I could cite a long long list of Torah giants who emphasize that the Torah obligation to live in Eretz Yisrael applies in every generation, but it wouldn’t do any good. Jews in the Diaspora who want to believe otherwise will respond with a list of their own to justify their love affair with foreign countries. Furthermore, why should anyone listen to me, a baal t’shuva from Hollywood who can barely decipher a line of Rashi? Since next week is "Book Week" in Israel, when we will be taking a glimpse at some books that have changed the face of Jewish history, let’s begin right now by taking a look at the masterpiece, "Eim HaBanim Semeichah," and see what an undisputed giant of Torah has to say about the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel today.
Railway to Auschwitz - Whether by gas or by assimilation, the Holocaust is the same.
The book’s author, Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, was murdered in the Holocaust. A noted Rosh Yeshiva and Av Beit Din, he was one of the leaders of the Ultra-Orthodox community in Europe and a vehement anti-Zionist until the events of the Holocaust revolutionized his thinking. Realizing that the purpose of the unspeakable persecution was to arouse the Jewish People to return to Eretz Yisrael, he publicly admitted the error of his former beliefs and vowed to write a scholarly treatise proving that the obligation to live in the Land of Israel applied in all times. Hiding from the Nazis in an attic in Budapest, without any books at his disposal to cite, he wrote his powerful argument, quoting hundreds of long Torah sources by heart. Rabbi Teichtal died on a train on the way to the Mathausen concentration camp in 1945. His book, however, was hidden with a gentile family and rescued by his children after the war.
The essential point is that Hashem is waiting for us to take the initiative, to yearn and long for the return to Eretz Yisrael. He does not want us to wait for Him to bring us there.
Regarding the dire anti-Zionists, who clung to their opposition to Jewish immigration to Eretz Yisrael, even in the face of the horrors of the Holocaust, Rabbi Teichtal writes:
"Those who have a predisposition on this matter will not see the truth and will not concede to our words. All of the evidence in the world will not affect them, for they are smitten with blindness, and their inner biases cause them to deny even things which are as clear as day. Who amongst is greater than the Spies? The Torah testifies that they were distinguished, righteous individuals. Nonetheless, since they were influenced by their desire for authority, they rejected the desirable Land, and led others astray, causing this bitter exile, as our Sages explain. Yehoshua and Calev began to argue with them and attempted to prove the authenticity of Moshe and his Torah. They proclaimed, ‘Let us ascend at once!’ They even brought lengthy arguments and proofs to show that Israel would succeed in conquering the Land, as Rashi states. Nevertheless, they were unable to convince them, for the Spies were prejudiced by hidden motives.
"The same holds true in our times, even among rabbis, rebbes, and hasidim. This one has a good rabbinical position; this one is an established Admore, and this one has a profitable business or factory, or a prestigious job which provides great satisfaction. They are afraid that their status will decline if they go to Eretz Yisrael. People of this sort are influenced by their deep-rooted, selfish motives to such an extent that they themselves do not realize that their prejudice speaks on their behalf. People of this sort will not be convinced to accept the truth, even if they are shown thousands of proofs from the Torah. This is what happened to Yehoshua and Calev with the Spies."
On a deeper, more Kabbalistic level, Rabbi Teichtal explains how even learned Torah scholars can be caught in the sin of discouraging aliyah to Israel. He quotes the brilliant and renowned scholar, the holy Rabbi Eliyahu of Greidetz, who wrote: "Human intellect dictates that we initiate the process of redeeming the Land of Israel, and then Hashem will complete it. One must understand the great importance of this matter, for the evil forces, the kelipot, gain strength even among the most righteous imdividuals, in order to nullify this great good. This is so because the entire strength of the kelipot depends on the exile. When the exile dissolves, so will the kelipah, as the Talmud states in tractate Sukkah."
Rabbi Teichtal continues:: "This holy Jew, whom the author of the ‘Nefech Chayah’ calls ‘The holy rabbi who resembles an angel of the L-rd of Hosts,’ states explicitly that the reason there are tzaddikim who oppose this matter is because the kelipot have become strong within them. It entices them to nullify this great matter for which the Holy One Blessed Be He constantly longs. He longs for us to return to our forefathers’ inheritance, for every Jew has an obligation to strive to return to our Holy Land, as I will prove unequivocally from the words of our Sages. In this way, we can bring the final Redemption closer, speedily in our days, Amen."
"The essential point is that Hashem is waiting for us to take the initiative, to yearn and long for the return to Eretz Yisrael. He does not want us to wait for Him to bring us there. When we, of our own volition, truly and with all of our strength, desire and strive to return to the Land, then G-d will bring our work to a successful end."
[From the book, "Eim HaBanim Semeichah," Second Introduction, Translated by Moshe Lichtman, Kol Mevaser Publications.]
"Eim HaBanim Semeichah" can be found online at www.shechem.org