הרב ליאור
הרב ליאורצילום: נעם לוי כובשי

HaRav Dov Lior, a renowned posek, is former Rosh Yeshivat Kiriat Arba and Chief Rabbi of Hevron.

On the eve of Yom Yerushalayim, where from my terrace on the Mount of Olives I can see our eternal capital being rebuilt and expanding in all directions, upon all of the hillsides which surround her, I bid you shalom. You have the vital function of spreading Judaism in the lands of our wanderings, lands foreign to our culture and to our souls.

At present there is a great mitzvah to encourage our young people to make Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael and to learn in our yeshivot and universities. For those who seek to deepen and strengthen their Torah studies we have a plethora of outstanding yeshivot, including study programs in English and other languages.

HaRav Yaakov Moshe Harlap, an outstanding student and colleague of Rabbi Kook, taught regarding the verse in Ha’azinu, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations, ask thy father and he will recount it to thee; ask the elders and they will tell thee,” that every generation has a unique calling and a special mitzvah that accompanies it.

HaRav Harlap also said that the most important mitzvah of the generation is the mitzvah which the nations of the world most oppose. Today, we are witness to the unpleasant reality that the nations most oppose our living in the Land of Israel.

Also in Ha’azinu, Moshe Rabenu says in his concluding oratory to Clal Yisrael before his death, “He is the Rock, his doings are perfect; for all of His ways are justice, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” This comes to justify the harsh judgment which fell on the First and Second Temples. We say this at funerals and in times of tragedy.

When sufferings befall us we are called upon to examine why they occurred, not to question the Almighty, Heaven forbid, but rather to correct our wrongdoings. Certainly this is true for us today. In Israel, the barbaric attack by Hamas against our people on Simchat Torah must cause us to change our ways by understanding that the only peace that can be attained with unhuman terrorists is to destroy them down to their roots.

And the Anti-Semitism which has spread across the globe in response to our holy and just war against the enemies of goodness and morality and the sanctity of life must lead us to realize that the Jewish People do not belong in the lands of the Gentiles where the hatred of the Jew has once again raised its ugly head, but in the Land which Hashem bequeathed to our forefathers as an eternal possession, as is written over and over in our holy Torah.

In our generation we merited the great blessing of returning to the Land of Israel to rebuild our Nation. If the returning exiles had all been devoted to Torah, no doubt our situation would be much different today. But a majority were estranged from the ways of Torah and enraptured by a variety of foreign notions and creeds such as socialism, communism, and democracy.

What is democracy? I am told that many of the Jews in America today who live as minorities in fear of the gentiles and the terrible anti-Semitism which has erupted, remove the mezuzot from their doorways to hide the fact that Jews live inside the house. Is this democracy? There is a rottenness and evil in such a democracy like this.

Today the goal must be for all Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Harlop writes that in our generation the most important matter is the return of Am Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael.

In previous generations we did not have the physical possibility to return to our Homeland, but today, when Hashem has reestablished our sovereignty over a large portion of our Land, and when the eyes of the world are amazed at the miracle of the reborn Jewish State and gaze upon us with jealousy seeing how the Almighty is with us and not with them, certainly at this time of our Redemption every Jew must make every effort to join in the battle to defend and build our country, both its physical building and its spiritual building by increasing Torah throughout the Land.

We know that for older people in the Diaspora who are established in their ways, Aliyah is a challenging and difficult enterprise. But for young people who are just starting out, they must be encouraged by their parents and Rabbis to make their futures in Israel, the only place where there is a certain Jewish future for our people, and the only place where we can defend ourselves.

Therefore all Rabbis throughout the lands of our dispersion are obligated to urge their congregations to strive to move to Israel, especially the young people - to study and work here, to establish roots and build their family life in the Land which the eyes of Hashem gaze upon from the beginning of the year to the end.

The hatred of the non-Jew toward Yaacov is not a new thing. Long ago, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught us the halakhah that Esav hates Yaakov. We see it clearly all over the world. Why would a Jew want to stay in such places? I cannot understand it. Recently we said this very thing on Seder Night, that in every generation they rise up against us to destroy us, Heaven forbid.

There are periods where the hatred is disguised and periods where the hatred is in the open. Today the animosity and the wild, irrational hatred are exposed. For this reason, if not for the positive reason that Eretz Yisrael is the Land of our life, the Land of the Jews, and a positive commandment of the Torah to live here, every young person who finishes high school in the Diaspora, if his or her parents have not made already made Aliyah, that child must be sent here, to Eretz Yisrael to finish his studies and establish his roots in Israel.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the tribulations which we are experiencing in Israel today have fallen upon us because of our treachery to the Land of Israel. Instead of allowing our people to settle all of our Land, the government restricts Jewish settlement, arrests young idealistic pioneers who seek only to carry out the will of Hashem, and awards chunks of Hashem’s inheritance to our enemies, all with the approval of the courts. The vengeance of the sword comes from the perversion of justice. And in the Diaspora, our people prefer to remain in foreign Gentile lands where they don’t belong rather than return to the Land which Hashem gave to our holy forefathers and their children the Jewish People for all eternity. For these treacheries these tribulations have befallen us.

Therefore I call upon all Guardians of Torah and Jewish educators in the Diaspora to teach, in addition to the mitzvot of keeping Shabbat, Taharat HaMishpachah, Kashrut, and the like, the exalted mitzvah of living in Israel which our Sages equal in weight to all of the commandments of the Torah. In this generation, the mitzvah of living in Israel is the mitzvah that Hashem has busied Himself with more than any other mitzvah.

There were times when the Gentiles didn’t want us to study Torah, like in Russia not so long ago, and times when they forbade us from performing brit milah and learning Torah, like in the days of Hanukah. Today the nations of the world don’t want us to live in Israel. Whether it is the Hague, or the United Nations, or protests all over the world and the headlines which accompany them, the goal is to weaken our hold over our Cherished Land. Therefore settling the Land of Israel and keeping it under Jewish control is the mitzvah of the hour, and everyone is obliged to share in the national task.

Of course all of the commandments must be kept, but at this time of our history the mitzvah of living in Israel must be emphasized with all force. Let it be known to everyone that exile to foreign places outside of our Homeland is a punishment and curse, no matter how pleasant that exile seems to be. It is only temporary.

The Land of Israel is our natural permanent place. The exile was never meant to last forever. Today, through the kindness of our Maker, and on the eve of Yom Yerushalayim, Hashem has answered our prayers of 2000 years for return and rebuilding, and woe be it if we turn our back on that kindness and pretend that nothing has changed. We must work day and night as one nation to continue the ingathering, to continue the rebuilding, to continue all together in the battle to safeguard our inheritance from enemies without and within, striving alongside Hashem for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash, may it be soon.

Hazak v’amatz! Be strong and of good courage!

May the Master of the World bless you and strengthen you from Zion, as it says, “For the Torah shall go forth Zion and the word of the Lord from Yerushalayim.”