Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why not make aliyah?

Note: Please don't judge this as a call to not make aliyah. I am not saying that people should not make aliyah. It is indeed a big mitzvah and zechus. But at the same time, I am against clueless people in Israel misjudging those who do not make aliyah as being motivated purely by greed or by not loving Hashem. Such criticism and rhetoric might inspire a few folks to make aliyah, and certainly serves to make the primary audience, inside Eretz Yisrael, feel good about themselves and better than Jews in the diaspora. But at the same time, it might well be motzi shem ra about committed Jews living abroad.

At Emunah Therapy, R' Sholom Arush on Aliyah. An excerpt:
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.
and another followup:
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.

46 comments:

Avi said...

My wife and I are in the midst of planning Aliyah for later this year. I have to say that I agree emphatically with many of your points. Making Aliyah is hard. We will be leaving our families behind, and I will be leaving life-long friends. (Thankfully, my wife has many friends currently living in Israel.)

B"H, I have good employment where I am. My profession is in demand in Israel, but looking for work is never fun, nor guaranteed to be easy. I have the exact same problem with language that you have, though I don't read it nearly as well.

Still, making Aliyah is something we discussed when dating, and we both really want to do it. Maybe we'll be back in America in a few years, but we're both ready to give it a try. You don't know what you're capable of until you do.

yaak said...

1) Did you mean to name the post, "Why not to make aliyah"? The way it sounds now seems that you are giving it as a suggestion to people rather than showing why it's not so great.

2) Those who encourage Aliya say that the Rambam didn't list it as a Mitzva for various reasons, but not that he doesn't consider it a Mitzva. For instance, see here:
הרמב"ן כלל מצווה זו במניין התרי"ג. לעומתו הרמב"ם לא הביאה בספר המצוות שלו, יש המסבירים עובדה זו בכך שהרמב"ם לא כלל מצוות כלליות בספר המצוות-הכלל הרביעי בספר המצוות של הרמב"ם.

3) I believe that Aliya should be something encouraged, not discouraged. That said, many have very valid reasons for not doing it at the moment, like some of the ones you offered (namely, E, F, and G) while some of the reasons I don't really consider valid (namely, A, B, C, D, and H). I believe that every Rosh Hashana, people in the diaspora should make a Heshbon Hanefesh and ask themselves, "Do I really have a good reason for staying here or should I be making Aliya?" If they don't have a good reason, they should go to their local Aliya office and open a file on Tzom Gedalia.

joshwaxman said...

yaak:
in terms of (2), read the link and see the Rambam there making that very point, I think.

still, i was referring to certain other statements of Ramban, such as: "The Ramban adds that not only are there mitzvot that "depend upon the Land", but ALL mitzvot are fully able to be fulfilled ONLY in Eretz Yisrael. One must do mitzvot elsewhere, primarily as practice to the proper per formance of mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael."

in terms of (3), while **you** might not consider (A, B, C, D, H) valid, that is because you are a different person than me (or other people) with different beliefs and personality. but that is irrelevant. these are real reasons that are motivating people, which are not just greed for money or not loving Hashem, contraray to the motzi shem ra of certain people in EY.

kol tuv,
josh

yaak said...

You are correct that people do tell themselves these reasons of A, B, C, D, and H to motivate themselves to stay), but for almost everyone, they are just things people say to make themselves feel better and have no basis in reality.

A) Call me a lunatic if you wish, but I do believe it is safest in Israel in the next few years. As far as kids not joining the army, you are already making the choice for them by NOT subjecting them to the army and helping to protect the Jewish people. How can you forgive yourself for that?

B) I'm not such a fan of separation of shul and state since I know who will take over when that happens.
But, you, who are for its separation, this is a reason not to go to Israel?!
Coercion does happen and I don't like it either, but it only happens by a minority of people in a minority of places and in a minority of circumstances. Wouldn't it be nicer to not know when X-mas is coming (in early October)? Wouldn't it be nicer to know that the whole country is attuned to Sukkot, Pesah, Shabbat, Yom Kippur, etc.? Wouldn't it be nicer to know that there are people throughout the country who you could make a Minyan with and not be limited to your neighborhood? If this were the only reason, I'll stick with the coercion.

C) Again, a minority of people, a minority of places, and in a minority of circumstances. Freedom of expression is for the most part upheld.

D) Either 1)get practice before you go or 2)talk only English. There are many Anglo communities.

H) Yes, it is important, and I wish I could do it myself. You are correct that for some people, if they don't find the right community, the right rabbi, the right friends, etc., the move could be detrimental to their faith. However, this should not be used as a reason for the general public. The gemara doesn't say כמי שאין לו א-לוה for those in the Diaspora for no reason.

joshwaxman said...

"but for almost everyone, they are just things people say to make themselves feel better and have no basis in reality."

I think that is what pro-aliyah people tell themselves about other Jews. In terms of (H), for example, I think it is an accurate reflection of Jewish culture and belief, whether or not it can be supported by the sources. (And I think it can indeed be supported, and is indeed correct.)

I could argue with each of your points, but it is irrelevant, and will make you and others think that this is about the "validity" of each of these reasons. Yes, these are what I think are reasons that people generally have. And so it is not just about the money.

Anonymous said...

Josh, yashar koach!
Finally someone said something about the way us Diaspora Jews are being treated and thought of. I have been struggling with this issue for a few years now. As a fellow Jew, I feel that every time that Nir Ben Artzi gives his Drashas he is encouraging hate and dissent between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, and the worse part is that no one in Israel speaks out. When he says for us to send our money (which we barley have...) to Israel and our Torah's and tells us that we are here because of greed basically no one says anything, like where is Ahavat Israel or who are you to speak like that about fellow Jews?

We all know it's a mitzva to move to Israel, why the patronizing tone? We are all Klal Yisrael not just Jews who live there. What Rav Arush said is completely unacceptable, as a Jew who love Rabbi Nachman, I am so sad to hear this. Rabbi Nachman taught to love every Jew no matter where he lives and he himself couldn't make Aliya. Also Josh, what about people that don't qualify for the Aliya program? Like a returning citizen and their families? They will have to make Aliya on their own with no help, not even from the Jewish Agency. What about the elderly? Are they rich and spoiled? And the widows and the poor or our people in the Diaspora, what about them?
They put us all in one basket, those who have the money and can do this should if they choose to. Those who can't have to trust in HaShem and love him and just wait for him! But to be told by Jews in Israel that we will all die so we should just go ahead and send our money, Etc...is unacceptable! Who allows them to condemn us like that and to tell us, "who do you think you are...HaShem is going to save us first.." or " only we love him becaus we live here" what is this nonsense?

I think that you made your point about not discouraging Aliya quite well and I don't understand why are some in the blog a saying that you didn't. The one thing I know is that every single time tries to voice his opinion about this issue he is attacked, it's such a double standard.

I thank you for writing this as a mom and as a Jew who loves HaShem, please don't stop writing about this matter.

P. Almonius said...

Did you read Nati's entire post? Does it sound any less delusional than the tractor driver?

"And the side of evil literally are killing people over their fear of what will be."

"I indeed fear an 'accident' or 'heart attack' soon."

joshwaxman said...

indeed.

still, he was questioned by Shabak.

and it was just one random example of many. I recall the following story from my year in Israel.

it was right after the Rabin assassination. a man was waiting in line at the bank. a teller called out 'who is next?' and the man replied, 'peres'. the police were called and he was arrested.

they arrested someone who did a pulsa denura on rabin for incitement. etc., etc.

Moriah said...

Personally I've had it with the arrogance of those who, now that they've made aliyah, they feel superior and holier that a mere galut Jew:

http://bataliyah.blogspot.com/2012/02/courage-to-tell-truth.html

".... can any thinking, learned Jew take seriously the idea that the tefilos coming out of 13th Avenue in Boro Park, or President Street in Crown Heights or even Forest Ave. in Lakewood N.J. have an iota of influence in the Shamayim on the fate of the holy Jews in Yerushalayim and Eretz Yisrael?"

Anonymous said...

Josh, your concerns are very real to many Jews I know.

I would encourage Jews to make aliyah, so that they can experience EY the way it is, i.e. living under the Zionist regime. Many Jews who made aliyah with me have left Israel for one reason or another -- parnasa, schooling, sickness, housing, Israeli culture, etc. Making aliyah before Moshiach doesn't guarantee permanence. Another family I know is leaving EY back to England.

The best thing is to experience living in EY for a while and see if you can stomach it for as long as possible. Every Jew will be tested under the harshest possible conditions, as the stakes are higher in EY. But it's a good test. The tests are different than in the Diaspora. The Yetzer Hara is greater in EY.

Many religious Jews once in EY, relax their standards -- this is a phenomenon. The Yetzer Hara is very great.

My advice is go live in EY as temporary residents and experience it for yourselves. There are many things you will like in EY.

The reason why Israel is #1 Facebook user is because of the many olim there who miss their families abroad and are addicted to Facebook so that they can connect with their family and friends abroad. Unfortunately, many school-age Israelis are also lost to Facebook. Not a good thing. The YEtzer Hara is much greater in EY.

One of Moshiach's job is to bring the Jews back to EY. Those who doubt that are not believers.

aiwac said...

R. Waxman,

While you make some good points, I feel you're arguing with the other extreme, i.e. the "ardent Zionist" who rejects everything (sort of like many a new BT, really).

I might also point out that the dismissal goes in both directions. Traditon, for instance had a regular section on "thought in Israel" for a while before it was discontinued and never returned.

A sad example of this is the YU volume on Modern Scholarship and the Torah, which came out in 1993. They brought a translation of the methods of R. Breuer - fully 33 years AFTER it was published in Israel. The same goes for a lot of other things.

Regardless of whether or not you wish to make aliyah, you have plenty to learn from us - no less than we from you.

Anonymous said...

"Having money means that you can live in more spacious quarters, rather than squeezing your large family into a tiny apartment with thin walls."

I am going to be moving into an apartment 1/3 the size of my "American Dream Home" and I am thrilled because I am in the Holy Land. Believe it or not, it is still spacious. All it takes is planning Sorry but your point is weak.

joshwaxman said...

"All it takes is planning Sorry but your point is weak."

It is weak for **you**, subjectively. Different things bother people to different extents. And you are addressing it as if it **alone** was the reason. But it surely can be a contributory factor, and is ONE of many reasons it is better TO have money rather than not have money. Note that I listed two other reasons money is a concern. How about another one, philosophically not wanting to be a financial drain on relatives? And this monetary concern stands alongside various other difficulties.

I don't want to name names, but I'll give one example of a few I know, of problems with apartments. I know a family with very active kids who were always running around in their apartment. And there were constant arguments with the neighbors below, who did not like the noise, and the parents yelling at the well-meaning kids, who constantly forgot themselves and ran everywhere in the apartment. They finally moved into a house and all this tension was resolved, which led to a much healthier dynamic.

Anonymous said...

http://jewishendofdays.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/why-live-in-ey/

edoardo said...

even if I disagree from you (but i'm italian and I actualy live on israrl) I found your opinion stimulating. as I mantain an italian blog about aliyah, I translated and published your post. you can find it at aliyah.it

Bat Aliyah said...

Actually Josh, I applaud you for your honesty. I think you've clearly stated the reasons why you, personally, don't plan to make aliyah. And I'm sure your reasons are shared by many, many others.

However, there is an essential point that seems to be missing from your analysis, a point that, no matter how many times I make in my blog posts, seems to be missed.

You, and many Jews who live outside of Israel, appear to be making an assumption that, at this point in time, aliyah is a matter of personal preference.

Let's say I was to concede that point, not because I think it's halachically correct, but because there are some minority opinions upon which one could rely. If aliyah is optional, your points are all valid. You could legitimately say, "Kol hakavod to people who want to live in Israel, but life is better for me in New York and that's my choice."

However, if aliyah is not halachically optional except in certain specific cases (e.g. caring for elderly parents, sharing custody of a minor child, etc.), then your arguments lose much of their potency.

We could argue forever about whether there is a solid halachic basis for staying in the diaspora, but here's the really crucial point.

When we are accused (as I frequently am) of thinking we are somehow above Jews in the diaspora because we live in Israel, what we are actually doing is engaging in pikuach nefesh. There are so many signs - in the news, in sifrei nevi'im and in Jewish history, that life outside of Israel is going to get increasingly precarious. My blog as well as many others have been pointing out these signs for months and, in some cases, for years. If we occasionally sound strident and even offensive, it's because we are increasingly desperate to be heard by the Jews we love who, in our opinion, refuse to see the signs of impending crisis in Jewish life outside of Israel.

Each of us must choose. If you believe that life in the diaspora will continue pretty much as it has for quite a long time to come and/or you believe that there is no halachic obligation to make aliyah b'zman hazeh, then your arguments are all legit.

However, those of us who believe that there is a halachic imperative to live in Israel and/or that scary times are coming for the Jews outside the Land often feel obligated to beg, plead and warn in order to save lives, even at the cost of being accused of all manner of unkind motives.

joshwaxman said...

Bat Aliyah:

Thank you for recognizing that these are real concerns that people have. To clarify a bit, Whether or NOT they are halachically entitled to make such a statement (they are), these are authentic concerns, which means that if someone says that American Jews are ONLY concerned with money, or they just don't love Hashem, then that person is slandering American Jews.

So it being halachically optional was not an assumption underlying the main thrust of my post.

In terms of the signs, I know that you and many others have been pointing out these signs for months or years. I have been observing and commenting on this phenomenon for years as well, on this blog. I am one of those who refuses to see the signs, because it appears that those concerned are following a bunch of neviei sheker (who have already made a bunch of false ketz predictions), are following amaratzim (whom I've demonstrated misinterpret midrashim, gemaras, and Zohars), and/or are poor judges of scale, nature, news, and history.

kol tuv,
josh

Anonymous said...

http://www.ravaviner.com/2010/04/obligation-to-make-aliyah-at-this-time.html

joshwaxman said...

Anonymous:

please choose a pseudonym.

yes, Rav Aviner says this. but for example see this shiur:

http://vimeo.com/3108141

where Rav Herschel Schachter summarizes the positions of Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Soloveitchik, that living in eretz yisrael is a mitzvah kiyumis rather than a mitzvah chiyuvis (basically a reshus rather than a chov).

it is at the 17 minute mark.

kol tuv,
josh

Yonatan said...

I am one of those who refuses to see the signs, because it appears that those concerned are following a bunch of neviei sheker (who have already made a bunch of false ketz predictions), are following amaratzim (whom I've demonstrated misinterpret midrashim, gemaras, and Zohars), and/or are poor judges of scale, nature, news, and history.

Poor judge of news, scale and history definitely applies here. I can appreciate a lot of the reasons that you have posted, however, to say that you don't recognize what is happening in the world today and the lead up to it, financially, is truly burying your head in the sand. Either you don't keep up with world and national financial matters or you really discount their importance. Either way - the system is broken and cannot be trusted.

joshwaxman said...

Yonatan:

I've discussed this at greater length elsewhere. I didn't say that we are not living in potentially dangerous times.

However, we have lived in dangerous times in the past. Think of the Great Depression, for a random example pulled out of my hat, for financial difficulties. Think of the Crusades, for a random example of military difficulties.

However, financial difficulties did not mean the apocalypse in those hundreds of other instances, and they don't necessarily mean the apocalypse now.

What the lunatics are doing is paying attention to the global feed of information, which makes it seem like everything is spinning out of control more than in the past, and concluding that we are right at the time of the Geulah. And then they badly apply selected and often misinterpreted kabbalistic sources to give advice on how to conduct oneself. For instance, that "the only safe place in the world will be Eretz Yisrael".

Nir Ben Artzi, as I demonstrated in another post, predicted an earthquake somewhere in the world over the course of the week, and his followers oohed and aahed, not realizing how common earthquakes are (hundreds per week). The same is true in many other realms, that they have no sense of scale and history.

That is not to say that we are not potentially living in troubling times.

Anonymous said...

It's a very intersting post, but I have to ask you something seriously.

Is there anything in your article that would not have applied to people during the Inquisition who were asked to convert to Christianity?

Is there anything in your article that would not have applied to the hellenized Jews who wished to join the Non-Jewish empires and fight against the Maccabees?

Can you really say that you believe in Judaism, and claim that now, when we own the land of Israel, and there is Jewish sovereignty here, and you could help change the way the country was run, that not moving is anything other than deciding that Judaism is not the most important thing in your life?

Anonymous said...

"http://vimeo.com/3108141

where Rav Herschel Schachter summarizes the positions of Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Soloveitchik, that living in eretz yisrael is a mitzvah kiyumis rather than a mitzvah chiyuvis (basically a reshus rather than a chov).

it is at the 17 minute mark."

Rather a lame excuse. Wearing Tzizit is also a Mitzva "kiyumis", as are a myriad of other mitzvot.



"I am one of those who refuses to see the signs, because it appears that those concerned are following a bunch of neviei sheker (who have already made a bunch of false ketz predictions), are following amaratzim (whom I've demonstrated misinterpret midrashim, gemaras, and Zohars), and/or are poor judges of scale, nature, news, and history."

Which signs are you talking about? I think the signs that the Geulah is happening now is obvious.

1. The land of Israel is flourish with produce and plants the world has never seen before.
2. Most Jews will live in Israel in the next 2 - 3 years if not already.

What other signs are you waiting for?

Anonymous said...

" Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Soloveitchik,"

Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Soloveitchik didn't live after the oslo accords.

joshwaxman said...

Anonymous:

I have a general policy in which I strongly insist that people who comment reveal their names, or at the least choose a consistent pseudonym.

I will choose one point to respond to, and will leave the others for later, if I choose, and if you do indeed choose a pseudonym.

Rather a lame excuse. Wearing Tzizit is also a Mitzva "kiyumis", as are a myriad of other mitzvot.
I never said "excuse". Bat Aliyah insisted it was a chiyuv, except for perhaps a daas yachid. So did the (anonymous) person who linked to Rabbi Aviner's post. This is demonstrating that it is not, according to two major American posekim.

But, once it is a reshus, then other factors may come into play, both personal factors and considering whether one's overall religious experience will be an optimal one. And people cannot condemn others so strongly for not opting to do the mitzvah kiyumis.

In terms of wearing tzitzis, let us grant that it is. (I've heard that bit of rhetoric before.) But so is (according to the Gra), eating matzah on Pesach, which IIRC was the precise example that Rav Schachter gave. (If a myriad of mitzvos are of this status, then why is the existence of this category so controversial, btw?) Do you eat as much matzah as you can on Pesach? And do you condemn others as being lowlifes for not eating matzah aside from the sedorim?

Why not?

kol tuv,
josh

joshwaxman said...

I'm giving into temptation and will respond to one or two other points.

"Which signs are you talking about?"

Why not ask Bat Aliyah and Yonatan. The signs they are referring to, that the apocalypse is nigh.

Why not read Tomer Devorah's blog and see what sorts of signs the geulah bloggers are talking about?

"Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Soloveitchik didn't live after the oslo accords."
Huh? Perhaps you would care to elaborate, how their analysis of the nature of the mitzvah, and why Gedolim through the generations did not make aliyah, would have changed had they known about the Olso Accords?

Or do you mean that NOW it is a different sort of mitzvah, because the end is nigh? They might not have agreed that you possess prophetic powers.

But please DO choose a pseudonym.

RandomTorahMusingsReader said...

"Why not ask Bat Aliyah and Yonatan. "

Didn't notice those comments before, sorry.


"Or do you mean that NOW it is a different sort of mitzvah, because the end is nigh? "

Not because the "end is nigh" but because the reality and the facts have changed.


" Do you eat as much matzah as you can on Pesach? And do you condemn others as being lowlifes for not eating matzah aside from the sedorim?
"

I don't, but those authorities who say that you don't have to live in Israel, do. It is dishonest to try to use an authority to claim that X mitzvah is "only optional", when that is not applied to all other mitzvot of the same category.

joshwaxman said...

avi/RandomTorahMusingsReader:

Thanks for choosing a pseudonym.

"I don't, but those authorities who say that you don't have to live in Israel, do."

No, I don't think that they do condemn people who don't eat as much matzah as possible. The category is one in which you did a good deed if you did it, and so you get points on high. At least, that is the presentation Rav Schachter gave of the category.

And also as described by Rav Schachter, Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Feinstein were explaining the actions of all the Gedolim throughout the generations who did not make aliyah, by saying that it was this category. Do you think that **they** would condemn someone for not fulfilling this "mitzvas reshus", when in fact the whole point was a defense?

And were they (Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Soloveitchik) being dishonest, or just me by repeating their words?

joshwaxman said...

Also, I don't think you are correct in your labeling of the mitzvah of tzitzis.

Tzitzis is a mitzvah chiyuvis. When you have a four-cornered garment, there is a chiyuv, an obligation, to put on tzitzis. This on the Biblical level. But, on a rabbinic level or less, we are directed to put ourselves into the realm in which we would have the obligation. This is not the same as a "mitzvas reshus", which carries no obligation on the Biblical level.

And while this is true for tzitzis, is it really the case that we ALWAYS must put ourselves into a position where we have a chiyuv? For instance:

* Do I need to seek out a bird's nest in order to be obligated to send away the mother bird?

* Do I need to bake bread every day, or a sufficient measure of dough, so that I am obligated to take off challah?

* Do I need to repeatedly divorce my wife (if I am not a kohen) so as to fulfill the mitzvah of divorcing via a get?

I don't think that this is actually true across the board. And anyway, this is about moving ourselves into a position of obligation. This is different from a mitzvah which is a reshus, where I get credit if I do it but where there is never the obligation setting in.

kol tuv,
josh

Natan Slifkin said...

"Can I really make the choice for them, and subject them to this danger? And if they were killed or maimed because of my ideology, could I forgive myself?"

If this is a statement of personal fear, I can understand it and sympathize. But the way that you phrased it, it sounds like you're making an objective argument that no parents have a right to make aliyah and subject their children to being enlisted. Is that really what you're saying?

joshwaxman said...

Thanks for pointing that out.

It was more a statement of personal fear or a non-personal expression of the fear that these parents might have, where I was trying to paint it in a light where they had an argument / point of view. (The same, actually, for others here, which I wrote in first person.) That perspective would be: how do we have the right to subject their children to it, when we are not willing to do it ourselves? (And as such, people with such a thought-process are not just spoiled, greedy Americans who really despise God and His Torah.)

I agree that for at least some of these (including this one) there is a valid counter-perspective. For instance, the one put forth by yaak above.

kol tuv,
josh

Yosh said...

Excellent post. One other thing I'd like to add.

Many, many rabbis, many of them quite big, don't encourage their talmidim to make alyiah. We can throw around Ramban and Rambam all day, but the bottom line is that if it was so unequivocal that we all need to move to Israel right now, there would be a lot less of a machlokes about that point. As far as I've seen, the national religious folks hold that you need to drop everything to do so instantly, but other than that, many others hold it's a good thing you should try to do but not at all costs. I'm not sure why we're acting like one specific group within the frum world's psak on this is controlling.

Personally, I'd love to make alyiah and am trying to mold my career into something I can do remotely or via monthly commute, but I don't think it's healthy to voluntarily impoverish myself and my family. It's not about giving up a nice house (I don't live in one). It's an issue of having literally no job prospects or usable skills in the country.

Avraham said...

I am one of those people who are of the opinion that all Jews should make aliya and that living in Israel is a central mitzva. I do not see myself as greater than those living in chutz laaretz as I am certainly not perfect and deficiencies that many of my friends over there do not. I do think that those who do not see aliya as an imperitive in Avodas Hashem are mistaken. I was wondering how you would field the following questions: (1) how is the diaspora community different than the community in Bavel who, for the most part, refused to return to Eretz Yisrael, in the times of Ezra and Nechemia? (2) How do you understand bracha of tika bashofar gadol in shmoneh esrei? It is preceded by brachos asking for health and parnassa. We do our hishtadlus for those, why should this be different?

joshwaxman said...

Avraham:

a very good attitude. and very good questions. in terms of (1), i have a post planned that might address it.

perhaps nothing at all. surely they also had their rationalizations why not to go. perhaps that this had been relatively shortly after the exile; combined with explicit prophecy of the shortness of the exile; that they had contemporary actual neviim (e.g. Chagai) who were not neviei sheker; and that it did not seem that there was rabbinic dispute over whether to stay or go.

but how is the diaspora community any different from the community in Bavel in the time of the Amoraim? yes, there were a few Amoraim who went back and forth. but the vast majority of people we look up to, and who we rely upon for halacha, did not make aliyah. Why didn't Rav Huna, Rav Sheshes, Ravina, Rav Ashi, Abayei, Rava, Rav Pappa, move themselves to Israel, and move their yeshivos to Israel? (Why did Rav Kahana only move when he was fleeing for his life?) and how were THEY different from the earlier community in Bavel, from the time of Ezra and Nechemiah? (I think Rav Yehuda's position, that one should stay in Bavel, is not as strong as Satmar takes it, as a real prohibition, but does stand as a counter to the brayta, and as somewhat indicative of the **general** rabbinic attitude, that there were good reasons [including religious ones] for staying in Bavel.)

in terms of (2), perhaps. but this is sevara and an assumption. maybe it is more similar to הָשִׁיבָה שׁופְטֵינוּ כְּבָרִאשׁונָה, which follows?

Avraham said...

The difference between the current diaspora community and every other since the days of Ezra is that Jews have control over Eretz Yisrael. As difficult as it is to move to Israel now, it has never been easier.
It is quite clear from the writings of many Jews from then till now that many great Jewish leaders yearned to come back to Israel but were not physically capable.
Regarding the brachos in shmoneh Esrei. Unlike VeHashiva Shofteinu, it is in our hands to bring Jews (ourselves and families) back to Israel. There is only so much the average Jew can do (other than tefillah and voting) to restore proper leadership to klal Yisrael.
I think there are halachik grounds to compare Yishuv Eretz Yisrael to other mitzvos, but on a machshava level, it's far more central to Avodas Hashem. Chazal include tzitzis or matza as one of the three things (along with Torah and Olam Habah) that are koneh b'yissurin.

joshwaxman said...

Truth be told, besides what I wrote above, I am a bit uncomfortable with looking at Biblical precedents and deciding on the basis of that. This is what Christian fundamentalists do, but not really what the Jewish hamon am typically does. To point to Ezra rather than point to the actions of the Amoraim (or Geonim, Rishonim, Acharonim) potentially is a way of remaking Judaism in accordance with whatever ideology is currently in vogue.

Avraham said...

(1) I heard the comparison from talmidei chachamim I respect. I didn't come up with it myself.
(2) I would call it learning from the Torah/History. I think it's done and encouraged by Rabbi's everywhere.
Your point about what can be done with this kind of thing is well taken.

Moshe Michael said...

I am a recent oleh who read your post with interest. Obviously, I support aliyah and wish that more Jews would consider it. Nevertheless, the reasons you list cannot be swept under the rug and may in fact be legitimate reasons for individuals not to come.
Until now, the approach to encouraging Western aliyah has been rather straightforward. Tell Jews that they need to come to Israel and throw them a few incentives to sweeten the deal. The approach is direct and may have succeeded in getting more Jews here (which is the goal, after all). However, its shortcoming is manifest in your post. The challenges of aliyah (and life in general) will differ for every individual, and no one can really appreciate the difficulties of the next guy. I sincerely wish that more Jews would come, and believe that the country would be so much better the more committed, thinking Jews we have here. But who has the right to tell any given individual with a unique set of challenges that he or she ought to be here? There is only One Dayan Emet and all of us have to do sincere heshbon hanefesh, in the hopes that we are doing the right thing.
I favor an aliyah encouragement approach that is more Klal Yisrael focused. Every Jew has his own life, but is also a member and contributor to the klal. You mentioned the machloket between the Rambam and the Ramban. From what I understand, most commentaries don’t think that the Rambam left out Yishuv Eretz Yisrael as a mitzvah because he thought there was no special reason to be in EY b’zman hazeh. One proof to the contention that even the Rambam understood that there must always be a Jewish presence here, is found in Sefer HaMitzvot (Mitzvat Aseh 153). With this in mind, one can make a conceptual distinction. Whether it is a mitzvah for any given individual to make aliyah (chiyuvit or even kiyumit) can be debated. But it is undeniable that the home of Klal Yisrael is Eretz Yisrael. And furthermore, every Jew who comes to Israel and makes it his individual home, strengthens the presence of Klal Yisrael here. As a member of Klal Yisrael, every Jew should feel that Israel is his place. I would not deign to decide that aliyah is the right thing for Mr. and Mrs. Cohen of Passaic, Baltimore, Monsey...) I would however hope that the Cohens appreciate that as members of Klal Yisrael their place is in Eretz Yisrael.
What are the practical ramifications of this approach? Firstly, it should tone down the guilt application by olim and other Israelis, on diaspora Jews. Guilting misses the big picture and ultimately may be counterproductive for encouraging aliyah. Secondly, it should encourage diaspora Jews to connect more meaningfully with Eretz Yisrael. Obviously, the most direct connection that one can have with Israel is to live here. But the connection really needn’t be all-or-nothing. Even if aliyah is not feasible and visits are financially prohibitive, people can identify with life in Eretz Yisrael in other meaningful ways. Clearly, I am not looking for or expecting world Jewry to pick up tomorrow and arrive here. But I hope that Jews will be able to more personally identify with EY as their place, and perhaps foster an environment in which aliyah is a natural future step, if not for them then for their children. My view is long term, but truthfully, aliyah is too. You don’t make aliyah when you step out of Ben Gurion airport; it is a lifelong process. The process of kibbutz galuyot, the collective aliyah of the Jewish people, may take time as well. But why should that be different than most good things?

Anonymous said...

From Alice

My opinion on your post:

A) I am a coward.
Can’t really argue with that. As for the argument about your children, I find it, disingenuous. When the time came, there would be plenty of ways to get out of it, if that was their choice. I agree, that terrorism is frightening, I was also in Jerusalem for all the years of the intifada, but as a non American I was also pretty freaked out in some US cities I visited. Ultimately, if a bullet has your name on it you can’t hide from it anywhere in the world. And please don’t respond with halachic arguments about going to a place of danger. This is eretz yisrael, and if you think it is too dangerous to live here you shouldn’t visit either, because it is only because of the Jews who live here that you are able to visit. So that would be pretty hypocritical on your part.

B) I value religious freedom, and so I value separation of shul and state.
Absolutely ridiculous as a reason not to make aliya. This is more like scraping the bottom of your barrel of excuses. In Israel every person has the right to their religious weekly holy day as a day of rest and their major yearly holidays, in addition to their annual vacation, which is not the case in the US. The mosques blare out their call to prayer at all hours of day and night, and Muslim women can burqa away unlike in France and other countries. Obviously issues arise on occasion, but these are largely blown out of all proportion in the media. There are infinitely more instances of cooperation and mutual respect that do not sell newspapers. Where exactly are tsnius standards imposed on an unwilling populace? Maybe on visitors in the heart of Meah Shearim and as certain school dress codes (I also had a school dress code imposed on me in a regular state school outside of Israel), but have you been to Tel Aviv recently. (For a frum man I wouldn’t recommend it actually).

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.
Again simply ridiculous. You can totally live your lifestyle in Israel and simply mind your own business as the majority of people do.

C) I have a big mouth.
Yes, there are some problems, but Israel is not the dictatorship you make it out to be. You can run away from life if you like, or you can be part of the solution. Again this is more like an excuse not to make aliya rather than a reason.

Anonymous said...

From Alice

D) I don't speak the language.
So learn it or hang out in an English speaking community.

E) I value my extended family.
This is your first real reason, which is a serious consideration when making aliya.

F) I don't want to abandon my current social support structure.
This too is a valid concern. It depends on the person and how independent they are. Although, the emotional and financial support shouldn’t make any difference as it can make the distance. As for practical support, especially, but not only, if you start out in a community of olim you will generally find that people will be pretty helpful to you.
Also many native Israelis are so impressed that you made aliya and really want to help, in my experience.

G) Yes, money is an issue.


Yes, you do have to have money. The question is how much. Many things that are exorbitant in the US are free or much more reasonably priced in Israel – more or less free medical care, highly subsidized Jewish schooling, cheap fruit and vegetables in abundance, people wear clothes that are much less fancy to events, and making a wedding probably costs a quarter of the price or less in Israel, and higher education is highly subsidized, a whole degree costs about $10,000.

Money is an issue if it means that a person would not be able to support his family at a reasonable standard of living, but if the problem is that he can’t buy the same size house as he had in America, and all the same luxuries, then that person is not not making aliya because of money, but because of his personal priorities.

H) Is it really so important?
You blithely comment that Jews have often lived in dangerous times. What you don’t say is that we didn’t just live in dangerous times, we were horribly persecuted and murdered in those dangerous times, and most often we didn’t have any real options. America is safe for now, but why do you assume that it will escape Jewish history, when every major center of Jewish life throughout our history succumbed to the horrors of anti-semitism?
In answer to your own question, this is your saddest point. Yes, if you really want to you can argue your halachic way out of the importance of yishuv haaretz, but what I find so sad is that you don’t express any longing on an emotional or spiritual level for Eretz Yisrael. If someone said that they can’t make aliya because they are caring for a sick parent, that is entirely understandable, but you just seem to be full of excuses rather than real reasons. This is particularly stark because in general in your blog you seem to focus on intellectual honesty. Yet I find this post to be full of smoke screens. Furthermore, you talk of your considerations for making aliya as if you were thinking of moving to Paris or London. I agree that there has to be a practical basis to one’s aliya, especially if doing so with a family, but at some point after all the planning for housing, schooling, work, etc, you have to let go and trust in Hashem.
I hope that Hashem gives you the courage, the means and most importantly the desire to ascend to the Land.

joshwaxman said...

I'll only address a few point, though I have rejoinders about the rest:

D) I don't speak the language.
So learn it or hang out in an English speaking community.


Yes. And for many people, they are capable of it. (I've seen many people with outgoing personalities make aliyah.) For others, of a hesitant nature, they will be embarrassed to make mistakes, and will experience the situation described above. Obviously, that is not you, but perhaps you are capable of empathy?

H) Is it really so important?You blithely comment that Jews have often lived in dangerous times.
Your response is a non-sequitur.

I value religious freedom, and so I value separation of shul and state.
Absolutely ridiculous as a reason not to make aliya.

I find it funny that, in responses to this post, I find examples of such religious coercion. Here there is more of a live-and-let-live attitude. But many posters could not abide the idea that others would have a different conception of the obligation of aliyah, and could consider it a mitzvas reshus. And so, those people with whom they disagree are terrible, awful, people. Is this particular to the Israeli mindset? Yes, there are people (and shuls) that have that attitude here, and so I stay far, far away from them.

"Where exactly are tsnius standards imposed on an unwilling populace? Maybe on visitors in the heart of Meah Shearim"
Are you familiar with the goings on in Bet Shemesh?

“In Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef, which is a mixed neighborhood, the rabbis do not let anyone sit in pizza shops. If you tried to sit and eat with your wife in Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, it would cause problems."

joshwaxman said...

"but what I find so sad is that you don’t express any longing on an emotional or spiritual level for Eretz Yisrael."

and because of this, you assume that I don't have any such longing?

The point of this post is that people should not be judgmental jerks. And to that end, I listed reasons other than selfishness and greed that people in America would be reluctant to go. The point was NOT that people should not go; or that I don't want to go; or that these are reasons that cannot be overcome, especially by a motivated person; etc., etc. I laid this out explicitly in the first paragraph.

Ruthie said...

I found it interesting that you chose not to address (that I can see) the one comment for which I most wanted to hear your reply:
"It's a very intersting post, but I have to ask you something seriously.

Is there anything in your article that would not have applied to people during the Inquisition who were asked to convert to Christianity?

Is there anything in your article that would not have applied to the hellenized Jews who wished to join the Non-Jewish empires and fight against the Maccabees?

Can you really say that you believe in Judaism, and claim that now, when we own the land of Israel, and there is Jewish sovereignty here, and you could help change the way the country was run, that not moving is anything other than deciding that Judaism is not the most important thing in your life?"

joshwaxman said...

Frankly, that was because I found it somewhat offensive.

Do you understand that the purpose of this post was NOT to argue that people should not make aliyah, but rather to explain people's complex motivations in not making aliyah? Let us grant that a Hellenized Jew would make the same point -- e.g. (A), I am a coward. So? Can you empathize with someone being a coward, rather than calling him a terrible person who only cares about money?

I do have a good answer to that (IMHO silly) comment, but to address it is to agree to a shift in focus, and to allow someone to make my argument into something it was not.

Anonymous said...

From Alice,

Aside from anything else, you should start to realise what is really happening in the US.

Amongst other draconian measures, do you understand that very soon it will be legal to detain you indefinitely in a military camp, without trial.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/the-daily-need/are-we-becoming-a-police-state-five-things-that-have-civil-liberties-advocates-nervous/12563/

The liberties that you assume as your birthright, are gradually being taken away from you, in many ways. I am not saying this to scare you, but because it is the truth. The Holocaust didn't happen overnight but in stages. Isn't it time that you wake up to what is going on around you. If you really don't want to make aliya, so don't. But don't think that your familiar life in America will continue as normal. I'm not saying that there will be a Holocaust in America, but it is obvious that serious (negative) changes are taking place. And you shouldn't assume that you will always have freedom of movement to leave the country, either. (My guess is that you will want to call me a scaremongerer, but all this information comes from the non-Jewish news. And also before you do so, was Jabotinsky an alarmist? Because that is what he was called.)

I'm not going to bother to respond to your responses, because you seem to be quite entrenched in your outlook that it is impossible for you to make aliya. But I will just say you make a huge leap from a person criticising a particular point you made to saying that they are calling you a "terrible, awful" person. I did not engage in any name calling of you or any other Jew in chul.

My main point is that one should be intellectually honest with oneself and one's choices, which from your post I don't think you are. And before you go making wild leaps of interpretation, that doesn't mean that you are a bad person, just lacking in clarity.

joshwaxman said...

"Aside from anything else, you should start to realise what is really happening in the US."

nonsense. this falls under my sentence above, "In terms of the latter..."

I'm not going to bother to respond to your responses
Indeed. Because you don't even realize that I never said that it was impossible for me to make aliyah. You seem to have a problem bothering to read what I write, and then make false assumptions.

are calling you a "terrible, awful" person
Did I say you in particular?

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