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By Tzvi Fishman
4/12/2007, 12:00 AM

In light of our ongoing discussion about a Jew’s obligation to live in the Land of Israel, and in response to a reader who had the straightforwardness to admit that he was scared to make aliyah because of dangers in the Land, we will first pay tribute to Yehoshua bin Nun, of blessed memory, and then cite an interesting tale about the great Chofetz Chaim, the master of Jewish Law in modern times.
Tragically, there are still those of little faith who speak derisively against G-d’s desired Land, and who still refuse to hear G-d’s call to "Go up and inherit the Land!"

Not coincidentally, tonight is the memorial yartzheit for Yehoshua bin Nun, known in the West as Joshua, devoted student and successor to Moshe, our teacher. In tribute to his memory, hundreds of Jews will make the pilgrimage to his burial site this evening on a hillside in the Shomron near the city of Ariel. It was Yehoshua who led the Children of Israel into the Promised Land, miraculously conquering the walled city of Jericho on his way. Earlier, when Moshe sent ten of Israel’s greatest leaders to spy out the Land, only Yehoshua and Calev came back with a positive report, declaring that the Jews could indeed successfully conquer the Land of Israel as Hashem had commanded. The other Spies, however, broke the spirit of the nation, proclaiming that the Jews were no match for the fierce giants that inhabited the fortified cities of the Land. As the Torah records:

"Then Yehoshua bin Nun and Calev ben Yefunne, of those who spied out the Land, rent their garments, and they spoke to all of the Children of Israel, saying, ‘The Land which we passed through to spy it out is an exceedingly good Land. If the L-rd delight in us, then He will bring us into this Land and give it to us, a Land flowing with milk and honey. Only rebel not against the L-rd, nor fear the people of the Land, for they are bread before us, their defense is departed from them, and the L-rd is with us, so fear them not.’"

Yehoshua’s great cry of faith fell on deaf ears. The people wept in their tents and longed to return to the bondage of Egypt. This rebellion against Hashem in not wanting to live in the Land, and the people’s lack of belief in G-d’s providence and power, brought about G-d’s wrath and decree of punishment - death for the entire generation in the wilderness. Our Sages tell us that this tragic day in our history was the Ninth of Av, and that this lack of faith in G-d subsequently led to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, generations later on the very same day. Only Yehoshua and Calev, who remained faithful to G-d’s command, were spared the decree of dying in exile, and it was they who led the next generation of Jews, who were born into freedom, into the Promised Land.

Tragically, there are still those of little faith who speak derisively against G-d’s desired Land, and who still refuse to hear G-d’s call to "Go up and inherit the Land!"

And now in response to the comment that a Jew does not have to make aliyah because of the dangers in the Land, here is an answer written by Rabbi David Samson, where he cites the definitive ruling of the Chofetz Chaim that no such exemption exits:

Several times during the year, I am invited to speak to groups of yeshiva students
from the Diaspora whom are studying in Israel. One of the questions that I am frequently asked is "Is it a mitzvah to live in Israel in a time of danger?" Sometimes, the question takes different forms. "Is it permissible to live in settlements in Israel where there is a clear danger, for example, Hevron." Or, "Is it permissible for my parents to visit me in Israel during the Intifada?"

A story told about the Chofetz Chaim can serve as a background for our halachic investigation. As Yose ben Yoezer says in the Mishna, "Let your house be a meeting place for Sages; sit in the dust of their feet; and drink in their words thirstily" (Avot 1:4). In our times, who was a greater Torah scholar than the Chofetz Chaim?

The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisreal Meir HaCohen, from Radin, composed the unparalleled halachic work, the Mishna Berura, the definitive compendium of Jewish law. In addition, his writings on good deeds and kindness, "Ahavat Chesed," and his treatise on evil speech, "Shmirat HaLashon," show his great piety and saintliness. He is known never to have spoken unfairly about anyone.

The following story is brought down by the revered Rabbi Dichovsky, of blessed memory, in his book, "Neot Desha," on the Talmud. In the introduction, he recounts his visit to the Chofetz Chaim to ask him this very same question about moving to Israel at a time of clear and present danger. We quote:

"I saw it proper to record a statement made to me by the most pious of all of the kohanim, the Rabbi of all Israel, the glory of the generation, the holy of all Israel, may he be blessed in memory, in the matter of Aliyah. I asked him about this question, and the following are the details of our encounter.

"It was the beginning of the year, 1933. There was a group of Torah scholars who had organized themselves to go together to Israel to learn Torah. I too was amongst them, but I had many doubts, because I knew that many of the great gedolim (Torah scholars) of Israel were opposed. The heads of my yeshiva were especially opposed to the idea that yeshiva students would go to Eretz Yisrael, even for the sake of studying Torah. They said that the proper conditions had not as yet been established in order to facilitate Torah study with the proper diligence in the Holy Land, to the extent that we are able to study Torah in the yeshivot in the Diaspora. Therefore, I said in my heart, that I must not ask my rabbis in this matter, for obviously the answer will be no.

"Like Rabbi Zera, who ran away from his teacher, Rav Yehuda, when he wanted to make Aliyah to Israel (Tractate Ketubot, 110B,) I decided to go and ask the counsel of the righteous tzaddik of our generation, our revered master, and to receive his blessing before I departed. Therefore, just before the Day of Atonement, I journeyed to the yeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim in the town of Radin, where I stayed in the shadow of this great, righteous individual. This was, as is known, the last Yom Kippur of this special tzaddik, for at the end of the year, in the month of Elul, he was taken to the yeshiva Above, may his merit be a shield to us and all Israel.
"Concluding his words to me, he said, ‘Nevertheless, fear not. There is no reason for this to prevent you from making Aliyah to the Land of Israel.’ "Then he blessed me, saying, ‘Go in peace, and the L-rd will bless your path.’

"In spite of his great physical weakness, a Heavenly Providence was with me, and I merited to see him the day after Yom Kippur. I told him my situation, and that I had a good chance of making Aliyah to Israel as a Torah student, only I had lingering doubts if I would be able to learn Torah with the same diligence with which I was learning now. Immediately, he answered, in his famous sweetness of speech, that there was no room at all for my wariness. Why in the world would I not be able to learn Torah there with absolute diligence – just the opposite would seem to be true, for the Land of Israel, without question, was more conducive for steadfast immersion in Torah. He recited the verse, ‘The gold of the Land is good,’ on which the Midrash says, ‘This gold are the words of Torah, for there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael; and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael.’

"Before I could express the rest of the doubts that I harbored - especially the fear of the danger in Israel because of the children of Ishmael who were marauding violently against the Jews, for only a few years had passed since the end of the Hebron Massacre in the year 1929, which made clear to everyone the wild, bestial nature of the Ishmaelites, who with savagery and unbounded cruelty massacred Yeshiva students and showed no mercy even to the women and children - before I was able to confess all of my apprehensions, the Rabbi answered the question himself.

"In the following words of Torah, he said: ‘The holy Torah tells us regarding Ishmael that he is a ‘perei adam,’ a wild beast of a man. It is know that our Torah is eternal, and if it says about Ishmael that he is a wild beast of a man, then Ishmael will remain forever a wild beast of a man. Even if all of the cultured nations of the world will gather together and try to educate Ishmael and transform him into a cultured individual, so that he will no longer be a wild beast of a man, obviously this will be impossible in every fashion or form. They will not be able to do this through any means whatsoever, because he is not capable of being a cultured individual, for behold, the Torah testified regarding him that he is a wild beast of a man. This means that forever, for all eternity, Ishmael is by definition a wild beast of a man. Even if Ishmael will be involved in intellectual endeavor, like being a lawyer, or some similar profession, then he will be a beastly lawyer. If he will study diligently to be a professor, then he will be a beastly professor. This means that the bestiality of Ishmael will never cease.’

"Then the Chofetz Chaim let out a long, painful sigh and said, ‘Who knows what this wild beast of a man is capable of perpetrating against the Jewish people in the end of days?’ "Concluding his words to me, he said, ‘Nevertheless, fear not. There is no reason for this to prevent you from making Aliyah to the Land of Israel.’
"Then he blessed me, saying, ‘Go in peace, and the L-rd will bless your path.’

"So I left him, and journeyed in peace to the Holy Land."

So, my brothers and sisters in Hollywood, Japan, Monsey, Germany, and France, do not be afraid. G-d will protect you. You too can be like Yehoshua! Come, rise up and inherit the Land!