Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Letter writer Max Wisotsky (“Aliyah Should Be Made for Spiritual, Not Political Reasons” April 18, 2001), is disturbed that there are Jews who want to “go home” to Israel because they are worried about the toxic political climate of the far left here in the USA. He explains that the political climate in Israel is almost as divisive. In addition, he informs us that Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky is quoted as saying, “As far as Jewish tradition is concerned, it is better to go with Arab politicians than politicians from the far left.” He concludes, moving to Israel may be disappointing and counterproductive. One should make aliyah for religious or spiritual convictions and not for political ones.

I disagree with both Mr. Wisotsky and the venerable Rabbi Kanievsky.

Every year, at this time, during the days of Holocaust remembrance and Israel Independence Day, Yom Ha’Aatzmaut, I reread the most magnificent book, “Eim Habanim Semeichah,” subtitled “Eretz Yisroel, Redemption and Unity,” by the great Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, who wrote it while hiding in an attic in Hungary, during the years of hell in the Holocaust, and finally killed on a train on the way to Auschwitz.

He wrote that the return to our land is the answer to our troubles. The anti-Zionist Orthodox are wrong. “The sole purpose of all the afflictions that smite us in our exile is to arouse us to return to our Holy Land.”

Allow me to freely quote from just some of his hundreds of proofs and Torah teachings:

“The Rebbe of Gur taught the more Orthodox Jews that ascend to Eretz Yisroel, the greater their influence will be in fashioning the image of the land according to Torah tradition.” The Kabbalist, Rav Avraham Azulai wrote, “Anyone who lives in Eretz Yisroel is considered a tzaddik even though it appears otherwise.” “He who dwells in Eretz Yisroel is like one who has a God”’ (Ketubot 110B). The Ahavat Yonatan writes that our very return to Eretz Yisroel is considered teshuvah and it is the very essence of teshuvah. Based upon the verses in Parshat Nitzavim, Devarim 30:5-6, both the Chatam Sofer and the Ohr HaChayim teach that the people of Israel will first gather together in Eretz Yisroel, then God will circumcise their hearts to love Him and serve Him and they will do teshuvah and repent even before the Moshiach comes.

The Talmud states, “Rabbi Yochanan says, ‘Why did Omri deserve kingship? Because he added on a city to the land of Israel’” Sanhedrin 102B. “Hence we have a clear irrefutable proof that by building a city in Eretz Yisroel, even the greatest sinner—one denies the entire Torah, like Omri who worshipped idols, achieves all of the possible rectifications that this mitzvah can effect.”

Furthermore, in discussing secular Israeli leaders and their attitude toward the values of our tradition and religious practice, Rav Soloveitchik in “Kol Dodi Dofek” lays much of the blame on the Orthodox. If only the Orthodox had made aliyah with them, by the thousands, working with the secular Zionists, joining the government with them in creating the State, things may have been different. He writes that the leper, the metzora, is declared unclean by the Kohen, who must leave the encampment to be with the afflicted sufferer so as to purify him. We have an obligation to purify those who are “outside the encampment,” who are situated in the huge camp of ignorance. Unfortunately, we are to blame for not having influenced them.

Rav Kook taught that “one may find in every Jew, even the most unworthy, precious gems of good deeds and positive traits, and that includes the secular Zionists. Certainly the land of Israel helps elevate and sanctify them. And if this is not evident in them, it will become so in their descendants.”

Therefore, we may conclude that a Jew can go home even if it is not for religious or spiritual reasons, but solely for political reasons.

Martin Polack