The problem isn’t the Jews in Israel. The problem is the Jews outside of it.
My friend, Shmuelik, is right when he says that since I do not have rabbinical ordination, who am I to preach about moving to Israel? So let’s hear what G-d has to say. As if to decide the issue Himself, G-d has sent our blog a comment from Heaven through this week’s Haftorah portion. Let’s see what He says about the Diaspora, through the agency of His prophet, Ezekiel:
“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 the mere fact that Jews are living outside the Land of Israel is a desecration of G-d. Why? Because in the eyes of the gentiles, our presence in the Diaspora proclaims that G-d lacks the power to keep us in His Land. That was back then in Ezekiel’s days. 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 in clinging to our Diaspora communities, we prefer foreign lands to His. Everyone knows that the Jews have the money to hop on a plane, but instead, we turn our backs on the Promised Land, and choose to stay in America, Australia, South Africa, and France. This is a desecration of G-d. This is what G-d’s prophet is telling us, and presumably, he has rabbinical ordination.
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. We are taking about the tragic and shameful situation of entire Jewish communities ensconced in the darkness of exile. Based on this verse of Ezekiel, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook 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).
“This sanctification of G-d, which comes through the instrument of His nation, isn’t limited to the Orthodox and Haredim,” Rabbi Kook said. “This great sanctification of G-d comes through all of the House of Israel, the righteous and the non-righteous alike. Today, we see that the national body of Israel is returning to its health, and to its healthy Land, from amidst the impurity of the nations. This is the highest sanctification of G-d that we can find.”
Get the message, my friend? The problem isn’t the Jews in Israel. The problem is the Jews outside of it. The return of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel is the greatest sanctification of G-d that there is. This means that the State of Israel, the vehicle that G-d has created and chosen to bring this about, is a sanctification of G-d, irregardless of the level of Yiddishkeit of is citizens.
Ben Gurion Declaring Statehood, 1948
Yes, Shmuelik, it is true that there are shortcomings here, and matters which have to be changed. We don’t hide our eyes from the things which need to be improved. Rather, we have faith that with the passing of time, the problems will be solved. Yet the fact that there are problems does not impinge on the holiness of the State. As Rabbi Kook explained:
“The intrinsic value of the State is not dependent on the number of observant Jews who live here. Of course, our aspiration is that all of our people will embrace the Torah and the mitzvoth. Nonetheless, the State of Israel is holy, whatever religious level it has.
“There are religious Jews who express a type of criticism and say: ‘If the State and its lifestyle were run according to the Torah, we would accept it. Until then, we abstain from it.’ They talk as if the State does not belong to them. The fact is, the State of Israel belongs to all of us, to the entire Congregation of Israel. Anyone who refuses to recognize the State of Israel does not recognize the One who is ‘Returning His Divine Presence to Zion,’ as we say in our prayers” (See the book, “Torat Eretz Yisrael, the Teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda,” Chapters 6-13).
Patience, dear Shmuelik. The Redemption of Israel unfolds in stages, as the prophet Ezekiel assures us. First there is an ingathering of the exiles, and then, after we have returned to the Land, a return to the Torah will follow:
“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. Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean…. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to follow My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel, 36:23-28).
Today, thank G-d, there are more Torah giants, religious Jews, and joyous religious observance in Eretz Yisrael than in any place in the world. So instead of complaining, come join us!