50 ways to leave America

Ask yourself, "How can I live my most Jewish best?" Opinion.

Rabbi Hillel Fendel ,

Making Aliyah
Making Aliyah
Flash 90

First in a series

One fine day a few years ago, a friend of mine was walking down the street in Silver Spring, Md., when he happened to meet a former American who had moved to Israel some years earlier. They got to talking, and the latter said at one point, "It's such a beautiful day! Why do you seem down?"

"Well, the truth is," my friend said, "I'm turning 50 this week, and I got to thinking: Am I going in the right direction Jewishly? I think there must be something I could do to really upgrade my Judaism."

The other didn't blink: "How about making Aliyah?"

Later, my friend – who now lives up the block from me here in Beit El, just north of Jerusalem – said, "I felt like a ton of bricks had fallen on me – but it didn't hurt, you know what I mean?"

A ton of bricks that doesn't hurt. Wow. That doesn't happen too often. But perhaps when someone hears something he deeply senses to be true and real and good, even if seemingly difficult, maybe that's how it feels.

So, dear reader, how about making Aliyah?

Has there ever been a better time?

Every reader can fill in for him or herself the reasons why the time is now, and so I won't harp on all the negative ones. Instead, let's just say this: Who doesn't want to feel that he's spending his time – his lifetime, to be specific – most fully and effectively? Especially when it comes to something he spends much of his time on, namely, being Jewish?

When there was no choice, such as for 17 or so of the 18 centuries following our last Exile – the Jewish People did great things almost wherever they lived.
When there was no choice, such as for 17 or so of the 18 centuries following our last Exile – the Jewish People did great things almost wherever they lived. They worked hard, they contributed, they helped their societies and the entire world progress and develop. They also did an amazing job of maintaining a People away from their natural habitat.

They did such a great job, in fact, that they almost forgot that it actually wasn't their natural habitat. They did so well with all the substitutes they managed to come up with, that they began to view them as permanent. It was like a boy with a broken arm in a cast who, when the doctor came to take it off so that he could use his arm freely again, cried out, "No, I want to keep my cast on!"

OK, so the Exile is nearing its end. How does this affect the individual Jew today? Shouldn't each person look at his or her situation and ascertain where and how they can live best and most comfortably?

The answer is most definitely yes! Ask yourself, "How can I live my most Jewish best?" Then, of course, you must ask yourself what exactly is meant by "Jewish." If it means keeping the Sabbath, studying Torah, behaving ethically, and the like – but no more – then I can see why you wouldn't want to make a major change. You're already "Jewish" in New York, or in Buenos Aires!

But if being Jewish is all of the above, plus
* living out Jewish Nationhood in the place it was meant to be lived out,
* helping with the hard work of building the ethical, Torah-based society it was meant to be lived out through,
* and realizing that all of Jewish History was designed to lead up to this very day (which in turn will soon lead to the Ultimate Jewish National Emancipation) –

then there is no place to "be Jewish" other than here, in the State of Israel.

Welcome! We're waiting for you!

P.S. Imagine believing all of the above amidst rising anti-Semitic violence, a changing culture based on hatred and speech policing, and callous and sometimes barely-affordable health care…

P.P.S. Internalizing these ideas is one of the headline's 50 Ways to Leave America. For more, stay tuned for the next article in our Aliyah series.

Rabbi Hillel Fendel, former Senior News Editor for Israel National News, is a resident of Beit El and author of One Thing I Ask on the siddur (Jewish prayer book).