To be honest, there is an underlying tension between Jews of the Diaspora and their brethren in Israel. While mutual respect abounds in general, I meet many Jews in Israel who feel that their counterparts in the Exile have copped out of the ultimate calling for Jews of this generation – coming home to live in Israel. The Diaspora Jews, they contend, prefer the luxuries, comforts and higher salaries of North America over the challenges of settlement and defense in the Holyland.
The same goes for the Diaspora rabbis, they say.
Diaspora Rabbis counter with the argument, "I am on a mission – shlichut – teaching Torah and leading a congregation. I am working to strengthen my congregants' connection to Hashem and the Land of Israel." They say that under the circumstances, they are justified in staying.
They've got a point.
But, reason dictates that there is a single indicator to know if a Diaspora Rabbi is genuinely connected to the land of Israel and his whole reason for living in the Diaspora is to answer a spiritual calling or if his choice of residence in North American suburbia is merely to satisfy his addiction to pickled lox and peppered pastrami.
What is the litmus test? When the rabbi retires, does he imediately make aliya?
The Bet El Yeshiva Center today had the honor and privilege of hosting members of a Toronto congregation along with their rabbi who passed the Diaspora Rabbi test with flying colors. Click here for the story on Rabbi Baruch Taub of the Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto (BAYT) Here is his story in a few sentences.
Rabbi Baruch Taub established a synagogue in Toronto in 1980 with 15 families holding prayers in the basement. Under his leadership, the synagogue has grown to 700 families strong and has become a major force in Torah learning and promoting the Land of Israel. Rabbi Taub recently retired and announced his immediate aliya to Netanya, Israel.
In my humble opinion, he is the perfect example of a Diaspora rabbi.
I participated in a festive lunch in his honor today in BAYT's sister city of Bet El along with congregants who are on the synagogue's annual Israel mission. I could see that Rabbi Taub and his wife Malkah had cultivated warm, personal relationships with the synagogue members. It was evident to me that he was not a distant rabbi, but rather deeply loved and held in high esteem by his congregants.
The Taubs' decision to pick up and leave their friends, students and connections of 30 years was undoubtedly a painful one. The Talmud in the tractate of Brachot teaches us that it is only through such pain and suffering that one can acquire the merit to live in the Land of Israel.
I salute Rabbi Taub and his wife and suggest that the rabbi may have taught a greater lesson in his retirement and aliya than he did in many years of teaching. I salute the rabbi and his wife and extend the wish that many other rabbis will follow his example and thus teach their congregants that full worship of Hashem means living in His land.
My dear brethren, Jews of the Diaspora, I know that you are not there just for the lox and pastrami. I know that it is extremely difficult to pick up and leave. But, I urge you to start planning your aliya today. Start learning to speak Hebrew; start saving to purchase an apartment in Israel before the prices get even higher. Tell your children to choose professions that they can easily take to Israel. Moreover, send your kids to Israel for their university study (much cheaper!). There are many programs in English. Start seeking employment information and contacts in Israel. In short, start thinking Israel. It is your only true home.