Some readers accuse me of harping on the mitzvah of living in Israel, but it isn’t me – it’s the Torah. Once again, in this week’s portion, the Torah states: “I am the L-rd, your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your G-d” (Vayikra, 25:38).
Rashi explains the meaning of “to be your G-d,” stating: “For whoever resides in the Land of Israel, I am a G-d to him; and whoever leaves it is like one who worships idols.”
This startling teaching is also stated in the Talmud. It applies not only to Jews who leave the Land of Israel, but also to Jews who make the Diaspora their home, as it says: “In all generations, a Jew should live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority of inhabitants are idol worshipers, and not live in the Diaspora, even in a city where the majority of residents are Jews, for everyone who lives in the Land of Israel is like someone who has a G-d, and everyone who lives in the Diaspora is like someone who has no G-d, as it says, ‘I am the L-rd, your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your G-d,’ for someone who resides in the Diaspora is like someone who worships idols” (Ketubot 110B).
I’m sorry if this hurts your feelings, but this is what it says in the Torah. This is what Rashi says. This is what the Talmud states. This is the halacha as recorded by the Rambam (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:12).
A Jew is supposed to live in Israel even in a city where the majority of residents are idol worshipers, and not live in Monsey, Melbourne, or Timbuktu, even if the majority of residents are Jews. This means that a Jew is supposed to live in Israel even if the Land is filled with anti-Torah leftists, corrupt Jewish politicians, and self-hating journalists.
Blame Rashi, blame the Rambam, blame HaKodesh Baruch Hu, not me.
A few blogs ago, we explained the shocking comparison between Jewish life in the Diaspora and idol worship by citing the teaching of the Ramban concerning the ministering angels that G-d has appointed to preside over all of the countries of the world, excluding the Land of Israel, where G-d alone rules. Judaism outside of Israel is “like” worshiping idols in that one’s worship in the Diaspora is intercepted, as the Ramban explains, by the intermediary angel, and does not rise directly to G-d Himself.
I have tried to open up the eyes of my brothers and sisters in the Diaspora to this all-important reality by quoting the holy words of our Sages, and by using metaphors and photographs and the like. Many readers have joined in to help me, out of a true concern for our beloved brethren enveloped in the darkness of exile. For those still scattered Jews whose light bulbs still haven’t lit up, I will try once again, even though it bring me more of their scorn.
For example, everyone knows that the real baseball is the major league baseball in America. In comparison, baseball in Japan is a joke. No matter how skilled its players may be, Japanese baseball just doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t look the same. It’s out of place. Like it or not, baseball just doesn’t belong in Tokyo. At best, it is a poor imitation of the real major leagues, with the unmatchable CRACK of a Louisville Slugger bat pummeling a hardball into the bleachers at Yankee Stadium to the unmatchable ROAR of the crowd and the smell of American hot dogs, spilled beer and roasted peanuts.
The same dichotomy applies to Jewish life in Israel versus Jewish life in foreign gentile lands. No matter how much private Yiddishkeit there is in Monsey or Boro Park, it’s the minor leagues compared to the national Jewish life of the Land of Israel, which has all of the Yiddishkeit of Boro Park, plus a thousand things more. This is obvious. No one can argue this. The attention of the entire world is focused on Israel. In comparison, who cares what is going on in Monsey? Who bothers to click on Jewish websites centered in Melbourne or Sidney? Who would bother to tune into something called “Vienna National News?” The real thing is here in Israel. This is the major leagues. When it comes to being a Jew, there is nothing like it at all.