You Probably Won’t Understand, But What the Heck
Tzvi FishmanBefore making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter....
You probably won’t understand because I lack the skill to explain this all-important matter in an adequate fashion. But I’ll try anyway. Even if you catch the idea a little, it’s a very worthwhile thing in understanding just what Torah is all about.
Yesterday, I took my youngest children to visit the burial site of the Macabbees, near the rebuilt city of Modiin. I explained to them that the modern hi-rises, erected on the very site where the Hanukah rebellion began, almost 2000 years after the gentiles ousted us from our homeland, was a greater sanctification of G-d than all of the menorahs in the world. I am not talking about the menorahs of Modiin, rather the city itself. Because the return of the Jewish People to Israel is the greatest Sanctification of Hashem that there is, as it says: “And I will sanctify My Name, which was desecrated among the nations, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the goyim shall know that I am the L-rd, says the L-rd G-d, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes; for I will take you from amongst the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own Land” (Ezekiel, 23-24).
For all of you who may have missed the boat, this prophecy has come true in our time with the ingathering of our scattered exiles from all over the world to Israel, and with the miraculous rebuilding of our homeland which has stunned all of mankind.
It doesn’t matter that many of the inhabitants of Modiin and the neighboring community of Macabbeam are not religious. Of course, there are also religious people in Modiim and in the largely religious community of Hashmonean, just up the road. Standing by the graves of the Macabbees, one can also see the hi-rises of Modiin Ilit, a large and growing Ultra-Orthodox city. Baruch Hashem, whatever your religious persuasion happens to be, you can find it in Israel. The point is that this great national sanctification of Hashem, the rebuilding of Israel, as promised by G-d through His Prophets, is a towering light to the world, proclaiming that the G-d of Israel has not abandoned His Chosen People, as the gentiles claimed for the last 2000 years.
Unfortunately, some of our dear brothers and sisters are critical of the way that G-d has chosen to bring this Redemption about. The modern State of Israel isn’t kosher isn’t for them. To their tastes, there are too many non-religious Jews involved the enterprise, who, along with their disdain for the Torah, throw settlers out of their homes, make traitorous agreements with enemies, and a long list of other grievances. Yes, these things are not pleasant. But that’s the way life is. Nothing is perfect at the start. It is our task to work to improve things. The fact that there are problems in Israel does not lessen the mitzvah of living here, in any way, shape, or form.
Let me give an example. Would anyone say that the First Temple wasn’t official because King Solomon ended up embarrassing himself and the nation with his 1000 wives? Certainly not. And would anyone say that the Second Temple wasn’t the Second Temple because Herod slaughtered all of the rabbis, save one, whom he merely blinded? Of course not. The Second Temple was the Second Temple, period. Nor do we look down at the Hashmonian rule at the time of the Macabbees, even though they were Kohanim and not from the ruling tribe of Yehuda. As the Rambam writes, we celebrate their great victory in re-establishing Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel for more than 200 years.
Yes, yes, yes, there are people who are temporarily exempt from making aliyah because they have to care for sick relatives. And others may suffer from genuine problems that make such a big change impossible for them, depending on each individual case. But not liking this or that Israeli government isn’t one of them. Nor is being afraid that there might be a war or a terrorist attack on a bus. The mitzvah of conquering and settling the Land of Israel is what is called a “milchemet mitzvah” and the danger of war doesn’t exempt Jews from taking their part in the mitzvah, since danger and a willingness of self-sacrifice (masurat nefesh) is a part of any war. Furthermore, the halachic authority, the “Pitchei Tshuva,” which gathers all of the early and later Torah authorities, has already determined that since merchants regularly travel to Israel on business, the excuse of danger doesn’t apply (Shulchan Oruch, Aven HaEzer, 75:6). This was the position of the Chofetz Chaim as well.
A commandment is a commandment. Its observance isn’t up to us. You can’t say that I’m not going to put on tefillin because they make me look funny; or that I’m not going to keep Shabbos because I want to drive to the beach; or that I won’t eat matzah on Seder Night because it makes me constipated. The Rosh Yeshiva at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, would remind young people visiting Jerusalem from the Diaspora that we don’t pick and choose the mitzvot we like, saying “this one pleases me, so I’ll do it, but this one is too tough.” We do all the commandments we can with complete emunah and put our trust in Hashem. If a mitzvah seems too difficult, then say it’s too difficult – don’t start finding fault with the mitzvah and created excuses not to perform it, like insisting that the government in Israel is worse than the Cossacks. Remember, G-d commanded Avraham to come to Israel when savage idol worshippers filled the Land, and the situation was no better when G-d commanded Moshe and Yehoshua to bring the Jews to Israel. You can’t even begin to compare the barbarianism of their time to what goes on in modern Israel today.
We are to perform the commandments which G-d gives us, and G-d will help with the rest. This is exactly what the prophecy of Ezekiel teaches, that the Redemption will come gradually, in stages, first with the ingathering of the exiles, and then with a Divine purification from Above and a national return to Torah, as it says: “I will bring you to your own Land. Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean, from all of your uncleanliness, and from all of your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you… and I will cause you to follow My statutes, and you shall keep my judgments and do them. And you shall dwell in the Land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My People and I will be your G-d” (there, 25-28). First the exiles return and the physical side of the Land is built to create the vessel to hold the great hidden light, and then the spiritual revolution takes place, little by little, like the breaking of dawn over the mountains to make the Redemption complete (Talmud Berachot 1:1). Sure. you can let others do all the hard work of rebuilding for you, but when you finally decide to come, there may not be anymore room on the plane.