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Fishman Apologizes

By Tzvi Fishman
2/22/2007, 12:00 AM
After the strident comments, both for and against my recent blogs regarding the obligation to live in Israel, I would like to apologize for not being able to answer each and every comment or question posted on this site. With morning mikvah, daily prayers, getting the kids off to school, work, errands, my writing for the blog and, plus other writing, helping Mom and Dad, studying Torah as much as I
Thy bowing and kneeling in the direction of Israel is either mere appearance or thoughtless worship.
can, studying with the kids, getting them to sleep, an evening walk with my wife, Tikun Hatzot, and as much Torah learning as I can before falling off to sleep, I am, like everyone else, hard pressed for time.

I appreciate everyone’s comments, both the serious ones, and the ones that are off the wall. I simply cannot answer them all. But when there is something of a general nature, that affects the nation as a whole, I will try to answer whenever I can.

Therefore, to my soul brother, Shimshon from NYC, I will respond to some of his comments, lest they lead others astray. He writes:

“There is no obligation to live in Eretz Yisroel, or said another way, there is no obligation to LEAVE Galus (the Diaspora), because unless someone is completely clueless of reality, it is impossible to leave Galus by moving to Eretz Yisroel! Galus is still in Eretz Yisroel, and in some areas, there is more Galus in Israel than in any other places in the world.”

With all due respect to my honored brother, the fact is that Eretz Yisrael is a definite geographic place with geographical borders. This is the Jewish homeland.
Should Israel be left for the camels? Fetzael Springs, Jordan Valley
Photo by Inbal, Maaleh Ephraim

This is the place where our Forefathers lived. This is the place where G-d wants the Jewish People to live, the only place where a Jew can fulfill all of the Torah, the only place where the Jewish People as a whole can establish their own sovereign nation, which is the whole goal of the Torah, to establish the Kingdom of G-d in the world, and that can only be done here in this tiny potion of the globe.

The lands outside of these geographic borders are considered the Diaspora, where we wandered in exile for nearly 2000 years. For all of those years, we had no choice but to live in foreign lands. But once Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel was re-established with the State of Israel, then any Jew who continued to live in the exile did so of his own choosing, preferring foreign lands over the Jewish homeland.

My dear brother, Shimshon, is implying that since there are many instances of deplorable and un-Torah-like modes of behavior in Israel today, what he calls Galus, then there is no obligation to live there. But the Torah giants of the world have already proved this untrue, as in the words of Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, in his classic treatise of Jewish faith, “The Kuzari.” For readers who have not yet studied this cardinal work, “The Kuzari” tells the story of a gentile king who is searching to find G-d and the true way of serving Him. Set in the land of the Kuzars (in southern Russia) his path ultimately leads him to a Rabbi, who sets forth the tenets of Judaism as being the one and only true ladder to G-d. After the Rabbi extols the centrality and incomparable holiness of the Land of Israel for the Jewish People, the king rebukes him:

“If this be so, you fall short of the duty laid down in the Law, by not endeavoring to reach that place and making it your abode in life and death. And even if it had no other attribute other than the Divine Presence dwelt there for five hundred years, this is sufficient reason for men’s souls to retire there and find purification there. Is it not the gate of heaven? Thy bowing and kneeling in the direction of it is either mere appearance or thoughtless worship. Yet your first forefathers chose it as an abode in preference to their birthplaces, and lived there as strangers, rather than as citizens of their own country. This they did even at a time when the Divine Presence was not yet visible, and the country was full of unchastity, impurity, and idolatry. Your fathers however, had no other desire than to remain in it.”

The Rabbi confesses that the king’s reproach is true: “When we pray, saying, ‘Worship at His holy mountain – worship at His footstool,’ and other prayers, this is like the chattering of the starling and the nightingale. We do not mean what we say by this sentence, nor others, as you rightly observe, O king of Kuzar” (Kuzari, 2:22-24).

As to Shimshon’s assertion that, “Jews are not more safe in Israel than they are outside it,” Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, who came on aliyah himself in a far more dangerous era, states that danger is not a factor when a person’s goal in coming to Israel is to get closer to G-d (Kuzari, 5:23). Furthermore, in the unanimous halachic ruling that the commandment to live in the Land of Israel applies in every generation, the “Pitchei T’shuva” states that since merchants regularly travel to Eretz Yisrael for business, the factor of danger is not a concern (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, Section 75, Sub-section 6). Additionally, the Ramban has taught us that the conquest and settlement of Israel is the Milchemet Mitzvah of the Torah, meaning that we are commanded to go to war to conquer the Land of Israel and to keep it in our hands, and this outweighs all considerations of danger, since one knows that in going to war, one’s life is at risk (Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Commandment #4. Sefer HaChinuch, Precept 525. See also, “Torat Eretz Yisrael, Ch. 7). True, defending the Land of Israel is more dangerous than eating a bagel and lox in Brooklyn, but it is not for us to choose which commandments to do and which to avoid.

Finally, dear Shimshon, you write: “The whole discussion of how Jews are an endangered species outside of the State of Israel because there is a staggering intermarriage rate is presumptuous, condescending, and odious.”

Why is the discussion of the staggering rate of intermarriage presumptuous, condescending, and odious? I can’t figure this out. Is this something we should be proud of? Or is it something to brush under the table in the hope that it will go away?

Assimilation is a Holocaust. Outside of Israel, we are losing 50% of world Jewry to its lures. In some places, the rate is far more. If we don’t discuss it, how can we fight it? And to whom is it condescending? To the Jew who marries out of his faith? Should we rather tip our hats to him, or her, and say thank you? With an average of only one or two children to a Diaspora family, and the spiraling rate of intermarriage, it is a simple mathematical equation that in another generation or two, the only Jews that will be left outside of Israel will be the Orthodox. And who will protect them when the native Germans, Frenchmen, and Americans get restless? The Israeli Army is too far away.

Perhaps our readers have other answers for the problem of assimilation. I can only think of two. One is that we have to give up our lives in exile amongst the goyim, and come home to Israel, where assimilation hardly exists. And we have to do everything we can to call our brothers and sisters back to the faith by exposing our misguided brothers and sisters to the exquisite beauty, holiness, and truth of the Torah.

Soon it will be Purim. Our Sages teach that the evil decree of the wicked Haman against the Jews came as Divine retribution because the Jews of Shushan had detached their hearts from the Land of Israel and were content to wallow in a foreign place and culture, feasting themselves at the kosher orgies of the Persian king, and standing silently by as the sacred vessels of the Jerusalem Temple were desecrated.

Even after the miraculous salvation of Purim, the Jews were still loathe to give up their positions of wealth and prestige and return to Israel. As the Kuzari makes clear: “Divine Providence was ready to restore everything as it had been at first, if they had all willingly consented to return. But only a fraction was willing to do so, whilst the majority and the leaders among them remained in Babylon, preferring dependence and subservience to the gentiles, unwilling to abandon their houses and their business affairs” (Kuzari, 2:24).

Finally, years later, Hashem inspired the prophet Ezra with the mission of leading the Jews back to Israel to build the Second Temple. When he is told that the returning Jews have taken the alien women of the land for wives, he is stunned: “For they have taken the daughters of a foreign nation for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the peoples of those lands; indeed the hands of the (Jewish) princes and rulers have been the leaders in this crime. And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked out the hair of my head and beard, and sat down appalled” (Ezra, 9:2-3).

Immediately, Ezra issues a public proclamation, demanding that the Jews rectify this terrible wrong: “And Ezra, the Kohen, stood up and said to them, ‘You have transgressed and have taken alien women to increase the guilt of Israel. Now therefore make confession to the L-rd G-d of your fathers, and do His bidding, and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the alien women. Then all of the congregation answered with a loud voice, saying, ‘As you have said, so must we do” (Ezra, 10:10-12).

Ezra did not sweep this national scandal under the carpet, and neither should we. I apologize, my friends. For many, reading this may be uncomfortable, but what can we do? This is the teaching of the Bible. Out in the alien world of cyberspace, there are surely other websites that will tell you what you want to hear. On this blog, we will endeavor to bring you the truth.