I want you to read the title again: Living a life of Israel. Think about it for a second. A life of Israel. A life where everything you do brings you closer to Israel. A life where you breathe the air of Israel, even while in New York or China. A life where your educational goals, occupational career and marriage decisions are based on a strip of land not much bigger than the state of Delaware. What does all this mean?
What I am about to write is life changing and is not something you have heard before. That is actually quite sad because our entire faith and essence is deeply intertwined with the soil of the Promised Land. Up until now you have been taught that keeping Torah and Mitzvot is the most important thing a Jew can do. You have been taught about the power of Tefila and the need to immerse yourself in Hashem’s infinite wisdom. You have studied Halachot, guarded against Lashon Hara and practiced chessed wherever possible. All of that is 100% true and I will never contradict any of those things – G-d forbid! I simply want to add one very important thing that has been kept from you – something that lies at the center of being Jewish; As a Jew, your priority is to do all of those things in the Land of Israel. Serving Hashem in Queens, Teaneck or Cedarhurst is a temporary situation only. If you happen to be there, for a day or 20 years, you must follow certain rules. The problem is that this situation is a “b’di’eved” – not the ideal way – and Jews were placed on earth to live life as “l’chat’chila” – proper, correct and according to original design.
I once heard a nice shiur by a Rabbi who discussed whether or not moving to Israel is one of the 613 mitzvot. He went into great detail explaining the difference between a “Mitzva Chiyuvit” (a mandatory mitzvah which we MUST do, such as putting on Tefillin, eating Matza on seder night etc.) and a “Mitzva Kiyumit” (a mitzvah which is not mandatory but which we are credited for when, and if, a certain situation arises such as giving a get in the case of divorce). His conclusion was that while most Rabbis hold that living in Israel is a great and special Mitzvah, in our day it is not an obligation. If one makes this bold and brave move he/she receives great reward each and every day but it is not like putting up a Mezuza which MUST be done, no questions asked.
I shared this with Rabbi Nachman Kahana who made Aliyah from NY over 50 years ago. He laughed and told me that the whole discussion was rather silly. He explained his position via a parable: Reuven marries Sarah. It is just after the Chupa and the young, fresh couple is alone in the yichud room. Sarah looks into Reuven’s eyes and asks, “Reuven, tell me why you married me – I need to know.” Reuven, being the bright Talmid Chacham that he is looks at her and answers, “Sarah, I married you because now I can keep many mitzvot that I have been unable to perform. With Hashem’s help we will have children – that’s Pru U’rvoo. B’ezrat Hashem one of those will be a boy – that’s Brit Milah and maybe even a bachor – that’s Pidyon Ha’ben. Thanks to you my dear Sarah, I can now keep dozens of mitzvot! Thank you for marrying me!!!”
Rabbi Kahana then asked me, “What do you think Sarah’s reaction will be if Reuven answers her question in that way?” He should have answered as follows: “My dear Sarah. Until you came into my life, my soul was incomplete. I searched for my soul mate and Hashem guided me to you. Together, we are complete. We are one. Without you, I am nothing. I am broken and insignificant. Now that you have come into my life, I am alive. I am a full being and together with you, we will serve our Father and King in complete purity and holiness. I simply could not do it without you.”
Rabbi Kahana then repeated his question, word for word: “What do you thing Sarah’s reaction will be if Reuven answers her question in that way?” He then told me, “Shmuel, THAT is how you make Aliyah. Not because of the mitzvot you can only keep in Israel. It is because without Israel, life for a Jew is incomplete. A Jew must understand that for him, Israel is his soul-mate. His neshama needs to be there for without it he is broken and insignificant, just like a young man before he finds his bashert. There’s no difference.”
This is what I meant when I titled the article “Living a Life of Israel”. It means that even though you are presently 6,000 miles away you must understand and constantly be aware that your present position is temporary. You must set a date to move there, even if it is 10 years away. You must then plan your move. I would start by learning Hebrew and thanks to the internet you can arrive in Israel speaking like a Sabra. (Note: This will also help you learn Torah better since Rashi, the Vilna Gaon, the Chofetz Chaim and Rav Moshe Feinstein all wrote in Hebrew) Plan your education and profession accordingly and don’t renovate your house – unless it will make you sell it easier, faster and for more money. Every move you make must be done with this goal in mind since that is where you need to be.
Does this mean that Jews outside of Israel are bad? Absolutely not! They are good, wonderful, holy people whom I love and that is why I am writing these words. It is because I love you all that I am taking the time to stress this point: Come home. Hashem did not just free our fathers from slavery – he also took us out of Egypt. He could have left us there and we would have set up amazing shuls, yeshivas and chessed organizations in Goshen. We could have flourished and produced many great Torah sages but Hashem clearly did not want that. He realized that in the future a few Jews may in fact wander back to places like Egypt, Lithuania, Canada and the USA but the focus, the goal, the mission and the completeness could only be in one place. In that place we are not communities – we are “Am Yisrael” – the Nation of Israel!!
I urge you all and literally beg you to stop thinking of Israel as a place to spend Sukkot or to go to for a year after high school. This tiny land is where our friend Reuven looks into Sarah’s eyes – or better yet; where each of you look into Hashem’s “eyes” and says, “Without Your land, I am incomplete. My soul yearns for Your soil and only within its borders can I serve You as You instructed. Please – my Father and King – bring me to Your land in happiness and plant me in its borders. In the meantime, I will serve You here outside the land but this is like a prince serving the king outside the palace. Grant me the wisdom to understand that this is what must be done and the courage to act upon it.”
See you in Jerusalem!