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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Major Paradigm Shift

Is the decision of whether to live in Jersey or Jerusalem, Baltimore or Beit Shemesh, Monsey or Modi’in one of personal choice? After all, in Teaneck, in Baltimore, in Monsey, all the necessities of Orthodox life can be found in abundance. Here in Baltimore, there are six restaurants where you can get a taste of kosher pizza (seven, if you count pizza bagels). The American cities where religious Jews tend to congregate are rich with resources – day schools, synagogues, mikvaot, chesed organizations, kosher groceries, eruvin, etc. etc.

It’s really a matter of where you feel the most comfortable. Where your family is. Where your parnassa is the most certain and secure. Most of us know, on some level, that Israel is a religious ideal. And maybe someday, we’ll get there. Or maybe our children. Or grandchildren. But we don’t speak the language and fear that we’ll never learn at our age. And it’s so hard to make a living there. And we just built an addition on our house. And our shul is in the process of expanding again. And the government in Israel is so anti-religious. At least in America, the government tolerates, and even protects, religious people.

Rabbi Pinchas Winston was here in Baltimore teaching last Sunday. He gave two sessions, both of which I was privileged to attend.

At the first session, he met with a small group of people, all religious women, and as he spoke, as I realized the significance of what he was saying, my head started to spin.

Here’s what he described, according to my understanding. The simplicity of the language is mine. His was much more scholarly.

Each nation, except Eretz Yisrael, has a sar, a representative angel which has the power to intercede on behalf of its nation. Eretz Yisrael is overseen directly by Gd. Tefillot (prayers) spoken in the Land of Israel go straight up to shamayim (the heavenly realm). Torah study and other mitzvot completed in the Land and the kedusha (holiness) they generate go straight up.

The kedusha of prayer, Torah study and mitzvot done in other lands takes a more circuitous route before it can get to shamayim. It must pass through the sar of other nations, and when it does, each sar, each representative angel, retains a portion.

Which means that every bit of kedusha generated outside of Israel feeds the koach, the strength, of other nations.

So, according to this paradigm, to be a Torah-observant Jew outside of Israel actually works to strengthen the host nation which may use (and often has used) that strength against the Jews in its midst. It also greatly diminishes the spiritual strength of the mitzvot done outside The Land.

If what he's teaching is really so, Jersey or Jerusalem, Baltimore or Beit Shemesh, Monsey or Modi'in is hardly a pareve choice anymore.

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