April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

An Open Letter From the Heart to My American Jewish Brethren

Prior to beginning, I must first say that I am in no way qualified to give advice or mussar to anyone. As Dovid Hamelech said אנכי תולעת ולא איש, חרפת אדם ובזוי עם; every time we read the Haggadah on Pesach I debate whether I should say something to my fellow American Jews or not.

A little background information: This past August, after 34 years of waiting, I finally picked myself up and made aliyah to Israel ALONE, without my husband and without my kids. Yet in addition to fulfilling a lifelong goal, I had ulterior motives in making aliyah. My main goals were to shake things up for my family and to set up a home here in Israel where my family could come and live if they so choose. I also wanted to make living in the U.S. somewhat uncomfortable for my family. Yes, you read that correctly.

Here is where I will speak my heart, and you have the right to take my words to heart or not. I’ve learned a lot more about America since making aliyah because of the incredible contrasts I see in my daily life. I see people living Torah in a way that I never saw in the U.S. This is not to say that people don’t live Torah in the States. BH, religious life in America is strong and thriving. But here, Torah is life rather than life including Torah.

My greatest fear is that my family and American Jews as a whole will be lost to the Jewish nation because it is just so easy to get sucked into the American way of life and to forget that America isn’t the end destination for Jews. Everything in America is so convenient, comfortable and fast, yet most Americans are not happy, according to the global polls. In my humble opinion, it’s because they live superficial lives

There are even Jewish people who lack meaning in their lives because they don’t know what they are saying or reading when they daven or learn Torah. They don’t understand the depth and beauty of the mitzvot they do. They just do them because that’s what they were taught (which is certainly better than not doing mitzvot at all), and they try to get through their “Jewish obligations” as fast as possible and get on with their “real lives.”

America ubiquitously promotes the core concept that one cannot be satisfied with what he has; one needs the most state-of-the-art product out there, and one must be better off than his neighbor. You are the most important person in the world, consequently, you deserve to get what you want at the expense of someone else. Watch the advertisements that are broadcast everywhere and you’ll see what I mean. People get lost in the world of TV shows and videos and playstations and actors and music and movies and sports … and waste their whole lives doing nothing.

This is why I worry so much about you, my brethren, and why I’m writing this letter. In America, it’s just too easy to get off the Jewish track and to lose the precious soul with which you are endowed. Yes, I know, you’re not like that and you insist you’ll never become like that, but I’ve seen amazing religious kids turn away from Judaism, or become so inundated with the American pattern of work, vacation, work, entertainment, and more work that they either don’t have time to spend learning and living Torah or they just don’t want to.

I see young couples deciding not to have more kids because they don’t want to have to pay the price for private Jewish schools, or even worse, because they don’t want people to think they are irresponsible human beings. How many times have I heard both American goyim and Jews criticize the ultra-Orthodox Jews because they have so many kids? But this is the very first mitzvah in the Torah!

It’s a never-ending battle for your Jewish neshama in America. Don’t believe me? Take a really close look at Pirkei Avot. Read Mesillat Yesharim or Sefer Tzaddikim and see what a Jew is really supposed to be like. It’s definitely not what I was, and I had the benefit of a good Jewish education. When I read these sefarim, I felt awful, small and guilty, as if I’d been lied to my entire life. But the purpose of these books is not to destroy self-esteem but to help Jews align their personal self-improvement goals with those of Hashem.

I realized that my priorities and values in life were skewed because I underestimated how contrary to Jewish life American culture is. I hope and pray that Hashem will help my family and all of Klal Yisrael to be reunited here in Eretz Yisrael soon, and that we will be able to celebrate the building of the third Beit Hamikdash and the arrival of Moshiach really soon.

Until that time, here in Israel, I see kibbutz galiyot with my own eyes. The current state of Israel is a miracle and living proof that Hashem actually wants us here. If He didn’t, the land would still be a barren desert with swamps here and there. Don’t believe me? The Maharam M’Rotenberg explains that Israel is not like any other land in the world. If you move to Israel, your sins are forgiven (ב“ע א“קי כתובות. (But there is a caveat: If you continue life the way you lived in chutz l’aretz, you are in danger of being vomited up by the land [Vayikra 18:28] for having introduced impurity into it.)

Eretz Yisrael and Hashem seem to be happy we’re home. Jews were never meant to live perpetually in America. They are there because they were kicked out of other places and found refuge there. There is no future for Jews in America. I’m not a Navi, but I am familiar with Jewish history, and whenever Jews get too comfortable anyplace, they are kicked out by antisemitism. I once heard someone say about the Jews in America, “They will be the last immigrants or the first refugees.”

What scares me most is what happened to 80% of the Jews in Egypt. They were not willing to trust Hashem or Moshe and give up what they knew for what they didn’t. Human nature is against change because it’s scary and uncomfortable. But it is precisely when we force ourselves out of our comfort zones that we improve our souls the most. It’s also why America is such a threat to Jewish life—it’s too comfortable. Back to Egypt: 80% of the Jews were killed in makat choshech, according to Rashi. If they weren’t literally killed, their souls were killed … they had cut themselves off from the Jewish nation. These Jews saw Hashem’s miracles, and they still didn’t want to leave Egypt.

Ask yourself why people stay in America when they have seen the miracles Hashem performed for the Jews in the Balfour Declaration, the War of Independence, the Six-Day War … How can they close their eyes to the fact that Hashem obviously wants us in Israel now? Because it is very easy to deny or find excuses not to leave a comfortable home, a comfortable job, a familiar community, and all the conveniences and comforts of America.

I know—I’ve been there. To make aliyah, I had to leave my home, family, friends and community, and pretty much everything with which I was familiar. My yetzer hara was working overtime the last few years, trying to convince me that I was crazy to introduce upheaval into my life when things were finally quiet and comfortable. It said I couldn’t deal with the stress of making aliyah on my own. It told me people would criticize me for leaving my husband and parents. It told me that Israel wasn’t the “dream” I thought it was.

But my yetzer hara’s job is to make me question what I believe, to play with my brain and make me think that the wrong thing is actually a mitzvah and the right thing is an aveira. That’s why there are still so many Jews left in chutz l’aretz. Most Jews in chutz l’aretz either don’t want to move to Israel or they believe they can’t. This doesn’t make them bad people; on the contrary, it demonstrates that they are normal people: afraid of or anti-change.

Why am I telling you all this? Because in my heart, I am scared to death that you and my family members in America will become part of the statistics of Jews lost in choshech. In a very literal sense, that makka put people in darkness. They couldn’t see reality. They couldn’t see what was right in front of their faces. So they either died or assimilated to the point where they were just not redeemable anymore, or they didn’t wish to be redeemed.

Moshiach isn’t here yet and the Beit Hamikdash isn’t rebuilt yet. But that doesn’t mean that Hashem hasn’t already started the process of geula. Hashem didn’t take us out of Mitzrayim immediately either. The process took time. There is no question that we are in the process of being redeemed. We just don’t know when the process will be complete.

I think I’ve made my point. I’m sure you are saying to yourself that I over-made my point. But I love and care about Klal Yisrael, and I want you to experience the geula for yourselves with a front-row seat here in Eretz Yisrael. Yes, I could have shut up and said nothing, but there is a mitzvah of רעיך דם על תעמד לא and I believe you are in danger. Am Yisrael is waiting for you with open arms to welcome you home!

Jessica Savitt can be reached at [email protected]

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