One truth, not two

Jews in affluent countries have forgotten that the exile is a punishment, and, as the “Kli Yakar” warned, have fallen in love with their alien domiciles,

Tzvi Fishman,

Tzvi Fishman
Tzvi Fishman
INN: TF


In the rebellion against British rule in Eretz Yisrael during the struggle for Israeli Statehood, the revolutionary poetry of Uri Zvi Greenberg was a source of inspiration for the underground freedom-fighters of the “Lehi” and the “Irgun.” In a famous poem called, “One Truth, Not Two,” he rejects the ideology of the prominently socialist Zionist establishment which preached that the Land of Israel would be redeemed through purchasing land and building settlements. The real truth, he maintained, was that Jewish independence would be attained through armed struggle.

There is only one truth, he taught his followers, not two.

The same is true with the Land of Israel itself. There is only one Jewish Homeland, not two. Today, there is a point of view in the Diaspora which maintains that it is perfectly OK to live there in foreign, Gentile countries. To Diasporians, Jews can live in Israel if they like, but they can also live in Germany, Australia, and America if they choose.  

To them, there is not one truth, but two.

Maintain what they will, the entire focus and goal of the Torah, and the Prophets of Israel, is the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel in Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish People are to flee from the exile, not strive to prologue it.

In the Torah portion, “Vayigash,” the Torah commentator, Kli Yakar, points out that in the verse, “And the People of Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt in the region of Goshen, and they took possession of it, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly,” the verb, “vaya’ahazu ba,” is written in the passive, meaning the “land took possession of them,” (Bereshit, 47:27.) This comes to tell us that when a Jew lives in an alien land, the powers of the land (its culture, language, traditions, etc.), influence the Jew’s sense of identity until he comes to believe that he is an Egyptian, or Frenchman, or German Jew, forgetting that he is really an Israelite exiled from his Homeland. 

This profound observation is highlighted by our Forefather, Yaacov, in the Torah portion of “Vayiche”, when he commands his children to bury him in Hevron. Yaacov wants his sons to know, beyond all doubt, that the Land of Israel is their Homeland. Understanding the temptation that seduces Jews into living in foreign lands, he doesn’t want to afford them the excuse of saying, “Our father is buried in Egypt – how can we leave him?”

In Egypt, when four-fifths of the Jews refused to follow Moshe to the Promised Land, G-d slew all of the rebels during the Plague of Darkness, in order to hide the disgrace.

There is one truth, not two.

In the Wilderness, when the leaders of the tribes, who were the Torah Sages of the Nation, discouraged the Children of Israel from journeying onward to the Land of Israel, G-d called them non-believers and rebels, and wiped out the entire generation. 

Again and again in the “Book of Devarim,” G-d commands the Jews to keep the Torah in the Land of Israel. Moses himself is punished by not being allowed to attain his supreme desire – to enter the Land of Israel. And, generations later, with the destruction of the Temple, Am Yisrael is made to suffer the horrible punishent and curse of exile in alien lands.

But in recent times, after the Holocaust wiped out a third of the Jewish People, Jews in affluent countries soon forgot that the exile is a punishment and curse, and, as the “Kli Yakar” warned, they fell in love with their alien domiciles, grasping onto the fallacy that there are two truths, not one. Yes, they will admit, the Land of Israel is the historic birthplace of the Jewish People, but that has no bearing on actual life.


G-d has gone ahead without waiting for Mashiach and made the State of Israel one of the most powerful nations in the world, as well as the center of world Torah.
Even Orthodox Jews, who follow the commandments of the Torah, evolved a labyrinth of Talmudic explanations and excuses to justify their not making Aliyah. Although the Ramban and a long list of early and later Torah Authorities state that dwelling in the Land of Israel is a Torah commandment in all generations (see Shulchan Oruch, Pitchei Tshuva, Even HaEzer, 75:6), these lovers of the Diaspora cite Rabbis who have written otherwise. Some say that Jews are forbidden to return to the Land of Israel en masse until the Mashiach brings us there – ignoring the obvious fact that G-d has gone ahead without waiting for Mashiach and made the State of Israel one of the most powerful nations in the world, as well as the center of world Torah.

Other Orthodox Jews will say that the commandment to live in Israel is only a Rabbinic commandment, but these same devout Jews will fulfill the Rabbinic mitzvahs of Hanukkah and Purim with all of their tiniest details. In the meantime, they identify wholeheartedly with being French, South African, and American Jews, believing the illusion that it is perfectly OK to live in foreign lands.

But there is one truth, not two.

Many people who read Jewish newspapers or websites are deluded into thinking that the Jews in the Diaspora are a vibrant community. After all, look at all of the articles about Jews, Jewish concerts, kosher products, and Jewish singles groups and cruises all over the world! But in reality, studies show that seventy to eighty percent of Diaspora Jews have absolutely no connection to Jewishness. The Jew of the exile is a vanishing species. In the meantime, the twenty percent still possessing a Jewish identity are sailing away into the horizon of oblivion, enjoying the cruise as long as they can. 

Thus we are faced with the sad situation whereby many retiring Rabbis in the Diaspora make Aliyah to Palm Springs and Miami Beach; while others run for the United States Congress; while still others in black hats and long black coats make an annual pilgrimage to Brooklyn, as if Crown Heights was the Jewish Nation’s capital and not Jerusalem. Even Donald Trump knows the difference!  

Apparently, they have forgotten that, not only is living in exile a punishment and curse, the very fact that Jews live in foreign lands is a desecration of G-d’s Name, known as a Chillul Hashem, as the Prophet, Ezekiel states: 

“And when they came to the nations into which they came, they profaned My Holy Name, in that men said of them: These are the people of the L-rd, and they are gone out of His Land” (Ezekiel, 36:20). This prophecy is coming to tell us that the mere fact that Jews are living outside the Land of Israel is a desecration of G-d. Why? Because, Rashi explains, in the eyes of the Gentiles, our presence in the Diaspora proclaims that G-d lacks the power to keep us in His Land. Now in our time, when G-d has returned the Land of Israel to the Jews, the situation is even worse, for it seems in the eyes of the Gentiles that Diaspora Jews prefer foreign lands to the Land G-d gave them. 

We are not talking about individual cases where someone must be in the Diaspora to take care of sick parents, or an aging person who feels he is too old to begin life anew, or about Jews who yearn to live in Israel, but, for whatever justified reason, are unable to make Aliyah. We are taking about the tragic situation of entire Jewish communities ensconced in the darkness of exile, believing that it is perfectly OK to live in Gentile countries. But it is not OK.

There is one Eretz Yisael, and one Torah, not two. 

Based on this verse of Ezekiel, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, of blessed memory, head of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, taught that the Diaspora is the worst desecration of G-d that there is, since it involves so many Jews. The opposite is also true, he explained: “Today, we are struggling between the phenomenon of Kiddush Hashem (the sanctification of G-d’s Name) and Chillul Hashem (the desecration of G-d’s Name.) The greatest sanctification of G-d is that which involves all of the Jewish People, as the prophecy of Ezekiel proclaims: “And I will sanctify My great Name which was profaned amidst the nations, which you have profaned in the midst of them. And the nations shall know that I am the L-rd, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes,” (Ezekiel, 36:23-24).

“How will G-d bring about this great Kiddush Hashem in the world?” Rabbi Kook asked, and answered with the continuing words of the prophet: “For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and I will bring you into your own Land” (Ibid).

G-d hasn’t waited for Mashiach to bring this about. Why should you?

There is only one truth, not two.


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