Monday, August 26, 2013
Maybe We're Wrong
We are stymied, and sometimes, to be honest, holier-than-thou. We saw the light. We sacrificed. We picked up our lives and moved to Israel. We saw the direction of Jewish history. We watch in horror as the light of the Jewish people outside of Israel dims. We think we know what's coming and it will not be pretty. And we can't understand why they can't see what we see.
WHY AREN'T THEY COMING??
Then it occurred to me.
Rabbi Nachman Kahana explains that the reason why aliyah (as in, getting called to the Torah) and aliyah (as in, moving to Israel) are the same word is because Hashem calls each of us to make aliyah one at a time, by name, exactly as an individual is called to the Torah.
Many of us who are here share the common experience of "getting the call". Many of us are aware that we were called to move to Israel. Whether we say we caught the aliyah bug, we had our aliyah switch turned on, or whatever language we use, many of us can describe the decision to make aliyah as having been, if you will, Divinely inspired.
With somewhere between 3 and 5 million Jews left in America, why are only 3,000 or so coming each year? It's absolutely true that there are those who would like to come, some very desperately, but they have compelling circumstances that force them to stay in America for now - elderly parents, family connections they are unwilling to break, health concerns, child custody issues, an unwilling spouse, etc. The vast majority, however, never give living in Israel a thought.
It sounds haughty of us, but we commonly assume that American Jews, especially religious American Jews who "ought to know better" are too consumed with their materialistic lives - unwilling to give up their big house, their government job, their comfortable lifestyle, their positions of communal influence - to follow Gd's command and live here in the Palace of the King. But what if we're wrong? What if Hashem, for His own reasons, doesn't actually want all the Jews to come to Israel just yet?
Rabbi Pinchas Winston teaches that everything that occurred to the Jewish people during the Exodus from Egypt will recur in our days as we approach the Final Redemption. So let's consider some things that happened then which just might be recurring today.
In Egypt, Pharaoh was unable to see what was really going on right in front of his eyes. We say that Hashem hardened Pharaoh's heart, preventing him from having a clear vision and making a different choice. Is it possible that the American Jews who have not yet "received the call" are subject to the same Divinely-inspired blindness? I'm suggesting that maybe it's not their fault. Maybe Hashem is preventing them from seeing the bigger picture. Just as He hardened Pharaoh's heart.
The Israelite slaves had the lowest standing in Egyptian society. Redeeming a group with power and influence, such as the elevated status the family of Yosef enjoyed in Egypt while Yosef was still alive, is not as big a miracle as redeeming the group with the least amount of prestige. Maybe Hashem's plan is to leave the majority of Jews in America and have their economic and social status decline to such an extent that when He decides to redeem them, it will be an even greater miracle because He chose to redeem a degraded people. Just like He did in Egypt.
Finally, the Israelite slaves did not leave Egypt one at a time, or even 3,000 a year. They left together in one huge, miraculous exodus. Maybe Hashem is keeping the majority of Jews in America specifically in order to redeem them en masse. Just like He did in Egypt.
I'm not suggesting that I know for sure that this is the case. It is, in the words of Jonathan Swift, a modest proposal, a kinder, gentler way to think about the Jews who remain in America without any intention of making aliyah.
While it's extraordinarily gratifying to welcome olim who are even newer than ourselves, especially when they are cherished friends and family from The Old Country, it's a fact that the number of American Jews who make aliyah each year are a tiny minority relative to the number of Jews who are not coming. Whether you are already privileged to live in Israel or whether you are firmly rooted in America, I want to hear what you think. Does the possibility I have outlined here, that Hashem doesn't want all the Jews to come to Israel just yet, strike you as plausible?
Posted by Rivkah Lambert Adler at 2:17 PM