Sunday, May 31, 2009

Would Rav Azulai tell us to listen to random meshuganas?

Dreaming of Moshiach has an interesting post, which would likely be positive in the general case, but which I react negatively to due to the context of the rest of her posts. This time, rather than citing random crazy dreamers or exploiters of the disabled, she cites a genuine kabbalist, though a deceased one, Rabbi Avraham Azulai. His message is about the benefit which will accrue to those few who make it to Israel, who made themselves not care about materialism or physical safety. She does not explain why she is citing it, but her point seems to be that whether or not the Tzaddik Nistar is right, people should be in Israel anyway, so it is a good thing; or else that it is not a righteous rejoinder that people should be concerned about parnassa.

Let us first analyze the words of Rabbi Azulai, zatzal. He wrote:
Know, that it is an accepted tradition in our hands, that on the day that King Mashiach will come with the ingathering of the exiles to the Land of Israel, there will be found in the Land 7000 of the children of Israel. On this same day, the dead of the Land of Israel shall be restored to life.


All the children of the ingathered exiles, with worry in their hearts and anguish in their souls, will cry out to King Mashiach. They ask, we also are the nation of the Children of Israel like them. Why have they merited to be spiritual beings in body and soul, and not us? Why are we less?

The Mashiach shall answer them saying, "The character of the Holy One, Blessed be He is already known and famous; He gives to each one 'measure for measure'. These people also dwelled outside of the Land, and after great effort they succeeded to come to the Land of Israel, in order to merit a purified soul. They cared not for their physical or material well being. They came by sea and by land, and were not dissuaded by the dangers of the sea or of being robbed along their journey. They suffered under cruel regimes, all for the sake of the essence of their spirit and soul. Therefore, have they become complete spiritual beings, measure for measure.

However all of you, who had the ability to come to the Land of Israel, as they did, were discouraged over concern for your finances. You were worried about your physical safety and your money. These, you made to be the principle things in your lives, and not your spirit and soul. Therefore have you remained physical beings".
Now, it is interesting that he wrote this in Chesed LeAvraham. He wrote this when already in Eretz Yisrael. But why did he leave his native Fez? Not because things were so great there. To cite Jewish Encyclopedia:
The expulsion of the Moors from Spain brought a great number of the exiles to Morocco, and these newcomers caused a civil war from which the country in general and the Jews in particular suffered greatly. Abraham Azulai, in consequence of this condition of affairs, left his home for the Land of Israel and settled in Hebron.
So his own decision to make aliyah did not to be one of abandoning physical and material well-being for Israel, where this was lacking. Absent the suffering in Morocco, it is quite possible he would have lived out his days there.

What about the 7000 Jews in Israel for which Rav Azulai has a tradition? That is, he said:
Know, that it is an accepted tradition in our hands, that on the day that King Mashiach will come with the ingathering of the exiles to the Land of Israel, there will be found in the Land 7000 of the children of Israel. 
This tradition made sense back in the early 1600s when Rav Azulai wrote Chessed LeAvraham. Indeed, 7000 was close to the number of Jews in Israel at that time. See the following chart, courtesy of

(Note: The figures for the Arab population include both Muslims and Christians. Christians were about 8-10 percent of the total, but for our purpose it's easier to just view them together.)

YearArab PopulationJewish Population

Nowadays, has his "tradition" been shown to be incorrect? He spoke of 7000 individual Jews in Israel. There are now many millions of Jews in Israel. (And don't give me that sinas chinam garbage about most Jews being erev rav.) As such, it seems strange to try to apply his words here. Also he speaks of them as suffering under cruel regimes in Israel, not applicable today.

Are the people who are listening to the lunatic whom Nava is endorsing among this select 7000, who disregarded material and physical concerns and are coming to Israel regardless? It would seem to me to be the opposite. They are being frightened about their physical and material survival in the US -- that there will be nuclear attacks on the US, and that the economy will collapse here, and that the only place to survive and prosper is in Israel. So how can you apply Rav Avraham Azulai's words to the present situation?

Meanwhile, Rav Azulai is deceased. He is not assessing the present-day situation; and he is not assessing the claims of the meshugaim; and he is not present to make sure his words are applied correctly. Meanwhile, there are plenty of holy rabbis who are alive today, and can give counsel, for or against. Consult your local Orthodox rabbi if you want, and make sure he is well-aware of your present situation in life.

My own position is that making aliyah is a good thing. However, it is a major life change and must be done with care, so that it is successful. Frantically running off because of the words of a lunatic is a good way of making it more likely that the aliyah won't last -- because of unsettled finances, not having a good and secure job lined up, not being prepared for Israeli language and culture, and being severely disappointed and disillusioned when the apocalypse fails to surface. Also, there are situations in which aliyah is not the optimal solution for one's spiritual needs. And halacha recognizes this.

If you desire to make aliyah, make a five-year plan. During those years, take an ulpan; connect with an aliyah organization, go to Israeli job fairs, check out the real estate market here and in Israel; research places in Israel which would be a good cultural fit; prepare your children for the transition, make certain that they have schools in Israel which would meet their needs. These just off the top of my head.

And most important, go because it is a great place to live Jewishly, not because some false and hysterical prophet or prophetess shouted that the sky is falling.

1 comment:

Yosef Greenberg said...

Can it possibly mean that out of the entire Jewish population in Israel, there will be 7,000 who will merit a higher spiritual reward. I find it hard to destroy a tradition this easily.

Regardless, this is a great post. By making your position clear on Aliyah, you just cut ahead of all of them. I was just waiting for them to attack you for "hating Eretz Yisrael".


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