At Emunah Therapy, R' Sholom Arush on Aliyah. An excerpt:
and another followup:ZB: What is Reb Shalom’s message to the Jewish people living outside of Israel?Rabbi Cassouto: The Rav feels very sad for the Jewish people who are living outside of Israel. He says that it appears to Hashem that Israel is not important to them and that they don’t appreciate that Israel is a wonderful gift to us from Hashem. After all, in the Torah, it doesn’t say that Hashem gave us the United States or any other country it says that he choose us to receive Israel. That means we need to live in it.
ZB: How would Reb Shalom answer those people who say that they don’t need to make Aliyah now because of Hashem’s promise that He Himself will redeem them when the time is right?
Rabbi Cassouto: I’ll tell you what Rav Shalom said. I heard it with my own ears. Hashem is going to tell those people (who are waiting for Hashem to redeem them) who do you think you are? Do you think that you are so important that Hashem is going to rescue you first? Of course Hashem will not forget about you but first he will save his closest servants; those who serve him from Jerusalem; next he will save those who live in the surrounding parts of Israel and the last ones to receive His help will be those who live outside of Israel.There is also this from the delusional tractor driver, Nir Ben Artzi, courtesy of Bat Aliyah:
All Jews who are in the diaspora, are there only for the sake of money! In the 1940’s and 1950’s, when Jews arrived in Eretz Yisrael – they kissed the holy ground and were happy to sleep on it! When we love Eretz Yisrael and its holy Land – this is the strongest and most unique sign that we love the Holy One! When one lives in the diaspora – you don’t love the Holy One! And when we don’t love the Holy One – woe unto us! Danger exists for all Jews in the world –except in the holy Eretz Yisrael! Do not deceive the Master of the world and “play hide and seek with Him”! The Holy One can reach you anywhere you are! Let there not be one Jew who says the Holy One didn’t call him! Every Jew should understand that the Holy One has called him to Eretz Yisrael! Let him not argue that he didn’t understand!I think that it is untrue that American Jews are not making aliyah only because of money. It is not like I am making big bucks here! Rather, there are a number of factors that feed into reluctance for American Jews to make aliyah. I'll list a few that come to mind.
A) I am a coward.
Not having grown up in a country with a mandatory and active draft, I find it scary to have to serve in the army. There are those religious Jews who do serve in the American army, navy, etcetera, but they are few. While those people who choose to serve are heroes, and I admire them for it, I have not volunteered myself for it.
Now, I am of sufficient age that if I made aliyah, I probably would not have to serve and subject myself to the danger. But this is not true for my children. Can I really make the choice for them, and subject them to this danger? And if they were killed of maimed because of my ideology, could I forgive myself?
Similarly, some people might find the threat of terrorism terrifying. There were plenty of bus bombings during my year in Israel, such that, for a time, I avoided taking the bus. It is no small thing to choose to move to a country where you subject yourself and your family to such a risk. Now, start spouting statistics at me to prove that it is just as risky in the US. Or that since the apocalypse is coming, it is safest in Israel. In terms of the former, I don't find it convincing. In terms of the latter, I think you are a lunatic.
B) I value religious freedom, and so I value separation of shul and state.
Religious coercion is a major turn-off for many American Jews. Many of us grew up in a culture of religious pluralism. Not that we think that other religions or even other Jewish subgroups have it right. Rather, we acknowledge that different people have different ideas and beliefs, and recognize that if each group seeks to impose their beliefs on others, it would not be a good thing. Especially if you are not the majority, since it would be other (wrong) groups imposing on you. And so, as a social contract, no group should seek to impose its religious views on others.
In Israel, as in other places, there are various subgroups who believe that they are right. But then, they seek to impose their beliefs on the greater community. This could be secular coercion of the religious, religious coercion of the secular, charedi coercion of the national religious, Ashkenazic coercion of the Sefardim, etcetera. See one example here.
I am religious, but I don't think that it is a good idea for the rabbinate to be in charge of marriages in Israel. Or for tznius standards -- even my own! -- to be imposed on an unwilling populace. And so on and so forth.
And I think that it might well be more religiously and emotionally healthy to live in a community where I am free to practice my religion as I choose, and am not drawn into local or national political arguments to either impose or defend my way of life.
C) I have a big mouth.
And, I value the freedom of speech guaranteed by the US Constitution. I see the impositions on free speech imposed by laws about incitement and libel, and I see Reb Nati harassed by the Shabak, and I am uncertain whether I would want to move to a country with such restrictions on expression.
D) I don't speak the language.
Yes, there is a language barrier, even though I can understand and speak Hebrew pretty well. In part, it is due to my being an introvert, and my general hesitative nature. To really speak a language fluently, you need to be unafraid of making mistakes and embarrassing yourself in common conversation. So I might end up speaking a broken Hebrew or being afraid to speak.
E) I value my extended family.
I want my kids to grow up knowing their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. This won't likely happen if they are separated from them by an ocean. Perhaps if everyone would make aliyah together, this would not present a difficulty.
F) I don't want to abandon my current social support structure.
Some people rely more heavily than others on family and friends to help out. This can be emotional support, practical support in deeds, or financial support when you stumble. This support net might not be there, or would be there to a lesser degree, if one moves to another country.
G) Yes, money is an issue.
But that does not make American Jews avaricious jerks, who care more about fancy cars and money in the bank account more than Hashem. It is not money, but the repercussions of having vs. not having money. (Not that I really have it to a great degree, here.) For example:
- Having money means that you can send your kids to a better yeshiva, with caring teachers and a small class size, instead of 25 kids packed into a room which has recently been split to half its size, to support more classes.
- Having money means that you can live in more spacious quarters, rather than squeezing your large family into a tiny apartment with thin walls.
- Having money means that you don't have to neglect medical care, or a nutritional diet, for yourself and your children.
Etcetera, etcetera, and so forth. I understand that some people in Israel think that Americans are all wealthy. But it is not the case. And it takes money to make aliyah, and it will take money to live there.
I have heard Israelis speak about how Americans are spoiled, and unwilling to part with certain luxuries. But I would remind them of the details of the mitzvah of tzedaka. One is supposed to give the pauper in accordance with the standard of living he used to have. If you moved an Israeli to an African country where there was no plumbing, and where people showered once a year, and where they only ate a diet of unwashed rice and beans, that Israeli might see it as undue hardship. So too, moving from one standard of living to a lower standard of living is no small feat for an American, even if the Israeli might not recognize it as a hardship. It could be emotionally draining, and have impact on things like shalom bayis.
H) Is it really so important?
Culturally, we don't see living in Israel as a sine qua non for living a committed, fulfilling, religious Jewish life. Yes, I am aware of what the Ramban says. But does Rambam argue with him?
Our communities have lived for centuries outside of the land of Israel, and indeed lived wonderful, committed, Jewish lives. That Jews now have Eretz Yisrael is indeed a wonderful gift. And it is indeed a wonderful thing to move to Eretz Yisrael and perform the mitzvos hateluyos ba'aretz. But at the same time, no, I don't think that religious nationalistic feelings should trump the entirety of Jewish belief and practice. There is so much more to Judaism than just Eretz Yisrael, and it seems that aliyah proponents (especially in citing the Ramban) just dismiss. There is Torah, there is gmilut chassadim, there is developing a kesher with Hashem, and so on and so forth.
And indeed, due to considerations I mentioned above, it is possible that some Jews might find it more religiously optimal to live in communities in America.
And so I take exception to R' Arush's declaration that:
Hashem is going to tell those people (who are waiting for Hashem to redeem them) who do you think you are? Do you think that you are so important that Hashem is going to rescue you first? Of course Hashem will not forget about you but first he will save his closest servants; those who serve him from Jerusalem; next he will save those who live in the surrounding parts of Israel and the last ones to receive His help will be those who live outside of Israel.
By "closest", surely R' Arush does not mean closest in proximity. Hashem is Omnipresent and Omnipotent. He can't be describing a limitation to Hashem's proximity or ability. Rather, he seems to mean "closest servants" as those who are emotionally closer to Him, and those who value Hashem more. I think this is a pretty big leap. I'll turn around the question to ask him "who do you think you are?" Hashem, not R' Arush, is the one who is bochen kelayos valev, to know a person's thoughts.
You might have a real jerk, who is sure of himself and slightly mistreats people in day to day activities, and who publicly breaks Mordechai Ben David's and Schwecky's music CDs, but who is religious and who lives in Israel because he was born there or because he bought in to Nir Ben Artzi's nonsense, or into the autistics' nonsense. And on the other hand, you might have a chassid living in Chicago who does not move to Israel because his rebbe did not tell him to do so, but who treats everyone kindly and runs ten different gmachs for people in need.
Just because the jerk lives in Israel, that does not mean that he is Hashem's closest servant, more so that the selfless fellow living in Chicago. And it does not necessarily mean that the chassid loves Hashem less.
Unless I am misjudging R' Arush and he indeed means proximity, with Yerushalayim at the center, surrounding Israel next, and outside Israel last, because of the way mashiach will arrive.