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101 Reasons for Staying in Greece

By Tzvi Fishman
12/26/2011, 10:12 AM

Some me readers accuse me of having a lack of love for my fellow Jews when I point out the shortcomings of Diaspora Judaism. But the truth is the exact opposite. It is precisely out of my great love for them that I write what I write, to turn them on to the far more complete life of Torah that is found in Eretz Yisrael.

I am not blaming them for staying in foreign gentile lands when they could come live in the Land of Israel. By and large, no one ever taught them what the Torah is really all about. For 2000 years, without the physical possibility of returning to Israel to rebuild our Jewish State, we had to make do with the exile. In order to strengthen their communities, rabbis and Jewish educators concentrated on the handful of commandments that could still be performed, like kashrut, Shabbat, tefillin, the holidays, tzedaka, good character traits, joining the sisterhood and coming to Hebrew school. Lacking our own Jewish Land, Judaism became the performance of ritual commandments, in many ways, a religion like any other, stripped of the Torah’s encompassing national foundation. Wandering in foreign lands, our identities as Israelites was lost. We became Germans and Moroccans and Yemenites and Frenchmen and Americans who practiced the religion of Judaism, the small remnants of the Torah that we still had in the lands of our dispersions. But that isn’t what Torah is. Torah is the national constitution of the Israelite nation, filled with the national commandments of conquering the Land of Israel, establishing a Jewish monarchy, a Sanhedrin, a Jewish army, a Jewish police force, and a Jewish economy based on the unique agricultural laws pertaining to the Holy Land. The goal of the Torah is not just to perform ritual mitzvot, but to establish a Torah State in the Land of Israel. This is what we have been praying for ever since we were exiled and scattered to foreign lands – to return to Zion and Jerusalem in order to rebuild our fallen Israelite Kingdom. This is the Redemption we long for – at least the Redemption which we are supposed to long for.

To cite two examples I used in the past: once I was in Toronto to raise money for a yeshiva in Israel. A synagogue graciously invited me to speak to the congregation, and I held up that Shabbat’s local Jewish newspaper. The headline read: “Looking Forward to the Next Decade of Jewish Life in Toronto.”

“Something seems to have gone wrong,” I told them. “A Jew is supposed to yearn for the next decade of Jewish life in Zion. I have the feeling that if the Mashiach should come today, he would mess up your plans.”         

Another time, I was in Boca Raton visiting my parents before they came on aliyah. A flyer on the synagogue bulletin board announced: “THIS SUMMER COME ON A TRIP TO OUR NATION’S CAPITAL WITH THE RABBI” Underneath the headline was a photo of the Capitol Building in WDC. Now when Jewish kids are educated to believe that WDC is their nation’s capital, and not Jerusalem, it isn’t any wonder that they end up in Boca all of their lives.

Finally, to use the Hanukah story to make the matter clear. The Macabbees didn’t risk their lives so that Jews could eat jelly donuts in Sidney, Australia and Palm Springs, CA. They risked their lives to purify the Land of Israel of foreign influence and rule, so that the Jews could be free to keep the Torah in their own sovereign Jewish Land.

Now, I ask you. If the Macabbees lived in Brooklyn today, or in Los Angeles, Miami Beach, Montreal, Melbourne, Cape Town, Paris, Manchester, Mexico City, Buenos Aries, or Berlin, would they continue to live there, or would they rush home to the Land of Israel?     

Be honest. Of course, they would leave everything behind and hurry to catch the first flight that they could. More than that. If they had been living in Europe or America one hundred years ago, when the Zionist movement was gaining momentum, would they have stayed behind in gentile lands, or rushed to volunteer in the fight to re-conquer and rebuild the Land of Hashem?  The answer is obvious. Lovers of G-d like the Macabbees would have rushed back to Israel at the very first opportunity without finding 101 reasons for staying in Greece.

Now is the matter clear?