Letter from a confused Jew

When I asked the local Rabbi if I should move to Israel, he told me that am better off here in America, because in Israel it is hard to stay religious.

Tzvi Fishman, | updated: 14:25

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I received an email recently from a young confused Jew in San Francisco. This is what he writes, and my reply:

Dear Mr. Fishman,

First, I would like to thank you for articles. I find them very refreshing and educating. But I am confused. You obviously are a big proponent of Aliyah. But when I asked the local Rabbi if I should move to Israel, he told me that am better off here in America, because in Israel it is hard to stay religious.

I am 22 years old. I don’t know if I am an official baal tshuva, but I hope I am on the way. I live in the San Francisco area. I read a lot of books about Judaism, and read articles on the web, and I try to attend as many lectures in our shul as I can.

The Rabbi is very learned, and he gives weekly classes in Gemara, Halakhah, Tanya, and Parshat Hashavuah. I have read that a Jew should follow the advice of his Rabbi. What do you think?

Dear Confused,

I suggest that you find another Rabbi. Better yet, don’t waste your time. Pack a suitcase and get on the first plane to Israel as fast as you can. Like two other confused Jews sang: “Get on the bus, Gus. No need to discuss much. Just get yourself free.”

First of all, there are a million religious Jews in Israel. They don’t find it hard to be religious. There are yeshivot, Heders, Talmud Torah grade schools, religious high schools and religious ulpanot for girls, all over the country. There are more Torah scholars in Israel than in every other place in the world put together.

Ask your question to any serious Rabbi in Israel, and he will tell you to come on Aliyah. According to the
The Torah is more than a list of individual rituals like tefillin, kashrut, and Shabbat – the Torah is the CONSTITUTION of the JEWISH NATION...
halakhah, if a child wants to make Aliyah, and his parents don’t agree, he doesn’t have to listen to them, because Aliyah is a Torah commandment incumbent on everyone. Your Rabbi as well.

There are stories about passionately Zionistic Torah students who came on Aliyah without asking their Rabbi because they knew he would say no. Save yourself now and be an example for others. Making Aliyah is a tremendous Kiddush Hashem.

As for being religious in America, the Judaism practiced in the Diaspora is not true Judaism, but only the scattered bits of Torah that a Jew can keep outside of the Land of Israel, for, as the Ramban teaches, the true place of the commandments is in Eretz Yisrael. Our Sages state that we continue to observe whatever precepts we can in the Exile, just as reminders, so we remember how to do them when we return to Eretz Yisrael.

The Torah is more than a list of individual rituals like tefillin, kashrut, and Shabbat – the Torah is the CONSTITUTION of the JEWISH NATION with laws regarding the Israelite government, the king, Sanhedrin, Israelite army, Beit HaMikdash, the service of the Kohanim and Levites, and the agricultural commandments which apply only to Eretz Yisrael, not to San Francisco or New York.

So get on a plane, Wayne. Fulfill the words of the prayers you say every day in shul, and return to Zion to take a part of the great ingathering that is unfolding before our eyes. Be a part of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Step out of the darkness of life in a foreign land amongst the Gentiles. Reach for the sky and heed the call of the ancient Prophets of Israel, calling the Children of Israel to come home.

Hop aboard the ship of Jewish destiny. Dare to discover the Israelite in you. Don’t merely mouth the Torah – live it!  In the hills and valleys of our Forefathers. Open your ears and hear the words of Hashem! 

Make “Next Year in Jerusalem!” a reality. After you get here, you can write a letter to your Rabbi, and tell him how happy you are, and how much closer you feel to G-d. 


 




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