Wednesday, November 17, 2010
We Are Here
My thoughts frequently turn to Hashem to ask for help managing the multiple challenges with which my family is being faced.
And I remind myself to be grateful for the fact that, no matter how much pressure gets heaped upon us, we are here.
Over Shabbat, I had a conversation with two lovely young women from North America who are here for the year, studying at a decidedly non-Tzioni seminary. We were debating whether, in the absence of the Third Holy Temple, it is an obligation in Jewish law to live in Israel.
In truth, there is debate on this point in the rabbinic literature, primarily because the Rambam (Maimonides) did not explicitly list living in Israel as one of the 613 mitzvot. The RambaN (Nachmanides), asserts that the Rambam made a mistake by not explicitly listing aliyah as a positive commandment in Sefer HaMitzvot. The RambaN does consider living here as a binding commandment for every observant Jew, for all time. In his commentary on parshat Achrei Mot, the RambaN teaches, "that the fundamental aim of all the Torah precepts is to see the whole of Israel dwelling in the Land."
Indeed, it's possible to argue, based on other teachings, such as the idea that if a husband wants to make aliyah and his wife does not, he may divorce her and she forfeits the protection of her ketubah, that the Rambam essentially agrees.
Why then, might he have chosen not to explicitly list aliyah as one of the 613 mitzvot? I can think of several reasons.
Perhaps he felt it was so fundamental a concept that it didn't need to be articulated. Perhaps he took for granted that the necessity to live in Israel would be clear to his readers.
To my mind, it's more likely that Hashem wanted us to get the spiritual reward for figuring it out.
Rabbi Yehudah He-Hasid traveled through Poland urging aliyah and finally came to Eretz Yisrael with hundreds of followers in 1700. The Chatam Sofer sent Jews to Eretz Yisrael in 1799, urging his followers to take concrete measures to help bring about the Redemption. The Vilna Gaon sent several waves of students to settle here in 1808-10. These are just a few examples of rabbinic support for aliyah.
All before the establishment of the Third Holy Temple. And all way before May 14, 1948. Does Hashem returning dominion over Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people through the hands of the nations of the world change the halachic obligation?
It seems to me that there is enough ambiguity in the sources to argue that one can stay in Lakewood, Monsey, Flatbush or Baltimore for now.
It frustrates me that I haven't yet crafted a compelling case for why choosing to live your life in someone else's country is, minimally, chaval and, at least according to the RambaN, a violation of Jewish law.
But mostly, it hurts my heart to hear Torah Jews justify it because the Moshiach is not yet revealed and the Third Holy Temple is not yet standing on Har HaBayit. My understanding of Redemption is that it's a process in which we have to participate, not some kind of heavenly chocolate bar that we will be handed, all wrapped up in shiny paper.
I'm grateful that we're here already and I worry for the Jews that are ensconced elsewhere, having chosen to take a "wait-and-see" approach. And that gratitude extends even to weeks like this one, when every day brings with it a new test.
Posted by Rivkah Lambert Adler at 1:40 PM