April 18, 2024
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Bernie Sanders: Driving the Mandate for Aliyah

This past week we have seen Bernie Sanders take a commanding lead in the Democratic primary, Mike Bloomberg have a catastrophic debate performance, and anti-Semitic threats on 18 JCCs around the country.

In addition, candidate Bernie Sanders announced he is boycotting the AIPAC Conference next week, adding to Elizabeth Warren who made a similar announcement a few weeks ago. Then there is VP Biden, who said he would go to AIPAC, but to convince AIPAC to change their pro-Israel policies.

Is this the time for Jewish lay and religious leaders to inspire their constituents to start seriously considering aliyah? I live in Edison/Highland Park, so what I am writing is really for me. How can these leaders inspire people like me to take this important step? I could write about all the reasons why observant Jews rationalize why they can’t make aliyah (jobs, money, children, parents, language, culture, etc.). Instead, I decided to look for the scriptural reasons why we should consider aliyah, and I found many.

The Land of Israel, without question, is more conducive for steadfast immersion in Torah than any other place on Earth. To understand, read the verse “The gold of the Land is good” (Bereishit 2:12), on which the Midrash says, “These (the gold of the Land is good) are the words of Torah, for there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael; and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael” (Bereishit Rabbah 16:7).

Further, the Torah in Parshat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 12:29) states, “Ki yachrit Hashem Elokecha et hagoyim asher ata [b]a shammah lareshet otam mipanecha, veyarashta otam veyashavta be’artzam—When Hashem your God will cut off before you the nations you come to inherit, you shall inherit them and settle in their land.”

Commenting on that verse, Sifrei recounts a conversation between R. Eliezer b. Shamua and R. Yochanan HaSandlar when they were traveling to Netzivim to learn Torah from R. Judah b. Beteira. When they reached a place called Tzeidan, they were reminded of Israel. They raised their eyes and their tears began to flow. They then tore their clothing in mourning and recited the verse above. They turned, reached their destination, and said, “Dwelling in Israel is equivalent to all the other commandments of the Torah.”

Further, we find a Tosefta in Avoda Zara (5:2) that states: “One should dwell in Israel even in a city where the majority are idolaters, rather than in the Diaspora in a city that is inhabited completely by Jews. This teaches us that living in Israel is equivalent to [the performance of] all the commandments of the Torah.”

Has the time come for our religious leaders to recognize that we must truly fulfill the commandments of Hashem and inspire their balebatim to make aliyah?

Let us thank Bernie Sanders, who is motivating us to re-evaluate where we really belong.

Paul D. Bloom
Highland Park / Edison
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