Question: I am presently learning in a one-year yeshiva program in Jerusalem. Since the end of the Yom Tov Sheni my parents have phoned me twice telling me in no uncertain terms that they want me to return home immediately to New York because of the war. They threatened to stop paying my tuition if I refused to obey them.
In call number two they informed me that they had spoken to the Rosh Yeshiva and informed him of their feelings. When I spoke to the Rosh Yeshiva he told me to obey my parents’ wishes.
But I want to stay here, war or no war. What do you say?
Reply: Firstly, Eretz Yisrael is your home, not New York. Secondly, in answering your question allow me to quote the reply of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, former head of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, to a student from America who wanted to make Aliyah against his parents’ wishes. The elderly Torah Giant explained:
“The ruling in Yoreh Deah states that if a father tells a child to transgress a positive commandment, even a Rabbinical ordinance, the child should not listen to him (Yorah Deah, 240:15). The precept to live in Eretz Yisrael is a Torah commandment which applies in every generation, to every Jew, even in the time of galut (Pitchei Tshuva, Even HaEzer, Section 75, sub-section 6). Therefore a Beit Din (Rabbinical Court) can compel someone to leave the exile to move to Israel, even from a luxurious home in the Diaspora to a miserable home in Eretz Yisrael; and even from a city in galut where the majority of residents are Jews to a city in Israel where the majority are idol worshippers (Even HaEzer 75:3).
"Furthermore, the obligation to live in Israel is all the more stringent when it stems from a desire to learn Torah, for ‘There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael’ (Bereshit Rabbah 16:7). And the study of Torah is greater than the mitzvah of honoring one’s father and mother.”
In addition to the Rabbi Kook’s reply, the situation today makes the mitzvah of being in Israel even greater. In addition to the supreme value of learning Torah in Israel you can volunteer to help in hospitals, in the distribution of food to soldiers, in taking care of children and the elderly while soldiers are fighting our enemies.
In the armies of Israel, soldiers in the home command have a share in taking part in the Milchemet Mitzvah of the Torah which we are fighting today, both in keeping the Land of Israel under Jewish sovereignty and defending Jews against enemies who rise against us.
In addition, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda would remind his students who were called up to fight in a war that all cowardice is forbidden by the Torah lest a soldier or draft-dodger weaken the heart of his brethren (Devarim 20:8 and 20:3). “In our time of rebuilding the Jewish Nation in Israel, weakheartedness is as forbidden as pork!” the Rosh Yeshiva declared.