Category Archives: Exile

How to be proud of Israel

Flag of Israel with the Mediterranean...Within the course of several days I read three interesting articles regarding Israel that I thought merited sharing. One of them bothered me very much;  I thought it deserved comment because it was rather unfortunate that an orthodox Jewish college student is taking up the mantra of left-wing anti-Semites; the other two, because they show Israel for what it is – a state built upon Jewish ethics and caring, and a land which has been waiting for Israel, it’s rightful owners, to return.

The “unfortunate” article appeared this past Sunday in the Jerusalem Post. It was an opinion piece by Atara Siegel  explaining “Why Israel is losing support from Jewish students on US college campuses“. (I still can’t figure out the Jerusalem Post’s weird choice of accompanying picture of a female student at Barnard College’s graduation ceremony who looks like an animal  about to pounce.) I expected this to either be enlightening or an article coming from a left-leaning anti-Israel student in one of the many liberal/secular colleges across the country.  Atara Siegel is, surprisingly, a student at Yeshiva University who felt the need  to explain to the world that although she loves Israel, studied here for a year, plans on working here in the summer, and making sure her education would be transferable to Israel she refuses to lobby Congress on behalf of Israel. Why? Because no matter how much good Israel does in the world it’s not enough since Israel is not a “perfect country” and the Israeli people are not perfect people. She writes:

… I wish I could ignore painful articles about price tag attacks and settlers shooting Palestinians, and simply write to American politicians and newspapers about Israel’s commitment to the security of its citizens, its medical and technological advances and aid to third world countries. But I can’t.

… Of course no country is perfect…

… But even one racist slur is a problem, even one unprovoked price tag attack damages Israel’s claim to have the moral high ground in its relations with Palestinians.

And when it is not just one racist slur, but many, not just marginal extremists involved in the melee, but Knesset ministers, it becomes harder, even for someone with a deep love for Israel, to advocate for Israel as the most democratic country and most stable American ally in the Middle East.

As someone who loves Israel deeply, this trend is extremely saddening. In addition to coming to visit, working in and studying in Israel, I want to be proud of Israel, too.

The next article  in Mishpacha Magazine’s January 9, 2013  issue, titled “Open Hearts in the War Zone” presents the perfect juxtaposition to Atara Siegel’s piece. It shows the true nature of the Jewish State and the Jewish people – and makes me really proud of Israel and her wonderful people!

Taking cover as Iron Dome swings into action.

The author, Rachel Ginsberg, relates the experiences of a team of American Hatzaloh volunteers who were called to Israel to assist during the recent Operation Amud Anan – Pillar of Defense. They had  previously trained in Israel so that they could come here and pitch-in during emergency situations. These fine people who came to help out their brothers, rather than castigate them,  exclaim about how amazing Israel really is:

[Mordechai] Soroka [of Brooklyn] says one of the most surprising things he witnessed was the similar care administered to Arab patients, in spite of the hostilities on the ground. …’We provided ventilation and medication and high-level care for over an hour,’ [Eliyahu] Feldman [of Miami] reported. ‘It’s impossible to convey our mixed feelings, except to say what the well-spoken IDF commander answered when asked why we render care to Palestinians: ‘Because we’re not them.’

And the next day…

it happened again.

The third article, Israel’s miraculous climate changepresents a rather interesting (and seldom heard) long view of history  by Joseph Farah, a pro-Israel Arab-American. It’s a great read and I hope you enjoy and appreciate it as much as I did:

JERUSALEM – Here I am in Israel, and what am I
thinking about?

Climate change.

Why climate change?

For 1,800 years it seemed unlikely that Israel would ever be reborn.

No nation in history had ever been regathered after such a lengthy period. Even the Hebrew language was lost in that time.

Meanwhile, the Promised Land became a barren wasteland – a desert no man could master.

Have you ever wondered why the Holy Land became a wasteland during the 1,800-year dispersion of the Jews that lasted until they returned in significant numbers beginning in the early 20th century?

1750 Homann Heirs Map of Israel - Palestine - ...

1750 Homann Heirs Map of Israel – Palestine – Holy Land (12 Tribes) – Geographicus – Palestina-homannheirs-1750 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever wondered why Mark Twain was so disappointed at what he found in his travels through the area in the 19th century?

Have you ever wondered why, during that period of nearly two millennia, no other people successfully and permanently settled this land that is so much in dispute today?

It was all a fulfillment of prophecy. Little did Mark Twain know when he wrote about his trip to the Holy Land that he was fulfilling prophecy, but he was.

1 Kings 9:6-8 explains it all:

“But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people: And at this house, which is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the Lord done thus unto this land, and to this house?”

It wasn’t just the children of Israel who suffered as a result of their disobedience and apostasy. So did the land itself.

In his book, “Prophecies for the Era of Muslim Terror,” Rabbi Menachem Kohen points out the land suffered an unprecedented, severe and inexplicable (by anything other than supernatural explanations) drought that lasted from the first century until the 20th – a period of 1,800 years coinciding with the forced dispersion of the Jews.

Kohen sees this as a miraculous fulfillment of prophecy found in the book of Deuteronomy – especially chapter 28:23-24:

“And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.

“The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.”

The climate in Israel dramatically changed during this 1,800-period – way before Al Gore discovered “global warming.”

Before the Jews entered Canaan, it was described in the Bible as a land flowing with milk and honey. If you read what Israel’s climate and natural landscape was like from the time Joshua crossed the Jordan right up until the time of Jesus, it sounds like a heavily forested land. There were amazing crops raised by the people who inhabited the land when the Jews arrived.

Once I wondered what happened to Israel to turn it into the dusty, arid land it was when the Jews came back in the 20th century. Until I read that prophecy in Deuteronomy, brought to my attention by Rabbi Kohen, I had no clue.

For 1,800 years, it hardly ever rained in Israel. This was the barren land discovered by Mark Twain. So-called “Palestine” was a wasteland – nobody lived there. There was no indigenous Arab population to speak of. It only came after the Jews came back.

Beginning in A.D. 70 and lasting until the early 1900s – about 660,000 days – no rain.

I decided to check this out as best I could and examined the rainfall data for 150 years in Israel beginning in the early 1800s and leading up to the 1960s. What I found was astonishing – increasing rainfall almost every single year – with the heaviest rainfall coming in and around 1948 and 1967. Is this just a coincidence?

I’ll be quite honest with you: I don’t think so.

Nor do I think Israel can continue today to make bad stewardship decisions regarding the land bequeathed to the Jews by God without consequences – serious consequences.

And that’s exactly what Israel is doing today – yielding to global pressure to trade “land for peace.” It won’t work. In fact, the prophet Daniel (Daniel 11:39) warns that this will eventually happen in the last days – and bring about the final conflagration known as “Armageddon.”

That’s why I believe in climate change. But it’s not the imaginary kind caused by carbon dioxide. It’s caused by the Creator of carbon dioxide – and everything else.

He’s still got a plan for this land of Israel. And He is absolutely intolerant of anyone or anything that interferes with it.

And considering the tremendous amount of rainfall we had here in Israel just this past week, I would say that G-d is still on our side (even if Atara isn’t).

I would just like to remind Atara of two things: (1) even our patriarchs, matriarchs, and greatest leaders like Moshe Rabeinu (Moses) and Dovid Hamelech (King David)  were not perfect and (2) of the sin of the spies’ (Numbers ch. 13-14) derogatory report about the land of Israel and the aftermath.

As for me,  I’m a proud Jew, proud of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, and honored to be living in our land.

Birkat Kohanim – The Priestly Blessing – at the Western Wall

During the times of the First and Second Temples on the Shalosh Regalim – three festivals of Sukkot, Pesach, and Shavuot – Jews from all over came to celebrate and worship at the Temple. It must have been a wonderfully festive and spiritually uplifting time. Now, again, many Jews come to Jerusalem for these holy days. Not quite the same without the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple), but a privilege nonetheless. A special treat during one the intermediate days of Sukkot and Pesach is the Birkat Kohanim ceremony when Kohanim from all over Israel  (where we now live!!) come together at the Kotel (Western Wall) for a mass blessing.

We wanted to be there and as we are blessed to have friends with homes in the Old City, adjacent to the Kotel, we were able to arrive the night before so as to be there early for this wonderful occasion. We were also blessed with mild weather this Pesach; I was told that it is generally unbearably hot.  So many different types of people were there… from all walks of religious and not so religious life… Sephardim and Ashkenazim… young and old…  white-skinned, olive-skinned, black-skinned Ethiopian women who stood out with their traditional garb and distinctive method of prayer… Caryn and Andy… a veritable in-gathering of the exiles.

One estimate I saw suggested that there were about 200,000 people at the Kotel Plaza. I still can’t believe we were privileged to be among them. Can you see us in the video? Andy’s toward the front, on the left side, somewhere near the Kotel in the middle of the patch of white – amongst the Kohanim who have their talaisim (prayer shawls) over their heads, and  I am somewhere towards the front on the right hand side.

As is the custom, the chazan (cantor) first calls to the Kohanim who respond with a blessing thanking G-d for the opportunity to bless His nation, with love.  The chazan next sings each word of the three beautiful blessings included in Birkat Kohanim and the Kohanim repeat them after him; the assembled answer “Amen” at the conclusion of each of the blessings.

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Why we chose to come

Why I Choose to Return is the title of an op-ed piece in the April 6 edition of YNet News. The author, Eran Davidi, has spent a year as a Master of Law student at Columbia University and will soon be returning to Israel. For someone with the prospect of phenomenal earnings and a much more comfortable lifestyle, his decision to return to Israel is all the more compelling. His feelings resonate very much with those of us who have made aliyah. In his own words:

After a year in the United States I can sum up by saying that it’s mostly comfortable here. Life is comfortable when you discuss the TV ratings of the Super Bowl or environmental issues in China over lunch. It’s nice to go through everyday life without hearing depressing news about terror attacks and road accidents. It’s also convenient to study for a whole year without performing military reserve service, use a subway that spares me traffic jams and parking issues and shower for as long as I want, without feeling pangs of conscience over the state of the Sea of Galilee.

Life is truly comfortable for me here. I can also predict with confidence that things will be getting even more comfortable in the future: The average salary of graduates in my field is 12 (!) times what it is in Israel, the professional challenge is much greater, and my circle of friends will continue to expand.

So why will I be returning to Israel? It’s precisely the stay here that made me realize that we have no other place except our country. I now understand that Israel is the only place in the world where I’ll truly feel at home. I understand that despite my reserve service and all the wars, I nonetheless feel the safest in Israel. I realize that Israel is the only place where my identity as a Jew won’t stop me from at least dreaming to reach as far as possible.

I also understand that it’s important for me to take part in these historical moments where the Jewish people returned to its homeland after 2,000 years of exile. Mostly, my stay here made me realize that in the era of human rights the Jewish people has no future without tiny Israel. And this future is dear to me.

People who moved overseas tend to say that they did it because of the quality of life. However, quality of life is not only measured by the size of your house or the view from the window; it is also not measured by the amount of money you make or its color.

Hopeful about Israel’s future

Quality of life is measured first and foremost by the meaning of the life you live and is derived from the sense of belonging to the people around you, the wholeness of your identity, and the knowledge that by living in our state you are part of something bigger; bigger than you, and sometimes bigger than logic.

Indeed, it’s comfortable in America, yet as it turns out, human beings prefer meaning. And a Jew can only find meaning in Israel.

I will lie to myself if I say that there is nothing to improve in our state. There is plenty of room for improvement. The vision of the model society that our founding fathers dreamed of building here is far from being realized. The inequality between the rich and the poor is outrageous. The inequality between Jews and Arabs is blatant.

Meanwhile, whole sectors that enjoy rights but are unwilling to assume duties are expanding. The pursuit of peace, which for years now has been taking one step forward and then two steps back, is frustrating. Finally, our leaders, who are scared to lead yet are able to surprise us anew every time with the cynical exploitation of the mandate they received from us, are frustrating.

Nonetheless, something in my Israeli character doesn’t allow me to despair; I am unwilling to give up when faced with a fateful mission unlike no other. Perhaps it’s the age, or the stage in life, but many members of my generation and myself – all proud descendants of the Zionist movement – are still hopeful about Israel’s future, and mostly feel that everything still depends on us.

In general, I think this is very well said.  I’m not sure that I agree with Eran’s comments about what the “founding fathers” might think if they were to take a look at Israel right now.  Yes, there are many problems here, disturbing all the more so because we are supposed to be a “light unto the nations.” However, this 63-years-young country in many ways rivals that of older and more established countries and its mandate to be a home to the world’s Jews is being fulfilled little by little. Further, technological advances throughout the world rely on Israeli innovation, it exports agricultural know-how, and is in the forefront of countries offering  and providing aid in disaster stricken areas. Not too many other countries can boast of as many accomplishments as little Israel can.  Actually, maybe I do know what the founding fathers would think – that their efforts were not in vain and although their descendants might be suffering growing pains, they are doing pretty well.

I would also suggest that it’s not “something in my Israeli character”  that  doesn’t allow Eran to despair. I think it’s more likely his Jewish soul that believes in and yearns for the ultimate redemption promised.

When the Jewish nation finally finished their trek through the wilderness and approached the land that G-d had promised, the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe wanted to settle on the lands on the eastern side of the Jordan. Moses rebuked them: “Shall your brothers go out to battle while you settle here? Why do you dissuade the heart of the Children of Israel from crossing to the Land that Hashem has given to them?” They answered Moshe: “We shall arm ourselves swiftly in the vanguard of  the Children of Israel until we have brought them to their place… We shall not return to our homes until the Children of Israel will have inherited – every man his inheritance..” *

Our obligations to each other and to this land have not changed since then.

* See BaMidbar (Numbers) 32:6-7, 17-18. Tanach, Artscroll Series, Stone Edition, page 411.

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Unfurling the Jewish flag

The Israeli flag may be blue and white, but the Jewish flag is akin to Joseph’s multi-color coat. It’s really quite apparent when one contemplates today’s Israeli Jewish society.

The Israeli Flag

Kibbutz galuyot, the “in-gathering of the exiles”  which we are experiencing, is an amazing  phenomenon. With the establishment of the State of Israel, and for many from Arab countries because of the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews from all over the world are finding their way home.  Israel has become a  Jewish United Nations.  So, as an olah from the United States, where most Jewish communities are fairly homogeneous, it’s very interesting to see the many black Jews from Ethiopia and the Bnei Menashe from India with Asian features and complexion, or to walk around my neighborhood discovering the many different shuls (synagogues) representing Jews of  different countries and different customs, and even to see the Russian grocery stores catering to the large Russian population in Rehovot. It’s all so “exotic” and interesting (right along with the ubiquitous palm trees and date honey). As for us, Americans and English speakers, we are part of the Anglo community here, comprising fellow Jews from Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa.

This in-gathering, however, is not easy and too many stories abound of the difficulties and barriers many have encountered in trying to become part of the Jewish people here. We are united as “one people with one heart” – am echad b’lev echad – yet we are so different, even alien, to one another. Spread out over the world for thousands of years we speak different languages, have developed different customs, are products of the different cultures of our adopted lands; some of us come from developed countries, others from underdeveloped ones, even from hostile nations. So much change, confusion, and even prejudice for the new immigrants as well as for those already here.  This “getting-to-know-you” period is long and hard.

I used to imagine that G-d would magically fly us to Israel at the time of redemption, on the wings of an eagle (although I didn’t know how all those eagles would manage to hold us – another miracle, I figured) or at the very least that some miracle at the time of Mashiach would instantly relocate us to the other side of the world – all of us – all at once.

I realized, however,  G-d’s wisdom in orchestrating this slow immigration of diaspora Jews to Israel.  This allows Israel to absorb and deal with the issues presented by each different wave of immigrants, for the people to get used to each other (more or less) before the next wave.  We’re having such a hard time getting along and getting used to each other as it is – imagine if we all “dropped in” at the same time.  It would not be a pretty story.

Map of Israel

There are many groups who have had or still have difficulties finding their place in Israeli society, who have overcome, and are still trying to overcome the barriers they face. I found the story The Brothers al-Kuwaiti recounted in Jewish Ideas Daily by Aryeh Tepper, particularly indicative of this slow, but ultimately successful,  process of integration.  Daoud and Salah al-Kuwaiti  were  popular musicians in Iraq, favorites of the royal family. When Saddam Hussein came to power, Jewish musicians were not appreciated and  their names disappeared from Iraq’s musical heritage. When the al-Kuwaitis fled to Israel in 1951 they were no longer respected musicians.

… When they arrived in the reborn Jewish state, a small country straining under a doubling of its population in the first few years after independence, they were placed with the rest of the Iraqi Jewish refugees in a temporary tent camp.

If the change in physical circumstances was extreme, the cultural transition was no less difficult. In Iraq the brothers had belonged to the elite; in Israel they were relatively unknown. Moreover, the regnant cultural ethos in those early decades of state-building called for fashioning a “new Jew” by “negating the Diaspora”; the Diaspora emphatically included the world with which the music of the al-Kuwaitis was associated. Worse still, that music was by definition identified with the culture of Israel’s arch-enemies.

…the al-Kuwaitis’ experience in Israel was representative of the fate of many in that transitional generation, marginalized from within and erased from without, their culture lost somewhere in-between.

Because of the circumstances in which they found themselves, the al-Kuwaiti brothers did not want their children involved with music at all. Daoud’s grandson Dudu (David) Tassa, however, has reclaimed his (and Daoud and Salah’s) Iraqi musical heritage with his group Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis.

… Melding the old and the new, Tassa’s interpretation of the original Iraqi sound is an exercise in generational bridge-building, reflecting an increasingly common desire among many Israelis to explore the cultures their grandparents were compelled to set aside as part of their absorption process. Not Ben-Gurion’s “negation of the Diaspora,” this is rather an “ingathering of the exiles,” an ingathering that includes the cultures of the exiles.

Perhaps most significantly, Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis can be seen as an expression of Israeli cultural self-confidence—of liberation from the idea that Western styles are the sole criterion of good music. Israel is, after all, the place where Jewish communities have come together from all over the world, and it is only natural that its music should reflect the resulting synthesis.

El Al Airplane

On the Wings of an Eagle

It’s articles like the above that describe how  the colorful flag of  the nation’s Jews is slowly unfurling as our brothers and cousins, Jews of all different colors, features, and nationalities, find their way in Israel.

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Still exiled?



Toward the end of a phone conversation with a dear friend of mine in the States about making aliyah (moving to Israel), about our having made aliyah, she opined that even though we are now living in Israel we are still living in galut (exile). Her comment bothered me. I never thought about it before. Is it true that we are still exiled even while living in Israel? I wondered, and, if yes, does it diminish our (and every other oleh‘s) aliyah and commitment to living in Israel? Was she implying that it is unnecessary, maybe even pointless?

The implication rankled me but didn’t affect my conviction. After we made the easy/hard decision to pack up and leave the United States, the North American continent, place of our birth (Andy is Canadian), and our friends and family to move halfway across the globe, I started reading  about the mitzvah, the imperative,  to live today in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. Previously unopened books  as well as various pamphlets that I found while sorting out my father’s, z”l,  library exhorting diaspora Jews to make aliyah, suddenly became not only interesting but  personally relevant.  Often quoted were the writings of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, (whose grandnephew, Rabbi Simcha HaCohen Kook, is the Chief Rabbi of Rehovot (where we live) and now the rabbi of the recently rebuilt Churva synagogue in the Old City in Jerusalem). Mind you, there was never a question in my mind of the propriety, even necessity, of settling and living in Israel, but I was heartened by the confirmation nonetheless.  Throughout the ages, in fact, many great sages have settled in Israel or spent numerous years repeatedly trying to make their way to the Promised Land — they would have jumped at the opportunity we now have.

As far as the definition of exile is concerned, I think most of us consider galut as living in the diaspora (rather than Israel) until the time of Mashiach (Messiah), until the ingathering of the exiles, kibbutz galuyot, (which is what I believe is slowly happening now), and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple). But the question remained: are we still considered to be exiled even when  living in Israel during this period, and does it matter? Googling the question, I came upon a couple of threads by the members of the Avodah/Areivim forum of the AishDas website, made up of scholars and knowledgeable lay people, who have discussed this topic at various times and, although it’s rather difficult to come up with a definitive answer,  I would like to give you a sampling of their thoughts.

Michael Makovi suggested:

Galut means exile, lack of eretz yisrael [sic], lack of statehood. Obviously, we lack a Temple and the like, so there is still an element of galut. But all the same, there is an element of geula [redemption – C.L.]. To say that we are in galut without a “but”, is just as wrong as to say we are in geula without a “but”.

From Micha Berger:

Galus is defined first and foremost as the absence of the Shechinah [G-d’s presence – C.L.], not the absence of Jews from Israel.

Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz of the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, NJ weighed in with his thoughts:

While we now control, to some extent, Eretz Yisrael, I would argue that so long as the Bais HaMikdash is not built, and we do not have a monarchy with Mashiach as the first king in the line, we are ALL in galut.  Those in Israel might not be in the GOLAH [lands of exile – C.L.], but we are all [in] GALUT.  I see galut as an existential state of being, not a physical state of residence.  I offer this without any proofs, it is MHO.

I would also postulate that from a practical/spiritual standpoint it doesn’t matter what the answer is to the question of whether or not one is living in exile even as a resident of Israel today. It’s immaterial if you believe, like many rabbis do, that for those who are able, there is always a mitzvah to live in the land, and there are certainly those mitzvot hat’luyot ba’aretz, mitzvahs that are dependent upon living in the land of Israel,  which we observe in Israel today but were not relevant to us while living in New Jersey. There is also a qualitative difference between living in Israel and living in the United States (or any other country).

In a March 2010 article entitled “The New Olim: North American Rabbis”,  Y. Reiss writes at www.wherewhatwhen.com about the new(!) phenomenon of congregational rabbis who are now making aliyah. Traditionally, it has predominantly been the synagogue members who pick themselves up and move to Israel. [Rabbi Riskin, who many years ago established the city of Efrat with some of his congregants is one notable exception. – C.L.] Now it seems that more congregational rabbis, with Nefesh B’Nefesh assistance, are beginning to lead the way. Reiss interviewed some of these new olim about their decision to make  aliyah and on the benefits of living in Israel even without Mashiach:

Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz, Rav of the Woodside community in Silver Spring … “The world feels more dangerous,” he said, “and the securities, both physical and financial, that American Jewry have relied on in galus no longer seem to be a foregone conclusion. In addition, although no one can accurately say what point of the geula we are currently in, there is a feeling that we are approaching the time of geula and it is time to come back to Israel.”

Rabbi Shandalov, formerly of Congregation Kehilath Jacob Beth Samuel in Chicago, and currently living in Maalei Adumim… simply said that being in Israel is “like being at home,… as part of a majority.” He specifically appreciated that December 25th was just another workday. Rabbi [Elan] Adler [of Baltimore’s Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation]  pointed out that even the chagim are richer in Eretz Yisrael: “In chutz la’aretz, you observe Sukkot, in Eretz Yisrael, it is Sukkot.”… He stresses that inspiration can be found everywhere in Israel, even among secular cab drivers, who might give a 20 minute shmooze on how Hakadosh Baruch Hu [the Holy One Blessed Be He -C.L.] runs the world…”

In a related article entitled “Aliyah in Halacha” [Aliyah in Jewish Law], Y. Reiss discusses the writings of  Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, Hy”d, who wrote “Eim Habanim Semeicha” from his hiding place during the Holocaust.  “

…based on extensive scholarship [Rabbi Teichtel] concluded that human action ought to be the vehicle for bringing the Jewish people back to Israel as a precursor to the geula (Redemption)!…

Rabbi Teichtal’s main premise is that faith without action is ineffective. At the Red Sea, with Egyptians quickly overtaking Bnai Yisrael, Moshe Rabeinu stopped to daven. Hashem harshly responded, “Why do you cry out to me?” exhorting Moshe to instead “speak to the Children of Israel that they should travel.” In other words, it was time for Bnai Yisrael to put their faith into action by crossing the sea, even before Hashem had begun to split it. Similarly, says Rabbi Teichtal, it is not enough for Jews to simply believe that Mashiach will come to redeem the Jews. Instead, they must act like Bnai Yisrael at the Red Sea, and demonstrate their faith that Mashiach is coming by ascending to Eretz Yisrael.

I asked a friend of ours who made aliyah from the U.K. over thirty years ago if she felt like she was in galut. Her answer was an unequivocal “no.” Despite the fact that only about 30–40% of the country is observant, she said, the entire country revolves around Judaism and the Jewish calendar… the holidays are Jewish holidays, and because her children were all born here the feeling is intensified.

Of course we don’t have the Beit Hamikdash, but that feeling of “otherness” doesn’t exist here. The Israeli government is not perfect, it’s not always properly predisposed to Jewish law, but it is still runs on basic Jewish precepts. Israeli citizens may be arguing about whether or not the state/courts have a right to determine which school or yeshiva to send one’s children as in the recent case in the city of Emanuel, or the validity of IDF and other conversions (which is affecting the rabbinical courts in the United States as well) but we are not battling moves to outlaw circumcision in Israel as has surfaced most recently in California, nor about shechita — ritual slaughter — which is “brought up for review” occasionally (most notably by PETA) in the U.S. and has actually been outlawed in several countries.

Additionally, there are some who don’t believe that a Jewish government should exist in Israel until the advent of Moshiach, but  this is not deterring them from living and building in the Holy Land. Our local daily newspaper, HaMivaser, just featured the visit of the Squerer Rebbe to Beit Shemesh to lay the cornerstone for another one of their buildings.

Perhaps one of the most interesting comments I’ve seen and which corresponds with an analogy of mine, is from Areivim member Danny Schoemann of Jerusalem. He says:

Picture this: Moshiach comes this afternoon – you get on a booking to Israel no problem (as you are now a privileged person who does not need a valid passport to travel – one gain of no shibud malchios). Then you become practical: by the time you’ve thought about it, all the houses on your block are already for sale – how will you pay for the trip, the moving, the new business? So, do you opt for arriving as a pauper to greet Moshiach or to stay in chutz lo’oretz as the president of the shul?

Food for thought…

The analogy that occurred to me is that of a king and his palace:  if the palace were to burn down and the king’s children flee, wouldn’t he want them to come back and settle in the city awaiting the rebuilding and even assisting in it? Even if he had originally chased them away, even if it was difficult, if it took a long time, their commitment to him and belief in his rebuilding would endear them to him. And the children who resettled elsewhere? He would still love them, after all they’re still his kids, but the ones who stayed close or came back will be at a special advantage when the building is completed because of their proximity. I think that analogy would work for G-d and the Jewish people, especially now that He’s made it so much easier for us to return.

While there are legitimate reasons why someone may not be able to make aliyah now: family obligations, illness, work-related issues… the contention (fact?) that we are yet in exile, awaiting redemption, even while living in Israel shouldn’t be one of them.

P.S. –  You can be instrumental in an Olah’s success!! I am currently providing writing, rewriting, editing, and publishing services locally (in Israel) and remotely via internet and fax. If I can help you or anyone else you know, including businesses, schools, and organizations, please email me at cml613@hotmail.com, or message me on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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