only, of course): kosher food is more expensive, sefarim are expensive, tuition is obscenely expensive, etc. Why would living in Israel be any different?

  11. JR-I stand by my POV-which was not intended as a guilt trip on anyone. One cannnot discuss the issue IMO without having at least a baseline level of knowledge of the sources.Look at it this way-Duchening is a daily obligation as are the Mitzvos Hateluyos Baaretz. We know that no less than Moshe Rabbeinu pleaded with HaShem to enter EY for that reason alone .One just feels much more Lifnei HaShem here , especially in Jerusalem I find it hard to believe that today, anyone seriously maintains that the level of ruachnius in ChUl is superior to that in EY. When you see the entire city more or less shut down for Shabbos, it is an inspiring sight. When you see families walking in the streets on the way to or from shul, one appreciates Shabbos so much more.

    The issue of a quality is a totality different issue. Of course, all Gdolim say that one showld have a good adjustment to a move to EY but far too many of us think that we are so indispensible to our communities when in fact that just isn’t so by any standard. As far as a decreased standard of living is concerned, that is by no means a universala standard, but one can argue that the family that goes away to an exotic locale in ChUl for Pesach , has a summer home, sends its children to learn in EY but has no interest in either visiting them or thinking of establishing a summer or part time home in EY may IMO be not as intellectually honest on the issue than someone who struggles to opay tuitions, sends kids to EY and makes visiting friends there a religious priority. WADR, I think that it you see the views of the Gdolei HaPoskim, you will see that living in EY is a more of a chiyuv than a kiyum ala standing for Krias HaTorah.

    I seem to recall that RYK once mentioned that the Torah world had seemingly given over Chibas RY tio secular Zionists, and the study of Tanach and the Hebrew language to Maskilim .Unless and untill we realize that much of Tanach requires a first hand geographical knowledge of EY that can only really be acquired by Tiyulim and the like, we have no reason to blame anyone else but ourselves for our view that visiting EY, let alone even thinking of living here, “is a chumra” ala standing for Krias HaTorah.

  12. ?!

    I asked about street NAMES and you gave me sources and information as well as a lecture about lots of things but not about what I asked!

    By the way, my father asked Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky z’l about the obligation to move to Eretz Yisrael and R’ Kamenetzky said that if it entails a decreased standard of living there is no obligation.

    Before adjuring one and all to make aliya and putting a guilt trip on those who don’t, it’s respectful to acknowledge that not all poskim hold that one is obligated to do so. At the same time I think, like the author of this article, that it is vital to cultivate a love for Eretz Yisrael.

  13. JR-Look at the Bach ,Taz and Magen Avraham in Hilcos Tisha Bav re the Halacha of Arei Yedhudah Bbinyanah.The Bach quotes many Acharonim as saying that there is no halacha of kriyah when cities have been rebuilt under Jewish rule.A lengthy discussion of this halacha is in HaMoadim BHalacha Pp. 441-442, wherein R SY Zevin ZTL sugggested that the founding of the State of Israel ( “Ashrei Shezacinu Lchach!”) and the freeing of the mountains of Judea from foreign rule wouild be suffficient to vitiate any requirement for kriyah presently. OTOH, RYBS and RSZA argued that without a rebuilt Beis HaMikdash that the city was still not rebuilt.

    While the above issue is a machlokes, one can argue that streets named after Neviim,Tanaim, Amoraim, Rishonim, Acharonim and Gdolim in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh have as much or at least equal kedusha as such streets as Ocean Parkway, 14th Avenue, Route 59, Main Street, Park Heights Avenue, Yeshiva Lane or East 7th Street, just to name a few streets in some cities that are known as being a Makom Torah. I would argue that there is no comparison between the street scene between EY and ChuL either on Shabbos, YT, or Erev Shabbos or YT and that the same size stores that sell a lot less wholesome newspapers than Yated or Hamodia in ChuL in EY are where you can browse and buy seforim in any neighborhood in Yerushalayim.

    I would also suggest that you read the Ramban on Chumash as well as the KisveI Ramban where Ramban states emphaticaly that one cannot compare Torah life in ChuL with Torah life in EY. In fact, Ramban quotes a Talmudic passage that someone who lives in ChuL is considered as if he worships AZ Btaharah and or if he or she has no God RL.

    You used the term “be and all and end all” originally in a manner which IMO put down what Ramban and many other Rishonim and Acharonim understand to be an obligatory Mitzvas Aseh-Yishuv EY and expressed a POV that one should merely have kavanah in Tefilos and yearn for Geulah and Moshiach without even thinking of taking a positive step forward via a an airplane and visit or consider living in the Palace of the King- a mitzvah far safer and easier to fullfil than what was considered unsafe during the days of the Baalei Tosfos-. As far as the limked JO article, I stand by my POV that it provided zero insight into an old debate and discussion.

  14. I haven’t heard that many gedolim see the street names as proof etc. Can you tell me which gedolim or in which sefarim I can see this idea?

    As for your question about “be-all-and-end-all”, would you be so kind as to rephrase it as I’m not sure what you’re asking.

    I’ll just add, for the meantime, that the ultimate spiritual goal is Geula yet I often find this point absent in a discussion or article etc. about aliya.

  15. JR-WADR, street names in Yerushalayim that evoke Tanach, Shas, etc are in the view of many Gdolim as proof of Yerushalayim Habenyah at least to some degree.I would prefer to not disucss the JO article which IMO adds nothing to the discussion except presenting an updated version of an old debate and long ongoing discussion. Thinking about Geulah and Moshiach beyond what the important goal of meaning what we intend when we daven is undoubtedly important, but how can one say that living in EY is “the be-all-and-end-all” as opposed to the ultimate spiritual direction of all Jews?

  16. Re the street names – I’ve felt uncomfortable about that. “Would you please pick up some pizza from that new store on Shmuel Ha’Navi?” Ugh ..

    As for inculcalting a yearning for Eretz Yisrael and emphasizing aliya at every opportunity – well, how about inculcating a yearning for Geula, for Moshiach and actually meaning when it says dozens of times a day in the bentching and davening? Or is making aliya the be-all-and-all?

    here’s a link to the Dec. 2004 J.O. article:

  17. One more point-as one walks and drives around Yerushalayim, one cannot help but be struck at the names of the streets and compare them with street names in ChUl. Street names and neighborhoods resonate with Neviim, Tanaim, Rishonim, Acharonim and Gdolim.

  18. For many of us in ChuL, one of the best ways of cultivating and maintaining a love of EY in a physical sense is visiting our children who are learning in yeshivos and seminaries. We visited our older daughter back in 2004 and we are leaving for EY Bezras HaShem for two weeks this Wednesday night.

    Here are a few suggestions for any first time or returning visitor who is visiting a child. First of all, if your son or daughter invites you to sit in on a shiur or chavrusa or chaburah, do so and don’t pull them out of valuable time that could be devoted to Torah learning.You will be inspired by so many young men or women devoting their time to learning Torah.

    Try to take walking tours around Yerushalayim, especially the Old City. Aside from the SOY seforim sale, there simply is no more remarkable place for Tashmishei Kedushah and Seforim. Try also to take a tour up north to Tzefat. You will see Kivrei Tzadikim from every age in Jewish history. If at all possible, take a tour to Kever Rachel and Chevron. IMO, my kavanah seemed more enhanced in the shul adjacent to the Meoras HaMachpelah than the Kotel. If your son or daughter can get you access for a bracha from a Gadol, run, don’t walk. I am especially looking forward to Chanukah in Yerusahalayim where Channukah has a special beauty without the weird “competition” and “comparisons” with other faith’s holidays.

  19. Mark,

    As baalei teshuva, we know better than anyone else, that spirituality can be found and cultivated anywhere. I find it difficult to believe that it cannot be nutured in a place that is, by definition, the epicenter of spirituality. And I find it puzzling, to say the least, that people can claim to “know” that their greatest spiritual growth will be in chutz l’aretz without ever having tried living in Eretz Yisroel. As Stever pointed out, the center of Torah has finally returned here.

    There are wonderful “frum” communities all over the US. We made aliyah from one such community. We experienced considerable growth in that community. At some point everyone has to realize that the definition of spiritual growth is getting closer to G-d. And let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to get close to Him when you’re in His house.

    You said yourself that people have to do serious soul serching to understand their motivation for staying in Chutz L’aretz. One thing you find in common among many of the people who make aliyah is that they’ve done this soul searching and that’s what brought them here.

    I didn’t mean to offend with my comment about miraglim, but it’s quite apt and necessary for people to hear. It is repeated many times in Rabbi Teichtel’s Eim Habbanim Semeicha as well as many other seforim related to aliyah. You mentioned that at least two great people said one can use the spiritual growth criteria as a reason to stay in Chutz L’aretz. The miraglim were all great men of their time. What Rav Teichtel teaches is that just as the majority of the miraglim erred in their judgement of Eretz Yisroel so too, kal v’chomer, does this happen to great people in our time.

    And of course on the level of the average person, each time someone comes back from Eretz Yisroel with his litany of “reasons” why he can’t live there he is repeating the sin of the miraglim.

    This is not to say that there aren’t legitimate reasons for people not living here. Of course there are and they are spelled out in halacha. However, today there are many smokescreens erected to blind people to the importance of living in Israel. This is not the place to go into it, but suffice it to say that if the world of frum Jews in Chutz L’aretz were a) educated properly that Eretz Yisroel is the place where we are supposed to live and b) were encouraged to do a true cheshbon hanefesh as to why they’re not livng here we would see a massive aliyah.

  20. R Leff’s article is a powerful argument for a religious aliyah, regardless of whether one is a Religious Zionist. The JO articles presented both sides of the debate over the issues generated by such a move. If our kids wound up in Israel, I definitely could see us moving there. As our rav has pointed out ( and Mark will confirm this), the center of the Torah world moved from Europe to the US after W2 and now has moved back to EY. It is a much more religiously wholesome place to leave.
    Obviously, if you go with kids,you should go as early as possible to avoid causing them any stresses associated with moving to a foreign country. In addition, you have to find the right community, school and means of making a living. I will note that most,if not all of the people that I know who have made aliyah are gainfully employed, etc.However, they sacrificed what could have been far more income and secular success to live in EY. It also means that you find your hashkafic niche because there are many differences within the sterotypically monolithic Charedi and Religious Zionist world that are very apparent.

    With all of those observations, I envy our friends who live in EY.How can anyone compare the streets of any Chutz LaAretz neighborhood with any neighborhood in Jerusalem where sefarim are sold on the street and there is a mall with stores for sefarim, mens’ and womens’ clothes? I can’t imagine how anyone can say that even the most yeshivishe or Chasidishe communities here offer the same possibilities for religious growth on a day to day level as their counterparts in EY.

  21. Menachem – I personally have a hard time hearing that where you and your family would grow most spiritually is not one of the primary criteria on choosing a place to live. In addition to the fact that two very great people said it.

    Of course a person has to do some serious soul searching to determine if that is what is motivating them to stay in Chutz L’Aretz.

    As an aside, the casting of the “meraglim” mentality label and some other comments adds more heat than light to the discussion and makes some of your good points a little harder to hear.

  22. Great post Chava!

    With all due respect to Mark and Token FFB, your comments reflect a “Meraglim” mindset. It’s easy to find “reasons” not to live here and I would never second guess any individual on their personal decision. However, as a clal, diaspora Judaism is in a mental stupor when it comes to this issue.

    The Jewish Observer article that was mentioned was mamash loshon hora on Eretz Yisroel. Of course it’s not easy to make Aliyah but it wasn’t easy becoming Baalei Teshuva either. The problems illucidated in that article are by and large self-fullfilling problems, i.e. if the Yeshivisha velt in America would make Aliyah en-mass those problems would be minimized or eliminated.

    The 3000 North American olim who have made Aliyah in the past 4 years and who are largely doing well, put the lie to many of these arguments. In the entire history of Judaism it has NEVER been easier to move here. We don’t have to hang out in the desert for 40 years, we don’t have to walk across Europe, we don’t have to take endless boat rides, we don’t have to fight Malaria as we empty swamps.

    We just have to pack up a rediculously huge number of belongings, get our “nesher”, and move to our new home, which in many areas will be nicer and more spacious than the one we left. All the while having our hand held by Nefesh B’Nefesh and Hashem.

    Can you imagine meeting some of the gedolim from the previous generations who so yearned to be here and telling them, in light of the above, that it’s not “convenient” for you to make Aliyah, it’s hard finding schools for your kids, there’s religious friction, or you can do better spiritually in Chutz L’aretz!?!

  23. Sorry for the long comment however I couldn’t resist. Below is the article written by Rav Leff regarding aliyah:

    Where is the Religious Aliyah from the West?
    from “To Dwell in the Palace – Perspectives on Eretz Yisrael”

    DRIVING HOME THROUGH the largely-uninhabited hills of Judea, or walking down the streets of an Israeli city still lacking the imprint of Torah, I hear the question echoing: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?”

    I moved the rest of this great article over here. – Mark

  24. Max- (from the consumer of the tainted wheat)

    Nice to see you comment again. Any thoughts on my message to you in the “The Myth of Self-Actualization” thread?

    Mrs. Ashkenazi- I lived in Staten Island for a while. The, then, Mora D’Asra of the Young Israel there was Rabbi Marcus. I heard him speak several times and I heard from those who heard him speak regularly that no matter what the topic, occasion or parsha was he worked in a thought about the importance of aliyah. He was a veritable “one-note-Yankel” emphasizing it’s centrality at every opportunity. He made aliyah, over the decades so have many members of his shul, especially the younger ones.

    I understand that there is a respectable aliyah rate from Teaneck where it is emphasized by nearly all the Rabbonim. Just trying to point out that the answer to your question “Why don’t our Rabbis discuss it? ” is that, in fact, many do.

  25. I find Mrs. Ashkenazi’s thesis very close to my heart. Living in the U.S., I feel the strong sense of sadness and irony of living chutz l’aretz in the age when returning to Eretz Israel is easier than at any other time over the past 2000 years. I have visited Eretz Israel number of times before and after becoming observant and always felt at home, always felt complete. Mark is correct that there are formidable obstacle for many people to move to Israel, but the question raised by Mrs. Ashkenazi still stands. How many Jews, Hutz L’aretz, feel the lacking of not being there, and how many feel complete despite being outside Israel, and why do our Rabbis not emphasize that we should be have strong yearning to come to our Holy Land. This question has bothered me for number of years, and now that I read it stated my Mrs. Ashkenazi, I came across a possible answer.
    Perhaps the lack of yearning to live in Eretz Israel is the indication of spiritual stagnation of the Jew who lacks such yearnings. How can a person of any nation not yearn for his national homeland? And if a person of a particular nation does not dream to be in his homeland, it is an indication that the person’s identification with his nation is only peripheral. Perhaps by emphasizing spiritual growth, Torah study and commitment to mitzvahs in general our Rabbis hope to develop a stronger Jewish identity, which automatically leads to yearning for its homeland.

  26. I will not dare broach the subject of religious Zionism and anti-Zionism as I am no expert in halacha. But I can say that people in chutz l’aretz also love Eretz Yisroel. I relate to your descriptions completely; that was exactly how I felt when I was a student there. There’s no place like Eretz Yisroel.

    Also, this galus phenomenon is not unique in Jewish history. When the Prophet Ezra sounded the call to the Jews to return to Israel after the first exile, the majority of Jews ignored him and remained in Bavel. And it seems like a refua before the makah because that way, the Jews had a place to go after the second exile.

  27. I think R Horowitz’s recent post on the polarization in Eretz Yisrael is part of the answer to your question. It is very hard for Americans to deal with the fanaticism and hard divisions between different religious groups.

  28. The way I was taught the issue is that a person should live where he/she will grow most spiritually.

    Although Eretz Yisroel has the greatest potential for spiritual growth, for many Americans finding the right neighborhood, schools and livelihood provide significant pre-occupying obstacles which would impede growth. In fact a recent Jewish Observer magazine (within the last 18 months) seemed to discourage Americans from making the move.

    G-d willing, I will post in the near future a shiur by Rabbi Welcher on the halachic aspects of The Mitzvah of Living in Eretz Yisroel.

  29. That’s exactly the point – where is our head? what do we really desire? That is really what is on the line here. We all have our own situations, our own heshbonot. Hashem determines the success or failure of our actions, but it all comes down to what do we really want… Do we want Eretz Israel or not? Will we repeat the chait of the meraglim again?

    (And yes, I learn with Rabbi Winston each week here in Beit Shemesh. His newest book is quite convincing.)

  30. Chava,
    I agree whole heartedly with you. Rabbi Pinchos Winston just came out with a book discussing religious aliya. He brings forth some powerful material. Rabbi Leff also has on his website an article that he originally used as a forward for a book on aliyah.

    People who can’t live here should atleast desire it with all their heart. It should pain them to be in Chutz L’aretz. I also think that for certain Jews living here, they need to emphazise their love for eretz yisrael more. Not the poilitical love or belief in the state but the love and the merit they have to live here. Nobody living here or overseas should think: Monsey, brooklyn or Eretz Yisrael are all the same.

  31. I think while your comment may apply to Rabbis in the Diaspora it does not apply to those in Israel. In fact I feel that often in Israel the reverse is true – that we tend to overemphasise this mitzvah of settling the land (Yehuda, Shomron and Aza in particular) and neglect our other responsibilities to our fellow Jews.

    There are 613 Mitzvot in the Torah and we need to find the proper balance – not to overemhasise any at the expense of others. If we look t the education system in secular Israeli schools and the huge gap between the religious and secular as it exists today in Israel, it is clear that a lot more work needs to be done in bridging this gap. If the national religious camp was not solely focused on the idea of settling greater Israel (which is important) and concentrated more on education and outreach we would be in a far better situation today.

    However having said that, maybe this mitzvah of living in the land of Israel is the one that we can use to unite the Jews currently in Eretz Israel.

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