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Thursday, May 14, 2009

"The Change-Place"

A few days ago, I went to cash some checks at a change-place in downtown Jerusalem. Cashing checks outside the bank is legal in Israel, and there are a few reputable establishments around Zion Square. One well known place, "Kent", is owned by Sephardic Jews and they recently decorated their store – which had moved to a new location – with many large, quality pictures of famous rabbis such as the Baba Sali and the Lubavitcher Rebbe and others.

Standing in line, after conducting a cell phone conversation in English, I was addressed by an American lady who was waiting to exchange her dollars into shekel...

"Rabbi pictures in a change place – that doesn't seem appropriate," she told me, with a look of disapproval, a scrunched up nose and a head shake. "It doesn't fit, you know, money and Rabbis."

At first I didn't grasp what she meant. Trying to understand what experiences she might be drawing from, I suddenly realized – she was concerned about the Christian stigma of Jews as money lenders, penny pinchers, and crook-nosed bankers, and did not want the perception she acutely avoided in America to be promulgated by this Israeli and very Jewish establishment. The rabbis on the walls coupled with unabashed money dealings made her feel uncomfortable.

I was taken aback. I did not expect anyone to feel this way about the common practice of rabbi pictures in sefardic establishments. I said to her without any trace of Zionist snobbishness: "Ma'am, we are no longer beholden to the prejudices of two-thousand years in which the nations stereotyped us with hateful libels. We simply do not worry about those things anymore. We don't think of ourselves as Shylocks and we do not look over our shoulder to concern ourselves with 'what will the nations say?' We are in downtown Jerusalem, our Jerusalem! This establishment is reputable, and the owners are sefardi, and they like this style. So why not have rabbis on the walls? What do we have to be embarrassed of?" I asked.

So far, a typical downtown Jerusalem conversation. But this is where it became amazing. After my little soliloquy, the nice American lady thought for a moment and surprisingly replied: "Oh… I guess you are right." And after thinking for about another ten seconds more she said: "Yes, you're right, and maybe these rabbis bring a blessing to this place."

Oh my G-d! Did you see that? Did you catch the miracle? Well, let me explain it in any case:

When this fine lady first came to the change-place, she was repelled by what she saw. She was repelled because she was seeing the store through the lens of the Jewish experience of the last two-thousand years of exile. She was utilizing the thoughts Jews had honed in places like Lodz, and Kiev, Bagdad and Tripoli. These Exilic fears are ever-present even in minds of the emancipated Jews of North America. In short, she was looking at the change-place with Exile-eyes which is why she felt uncomfortable with the rabbi/money nexus.

However, this same lady, who until a moment ago was still in the grips of the Exilic mindset, was able, over the course of a short conversation, to completely change her perspective from one of Galut (exile) to one of Geula (redemption)! She had an epiphany, a realization, a change of heart, an understanding, or what I call a shift in polarity. Only a short time ago, her Jewish soul was set to Exile-polarity, worrying about what the gentiles think, not recognizing that she stood in the heart of the miracle, downtown Jerusalem. Now, her soul awakened to the fact that she was part of a proud nation that has returned home, and that we have our own language, our own culture and our own heroes. The rabbis on the wall became not a source of shame, but a source pride, maybe even blessing.

Most importantly, the American lady suddenly felt free, free of prejudices and fear, free to be a Jew in Jerusalem and Israel. That is a miracle.

Most of us are stuck in the Exile. Heck, most of Israel and certainly the government of the State of Israel is stuck in the Exile. We just can't wrap our minds around the reality that the period of accommodation, pandering, and shame has ended. Our nation acts like a pathetic court-Jew trying to please the Duke or the Tzar, or the Pope, always acquiescing or bowing to international pressure.

Many of us think that Jerusalem and Israel are nothing but the same Exile in a slightly superior geography. How many times have you heard (or even said) "We are still in exile." That may be convenience talking, or it may be fear talking, but that is not G-d talking. Downtown Jerusalem is not Exile. Indeed, the only thing that is still in Exile is our brains. That has to change.

What gave me so much heart from my conversation with the American women is the speed at which she was able to assimilate a new consciousness. Her soul was willing o accept the truth, but her mind was not yet able. However, once her mind was freed her soul flew, allowing her to finally enjoy the fruits of redemption.

Wars, the ingathering of the exiles, and the establishment of the state were all amazing steps in redemption - but now the movement needs a second wind. The time has come for a new consciousness and a new awakening. It is time to take up the mantle of building our Jewish homeland and making it all it can and wants to be. All it takes is a change in mental polarity. If you're stuck in old-world Exile-thinking, go to the change-place in downtown Jerusalem, maybe the rabbis there can help you too.


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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Fire From Sinai

If you were some sort of head of State, and you decided to pay an official visit to Israel on say, Lag B’Omer, you would probably return home and tell people, “it's a beautiful land, but the locals there, those Jews, they sure are a bunch of pyromaniacs!”

I’ve written before about how in America I used to think Lag B’Omer was about softball. After all the softball is symbolic of Torah and the light that shines forth from it symbolizes the light that Rav Shimon Bar Yochai brought to the world by authoring the holy Zohar. Now, however, I know that using bonfires in place of softballs fit the symbolism much more aptly.

This year I didn’t go to Har Meron. Instead, I hung out in Jerusalem. What struck me the most about last night, was not how many fires there were around the city, in every park, and open lot, but the absolute breadth of the types of people enjoying them. From the most charedi godal hador down to the most secular Jew that never even heard of the Zohar, let alone Rashbi, all were singing and smiling at a huge bonfire somewhere in the country.

And that got me thinking. Even if one isn’t particularly religious, just by living in the holy land of ours some religion is going to rub off on them. Take Purim as another example. Every single eight year old in this country - from ultra-secular to ultra-religious - dresses up for Purim and could likely relate to you the entire Purim story. This is not the case in America, where many secular Jews there never heard of Purim.

I came across an interesting Rashi on this week’s Parsha. Perhaps the most commonly found verse in the Torah is “And G-d spoke to Moshe saying.” This week the Parsha opens with an interesting variation. “And G-d spoke to Moshe, on Mount Sinai, saying.” Rashi asks, “Why here?” Hashem said all of the Torah to Moshe on Sinai! Why is only this one spot, which discusses the laws of Shmittah (the Sabbatical year) singled out?

Without going into depth (see it inside for details) Rashi answers that we could learn out from here that all commandments with all the details and fine points they involve, were taught on Har Sinai and completely repeated with full details by Moshe “at the Plains of Moab.”

A question that came to me is that the Torah could still have applied the words “on Mount Sinai” to any other commandment in the Torah and we would have been able to come to the same conclusion. Why did it specifically choose the commandment of Shmittah?

Shmittah is an example of something, even the most religious Jews living in America know very little about. It’s something that simply doesn’t apply there and so not much effort is spent studying it. The Talmid Bavli (which was written in Babylonia) doesn’t even have a tractate on it. Whether one was written but lost or never written is debated but the reason for either scenario would simply be because those laws “didn’t apply” to them. (Incidentally, the Talmid Yerushalmi written in the Land of Israel does contain a tractate on the laws of Shmittah.)

Two years ago, I remember being terrified by the upcoming Shmittah year, which I knew nothing about! I attended shiur after shiur trying to get up to speed on what all the laws are (and there are many of them!) The shiurim were all very heavily attended which demonstrated that lots of people felt the same way. Now that we have to keep these laws we should learn what they are.

And now we can understand why Hashem chose this commandment out of all the others to apply the words “on Mount Sinai.” First, this commandment was given to us by G-d via Moshe on Har Sinai just like all the other ones. There is no reason not to be studying it regardless of where you are living. Don’t forget about it! And second, just like all the other commandments, this one, was also given on Har Sinai and it’s one that you should be keeping too. And if the only way to keep it is by living in the Land of Israel, then what are you waiting for?

Make Aliyah!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Swedish Life

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Shtikel Purim Torah

There are many new years throughout the Jewish calender. Rosh Hashanah is the main new year but there are others such as Tuv b'Shvat which is the new years of trees and Rosh Chodesh Nissan which is the new years of kings. Pesach is the new years of the Jewish holidays. Rebbe Nachman once said regarding this, “All beginnings started from Pesach but now...” Reb Natan said that from the Rebbe's gestures it was clear he meant Purim, i.e. Purim was now the holiday from which everything would start. Purim is the holiday of flip-flops and opposites. All year long we are studious and responsible yet on Purim we not only allow ourselves to get completely drunk but are expected to. Instead of dressing like respectable people we dress in light-hearted costumes. Why is it that Rebbe Nachman made this statement about Purim and why is it that everything is backwards from how it normally is on Purim?

Chazal says that in the time to come we won't celebrate any of the old holidays except for Purim which will continue to be celebrated even after the Mashiach comes. Why is this? By all our major holidays we say “Zecher l'yetziat Mitzraim” (in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt) because they all center around the miracles that happened when we left Egypt. We recognize these miracles because we always go after the biggest chiddush and the miracles that occurred during the exodus from Egypt were the greatest ever witnessed in the history of humanity therefore it would be a lesser statement of Hashem's greatness to proclaim lesser miracles. Yet when Mashiach comes Hashem will perform miracles that are even greater than those of Yetziat Mitzraim and therefore we won't need to remember those miracles anymore. But unlike the other main holidays which were based on the past redemption, the redemption of Purim was actually based on the future redemption of Mashiach which has yet to happen. This is why we will still celebrate Purim even after Mashiach comes. This is also why everything in Purim is backwards of how things normally are- instead of reaching into the past redemption and pulling the kedusha forward like the other holidays, Purim pulls into the future and pulls the kedusha backwards to the past.

Sefer Daniel describes a statue with a head of gold, arms of silver, thighs of copper, and legs of iron with the feet are made of part iron and part clay. Then four kingdoms are described corresponding to the four parts of the statue. The last part of the statue- the iron with some of the feet iron and some clay is described as a divided kingdom. The statue and kingdoms represent the four nations which will oppress the nation of Israel- the four exiles. The gold is Babylon, the silver Persia, the copper Greece, and the iron is Rome and by extension Edom and modern day America and Europe. Exile, or GaLuT (גלות), has the same root as MeGiLLah (מגילה) suggesting a link between the Megillot and the exiles, but there are five Megillot and only for exiles. Where is the fifth exile? In the iron part of the statue at the very bottom it becomes partially mixed with clay and the kingdom is divided. In the current exile of Edom that we are in, we are reaching the end of it and the kingdom is becoming divided by a new rival to America and Europe- Islam and the arabs. The fact that it is in the feet of the statue corresponds to sefer B'reshit when three angels came to Avraham and he asked them to wash the dust off their feet. Rashi comments that this is because the angels appeared to Avraham as arabs and since arabs would worship the dust on the feet he wanted to prevent them from doing their idolatry. Just like clay is mixed in with the iron, the fifth exile is mixed in with the fourth one. A hidden exile connotes a hidden megillah- the Megillat Ester as Ester means hidden. How is this exile we are now in hidden? Because the concealment is so deep that it's a concealment within a concealment- the concealment is such that people don't even know they are in it and therefore don't know to try and get out. Many of us have returned to Israel and we have a government here, yet right here we are still in spiritual galut. Many Jews don't even know there's a G-d or anything it says in the Torah. Yet this is the exile of the “Megillat Ester.” Megillah can be read as “MeGaLeh” or “reveal.” This Megillah is the revealing of the hidden. Since the clay was at the feet of the statue- the end, this current exile is nearing its own end when the hiddeness of Hashem will be revealed to the world.

In Sefer Daniel it tells of a rock that will smash the statue and then become a mountain that encompasses the world and a kingdom that will never be destroyed. This rock and kingdom is Israel when Hashem brings the final redemption. This time and experience can most be tapped into on Purim when we are spiritually speaking actually in the future redemption at the present. How do we know that we are currently tapping into the future redemption right now? At what point in the Megillat Ester do things start to turn around from bad to good for the Jews? In the sixth chapter when the king realizes that Mordecahi was never rewarded for reporting the conspirators who had planned to assassinate him. In second chapter of the megillah the name of one of the two conspirators written Bigtan (בגתן) yet in chapter six when the things start turning around his name is written Bigtana (בגתנא) with an extra aleph. Hashem was showing that by implanting that aleph into the bad situation He would turn it all around into a redemption. So to with our current and final exile, Hashem doesn't even need to make a new situation but can take this very one itself and make it a redemption, for what happens when you implant the aleph into the root of GaLuT? You get GEuLah (גאולה) (redemption)! It should be Hashem's will that we tap into the future redemption this Purim and help bring it in it's entirety soon and in our days, amen.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Working To Bring Redemption Safely

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Back!

Israelis in US desperate to return home
- Consulates in North America report of flux of Israelis asking for help getting back to Jewish state after losing money in financial crisis; Absorption, Foreign ministries mulling forming possible airfare aid fund FROM YNET

Child circumcision to be banned in Denmark? Proposal to raise circumcision age to 15 causes storm among Jewish community. 'If law is passed, Jews will have to leave place they've been living in for hundreds of years,' says Denmark's chief rabbi FROM YNET

Anti-Semitism Arrives in Golders Green - Anti-Semitism has begun to rear its ugly head in northwest London’s Jewish neighborhood of Golders Green. FROM INN

Bomb Goes off at Chabad - A northwest suburban Jewish congregation will install a security system at its synagogue after a small bomb exploded at its doorstep earlier this month on the anniversary of a World War II atrocity. FROM YESHIVA WORLD

IRAN: Man convicted of spying for Israel hangs - Iran_spy An Iranian businessman convicted of spying for Israel has been executed, according to a statement released today by Iran’s judiciary. FROM LATIMES

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bad Excuse For Not Making Aliyah

This is a Dvar Torah for Parshat Lech Lecha by Rabbi Pinchas Winston, who made aliyah from North America. Although it's over a week late, the message is very important. Full Dvar Torah starts in full post, this is just a preview:

Recently, I saw a presentation by someone to explain why “they” did not live in Eretz Yisroel. It was not a new idea, simply stating that the person has been very effective helping other Jews in the Diaspora, “proving” that, in spite of the person’s desire to live in Israel, God prefers for them to remain in Chutz L’Aretz.

That the person is an effective educator in the Diaspora, there is no question. But, to imply that his or her extended stay in the Diaspora is essential to the spiritual success of other Jews, is a mistake, flawed hashkofah. Worst of all, it is misleading to others who might now think the same way as a result, though previously, they might have considered life in Eretz Yisroel.

Dvar Torah starts here
Avram took Sarai his wife, Lot, his brother’s son, all the property that they had acquired, and the souls that they had made in Charan, and went toward the land of Canaan. (Bereishis 12:5)

At first glance, this verse has little insight or advice regarding life as a Jew in today’s world. It has importance to us in terms of understanding Avraham’s life and path to greatness, but little importance in terms of charting our own, or so it seems. However, it is helpful to know, sometimes, that some of the greatness insights the Arizal had came simply from meditating on the verses of the Torah, repeating them over-and-over- again in his mind.

Recently, I saw a presentation by someone to explain why “they” did not live in Eretz Yisroel. It was not a new idea, simply stating that the person has been very effective helping other Jews in the Diaspora, “proving” that, in spite of the person’s desire to live in Israel, God prefers for them to remain in Chutz L’Aretz.

That the person is an effective educator in the Diaspora, there is no question. But, to imply that his or her extended stay in the Diaspora is essential to the spiritual success of other Jews, is a mistake, flawed hashkofah.Worst of all, it is misleading to others who might now think the same way as a result, though previously, they might have considered life in Eretz Yisroel.

Let me explain.

In 1993, when I personally decided to return to Eretz Yisroel from Toronto, I was thrown for a loop when someone I worked with asked me, “Did you ever ask a shailah from a Gadol? You are in the midst of building something good here, and maybe it isn’t so simple that you just pick up and leave in the middle.”

Until that time, I had been working with young couples, to try and help mold them into community leaders, especially to help out with outreach. To this end, I had developed an entire 8-week program, which I taught, with material that was both unique and effective, which, when combined with a mission to Israel, molded us into a community of our own. The program seemed to be succeeding, and warranted being implemented on a regular basis.

Quite honestly, I loved the program and its results, and had difficulty leaving it behind. Nevertheless, I felt that I just had to get back to Eretz Yisroel, and felt confident that others would carry on for me after I left. I was replaceable, but for me, Eretz Yisroel was not.

However, my colleague’s comment made me question my entire judgment again, and I began to become uneasy about my decision. Fortunately, though, as Divine Providence would have it, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, of Eretz Yisroel, was visiting Toronto at that very time, and he had been my posek just before I had returned to Toronto. Therefore, I took advantage of the situation and made an appointment.

I explained the entire situation to the rav, beginning with my intense desire to return to Eretz HaKodesh, and ending with my friend’s concern about my leaving. His answer to me came quick: “Everyone is expendable. If Hashem wants your work to continue here, He will find someone else to do it. You can return to Eretz Yisroel as planned.”

Reassured, I continued on with my plans and made it back “home” later that year, to a small community just off the highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It is where, thank God, I have been more effective over the last 15 years internationally than I ever was locally, before I came back. While here, “things” have happened that I would never have dreamed about years ago, some naturally, many miraculously.

Especially in today’s world, of such advanced technology. Over time, I became a full-time writer, and with the help of the Internet, over 20 families have come to make aliyah, apparently with the help of my essays and books.

Over the years, I have met many people who have become observant, inspired, apparently, by what I have written, or more religious, encouraged by the deeper understanding of Torah I have tried to share.

The first thing we have to know is that, when God wants a job to be done, nothing can stop Him — certainly not physical distance. As much as we’d like to believe that we are indispensable, the truth is, we are not. Rather, what happens instead is that, when God decides He wants something done, He chooses a messenger who has made himself or herself available for such a mission, by choosing to be who he or she has become, and by living where he or she has chosen to live.

It’s like being chosen for a part in a play. The director doesn’t just choose any actors to play the handcrafted roles of the screenplay. Rather, knowing what he wants to see brought out by each character, he looks for actors who can do exactly that, something that becomes apparent only through previous roles the actors have already played, the result of many years of development.

It’s the ultimate middah-k’neged middah — measure-for-measure (Sanhedrin 90a). We get to decide who we want to be, and God uses us for that role. We decide where we want to live, and God uses us in that place. You want to change yourself? God will find someone else to play the role. You want to change your location? God will find someone else to do the job where it has to be done.

Indeed, if you are willing to move up in life spiritually, then God will promote you, and find someone else to do your old job. As the Torah points out, Avraham made souls in Charan. He was Mr. Outreach himself. Yet, when it came time to start Jewish history, God told him to stop what he was doing and move on to Canaan. As important as it was that he “convert” the people of Charan, it had been more important to go west and take possession of Eretz Yisroel.

What about all the potential converts back in Charan? Perhaps, Avraham had already reached all those with the potential to hear his message, just in time to move on. Perhaps, those who remained behind did not merit to be impacted by Avraham Avinu. Or, perhaps, if, indeed, there had been more souls to be “made” in Charan, God had another way of getting the job done. And, knowing that, Avraham did not question the command of God, but confidently went to where he knew he really belonged.

This is not only true on the level of the average Jew, but even with respect to Torah leaders, as the Talmud points out, and the Arizal explains using the following verse:

The sun rises and the sun sets. (Koheles 1:5)

This means that, as a Torah leader leaves this world, a new one is born to replace him (Rosh Hashanah). This is not only true regarding the death of one leader and the birth of his replacement, but even if one moves to a different community, for, the only way such a move can leave a community bereft of its leader is if they lost the merit to have one. As the Talmud points out, and the Maharshah explains, Torah leaders make their decisions based upon the merit of the people they lead (Gittin 56b). Of course, this does not mean that we can whimsically jump from role to role, or from place to place, living wherever we happen to fancy at the moment.

Even if the community for which you were responsible deserved to lose you, nevertheless, you will be judged as if you abandoned them, since you will have failed to leave them for a sound hashkofic reason. Decisions to be who we are, or to live where we live, or to get involved in whatever it is we are doing, have to be for the sake of serving God best.

Only then can everything fall into place after we have made our decision. Only then can our decisions result in win-win outcomes.

Avraham had worked many hard years on himself to become “Avinu.” Once he achieved that status, he merited to become the father of the Jewish people, a prophet, and the owner of Eretz Yisroel. After figuring out, on his own, and over many decades, what God must want from him, God finally spoke to him, and told him first hand what to do next: make aliyah. We should only be so fortunate. If God would only speak to us and tell us when to make the move to Eretz HaKodesh, there would be no room for debate or rationalization. But, alas, we are without prophets today, and making such a monumental decision seems to be a function of personal preference.

Well, not exactly. When one desires to live in Eretz Yisroel to be closer to God, and to take advantage of the kedusha of the land, it shows God where his or her heart truly resides. When one devises a plan to make aliyah, because he or she knows that it is the best place to live as a Jew — even during times of exile — and they yearn to be there with ALL their heart, it will work out for them, if not immediately, over time. It will become apparent to them how doing so is not only possible, but feasible, and life will begin to support such a decision.

Thus, loving Eretz Yisroel and missing it is different from wanting to live there with a complete heart. “I just have to live there …” is a thought and feeling that tells God, “I want to serve You and do Your will, but from Eretz Yisroel. It is imperative for me.” And, it is exactly what God wants to hear before He starts making reality accommodate such a longing.

Until such time, you will find yourself “needed” in the Diaspora. If it’s where you want to be, it’s where you will have to serve Him. That may not sound so bad, but, it was exactly that kind of thinking that put us into exile in the first place, and therefore, it is something that we have been trying to rectify for about two millennia now.

Perceptions, Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and

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Friday, September 12, 2008

What's the point?

While surfing the headlines recently I came across an article that left me scratching my head. It's about a dwindling Jewish community somewhere deep in the south that is taking drastic measures to ensure their numerical survival. Apparently they view their situation as dire enough that they are willing to fork over fifty G's to any Jewish family that agrees to move into town.

The question I'd like to ask is with that kind of money to burn why are they choosing to invest it in their community that has relatively (as far as the Jewish people are concerned) no Jewish past and from the current state of affairs also no Jewish future? Instead of trying to build up Jewish life in Dothan Alabama why not build up Jewish life in the land of Israel? Why not help feed the some of the hungry children of Jerusalem? If they'd like to keep the money closer to home, why not invest in some sort of Torah learning institution in the states? Heck, they could even give it to me! I wouldn't mind having pre-paid yeshiva tuition for the next half decade or so! Now it's not really my place to tell them what to do with their own money. You know how I know this? Because Hashem decided to put it in their wallet and not mine! That being said, it still doesn't sit quite well with me that amounts of cash that could help klal Yisrael so greatly seem to be being directed towards things that at best don't accomplish much of anything at all.

Being Elul and all I think the most important thing is not to get too depressed or frustrated over news such as this. Perhaps it's just Hashem's way of reminding us that while we may be finding fault in these things, we should really looking harder at the faults from within. But still! (sigh)...

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - Larry Blumberg is looking for a few good Jews to move to his corner of the Bible Belt.

Blumberg is chairman of the Blumberg Family Relocation Fund, which is offering Jewish families as much as $50,000 to relocate to Dothan, an overwhelmingly Christian town of 58,000 that calls itself the Peanut Capital of the World. Get involved at Temple Emanu-El and stay at least five years, the group's leaders say, and the money doesn't have to be repaid.

More Jews are living in the South than ever—about 386,00 at last count in 2001, according to Stuart Rockoff, historian at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss. But young Jews are leaving small places like Dothan in favor of cities like Atlanta and Birmingham, Rockoff said, and dozens of small-town synagogues have closed.

"A lot of the older people have died, and not many of the younger ones have stayed," said Thelma Nomberg, a member of the Dothan temple who grew up in nearby Ozark, where she was the only Jewish student in public school in the 1940s. "We are dying."

Being outside the Christian majority was never a problem, Nomberg said, even six decades ago: She won the Miss Ozark beauty pageant at 14 and sometimes attended church with friends after sleep-overs.

Now a widow, Nomberg has watched two of her four adult children leave for Florida as Temple Emanu-El lost nearly half its membership, down to about 50 families. She can only hope the recruitment plan works for her synagogue.

Launched in June, the Blumberg program has put advertisements in Jewish newspapers in Boston, Miami, Providence, R.I., and Washington, and it plans to expand the campaign.

"I think it's important that we try to find young people that we could use in our religious school, our Sunday school and help in the way of trying to create more of a family-type atmosphere in our temple," Blumberg said.

Groups offered financial aid for Jews to return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Jewish organizations around the country offer moving assistance for relocating families. A congregation has loans and other benefits for Jewish families moving into an area near Boston.

"Our program is distinctive because it's Dothan, but it's also distinctive because of the type of financial assistance," said Rob Goldsmith, executive director of Blumberg Family Jewish Community Services, which will screen applicants and administer the grant program.

Trying to lure Jewish families to a quiet Southern town in a state with a reputation for hard-right politics and racial intolerance might be difficult. About 20 Jewish families have sought information about Dothan, though none has made the move.

Rockoff credits Blumberg and the rest of the congregation with fighting to remain in Dothan, where the synagogue has a full-time rabbi and the temple, which is aligned with the reform movement, hasn't missed having a Friday night service in decades.

"It is a small community, but they have some deep pockets to be able to do this," said Rockoff. "As a historian it is fascinating to see them trying to buck this trend."

Dothan lies at the heart of the South's peanut region, in Alabama's southeastern corner just minutes from Florida and Georgia. It's dotted with big fiberglass peanuts painted to resemble characters and people—there's even an Elvis peanut.

Little things are big here: The city boasts what it calls the world's smallest city block, a triangular traffic island near the civic center.

But the Blumberg foundation is selling prospective Jewish residents on Dothan's quality of life—its low cost of living, the heritage of its synagogue and its proximity to Florida beaches, about 80 miles away.

The city is the site of the down-home National Peanut Festival each fall, and it has a full schedule of community cultural events. It has two hospitals, a branch of Troy University and is just a short drive from Fort Rucker, the Army's main helicopter training base.

Downtown is filled with quaint red-brick buildings and colorful murals, and traffic never gets too bad on Ross Clark Circle, the perimeter road.

"We have Friday afternoon rush minute, and that's about it," said manufacturing executive Ed Marbletree, 69, who grew up Jewish in Texas but married a Dothan girl and has lived in the town since 1961.

Valerie Barnes grew up in Panama and moved several times before settling 20 years ago in Dothan and becoming active at the synagogue. She's never experienced any anti-Semitism and can't imagine living anywhere else.

"The biggest thing Dothan has to offer is that it's just a very family-oriented community," said Barnes, who directs a hospital foundation. "Our congregation is very vibrant, and we have a lot of things that we get involved in."

Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith didn't know quite what to expect when she moved to Dothan a year ago to lead the congregation at Temple Emanu-El, which was founded in 1929. She came with her husband, who directs the Jewish community services group.

A Connecticut native, the rabbi halfway expected the Alabama of old with wide-open racism and dirt roads.

"The Northeast has a really warped perception of what the South is all about, and I found out it was all wrong," she said. "The South is a wonderful place to be. The people are warm and friendly. There's very little traffic. And best of all, there's no snow."

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Why American Aliyah? It's the Economy, Stupid.

Abraham Waxman, a prominent Jewish-American sociologist who has written much about American Aliyah, recently wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post, arguing that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it may make economic sense for American Jews to make Aliyah:
THE HIGH cost of Jewish living has had an impact on patterns of American aliya. Those for whom living a Jewish lifestyle is more important are those who are most likely to make aliya because their lifestyle costs are much lower in Israel. Ironically, although American Jews have traditionally associated making aliya with economic sacrifice, aliya can make economic sense...
Waxman ends with these words regarding the potential consequences of America's economic downturn for US Jewry:
Although America's Jews have enjoyed unprecedented degrees of equality and a sense of being at-home that they have not experienced in any society in which they were not sovereign, there are no guarantees that this will not slow down, if not reverse direction. While such a forecast is not on the radar screen, anyone with a sense of history cannot be too certain that it cannot develop.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Obama and Aliyah

Or maybe... Because America isn't so different after all...

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Isaiah's Wail

For the first time since 1967, the Isaiah Scroll (pictured above), is on display at the Israel Museum, in Jerusalem.

The 2,100 year old scroll is the only complete scroll of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the Qumran caves within the Judean desert, in 1947, and represents the oldest biblical manuscript in existence - dating back 1,000 years prior to the next oldest biblical manuscript, the Aleppo Codex.

The reason for the scroll having been kept from the public for so long is the concern over the effects that light and humidity will have on the very delicate scroll.

With Isaiah's Scroll finally seeing the light of day, here is a golden opportunity to, 1) strengthen the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. After all, this is very same Isaiah who was walking around Jerusalem, when the 1st Holy temple stood upon the Temple Mount, defending the unity of Jerusalem against those (Assyrians) who sought to destroy her.

And, 2) to celebrate the vitality of Judaism and the Jewish people. Here we are, in the very same places the Isaiah walked, among the descendants of those very Jews who lived in Israel (Judea) during that time. We are one nation, with one Homeland, keeping the same traditions and Torah, and in many ways, facing the same challenges that the Jewish people faced thousands of years ago, during Isaiah's lifetime.

Instead, what is being focused upon is Isaiah's message of "universal peace," and the scroll's relevance to all people.

However, is this an accurate representation of Isaiah's prophecy?

Those answering in the affirmative will quickly cite the verse that adorns the Isaiah Wall outside of the United Nations, which speaks of the messianic vision of peace:
"They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." (Isaiah 2; 4)
However, before we concede this point to the universalists, let us cite the complete prophecy, of which the above verse represents only a small segment.

"The prophecy that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw, concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

It will happen in the end of days, that the mountain of the Temple of Hashem will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills; and all nations will stream to it. And many nations will go and say: 'Come, and let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the G-d of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.' For from Zion will the Torah come forth, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem. And He will judge among the nations, and will settle the arguments of many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2; 1-4)
When looking at this particular prophecy of Isaiah in its complete context, it is very clear that the Messianic vision of universal peace is preceded by a few things:
  1. The Jewish people will have complete sovereignty over Israel, in general, and over Jerusalem, in particular.
  2. At the center of Jerusalem will stand, on the Temple Mount, the Holy Temple.
  3. The nations of the world will recognize the truth and righteousness of the teachings of the G-d of Israel, and will stream to Jerusalem to learn and live by them.
  4. The nations of the world will stand before G-d in judgment for their actions, and justice will be meted out.
And, only then, after all of the above have taken place, will the vision for universal peace transpire.

With Israel finally bringing the Isaiah Scroll to light, perhaps it's time that we do the same for Isaiah's teachings, and in doing so, merit witnessing their fulfillment.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Woodmere Making Aliyah?

Perhaps the best model for North American Aliyah (or all Aliyah in general for that matter) is mass Aliyah. Making Aliyah as a community. Rabbi Riskin proved it could be done in 1983 when he founded Efrat by making Aliyah together with many of the congregants from his Lincoln Square Synagogue. Kumah has always be a strong promoter of mass Aliyah.

Well, today, Rabbi Shalom Rosner of Congregation Bais Ephraim Yitzchak in Woodmere New York, plans to follow in Rabbi Riskin’s footstep and will bring a whole community on Aliyah together. Nofei Hashemesh – located in Beit Shemesh in central Israel - is the name of this new community. You could read more about it on their website.

May this be the first on many new “Aliyah communities” to come!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kosher-Style Strikes Again!

Here is my favorite line from the Forward article entitled "High Cost of Living Leads Orthodox To Look Beyond Borders of New York"

Synagogue leaders from 14 cities will attempt to demonstrate that their towns have all the necessities for an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle...

Now, just so we understand, we are talking about an OU sponsored conference to sell to American Jews their new home in Indianapolis, New Orleans and Edmonton, Charleston, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Memphis, the San Francisco Bay Area, Omaha, San Diego, Seattle, and Vancouver.

Just so we get it straight, Israel, that small affordable suburb mentioned in the Torah a few times, will not be represented.

Once again, the American Orthodox establishment, and the biggest body of Kosher certification is PERPETUATING THE GALUT by selling us the the un-Kosher line that some hole in the middle of Nebraska has all the necessities of an Orthodox Jewish life!

Yet one thing is missing in this Kosher-Style formula: Eretz Hachayim, the Land of Life, as opposed to Eretz Nochriya, a foreign land, the Exile, dispersion, PUNISHMENT!!!

Even if there was a good reason for such an event, would it not make sense to bring in a few stands from Israel to represent the ALIYAH ALTERNATIVE??? These stands should NOT be in a separate event just for the Aliyah saps, it should be in the foreground of the consciousnesses of all OU events, especially those dealing with the migration of Jews. Don't offer Jews Omaha, without at least giving their soul a chance in Raanana!

No, Galut is Kosher; OU all the way baby! Give me "O" Give me a "U" - whats that spell? "Oy, You!" The OU loves Galut, that's where their power is, that's where they are comfortable, that's where they can live a good Jewish life, and that's where, like Iyov, they can run away from G-d's command. By the way, the main reason stated for this conference is money, money, money. America Shel Kesef.

'All the necessities' eh? Kosher-style strikes again!


From the Forward:
Early next month, representatives of Orthodox Jewish communities from across North America — from cities such as Indianapolis, New Orleans and Edmonton, Alberta — will gather in Manhattan to make the case that their hometowns offer something that New York City can’t: affordability.

The Orthodox Union, an umbrella organization representing some 1,000 Modern Orthodox congregations, has organized a showcase for small Orthodox communities to market themselves to New Yorkers. Synagogue leaders from 14 cities will attempt to demonstrate that their towns have all the necessities for an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle — plus the virtues of living in a comparatively small town — at a fraction of New York’s prices.

New York is in many ways at the center of Orthodox Jewish life in America today, home to everything from Modern Orthodox institutions like Yeshiva University to myriad ultra-Orthodox sects. A decade-long boom in real estate prices, however, has made this famously pricey city even pricier. For Orthodox Jews, who tend to have larger families and suffer higher rates of poverty than Jews in general, and for whom the high costs of observant Jewish life are necessities rather than luxuries, that pinch is raising the question of whether Orthodox life can continue to thrive in New York.

“I think a lot of people are feeling the crunch. Young couples getting married, especially Orthodox young couples, want to live within an Orthodox Jewish community, and communities are just so expensive,” said Steve Savitsky, the O.U.’s president and the initiator of its emerging communities program. “Young people are having a very hard time, and even older people who want to upgrade to their next level house can’t keep up any more.”

The price of housing in and around New York has skyrocketed over the past decade. According to data from the National Association of Realtors, median home prices in the area have more than doubled over the past decade, when adjusted for inflation.

Orthodox Jews are particularly susceptible to the high cost of living because the price of an observant lifestyle — keeping kosher, living walking distance from a synagogue, sending children to day school or yeshiva — introduces expenses that many other Jews opt not to bear.

Over the past few decades, many Orthodox Jews have fled the high costs of New York City by moving out to the suburbs or to semi-rural enclaves such as the Satmar Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel in upstate New York. Recently, an editorial in the Satmar-affiliated newspaper Der Blatt argued that New York had become too expensive and urged readers to leave the city behind.

The suburbs, however, are becoming expensive in their own right. In upstate New York, the heavily ultra-Orthodox town of Monsey has become so pricey that many would-be residents are instead moving to the neighboring town of New Hempstead. Rabbi Ronald Price, who leads an Orthodox congregation in the heavily Orthodox suburb of Teaneck, N.J., said that young families are moving to Teaneck to escape the high prices of New York City, and that many more are bypassing established communities like Teaneck for cheaper, less-established suburbs such as Passaic.

Now, the O.U. is attempting to redirect that mobility to much smaller Orthodox communities in other parts of the country that offer the basics of Orthodox Jewish life at a fraction of New York’s cost. According to the Web site, the cost of living in Indianapolis, for example, is nearly 40% less than that of suburban New York. Along with Indianapolis, New Orleans and Edmonton, other communities participating in the O.U. presentation include Charleston, S.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Memphis, Tenn.; the San Francisco Bay Area; Omaha, Neb.; San Diego; Seattle, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Savitsky said the O.U. will also bring the community marketplace to other expensive cities, such as Boston and Philadelphia. “I’m not saying it’s a big trend, but people are interested now,” he said.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Don't Miss This Opportunity To Keep Sleeping!

The OU is organizing a great opportunity to keep perpetuating the Galut while enjoying it too!! Here it is:

Emerging Jewish Communities Showcase in New York

Date: 06 Apr, 2008

Description: Your next community is coming to visit you!

Pursue your dream of a professionally enriching, religiously and personally rewarding life in a community with affordable homes in a friendly, supportive neighborhood, where you can be a key person, helping to bolster the Torah environment.

Register online!

On Sunday, April 6, 2008, at New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, the OU will showcase a dozen growing Jewish communities from around North America. You will meet community representatives and learn directly from them about:

• synagogues, day schools and yeshivot
• kosher stores and other Jewish communal resources
• exciting and lucrative job opportunities
• affordable housing
• close-knit and warm communities
• Torah atmosphere in which to raise children
• rewarding retirement opportunities

List of Communities:

Charleston, South Carolina
Columbus, Ohio
Dallas, Texas
Denver, Colorado
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Houston, Texas
Indianapolis, Indiana
Memphis, Tennessee
Oakland, California
Omaha, Nebraska
San Diego, California
Seattle, Washington

Sunday, April 6, 2008, 12:00 am – 6:00 pm

Register in advance for the chance to win valuable prizes!

For more information and for reservations, call 212.613.8188


Even prizes will be given out at this perpetuation of the Exile! Here is what it reminds me of:

1. The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying,
2. "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me."
3. But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Jaffa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
4. The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.
5. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep.
6. So the captain approached him and said, "How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish."


G-d is sending us on a mission - to go home and to be a light unto the nations, but good Orthodox Jews prefer to run to the Galut and to be lulled to sleep by "exciting and lucrative job opportunities" and "rewarding retirement opportunities". Chaval.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

When Passaic Is Jerusalem, Rav Leff's "Where is the Religious Aliya from the West"

The following essay by Rav Zev Leff, Shilta, entitled "Where is the Religious Aliya from the West?" appears as the introduction to "To Dwell in the Palace" by Tzivia Erlich-Klein (1991, Feldheim - a MUST read - order it today!).

Though I always wanted to post this here, I'm posting it now as a response the post "Passaic is Better than Israel."

Where is the Religious Aliyah from the West?
from “To Dwell in the Palace - Perspectives on Eretz Yisrael”

DRIVING HOME THROUGH the largely-uninhabited hills of Judea, or walking down the streets of an Israeli city still lacking the imprint of Torah, I hear the question echoing: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?”

The question is not of recent vintage, nor was it posed by a representative of the Aliya Department of the Jewish Agency. It was Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld who addressed these words, some sixty years ago, to Rav Yitzchok Breuer. The rav of Yerushalayim further told the Agudah leader, “Now I understand the words of musaf for yom tov: `Because of our sins were we exiled from our country’ - by HaShem; `and we were distanced from our Land’ - this we have done voluntarily.” (Moriah, p. 191)

Another quote from Rav Sonnenfeld is perhaps even more pointed: “Many times have I directed that the religious Jews in the diaspora be instructed that anyone who has the ability to come to Eretz Yisroel and doesn’t, will have to account for his failure in the future world.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 149)

A generation or so later, a yeshiva student from the diaspora who had been learning in an Israeli yeshiva came to bid farewell to the Chazon Ish before returning to his home. “Is one permitted to leave Eretz Yisroel?” the gadol asked him. The student stammered and replied, “I understood that if one came to Eretz Yisroel with the intention of returning eventually, he is permitted to leave.” The Chazon Ish spoke in a tone of disappointment: “We are trying to devise methods to get bnei Torah to settle here and you are involved in finding ways to be able to leave?!” (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 42)

Baruch HaShem, Torah is flourishing in Eretz Yisroel to an extent scarcely even dreamed of by these great sages. But their questions still loom. Indeed, the extent to which the Torah community, otherwise scrupulously careful with mitzvos, is “involved in finding ways” out of the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel needs to be examined.

Factors Cited

The economic situation in Israel is often mentioned. Indeed, the Pischei Teshuva (Even Haezer 75, no. 6) rules that since living under conditions of economic privation can endanger, or at least compromise, one’s spiritual life, one is exempt from settling in Israel if he will be forced to live under conditions of dachkus (hardship). Now what constitutes the “dachkus” to which the Pischei Teshuva refers? The inability to afford $25 per pound gourmet chocolates? Not being able to acquire an elegant, very large wardrobe of `from” designer clothing? Is the definition of dachkus being too destitute to afford a $500,000 home that one would not think of inhabiting until it was gutted and elegantly redone? Or is dachkus a dearth of elegant glatt restaurants of various nationalities, pizza shops with all the trimmings, and frozen glatt kosher convenience foods and snacks?

Not to belabor the point, in essence the ruling of the Pischei Teshuva refers specifically to one who will be forced to live from tzedaka in Israel as opposed to being able to earn a living in chutz laAretz. By comparing employment possibilities in Eretz Yisroel today with those available either in the time of Rav Sonnenfeld or that of the Chazon Ish, we are soon forced to eliminate the exemption of the Pischei Teshuva for most cases. B’ezras HaShem one can earn a livelihood in Israel that would have been considered luxurious by most of prewar European Jewry. Even more significant, however, is this point: the more modest lifestyle typical in Israel today not only does no harm to one’s spiritual life, but it is likely to do much good.

The Torah sages of all generations warned against extravagant lifestyles, flaunting our wealth in the eyes of the nations, and becoming too comfortable in golus. The Maharsha (Shabbos 119) makes the following observation: “Most of the sins of this generation… can be attributed to the fact that… everyone wishes to conduct himself in an extravagant fashion in regard to clothing, houses, and all other matters; and this leads to theft.”

More recently, the Chafetz Chaim, in the Biur Halachic (siman 529), rebukes openly: “Many people err in this area and do not take to heart how to conduct themselves properly concerning their household expenses, to distance themselves from luxuries. Many have been damaged by this kind of conduct which ultimately brings one to theft and dishonesty and to shame and disgrace….” In Sfas Tamim (chapter V) the Chafetz Chaim blames the suffering, trials and tribulations of his times on the dishonesty promoted by overspending on luxuries, especially costly clothing; by overextending oneself through buying on credit; and by lavish weddings with unreasonable demands made on parents for dowries.

Another facet of the economic argument, one cited as a reason to delay aliya indefinitely, is financial “security.” (”How can we face the future without a sizable sum put safely away?”) The gemara (Sota 48) says: “One who has bread in his basket and worries what he will eat tomorrow is one of little faith.” The Kotzker Rebbe explains that the “little faith” is not evidenced by the uncertainty of tomorrow, but rather by this man’s certainty of today. By worrying only about to morrow, he shows that he puts his trust in the presence of bread in his basket, and not in HaShem. A believing Jew, by definition, does not hang his security on large bank accounts; he certainly would not compromise his Torah life in their pursuit.

All this considered, there do remain legitimate economic factors to weigh when planning aliya. The laws of tzedaka demand that we provide for one who falls on hard times not merely at subsistence level, but at the standard to which he was accustomed. This is because a drastic change in lifestyle can be very painful. In light of this insight gleaned from the halacha itself, an individual may and should consider very carefully his family’s present standard of living, the prospects for their situation in Eretz Yisroel, and the ability of the family to modify or adapt accordingly. Of course, a Jew who has been properly educated to the importance of aliya, and one who takes the admonition of the Chafetz Chaim cited above seriously, will be cautious from the start lest his family grow accustomed to exaggerated standards.

The second factor that could qualify as a reason for postponing aliya under the guidelines of the Pischei Teshuva concerns the individual’s predilection for a specific occupation. Chazal tell us that it is part of a man’s nature to find satisfaction in doing that for which he is best suited. We all know that there are many people who retrain in the middle of one career for an entirely new one, for any number of reasons. Nevertheless, one who finds satisfaction in his occupation should plan to pursue the same one in Eretz Yisroel. Where this would be impossible, one should weigh the available options for suitability and for the prospects of success and satisfaction inherent in each one. Failure to deliberate this issue could result in a potentially frustrating or unsuccessful aliya. Here too, however, if one teaches oneself to strive always towards aliya, then, at every crossroads in his training, he will have Eretz Yisroel in mind. Such a person will consider possible occupations in light of their transferability to Eretz Yisroel from the beginning.

And then there’s the matter of physical security. After all, the halacha does not permit us to put ourselves in danger.

Visiting New York, I have been asked: “Aren’t you afraid to live in the Shomron?” I find it amusing if not ironic when the question is asked while the host secures both his locks and activates his alarm system.

In the years I’ve lived on Moshav Mattityahu, there have been no incidents, no crime. My children can go out to play at any hour, and we do not bother to lock our doors even at night. How safe are the streets of any city in America that it should be recommended as a place of safety while Israel is rejected as dangerous?

On the streets of Eretz Yisroel, the only men carrying guns are the soldiers protecting us. At least here in Eretz Yisroel the security measures taken have an excellent record of effectiveness. And added to those security measures (which the halacha requires of us) the observable fact is that in Eretz Yisroel we merit an extra, supernatural, measure directly from the Ribbono shel olam. No, the safety factor does not really seem to be an issue.

Some claim to fear the problems that they would encounter trying to live a life of Torah under a secular Israeli government. Isn’t the negative attitude to Torah values and Torah observers exhibited by certain segments of Israeli society a significant detriment, they ask.

One wonders, however, if non-Jewish Western society, or for that matter the secular Jewish community elsewhere, is really a better environment for Torah ideals. Is the attitude there towards Torah values less hostile? Does kindly tolerance of observant Jews demonstrated by secularized brethren create a better atmosphere for growth?

Before the reader rushes to answer these complex questions, the following should be considered: When the Israeli government passed the law of conscription for women, an individual approached the Chazon Ish with a challenge: “Does the Rav still feel that Jews are obligated to come and settle here [i.e.., when there is a government that drafts laws such as this, subjecting our daughters to military service, which the gedolim forbid (they have even ruled that one must surrender her life if that is the only alternative to compliance)]?” After a brief, pained silence, the Chazon Ish answered in the affirmative with forceful resolve and clarity. (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 43)

Today, although conscription of women has yet to be annulled completely, any woman claiming to be religious is exempt. It would therefore appear, by kal vachomer from the psak of the Chazon Ish, that the objection posed above does not affect our obligation.

Those in positions of communal responsibility cite additional grounds for remaining in chutz laAretz. Clearly, consideration must be given to the effect their aliya will have on those for whom they bear responsibility. There are indeed many community rabbanim, roshei yeshiva, klei kodesh, and community heads who are crucial to the growth and stability of their respective institutions both spiritually and physically. It would, however, be absurd and somewhat haughty for every rabbi or communal leader to assume that the fate of his community rests on his shoulders alone.

In many cases the aliya of the leader would be an incentive and inspiration for those he leads to follow, for the benefit of all concerned. And there are leaders who would be even more effective and successful in Eretz Yisroel.

Rav Sonnenfeld directed his impoverished grandson to decline the offer of a prestigious rabbinical position in chutz laAretz and to remain in Eretz Yisroel. “I maintain that it is better to be a plain working man in Israel than a rabbi in chutz laAretz,” Rav Sonnenfeld told him. (This is not to be taken as a blanket principle for all cases. The comment is important, however, in that it challenges our preconception that the reverse is the rule.)

It must be emphasized that each situation is unique. When doubts exist, the advice of a Torah authority should be sought. I myself know of a number of cases where important rabbis and leaders were advised by a posek to go ahead and make aliya.

Another factor that sometimes discourages prospective olim is reports of problems encountered in chinuch of children, particularly those of high school age. This may seem surprising, since there is an abundance of excellent institutions of learning to be found in Eretz Yisroel on all levels. Nevertheless, the inadequacy of Hebrew language skills acquired in many US. yeshivos, coupled with cultural differences which are due to the infusion of foreign values, can create difficulties for the young oleh. Discrepancies of style between available options here and those one was accustomed to in the United States can cause considerable pain for children and parents alike. With proper planning and guidance, however, many of these problems can be reduced or avoided entirely. Furthermore, additional aliya from the US. will, inevitably, lead to the establishment of more schools tailored to these olim. (Indeed, recent years have witnessed the development of “American-style” yeshivishe education in Israel with a unique flavor all its own.)

There is also a great deal of discussion of halachic factors excusing today’s Jew from this mitzva. There are, after all, opinions that it is only a mitzva kiyumis (voluntary mitzva). This was the opinion of the late gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and some others. Well, tzitzis is also “only” a mitzva kiyumis. It might be worth contemplating the way we regard one who neglects the mitzva of tzitzis, or even one who does not wear an arba kanfos that conforms to the strictest shiur with tzitzis the most mehudarim. In a time of Divine anger, one is held accountable for a mitzva kiyumis as well.

And there are some who maintain that the mitzva is not binding at all today. This was the opinion of the late Satmar Rebbe zt”l and some others. Even if we ascribe great weight to this minority opinion, however, we must ask ourselves how we conduct ourselves regarding other mitzvos that are binding only according to “some” opinions. Do we not go to great lengths to be yotsai all the shitos? In the case of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, the preponderance of opinion in favor of the binding nature of the commandment includes the Pischei Teshuva, the Avnei Nezer, the Chafetz Chaim, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Chazon Ish….

The purpose of this article is not to enter into a halachic debate, nor to be so presumptuous as to rush in where giants have trodden before me. Yes, there are reliable halachic opinions which would mitigate the obligatory nature of yishuv Eretz Yisroel in our times; but the list of opinions in support of the imperative of fulfilling this mitzva today - only fractionally mentioned in the above paragraph - is a formidable one.

There is one point on which all Torah authorities are in agreement. That is that living in Eretz Yisroel affords one a unique opportunity for spiritual development and growth. While it is true that this opportunity must be considered in conjunction with many other factors that affect the spirit, one cannot simply ignore or disregard the special qualities of Eretz Yisroel and of the mitzva of yishuv haAretz.

Strangely, consideration of settling in Eretz Yisroel is overlooked by many in the Torah community. This most certainly is not the Torah view. The move to Eretz Yisroel must at least be considered, discussed, and investigated. As a musmach of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, who learned in kollel there for many years, then went on to serve the community I grew up in as rav of the North Miami Beach kehilla for nine years, and then, with the advice and encouragement of gedolim, was oleh to Eretz Yisroel several years ago, assuming the position of rav of Moshav Mattityahu - I feel that my experience may be instructive to the Torah world. I believe I can provide some insights gained on both sides of the ocean which will clarify the case for settling in Eretz Yisroel, and bring the topic to the forefront for personal deliberation. Perhaps others like me, neither exceptionally brave nor wealthy, may benefit from my perspective.

If living in Eretz Yisroel is viewed as “just a mitzva” (as I once heard someone say with a shrug), then all the considerations discussed above could be deterrents. But this is a mitzva which is “equal to all the rest,” it is fulfilled every moment with every part of one’s body, and it carries with it a host of other mitzvos which one can fulfill only by residing in Eretz Yisroel. Clearly, there is something more encompassing at issue than any single mitzva. Let us therefore suspend our analysis of practical questions while we address the larger picture. What is this particular Land, and living in it, all about?

The Role of the Jewish Nation

Some of what follows is basic and surely known to the reader. Nevertheless, as the Mesillas Yesharim warns, that which is basic and self-understood is often overlooked, ignored or forgotten.

Am Yisroel was selected by HaShem to be a sanctified nation whose raison d’etre would be to represent HaShem to the world in all areas - a “mamleches kohanim vegoy kadosh.” The Torah was given to us to guide us - individually and collectively - in conforming with this lofty mission.

To achieve our goal, HaShem exhorted us to separate ourselves from the other nations. We are to be a nation apart, distinct in our holy purpose. As the Torah instructs, “Va’avdil eschem min ha’amim lihiyos li” (I separated you from the nations to be Mine). (Vayikra 20) The Sifrei comments on this verse: “If you are separated then you are Mine, but if not, you belong to Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts.” The simple meaning seems to be that if we separate ourselves, we will merit Divine protection, and if not, HaShem will deliver us into the hands of our enemies. The literal wording of the Sifrei, however, does not bear this explanation out. I would like to suggest an alternative one:

A non Jew is required to observe only seven mitzvos. His lifestyle can be secular, devoid of holiness. As long as he maintains harmony with the basic ethical code dictated by HaShem for civilization, he will merit a share in the world-to-come. One might conclude that a Jew living the same type of lifestyle, although remiss in the observance of 606 mitzvos, has a positive basis for his life - no worse than a non Jew. The Sifrei informs us otherwise. The Jew exists for an entirely different purpose: to create a mikdash - a place of holiness and sanctity where HaShem’s presence will be found, and felt. This mikdash finds expression in the person of every Jew. Thus, any Jew who fails to sanctify himself, to lead a life of exceptional holiness as defined by the Torah’s commandments, is in fact destroying his personal mikdash. He has joined the ranks of Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts, destroyers of the Mikdash.

To promote our being a “nation that dwells apart,” HaShem “measured every land and found no land more suitable to the Jewish people than Eretz Yisroel, and no people better suited to Eretz Yisroel than am Yisroel.” (Vayikra Rabba 13) Eretz Yisroel is a holy Land, the Land that HaShem personally supervises at all times, the Land that HaShem calls His own. Am Yisroel is the nation that is a holy nation - the nation that merits direct Divine providence, the nation that HaShem calls His own. Hence Eretz Yisroel and am Yisroel complement each other perfectly.

Eretz Yisroel provides the setting where we can develop our potential to be a sanctified nation unlike any other. (This, it should be noted, is the very antithesis of secular Zionist ideology, which envi sions Eretz Yisroel as the setting for us to develop at long last into a nation like all other nations, with all their vices and weaknesses.)

The idea of Eretz Yisroel as the home of a uniquely holy people is implied at the very beginning of the Torah. “The Torah should have commenced with hachodesh hazeh lachem, the first mitzva the Jewish people were commanded. Why then does it open with Bereishis…?” (Rashi on Bereishis 1, 1) The answer quoted by Rashi is the following: Lest the nations of the world claim that we are thieves who stole the land of seven nations, HaShem informs us that He created the world and it is therefore His to take away from whomever He chooses and to give to whomever He chooses.

This answer is not for the nations; obviously, they do not accept it. Rather it is we who are supposed to see clearly that Eretz Yisroel is legitimately ours, given to us by HaShem. But there is a deeper lesson here. Why was it ordained that we should have to conquer Eretz Yisroel from seven nations who inhabited it for hundreds of years? Why was it arranged that we should have to kill the men, women, and children of those nations? Why did Eretz Yisroel have to become ours in a manner so open to question that the whole Torah would have to start from Bereishis just to provide an answer?

It seems that HaShem sought to teach us a lesson so significant that it is the foundation of the entire Torah. It is the preface necessary before we can approach even the first mitzva. This lesson is that the basis of our ethics and morals, standards and values is one sole source - HaShem Yisbarach. If He says to conquer and kill, that is what is “ethical’ and “moral.” Where HaShem mandates mercy and peace, they are “ethical” in that case. Our value system can have no other basis than the written and oral Torah. By mandating the conquest of Eretz Yisroel in an apparently disputable manner, the Creator forced us to focus our attention on the only basis we have for our actions. He is the Creator of all that exists; only He can dictate proper conduct among the peoples and lands He created. Only on the basis of this reasoning are we not thieves nor murderers. The Torah, at the very outset, is laying the foundation for our frame of reference to mitzvos, and to the world.

It is not incidental that this lesson is taught through Eretz Yisroel. Our sources emphasize that only in the Land of Israel can a Torah society not influenced by foreign values and standards be created - a society based on the ethics and morals of Torah alone, a society apart, rooted in and enhanced by the special qualities of the Land.

This is something we neglect to study in the day-to-day pursuit of our lives as individuals. But since the ideal Torah society is something we yearn and pray for, it would be edifying to delve into the structure that it is meant to have.

The Brisker Rav, zt”l, explains (on parshas Chayei Sara) that klal Yisroel is comprised of two complementary factions. The first is made up of choice individuals whom the Rambam refers to as an extended “shevet Levi” - those devoted exclusively to Torah study and avodas HaShem. This is the elite corps of HaShem’s army, toiling in the yeshivos and kollelim, the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. They create the spiritual energy source necessary for the survival of klal Yisroel and are therefore supported by the klal as were the Kohanim and Leviim. This group is the minority.

The other sector, comprising the majority of klal Yisroel, are those who follow the dictum of Rebbe Yishmael (Brachos 35) and combine Torah with a worldly occupation. Torah is, of course, the focal point of their lives, their worldly occupation secondary and peripheral. Nevertheless, Torah is not their exclusive pursuit.

I believe this thesis of the Brisker Rav has an analogous application to the Land. It too is to be divided into two sections. Yerushalayim is the primary domain of Kohanim and Leviim with the Beis HaMikdash at its center. The remainder of Eretz Yisroel is predominantly the territory of the other tribes.

The gemara (Pesachim 8) questions why the choice fruits of the Galil were not found growing in Yerushalayim instead, and why the hot springs of Teverya were not situated in Yerushalayim. The answer it gives is that when the Jewish people ascended to the Beis HaMikdash three times a year to fulfill the mitzva of aliya laregel, HaShem wanted them to perform the mitzva entirely “leshem shamayim.” He did not want them to have the possible ulterior incentive of delicious fruit or hot springs.

And yet, delicious fruits do grow in the Galil, and hot springs are found in Teverya, which are also part of Eretz Hakodesh. This fact points to an important insight into the total picture of Eretz Yisroel. Although Yerushalayim is reserved for the spiritual, the entire Land is holy. Yerushalayim it hakodesh is representative of shevet Levi and the unique role of that minority. The rest of this holy Land corresponds to the rest of our people and the majority role, which is the synthesis of spiritual and material.

The Chasam Sofer (in his commentary on Sukkah 36) explains that any occupation, undertaken in Eretz Yisroel, is included in the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, and it is in Eretz Yisroel that Rebbe Yishmael’s ruling (that one should take on a worldly occupation) applies! Agriculture or commerce, industry or social work, medicine or engineering… whatever helps settle the people in the Land, as this-wordly as it may seem, is, by definition, a mitzva in Eretz Yisroel. Consequently, the physical and material aspects of the Land are also objects of holiness, vehicles of service to HaShem.

This idea is further borne out by the Gra’s version of the bracha acharona. The Gra omits the phrase “and let us eat from its (Eretz Yisroel’s) fruit and be satiated from its goodness.” His source is the gemara in Sota (14). Of Moshe Rabbeinu’s desire to enter Eretz Yisroel the question is asked: “Was it to eat from its fruit that he wished to enter the Land?! Rather his desire was to fulfill the mitzvos of the Land.” The implication is that eating from the fruit is not a commendable reason for desiring Eretz Yisroel and the Gra therefore omits it from the bracha.

How then can we understand the Gra’s version of the beginning of this bracha, which contains the following phrase: “… and for the desirable, good, and spacious Land that You desired and bequeathed to our forefathers to eat from its fruit and be satiated from its goodness….”

The discrepancy is explained when we apply the above-mentioned concept of a division of the Land of Israel. The opening part of the blessing refers to Eretz Yisroel as a whole. We mention the fruit since it is precisely through the fruit that we reach our goal of Divine service in greater Eretz Hakodesh. The conclusion of the bracha, however, refers specifically to the building of Yerushalayim, where reference to the fruits and material goodness is out of place.

The gemara in Sota pertains to Moshe Rabbeinu, a Levi whose place would have been in Yerushalayim. Hence the negative connotation of desiring to enter for the fruits.

The midrash (Bereishis Rabba 38, 8) relates that Avraham avinu traveled from land to land seeking the best place for his children to live. In Aram he observed people eating and drinking and partying, and he hoped that his descendants would not reside there. In contrast he observed the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel weeding and plowing and planting and hoped that this would be the dwelling-place of his offspring.

This midrash is surprising in that it points to qualities inherent in the atmosphere of a certain land. (The inhabitants of both these countries were, after all, idol-worshippers.)

The very air of chutz laAretz is conducive to materialism, to the utilization of the physical aspects of the world for immediate gratification and sensual stimulation - an olam hazeh approach. Eretz Yisroel, on the other hand, is conducive to toiling for future gratification, for future fruits - even in the material sense. This is an olam habba orientation. Avraham avinu recognized that in this setting his descendants would be able to realize their full potential, whatever their occupation.

It is true that the environment, whether of Eretz Yisroel or of chutz laAretz, can be overcome to a great extent. A Jew living outside the Land can resolve not to succumb to materialism. Even in Eretz Yisroel one who is determined to do so can lead a life of indulgence; after all, Sodom was in Eretz Yisroel. However, for one sincerely seeking to give HaShem the best service, Eretz Yisroel is the only place in the world providing a fertile, favorable environment. Not only in the past and in the future, but also in the present.

We are reminded daily of this truth. Every time we eat a meal, after satisfying our physical appetite, we are required by the Torah to recite birkas hamazon. It consists of three brachos of Torah origin and a fourth that is rabbinic. The first of the three Torah blessings acknowledges that HaShem is the source of all sustenance. The second thanks HaShem for the food and for Eretz Yisroel. It is in this bracha that we also mention HaShem’s covenant with us and the Torah. The third bracha is a prayer for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the restoration of the Beis HaMikdash and the Davidic dynasty.

Reciting all of this after each addition of a few ounces to our physical constitution, no matter where we live, may not seem particularly relevant. But it is. A Jew must focus his attention on the ultimate purpose of the creation of the material. Any thank-you for food must include mention of Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim, for only through the Land of Israel are the world’s material components put to use in the most sublime and ideal fashion.

And yet we may imagine that we can daily acknowledge the ideal while continuing to live our own lives among the nations in a lessthan-ideal fashion. Dwelling apart would be nice, we may say, but as for me, blending in with my host country will suffice. The Torah tells us otherwise. If we dwell apart, then “Israel will dwell apart in security.” (Devarim 33) If, however, we choose not to do so willingly, then solitude of a different, nature will be forced upon us. “How does she dwell apart in solitude?” is, we will recall, the opening verse of Lamentations.

How often have we tried to assimilate! Yet we, like the oil which can never blend with other liquids, are doomed to remain separate. Rav Chaim Volozhiner put it succinctly: “If the Jew does not make kiddush then the goy makes havdala.” Either we separate and sanctify ourselves, or the matter will be taken care of for us in much more painful ways.

The ultimate “cure” for all the woes of the Jew among the nations can only be a return to our own Land, there to live a life absolutely unique in its sanctification.

Consider the verse: “No man will covet your Land when you ascend to greet the Presence of HaShem thrice yearly.” (Shemos 34) Would it not have been sufficient if no one took the Land? Why was it necessary to promise that no one would “covet” the Land?

In light of our discussion regarding the purpose of Eretz Yisroel, we can explain this verse in the following manner:

The Ibn Ezra explains that the prohibition of Lo sachmod - do not covet - demands that a person recognize that all possessions are Divinely ordained for their owners. One does not covet that which is totally removed from his sphere (e.g., the peasant does not desire the king’s daughter, whom he merely admires from afar).

With this in mind, the verse quoted above takes on new meaning. The Jewish people are to renew and revitalize their relationship to HaShem three times each year by immersion in the holiness of Yerushalayim. They then go home to live their everyday lives in Eretz Yisroel proper - a sanctified people in a sanctified society, observing numerous agricultural commandments with the produce of a sanctified Land. The nations of the world will recognize that Eretz Yisroel is something outside their orbit. Perceiving how ill-suited it is to their olam hazeh ways and goals, they will lose interest in it. It is only when we dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a secular manner comparable to theirs that the nations imagine it has relevance to them also - and that is when they covet the Land.

This is a general picture of the way things are meant to be for the people of Israel living in the Land of Israel. Although every person must act in accordance with his unique circumstances, the Jew must maintain an awareness of the task of klal Yisroel in Creation. While an individual Jew may reach a relatively high level anywhere, there is no possibility of fulfilling our national destiny except in Eretz Yisroel.

An important point for the ben Torah to consider is this: only those who accept the full implications of the Torah’s starting from Bereishis, as explained above, are in a position to bring HaShem’s plan to fruition.

It thus behooves us to readdress the question: Where is the aliya from the Torah communities of the West? Having dismissed so many excuses, I would now like to focus on what I believe are root causes.

Underlying Factors

One factor which should not be underestimated is Zionism. The secular Zionist movement sought to replace the Torah, which it rejected, with nationalism - the Land of Israel, the Hebrew language, and “culture” - as the sole foundation of Jewish identity.

This had a variety of consequences. One which is rarely discussed, but which is especially relevant and particularly tragic, is the effect on the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel. Somehow, G-d’s commandment seems to have become tainted by the Zionist idea. Interestingly enough, there is a precedent for de-emphasizing a mitzva when it is thus “cut off from the tree of life” by some. When the minim (early Christians) discarded the 613 mitzvos for the “Ten Commandments” exclusively, the Rabbis removed the recitation of these aseres hadibros from the tefilla. They feared that mentioning only these might mislead the masses into following the minim. They did not, however, stop observing the aseres hadibros! It is interesting to note that the need to cease publicly emphasizing the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, based on the above reasoning, was suggested ninety years ago by none other than Harav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, zt”l. (Hapeles, 5661, issues 1 - 4, quoted in Le’or Hanetzach pp. 121 - 122) Indeed, this could be one reason why gedolei Yisroel to this day do not publicly emphasize the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

For the Torah community, however, to fall into the trap of equating Zion with Zionism, and avoid the tremendous mitzva involved because it appears blemished, is a great tragedy.

Ben Gurion once said that if the Knesset voted for Shabbos observance, he would observe it as the law of the land. Would there then be justification for us to cease observing Shabbos because the Zionists were observing it for the wrong reason and in a distorted fashion?!

The Sadducees distorted the Yom Kippur service, the counting of the omer, the celebration of Shavuos, and countless other mitzvos. Did chazal then react by neglecting or ignoring these mitzvos? Rather they emphasized proper observance in defiance of the falsifiers, even in times when the Sadducees were in power and had the upper hand.

Therefore, the subtle negative effects of Zionism must be brought to the surface of our thinking, so that each of us can attack them in a rational fashion, without negating the importance of the Land or the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

The final element which must be confronted is a formidable one. It is the difficulty involved in aliya. The mitzva of tzitzis, after all - including all shitos and hiddurim - is one thing. Leaving one’s birthplace, family and friends, and all that is comfortable and familiar, is quite another. Nevertheless, the ability to do so, says Rav Chaim Volozhiner, exists potentially in the very fiber of every Jew. It is our legacy from our forefather Avraham, programmed into our spiritual genetic makeup ever since he heeded the command of “tech lecha” on that very first aliya laAretz. (Ruach Chaim on Pirkei Avos 5, 4)

The difficulties of yishuv Eretz Yisroel do not end when one arrives, just as one’s aliya does not stop at Lod Airport. Rather, it is an ongoing process of realizing ever higher goals. The hurdles are testified to by chazal as a permanent component of the mitzva and should not be considered a new result of modern bureaucracy. What chazal say about this is deserving of our consideration. “HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave Israel three precious gifts, and all were given only through suffering. They are: Torah, Eretz Yisroel, and the world-to-come.” (Brachos 5) These words of our sages underscore something every Torah Jew knows: In serving HaShem we do not neglect a mitzva because it is difficult. That which comes hardest is often the most valuable, hence, the most precious gift.

Another category of “difficulty” must be mentioned. The learned and G-d fearing individual knows that Eretz Yisroel is the “palace of the King.” A higher, more exacting standard of behavior is demanded here. One might reason that he should not introduce himself into a situation that may demand more of him spiritually than he can deliver. He may therefore opt to remain in chutz laAretz rather than to abuse the sanctity of the Land. (Such logic might have validity for a Jew absolutely uninterested in Torah and mitzvos. In chutz laAretz, his transgressions would be less devastating. On the other hand, for such a person, settling in Eretz Yisroel might be the very thing that would provide a positive influence and move him to teshuva.)

By the above line of reasoning, all Torah study should cease. The more one learns, after all, the more is demanded of him. The higher his level, the more strictly is he judged. Should he not therefore opt to learn as little as possible so as not to magnify his failings and avoid abusing the sanctity of the Torah? The fallacy here is that we are required by the Torah constantly to elevate ourselves, to accept added responsibility. The Torah we possess will aid us in accommodating ourselves to our raised level. Likewise the merit and kedusha of Eretz Yisroel will elevate us, actually aiding us to live properly in the King’s palace. Furthermore, if we are in danger of transgressing despite Torah learning and Eretz Yisroel, how much lower would we fall without their saving powers. (See Michtav MeEliyahu, vol. II, pp. 54 - 55)

In Conclusion

No, Eretz Yisroel is not “just another mitzva.” For ben Torah or baal bayis it represents an elevation to higher levels of sanctity in every aspect of life, availability of mitzvos which cannot be fulfilled anywhere else, and the potential - however remote it may appear for the moment - of a consummate Torah society.

To our great dismay, the geula has not yet come. According to our gedolim we are living in ikvesa dimeshicha, the last stage of golus. Ours is a time of paradoxes and great tests. On the one hand we have witnessed many miraculous and marvelous events. We have been zocheh that a large portion of Eretz Yisroel has been returned to Jewish hands and is thriving and flourishing. Aliya is now within the relatively easy grasp of millions of Jews. HaShem in His kindness has granted us access once again to our mekomos kedoshim (the Kosel Hamaaravi, Me’aras Hamachpela, Kever Rochel…).

At the same time, however, a secular government with a secular system of law reigns in Israel today, a government that can be hostile to Torah values and Torah-observant Jews. The media may, on occasion, spew forth such hatred for Torah that one can only be astounded and deeply ashamed that the language of such blasphemy is Hebrew. Missionaries peddle their wares, apparently unchecked. We must demonstrate against public chillul Shabbos and other types of desecration. The confusion over “Who is a Jew” and the introduction of the deviationist Conservativism and Reform even in this holy Land add to our heartache. All of these shadows loom over Eretz Yisroel.

And yet, there is so much light. Yeshivos and other mekomos Torah are proliferating at an unbelievable pace and are bursting at the seams. Thousands of previously estranged Jews are returning to our Torah heritage. Torah cities thrive and new ones are being built, Torah neighborhoods with all their accoutrements flourish in all the major cities, and even Torah moshavim and kibbutzim dot the map of the Land.

Chazal have instructed us that it is better to dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a city that is predominantly non-Jewish than to dwell in chutz laAretz, even in a city predominantly Jewish. (Kesubos 110) This does not mean that living in the band of Israel per se is more important than living in a Torah environment. But rather, I recently heard the idea that in Eretz Yisroel, the potential for positive change is inherent. The trend is for more and more Jews to come and transform the previously non-Jewish city into a Jewish one. Chutz laAretz, on the other hand, is doomed to negative change for the Jew. Permanence is, by definition, impossible there. Neighborhoods are destined to flourish temporarily, wane, and ultimately fall into non-Jewish hands. (Who has not seen this?)

So, if the dark patches described above trouble you, think in terms of potential for change. Imagine the impact of an influx of hundreds of thousands, or even thousands, of Torah-observant Jews, rabbanim, mechanchim, bnei Torah, and balebatim - men, women and children - on society in Israel and on the very character of the “Jewish State.”

Lest the reader think that mere numbers are not the issue, let me cite an exchange reported to have taken place between the Chazon Ish and Ben Gurion. The prime minister had asked the gaon’s prediction of who would ultimately be victorious in shaping Israeli society - the secularist camp or the Torah camp. The answer of the Chazon Ish was: “I am not a prophet, but I am certain that we will win out in the end. Our birthrate exceeds yours by far and one day we will be the majority!”

And if you are concerned that Israel may be unable to accommodate a vast influx, socially and economically, take this into consideration: I have heard secular Israeli leaders say that they would welcome and be able to handle tremendous numbers of immigrants. If they, presumably relying and depending on their “own” resources and means, feel so sure, how much more should we, who trust in the Ribbono shel olam? Eretz Yisroel is referred to as “Eretz Tzvi” (the Land like a deer). Just as a deer’s skin constantly expands to accommodate its growth, so too Eretz Yisroel can always accommodate additional Jews. As Rav Sonnenfeld put it, “When children return to their mother’s home there is no question of space. They squeeze together to sit but the mother never complains of lack of room.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 153)

HaShem Yisbarach has blessed us with wonderful gifts in our generation. It stands to reason that He is watching to see if we appreciate all that He has done. Do we consider it sufficient to admire from afar, and maybe visit once in a while? Or are we grateful enough to sacrifice some physical and material comforts in order to benefit from these spiritual luxuries? Perhaps an exhibition of genuine appreciation of His gifts will earn us the final crowning of a hastened geula!

With all of this, however, it would be overstated to advocate unconditionally that every religious Jew pick up and leave the diaspora tomorrow. Each individual situation must be studied carefully, and all of the legitimate factors considered.

This means asking a posek. During my years of experience as a community rav, I was impressed by the number of balebatim who, for example, would not break their fast on Taanis Esther despite a serious headache, without a psak halacha. Is such conscientiousness nothing more than a big show on a small matter? I prefer to believe it is the expression of a genuine desire to fulfill HaShem’s will. If it is, it would not allow the Jew to exempt himself from a mitzva as important, as all-encompassing, as yishuv Eretz Yisroel, before asking a shaila. One should not interpret the absence of public exhortations from gedolim on this or any other issue to be an indication of a negative attitude or even of indifference. There are a great many factors which may mandate public silence on some matter, even one viewed favorably, even one of great importance, even a question of mitzva and aveira.

If in the final analysis your particular circumstances dictate that you yourself remain in chutz laAretz, be ever sensitive to the fact that you are missing something. Recognize that no Jewish community in chutz laAretz - Y rum” and established though it may be - can ever replace Eretz Yisroel. If this is an important awareness for the lay individual, it is crucial for the teacher or community leader. In striving to raise the level of Torah and mitzva observance of those under your influence, you should stress the inevitable incompleteness of Jewish life outside the Land of Israel.

If you do not merit settling in Eretz Yisroel presently, aspire and fervently pray for the day when your circumstances will change, so that you will be able to fulfill this mitzva and reap the spiritual benefits of living in our holy Land. It would also be advantageous to visit Eretz Yisroel from time to time if your finances permit, to keep the fires of your dreams and aspirations glowing. The Chazon Ish (Kovets Igros, vol. 1, no. 176) supports this recommendation.

It is not sufficient to admire and appreciate the advantages and benefits of Eretz Yisroel in theory. In part this was the sin of the spies who, while extolling the beauty and goodness of the Land, lacked the bitachon to take advantage of those merits and concretize their personal connection to the Land. Rav Yaakov Emden, in his Siddur, emphasizes this point. “The mere hint of facing towards Yerushalayim when we pray is only sufficient when more than that is impossible. But, if we are not prevented by circumstance from physically being in Eretz Yisroel, then just facing in its direction will not suffice. Therefore, every Jew must resolve in his heart to settle in Eretz Yisroel as soon as he has the means to finance his move and to be able to eke out a meager livelihood by means of a trade or business…. Don’t think to become entrenched in chutz laAretz for this was the sin of our forefathers who `despised the desirable Land.’ This sin has caused all the calamities in our golus. We have been like one totally forgotten because we have completely forgotten the mitzva to dwell in Eretz Yisroel.”

Other Torah sages too have warned of becoming too settled in chutz laAretz. Some even went so far as to prohibit the erection of permanent stone dwellings outside of Eretz Yisroel. The Keli Yakar at the beginning of parshas Vayechi explains why the date of the arrival of Mashiach was hidden from us: to prevent us from becoming too settled in foreign lands, and losing the sense of anticipation of his arrival and of our imminent return to Eretz Yisroel. He goes on to bemoan the lack of success of even this measure, noting that so many Jews feel so settled in the lands of their dispersion that they build luxurious, permanent homes, and ignore even the possibility (let alone the fervent desire) that Mashiach may come at any moment and bring us all back to the Land of Israel.

We must refrain from feeling settled and fulfilled as long as we are outside the Land. This attitude need not lead to melancholy but should instead actually enhance one’s spiritual life. It affords direction in aspiring towards the proper values and lifestyle. Interestingly, it may also provide physical protection for the community in which one resides now, as illustrated by the following account from the Shearis Yisroel, in the name of Rav Yehoshua Falk, the author of the SMA.

The city of Worms was devastated twice during the Crusades. Why did a city blessed with pious Torah scholars merit such a fate? When Ezra hasofer returned to Eretz Yisroel to begin his work on the second Beis HaMikdash, he sent letters to all the major kehillos of the time inviting them to return with him. The kehilla of Worms, which had been established since the destruction of the first Temple, responded: “Peace unto you, Ezra hasofer! May you be successful in establishing the grand Beis HaMikdash in the grand Yerushalayim. We, however, will remain here in our `small Yerushalayim’ and with our mikdash meat, our small Temple.” This attitude, tragically common even in our own day, spiritually blemished the city to such an extent that it was especially vulnerable to the attacks of the Crusaders many years later.

And if in fact your personal circumstances do not exempt you from fulfilling this magnificent mitzva, then do not delay. If you keep in mind the benefits which will accrue to you personally, as well as the tremendous advantage to the klal, you will surely act with alacrity. Preparations need not be elaborate. The most important preparation that one can make is learning and teaching his family the importance of Eretz Yisroel in the total picture of avodas HaShem - for each Jew, and for the Jewish nation.

The sefarim relate the minhag of leaving the doors to one’s home unlocked all through the night of Pesach. This was in keeping with the tradition that an opportune time for our future geula will be the anniversary of our first one (geulas Mitzrayim). Eager for the advent of Eliyahu hanavi to herald the geula, we do not wish to delay the process even the few seconds it would take to unlock the door.

We are all anxiously awaiting the geula daily. To come and await Mashiach in Eretz Yisroel will avoid much needless delay when he arrives.

May HaShem Yisbarach grant us the ability to hear the echoes of Rav Sonnenfeld’s call: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?” May we be blessed with the perceptiveness to respond, “We are investigating, we are preparing, we are on our way!”

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Only Israeli Judaism is Authentic!

So said Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua in May 2006, at the American Jewish Committee's (AJC) Centennial Symposium.

He reiterated similar sentiments in the clip below.

Unsurprisingly, many both in Israel and the world Jewish community disagreed.

In response, the AJC complied a booklet of responses, both for and against what A.B. Yehoshua said, entitled: The A. B.Yehoshua Controversy: An Israel-Diaspora Dialogue on Jewishness, Israeliness, and Identity

It makes for a good read.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

There's no place like home...

German Jewish leader: No need for aliyah agency like Nativ here
German Jewish leaders told visiting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday they were not interested in Israel's offers to expand the Nativ agency's operations to Germany.

Nativ, a semi-covert agency founded within the Prime Minister's Office in the 1950s, deals mainly with helping Jews from the former Soviet Union immigrate to Israel...

German Jews were satisfied with the help being given to them by the Jewish Agency and other sources, and saw no reason to employ other such agencies in Germany.
In fact, not only are Germany's Jews in no rush to leave, but Germany is the fastest growing Jewish community in the world today.
"Berlin is the place to be," Rabbi Walter Homolka, the principal of the Rabbinical Seminary in the German capital, said.
And it seems that many in Israel are expressing agreement with their feet.

It seems as if many of our Jewish brothers and sisters still prefer the free fish they ate under Egyptian bondage over Jewish freedom which only is possible in the Land of the Living - the Land of Israel.

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The Comfort of Exile...

Jewish tourist booted from Belgian cafe for wearing Kippa
An American tourist was kicked out of a cafe in Belgium for being Jewish.

Marcel Kalmann, a 64-year-old professor, told the Antwerp Jewish magazine Joods Actueel that he was ejected from the renowned restaurant Le Panier d'Or in Bruges after a waiter saw his yarmulke under his cap.

"We are not serving Jews, out of here," the magazine reported.

Kalmann also told Joods Actueel that he was mistreated at the police station where he went to file a report and was told the incident would not be considered anti-Semitic. He said he will file reports against both the restaurant and the police.

Kalmann was born in the Auschwitz concentration camp three days before its liberation.

The mayor of Bruges has ordered a police inquiry into the incident and apologized to Kalmann, the European Jewish Press reported.
Speaks for itself.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Making "Making Aliyah" Too Easy

Making Aliyah has become easier than ever before in history. Conventional wisdom dictates that this is a good thing. And that the easier making Aliyah becomes the more Jews will return home to Israel.

But is that always true? Could it be possible that if making Aliyah were way too easy there would be Jews that upon experiencing something in their homeland that they don’t particularly like - they would simply throw everything away?

Now wait a second before you start telling me I sound a bit deluded. Look at the very first pasuk (verse) of last week's Parsha.

Pharaoh had let the people go. G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was shorter. G-d said, “The people might change their minds when they encounter war, and return to Egypt.” (Shemos 13:17)

Contrary to popular belief the Meam Loez explains:
Pharaoh had personally escorted the Israelites when they left Egypt, and had asked them to pray for him. The Torah therefore states that “Pharaoh had sent forth the people.” He had escorted them, hoping to entice them to pray for him. (Shemos Rabbah;Zohar on lech lecha).

Some say they G-d repaid Pharaoh for this good deed by giving the commandment, “Do not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a guest in his land” (Devarim 23:8) (S.R. cit in Yeffeh Toar).

All the Egyptian aristocrats accompanied the Israelietes until they came to Etham (13:20). Pharaoh and his men went along with the Israelites until they left Egypt. Pharaoh also sent many of his officials to accompany them on the way. (Targum Yonason; Rashi).

The Jews were slaves in Egypt. Whether or not they took to heart this fact that they were slaves in someone else’s land - they felt safe and secure there. They felt at home. And they felt that Pharaoh had their best interest in mind.

This is a very important point! “Pharaoh had let the people go.” The Jews did not feel like slaves escaping.

As the Meam Loez puts it:
Slaves escaping their master do not return. But since Pharoah had even gone so far as to escort them, they were left with good feelings toward Egypt. At the slightest hint of hostility, they would run back into Pharoah’s arms.

G-d knew the shortest route from Egypt to Israel leads straight through Gaza!

As the Meam Loez tells us - that route was problematic:
The logical route from Egypt to Canaan would take the Israelites along the Mediterranean coast through the Philistine territory. Although this was the shortest path, G-d did not let the Israelites use it.

G-d did not let the Israelites take this road precisely because it was short. If anything had frightened them, it would have been too easy for them to return to Egypt. G-d knew that the slightest hostility might cause them regret leaving Egypt and drive them to return.

Today, when Jews makes Aliyah from America, they certainly don’t feel like slaves escaping. One wonders if today as well, at the sight of hostility (such as in Gaza perhaps) would the American Jew run back into Pharoah’s arms?

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Same Jews

Sometimes I feel like I'm beating the Jews-need-to-return-to-Israel-and-their-collective-lack-of-initiative-is-a-sign-of-their-lack-of-faith-in-G-d issue like a dead horse. I don't know how we could express this seemingly obvious fact any further.

But I'll try.

One thing that really bugs me is when people read the Torah as a legend of days gone by. The Children of Israel coming out of Egypt are usual catalysts for a sort of global Jewish headshaking - we wonder at their ability to be so kvetchy all the time, to make golden gods, to ask for ridiculous things in the face of miracles. Yet I find that the post-traumatic-stress-riddled Jews of Egyptian slavery time are not a whole lot different than the average Moishe of Central Parkway. Granted, the Hebrews saw wildly unnatural-seeming miracles, splitting seas, weirdly selective plagues like darkness and firstborn slaying and what have you. They had a lot of chutzpah being so faithless.

But it's not like your snazzy LA Jew hasn't seen miracles. His bizarre success wherever he goes, the way he is so oddly and frequently spared from tragic or disasterous events, the birth of the State of Israel far across the ocean and its uncannily rapid growth and prosperity in its old haunts, with its old language. Honestly - it's pretty obvious that G-d is still taking care of His people Israel. There are a lot of American Jews who would heartily testify to the omnipotent kindness of our Lord to the Jewish people, and latch on to many of his commandments in loyalty and affirmation.

But when we talk about getting out of good old Flatbush... ooohhh nooooo. Suddenly, everything is too hard, too scary. To me, it sounds something like this: "Let us be and we will serve Egypt, for it is better that we should serve Egypt than that we should die in the Wilderness." This wilderness was a place where the Israelites' every need would be cared for, where they would learn the Torah and eat to satiety. At least we can give them the benefit of the doubt in regard to their disbelief - though they should have known that Hashem would take care of them in the Wilderness, they had no forward lines who had preceded them, whose well-being they could take comfort in.

Yet the American Jew of today has that very thing. Israel is filled with flourishing beauty, holy Torah, rich agriculture and comfortable living, experienced currently by almost 6 million of his relatives. But he sees his road to Israel, his Wilderness, as not being worth the potential costs. Yes, he knows he's giving up SOMETHING. But his lack of faith causes him to seek comfort in that which is killing him, and to see his ladder up and out as certain death.

As an aside, one could say similarly of those living in Israel today who believe that we are sure to face doom and destruction, who mock those of us who begin to get a whiff of the burning offerings in a future Temple or plan our vacation homes in Basra. To them, anything bespeaking growth and uncharted territory is farcical, impractical, or dangerous. Better to be safe than sorry.

How ironic it is that all of these people rely on things which are utterly unsafe and uncertain and don't run like hell for the Wilderness, which is in fact the only safety there is.

May we all embrace our personal Wilderness, and let it lead us on a path to all things holy, right here in our holy land.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Yerushalayim, Sir, Yerushalayim!

Dear Sir,

A few weeks ago I started receiving an unusual type of spam in my work email. I was subscribed (without my permission) to your excellent halacha mailing list. (It happens to be a wonderful idea and I wish you much success with this endeavor.) While I felt it was not proper derech eretz to subscribe someone to a list without their permission, even if it is for Torah, ("derech eretz kadmah laTorah" after all), especially using someone's work and not personal email address, it is still nice to learn a few halachos a day. Surely no one would object to Torah and this no doubt was exactly what the conceivers of this new Halacha list were thinking when they scoured the web looking for any email addresses they could find listed on the Internet of people working at frum organizations.

The email I received read:
Welcome to the Daily halacha e-mail!

Two short halacha's each day - Monday through Friday - plus Friday a special Halacha L'kovod Shabbos and candle lighting times for NYC.

The last part upset me. You listed candle-lighting times for "the heart and soul" of the Jewish people, New York City - but completely omitted Yerushalayim! So I wrote to you:
Please unsubscribe me.

I don't need to be part of a mailing list that forgets to list lighting time for Yerushalyaim Ir Hakodesh!

Kol Tuv,

And you promptly replied:
Hi Pinchas,
You have been unsubscribed.
We do not list lighting time for Yerushalayim because we only have some 50 subscribers from EY, but we have 2500 in the NY area. I hope you understand that.
Of course I understood - but there was even more that you didn't understand! Still I decided not to pursue the matter until today. When I was once again subscribed to this list but this time you used my Kumah mailing address (and presumably everyone else here at Kumah.)

Well, if you are going to start emailing Kumah we are going to explain to you, and all our visitors why omitting mention of Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh is not a light matter. It demonstrates the golus-yid's (exile Jew's) total and complete detachment from his roots.

Now let us forget the obvious question of how you could claim you only have 50 subscribers from Eretz Yisrael, when you are subscribing people without permission and don't even know who we are or where we live. Let us set that aside. Let us pretend all 2550 subscribers were living in New York City, the center of the Jewish world, after all. I would still argue that Yerushalayim should be mentioned if another city is listed.

I quote Gil Troy, who wrote:
In synagogues throughout the world, when taking the Torah out of the Ark, Jews sing "kee mi tzion tezeh Torah, u davar Hashem me'Yerushalayim," the Torah will come forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. "Zion," the Biblical name for Jerusalem, is not just the three-thousand-year-old capital of the Jewish people, it is the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual center of Jewish gravity. Mentioned over six hundred times in the Bible, it was the city of David the heroic, who conquered it, and of Solomon the wise, who built the first of the two Temples there. During the many centuries of exile, Jerusalem symbolized both the glorious past of the Jewish people -and their hopes for the future. Much of Jewish prayer, in fact, entailed reflecting on what once was in Jerusalem as a way of conceptualizing what again might be there.
Sir, the Jew must always be focused on Yerushalayim. The clearest example of this we learn from celebrating Purim in Yerushalayim on the 15th of Adar. Our sages explained that because of the extra day needed in Shushan, that city would celebrate a day later then the rest of the world. But this presented a dilemma! How dare could the Jewish people honor the Persian city, the New York City of the day, above Yerushalayim? What an embarrassment to Yerushalayim it would be - even if only 50 Jews lived there at the time! A solution was devised (all cities that were walled in the time of Yehoshua Ben Nun would celebrate on the 15th and this would include Yerushalayim) just to avoid this embarrassment and to keep Yerushalayim central in the minds of the Jewish nation.

Today, more than ever, at a time when the nations of the world and some of our misguided Jewish brethren speak openly about plans to divide Yerushalayim, about plans to rip apart our true heart and soul, is it absolutely imperative that we ALWAYS keep Yerushalayim in mind and that we not forget about it while giving other cities precedence. For if we ourselves forget about Yerushalayim how could we have the audacity to complain to others about the injustice of dividing it?

So I repeat, and I speak for everybody at (and Please unsubscribe all the accounts you signed up from our organization so long as you continue to forget to list the candle-lighting time for Yerushalayim ahead of the candle-lighting time for New York City.

I will close with Mr. Troy's eloquent words:
"Im eshkachech Yerushalayim, tishkach yemeeni": If I forget, if I FORSAKE, you O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its cunning, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth. If we abandon Jerusalem, we betray the essence of our being, that which makes us human, our hands and our mouths, our bodies and our souls.

UPDATE: After 5 days we did NOT get a reply, though we were unsubscribed from their mailing list immediately. Presumably the still forget Jerusalem...

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kids, Teenagers, Beware!

by Tzvi Fishman

According to Jewish Law, every Jew is obligated to study the Torah, whether he be rich or poor, healthy or ailing, youthful or old. He must set aside a definite time during the day and at night for the study of Torah, as it says, “Thou shall meditate therein day and night” (Rambam, Laws of Torah Study, 1:8). In addition, the Torah is read publically in synagogue twice during the week and on Shabbat.

We learn Torah because this is G-d’s will for the Jewish People. Throughout the ages, we have been known as “The People of the Book,” and the Torah is our book. There are a lot of books in the world but the Torah is ours. The only way a Jew can understand what it is to be a Jew is by learning the Torah. If he doesn’t study the Torah, he may think he knows who he is, but he really doesn’t.

The Torah is not a long ago, once-upon-a-time story. The Torah teaches us what G-d expects from us today. The tales of our holy Forefathers are examples for us to follow, as our Sages have taught: “The doings of the Forefathers are signs for their sons.”

As we have previously written, give any ten-year-old child the Torah and let him read about Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov, then ask him where G-d wants the Jewish People to live. Ten out of ten will say, "Israel!" G-d commanded our Forefathers to live in the Land of Israel, they only departed from the Land in time of severe famine, and then returned as soon as they could. To highlight this to his children, when it came time for Yaacov to die, he made Yosef swear that he would bury him in Hevron, so that his children never forget that, no matter how good a life they had it in Egypt, they were strangers in a strange land.

Our Sages explain that Yaacov wanted to establish for all posterity the principle that Eretz Yisrael was the Jewish People's only heritage. He knew that his burial in Hevron alongside Avraham and Yitzhak would forge an unbreakable bond between his descendants and the Land that Hashem had promised to give them. Yaacov was especially assertive in making Yosef swear because Yaacov saw that his children had become possessed by the foreign land. “Soon,” he reasoned, “they might substitute the Nile for the Jordan, and what began as a temporary sojourn in Egypt would no longer seem to them as an exile” (See, Artscroll, Bereshit, Vol. 6, Pg. 2090).

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch summarizes: “This was his motive for so ceremoniously insisting that they should not bury him in Egypt, but that they should carry him to their true homeland. This was the reason he told them, ‘Though you may wish to live in Egypt, I refuse to be even buried here.’ This is why he used his name Israel in expressing his wish – he spoke as Israel, the bearer of their national mission.”

Our national mission is to be a holy nation in Israel. Yaacov Avinu’s teaching was not only for his children, but for his children’s children, and for their children after them. His teaching is for us – those of us in Israel today, and those of us who have not yet absorbed the message.

So kids, teenagers, BEWARE! If they tell you that you are American or Australian or Englishmen – don’t believe them! Your parents and rabbis and Federations are lying. You are the Children of Israel. The Land of Israel is your country. Jerusalem is your capital. If your Birthright leader lets you believe that by visiting Israel you are a full-fledged Jew who can continue to live a life of dual loyalty in America, he is lying.

Being a complete Jew means living in Israel. That’s what our Forefathers wanted to teach us. That’s what the Torah tells us over and over again. That’s what G-d wants for His People – to abandon the graveyards of the Diaspora and be living Jews in His Land.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Message to HappyJoel - When You Make Aliyah You Will Sing a Different Tune

I saw half of your video (see warning below), man, and I hope you are having fun blowing smoke up the Christian folks', ummm, toes.

Maybe I should have seen the light side of it, but to me it looked like you just want to get on the good side of the folks in power at the expense of your home team. Which is really the essence of being a galut Jew.

Notice: contains obscenities. And like I said, I only watched half, so be careful.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

What the Ingathering of the Exiles Will Look Like

People ask me why I follow the happenings of the "Yated world" especially here on Kumah. The truth is that this "Yated world," while claiming (and I believe the claims) to have a deep love for Eretz Yisrael they still don't "get it." But I'm convinced that one day - one day they will wake up and "get it" at last, and then another stream of the floodgates of Aliyah will stream forth. In the meantime they will write beautiful articles about how wonderful it is to visit Eretz Yisrael. Yes, one day they will "get it" - one day. Till then though they'll write things like this (bold mine):

"Watching Jews of all stripes streaming to the Kosel, parading down the ancient streets of the Old City of Yerushalayim with their lulavim held aloft, I couldn't help think that this is what the kibbutz goliyos will look like."

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Monday, October 01, 2007

If You Are Visiting Israel For Sukkot - Think About This:

"Goodbye Wall" by Rabbi Meir Kahane
4 Tishri 5738 - September 16, 1977

They come in all sizes and shapes, complexions and complexes, in fusion and confusion, from East and West and North and South. They are Jews; they are tourists; they come to see it. The Wall. They come with beards and kaftan - direct from Williamsburg; they come with Rabbinical Council mustaches, from Flatbush and Kew Garden Hills; they come with black yarmulkas to signify Agudah and knitted ones to shout their support and empathy with Zvulun Hammer; they come with no yarmulkas and are given them by their local American Jewish Congress tour guide; they come with no yarmulkas and wear the cardboard type that the keepers of the Wall dispense; they come with whatever they come with. To see It. The Wall.

They come with familiarity (some having been to Israel seven, eight, ten times), having reached the rank of resident tourist. Usually these are Orthodox Jews who come up to the Wall with confident strides as if to shake the hand of a familiar acquaintance. Others are not sure just what they have to do, how they are required to act, and they stand uncomfortably and nervously, glancing about to see what the others are doing. Still others stand, just stand before the Wall - thinking, meditating, praying, talking, whispering, weeping. And then they leave. They have been to the Land, been to Zion, been to Jerusalem, the Holy City, and been to see it. And then they leave. They leave behind their money, their tour guides, their little notes they wrapped into a small ball or wad and left in the crevices of the Wall. They leave the Land and Zion and Jerusalem, the Holy City, and The Wall. They go back to Great Neck and Boston and Los Angeles and Miami and, of course, Washington Heights and Monsey and Williamsburg and Boro Park. They leave Old Jerusalem for newer ones and the Wall for Wall Street because they must. To see Israel is to enjoy an experience beyond comparison. To see Jerusalem, the Holy City, is to gather a treasury of memories beyond price. To see the Wall is to experience a thrill that is indescribable. But everything has its time and its place and all good tours must come to an end. Israel is the finest of all places to visit but it is not for them to live there. And so they leave. The beards and the beardless, the Orthodox (ultra and modern), Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Humanist, agnostic, atheist ... They leave. For "home." And I often wonder: When they came, they ran to say hello to the Wall. When they leave, do they make a point to say goodbye? And, indeed, how does one say goodbye to the Wall? What does one say to It? Does one stand there and daven Mincha, pray the Afternoon service that says: "And may our eyes behold Thy return to Zion ... " and then say to It: "Well, I suppose I have to go now. The business can't shut down for more than three weeks. Take care of yourself and let's hope that He returns soon ...?" Does one shake the Wall's vegetation in lieu of a hand and does one kiss it - kiss it Goodbye? If one knows that the Shechina, the Divine Presence, never left the Wall, how does one say goodbye to Him? What does one, who is leaving Israel for the Exile that we are told finds him with no G-d and worshipping idolatry in "purity" - say to the Divine Presence at the Wall?

I suppose that it is all this that finds most people leaving Israel without saying goodbye to It. I suppose that especially the ones whose heart and conscience are not as stone, cannot say to the Wall whose stones are as hearts: Goodbye, I am violating a basic tenet of Judaism; I betray my land; I go back to the fleshpots and materialism of the Exile and thus forsake you.

But I also wonder what the Wall says and thinks as It watches the Jews who come to visit as casually as if they were taking a trip (as so many more do lately) to Puerto Rico and Spain and Aruba and Rome. I wonder what It thinks as It looks at the hordes of tourists who come to touch It, fondle It, kiss It, stare at It, memorialize It in their film (still and motion) - and then go back to the lands that they consider their real homes. I wonder what It thinks as It watches the Jews pray and sway and bay at it. I wonder what It thinks as It watches the ritual and idol worship that has been built about It by the American Jewish Congress, the Ministry of Tourism and the UJA. I wonder what It thinks as It watches the Orthodox Jews from New Frankfort on the Heights and the majesty of Crown Heights and sees all the "religious Jews" on their three-week vacation before going back to idolatry. Surely, this last remnant of the Temple, in which preached the Prophets who inveighed against hypocrisy, remembers their words and repeats them to their descendants. Surely it repeats the words: "When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand to trample my courts? Bring no more vain oblations, it is an offering of abomination unto Me; New Moon and Sabbath, the holding of convocations - I cannot endure iniquity along with the solemn assembly ... " (Isaiah 1: 12)

The Wall looks at those who come to honor It and at that very moment plan to betray the Land and abominate it by leaving for an Exile they call "home" - and repeats: "Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (Samuel 1, 15:22). They leave the Wall for "home." They refuse to dwell in the Land of this Wall. It knows that that which they plan - peace and security in the Galut - will never be. It knows that if they reject the Wall of the Almighty, that there will be other walls for them: walls of fire and walls of prisons and camps. The Galut is one huge wall for the Jew - though he refuses to see it.If one comes to the Wall late, very late at night and listens carefully, very carefully, he can hear the Wall. It weeps softly to itself and says: "Woe unto my people for their humiliation of the Land..." And it seems to me that the Wall would prefer that those who say goodbye to it, would not bid it hello.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Aliyah Is Something Only Russians Do, Right?

Jewsweek reports about The Jewish Reconnection Project which joins five young Jews in New York with four young Jews in Jerusalem. (Why not five on five? I guess Israel always does more with less!) In the series a host of issues are discussed. Naturally the one of most interest to Kumah is Israel vs. Diaspora. Some thoughts of mine follow below the clip.

When asked what "Aliyah" is, one young American Jew (or Jewish American depending on who you ask) responded matter-of-fact-ly, "Aliyah is like coming from Eastern Europe." She caught herself and very quickly added "or coming from wherever, and immigrating to the land of Israel."


Here's something odd:

Secular Israeli guy remarks how if he grew up outside Israel he might have a stronger Jewish identity because here he takes it for granted because "everybody is Jewish." Now aside for the fact that the rate of Jewish intermarriage in America has proven that statement to be utterly ridiculous and of flawed logic, I was struck by something else I saw. On the words "[in Israel] everybody is Jewish" the film editor cuts to, if I'm not mistaken, scenes from Maron on Lag B'Omer. We see hundreds of Chassidim dancing. This is curious. When this Chiloni said he was surrounded by Jews in Israel I don't think he was thinking of Maron. He was more likely thinking of night clubs in Tel Aviv. And yet when the American producer of the video heard the words "everyone is Jewish in Israel" he thought of Chassidim dancing at the Kever of Reb Shimon Bar Yachi. Most curious indeed! Pray tell, why?


Israel is a bad place for a Jew to live another American concludes because it's "too easy" to be Jewish and you don't have to "think about it." And here we are at Kumah using the very same logic to promote Aliyah! (Truth be told you ALWAYS have to "think about it" no matter where you are. It might just be a bit easier to find kosher pizza and falafel here. That's a bad thing?)


Best line. "Well I find that kind of sad!" remarked by a young secular Israeli lady responding to a religious American Jew when he explains he doesn't wear his Kippa in college because he wants to hide his Jewish identity. Sad indeed.


Other words of wisdom from the same chiloni, responding to the Americans who said how important the "Homeland" is (it's nice to visit, but they wouldn't want to live there):

"If you feel that Israel is a place for the Jews, and it should be there, then you should step up and do something about it." We, here at Kumah, agree.


She also (the very same chiloni) got the last word in:

"I don't love this county because it's the prettiest country or it's the nicest country, you know, I love it because it's mine, and it's the only - the only home I've got."

Excellent! But, just for the record... it IS the prettiest! :)

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Aliyah To Lakewood, NJ, Hashem's Temple

Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!
Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!
Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!

BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!
BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!
BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!

What's got Pinchas so worked up? Well "a former Talmid of BMG" wrote a letter to the editor of the Yated and it was printed on page 88 of the 10 Elul - Aug 24 edition. In this letter the former Talmid continually compares Bais Medrash Govoah (BMG) to the actual Bais Hamikdosh! He ponders as he approaches BMG if he is feeling "what oleh regel felt like." At one point in the letter he calls those that live in Lakewood "choshoveh bnei aliyah." To this guy there are two buildings one can refer to as "bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov." And by feeling BMG is one of them, he concludes, we will merit for the other one to be built.

What more can I write but Berlin is Jerusalem Syndrome strikes again.

However there is a ray of hope. I happen to know for a fact there actually are holy Jews from Lakewood, New Jersey that are indeed making Aliyah (the kind where you move to Eretz Yisrael.) May the merit of these Jews protect those "lost ones" and the Jewish community in Lakewood and may it inspire them to wake up and realize that "Ain Torah K'Toras Eretz Yisrael!" And may they all become true "choshoveh bnei aliyah."

Hashem Yeracham!

Because Yated has no real viable website the letter in question is reproduced below in its entirety. Be warned though... it may get you worked up a bit...



Dear Editor,

We returned a few days ago from a bain hazmanim vaction in Lakewood, or rather, I should say a week's worth of recharging our batteries and basking in the light of the greatest makam Torah in America.

Although I have never written a letter to the editor before, I want to use this forum to share my feelings and deep hargashas with the choshuveh yungeliet who are zocheh to make up this makom kadosh, and the parents, who in large part are the ones who make it possible. I hope my words can serve as divrei chizuk to these all important members of Klal Yisroel.

We approached the buildings of Bais Medrash Govoah during bain hazemanim with great anticipation and emotion. I thought to myself that, in reality, we are approaching a bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah Shimcha olov; a place that is great, a place that is holy, a place where Hakadosh Boruch Hu is mashreh Shechinah, a place which creates a tremendous Kiddush Hashem - (I wondered to myself that, perhaps, this is a sample of what oleh regel felt like during the times of the Bais Hamikdosh as the Yidden approached Yerushalayim and the Bais Hamikdosh.)

It is in the halls of this makom kadosh that I was zocheh to learn for many years. Much of our ruchniyus, both my own and my family's, has come from these botei medrash. My rabbeim and roshei yeshiva were omel b'Torah in this very yeshiva for years. My children's rabbeim shteiged here. Leaders of our generation, roshei yeshivos and rabbeim, have grown in Torah, tefillah and yiras Shomayim in these very buildings.

I toured the various botei medrash. I reminded myself that in this corner we learned this mesechta, on the other side of the bais medrish another mesechta and on the stage of Bais Shalom a third. I remember where I was standing during Rav Matisyahu Salomon's first shmuess, and where my seat was for the Yomim Noraim…

We thoroughly enjoyed our bain hazmemanim, from the yeshiva davening, slowly enunciating each word with its own sweet taste, to learning sedorim in the various botei medrash, surrounded by Bnei Torah, yungeliet and bochurim learning with hasmada even during bain hazemanim, I found myself imagining how much more geshmak it much be during the zeman with six botei medrish packed with lomdei Torah learning with a bren.

Which brings me to the point of this letter.

The Chofetz Chaim writes that when Dovid Hamelech also davened, "Shivri b'vais Hashem kol yimei chayai... u'livaker b'haychalo," the he should dwell and visit the Bais Hashem, he was really davening for two things. First and foremost, he davened to dwell constantly in the Bais Hashem to feel the enthusiasm and the hispailus that only a visitor can feel and that can sometimes be lost on the permanent resident of the Bais Hashem. Dovid Hamelech was mispallel that he should never lose the hispailus and appreciation that only a visitor can feel. (In fact, the Chossid Yaivitz explains that the reason a visitor to the Bais Hamikdosh much leave through a different door than the one he entered is so that he should not lose the hispailus that he felt when he saw the Bais Hamikdosh from the first angle and seeing it again from the very same angle. Instead, each door should be seen only once, to create a lasting and breathtaking first impression.)

It is with this thought from the Chafetz Chaim in mind that I want to take the opportunity to share with those who are zocheh to be shivtie b'vais Hashem the feelings and impressions of a visitor, a mevaer b'haychalo. I'm well aware of the daily tirdos of the choshoveh bnei aliyah who learn in this bayis gadol v'kadosh, including babysitting, carpooling, playgroups, wives working full time, parnassa issues, etc., and the koach of hergel on top of it all. But I wish that each and every one of you should be zoche to fell the excitement, the magnitude, the awe, the hispailus, the love, and the longing the we, the former talmidim - those who were once zoche to be shivti babayis hazeh - feel when we are mevaker b'haychalo. May Hakadosh Boruch Hu help you feel anticipation and excitement each day as you enter this great makom Torah and walk its hallowed halls.

To the parents, in-laws and relatives of these choshuveh yungeleit, I would like to share the following. As we were leaving Lakewood, something I saw got me thinking. We all have different ways in which we are able to support out precious chavrei hakollel. Some offer financial help directly to the yeshiva. Others can afford to give financial help to their children and relatives. Others support yungeleit in the form of gifts and clothing, and yet others can supply emotional support, a compliment, a good vort, or words of appreciation to our young treasures who do so much for, and are tremendous zechus to, their families and the entire Klal Yisroel.

Whatever it is that we can do, let us do it proudly, with a deep understanding and great appreciation of the chashivus of Torah, chashivus of lomdei Torah, chashivus of a makom Torah, and while bearing in mind what Torah, limud HaTorah and a makom Torah does for us, our families, for Klal Yisroel and for our future.

May Hakadosh Boruch Hu bentch us that our appreciation and understanding of what this bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov means to us and Klal Yisroel should hasten the bulding of the bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov that we refer to in our bentching.

A Former Talmid Of BMG

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Natan Gesher always told me NEVER to post copy-content, but there are exceptions and this is it. Tzvi Fishman has written an article that is surprisingly similar to my Kosher-Style article and therefore I thought it was fitting for our blog. This one is a must read for American Jewry before this Rosh HaShanna:

"Conservadoxy" by Tzvi Fishman

The concept of t'shuva means to return to one's source. Suppose a man is expelled from his house by thieves. The wrongdoing will only be corrected when the owner returns to repossess his house. This is true for the Jewish People on both a national and individual level. To achieve a state of true t'shuva and reunion with G-d, we have to return to our home in the Land of Israel. A Jew who becomes a baal t'shuva in Chicago has only returned a part of the way home.

The return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is a necessary stage in the t'shuva of the nation and each and every Jew. This is the Redemption that we pray for. For instance, a Jew who becomes a baal t'shuva in Chicago has only returned a part of the way home. While his personal character and behavior have been sanctified by aligning his life on the pathway of Torah, he has traveled only half of the journey home. The "t'shuva train" is continuing on to Israel. The final stop is Jerusalem. Every Jew needs to bring his little light home to the Holy Land where it can join the great flame. He has to uplift his private, egotistical life, to the higher life of Clal Yisrael, and to merge his personal goals with the goals of the rebuilding of the nation. To rectify the blemish caused by the galut, he has to abandon the exile and join the ingathered to Israel. He has to actualize the words of his prayers, "And gather us together from the four corners of the earth." Otherwise, he is just like a parrot who mouths words without acting out their meaning (Kuzari, 2:24).

Here's another example. Let's say a non-religious Jew decides to return to G-d and make a commitment to Torah. He learns all about Judaism and embraces the mitzvot with the great joy and fervor characteristic of the newly religious. Except he decides that he doesn't want to put on tefillin. For whatever reason, whether because he feels it's a silly piece of mumbo jumbo, or because the little box looks strange on his head, or because tefillin are expensive, he decides that it isn't for him. Obviously his return to the Torah is incomplete. One could not even call this person an Orthodox Jew.

The same thing is true with the mitzvah of living in Israel. Jewish Law states: "A Jew should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority of residents are idol worshippers, and not live outside of the Land, even in a city where the majority are Jews" (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 75:1:3). Our baal t'shuva from Chicago may do all of the other commandments with joy, but by not coming to live in Eretz Yisrael, he is showing that his belief in the Torah and in the G-d of Israel is incomplete.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook would stress to his students that an Orthodox Jew does not pick and choice mitzvahs, saying "This commandment is pleasing to me, I will do it, but this commandment is too difficult, I will pass." This is the way of Conservative Jewry. If Shabbat is too much of a burden, they don’t observe it. If wearing tzitzit is too embarrassing, or uncomfortable, or old-fashion, then it isn't for them.

"Rejecting the commandment of living in Israel is a rejection of Hashem," Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda emphasized. "It is a rebellion against G-d, as it is written in the Torah concerning the Jews who refused to continue on to Eretz Yisrael after the exodus from Egypt. Hashem declares to them: 'You rebelled against the L-rd your G-d, and you did not believe in Me, and did not listen to my proclamation'" (Devarim, 9:23).

Not coming to live in Israel expresses a lack of faith of G-d. It is a denial of G-d's will for the Jewish People that the commandments be observed in the Land of Israel. Living in Israel is not a matter of personal preference. It is one of the commandments of the Torah required of each and every Jew, a mitzvah that our Sages declare is equal in weight to all of the commandments of the Torah (Sifre, Reah,80). It is such a great mitzvah because living in Israel is the cornerstone of our nation, and the foundation of all of the Torah.

"Being a Jew today comes with the basic requirement to be in Eretz Yisrael," Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda taught. "Every Jew who comes to Israel brings back to Zion an aspect of the Shechinah from the exile. Every additional Jew who comes to Israel, and every additional tree which is planted in the soil of Eretz Yisrael is another stage and step of the Redemption, in the same way that every additional piece of Torah which is learned, and every yeshiva which is built in Israel, is another stage in the returning of G-d's Presence to Zion" (see the book, "Torat Eretz Yisrael," Chapters 5-9, for an in-depth study of the mitzvah of living in Israel).

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda's father, Rabbi Avraham Yitchak HaCohen Kook, also stressed that the true t'shuva of the Jewish People is in our return to Eretz Yisrael. Again and again, in his letters and speeches, he called the Jewish people to return home to Zion. One public proclamation, sent out all over the Diaspora, years before the Holocaust, was entitled, "The Great Call."

"To the Land of Israel, Gentlemen, To the Land of Israel! Let us utter this appeal in one voice, in a great and never-ending cry. Come to the Land of Israel, dear brothers, come to the Land of Israel. Save your souls, the soul of your generation, the soul of the entire nation; save her from desolation and destruction, save her from decay and degradation, save her from defilement and all evil ­ from all of the suffering and oppression that threatens to come upon her in all the lands of the world without exception or distinction....

"Escape with your lives and come to Israel; G-d's voice beckons us; His hand is outstretched to us; His spirit within our hearts unites us, encourages us and obliges us all to cry in a great, powerful, and awesome voice: Brothers! Children of Israel, beloved and dear brethren, come to the Land of Israel, do not tarry with arrangements and official matters; rescue yourselves, gather together, come to the Land of Israel....

"From the time we were exiled from our Land, the Torah has accompanied Israel into exile, wandering from Babylon to France, Spain, Germany, Eastern and Central Europe, Poland, Russia, and elsewhere. And now, how happy we would be if we were able to say that she has returned to her first place, to the Land of Israel, together with the people of Israel, who continue to multiply in the Holy Land.

"And now, who is so blind that he does not see the L-rd's hand guiding us in this, and does not feel obligated to work along with G-d? A heavenly voice in the future will cry aloud on top of the mountains and say, 'Whoever has worked together with G-d, let him come and receive his reward.' Who can exempt himself from doing his part in bringing additional blessing and swifter salvation; from awakening many hearts to return to the Holy Land, to the L-rd's legacy, that they may become a part of it, to settle it with enterprises and buildings, to purchase property, to plant and sow, to do everything necessary for the foundation of life of a stable and organized settlement...."

My friends, the fact of the matter is that if you want to be a real baal t'shuva, you have to return to the place you came from, to the place you belong. And if you want to serve G-d as the Torah intended, you have to perform the mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael. If you are not already here, or not on the way, chances are that you are either lacking in faith, or your understanding of Judaism is mistaken. As the Day of Judgment approaches, find a few quiet moments and ask yourselves, "Am I really doing the best that I can to serve G-d by living here in Chicago, or Monsey, or Beverly Hills? Is my living in Chicago what G-d really wants?" If you truly believe so, then when you come to the following verses in the Rosh Hashana liturgy, you should either cough loudly to drown out the words, or quietly sneak out of the shul:

"Our G-d and G-d of our fathers, sound the great shofar for our freedom, and raise up a banner to gather together our exiles, and return our scattered from amongst the nations, and assemble our outcasts from the corners of the earth, and bring us to Zion, your city, with happy singing, and to Jerusalem, the home of your Sanctuary, with everlasting joy."

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Elul Niggun: Father in the Forest

A Father Calls out to His Children

"...This soulful melody is a dialogue between the Almighty Father and His children, the people of Israel. The Father looks for His children in the Diaspora, Galut, and implores them to return Home to the Holy Land..."

"Where have you been that you have forsaken Me?" He inquires of His children, "Dear children, please return Home, I feel forlorn without you."

The children's answer is "But, Father, how can we return when there is a guard blocking the door?"

*Matisyahu's more recent version of the niggun HERE

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Anti-Zionism Lives!!!

In response to a my show entitled Likud, Satmar, and Olim (listen now or download) I got this response:


I just got finished listen your broadcast. I had heard as much as I could stomach but fortunately it was ending. I think you need to understand a few things. Satmar never Boycotted Jerusalem. They did not go to the Kosel or Kever Rochel or the ma'aras hamachpela in protest of the Secular zionist Israeli Government.

And you still don't get the picture. Judaism is about G-d, G-d, G-d, G-d. The lady in the airport that said she wishes they would say something more about G-d understands the spiritual vacuum that exists in a land that according to you "has so much potential" but in 46 minutes you didn't mention G-d once (had it not been for that lady) You didn't speak a word of torah. You spoke about the land, the land, the land. The land is dirt. without G-d it remains dirt. That is why Satmar and ALL CHAREIDIM are anti zionist, because Zionism takes the holy land and make sure it stays dirt.

For example, your reflections on the Theatre. A beautiful building blah blah. It's a place where Jews were Michallel Shabbos for decades in the holiest city in the world, and you miss it because you won't be able to watch goyish movies with arayos mamash in the middle of Jerusalem. That's your idea of Judaism? All the gedolei Torah in all generations opposed secular Zionism because it cuts G-d out of the equation. You think that because you have F16s you're protected? FOOL! If you had G-d you wouldn't need F16s. Mordechai in Shushan had F16s? Chezkiyahu Hamelech had F16s? Yehuda Hamakabi Had F16s? The Rebbe shlita made a cheshbon that when Klal Yisroel was oleh l'regal, The borders were completely open. Soldiers and "mishmar hagevul" also had an obligation to be oeh l'regal. There were as many as 109 days of the year, every year for 410 years in the bayis rishon and 420 years in the bayis shani that certain areas of the border (nahar prus) were open every year. Not one foreign soldier stepped over the border in over 800 years that the border was open for almost a third of the year. Instead of G-d protection, you think f16s will help you. Did it help when 100 Jews were killed and a third of the country evacuated because of katyushas missle strikes? Where were your f16s?

You invite a liar like Shitreet to address a NBN group? He didn't a believe a word he was saying. "We have a saying in Israel 'whoever saves a life'...." Saying in Israel? It's a gemorah Baba Basra and Sanhedrin. "Saves a life"?? Like the yaldei Teheran that were forcibly torn away from Yiddishkeit?? Like the yemeni Olim that were given a choice "come to work or go to pray" in the morning. You couldn't have both. The Zionists have spiritually and physically killed Jews, shitreet should have been shouted down for that claim. He continues "we say in the prayers". Who is "we"? This guy davens? But he's not done yet, he has to add on the ultimate kfira. "If only the state of Israel would have been created 10 years earlier..." What happened in Europe was posuk by posuk described in the tocha'ah as punishment for not following G-d's Torah. I feel sorry for you that you have such a small God, that you feel if he decrees a war or a holocaust, you can subvert his decree because you have a few F16, or you learned Karate, or you bought a gun. G-d is really really big. If he should G-d forbid decree it, you would be on the first train so fast you would have no idea how you got there.

A believer sees the hand of G-d in every step of the holocaust. G-d told the Jews do not marry a Goy. The Jews didn't listen. Germany, the most assimilated, intermarried, intertwined country in Europe passed the Nuremburg laws. A Jew cannot marry a Goy. A Jew cannot go out of Germany to get married and come back. We do not recognize such a marriage. A Jew cannot have relations with a Goy outside of marriage. G-d tells the Jew "do not cut your beard, do not cut your payos, wear tzitzis, and carve my bris into your flesh, so everyone will know when a Jew walks down the street. The Jews in Germany shaved their beards and payos, wore short jackets like the Goyim, took off their tzitzis and hats until the Goy said put a yellow star on your jacket and a number carved on your left forearm so everyone will know when a Jews walks down the street. These things never happened to anybody else in history. And Shitreet says, If the state was created 10 years earlier we would have protected you from G-d's decree. That is kefira in it's purest form.

The anti-zionist movement has not changed or slackened. It is still in full force for all the same reasons. It is you, the foolish modern orthodox, without Torah and without leadership that are being led like sheep to the slaughter. The Zionist Gov't said Come to Israel and fulfill the mitzvah of Yishuv ha'aretz in Gush Katif, and you followed and listed. Until they finished with you and threw you out. THAT IS ZIONISM. You were used, not us. The frei UN envoy from Israel stands and before the UN GA and says for "2000 years the Jew has faced Jerusalem and prayed 3 times a day for the return to israel...." and then the shaigetz runs and hides behind you, the religious zionist, and says "tell them, tell them how we pray 3 times a day..." He doesn't pray, he doesn't believe in G-d, he's using you and you allow yourselves to be used. We don't. We have nothing to do with anti-religious zionist government of Israel. They do not represent us. They do not represent G-d, they do not represent Judaism. Like the lady said "G-d is missing". From your radio show, from your country, from your government.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Some REAL Statistics on Yerida

40,000 Non-Jews from CIS Leave Israel

( According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, at least 40,000 of the roughly 229,000 Israelis who moved abroad between 1990 and 2005 were non-Jews who had come to the country from eastern Europe. Immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), both Jewish and non-Jewish, made up almost 50% of Israeli emigrants (yordim).

10,500 Israeli citizens returned to Israel in 2005 after living abroad for over one year. 55% of those returning were born in Israel, while 45% were born abroad.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Exile Sweet Exile

Dear Yishai,

The answer is simple ==> JEWS DON'T CARE!!

This is my reaction to your article "A State Of Exile" on YNET

There are more religious Jews in Brooklyn than anywhere in the world (per square inch).

And they are betting their eye teeth on their future IN BROOKLYN not ISRAEL.

Maybe if you folks (at A7) would come here and take a look at the BILLIONS being invested in homes, businesses and community institutions ... MAYBE you would learn something.

The ONLY thing that will get these folks to leave is a DISASTER ... simply because YOU FOLKS DON'T WANT TO UPSET THE APPLECART !!! Which is the same reason that the religious community in Israel REFUSES to oppose the government. And you folks REFUSE to oppose the religious community.


It's exasperating to watch ... I like to call it SERIAL SELF-DELUSION ... Deal with it or live with the ugly consequences.

May I suggest again a political party aimed at these recalcitrant Jews.

Read This:

Emigration from Israel exceeds immigration, report 04/20/2007

Tel Aviv (dpa) - In Israel, the number of emigrants exceeded the number of immigrants for the first time in 20 years, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported Friday.

Many emigrants were recent arrivals who wanted to leave Israel again, the report said. In 2007, 14,400 immigrants are expected in Israel while 20,000 people are expected to leave the country, according to the report based on figures for the first months of 2007.

The last time emigration exceeded immigration was in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and in 1983 and 1984 when inflation was high.

Meanwhile the Maariv newspaper reported that approximately a quarter of the Israeli population was considering emigration.

Almost half of the country's young people were thinking of leaving the country, the report said. Their reasons included dissatisfaction with the government, the education system, a lack of confidence in the political ruling class and concern over the security situation.



Dear Frank,

1. Frank, baby, listen to me! There has always been Yerida, but it has always been dwarfed by Aliyah because there were many Olim coming in from Russia, Africa, Europe etc. Today the last great bastion of potential Aliyah is America, and they are behind the Golden Curtain and it's very hard to break. Immigration has slowed and that is why emigration seems to be beating out immigration.

2. We have a friend who was the 3 millionth Jewish citizen in Israel in the early 70's. Today there are almost 6 million. Does that seem like a retrograde motion to you?

3. "Leave the country" - a very small percentage of that is real Yerida - MOST go out for a few months to a few years and return. In fact there is a rise in Israelis returning as many of them find Judaism in America. Also, many Yordim are actually goyyim who don't like it much in Israel and go back their goyyish lands to eat goyyish food. We like to say "shalom" to them when they leave.

Don't fall for the hype Frank - Israel's Jewish population is growing.... and we haven't even talked about the high birthrate here.

"Meanwhile the Maariv newspaper reported that approximately a quarter of the Israeli population was considering emigration." - Also I have a bridge to sell you, in Minneapolis.

All the best,


Hello Yishai ...

My point is about American Olim ... most leaving Israel come to the U.S. ... and most coming to Israel are not from the U.S. ... making the U.S. a net drain population-wise) on Israel. All of the Israelis that are now my neighbors are observant Jews.

I see billions of Jewish and Israeli dollars being invested in Brooklyn NOT Israel. Recently a Jewish (former Israeli) truck driver that delivers weekly to a restaurant (owned by former Israeli Jews) asked my opinion about a piece of real estate. I told him that buying any U.S. real estate was foolish, and that he should buy in Israel. By the way, that Israeli restaurant has expanded 3 time since opening less than 2 years ago. (And the barbers that cut my hair are also Former Israeli Jews.)

The trends are obvious ... few American Jews prefer to live in Israel ... many Israeli Jews prefer to live in the U.S. ... and I haven't even mentioned the number of former Israelis living in Boca Raton, Florida, where there is a huge colony. In 1979 when my parents moved to Boca Raton former Israeli's were invisible ... today you can't miss them.

While you folks do a great PR job (which by the way barely reaches beyond the Arutz Sheva audience) most American Jews have never heard of you. They appear to be insulated by the small religious communities in which they are organized.

It looks like a losing battle to me ... at least by the numbers. Life is just too good here, however short-lived that may prove to be.

Take Care,

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Monday, August 06, 2007

The Boring Galut "Controversies"

I trust you have all read the Noah Feldman controversy. Its basically the story of a successful graduate of Maimonides high school who went on to Harvard law, the CFR, and the New York Times. Recently he wrote a well written, but utterly self-serving article about how since his intermarriage, he has been ostracized from the Orthodox community and that his picture has been airbrushed away from the Alumni newsletter. Throughout the article Noah throws in some jabs at Modern-Orthodoxy to which he has a love/hate relationships. The article was in the NY Times and has since elicited responses (some very good ones) from rabbis, columnists and many many bloggers. I shall not repeat what has been already hashed out.

I would like to point out one thing though: this essay and its resulting hubbub is yet another of the Galut community's obsession with "issues" that don't matter so much. Remember the Brit Milla issue that had the American Jewish world storming? Remember the not-so-kosher-chicken fiasco of Monsey? And now the case of the whining intermarried Harvard-grad! They all seem like big issues when you are in Galut, but when you are in Israel, all these things seem like a joke. Why? Because here we deal with Jewish war and Jewish nation building, we deal with Jewish education, care for Holocaust survivors, Jewish land and the Jewish future. The giant "controversies" of America are nothing more than entertaining spats to be intellectually debated in the ever-shrinking circles of the Galut.

Do us a favor and wake up. We have bigger fish to fry in the greatest Jewish project of all time - the building of Israel. Let the Noah Feldman's whine about Modern-Orthodox mistreatment - but don't give them a bigger platform than they deserve. They are really boring as compared with the very big, very real, and very exciting issues we face here daily.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

The Exile Today

After the evil king Jeroboam split off the kingdom of Israel with its ten tribes from the kingdom of Judea, he erected a wall and posted guards along all the roads leading to Jerusalem, to prevent his people from going up to the Holy City for the pilgrimage festivals, for he feared that such pilgrimages might undermine his authority. As a "substitute," he set up places of worship which were purely idolatrous, in Dan and Beth-el. Thus the division between the two kingdoms became a fait accompli and lasted for generations.

The last king of the kingdom of Israel, Hosea ben Elah, wished to heal the breach, and broke down the wall and removed all the guards from the roads leading to Jerusalem, thus allowing his people to make the pilgrimage again. This act took place on Tu B'Av.

Today a wall is being erected to seprate off Hebron, Shechem, Beit El, Shiloh, and Beit Lechem from the rest of the country. Today the Biblical heartland is being cut off and exiled, just as Jeroboam exiled Jerusalem. It is time to tear down the wall so that we may have a true Tu B'Av, reunited in love with our land, our people and our G-d.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Germany: Home, Sweet Home

Recently, there were a number of articles discussing the dramatic increase in the number of Israelis applying for German citizenship.

Sharp rise in Israelis seeking German citizenship
- Yediot Achronot

'Sweet revenge,' say new Germans - Ha'aretz - (One of the most depressing articles I have read in quite some time.)

Below are some selected quotes from the articles:

* "The grandparents did not want to be German for obvious reasons. They taught their children that being German was a bad thing. But this is the first generation which thinks differently," said Katy Elmaliah, whose law firm in Tel Aviv helps young Israelis get German passports.


* "For my mother and my father the memories of the past are too hard. They would never want to be German but for me it is important that I can have a European passport," he said. "I have no problem being German."


* Holding her brand-new German passport, Avital Direktor, 29, of Azor, just had to laugh. "What a crazy world," she thought to herself. "Germany's soil is drenched with my family's blood, and in spite of it all, I got German citizenship. I see it as taking revenge on Hitler. Sweet revenge..."

"Now, I will be able to pass it on to my children," she added.

Avital said she is not surprised by the sharp rise in demand for German citizenship among Israelis. "Look at what's going on here. Ours is a land that devours its inhabitants. The obtuseness to the needy, the corruption. People are dying to get out of here..."

Avital hopes to study to be a sound technician in Germany. "Here, it's expensive like you wouldn't believe, but there, I'll get it practically free of charge. I had intended to study it in Israel, but I just can't afford it financially," she explained.

According to Avital, most of her friends supported her decision to apply for German citizenship. "They said they wished they could get a German passport, too, and asked me what I was still doing here in Israel."

All of the above makes the following story almost seem logical:

Berlin Jewish Center builds replica of Western Wall

”This is a symbolic part of making Berlin a central hub of Jewish life again,” the center’s executive director, Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
In light of the above, consider these verses from the book of Judges (2:10-11):
And in time, death overtook all that generation; and another generation came after them, having no knowledge of the Lord or of the things which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord...
Some things never change.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Words of Encouragement

Zechariyah Chapter 8

1. Then the word of the LORD of hosts came, saying,
2. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her.'
3. "Thus says the LORD, `I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.'
4. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age.
5. `And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.'
6. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `If it is too difficult in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, will it also be too difficult in My sight?' declares the LORD of hosts.
7. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west;
8. and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.'
9. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `Let your hands be strong, you who are listening in these days to these words from the mouth of the prophets, those who spoke in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, to the end that the temple might be built.
10. `For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for animal; and for him who went out or came in there was no peace because of his enemies, and I set all men one against another.
11. `But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,' declares the LORD of hosts.
12. `For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things.
13. `It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong.'
14. "For thus says the LORD of hosts, `Just as I purposed to do harm to you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,' says the LORD of hosts, `and I have not relented,
15. so I have again purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear!
16. `These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates.
17. `Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,' declares the LORD."
18. Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,
19. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace.'
20. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities.
21. `The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, "Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts; I will also go."
22. `So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD.'
23. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, `In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.""'

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Monday, July 16, 2007

New Orleans Jewish Federation Offers Financial Incentives For Jews

From YNET: In an ambitious bid to bolster New Orleans' Jewish population following Hurricane Katrina, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans has announced a program of financial incentives to families who make their home in the city.

The incentives are modeled on the Nefesh B'Nefesh immigration to Israel scheme, which enables Jewish families to settle across Israel. "Young people who are looking for new opportunities but do not want to relocate as far as Israel would do well to look southwards to the Jewish community of New Orleans," a press release by the city's Jewish federation said.

The package includes "moving grants, day school scholarships, loans and other benefits as part of its $500,000 Newcomer's Incentive Plan," the press statement added.

"Two years ago when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, the New Orleans community lost 30 percent of its Jewish members," the city's Jewish Federation said.

"Today, with rebuilding efforts well underway, the Jewish community is looking to recruit 1,000 new families over the next 5 years. Already, close to 200 new Jewish families have moved to the area and more than 50 have begun to inquire about incentives," the statement said, adding: "Now, with funding support from United Jewish Communities and a recent grant of $100,000 from the Los Angeles Federation, the local Federation has half a million dollars available for returnees and newcomers."

The Incentives Plan also contains a strong sell of New Orleans, which is described as being warmer than many US cities, "with a choice of nine synagogues, two JCCs, two day schools, two kosher restaurants and other facilities... It is also a city with soul, featuring jazz, Mardi Gras, great food traditions and a strong local culture."

"Young professionals say that they are moving to the city because they can sense the exciting opportunities which are open to them," the statement added.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Two Years...

Today is my two year anniversary. Two years ago, today (secular date) I came home. So what's it like two years later? Well I feel at home, that's for sure. The Rechavia neighborhood now feels familiar to me. I know all the shortcuts that tourist will never know about. I know the Rambam was given a much nicer street than both the Rif and the Ramban. In fact I think it's the most beautiful street in all of Yerushalayim while Radak and Ramban remains my most favorite intersection. It's nice living somewhere where the streets are named after Rishonim. Every time I walk up my block I'm reminded of Shabbos Zemiros (the block nearby being named after an author of one.)

But what's even more amazing now is what I see when I visit America and see it now through the eyes of somebody who hass been living in the homeland for the past two years. I am even more amazed than ever at how American Jews could live their lives without giving any sincere consideration toward returning to their true home. I have often maintained there are legitimate reasons for postponing Aliyah (while there are also poor excuses) but I don't see how a truly Torah observant G-d fearing Jew can wake up each and every day without making some sort of effort to return to where we really belong. How such a Jew can live life fully content with the status quo as if living in chutz l'aretz was the ultimate destiny of the Jewish people is beyond me.

The question remains why is it this way? Why in 1948 after Israel independence was declared and permission for every Jew to return home granted (or did that happen in 1917) didn't the floodgates of Aliyah open? Was it too soon after the war? Were we too devastated after the horrors of the Shoah to realize the opportunity that G-d had presented us?

What about in 1967? After the world witnessed open miracles and Jerusalem was reunited under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in 2000 years! Certainly then the call for the Jews to return home was louder than ever. And the shofer has been sounded just as loudly ever since.

Every Frum Jew living in America has to ask himself if the true purpose of our nation here on earth is for every Jewish family to have a five car garage, a swimming pool, a manicured lawn, and a fireplace. For if acquisition of wealth is the Jewish People's purpose than certainly America is the Promised Land and we are living up to our mandate.

But when people say they can't earn a parnussa in Israel are they really saying they can't acquire wealth here? When did we forget the difference between earning a respectable living and getting rich. (Again I understand that there are circumstances where one can't even earn a livelihood and that is a valid heter not to make Aliyah.). But actually I’ll tell you on every trip to America more and more people come up to me and tell me they are making Aliyah. So the truth is maybe we didn't forget the difference at all...

NBN brought three flights of Olim to Israel this week. Perhaps we are starting to get it.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

'The Good Olim of Our Times'

In my lifetime, I have seen the passing of several notable Gedolim, or greatest scholars-leaders of our time: The Baba Sali, Rav Soloveitchik, The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Kadouri, just to name a few.

It remains to be seen whether our generation can replace these beacons of Torah and leadership with Rabbis and leaders of equal status. This is a great loss for our nation, in our generation. It is hard to pinpoint now exactly who are the Gedolim of our times.

But when leaders are no longer present, that doesn't mean that leadership ceases. Someone or someones need to take the bull by the horns, and lead the Jewish people forward. Today, Israel and the Jewish people were blessed with the arrival of 200 plus Jewish immigrants, or Olim, adding onto the 3,000 or so that have been arriving from North America each year.

I think we should praise these good olim. They (heck, myself included) have made bold steps to lead the Jewish people against all modern conventional wisdom, to return to our biblical heritage. This cannot be overlooked. These courageous leaders can definitely be considered the Good Olim of our times.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Overheard in Five Towns

Lady #1: Oh, I would make Aliyah.

Lady #2:
You would? [Surprised look] Why?

Lady #1:
Well, were gonna be living in Israel anyway eventually. Might as well go now.


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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Who Will Prevail?

In a poll conducted for the B'nai B'rith World Center 46 percent of the respondents, believe every Jew should make aliya, while on the flip side, 41% expressed agreement with the statement that "Jews should live dispersed in various communities in the world, as diversity and global support is the only way Israel and the Jewish people will be strengthened." [Read Article]

The sentiment that all Jews should live in Israel was particularly strong among soldiers, National Union-National Religious Party voters and Sepharidim; 63% of each of these groups held this view.

People who voted for Kadima (57%), Gil Pensioners (55%) and United Torah Judaism (52%) were the biggest supporters of a Jewish Diaspora.

So post-Zionists, retirees, and chariedim see the Galut as a valuable phenomenon, while soldiers, religious-nationalists, and salt-of the-earth folks believe that Israel is the home for all Jews. 41% of Israelis are pro-Galut, 46% are pro-ingathering.

These numbers represent yet another facet of the underlying split we have here in Israel. The split is about vision - how we perceive ourselves, and through which prism. This split is clearly NOT about Torah values and is seen by the Chariedi vote. Even the Torah can be seen through this prism.

The prism is about the redemptive process. The pro-Galut crowd does not see Israel as the final ingathering, while the pro-Aliyah people see the Israel as the "final-stop" on the long train-ride of Jewish history. Kadima, Gil, and UTJ do not believe we are in a redemptive process. Kadima folks would love to move to the US (as have Olmert's kids have), Gil folks are are not ideological, and UTJ folks have a powerful presence in the Diaspora and an ideology of waiting for Messiah. Soldiers, on the other hand, do not want to die for nothing, they want to believe that Israel is a core value. Sefardim have "kishkes" Judaism, and they sense that Israel is the home of the Jews. NRP has an ideology of redemption, ingathering, and third Temple.

How we see the Diaspora is a reflection of how we see Israel. If you see the Diaspora as an important part of Judaism, then Israel's centrality is diminished. If we see Israel as central, then the Diaspora is something we hope dies out. Furthermore, the question of Aliyah vs. Diaspora rests on the attractiveness of Israel. When Israel is a winner, more people see Israel's miraculousness, and when Israel is a loser people distance themselves, and become attached to the Galut.

There is also a very important economic factor to this theoretical discussion. If you believe that the exile is "over" - then you put money into Aliyah-education and "saving" whoever you can. If you think the Diaspora is an important component of Judaism, you will spend money trying to maintain Galut-Jewry.

Some theorize that we need a good galut to run to if Israel fails, or we need a remnant of Jews in the US in case Israel's Jews get nuked. Others point out that soon, the majority of Jews will live in Israel, and the Galut will continue to diminish. Intermarriage, low-birthrate, and Aliyah will naturally end the Diaspora. Which view of Israel will pervail?

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Just When You Thought The Sin Of The Spys Was Just An Old Fairy-Tale

From IsraelNN: German Jewish Leader Threatens to Ask Gov't to Prevent Aliyah

Germany's Jewish establishment has demanded that Israel not advertise the invitation for German Jews to immigrate to the Jewish state.

Stephan J. Kramer, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, sent a letter last week to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert saying he would request the German government’s help in preventing Israel from encouraging Jews to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel) from Germany, according to Haaretz.

Does this sound familiar?

Numbers 14, this week's Torah portion, the Jewish leaders were against Aliyah as well:
"Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt? So they said to one another, "Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt."

These folks would stay in the desert or in Germany, rather than come to the "exceedingly good land." Moreover, they want to fight those who advocate Aliyah: "But all the congregation said to stone them with stones."

Germany continues to be unhealthy for Jews. But thank you G-d for bringing this story out this week to make it so clear that the Sin of the Spies is alive and well today. Does American Jewry suffer from similar psychosis?

By the way - don't get confused - this is NOT the sin of the spies:

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hayeenu KeCholmim - "We Were As Dreamers"

So Yossi Benayoun, a 27-year-old star from Dimona is following the Israeli dream - to be a success in Chutz La'aretz. What a role model for our youth. Any poor kid from Dimona will always know - one day, if your lucky, you can grow up and leave Israel - and maybe you'll get to play for West HAM!

From YNET:

Yossi Benayoun, West Ham United's midfielder, is now the highest-paid Israeli sportsman ever. Forever known as "the kid from Dimona", Benayoun, 27, has certainly grown up. He now has a five-year contract grossing him about $4.5 million a year.

"If someone would have told me, back when I was playing in Israel, that this is the way my career would be going, I would have believed them immediately...I've had a lot of dreams come true. This is one of them," said Benayoun Saturday.

In 2002 Benayoun joined Spain's Racing Santander, but he never forgot his childhood dream - to play in the English Premier League. Two years ago his dream came true, when he joined West Ham United. "I've always had people doubt me," he said, "but I only have one person to prove myself to - me," he said Saturday. "I believe I can make it even further. My dreams are far from over."

Imagine if Benayoun would have come out with a different statement:

"I appreciate the British offer, but I'm a proud Israeli, and after 2000 years of exile, I have the privilege and the responsibility to play in Israel, to put Israeli soccer on the map, and to give hope to the Israeli youth! AM YISRAEL CHAI!!!"

Alas, Binayoun has a different dream.
Hayeenu KeCholmim...

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Europe Synagogue Set Ablaze

Eventually, Hashem will widen our borders and grant us rest from all our enemies who surround us like bees and sting us mercilessly (may HaShem take vengeance on them on our behalf). When this happends, all of us will join together and become involved in the building effort (with G-d's help). For Nachum's prophecy - The gates of your Land have been opened wide (3:13) - has been fulfilled through us (thank G-d). We will disregard our newfound freedom here in exile and make sure not to use it to remain here as before (G-d forbid). For if we remain here, the nations will oppress us once again, as the prophet says: who rejoice over nothingness, who say "Indeed, with our strength we have taken horns for ourselves." For behold. I will raise up a nation against you, O House of Israel, says the Lord..., and they will oppress you (Amos 6:13-14). Thus, the nations oppressed us only because we rejoiced over our lot here in exile. We felt that we were strong, [as if] we had horns with which to gore eastward, northward, southward, and westward. But HaShem showed us that we rejoiced over nothing and that our greatness here was like a fleeting dream.

Therefore, let us learn from the past and use our newfound freedom to establish great movements to encourage all segments of our nation to ascend to Zion with happy song and eternal joy. Then HaShem will fulfill His promise to us: The Lord will be zealous for His Land and have pity on His people (Yoal 2:18). Amen, so may it be G-d's will.

- Harav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal,

Arson Suspected in Synagogue Blaze
The Associated Press

GENEVA - Fire heavily damaged a synagogue Thursday, and police said they suspect arson.

The blaze struck on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates Moses' receiving of the Torah from God.

Police did not give a motive, but there have been incidents of anti-Semitism in Geneva recently, including graffiti scrawled on another Jewish house of worship.

The blaze broke out at 5 a.m. in the Hekhal Haness Synagogue in Geneva's Malagnou neighborhood. About 40 firefighters responded and had the fire under control an hour later, police spokesman Philippe Cosandey said. No one was hurt.

Cosandey said investigators suspect arson because there appeared to be several sources for the flames.

"It's not clear whether the fire originated inside or outside the building," he said.

The main entrance was completely burnt out, with windows blown out and walls blackened by smoke. Police were removing wood and rubble from the entrance. A heavy smell of smoke hung in the air.

Still, a group of worshippers prayed in an inner courtyard to celebrate the holiday. They used the Torah scroll, which apparently survived the fire.

The first-floor library was destroyed, said Jose de Matos who works as a keeper at the synagogue. The main prayer room was not damaged, according to an Associated Press reporter who was given access to the building.

(Photo:AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini)

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Sunday, May 20, 2007


The following booklet was published in 1977. I have taken the time to OCR-scan it, and then paste the whole book into the Kumah blog. It is my privilege to act as a techno-scribe, with the help of Hillel Fendel in whose archives it was found, to bring this important book to you. May it serve to awaken an "Exodus - movement of ja people!"

[ALSO - please check out Rabbi Dr. Barry Leff's drasha on the Mitzva of Aliyah]



I am grateful to the "Mishmeret-Tzeira of the Mizrachi and Hapoel Hamizrachi Movement" and Rabbi Yohanan Fried for having assembled, in pamphlet form, statements by Torah luminaries on the duty of Aliyah to Israel. I am equally grateful to that eminent scholar and rabbi, Dr. S. M. Lehrman, who graciously devoted himself to translating these statements into English - by no means an easy task, considering the legalistic nature of Aliyah material.

Aliyah from the free world has been on the climb in the years following the Six Day War and reached a heartening peak in 1971. Since the Yom Kippur War, Aliyah from the free world has unfortunately been on the decline. Various reasons bordering on practical considerations have been given for the decline. But Torah-motivation for Aliyah and the duty of Torah-Jews to "rise and go up" to Israel in our days and in our time where there are no barriers interfering and no government prohibiting Aliyah - on the contrary, a great and glorious State of Israel is for Jews to come and settle in the Land of the Jews - Aliyah replains a serious challenge for every Jew who believes in Torah and its commandments.

Surely this pamphlet containing the glowing exponents of Torah in our era should move our brothers in spirit throughout the Diaspora to make their "cheshbon ha-nefesh" as Torah Jews and resolve to join those of us who have already made their personal Aliyah to the enrichment of their souls and their way of life.
May it be their will, even as it is the will of He who has chosen Zion as His habitation.

Mordechai Kirshblum, Co-Chairman,
Department of Aliyah and Klita Jewish Agency


The Call of Rabbi A.I. Kook, of blessed memory

"Come to Eretz Israel, dear brethren, and save your own souls, as well as those of your generations .and of our entire nation. Deliver our Homeland from waste and desolation, degradation and rot. Save it from every kind of defilement and corruption, sorrow and distress, which threaten them in all their far-flung communities, without any exception. So do come to Eretz Israel, beloved brethren, and do all in your power to blazen a trek for the return of those of our people who are hated and baited, tainted and hunted. Lead those who return, showing by your example that the road has now been concluded. It is idle to seek other paths, for there is only one way on which we must tread-that is to Eretz Israel. "

Rabbi Avraham Izhak Hacohen Kook


The Reply of Rabbi Shlomo Goren
Chief Rabbi of Israel

It pleased me greatly to learn that you are about to publish a booklet, the aim of which will be to explain the importance of the religious imperative of every Jew to take up residence in Israel. One of the basic commands of the Torah is "And you shall possess the land and dwell therein"; a command repeated in the Prophets "And ye shall dwell in the land which I have given unto your ancestors; and ye shall be My people and I will be unto you for a G-d." This assurance receives a three-fold confirmation in the Hagiographia (Ketubim): "For G-d will deliver Zion, and the cities of Judah will be rebuilt, wherein they will dwell and inherit it (the land)."

This precept though not unique nor listed among the 613 Mitzvot catalogued by Maimonides, nevertheless, takes pride of place among all the rest and is the apotheosis of their aim. All the Torah commandments are conditioned by it and it, in turn, depends on them. This fact is gleaned, forceful though it appears at first blush, from the Sifre of the School of Rav (Parshat Re'eh, Piska 80) where it is recorded: "The story is told of R. Judah b. Beter, R. Matya b. Haresh, R. Hanina b. Ahi, R. Joshua and R. Yonatan who were on their way to a place without the boundaries of Eretz Israel. When they arrived at Paltum and they remembered Eretz Israel, they raised their eyes, which were flooded with tears, heavenwards. Rending their garments, they recited the biblical verse: "And ye shall possess it (the land) and dwell therein, and observe to do (the commandments)." They, thereupon, returned to their homes and taught that: "Dwelling in Eretz Israel is equated in all the Torah precepts put together."

This opinion is echoed by the compilers of the Tosefta: "One should opt to dwell in Eretz Israel, even in a place the majority of whose residents are non-Jews rather than elsewhere, despite the fact that he will there be surrounded by a majority consisting of Jews." Does not this tend to prove that residing in Eretz Israel is tantamount to a fulfillment of all Torah precepts?"

The most eminent of our legal interpreters, ancient, medieval and modern, have proved, beyond all doubt, that this supreme, religious imperative operates even in our own times, as the Ramban clearly indicates in his Addenda to the Sefer Ha'Mitzvot (Mitzvah 4) of Maimonides, which posits the affirmation that "we have been commanded to inherit the Land and dwell therein." The Ramban concludes: "Since this Mitzvah (of Aliyah) operates timelessly, each Jew - even the one who has made the Golah his home must, at all times, strive to make this imperative a tangible reality in his own life." This is borne out in statements dotted all over the Talmud. The story, quoted above from the Sifre, which relates how the Rabbis wept when they remembered Israel when far away therefrom and forthwith decided to return to their ancestral moorings and national anchorage, is proof positive that the injunction to dwell in the Holy Land is equivalent to the observance of all the religious imperatives in the Torah. A cautionary note should here be sounded - though it is equated in significance to all the 613 Mitzvot put together, it does not abrogate any of them, nor does its fulfillment exempt the Jew from performing all, or any, of the others. On the contrary, it obligates us with the necessity to fulfill all the other commandments, in that it provides a background for their implementation. Only when all the commandments are performed, can the Torah be said to be complete and claim to be possessed of one spirit.

Our Talmudic sages indulged so much in hyperbole and exaggeration when extolling the meritoriousness of residing in Israel, that they gave the impression that all the other religious imperatives revolve pivot-like around its axis. As an illustration, one may quote the words of the celebrated Ramban who, in his Commentary in the Torah (at the end of Aharei Mot), stipulates: "that the fundamental aim of all the Torah precepts is to see the whole of Israel dwelling in the Land." Being G-d's own chosen people over all other nations carries with it the responsibility of "being affiliated to His name; it was for this reason that He gave them the Land, as it is said: "And I said unto you: "You will possess their land which I will give you as an inheritance. For I am the L-rd, your G-d, who hath singled you out from all other nations!"

There are two aspects to this Mitzvah, the offshoots of which, though aimed in the same direction, nevertheless, run their separate though parallel courses. Whereas one aspect is directed towards the community, the other constitutes a challenge to the individual. That which is directed at the community has, as its aim, the possession of the land. This receives confirmation from the Rabbinic interpretation of the verse in Joshua: "about 40,000 armed men joined in the battle before the L-rd." The passage continues: "And we will conquer the land before the L-rd and before His people." The question posed by our Sages is: "Do you really think that Israel can conquer the Land before the L-rd?" Certainly not; what the verse wishes to stress is this: "As long as they live in the land, it is tantamount to having been conquered by them, but if they are not settled in it, then it is not in a state of having been conquered by them."

To emphasize the importance of each Jew to make his home in Eretz Israel, the Sages gave this interpretation of the verse in I Samuel (26.19): "For they have driven me out this day that I should not cleave unto the inheritance of the L-rd, saying: "Go, serve other G-ds." Can you, really, imagine that King David will serve idols: Of course not. What David meant to imply was that "he who leaves Eretz Israel in times of peace and goes to reside outside it, is equaled to an idolater; as it is written: "And I have planted them in truth, in this land, with all my heart and soul." In other words, as long as they reside in the land, they are planted before me in truth, and with all my heart and soul; the reverse is the case when they abandon the land.

The sanctity of the land and its spiritual superiority is deathless; for this holiness did not begin when the Israelites conquered it. It was called "G-d's inheritance" and is linked with His name throughout the endless generations. It is ever under direct divine Providence and it exerts a sacrosanct inspiration over all the face of the earth. Is it not written: "The eyes of G-d are ever upon it?" G-d is called "The G-d of Israel," as it is written: "for they knew not the judgment of the G-d of the land." (See Ramban's Commentary on the Torah).

All expressions of alienation from settling in Israel; all slanderous expressions levelled against its inhabitants, constitute an inpardonable sin. Our Sages, of blessed memory, opined that "the decree of distinction issued against our wandering ancestors in the wilderness was solely due to the fact that they spoke evil reports of the Land. Just as the fulfillment of living in Israel is equated to all the other precepts put together, so must the sin of its non-observance be considered tantamount to the sin of commission against all Mitzvot together."

With the establishment of Medinat Israel and the "Law of Return," all must admit that this Mitzvah of Aliyah is imperative in each and every Israelite. This is clearly evident in the Responsa of the Hatam Sofer (XIV 234), as well as from the Responsa of the author of "Avnei Nezer' (No. 454) on the Gaon of Sochotchov, the Kuzari ( 23-24).

Verily, residing in Israel is not only meritorious, but also imposes duties and responsibilities, such as those of preserving its holy characteristics and supreme sanctity and spiritual inviolability. This holiness can only be attained at the price of the fulfillment of all the Torah precepts, both positive and negative, and as a reward of guarding any infringment of the many meticulous precautions issued by the Rabbis not to break down the fence. Is it not written: "Do not contaminate yourselves with all these things; for it is by these things that the nations whom I will drive out from before you have allowed themselves to be contaminated?"

The Tanna R. Meir long ago maintained that "He who makes his permanent home in Israel, and who eats his ordinary food (Hullin) in purity and who speaks Hebrew and recites the Shema twice daily, in the morning hours and after night has fallen, is assured of the life to come." This is the eternal, threefold cord which sanctifies and unifies Israel: "Israel's Torah, the Jewish nation, and Eretz Israel."


The Rishon L'Zion Rabbi Ovadiah Yoseph Chief Rabbi of Israel

"The Mitzvah of Aliyah in our Day and Age" (A Synopsis)

Nahmanides comments thus on Numbers (33.53): "And ye shall drive out the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein; for unto you have I given the land to possess it." "In my considered opinion, this is a positive command; for since He gave it to us, it would be a transgression not to obey the precept to dwell therein. This being so, it should not be considered as hyperbolic on the part of the talmudic sages to have gone out of their way to emphasize the importance of dwelling in Eretz Israel and the sinfulness implied in departing from it to take up abode elsewhere."

According to him (the Ramban), Maimonides erred in not including this positive command in his "SEPHER HA'MITZVOT." Moreover, to acquire possession of our ancestral Homeland was considered by the Talmud (Sotah 44b) as a "war in which it was necessary (MILHEMET MITZVAH) even for a bridegroom to leave his chamber and a bride her bridal canopy". In addition, the Rabbis in the Talmud (KETUBOT 112a) went so far as to say that "he who departs from Eretz Israel to live elsewhere, is equated to one serving idols". Exaggerated though the praises of living in Eretz Israel may appear at first blush, they are all triggered-off from the fact that it is one of the positive commandments of the Torah. Moreover, it is equated to a fulfillment of all the other precepts. Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph quotes Rabbi Issac de-Leon in his book "MEGILLAT ESTHER", that the Mitzvah of dwelling in Eretz Israel only operated during the periods of Moses, Joshua and David and as long as Israel had not been banished from their own land. After the destruction of our Temple and the exile of our ancestors from the Holy Land, this command is held in abeyance until the dawn of the Messianic Age. It was for this reason that Maimonides did not include the Mitzvah of Aliyah in his enumeration of the Taryag (613) precepts.

With this view, the RISHON L'ZION does not concur for two reasons: One: because the Ramban does not include many Mitzvot which did not operate for all times, such as the rebuilding of the temple - a task left for the Messiah. This being so, then why should the precept of Aliyah be omitted since the Messianic Age will also witness the resettlement of Israel in its ancestral Homeland?

Second: from the words of Maimonides (Hilchot Ishut XIII), it is evident that he concurs with the view of the Ramban that even in our times, it is a positive precept to dwell in Eretz Israel. For, writes Maimonides: "Should the husband be willing but the wife not so inclined to make Eretz Israel their domicile, then she may be divorced and even forfeit her Ketubah (marriage document which insures her in the case of divorce or widowhood)".

Many rabbinical authorities were up-in-arms at this decision, on the plea that it would provide an excuse for the unscrupulous husband to divorce his wife minus the Ketubah, on the argument that she refused to accompany him to dwell in Eretz Israel. To this, however, the answer was simple:, it was up to the Beth Din, who were asked to grant the divorce to ascertain if this was really a bona-fide case. From this discussion, it is clear that in making the decision quoted above, Maimonides concurs with the view that dwelling in Eretz Israel was a Mitzvah independent of time, operating in our day and age, just as it was in force when Israel lived in its Homeland and the Temple stood in all its pristine glory on Mt. Moriah.

The main reason, however, for it being obligatory to dwell in Israel at all times is because it is only there that the Jew is enabled to observe these precepts and of these, there is a majority that can only be fulfilled on its soil being conditioned by life in Israel (Mitzvot Ha'tluyot Ba 'aretz). To enforce this opinion, the statement of Rabbi Simlai (Sotah 14a) is quoted: "Why was Moses so desirous of entering the Promised Land? Was it because he was desirous of enjoying its luscious fruits? Of course not. His sole reason was: "Since G-d commanded many precepts, most of which depend on their implementation if one dwells in Eretz Israel, it is only natural that I wish to live there in order to be able to fulfill them." Hearing this plea, the Divine assurance came: "Since it is your desire to obtain reward for the fulfillment of these Mitzvot, then I will wed your desire to the deed." Basing himself on this statement of Rabbi Simlai, Nahmanides and those who decided the
Halacha according to his views, maintained that the primary reason for Aliyah was because it was only there that the Taryag Mitzvot could be fulfilled. Other eminent authorities, however, maintained that dwelling in Eretz Israel was a mitzvah per se, entirely independent of the fact that many of the precepts on account of being dependent on the soil of the land and for other cognate reasons, could not be observed elsewhere.

Other proofs are also cited from the Talmud and posttalmudic sources to support the view that Aliyah is binding at all times. Thus from Gittin 8b, we learn that many things forbidden on the Shabbat by the rabbis because operating them would be an infringement of the complete Shabbat rest enjoined in the Torah, are permitted if their intention be to acquire property in Israel. Another talmudic decision deserves quoting: "When one has a house in the Diaspora, he is exempt from affixing a Mezzuzah to its doors for the first thirty days only; but in the case of a house in Israel, a Mezzuzah must be affixed immediately!" For this, the main reason is that when one buys a house in Israel, it should be considered immediately as a permanent home (keva) and not a temporary asylum (Dirat Arai) (Menahot 44a).

The only instance given in the Talmud for permission to leave Eretz Israel is in order to imbibe Jewish learning from the famous academies in the Diaspora, some of which were even more renowned than those which thrived in the Holy Land (vide Erubin 47a). Outstanding examples of those who took advantage of this concession, were Hillel (Pesahim 66a), R. Hiyya (Sukkah 20a), whose main purpose was to see that the "lamp of Jewish studies" be not extinguished in Babylon. It would seem, however, that not all the Rabbis of old took this view; for eminent talmudic authorities like R. Zera and others went from Babylon to Israel and Amoraim, like R. Ami and R. Assi, commuted from Babylon to Eretz Israel and vice versa, in order to discuss the views expressed in the Babylonian and Palestinian academies. The majority of authoritative opinion, it is clear, subscribed to the view forcibly expressed by Nahmanides who listed Aliyah among the Taryag that are binding at all times, on every observant Jew. As we have seen above, the compiler of the Sifre (the Midrashim, Numbers and Deuteronomy) went so far as to assert that the "Mitzvah of dwelling in Eretz Israel is equated to all other precepts in the Torah and that even Maimonides agrees with this; albeit with the reservation that this precept, though a positive one, has only the enforcement of a rabbinical kind. But even if this be so, the Talmud rules that everything which has been prescribed by the Rabbis has the imprimatur (the stamp) of the Torah.

From the cornucoepia of Responsa quoted by the Rishon L'zion on this subject that the concencus of opinion is: "that all those who are deeply concerned with the fulfillment of the Word of G-d and His commandments should make every effort to make their home in Israel, especially in these days when assimilation raises its ugly head in the Diaspora and when there are all the means of obtaining a decent livelihood. Now, it is a paramount duty to make the "land of our fathers" the "land of our descendants". To enforce this obligation the Rabbis (with their love for exaggeration in the interests of emphasis) ruled that "one is forbidden to leave Eretz Israel and to take up domicile elsewhere, even going so far as to say that a "wife is considered as 'rebellious' (moredet) if she does not agree with her husband who is willing to erect a home in Israel!"

One need only cite a few random examples in order to be convinced of the paramount position occupied by Aliyah in our Halacha. Thus: "He who dwells outside the land of Israel is equated to one who is an atheist." (Ketubot 110b); Zohar (Yithro 79b). To live in Israel and then decide to leave it for good, is considered an infringement of the first Two Commandments of the Decalogue in that not only is he considered godless, but also as if he had set up idols of his own outside his ancestral heritage.

To sum up our discussion, for only a digest of the learned Responsa of the Rishon L'Zion would be of interest to the average English reader. Since one was allowed to emigrate from Israel to the Diaspora only because the State of talmudic studies was preponderant in the latter place, the converse now obtains. For since, sad to relate, the great seats of learning in Central Europe have been destroyed in the Nazi Holocaust and Yeshivot flourish in Medinat Israel, it is a positive mitzvah to leave the Diaspora and settle in Israel in order to bask not only in the physical sunshine but also in the "Light of the Torah".

Commenting on the words "and the gold of that land is good", our sages said: "There is no Torah comparable to that which is taught in Eretz Israel;" and that: "the Holy One said 'A small room in Israel is more beloved in my eyes than the great Sanhedrin in the Diaspora', (Yerushalmi VI 8) Happy are those who come to settle in Israel and help in its upbuilding! They will be "born again" both in the physical and spiritual sense; for say our talmudic sages: "The atmosphere of Eretz Israel makes one wise, as well as healthy", giving him peace of mind and vigour of body.....


Raise the Banner

Some reflections on a strengthened Aliyah movement By the late Chief Rabbi Emeritus of Israel Rabbi I.J. Unterman

The Talmud (Yoma 9b) records a brief but instinctive conversation between Resh Lakish, one of the celebrated Amoraim in Eretz Israel, and Rabba bar bar-Hanna, an Amora who came to Eretz Israel from Babylon, whither he returned later to teach the Torah in Pumbeditha. One day, as Resh Lakish was swimming in the Jordan, Rabba bar bar-Hanna held out his hand in greeting. Imagine his surprise, to hear Resh Lakish exclaim:

"G-d, I hate you [Babylonians]!" (It is well-known that there was but little love lost between him and the Babylonians). Explaining his rude outburst, Resh Lakish quoted the verse in "Song of Songs" (8.9): "If she be a wall, we will build upon her a turret of silver, and if she be a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar."

It would thus seem that his interpretation of this verse was the following: "Had our ancestors in the time of Ezra obeyed the call to leave Babylon and go up to Eretz Israel in serried columns (like a fortress-wall), that is in a strong, winding procession, with hearts beating as one out of their sheer love to rebuild and repopulate the wastes of the Holy Land, they would have resembled silver which defies rust. Since, however, their return was but luke-warm and undertaken only by a few of the faithful ones, they were equated to the cedar which is prone to rot and the withering of root and branch.

A further comment on this verse will prove worthwhile and significant. So famous among his generation was Resh Lakish, that it was said of him that "when Resh Lakish taught in his academy, it appeared as if he were uprooting mountains and ground them to dirt against each other" (Sanhedrin 24). His influence was so great that it was decided abroad that that man, with whom he conversed in the open gaze of the public, was considered to be of so trustworthy a character that none had any scruples to do business with him, even in cases where witnesses to the transaction were lacking.

Hence did Resh Lakish feel justified in displaying his contempt of those who lived in Babylon, when he was greeted by Rabba bar bar-Hanna. For were they not culpable of a wilful sin of commission by not responding to the call of Ezra to go up to Eretz Israel as a "solid wall", instead of a mere trickle? The result of their negligence was that the House of Israel was likened to "cedar boards", prone to rot away, on account of the trials and tribulations they had to experience at the hands of a hostile world.

A similar rebuke is to be found in the "Song of Deborah" (Judges 5.16): "Why sattest them among the sheepfolds, to hear the pipings for the flocks?" At the divisions of Reuben, there were great searchings of heart, this being the stern rebuke levelled against the tribe of Reuben for being indisposed to participate in the battle against the army of Sesera, despite the fact that the other tribes who did join forces against the enemy snatched the palm of victory from overwhelming odds. Resh Lakish complained bitterly of all those who preferred to remain in Babylon, not exempting women and children. He was convinced that had they all, without exception, responded to the call to return with alacrity, they would have definitely prevented the destruction of the Temple and the Homeland. This appears to be the interpretation given by Rashi to the passage in Yoma 9b, quoted above. It was because of their retrograde reaction, that they blocked the dwelling of the Shechinah in the second Temple.

It is also significant to note the comments of the Maharsha (R. Samuel Eliezer Edels, 1555-1631). In his principle work "Chiddushe Halachot Ye' Agadot" wherein he endeavors to clarify in a rational manner, apparent contradictions and difficulties, he makes the following comment on the passage under discussion: "In the days of Ezra, the vital and urgent need was to return in a solid phalanx, as impregnable against the enemy as a fortress. Had they done so, the Shechinah would have once again dwelt in Israel. The bitter fact, however, was that only scant numbers obeyed the call to return and these had to protect the entrances to the city. Any wonder that the result led to the removal of prophecy from Israel, with its ultimate sequel of total destruction?"

It was this thought that brooded in the heart of Resh Lakish. It was blasphemous to complain against divine Providence for not protecting those who had setteled in Eretz Israel during the period of the Second Temple against the armed bands of the Romans, when the entire fault could be laid at the door of our ancestors in Babylon who remained imperious to the call of Zerubabel and Joshua b. Jehozadek, as well as to Ezra the Scribe, and remained, like limpets, glued to their seats. For had they all responded enthusiastically as solid as a wall, the Shechinah would have defended them against all enemies, regardless of the source from which they came. Accordingly, It was out of the bitterness of an aching heart, that Resh Lakish burst out in pained anger, when Rabba bar bar-Hanna greeted him while he was bathing in the Jordan.

Thoughts of this nature occupy the minds of many of our own day and age, when they consider the momentous times in which we now live. On the one hand, they rejoice at the Aliyah of so many of their co-religionists from the world over, thus filling them with the hope that the L-rd has once again, remembered His people, enabling them to return (0 Zion, thus to rebuild our Homeland on the solid foundations of Torah and Jewish, ethical teachings; but on the other hand, they behold cataclysmic catastrophes gathering momentum in the world at large and looming threateningly over their heads. Should these clouds, Heaven forbid, not .be dispersed, those who seek to destroy our nation, root and branch will be encouraged to wipe us off, as they threaten, in and out of season, from the face of the earth.

One cannot help ruminating on the words of Resh Lakish, cited above: "Had you only returned to Eretz Israel, when Ezra so called you to do, like a solid fortress wall, the position would have been radically different." May I slightly alter the text thus: "Had you all returned in solid array at the re-establishment of our State (on Iyar 5th, 5708), you might have succeeded in rehabilitating the Shechinah in our midst, as in the days of yore?" (This is in conformance with the interpretation of Rashi in the passage in Yona 9b). We would then have been fully protected against the various forces banded against us and bent on our annihilation.

It is still yet possible, even at this eleventh hour, to organize a massive Aliyah movement to embrace all our brethren whithersoever they be and to be imbued with faith in divine protection and the presence of the Shechinah in all the work of our hands. Great is the lesson that we can pluck from the episode which took place in the Second Temple period, and it is one which we can only neglect to our own cost. Each Jew, wherever he finds himself at present, must make every endeavor to settle in Israel, thereby fortifying the faithful who are already dwelling there and, at the same time, strengthening the foundations of our State. Moreover, his act will prove of a miraculous nature in spurring members of his family and others to follow his example. The words of rebuke uttered by Resh Lakish should ever resound in our ears, for the conditions are Mutatis Mutandis, almost similar / now as they were then. Let us, accordingly, exhort our brethren in the Diaspora to pack their suitcases and join us here in the thrilling adventure of rolling away the desert and convert it into smiling landscapes. A massive aliyah will cause the Shechinah to return to our midst and protect us from all dangers, material and spiritual alike. May it be Heaven's Will to help us re-establish the House of Israel on solid foundations of traditional Judaism so that we all may speedily rejoice in the witnessing the perfect and complete solution. Amen.


An Appeal from the Former Rishon L'Zion Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim Chief Rabbi Emeritus of Israel

So well known is the Mitzvah of residing in Eretz Israel that it is totally unnecessary to elaborate thereon. Even when the country was still wrapped in desolation surrounded by marauding bands and bad roads did our ancestors display much self-sacrifice in order to fulfiill this religious imperative.

Though there is a dispute among our codists as to whether this Mitzvah, after the destruction of the Second Temple is to be regarded as a Torah ordinance, or just a rabinical injunction not laden with the same authority as those enjoyed by the former, yet there is none who gainsays that this Mitzvah still operates in our own day. Even the Tosafist R. Hayim Ha'Cohen agrees that this Mitzvah is only brushed aside in the case of danger lurking on the journey, a view also shared by the Rimat who adds that this exemption is also operative in cases when harsh and cruel rules hold sway over Eretz Israel and life there is in jeopardy.

Despite this fact, our ancestors throughout the generations did their utmost to fulfill this religious commandment, for more that 200 years ago, the' Rishon L'Zion, R. Meyuhas Bechar Shmuel, described in his book "Pri Ha'Adamah" how our co-religionists in Morocco jeopardized their lives in order to immigrate to Jerusalem even when the ruling powers thereof did their work to stop any increase of Jews in the Holy City.

Now that we have merited to witness G-d's return to Zion in mercy and to behold the unification of Jerusalem, as well as to possess Eretz Israel in our hands as a result of the miraculous events which have brought about the defeat of our enemies, this must surely be the time when it is His Will to implement the promises which He made to our ancestors by the mouth of His prophets.

Not only has Medinat Israel opened its gates wide to every Jew who wishes to return, but is generously ready to help every would-be immigrant with every means available in its power, both materially as well as spiritually. This being so, each Jew that is stiU in the Diaspora should search his conscience with the challenge savouring of the nature of a minore, a forbore argument (Kal Va'homer), thus: "Seeing that
our ancestors were so keen on settling in Israel even when wicked and cruel men held sway over it, how much more keen should they be in doing so today when the Land is not only in our possession, but its governmental departments even go out of their way to be of practical help to all those who wish to settle therein as permanent residents? Does it not stand to reason that all those who wish to remain steadfast to their faith, to be closely linked with their national antecedents, should pack their bags and make their home in Medinat Israel - and all this, without too many questions and problems?

Let us be logical in this matter as, indeed, in all others. When one is about to fulfill any other of the 613 biblical commandments, is he prone to inflict upon himself a searching, self-examination as to whether he can implement them, lulling his conscience with the sop that there are far too many obstacles impeding their fulfillment? Does he postpone making the deed cousin to the wish by postponing the realization of his intentions to a later stage in his life? Since he does not act so in other cases, then why single out the Mitzvah of Aliyah for procrastination? Since our Talmudic sages ruled that "one must not delay the fulfillment of any Mitzvah that is awaiting the realization thereof, how much more binding is this so in the case of Aliyah - a commandment equated in importance to all tile other religious precepts put together?

Naturally, it is not easy for one to be uprooted from his native country and transplant himself to "fresh fields and pastures new", but all the most important moves in life are sparked-off after much spiritual preparation and are cradled in strenuous, physical effort. Did not our sages, of long ago, warn us that: "Eretz Israel can only become ours after much physical discomforts and spiritual vicissitudes?" This truth has been vindicated throughout the winding, colorful cavalcade of the generations and is especially applicable in our own day and age. The only difference now applying is that the obstacles barring the immediate realization of Aliyah have assumed a different pattern. For these are, to a large extent, mainly difficulties attached to uprootal and absorption which, actually, pale into insignificance when compared to the obstacles which impeded our ancestors from realizing their dream of beginning once again where our ancestors left off after the destruction of the Second Temple.

When these thoughts and facts are taken into full consideration, the difficulties hedging around Aliyah at present should be accepted in a spirit of love and pleasure. Far be it from any member of the House of Israel to groan and grumble at the difficulties attending settling in Israel, instead let him be blissfully confident that he who succeeds in the realization of his dreams is assured of a reward to come, both in this world and in the life to come.


The Mitzvah of Aliyah to Eretz Israel (an abridged translation)

By Rabbi H.D. Ha-Levi Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffo

After quoting Numbers 33.53, the Ramban cites two precepts which are sparked off from this verse. The first is the Mitzvah of conquering the land from its possession by strangers. This is not a Mitzvah of a temporary nature, applicable only to the generation that witnessed the Egyptian Exodus, but is operative throughout the generations.

Not to reside in Eretz Israel is to worship idols, says the Ramban, basing himself on the verses quoted in the previous articles of this booklet.

In his Torah commentary, the Ramban adds, that a husband or wife that is unwilling to join the other partner in immigrating to Israel is to be treated as a renegade. Moreover, one who has the means to go on Aliyah, but does not do so, transgresses a positive, biblical precept each day he stays in the Diaspora. The only exceptions are where dangers are involved in the journey, such as obtained in former days, but which, happily, do not obtain today.

Another case, also dealt with in other articles in this booklet, is where a parent's objections are based on the fear lest his child in Israel will fall on evil ways. Happily, this fear, too, is almost groundless these days; for despite the "permissiveness" which is slowly seeping into the air of Israel, the fact is that nowhere else in the wide world is it more easy to lead the full Jewish life than in Medinat Israel. Moreover, slowly, but surely, the Yeshivot in Israel are replacing those which were destroyed in Central Europe during the beastly Nazi holocaust.

Another stumbling block which once stood in the way of Aliyah, has also now been removed; that is, that it was so hard to earn a livelihood in Eretz Israel in the days gone by. This was the position when the land resembled a parched malaria ridden wilderness, whose inhabitants .eked out a poor livelihood from the charitable contributions made by their co-religionists abroad. Now that the position has been radically changed, where the State is actually short of labourers and skilled workmen and professionals, where nobody need starve owing to the Welfare Ministry and charitable organizations whose number is legion, such objections fall to the ground and cannot block the way before a massive Aliyah.

The opposition of parents to their children's aliyah has already been dealt with by others in this booklet and need not be recapitulated here. All agree that the Mitzvah of Aliyah takes precedence over the Fifth Commandment, except in isolated cases specified above, as are detailed in Rabbi S. Israeli in his book "Amud Ha'Yemini" (XXII).

Those parents who, at first, cannot bear the parting of their children soon find that the latter have paved the way' for their own coming to Israel, eventually. Is it not, therefore, better to undergo a little travail for the sake of giving birth to eventual years of happiness? Moreover, by the time the parents reach pensionable age, their children will be rooted in the land and the former will be able to enjoy their pension while living in close proximity to their children - a thought worth pondering. A post-script: Life in the Golah is becoming increasingly harder for the Jew - one of the signs of the approaching Messianic Age. For the greater the hatred towards the Jew in the world, the surer are the steps of salvation. Hence Aliyah today is laying the foundations of Redemption. Happy are those who are now actively participating in it.


The Fifth Commandment and Aliyah

(an abridged translation) By Rabbi NZ. Freedman (Bnei Brak)

So great is the Fifth Commandment that it embraces, in its importance, all the other 613 Torah precepts, so much so, that when surveying all the divine, categorical imperatives, our Talmudic Sages equate respect for one's parents to that of reverence for G-d Himself (Sanhedrin 50b).

The question now arises: this being so, what should the child do when ordered by his parents to transgress a Torah precept? The answer to this query is supplied by the Torah itself (Lev. 19.3): "Each man should revere his mother and father, but you must all observe My Sabbaths, for I am the L-rd your G-d." The Shabbat, as well as any other religious observance, cannot be brushed aside on this account, for parents, as well as children, are in duty bound to respect the injunctions, of the Divine, as expressed in His Torah. This is formulated in Koros Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh Deah, 240), as well as in the work of the Gaon of Wilna (Tana D'be Eliyahu Rabba XXVII). This applies not only in the case where the child is asked to desecrate the Shabbat, but in every other instance as well.

As an illustration, let us quote Maimonides (Hilchot Mamrim, VI): "Should his father ask him to violate any religious command, be it based on Torah, or only on rabbinic Drdinance, he is not to obey him" (for the reasons specified above). According to the Ramban, even rabbinic decrees have the validity of Torah authority (see Deut. XIX 9-11). No matter what the religious command is, its fulfillment takes priority over the Fifth Commandment where the two are in conflict, for the simple reason that both parent and child must obey G-d's will. Hence in the case of Aliyah, which according to Maimonides (Hilchot Melachim V) is equated to the fulfillment of the entire Torah and its non-fulfillment ranked with idolatry; moreover, because of the rabbinic teaching that "he who paces even only four cubits in Israel deserves the life to come, it only stands to reason that where the implementation of this most important precept is opposed by the parents, the Fifth Commandment is eclipsed by the Mitzvah of Aliyah."

A cautionary note should here, too, be sounded. In cases where one of the contributory reasons for the child wishing to go on Aliyah is due to the desire of shaking off the reponsibility of looking after the material needs of his parents and has little, if anything to do with his desire of fulfilling the Mitzvah of Aliyah, but is triggered off mainly by the opposition of two wills - that of the child and that of the parents, in this case, the will of the child must give way to the Fifth Commandment, whose implementation is regarded as tantamount to reverence for G-d Himself.

There is another stipulation, should the objection of the parent against the Aliyah of the child be based on the fear lest the latter's ways become corrupt by evil companions and harmful influences in Eretz Israel - as has been the case in several instances lately, sad to relate - then it is the duty of the child to obey the parent, whose primary duty it is to innoculate his offspring with "the way of the Torah" (see Pesakim 50b). Does not the Book of Proverbs tell us: "Harken my son to the instruction of thy father and do not abandon the law of thy mother?"

To sum up: 1) Aliyah comes before the Fifth Commandment. 2) The exception is in the case where the intention of the Aliyah is born of the desire to rid himself of the duties he owes to parents. 3) Another exception is the one expressed above; namely, the fear of the parent lest the child go astray.


The Mitzvah of Living in Eretz Israel

By Rabbi Zvi Yehudah Ha'Cohen Kook

According to the Yoreh De'ah (240.15), one should not harken unto his father when asked to transgress a commandment, though it be only of rabbinical ordination. The Mitzvah of living in Eretz Israel is one of Torah authority and is operative in every age and clime, even in the Diaspora (Ramban in his "Sefer Ha'Mitzvot"). Accordingly, it is a categorical imperative to emigrate from the Golah in order to take up residence in Eretz Israel, even when the exchange is made from a most luxurious home in the Diaspora to one that is largely inferior in Israel. This even applies in a case where the exchange involves leaving a country in which the majority of its inhabitants are Jewish to take up abode in a vicinity in Israel wherein the bulk of residents are not of the Jewish faith (Eben Ha'ezer, 75). Moreover, even in a place in Israel of which the bulk of its residents is composed of those who are apostates. (See the "Dvar Halacha" of R. Eliyahu Klatzkin).

This is the ruling of practically all the halachic authorities, both of former and present generations (see "Pithei Tshuvah" of Eben Ha' ezer 75). Though Jerusalem, in our own day, is not deserving of preferential treatment above any other place in Israel, Eretz Israel, nevertheless, takes pride of place over any other place in the Diaspora at all times. This not so much because of the numerous, religious Mitzvot - the implementation of which can only be effected while dwelling on Israeli territory (Mitzvot Hatluyot Ba'Aretz), but because of the eternal sanctity attached to Eretz Israel, a sanctity which encroaches upon time and exhausts Eternity (see Hatam Sofer, Yoreh De'ah, 234).

How much greater is the Mitzvah when the desire for Aliyah has been triggered off by the urge to study Torah. Have not our Sages assured us that "there is no Torah that can equal, let alone excell that obtained in Eretz Israel? The study of Torah exceeds in religious importance even that of the Fifth Commandment, which exhorts us to "Honour your Father and Mother." (See Eben Ha'ezer ad locum).

This eternal and inviolable sanctity of Eretz Israel, which is at the very root and foundation of the Mitzvah of living in an ancestral Homeland, so important as to deserve ultra-vires determination, is operable also in the case of women who are, otherwise, exempt from the performance of such precepts the implementation of which is conditioned by time and circumstance. Residence in Israel enables men and women alike to fulfill meticulously the traditional observance of Judaism.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Is the U.S. Really Israel's Friend?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a "friend" can be defined as:

1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement
5. Friend A member of the Society of Friends; a Quaker.

According to that same dictionary, a "foe" is defined as:

1. A personal enemy.
2. An enemy in war.
3. An adversary; an opponent: a foe of tax reform.
4. Something that opposes, injures, or impedes.

Israel and the United States have always professed to be "friends" and good friends at that. Yet, a recent examination of U.S. policy toward Israel over the past several weeks, may have you checking your definitions a little more closely.

In June 1967, Israel was forced to defeat the attacking armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel tried to avoid war at all costs, but as diplomacy failed (as it often does here in the Middle East) Israel had no choice but to take pre-emptive action to defend its borders and protect its citizens.

In the stunning victory, Israel swiftly repossessed the Golan, Gaza, Sinai, Yehuda, Shomron, and re-unified a divided Jerusalem. The re-unification of our nation marks perhaps the highest spiritual point in Israel's brief 59 year history.

This week according to IsraelNationalNews, the United States Ambassador to Israel will not be present at celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the miraculous Six-Day War.

This week's festivities are certainly the type in which Israel would like its friends to be present. It is not that our friends are busy with prior engagements, but rather that the United States is boycotting the festivities, along with member nations of the European Union.

According to the INN report:
"The U.S. did not issue an official statement explaining why the current Ambassador, Richard Jones will not be attending the ceremonies, but Ambassador Dr. Harald Kindermann from Germany, which heads the European Union (EU) this year, specifically said EU countries will not participate because of Arab claims of sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem, which includes the Old City."

Perhaps this incident can be brushed aside as part of some grand political game the U.S. must play to appease others across the globe. But some other recent occurances are harder to overlook.

When Winograd Commission released its interim report into the Israeli government and military's mismanagement of the Summer War in Lebanon, the Jewish nation was engaged in sharp condemnation of its leaders, and calls for their resignation. Winograd dominated news coverage for a solid week, and still appears in the headlines on a regular basis.

Just two days after the report was released to the public, there was another, no less important news story in the headlines: The United States had presented Israel with a detailed timetable of commitments for Jewish State to satisfy, in line with the U.S.'s renewed push for the creation of a Palestinian state.

This seemingly important top news story only managed modest news coverage, and barely any opinion, because as mentioned, Israel was engulfed in Winograd.

One may ask whether a timetable, or the creation of an Arab state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan represent acts of friendship to Israel at all. But to present Israel with this kind of wish list when it did, was intentional.

The State Department could have easily pushed off its diplomatic attempt by a week or more, as proved by Condoleeza Rice's postponement of her scheduled trip to Israel this past week. She claimed that Israel was too busy with its own domestic issues to engage in diplomacy.

So why then was the timetable given to Israel when it was? Specifically to dodge any media criticism of the document, and to attempt to have the commitments accepted and in place, just in case Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was man enough to resign his post following the damning Winograd report.

While the timing of the document may or may not be friendly, the contents of the timetable further reveal the nature of the United States toward Israel.

The first commitment called for in the document presented by the State Department requests that Israel ease passage between Gaza and the provinces of Judea and Samaria--also known today as the West Bank.

Since the Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, during which Israel destroyed 21 Jewish communities and forcibly expelled upwards of 10,000 residents, Gaza has turned into a terror state. Hamas has taken control of the region, sponsoring terror activities including the firing of nearly 2000 Kassam rockets into Israel. Well over 60 tons of weapons and munitions have been smuggled into Gaza via Egypt, and the rival factions in the newly autonomous area have engaged in murderous street fights that fall somewhere in between anarchy and civil war.

Now, the United States is suggesting, strongly, that Israel allow Arabs of Gaza passage into Judea and Samaria. This despite the fact that there is a large landmass of indisputed Israeli territory between the aforementioned regions, and also despite the fact that Judea and Samaria wrap directly around the borders of Jerusalem, and end within ten miles of the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan population center.

Obviously the United States knows all of these facts, particularly when you consider that they are openly arming, funding, and training members of the Fatah terror faction in their struggle for control of the Palestinian Authority with Hamas.

By the way, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah wrote his doctoral thesis on Holocaust denial, and openly calls for the very weapons donated to his cause by the United States should be turned against the Jewish people.

So to summarize, the United States is funding and arming sworn enemies of the Jewish State and asking the Jewish State to ease their travel near Israeli population centers. They ask us to do this when the media is too caught up Winograd to rightfully comment on the request.

And the U.S. who is acting squarely against the interests of safety for Israeli citizens and security for Israel's borders, won't celebrate with as friends the greatest demonstration of Israel's independent ability to protect those interests: The miraculous Six-Day War.

Many Americans and Israelis alike believe claims by their respective governments that Israel and America are friends. But actions speak louder than words.

"Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts, but profuse are the kisses of an enemy." (Proverbs 27:6).

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Neo-Zionist Challenge: Shmittah & The Living Torah

Next year is going to a be a Shmittah year - the one year in every seven, where the Land of Israel must be left to lie fallow.

Since the destruction of the 1st Holy Temple in Jerusalem, until present times - over 2,500 years later - Shmittah has been only Rabbinically mandated. However, within the next 25 years, when the majority of the Jewish People will be living in the Land of Israel, Shmittah (along with all of the other Mitzvot HaTeluyot Ba'aretz - Land of Israel dependent commandments) will return to Biblically mandated status.

Below are two article presenting differing perspectives as to how modern Israeli society should be relating to Shmittah - each with their own set of pros and cons:

1) Chief Rabbinate to Reduce Use of Special 7th-Year Dispensation

2) The ground beneath our feet

Equally important as the solution that will ultimately be agreed upon and implemented is the discussion in itself.

For 2,000+ years, this discussion did not take place - could not take place - in a manner that had any practical relevance. With the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel the Torah of Israel has returned to life.

Rabbi Yotav Eliach puts it best:
The Torah sets up a constitutional blueprint for the running of a Jewish society which is anchored in a Jewish state. Parashat Mishpatim, most of Vayikra and Bemidbar, and all of Sefer Devarim, make this point very clear. Judaism is not merely interested in the ritualistic aspects of our lives. It is rather a framework for running a Jewish republic, one complete with a court system, government, army, welfare and tax system. Finally, this constitutional blueprint is not meant for implementation in any piece of territory in which the Jewish nation may happen to be the majority, but primarily in the one country whose boundaries are clearly outlined geographically in the Torah: The Land of Israel.

One of the striking ways to reinforce these points is by showing that there are four basic areas of mitzvot in the Torah that are dependent upon the Land of Israel in one way or another:

a) All mitzvot connected to the Beit Hamikdash in any shape or form;
b) All mitzvot connected to having a Sanhedrin court system functioning;
c) All mitzvot connected to the soil of Israel;
d) All mitzvot connected to the running of the government, army, and taxes.

Taken together, these four areas make up approximately 50% of the 613 mitzvot. Another graphic way to make the point of Israel's centrality to Jewish life is by looking at the Shas. Two of the six sedarim of Shas, Kodashim and Taharot, are totally dependent upon the Land of Israel, as is Seder Zera'im (with the exception of Masekhet Berakhot).

The fourth, Seder Mo'ed, is also very dependent upon the Land of Israel. All the special sacrifices associated with each holiday are dependent upon the Beit Hamikdash in Israel, as is aliyah la'regel, bikkurim, and the bringing of the omer. The fifth, Seder Nezikin, is also connected, to a large extent, to the concept of a functioning Jewish legal system existing in the land of Israel, headed by the Sanhedrin. Only the sixth seder - Nashim - can be kept almost in its entirety (the exception being Sotah) outside the boundaries of Israel.
Thank G-d for the challenges that go along with living in the Land of Israel!

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Boro Park Bathroom Holier Than Tel Aviv

Wasn't gonna let a gem comment like this get away buried at the bottom of a two week old post...

At 9:16 PM , Der Shygetz said...

This is one kosher Jew who will never make yerida to the failed Bolshevik "Israeli Soviet Socialist Republic."

There are only 2 places in the world (and I've lived in a supposedly anti-Semitic European country where never once did I have any problems) where I have been made fun of for my typical "charedi" dress. One was Copenhagen, Denmark, and the culprits were Muslim teens. The other was Yerushalayim, and it did not happen just once, either. And the culprits were deracinated descendants of tayere Yidden who were forced to secularize by the Bolshevik regime in the medina.

The Israelis, religious, secular, and yes, chareidi, are "playing country" the way we played store or house as little children. And Daddy, made up of the USA, Jews from abroad, and a few suspicious characters like Leviev and Gaidamak (intelligence-mafia operatives), Arison (fortune inherited from Daddy who left Israel and made in the USA), Tshuva (pushtak who got lucky), etc who made their money abroad and are laundering it through Israel, are paying the bill.

Your country is kosher style. It sticks out its kosher feet which is eretz hakedoisha that it occupies, but the rest is glatt treyf. It is an occupation force that is defiling Eretz Yisroel. There is more kedusha in a bathroom in Boro Park than in most of Tel Aviv.

Talk about a fat pitch...

Any takers?

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rabbi Avi Weiss about being a Zionist

Thursday, April 26, 2007

An Open Letter To Yishai

Dear Yishai,

I love you but this latest post of your's doesn't sit well with me. I don't feel it has a place on the Kumah website. Just as a picture of Neturei Karta burning an Israeli flag, which I posted, has no place here. Do people really need to see these pictures of pigs? You may be the co-founder of Kumah but the Kumah message has taken on a life of it's own. And that post is not Kumah. Perhaps it's Kumah-style but it's not Kumah!

Let's go straight to the point? Jews living in Chuz L'Aretz are responsible for Yerida? That's like saying the Israeli aggression is responsible for Arab attacks on Jews.

Who is responsible then? There are only two correct answers.

A. Hashem.


B. The Yared.

As I wrote in my comment, if Hashem decrees you can not enter the Land you could be Moshe Rabbanu himself and you are not going to enter the land. By your logic you could be Moshe Rabbanu - and even want very much to live in Eretz Yisrael - but nevertheless your presence in Chutz L'aretz makes it easier for Yardim. So are you saying Moshe C"V is a Chazer? Are you saying our own beloved Shulamis, by residing in Chu"L is responsible for Yardim?

Another point. Do you think most Yardim are Dati? And actually think they say about American Jews, "I could be just as frum as these American Jews?"

Reality check: Most Yardim are not Dati and never even heard Lecha Dodi sung on Shabbat. They grow up in places like Haifa and Ramat Gan raised to be like the other nations especially America. And so where better to live the American dream but America. That's why they choose America! Not because there are Jews there but because there are cars and big houses and because money grows on trees in America.

And do you know what happens to these Yardim? Some Yardim who are after the American dream end up in places relatively void of Jews. But others - since they have the option - choose to live in Jewish areas because they might as well be near Jews. And do you know what happens? They start going to shul on Friday night because it's right next door. The shul in Haifa was a mile away. And they start getting closer to Hashem. Closer then they ever could have gotten in their setting in Eretz Yisrael. I have seen this happen with my own eyes countless times!

And then you know what happens next? They return. They come home. And then they get even closer to Hashem here than is possible anywhere else in the world. I see this happening too!

Ultimately every Jew has Eretz Yisrael inside of them. Every Jew has the yearning for her. That yearning is awakened best by positive thoughts. (It's easier for the Yared to come Home since they have the language and the culture.) A Jew native to America will need an even more positive message as they will face more challenges to make Aliyah successfully.

Yishai, it bothers me too that it doesn't seem enough American Orthodox Jews seriously consider Aliyah or even give a single thought to it. But the way to get them focused on it is by promoting the positive aspects of Aliyah and the beauty of life in Eretz Yisrael. This is a message Kumah has been building up for years since it's inception and it is the proper authentic Kumah message.

Everybody out there - click on this link !!!

This is link if FULL of Klassic Kumah posts. Scroll through the whole thing! Authentic Kumah. Go on click it! Look at those post. Each and every one of them. Then tell me what we should be posting on Kumah.

B'Ahavat Yisrael,

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Recently, a listener to my show took exception when I said that American Jewry was Kosher-Style. "How", the incredulous listener asked, "could you compare the treif misrepresentation of the restaurants to living in America?"

So please let me explain: American Jewry is not kosher-style, it's American Orthodox Jewry which is kosher-style.

There they are, parading their black hats to everyone, making sure to keep Shabbos, and Kashrus. But Eretz Yisrael? Even though every page of the Siddur mentions it in one way or another, even the Torah seems obsessed with it, the American-Orthodox seem Exile-content.

Is this Kosher? No, its Kosher-Style. It has the trappings of Kosher - looks like a Jew, seems like a Jew, but in the final analysis, not acting like a Jew. A Jew needs to strive to get closer to Hashem, to serve Him, and not to serve himself. Our forefathers gave up everything to live here and they set an example for how we should behave. The Matriarch Rachel cries waiting for her children to come home, but we say "whatever". For American Jews "Next Year in Jerusalem" means "next year… maybe - but definitely not now."

Kosher-style is, of course, treif, a harsh accusation. Is it fair for me to call all those good Jews treif, when they may be very pious? Yes, there is one thing that makes American Jewry totally treif, and it's not only that they don't make Aliyah - rather it's the fact that AMERICAN JEWRY CAUSES YERIDA!

Have you ever wondered why Israelis who make Yerida almost invariably move to the States? The US is of course a great place to live, but it is American Jewry which gives secular Israeli's the legitimization to move there. An Israeli who is fed up with Israel's challenges needs only look to his Orthodox Jewish-American "brother" and ask himself: "Am I frumer than he is? He goes to Shul, he eats Kosher, he lives a Jewish life. So what do I need this Israel for, for ideology? Not. I'm not more idealogical then he is. Let me move to the US where I won't have to send my kids to the army and I'll get to live the good life - Kosher-Style!"

We all know that American Jewry transgresses a sin of omission in not making Aliyah. But the real truth is that American Jewry can be faulted for a sin of greater severity: taking Jews away from the Holy Land. Yerida, going down, choosing the exile. Choosing the Exile.

This sin can be overcome in an instant; this mitzva is beckoning at every moment.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jewish Heroism (Re)Defined

There is much to say about the unfortunate fact that "Yom HaShoah V'HaGevurah" was established by the Knesset against the will of Israel's central Rabbinate. Nissan is a month of rejoicing, where eulogies are not delivered, public fast days are not allowed to be established, and "Tachanun" is not recited. A more appropriate time to reflect and mourn the Shoah is on Tisha B'Av or the Tenth of Tevet (established as "Yom HaKadish Haklali"); nonetheless, we do not separate from the "tzibur" and respect the observance of the general public.

Among the hundreds of thousands murdered in the Warsaw Ghetto, was the great Gaon and Tzadik, Rebbe Menachem Zemba zt'l Hy'd, murdered during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Pesach 1943:

"Of necessity, we must resist the enemy on all fronts... We shall no longer heed his instructions... Sanctification of the Divine Name manifests itself in varied ways... (now) when we are faced by an arch foe whose unparalleled ruthlessness and program of total anihilation know no bounds, Halacha demands that we fight and resist to the very end with unequaled determination and valor for the sake of Kiddush HaShem."

Rav Zemba spoke of Jews who "wish to see very soon the establishment of Jewish sovereignty, out of their great desire to sanctify the name of Heaven in the eyes of the nations, to show them that after thousands of years of Israel wandering about the earth, the pain of their national destruction has not yet passed, and they shall live again..."

To learn more about the great Tzadik and Jewish Hero, please click HERE and HERE

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Monday, April 02, 2007

This Pesach Become An Active Part of the Jewish Nation!

First of all, I must apologize for not posting for a while (and for the lack of photos in this post). Unfortunately I am in America for Pesach (my parents like to have me around for the Seders), and I had to spend my last few days in Israel finishing a final project so I can graduate Machon Lev this year (maybe I'll write more about that another time).
Anyway, after my first Shacharit minyan back in the old country, my rabbi asked me if I could speak at the shul's Shabbat HaGadol luncheon. I jump at the chance to teach the Torah of Eretz Yisrael to the Jews of the diaspora, and I'll take every opportunity I can get to tell them to make Aliyah. So I agreed and put together a Dvar Torah about Jewish nationhood, final redemption prophecies coming true including the day's haftarah, and the Aliyah Revolution. This can also be good for your seder table, especially if you're with Jews who don't live in Israel yet.
Chag Kasher V'Sameach! Enjoy:

Some of this Dvar Torah is from Rabbi Ari Waxman (much of the background of the nation idea), some is from a couple of friends (the V'Haisheiv idea), some from an old Kumah post (the miracles of the Final vs. Egyptian redemption), and some is my own.

When we sit down at the Seder on Leil Shlishi, this Monday night, we will be telling the story of our exodus from Egypt. The Torah tells us that when Hashem took us out of Egypt, He took a nation out from amidst a nation (Devarim 4:34). We came down to Egypt as a big family, but we left as a nation, Hashem's nation. The prophet Yechezkel also refers to the exodus from Egypt as the birthday of the Jewish nation, "the day that you were born" (Yechezkel 16:4). Along with our release from the shackles of bondage placed upon us in Egypt, our collective existence was broadened as we gained the new status of "Am Yisrael."

However, there is more to our nation than this. We received the Torah "like one man, with one heart" as we stood united at Mount Sinai. The Torah is our national guidebook and without it, our nation would not be complete.

There is yet another part to our nationhood. The Maharal of Prague explains (Netiv Hatzedaka, Chapter 6) that true "arevut" - mutual responsibility of every Jew for every other Jew - was only achieved when we crossed the Jordan River and entered into Eretz Israel. It is only here in Eretz Israel that we are able to reach our full potential as an interconnected and unified nation. We can also see that there are parts of our nation that depend on being in Eretz Israel – setting up a kingship / government, the Sanhedrin and court system, the Beit HaMikdash and sacrifices, Mitzvot that are connected specifically to the Land of Israel (like Shemitah and others), etc…

Unfortunately we are still in exile, Mashiach is still not here, and there is no Beit HaMikdash. However, we are starting to see the sprouting of our final redemption and the rebirth and revival of the Jewish nation in Israel. Hashem has revealed so many miracles to us in Israel throughout the last 59 years, and we are starting to see prophecies coming true. The desert is blossoming, Israel has won wars in which it was heavily outnumbered, and even amidst the attempted terror attacks (suicide attempts, rockets, etc…) there are so many miracles happening every day to save us. One of the clearest signs of the redemption is the ingathering of the exiles. Jews are coming home from far and wide, from the four corners of the Earth. Even Jews from Western countries, who are not leaving their countries because of pogroms, but are leaving good lives willingly, are coming home. Nefesh B'Nefesh has brought over 10,000 English speaking Olim in the last 5+ years. According to most censuses taken, Israel has more Jews than any other country (recently surpassing America), and with the unfortunate trends of world Jewry, Israel will have the majority of the Jews in the world by the next generation! The course of Jewish history is changing in ways that have never been seen!

Another prophecy that is coming true is that of the end of today's Haftarah: "He will return the heart of the fathers upon the children, and the heart of the children upon their fathers." (Mal'achi 3:24) We can understand the first part easily – fathers teach their sons Torah, thus returning a Jewish heart unto them. However, the second part sounds a little strange. We see today that so many young people are making Aliyah by themselves. A number of youth from this shul have made Aliyah by themselves and I can tell you from all the Nefesh B'Nefesh welcome ceremonies I have attended, that there are many young olim coming by themselves these days. We in turn are returning our hearts of Aliyah and redemption upon our families. We see that through Aliyah, this prophecy is to fruition as well.

This Pesach, as we celebrate our national birthday, I urge you to pay attention to the events beholding our people. It is said that our final redemption will be so great that people will stop talking about the exodus from Egypt: "Behold days are coming... when they shall no longer say, 'The living G-d who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt,' but 'The living G-d who brought... the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries where I had driven them, so that they dwell in their own land.'" (Yermiyahu 23:7-8) In other words mass Aliyah itself is such an awesome miracle that it will actually replace the great miracle of the Exodus from Egypt as what will be used to describe Hashem's glory! What would be greater than to see this happening live; to get a front row seat as prophecies come true; to be there when Mashiach comes and the Beit HaMikdash is rebuilt?!? Well you can! All you have to do is join the Aliyah Revolution! Get the exile mentality out of your system, and come home to Israel! This Pesach - take an active role in Jewish history and become an active part of the Jewish nation!

Am Yisrael Chai!
May we see our Final Redemption speedily in our days, even this Pesach!
Chag Kasher V'Sameach!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

We Return To Homesh!!!

See more CHOMESH ACTION in this all-in-one article: audio, video, pics, and story.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Best That American Jewry Has To Offer...

Manischewitzville is no substitute for a homeland with Jewish substance.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hogan Knows Best... About the Exile and Keeping Kosher

It seems like everyone has their own reality TV show these days.

Even... Hulk Hogan.

Believe it or not, but VH1 has started a reality series about everyone's favorite professional wrestler, Hulk Hogan, entitled, Hogan Knows Best, featuring the exploits of Hulk Hogan and his family. The show has even devoted a number of episodes to Hulk Hogan (and family) learning about what it means to keep Kosher.

While the episodes are quite funny, I really don't know which is sadder - Hogan's attempts at keeping Kosher - or the many observant Jews who seem to be so at home in the Exile known as Miami Beach, enjoying their chance to be Hulkamaniacs (kind of like the Jews who had such a great time at Achashveirosh's party - of Purim fame - celebrating the end of Am Yisra'el, content to live merely as Persians of the Mosaic persuasion.)

Check it out for yourself here.

Each episode is about two minutes in length. If you can't watch them all, I recommend episodes 3 - 6, and 8.

WARNING: There are some immodestly dressed women in these episodes (namely, Hogan's wife and daughter.)

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Jewish Sell-Outs and Israel's Arab Problem: The Glass Half - Full Approach

Over the last year, it seems that the most popular cause being championed by the Jewish Establishment organizations, both in Israel and abroad, is the cause of equality for Israel's Arabs (and here.)

While I have no doubt as to the harmfulness of these actions to both the Jewish People and State, I do believe that many of the Jews donating money to this cause (knowingly or not), are convinced that through providing financial assistance to Israel's Arab community they are strengthening the Jewish State of Israel. Well, perhaps, with a little creativity, we can help them do just that.

The Jewish Establishment has already displayed its willingness to turn to Jewish communities throughout the world and raise millions upon millions of dollars for Israel's Arabs. However, instead of this money being used to strengthen Israel's Arab communities, the money can be used to help Israel's Arabs relocate, under favorable financial terms, to a place where they can feel more at home.

In this way, the money being raised by the Jewish Establishment will not only be helping Israel's Arabs live a better life, but at the same time will be strengthening Israel as a Jewish State.

Of course, not all of Israel's Arabs will be interested in such an initiative, but I suspect that there will be many that will jump at the opportunity. Those Arabs that are hell-bent on remaining as a bone in the throat of the Jewish State need not look for handouts from the Jewish People - and for which other solutions will need to be developed.

As I see it, this is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Are Male Earrings Sexy?

From Rabbi Hershel Schacter's "The Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael"

If we persist in staying in Galut even when our punishment is over, we will be following the dangerous precedent set by the Eved Nirtza. A Hebrew slave who grows to enjoy the conditions of his servitude and refuses to go free at the end of his six­ year term is made to undergo a retziah ceremony involving the piercing of his upper ear, after which he remains a slave until the Jubilee year.

One interpretation given to explain the symbolism of piercing the ear is based upon the assumption that the slave was originally sold as a thief, who, when apprehended, had no money with which to pay back his victim. "The ear which heard at Sinai 'Thou shall not steal.' and yet (its owner) went out and stole deserves to be pierced." On this explanation Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin asks why, if the piercing is a punishment for the theft, is it not carried out immediately, but only after six years of servitude? He answers that the true punishment for the theft is being sold into servitude for six years; no other punishment is ordinarily called for. But this particular thief, by displaying reluctance to go free after the six years are up, demonstrates that for him the servitude never constituted a punishment in the first place. On the contrary, he revels in his new surroundings: "I love my master, my wile and children; I shall not go free." For such a man, to whom the punishment of the Torah means nothing, the Torah prescribes an additional punishment - the piercing of the ear.

One can argue that our presence in exile was a punishment and that with our renewed access to Israel, that punishment is over. God forbid that we should sit back and willingly accept surroundings that are, essentially, meant as a punishment. God forbid that, by refusing to recognize the nature of one punishment, we bring upon ourselves another.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Reasons Why Not to Make Aliyah

Galut - Lovers Anonymous

There are many people in this world who are caught within the tangled web of harmful addictions.

Some are addicted to drugs, others to alcohol, and yet others, it seems, are addicted to living in Galut - The Exile.

The lucky ones recognize their addiction early on and begin taking the necessary steps to fight and overcome it, while others live their lives ignorantly unaware of their addiction, bringing untold suffering upon themselves and their loved ones.

It seems as if some French Jews fall into the latter category.

French Jews flock to area: South Florida is experiencing an influx of Jews who fear persecution in France

Rod Kukurudz decided to uproot his family from a comfortable life in France to Surfside when his then 16-year-old daughter, Audrey, came home one night in 2005 -- upset and fearful.

''Dad,'' she told him, ''now even if it's hot I have to wear a scarf to hide my Star of David,'' while riding the Paris Metro...

In their hearts, many of the French Jews arriving in South Florida feel they are refugees, and there's a movement to press the U.S. government for such status. A group has posted a petition on the Internet -- -- urging the U.S. Congress to approve a refugee program for French Jews.

Both Cohen and Kukurudz miss life in France, but they have no regrets about leaving. They did it for their children.

''So they can have a future,'' Cohen said.

For them, their children, and for us here in Israel.

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Street Justice in Lizhensk

Neturei Karta Beatdown!!

At the annual Hilulah / Yahrtzeit honoring Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk in Poland, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, (chairman of ZAKA) hit Moshe Aryeh Freedman, the Neturei Karta rep. who kissed Iranian President Ahmadinejad...

Details from "The Yeshiva World" and Jerusalem Post on the beatdown HERE

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

On Being an Extremist: Revisited

About a year-and-a-half ago, in response to feedback I had received to a number of articles I had written, I decided to layout many of my core beliefs as they related to Israel and the Jewish People, under the heading: On Being an Extremist, leaving it up to my readers to decide, if my beliefs, were, in fact, extreme.

Well, Bradley Burston of Ha'aretz, whose lone claim to fame is his now defunct "Talkback Policy" of forbidding the use of the phrase: "There are no Palestinians," has decided to pen a list of his own, which he entitles: Far-right and wrong, or how to ruin Judaism.

Burston lists 13 principles, to my 10, of which, 5 +/- made Burston's list. I am ashamed to note that #'s 12 & 13 on Burston's list, which relate to the Jewish People's yearning for the Temple Mount and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, do not appear on my list, as I have only begun to fully appreciate the notion of "Temple Consciousness" over the last year+, and which I would include on my list today, in one variation or another.

Lastly, before re-revealing my list of beliefs, I found it rather ironic that when it comes to opposing Jews ascending to the Temple Mount (#12), Burston becomes an ardent follower of Rav Kook - who, in regards to many of the other points listed, would likely be viewed as an extremist by Burston and his ilk.

Without further ado...

The Top 10 Reasons... as to why people believe I am an extremist: (Nov. 30, 2005)
1) I believe that the borders of the Jewish State of Israel should encompass the entire area west of the Jordan River (I am not relinquishing the right of the Jewish People to other parts of its Homeland, namely: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon & the Sinai - I just do not believe that we should press our claim to them right now - so long as our neighbors behave).

2) I am against the creation of a "Palestinian State" anywhere west of the Jordan River, as I do not believe that anyone aside from the Jewish People has any right to sovereignty in the Land of Israel.

3) I am opposed to the "Peace Process" (as it is understood today - although I am very much in favor of peace), as I recognize that peace will not come through releasing terrorists from prison, arming these very terrorists, and making other "goodwill gestures" that all lead to the murder of innocent Jews.

4) I believe that Israel must come to the (painful) recognition that she is at war with the Arab world, and she must be committed to taking the required steps necessary to win that war (and not to suffice with defensive half-measures like the security fence and shelling open fields).

5) I believe that all Jews should live in the Land of Israel , as this is the only place that the Jew, both on an individual and national level, can live a complete Jewish life and it is the only place where the destiny and mission of the Jewish People can be actualized.

6) I believe that the State of Israel should be a Jewish State and not a State of the Jews (simply having a Jewish majority). I believe that the State of Israel should not strive to "fit-in" with the nations of the world and be a nation like all others, but should act to create a society that will be strongly rooted in Jewish tradition, history, identity and culture.

7) I believe that every Jewish child in Israel (and in the world) should receive a intensive Jewish education that will instill within them a sense of pride in their knowing what it means to be a Jew, where they have come from and where they are going, the reason for having a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, and a commitment to taking an active role in helping to fulfill the collective destiny of the Jewish People.

8) I believe that the ultimate values in the Jewish State of Israel should not be liberalism, pluralism and democracy (although each may have it's place within the Jewish State, under certain situations / conditions), rather values that are consistent with authentic Jewish tradition and beliefs should be given primacy above all others.

9) I believe that the Jewish State of Israel can create an exemplary society, one that is moral and just in all areas of private and public life, all while staying true to Jewish teachings and tradition, and not selling our birthright for a bowl of western, secular values.

10) I believe that if the Jewish State of Israel does all of the above, then Israel and her neighbors will be blessed with true and lasting peace, and the Jewish People and the Jewish State of Israel will earn the respect and admiration of the nations of the world, by serving as a true "Light unto the Nations" and on that day the world will recognize the Oneness of the G-d of Israel and His dominion over all.
So, you tell me... Does all that make me an extremist?

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Rockin in the USA

Soon after we got off the El Al "Jerusalem", I went to the Walfish house, and there I saw the "Mitzva Project" of their 9-year old - an Aliyah Plane!

Malkah and I got invited to recieve an award and speak at the Manhigut Yehudit Dinner in Long Island.

I hope I can stay connected to the spirituality while I'm here...

I hope to bring in the smell of the Land and the spirit of Israel to the Exile...

To remind our family where we belong.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Are you ready for some... Shmittah? (AUDIO)

One of the most special things that comes along with living in the Land of Israel is the privilege of being able to keep many Mitzvot that are simply not relevant to the Jew of the Exile.

Many of these Mitzvot are known as Mitzvot HaTluyot Ba'Aretz - Torah commandments that are incumbent upon a Jew living in the Land of Israel.

This coming year, 5768, will be a Shmittah year - the one year, out of every seven, when the Jew in Israel must allow the Land of Israel to lay fallow, (it's actually much more complex that that, but we'll get to that a little later on) and more importantly, being that I made Aliyah only four years ago, this will represent my very first opportunity to fulfill the Mitzva of Shmittah.

Shmittah has additional significance, as being one of the Mitzvot that only becomes Biblically mandated once the majority of the Jewish People are living in the Land of Israel - something that has not happened since the destruction of the first Temple 2,500+ years ago, and which is scheduled to happen at some point in the next 25 years.

In preparation for the upcoming Shmittah year, I helped to organize a weekly, English language, Shmittah shiur in my community. The shiur is scheduled to run from now until the start of the Shmittah year, and I will be posting each installment of the shiur, along with the accompanying source sheets.

The shiur is being given by Rabbi Gedalia Meyer of Ma'aleh Adumim, and he welcomes any questions that listeners might have ( .

The first, weekly English Shmittah Shiur can be listened to by clicking here. (MP3 format)

Tizku l'mitzvot!

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You Let WHO on the Guest List?!

On Sunday night, my mother's short one week visit to Israel came to a close. She needed to get to the airport. We needed to spend the afternoon and evening in Jerusalem finishing up some loose ends, gifts for family, last visit to the Kotel, etc.

We decided that the best way to get my mom to the airport was via a shuttle, known commonly as Nesher. The Nesher is just 45NIS per person, which is about 1NIS per minute of the trip from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.

Not residents of Jerusalem, we needed to select a place for the Nesher to pick up my mom. Thinking of a nice, comfortable place near to both the Old City and Ben Yehuda Street, I chose the David Citadel Hotel. Its a great hotel, with plenty of parking around.

We arrived at the David Citadel about 20 minutes before the Nesher.

All the parking spots on both sides of the hotel were blocked off with police barriers. I had forgotten all about it. Our dear friend Condoleeza Rice was back in town trying to advance those blessed peace accords that have made life in Israel so simple over the past 15 years. (That's sarcasm folks!)

I dropped off my mom, wife and kids in front of the hotel, while I went to find more distant parking. I found a spot not too far off, and returned fairly quickly.

My entire family was outside one of the country's nicest hotels with together with my mom's luggage sitting on the curb. I asked why they weren't inside.

My wife Tzippy told me that security was only letting paid guests and restaurant goers inside due to the increased security surrounding Condi and Company. I said "Okay."

Then Tzippy--who has clear conviction when it comes to politics in Israel and has her own ideas about where the Palestinians can shove, err...create a state of their own--pointed to a tinted window SUV.

"You'll never guess who just came out of that car parked right there," Tzippy said.

I was stumped. "Who?"

"Mohammed Dahlan."

"Really?" I said.

"Yep, he just walked right in with his entourage," Tzippy said.

At that point, I looked at the bags and my family sitting on the curb, Jews living and visiting the Holy Land of Israel, not allowed into the hotel for security reasons. All the while, one of the greatest threats to Israeli security was allowed direct access, on an invitation from our friend Condoleeza.

Honestly, I felt quite inferior at that moment.

Until we realize who the real threats to security here are, we are going to be in for a bumpy ride. Buckle your safteybelts.

PS. Here is a bio of Dahlan, put out by the ZOA in 2002. You can bet some details have been added to his resume since then:

MOHAMMED DAHLAN Dahlan, 41, is chief of the Palestinian Security Forces in Gaza. He spent four years in Israeli prison for terrorist activities, and was a commander of operations for Arafat’s Fatah terror group during the mass “intifada” violence that began in 1987. According to the Israeli government, Dahlan is one of the primary directors of the current terrorist violence against Israelis in the Gaza region.

Masterminded bombing of Israeli bus: Israel Radio reported on October 20, 2000, that “Dahlan was behind the October 18 bombing of an Israeli bus in Gush Katif.” The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported on November 16, 2000, that “members of the Preventive Security Force in Gaza, headed by Mohammed Dahlan, were involved in a series of attacks on Israelis in Gush Katif and Netzarim.” Ha’aretz reported on April 17, 2001, that Yasir Arafat “takes an active part in decisions regarding the firing of mortars. The general directives in this regard are passed to Mohammed Dahlan, and from Dahlan to his deputy, Rashid Abu Shabak.”

Ordered rocket attack on an Israeli bus: Dahlan is currently a defendant in a lawsuit filed by victims Arab terrorism, including an American citizen as well as three children whose legs were blown off in a Dahlan-directed rocket attack on a bus on November 20, 2000. The Israeli daily Hatzofeh has reported (April 13, 2001) that the Central Intelligence Agency has tape recordings of telephone conversations in which Dahlan can be heard ordering the November 20 rocket attack and other terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Shelters Hamas terrorists: Dahlan told the PA-sponsored newspaper Al Ayam on Oct.26, 1998 that terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad “will not be outlawed.”

Hired Hamas terrorists: Dahlan said in an interview with the PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah on Sept.24, 1998, that 25 more Hamas terrorists have been hired by his force, specifically in order to protect them from being arrested by the Israelis.

Praised Hamas terrorists: In an interview with the Hamas newspaper Al-Risallah (cited in Ha’aretz, June 15, 1997), Dahlan said: “The presence of Hamas on Palestinian territory is very important for building the Palestinian homeland.”

Threatened violence against Israel: On August 30, 1996, Dahlan said: “The Palestinian Authority does not exclude the return to the armed struggle, and it will then use its weapons.” (Jerusalem Report, Nov. 28, 1996)

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Happy Post Month: Greatest Place on Earth!

Okay, so I just wrote up this long post on what the Meam Loez writes about the Sanhedrin in Parshat Mishpatim and why Jews are far better off with one than without one... but then I thought hey, it's Rosh Chodesh Adar! Let's get happy!

So with the power invested in me as chief-head-super-duper-ultimate-supreme-master-and-
and-kumah-webmaster-and-blogmaster-general I herby declare this month of Adar to be Kumah Happy Post Month!

I'll kick things off with this happy post.

A Tale of Three Cities

I have the esteemed privilege to be able to spend Shabbat all over this wonderful land that Hashem gave us as a gift along with his Torah. The past three weeks I spent Shabbat in Beit-El, Bnei Brak, and Ramat Beit Shemesh, respectively. And while all three places certainly have their differences I find they have some wonderful things in common.

For example in all three neighborhoods one would be very hard pressed to find a car on Shabbat. In all three one will find the streets full with many children playing and enjoying Shabbat. They are the future of the Jewish people! Can anything be more exhilarating?

In all three one will experience Shabbat on a higher more intense level than is possible in many other places on earth. Sure I could think of a handful of other places, (Tzfat springs to mind, and I've always been impartial to the Old City of Jerusalem) but nearly all of them are in Eretz Yisrael.

So attention Brooklyn Jews: when the siren goes off in Boro Park (and now Flatbush) in a futile attempt to build a "mini-Jerusalem" and "recreate" the atmosphere of the real Jerusalem, just remember you can't beat the real thing! So why risk upsetting the goyim (and make no mistake. They do get annoyed hearing the siren each week) when you are guests in their kind country when instead you can simply come home and play Jewish music over the loudspeakers for a half hour on Erev Shabbos because it's our home and we make the rules!

Take the Kumah challenge: Visit Eretz Yisrael and spend Shabbat on any Yishuv or any of the places I mentioned and you'll experience what Shabbat is really all about!

It's a little secret which we shouldn't keep to ourselves but everyone here knows that the Jews of Chu"L simply have no idea what they are missing. I thank Hashem every day that I am somehow worthy of experiencing Shabbat in Eretz Yisrael every week!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Audio: Road Rage, Newark, and Chaim Dovid

On this week's audio selection:

On a recent drive in the Land of Israel I picked up a hitchhiker who told me that Ariel Sharon committed the worst sin that a Jew can commit - that is, ripping Jews from their burial place in the Land of Israel. In return, continued the old man, the Land has rejected the body of Ariel Sharon, and that is why he is in state of limbo. This revelation led me to think about the return of the Galut Jew, and the fight and witch hunt against bravery and brave Jews like Shai Dromi. This monologue is 23 minutes long:

Click Here To Listen
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Rabbi Judah Mischel is stuck at Newark Liberty Airport, with security incessantly having its way with him. And while in LA, he yearns for Israel, while LA Jews yearn for NY. While in Exile he comments on why the foreign nations just don't fit in Israel.

Click Here To Listen
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Ben Bresky, music show host on INR, recently had some face to face time with famous musician Chaim Dovid. (Ezra wrote an article about this) Now, if you want to hear a real yiddishe soul, with yiddishe soul music, this interview is for you.

Click Here To Listen
Click Here to Download

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Where has the Israeli gone?

You know when I was younger I remember hearing all these amazing stories about the Israeli people. You know the ones that lived in Israel and worked to get the land what it is today. They were the ones I would look up to.

Always so smart and cunning. Figuring out ways to conveniently get around the problems that they were faced with. Being the best at everything and anything just because they could. I saw them as the smartest and most efficient Jews. They had the smallest army but were able to infiltrate anything and anyone that would come in their way. They had pride, they knew they were small and that enhanced their desire to be the best and do it with style. They would do such amazing covert operations that those Israelis would train the US Seals.
Where are those people? Does anyone else remember them?

I remember my parents telling me that when my brothers were younger they would try to sniff out the "secret" army personal on the El Al flights and go over to them and let them know that their disguise was crashed. I mean, this was the Israelis personality and mentality. They were the most creative and the best at getting what they wanted done with the least amount of effort and casualties.

Where are those people? Does anyone else remember them?

When I was in Israel during the Gush Katif "situation" I asked one of my friends who was in Hebrew University, how can the Israelis live with the fact that they are letting themselves lose? His response, as if computer generated was "don't worry, we don't know the half of it, I am sure Sharon has something up his sleeve, I mean look at what he has done in the past."

I feel like the Israelis are forgetting who they are and what they are capable of doing. When I read what Olmert and the Israeli "leader (wanna bes)" are up to, I think that those Israeli mentalities that I was raised looking up to were just a dream.

Did they really exist?
Were we that cunning to do all those successful operations?
Was it all luck?

I keep thinking to myself, that the IDF is planning an operation right now to go into Gaza and get back Gilad. I mean they practically know where all the "terrorist heads" live. I am sure they have internal secret information regarding our captive brothers whereabouts. I know they are just waiting for the opportune time and they will get him back. Right?

Am I right?

Is the IDF figuring out this operation? Or are they figuring out how to handle the protests that will be coming when they try to evacuate more settlements?
Where are our leaders that would listen to their commanders, most of the time and not all the time?
Where are the Israelis that know they can take anyone down... with one hand behind their backs... blindfolded... with nothing but a rubber band?

This is the Israeli I was raised hearing about. The fearless and invincible IDF, the Lion of Israel. Has the Lion turned into a little kitten? Because that's what it looks like when I read the news.

I feel like now that we have "made it" into the upscale world, now that huge companies like Google and Intel have voted Israel as a viable asset, we no longer feel small or the need to work to be something. Is this the price we pay for "making it" into the big world by losing our real world? By losing our reputation as being invincible and indivisible? Is it worth it? Can we go back? Can we become who we were/are? The Israeli that as a child I wanted to be like. My sister has her little children watch the "Victory of Entebbe", and I see it in their eyes, that same awe and admiration for those Israelis. Should I tell them that they don't exist anymore? Or do they?

Well I think they do, and they just need a little WAKE UP CALL. Remind them what they have been and still are capable of. Have them read the Exodus. Watch some old movies that will refresh their memories, or just look in the mirror.

If we believe, you know we can overcome.

We are Jews and have overcome everything thrown in our paths. We have faith in a promise that goes back thousands of generations and we hold the key to its fulfillment. The land is ours, now we have to keep it that way, and know that we have the ability to make it stay that way forever.

According, to reality we Jews realistically should have disappeared ages ago, but there is something reality doesn't know... it's that we are not held down by their reality. We believe in the Real G-d and that's all the reality for us. We don't abide by the rules of this material world. Some Israelis think that if the UN and even the US say something then that is REAL. Well, if we just take some time to think and remind ourselves how our existence in the Holy land of Israel is not according to their reality, then we will remember what is-real to us, and stop being held back by the real "fake" world, and take back our place in our nations mind as the invincible, cunning, creative, and awesome Israelis that we are. This way I can tell my little nephews that they can grow up to be like those Israelis they watch in the movies, and with G-d's help, they WILL.

That was a long one, but I had to, we really need to wake up!!! But its late here in NY so I'm off to bed,
TTFN ~ DFTSS ~ Shulamit

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Overheard in Los Angeles...

"When people here say: Libi BaMizrach ('My Heart is in the East'), they are really yearning to be in New York..."

Having spent two days in L.A. this week, (including Grammy Sunday) , yearning for Home...

...I couldn't stop thinking of Rebbe Yehuda HaLevy's stirring & poetic prayer (even after eating at Prime Grill on Rodeo Drive):

My heart is in the East, and I am in the furthermost west--
How can I enjoy food? Can it be sweet to me?

How shall I make vows and honor bonds, while yet
Zion is held by Edom, and I by Arab chains?

Shouldn't it be easy for me to leave all the good things of Spain --
Seeing how precious it is to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary.

I can't wait to get back home to Eretz Yisrael... where the real movie stars hang out.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Sound Familiar? Yitro's Reasons for Not Making Aliyah

"...and Yitro went to his land" (Ex. 18:27)

Later, while in the Desert, Moshe tries to convince his father-in-law Yitro to enter The Land of Israel together with the Jewish People, yet he continuously refuses: "I shall not go! Only to My Land and my family shall I go!" (Bamidbar 10:30).

What happened?!?

After his great proclomation of faith - he is the first person to say "Baruch Hashem!" (Ex. 18:10), and after all that he has contributed to Am Yisrael: a complete overhaul of the Judicial system, his daughter Tziporah etc.- Yitro opts out of going to Eretz Yisrael.

Some opinions & perspectives of the classic commentaries as to WHY:

* Rashi: Yitro went to convert his family...("We have kiruv work to do, chinuch, saving American Jewry!")

* Rav Ovadia Sforno: Yitro felt too old to move; leaving would be too difficult because of the change in climate, food and language adjustment ("too hot in Israel! We want American meat and Tropicana!")

* The Sifri: Yitro didn't want to leave his family, possesions and familiar surroundings- so much so that Moshe offers him property in Jericho ("we have such a nice house, two cars; we like the comfortable standard of living; we love our neighborhood- we are so used to it here!")

* Rav Yosef Bechor Shor (talmid of Rabbeinu Tam): Yitro didn't want to deal with (feared?) the Milchemet Kivush/ War that would have to be fought to conquer the Land ("its dangerous there! we won't be safe in Israel! we'll have to serve in the army!)

Sound Familiar?!

It has been a while since we experienced awesome, open miracles and an ingathering of the exiles...or has it been?

Historical Patterns (and excuses!) repeat themselves... Justifications & rationalizations- legitimate or otherwise- do too.

B'Yamim Haheim BaZman HaZeh!!

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

New Study: 7.4 Million U.S. "Jews" (Yes, I Used Quotes)

When a study claims there are 7.4 million Jews in America Neo-Zionists get scared. Why? Simple. Because previous studies have suggested two conclusions:

1. Only Orthodox Judaism is growing. All other factions are either intermarrying into oblivion or identifying less and less with the Jewish people and

2. Overall the Jewish population in America is shrinking and has no future. (Remember Zeev Bielski and A.B. Yehoshua?)

Other studies have suggested that due to many factors the Jewish population in Israel is growing. This would mean in a few years the majority of those who are halachiclly considered Jewish will reside inside Israel and therefore many halachot will become Torah obligations, not just Rabbinic ones, and that the ingathering of the exiles can be considered complete.

Yet a study just came out that makes this remarkable "7.4 million Jews" claim. Here's how the NY Post reports it:


February 8, 2007 -- America's Jewish population is far larger than previous estimates, a new survey shows.

There are as many as 7.4 million Jews in the United States, researchers at Brandeis University said yesterday.

They said the last authoritative survey was taken in 2000-01 and erroneously put the figure then at 5.2 million Jews. It counted practicing Jews; people who said they had no religion but thought of themselves ethnically as Jewish; and anyone with even one Jewish parent.

The Brandeis survey used the same categories and came up with 6 million to 6.4 million, a figure higher than would be expected by normal birth rate. But the researchers said their figure could shoot up to between 7 million and 7.4 million by adding an additional 1 million people who "might be considered Jewish" based on their backgrounds as kids of intermarried parents.

The Brandeis researchers said the earlier survey grossly undercounted non-Orthodox families, did not include "substantial numbers of young and middle-aged individuals" and was wrong to say the Jewish-American population had been in a state of decline since 1990.

"Our analyses tell us that the Jewish community is larger and more diverse than most had thought," said Brandeis Professor Len Saxe.

On the surface this new study seems to declare that:
1. Non-Orthodox Jews are doing great too, and
2. Orthodox Jews are overrated, and
3. The Jewish population in America is growing!

For those of us that follow halacha however this study does not disprove the previous conclusions, (that the ingathering of the exiles will soon be halachically complete) and may even strengthen them.

First let's get something out of the way. What is a Jew according to this study?

The same thing that was a Jew according to the NJPS.

And I quote from that study:

"For purposes of this report, a Jew is defined as a person:
-Whose religion is Jewish, OR
-Whose religion is Jewish and something else, OR
-Who has no religion and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing, OR
-Who has a non-monotheistic religion, and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing."(page 13)

The halachic definition of a Jew is one whose mother is Jewish or one who halachically converted.

The study (which you could download and read for yourself here) relies heavily on unproven assumptions. Previous studies, they claim, underestimated non-Orthodox Jews because they must be harder to reach. That's solid logic if I ever heard it. Got a lower representation than you wanted? Just say, "oh, well, obviously there are more. We just can't reach them."

Look forward to this headline: "Pinchas proves extraterrestrial life exists." See I did a study. I called beings and asked them if they are extraterrestrial life forms but since AT&T doesn't provide long distance service to other planets they are a bit harder to reach. Not wanting to underestimate them I included them in my results.

Here's how they concocted this argument. Are you ready for this?

1. "Families with several school age children, typical of many Orthodox families, have more people available to answer the telephone and may be more likely to be at home. This makes them easier to reach." (page 19)

2. "This fits with our earlier conclusion that non-Orthodox Jews may be more difficult to reach than non-Jews (particularly for telephone surveys) because of their socio-economic distinctiveness." (page 29)

Okay, okay. I know. Purim came early this year! Now after you've stopped laughing and caught your breath it gets better. These researchers are clearly disconnected from the Orthodox Jewish reality, namely that we have a life too and don't sit at home all day waiting by the phone for that survey researcher to call us.

The researchers claim that prior studies "systematically undercounted certain groups..." Namley, "...young adults (18-29 year olds). Young adults are particularly difficult for telephone surveys to reach. An increasingly serious research problem is that these individuals are the most likely to use cellular telephones as their exclusive personal telephone." (page 20)

And we all know that non-Orthodox 18-29 year old Jews use cell phones far more than their Orthodox counterparts. After all, we Orthodox Jews all have black beards and live in Lanchester, Pennsylvania and build barns and plant corn.

What this study shows is that all new studies will begin including more and more people as Jews when they are halachiclly not Jewish at all. And that in fact the halachiclly Jewish percentage of these results will continue to shrink.

Consider this:

"There is increasing evidence, for example, that more intermarried families are choosing to raise children Jewishly. If that trend continues, it portends an increase in the Jewish population." (page 31).

To me it portends an increase in the non-halachic "Jewish" population.

The paper concludes:

"Acknowledging the controversial nature of the present findings, we hope that this report will provoke productive discourse. The larger, more diverse, character of the population suggests that debate about the future of the Jewish community in America needs to encompass multiple viewpoints that address the concerns of the different groups making up the overall community. It suggests, as well, a broadened set of discussions with other Jewish communities around the world, in particular, Israel." (page 34)

In English: Israel should become (or remain) less connected to G-d because so many American "Jews" are.

"Just as Jewish identity is regarded as fluid, and may change in intensity over the lifespan, the character of the population, too, may shift as norms about marriage, child-rearing and religious practice evolve." (ibid.)

In English: Israel should accept, if not encourage, intermarriage, having less kids, and not believing in G-d.

They are the ones that are scared. They need to keep telling themselves it's safe to be a non-religious Jew in America today. They keep telling themselves their future is bright. They should know better. They do know better.

Neo-Zionism is winning. Torah Judaism is winning.

Keep the Torah! Make Aliyah!

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Yeah, I'll Move to Israel - When Moshiach Comes!!

As an Aliyah activist, I have been frustrated to the point of lava-hot rage by those who promise to make aliyah when the Messiah, the redeemer of Israel, comes and brings every single last Jew home to the Land of Israel.

If I were the Messiah, I'd be mighty insulted by the idea that my non-presence is used as an excuse to continue life-as-usual in the Exile.

I think I've had some success in talking to Jews about this issue. But I've NEVER heard a better remonstration than that of Aaron Fox on today's Yishai and Malkah Show at Israel National Radio.

Press "Play" below to listen to IsraelNationalRadio's "A View From Haifa"

Send it to all those "Zionists" back in the States.

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