June 2, 2024
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There Is Never a Time to Tell People Not to Move to Israel

Rav Yaakov Emden teaches that Jewish history is meant to draw us closer to God, not distance us from Him. Steven Starr’s (“Now Is Not the Time to Say, ‘Now Is the Time to Move to Israel,’” May 23, 2024) reference to the Bar Kochba revolt to back his argument against aliyah does the latter while also reflecting a tragic misunderstanding of Jerusalem’s defeat. The revolt was not fought by idealistic Jews longing to worship God and keep His commandments in their land; rather, it was the final fading echoes of zeal for emancipation and sovereignty that superseded Jewish laws before the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash.

Starr’s article voices the opinions of 10 leaders of the Jewish nation who tried to dissuade their people from moving to Israel. These were the spies who illustrated a scene that sent the nation into panic, causing them to yearn for the foreign land of Egypt. Their hysterical cries angered God, who designated that day, the ninth of Av, to mark the date of the destruction of both Temples and our subsequent exiles from Jerusalem.

Since the Roman exile, we have fortunately regained control of Israel. The founders of modern Israel designed a seal to represent the country that depicts a menorah between two olive branches, inspired by the prophetic vision of Zechariah that is read on Shabbos Chanukah. In this vision, the olive branches themselves produce and deliver olive oil into the menorah. This symbolizes the eternal message God delivers to Zechariah, that Israel survives “not by military force, and not by physical strength, but by [His] Spirit.” This emblem conveys Israel’s dependence on God alone, and not on the aid of foreign countries, even the United States.

In his Kuzari, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi writes a dialogue about Jewish faith between a rabbi and the king of the Khazars. When the rabbi informs the king of his decision to make aliyah, he explains to him that “Jerusalem will be rebuilt when the Jewish people yearn for it to the ultimate degree.” Upon hearing this, the king replies, “If so, then he who impedes your journey is guilty, and he who aids your journey is fulfilling a commandment.” By settling in Israel, American Jews fulfill a commandment of the God who determines its fate. Believing that remaining in America contributes more to Israel’s success overlooks the historical and spiritual significance of aliyah.

American Jews currently considering aliyah should not be discouraged by those who do not share their love for the land or desire to fulfill the mitzvah of settling in it. Israel’s survival is not contingent on Jewish presence in America; it remains in the hands of the Almighty. Those who think otherwise should educate themselves on Israel’s miraculous history before offering uninformed advice about its future.

Rose Weiss
Hillside
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