The Torah states again and again and again that G-d wants the Jews to live in Israel. So how can it be that some Jews think the very opposite, believing they are following the Torah by living in gentile lands, and that Medinat Yisrael is the worst exile ever?
This is especially puzzling since the Talmud teaches that whoever lives in the Diaspora is like someone who has no G-d, as the Torah verse says: “I am Hashem your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your G-d,” meaning that in the Land of Israel, Hashem is our G-d, and not when we live outside of it (Ketubot 110B).
We have already explained this startling statement in a previous blog, but since it is so overwhelming in its import, we will take the time to explain it again by reminding readers of what the Ramban teaches at the end of the Torah portion that we recently read, “Achre Mot.”
In explaining the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael, the Ramban describes how G-d assigned celestial ministers (angels) to rule over all of the countries in the world, excluding Israel, where G-d alone reigns. In the Land of Israel, a Jew’s connection to G-d is direct. Thus the Land of Israel is known as the Holy Land. In contrast, outside of the Land of Israel, a Jew can only reach G-d through the intermediary angel that rules over that land. In effect, when a Jew prays in the Diaspora, his prayer goes up to the national angel of America, or the national angel of Japan. This is what the Talmud means when it states that a Jew who lives in the Diaspora is like someone who has no G-d.
This is the reason that praying feels flat and hollow in the Diaspora, and why the Jewish Holidays feel empty of meaning there, as the Ramban states: “For the principle meaning of the commandments are for those Jews who reside in the Land of Israel” (Ramban on the Torah, Vayikra, 18:25). The performance of the commandments in the Diaspora, he explains, is merely like practice, “so we don’t forget how to do them when we return to Eretz Yisrael” (ibid). In essence, the practice of Judaism outside the Land is like an exercise bicycle to keep us in shape until we come back to Israel. The bicycle will help to keep your body in decent condition, but it won’t take you anywhere.
These interfering angels not only adversely affect the Diaspora’s Jew’s performance of Judaism, they also affects his thoughts. The foreign angels appointed over the countries in the Diaspora determine the cultures, languages, and beliefs of the people living there. These foreign ideas and values seep into the brain through a process of cultural osmosis. For the nations of the world, this is the way things are supposed to be. But when it happens to a Jew who is living in a foreign land, if he is not connected to the Land of Israel through his prayerful yearnings for Zion, through his occupation with the secrets of Torah, or through fervent activities on behalf of the settlement in Israel, then his brain can become lobotomized, as if it has been soaked in a jar of formaldehyde for years.
His intellectual faculties can become so confused that he comes to believe that living in a foreign land is a mitzvah, even though the Torah plainly states the very opposite time and time again.
We don’t ignore the fact that there are many problems in Israel. After all, we live in a world of tikun. It is our job to make things better. But after 2000 years of Egyptian zevel, and Babylonian zevel, and Greek and Roman zevel, and Moslem zevel, and Christian zevel, and German zevel, and Soviet zevel, and Turkish, British, and American zevel, thank G-d that today, with the establishment of the State of Israel, the zevel we have to contend with is our own.
This year on Israel Independence Day, I have decided to print out the talkbacks of the scorners who discourage Jews from living in Israel, and use them to light the coals of our holiday barbecue. That way, by helping to cook our hamburgers, chicken wings, and marshmallows, they will have a part in the festive celebration. Let that be their tikun for all of the negatives things they have written this year about the mitzvah of living in Israel. Let it be like a sacrificial offering of thanksgiving for them, thanking G-d for having granted us our own Jewish State in our eternal Jewish homeland, after an exile of nearly two thousand years.