Monday, July 28, 2008

Aliyah Forum

(Painting by Ron Cohen)

A Simple Jew asks:

Rabbi Yitzchok Breiter wrote,

"Every day of your life, yearn, pray and make a practical effort to live in Eretz Yisroel, or at the very least to walk four steps there. Through this you will achieve patience and be able to advance from level to level, attaining complete holiness. This is the ultimate holy victory a person wins in this world."

Deep in his neshoma, every Jew knows with utter certainty that he should live Eretz Yisroel. Yet many of us are all still not doing so.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook wrote,

"When people are asked why they are unwilling to settle in Eretz Yisroel right now, they have all types of cheshbonos (calculations) as to why now is not the time. One says his chesbon is that his children need to finish school or college; another's chesbon is that he has to vest his pension, and so on. If we look in the Torah, though, we will see that before the Jewish people entered Eretz Yisroel, they first killed the King of Chesbon. Once the King of Chesbon is killed, the decision to move to Eretz Yisroel becomes easy."

Do you envision ever getting to the point where you are able to slay your own personal King of Cheshbon? If not, why?

Response from Poster #1:

While it's fair to assume that many cheshbonos are rationalizations, wrong, agenda-driven, and whatnot, can we rightly ask thinking Jews to check their analytical skills at the door before making such a momentous life decision?

In the absence of a genuine Navi telling us to put everything else aside this very moment and make immediate plans to move, we have to try to weigh the relevant considerations thoroughly and without personal bias.

I recall reading some recent advice from the Melitzer Rebbe to the effect that someone moving to Israel today ought to line up a job there ahead of time.

There can also be family issues, such as parents too old to join the move and children too old to integrate easily into Israeli education. There can be very basic issues, such as not having the money to move. Everyone needs to have the desire, but not all can concretize it right now.

Response from Poster #2:

This is a very difficult topic to address. No one wants to speak ill of Eretz Yisroel or to discourage aliyah, but there are (to my mind) good reasons to remain in the United States. Yes, we need to kill the Melech of Cheshbon. Meaning one can actually make a bit of an avodah zora out of his ability to determine what is best. However one does need to think, and going without thinking is not the optimum avodah, just as tefillin without thought is not the optimum avodah.

To our great sorrow, we see with our own fleshidigeh oigen, to borrow a nice Chabad lashon, that many people have serious issues with their children. On my recent trip, I spent hours talking to menahalim in the chadorim of the various communities we were considering. One told me b’zeh halashon “Yesh Noshrim B’Chol Ha’aretz”. “Atah mevin?” “Kein, Ani mevin.”

The great tzaddik Rav Mordechai Schwab once visited his son in Eretz Yisrael. Whenever he saw a car driving on Shabbos, he would comment to the effect that it was an Arab or a doctor rushing to an emergency. His son eventually asked him if he really thought all those cars were doctors and Arabs? He answered that he was saying those things so as not to damage his own sensitivity to kedushas Shabbos. Eleh mai, the answer is to live in a kehilla that is completely shomer shabbos. But those kehillos also have issues, as beautiful as they are.

What can I say? I like that my kids can play baseball. I like that I can go hear a drasha in a modern type of shul if I feel like it. I even like going to a function that allows mixed seating and spending some time (from my hectic schedule) talking to my wife! I like eating OU and I like letting my kids have OU-D when they are at another kid’s house. I actually think it is very good for there middos. Why should they think that the neighbors are less frum then they are?

When I go to work and have to interact with nashim b’l’vush she’aino tzanua, they are just nice goyishe ladies whose computers I have to fix. So what? I do the best I can to not look and veiter g’gangen. But in Eretz Yisroel, Eretz Hakodesh… oy vey. That is a bas Yisroel, the wife and daughter of a Yid!!

Response from Poster #3:

The main cheshbon is the ability to fulfill mitzvos and enable your family to do it. I want very much to move to Eretz Yisroel and once asked my teacher Rav Kenig about it. He answered that one has to do it with the cheshbon to be able to sustain one's family in Eretz Yisroel. Otherwise, as Reb Menachem Mendel Vitebsker wrote, this person will become a burden to community.

I hope one day I will be able to do so. I personally know people who had terrible matzovim in Eretz Yisroel regarding parnossa which forced them to move to Chutz L'Aretz seeking basic means to feed the family. I'm not saying such cases are common, but this is not a joke.

Response from Poster #4:

King of Cheshbon... Cheshbon is Hebrew for "considerations" or "accounting" and I think I get the point. I was considering speaking about the following topic but decided against it: Does being human mean we take chances?

I thought about the spies in Parshas Shelach and how they convince Moshe Rabbeinu that spies are a good idea. But really they were risk averse- they didn't know where they were going and didn't trust in Hashem and Moshe Rabbeinu to just go along with the game plan. Imagine if you step onto a field or court for a team sport without having full faith and confidence in your team and coach, how would that translate into reality? The team would fail more often than succeed. A losing record. You take a chance with any leader in assuming they know what they are doing, and the people upstairs (l'havdil) had good reason to make this guy leader of people.

Animals are risk averse. There was a study done on orangutans to see if they could follow a grape when hidden under several cups. They had to choose the cup with the grape and then they could eat it. When faced with one cup that they knew contained one grape or choosing a cup that might contain two grapes but was mixed up with other cups, they went for the sure thing every time.

Part of everyone's struggle is to find it within themselves to take chances to find out what potential Hashem has awaiting him. Rashi says that when Avraham Avinu is told "lech lecha" or "go for yourself," there is a sense of self -discovery in approaching the unknown. It allows you to reach your true potential because you have to create something from nothing in a way.

That's why I think making Aliyah is a fight with Melech Cheshbon. Going over the books, it just doesn't make sense.

One issue I would raise is that in Rav Kook's time it was a much more infantile stage. Now the State of Israel is looking more like a mid-life crisis than an opportunity to build something new. I wonder if Rav Kook would still feel the same way now. It's easy to point to statements of the builders of the State to inspire people, but we need to make decisions in today's terms- not yesterday's.

Response from Poster #5:

I suppose the reasons we haven't made Aliyah yet comes down to the 3 "f's:" finances, family and frumkeit.

I remember years ago, my brother's sister-in-law asked him if he always intended to make Aliyah. My brother answered, "Yes but not as soon as I did." We should have done as he did. My wife is no doubt correct when she says that we should have made Aliyah as soon as we married.

As time went on and we built a family and bought a house, financial obligations came into play. Day school tuitions don't leave you with too much in your savings. Now as our older children are teenagers and have idea of what they want to be like as adults a new reality hits: they don't want to live in Israel, or don't see it as an ideal. I could blame it on the schools, but given that my support for Israel has mostly been of the political sort, I'm part of the problem.

Finally, there's the matter of frumkeit. Where would we fit in? I can't see myself fitting in either within the Mamlachti Dati framework or within the Chareidi framework. There seems to be a disconnect between American and Israeli Orthodoxy. When we were first married we probably would have adapted more readily; now we are very set in our ways.

We've thought that in about 10 years I hopefully will be eligible to retire. That's what we're shooting for now. I do see complications arising before then. In short, do it when you're young; the more you wait the more you'll put it off.

Other relevant past postings on the topic of aliyah can be found here and here.


At July 28, 2008 at 6:03:00 AM EDT, Blogger גילוי said...

This is not the most elegantly written post that I have made, but I believe it touches on these issues and is relevant.

Kol tuv

At July 28, 2008 at 10:33:00 AM EDT, Blogger Akiva said...

All the reasons listed above are relevant. Yet, if everyone followed their very valid reasons for not making aliyah, there would be no religious Jews in Israel. Nor, for that matter, would there have been a Beis HaMikdash hasheyni.

Franky, I am having a tough time with aliyah and with making it in Israel. And I miss my kef and conveniences of the States. And there's a lot of factors about Israeli charedi life which have moved farther and farther out of balance (from the past).

All the calculations are correct, but it's still an EXCUSE. Keeping kosher is hard, inconvenient, and expensive, especially if you are outside of a large religious community. Keeping Shabbat put my job at risk, I had to walk in and threaten to quit and a lawsuit over enough days off for Yom Tovim. And having more than 2 children, crazy in today's society with the expenses of raising them.

If I followed my calculations and sense, I wouldn't keep kosher, Shabbat, Yom Tov, or have more than 2 children.

But there's a factor to mitzvot that exceeds simple calculations. We follow them because Hashem said so, even when they don't make sense per our calculations.

Yishuv Ha'aretz, settle the land.

At July 28, 2008 at 11:47:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't want to argue with the holy Jew Akiva, who lives in EY, but I also do not withdraw my comments.

At July 28, 2008 at 1:32:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Akiva said, "If I followed my calculations and sense, I wouldn't keep kosher, Shabbat, Yom Tov, or have more than 2 children."

Oh, really?

Talk about a straw man argument!

Up to this point we have discussed factors that could influence a decision. This is far from saying that those factors are always weighted the same way and always lead to the same decision for everybody. The idea that the right decision at this moment is "everybody, go" or "everybody, stay" makes no sense on any level.

If Akiva had more faith in the soundness of his own decision, he'd realize that the sensible, prudent course for many is to go on aliya, when all factors are considered. Aliya does not have to be some blind leap.

At July 28, 2008 at 1:51:00 PM EDT, Blogger Akiva said...

I did not say one should not plan and prepare, or leap blindly. However, a mitzvah is being ignored, unless one has taken upon themselves the position poskined by the Satmar Rov, that there is no mitzvah of yishuva ha'aretz at this time (without the coming of Moshiach). If one holds such, then just like there is no mitzvah of shemitta outside of Israel, there is no mitzvah of settling the land.

Assuming one is not Satmar, one is relying upon the various heterim that one is not obligated to settle the land due to: danger (not valid in our time, life expectancy in Israel is HIGHER than in the US, including terrorism and army service), famine (not valid for most American's with some reasonably employable skill, but qualifies for some who have no employable skills), Torah (no longer valid as nowadays almost everyone comes TO Israel to learn), or to find a spouse (and since everyone is in Israel learning, they often find their spouse here).

No, I'm not trying to poskin for the world, and one should always consult one's rav or an appropriate halachic authority. But given current conditions, lets be honest, most of the heterim have fallen away. People aren't coming simply because it's hard, and it's foreign. It is!

But does that negate the mitzvah? In previous generations it was life threatening, barely survivable, or literally impossible. Now it's just really really inconvenient and a seriously huge change, at least for most people (there are lots of really good exceptions - children with special needs, health care problems, and others).

If for whatever reason you can't do it today, for most, you should be planning and preparing, targeting doing it. Otherwise, you're ignoring a mitzvah asay, and I thought we didn't do that!

I know I'm being harsh. And I know there's no major rabbonim standing up about this. But seems to me Ezra HaSofer had the same problem.

The great community of Alexandria, with the shul that fit 600,000 Jews is gone. The great community of Bavel wrote the Talmud, but it's also gone. The great community of America, that nutured and allowed the Jewish people to restore their lives and rebuild Torah and their souls after the Holocaust will one day be gone as well.

At July 28, 2008 at 1:59:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Akiva, your last comment is to the point. Thanks!

At July 29, 2008 at 3:35:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rav kook on cheshbon is great

At August 5, 2008 at 3:43:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Response from poster #2:

... To our great sorrow, we see with our own fleshidigeh oigen, to borrow a nice Chabad lashon, that many people have serious issues with their children. On my recent trip, I spent hours talking to menahalim in the chadorim of the various communities we were considering. One told me b’zeh halashon “Yesh Noshrim B’Chol Ha’aretz”. “Atah mevin?” “Kein, Ani mevin.” ...

The premise here is that the problem of "noshrim" is specific to Israel. This is false!!

This is an issue which is at least as difficult in the U.S. as it is in Israel.

Secondly, the are many more chinuch options available today in E.Y. than every before.

Thirdly, there is a tremendous difference in the level of seriousness and learning ability between my Yeshiva aged children and their friends on the one hand and my American nephews and their friends on the other hand.

I am not talking about individuals but certainly taken as a group, there is simply no comparison in the levels of learning and maybe more importantly the seriousness, between Israeli Yeshiva boys and American ones.

The first thing my American nephew does when he comes to our house is to check the Internet for sports scores. American boys are soaking in an American culture which is foreign to Yiddishkeit. My kids don't know anything about sports scores.

These differences are not limited to "black" Yeshivas. My hesder Yeshiva nephew and his friends take life much more seriously as well. They are simply more mature.

Everything is not all roses in Israel. But to blame not living in Israel on chinuch nowadays is a bad rationalization.

At August 13, 2008 at 8:57:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shalom. I am just seeing this now. There is no premise that the problem of noshrim is only in EY. I don’t see how you read that into my words. You say it is at least as bad in the US and you are entitled to your opinion but I do not agree.

As far as the issue of seriousness goes, I agree with you.

But the question under discussion is whether “I” should be thinking about Aliyah. So “I’ have to consider things in light of my children’s current ages and ability to acclimate. I agree with you that to raise children from birth, EY is preferable. However, there are maalos to Chul that it seems people in EY are not sensitive to. I just hear Rav Noach Orlowek speak in Baltimore on Tishah B’Av. There are real problems with kavod for other drachim in EY. Yes, good boys in EY are VERY good but in the US, there are more options. You (or others) might consider the other options to be goyish nonsense, but there were g’dolei Yisroel that did not agree.

You mention that your nephew comes into your house and checks the sports scores. Why on Earth do you have internet in your house?! I think the tendency in EY is very strong to do what others are doing. Every ben Torah (even if he taps himself on the back that he is so moser nefesh for Torah that he doesn’t buy red meat for Yom Tov) still owns a cell phone. Why? There are several strong sevaros to say that that they are assur. Fine, he learns a lot and has a seriousness of mind, but he would learn much more if he didn’t own one. Why are all the kollel youngerlight and bochurim blabbing away on the buses from Kiryat Sefer to their kollelim in Yerushalayim? Don’t they believe that they are m’chuyav to learn on the bus? It one is surrounded by people that have a serious learning hashkafa, so m’meilah they have one too. But that is not me’id anything about their etzem madreigah.

The One Above should bentch all the Yidden. Chas v’shalom to be pogem in the kavod of the heligeh Yidden of Eretz Yisrael, but I see things the way that I see them.


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