Making Aliya
Making Aliyaצילום: Vaad HaRabbanim

When I came to Israel forty years ago I was blessed to encounter the Torah of Eretz Yisrael which I began to learn at the Machon Meir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Quickly I realized that there were two very different understandings of Torah – the truncated and landless Torah of the Galut and the expansive national Israelite Torah of Eretz Yisrael, the place which Hashem had eternally chosen for the Torah to be observed in our own Jewish Homeland.

I discovered that the difference was like night and day. Ever since then I have attempted to share this discovery with others.

For the majority of Jews still dwelling in Gentile countries the difference is difficult to grasp – partly because of the spiritual darkness of the Exile and impurity of foreign lands, partly because people are resistant to dramatic change such as making Aliyah to a place far away, and partly because the Torah of Eretz Yisrael is simply not taught in a place alien to true Torah Judaism. Add to this the almost two-thousand years of exile away from the Holy Land. Thus to strengthen the downfallen Jews, explanations of Torah arose to allow the disgraced and scattered exiles to survive their sorrowful plight.

The result is that today, when you tell a Jew in the Diaspora that the Torah was given to be kept in Israel, he or she is likely to answer that it can be kept better in Brooklyn or Boca Raton, or that we aren’t to make Aliyah until Mashiach arrives, or that it is too expensive and dangerous to live in Israel….

Instead of yearning for Eretz Yisrael, the Diaspora Jew yearns to remain in Galut.

Long ago our Sages realized that this alienation from the Promised Land would occur, so they instituted several enactments to make sure that a Jew’s deep inner connection to Eretz Yisrael wasn’t forgotten. For example, after eating a meal on weekdays we are supposed to recite Psalm 137 before saying grace after meals, Birkat HaMazon.

“By the rivers of Babylon (read Brooklyn, Boston, or Boca) we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion… How shall we sing the L-rd’s song in a foreign land? If I ever forget you, O Jerusalem, withered be my right hand! May my tongue cleave to my palate if I don’t think of you, if I don’t set Jerusalem above my highest joy!”

King David teaches us that we are to set Jerusalem over our highest joy – not Brooklyn or Lakewood, New Jersey. Not West Palm Beach, Florida or Palm Springs, California. Jerusalem. The Torah goes forth from Jerusalem. Today, Hashem is answering our daily prayers. Wherever you gaze in the Holy City you see building and building and more building. Hashem hasn’t waited for Mashiach to bring His People home.

May the day soon come when the fast day of the 17th of Tammuz be turned into a day of rejoicing, as the prophet Zecharia predicted, with the complete return of the still exiled Jews to their cherished Homeland!