<I>Vayera</I>: <I>Es Iz Shein Tzu Zein a Yid</I>

We can live in countries that are cultured and polite and decent. But if they are missing that crucial ingredient of yirat HaShem, then we are in danger, be it physical or spiritual.

Aloh Naaleh,

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Avraham arrives in Gerar and tells the locals that Sarah is his sister. When Avimelech takes her to his palace and is punished, he protests that Avraham is to blame: "You brought upon me and my kingdom this great sin [by not telling us that Sara was your wife].... What did you see that made you do this thing?" Avraham's answer is difficult to understand: "There is but no fear of God in this place and they will kill me because of my wife." (Bereishit 20:11)

It sounds like he is saying that the residents of Gerar were fine, upstanding citizens who paid their taxes, coached Little League and said "Have a nice day" at their equivalent of convenience stores. The only thing they lacked was fear of God, and that was enough to justify lying about Sarah.

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin, in his Oznayim LaTorah, explains that when Avraham heard the local residents inquiring about his wife he understood that the place lacked fear of God. And if that's the case, then they are capable of anything, despite their surface manners and morality. (Unfortunately, Rabbi Sorotzkin saw this first-hand in Europe. He survived the Holocaust, but lost many members of his very distinguished and learned family.)

The same is true today. We can live in countries that are cultured and polite and decent. But if they are missing that crucial ingredient of yirat HaShem, then we are in danger, be it physical or spiritual.

Though it is true that Israel isn't yet run by people who necessarily reflect the highest spiritual or ethical values, there is no other country that offers such a long and diverse list of entire communities that live and breathe the fear of God, whose sole priority is to live in accordance with the highest Torah standards.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein used to say that the biggest mistake frum Jews made with their children in America was to complain, "Es iz shver tzu zein a Yid" - "It's hard to be a Jew." They should have said the opposite: "It is beautiful and joyous to be a Jew."

Likewise, those of us who want to see more Jews living in Eretz Israel have made a terrible mistake in saying: "It's hard to live in Israel, it's a sacrifice." It's not hard when you consider what it offers; and it is certainly no sacrifice to live in our own land, enjoying a spiritual standard of living that our fathers could only have dreamed of.
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Joel Rebibo was principal of the Phoenix Hebrew Academy in Arizona until his Aliyah in 1983. He spent 16 years at the Jerusalem Post, including five years as editor of its international edition, and is currently Israel news editor for Hamodia's English-language weekly.

The foregoing commentary was distributed by the Aloh Naaleh organization.



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