The Derech Eretz Show
Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, “Mishpatim,” we learn that if a Hebrew slave does not want go free after his term of service had ended, he is brought to a door and his master “shall bore his ear though with an awl” (Shemot, 21:6). Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, head of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, used this example to describe the tragedy of Jews who lived in the Diaspora and didn’t want to leave:
“It is a tragedy when Jews falls in love with the Galut” he told a group of Bnei Avika students visiting Israel from the Diaspora. “It is written in the Torah portion, ‘Mishpatim,’ that after six years, a Hebrew slave must go free. If he refuses, saying, ‘I love my master – I won’t go out to freedom’ (Shemot, 21:5), this is a terrible thing. Likewise, when a Jew falls in love with Galut, saying, ‘I love my master, the foreign gentile nation,’ this is a tragic catastrophe, both for him and for our nation.”
The students were speechless. Rabbi Kook wasn’t the usual kind of rabbi these young people were used to. He was the son of the famous HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, a giant Torah scholar in his own right, and the founder of the Gush Emunim settlement movement in Israel, who had sent his best students out to the hilltops and mountains of Judea and Samaria, to resettle the Biblical cities of Hevron, Shilo, Beit-El, Elon Moreh, Gush Etzion, and many many others from the Golan Heights to Gush Katif.
To give our beloved brothers the benefit of the doubt, as we explained in the book “Torat Eretz Yisrael,” a Jew who was born outside the Land of Israel, and who spent his whole life in the Diaspora, doesn’t know any other reality. He readily becomes a creature of the foreign culture which surrounds him, and he becomes estranged from his natural connection to Israel, his natural homeland. Identifying with the culture where he lives, he doesn’t feel a need for his own Jewish government, or Jewish army, or Jewish land. The government of America, or Canada, or South Africa takes care of his needs. In the absence of Jewish nationhood, gentile cultures and pastimes occupy the dominant role in his daily existence. Thus the ingathering of the Jewish people to Israel, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, upon which the Redemption of the Jewish nation is based, become secondary issues in his life. He doesn’t experience his residence in a foreign country as an exile at all, and because of his alienation from the deeper levels of Torah and the goals of the nation, he doesn’t feel the pain and poverty of living in a gentile land.
In contrast, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda wanted this group of Diaspora youth to know that living in a foreign land was a terrible situation, indeed, not only in being a minority in someone else’s country, but even in the air that people breathe. Just as the food we eat influences our physical metabolism, we are careful to eat kosher food, because we understand that to live a holy spiritual life, we must observe the dietary laws which G-d decreed for the Jewish People. The food we eat has a direct effect on our souls. How much more so the air we breathe, and the country we live in! In Eretz Yisrael, we are surrounded by holiness, by the holy air and holy soil. Every moment we are here we are performing a mitzvah, as our Sages teach: “Everyone who walks four cubits in the Land of Israel merits a portion in the World to Come” (Ketubot 111A). In contrast, outside of the Land of Israel, the air is spiritually impure, the land is impure, even halachically, the Diaspora is categorized as possessing a defilement similar to that of a grave (Shabbat 14B, beginning “Yosi ben Yoezer….” See also, Nazir54B, Tosefot beginning “Eretz….” Also, Gaon of Vilna, “Likutei HaGra,” end of Safra D’Tzni-uta.)
“We mustn’t forget that the gentile nations do us a favor by allowing us to stay in their lands,” Rabbi Kook taught the youngsters. “Until the day comes when they throw us out. A Jew must realize that he is on a foreign soil there. It is not our society, nor government, nor historical homeland. Nothing there is ours. Only in Israel are we at home, with family, living according to our customs, and our uniquely Jewish year, living in the place designed for our holiness, for our psychological and physical health. We must return to our true Jewish selves, to our mental and psychological health, to our true national Israeli identity, as the Children of Israel, and turn away from unhealthy polluted places, and from our foreign masters, and from environments that are so foreign and disorienting that one forgets who he really is and thinks that it is normal to live amongst the gentiles. This is a tragic mistake” (See the book, “Torat Eretz Yisrael,” Ch.5).
After this introduction, here, in my opinion, are the 10 hottest reasons for moving to Eretz Yisrael:
1. This is where Hashem wants us to be.
2. This is the place where you can get closest to G-d.
3. It is a Torah commandment to live in the Land of Israel.
4. You can observe more mitzvot here.
5. You can have a far more Jewish life here, breathing holy air, treading on holy soil, speaking your own holy language, instead of the language of the gentiles.
6. Your children will grow up proud, Hebrew-speaking Jews, sure to marry Jewish spouses.
7. Assimilation is steadily increasing in the Diaspora. If you send your kids to college in the Diaspora, what’s the chance that they’ll marry a Jew?
8. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Diaspora. And as they say, history repeats itself. Throughout the Exile, wherever the Jews lived, the persecutions and expulsions inevitably arrived.
9. When you stand in the Heavenly Court of Judgment, when Hashem asks you why you didn’t take part in the glorious, historic ingathering of the exiles and rebuilding of Jerusalem that He fashioned for us in our time, you won’t have to face the horrible embarrassment of explaining why you stayed in Brooklyn, or Toronto, or Melbourne.
10. …………….. (I’ll leave it open for my fellow Israelis to finish off the list.)