THE ALIYAH WORTHINESS LEAK: TRUTH OR FICTION
MISUNDERSTANDING YOUR GREATNESS
By Ariella Bracha Waldinger
A fundraiser from America called me last week to solicit a contribution to a charity here is Israel. He mistakenly thought I was living in America because I have an American phone number. I assumed he was living in Israel because he was fundraising for an Israeli organization but much to my surprise, he told me he lives in New York. I asked him why he wasn’t living in Israel—our Divine inheritance—and he stated that he did not feel worthy enough to make Aliyah. I replied, that in all my Torah learning, I had never heard of a “worthiness gauge” for Aliyah. In my mind, I was almost giggling at the thought of any of us passing such a “worthiness” test before we made Aliyah and also shuddering at this mistaken and dangerous notion.
I reminded the caller that in the Shemoneh Esrei that we pray three times a day, it states, “May G-d raise a banner to gather in the exiles from the four corners of the earth to our Land-the Land of Israel.” In the Birkat HaMazon, the after blessing for bread it says, “You shall bless G-d upon the good land HE gave you…” and it continues saying, “Break the yoke of the nations upon our necks and lead us speedily with upright Pride to our Land.” The wording is crystal clear and there is no mention of worth. I wondered after I got off the phone, if he truly believed he was not worthy or if it was just an excuse veiled as a pious belief or was it a pious belief veiled as an excuse.
While it is true that making Aliyah is a serious undertaking both physically and spiritually, Eretz HaKodesh is the place where the greatest refinement takes place. In other words, a person cannot sufficiently refine themselves in order to make Aliyah, but once one does make Aliyah those who long to come close to Hashem in the purest and deepest way, will be enabled to do so. Israel is the land of enhancement…..the one Divinely chosen place in the world where one can penetrate through his outer shell to arrive at the innermost core of his being.
Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal who perished in the Holocaust, wrote in his Sefer entitled, Eim HaBanim Semeichah, that there is much confusion, even among Torah scholars, on the issue of settling Eretz Yisrael. He was an Av Beit Din and Rosh Yeshiva in Pishtian in Eastern Europe, an observant Jew and a brilliant Torah Scholar. Religious Jews living outside the Holy Land would do well to familiarize themselves with this extraordinary 525 page epic volume on Eretz Yisrael, Redemption and Unity. The many chapters covers such topics as: The power of the merit of Eretz Yisrael, The Mitzva of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, Refuting Antagonists, The Unification of Israel through the Mitzva of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, Our obligation to Support and Build the Land, The Exile Jew and more. Each chapter touches upon a topic that has been controversial for generations and the renowned author refutes the long held misconceptions and explains the truth in a concise manner.
Rabbi Teichtal wrote his book in 1943 during the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, when he was in hiding and without his precious books. Due to his extraordinary level of learning plus his photographic memory, his book is filled with sources, from beginning to end. The reason for his passionate push to finish it and have it published was because he was desperately trying to awaken his fellow Jews to the truth he had uncovered– that the return to Zion is the answer to the troubles the Jews were experiencing at the time. I believe the same is true today. Rabbi Teichtal cites numerous proofs of this point and quotes from the entire gamut of Rabbinic literature; Talmudic, Midrashic, Halachic, Kabbalistic and Chassidic.
The interesting aspect of this author, who comes from an illustrious lineage of great Rabbis, is that he was raised in a traditional religious environment and was imbued with the ultra-orthodox belief that opposed Zionism. With the full weight of the Holocaust upon the Jewish nation, he became inspired to re-evaluate the issue of Israel’s Redemption. Originally, he viewed Zionism as a “desecration of holiness and a defilement of the supernal and earthly Holy Land. After studying in depth all the sources, he realized that the nationalistic movements and the rebuilding of the Land were revelations of Divine Providence. In the “Historical Introduction” to the book, Moshe Lichtman, the translator, states, “R. Teichtal’s new understanding drove him to attempt to awaken others to the path of truth he had found. He hoped that it would save them from the blindness and denial that once plagued him.” This book clearly identifies the fundamental concepts of making Aliyah and the great purpose and meaning behind it. It relates that the true worth of the Jew is manifested when he makes Aliyah and becomes a part of the Nation of Israel in the Holy Land, his ancient birthright. This book therefore assists the searcher in the realization of his goal.
Eim HaBanim Semeicha relates that “HaShem cries on account of the pride of Israel that has been taken from her. The Holy One, Blessed Be He is knocking on the doors of our hearts to arouse us to return to our Holy Land, which we have disregarded for almost 2,000 years.” The book goes on to say that the Jewish people have sold all their glory for a “…pottage of lentils, extended to them in the land of their exile. HaShem is relating to the moment a Jew assimilates and to the extent that they consider their sojourn in the lands of their exile as if they are dwelling in the Land of their Possession…the Holy Land, and they no longer contemplate returning to Eretz Yisrael for any reason…it is clear that their dignity has been lost.”
This notion brought me to the realization that perhaps the caller really did feel a lack of worthiness due to the very fact stated above; he had lost his dignity as a result of his lack of desire to make Aliyah and return to claim his G-d given inheritance. I can only surmise that the darkness of living in exile tainted his own faith and belief in himself and his worth. If I had the phone number of the caller I spoke to, I would phone him and remind him that the Jewish nation has an intrinsic value as a result of the merit of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs who’s DNA we carry. Additionally, were it not for our intrinsic merit and worth, G-d would not have given us HIS HOLY LAND.
The Zohar explains on the verse,: Who is like your people Israel-one nation in The Land… “Those outside the Land, be they far or near, should urgently desire and long for this Land, for just as HE chose them, so too did HE choose this Land, and they will never be called “one nation,” except inside it.”
To conclude: Our Sages teach that we can only cling to G-d in Eretz Yisrael and the exile is unnatural. The Ahavat Yonatan writes that our very return to Eretz Yisrael is in fact, the very essence of repentance. After 10 years of living in the Holy Land, I can truly say that I have never felt as worthwhile as I do now. It is not because I have achieved personal greatness of any kind but because I have become an intrinsic part of our nation by living in our Holy Land and building it up. If you want to truly be considered a worthy Jew, I suggest that you come home and dedicate yourself to building up the Land and along with it….G-d’s Honor.