The ability of the Jew to come up with reasons why he will not make aliya is truly incredible. It doesn’t matter if the Jew is religious or secular, conservative or liberal, rich or poor, Sefardic or Ashkenazic. It doesn’t matter what his family situation is, his education, or his background. It doesn’t even matter what’s going on where he currently lives. If there is one issue that cuts across all divides for the millions of Jews outside their homeland, it is “Anywhere but Israel!”
The sheer breadth of reasons Jews give would lead one to believe that Israel is the absolute worst place on earth to live. They make it sound as if the ever-increasing millions of Jews who do live here and don’t wish to leave are crazy (or religious idealists, which to many is the same thing). No one in his right mind would ever want to live in Israel.
At best it’s a lifestyle choice, something a Jew should consider “only if it’s right for him”.
Within the religious world we find intellectual contortions that would be comical if the implications were not tragic. After all, the religious Jew must come to grips with the fact that his daily prayers, his frequent blessings, his religious ceremonies, his holidays, and his holy texts are suffused with love for Israel and the fervent desire to return immediately.
But the religious Jew does not desire this. Not only does he not desire this, he fervently desires the very opposite. His greatest desire is to live anywhere else on earth in a religious cocoon with people who resemble him. His gentile neighbors should think well of Jews, or at least pretend not to mind them, or at the very minimum not persecute them too severely. If things get “too bad” – which is purposely not defined so that the threshold can be repeatedly adjusted as the situation deteriorates – the Jew will dutifully decide that it is time to find another home in the Diaspora.
Nothing inspires a galus Jew more than building a new community somewhere in the Diaspora, while nothing turns him off more than the idea of pioneering a new community in Israel. He wants “Moshiach Now” as much as Peace Now wants peace.
So the religious Jew must use all his hair-splitting abilities to do away with volumes of Torah sources that contradict his attachment to galus, while taking a handful of convenient sources literally and giving them disproportionate weight. He laughs at Christian missionaries who employ the same tricks to rationalize a conclusion that was pre-determined and cannot be altered.
If you call him on this, he will argue that there are many knowledgeable and pious rabbis who take this position, and he is obediently following them. Oh, the self-sacrifice this poor religious Jew makes to follow his rabbi! How it must eat away at him that he cannot move to Israel because his rabbi said so! Such loyal obedience for rabbis one will not find for any commandment other than the commandment to remain in galus.
The religious Jew will not content himself with theological arguments to remain in galus. He will supplement his opposition to living in Israel with every materialistic and practical reason you can imagine, and some that you can’t. If Israel fails the gashmiyus comparison test in any respect, then it would be unreasonable to expect the Jew to move there. Israel must not only be his national homeland and the focal point of his religious practices, but it must pass every gashmiyus comparison test. When Israel passes any such test, the galus Jew responds, “Yes, but…” and finds another.
There are two simple litmus tests to determine whether a Jew who claims he wants to live in Israel “someday” really means it. The first is how he responds when you counter his reason for not coming.
Do his eyes light up with hope that you are right, that living in Israel really IS more feasible than he might have believed? Does he become excited that his dream of living in Israel might be more realistic than he believed? Does he want to know more, explore your suggestion, and see if that kernel of hope can blossom into a new life in Israel? Or does he immediately fire back with another reason why it can’t work?
If he jumps from reason to reason why aliya isn’t for him, inventing new reasons on the spot if necessary, then clearly he has intermarried with galus and does not want to divorce his foreign wife. If he heatedly insists that he just can’t make it in Israel, and is upset when someone evens suggest otherwise, then he is a galus Jew through and through.
The second test is also quite simple. He has given his reason, or litany of reasons, why he cannot make aliya today, even though he supposedly wants nothing more. What is he doing to overcome these obstacles?
He claims he cannot find work in Israel. It’s impossible to make it in Israel! We will all starve in the streets!
Has he even tried? Was it just a casual conversation in passing, or a serious search? Is he actively and continuously trying to find something? Is he connecting with people in his field, exploring different possibilities? If someone offered him a great job in Israel right now, would he pack up and move? If he lost his job in galus and had nothing left to lose, would he try to start over in Israel? If the answer to these questions is no, then he is not giving a reason, but making a convenient excuse.
He claims there are no schools for his children. They will have no future!
Has he even looked? When he visited Israel, did he visit schools? Has he spoken with other parents? If the answer is no, his reason is a farce.
If he is staying in galus to take care of an elderly family member, will he commit to aliya immediately after his help is no longer needed? If not, he is not staying in galus for family reasons, but for something much deeper.
The same is true for every other “reason” that he simply cannot leave galus. Actions speak louder than words, and actions that contradict the words nullify the words completely. If they are taking no actions towards furthering their ideal of making aliya, and in fact are taking concrete actions to cement their lives in galus indefinitely, then they don’t really want to live in Israel at all. The excuses they give are nothing more than cover for this blasphemous truth, which many galus Jews are still ashamed to admit.
The galus Jew will also latch onto the false piety approach. I am waiting for Moshiach! Sure you are. Do you have your suitcase packed like the Chafetz Chaim? Are you saying Tikkun Chatzos every night with tears streaming down your face begging for Moshiach to come so you can leave galus? Are you truly heartbroken and crestfallen that Israel is right there waiting for you, but you are supposedly denied entry until Moshiach holds your hand? If so, show it once in a while. You say you are too humble to do that, but you’ve already blown your cover as one of the 36 hidden tzaddikim with the line about waiting for Moshiach. Let’s see some emotion – a fraction of the emotion you show when people suggest that you should come now and prepare the land for Moshiach.
The clever galus Jew will come up with reasons not to live in Israel that they would be ashamed to apply to any other place. One woman who left Israel, and felt the obligation to defame it as much as possible to justify her decision, claimed that everyone is rude, and she only had negative experiences with the people. Really, millions of Jews of all kinds, but everyone is rude and she only had negative experiences. One can only surmise that if her interactions with literally everyone she encountered were so negative that perhaps she had something to do with it. I did just that, and she called me a sexist. You play whatever cards you can.
I can see people moving apartments because the neighbors are rude. I can see people moving to another community that might be more friendly and welcoming. People don’t leave countries over this – especially not Jews. Jews have a lot more mental fortitude when it comes to remaining in galus, after all, and the goyim will have to do much more than be rude to convince them to leave any country in the Diaspora.
Galus Jews are so brave in the face of anti-Semitism – this is our home and we will fight for it! Yet when it comes to living in Israel they are afraid they will get blown up on every bus, stabbed by every Arab, and have rockets rain from the skies more than rains of blessing. Interesting, no?
They cannot live in Israel because the government is corrupt, inept, wasteful, and otherwise unsatisfactory. Yet they would never leave their galus land for the same reason, nor is satisfaction with the government a serious consideration when they move from place to place within galus. Even Hitler coming to power wasn’t enough to motivate Jews to leave Germany, and today’s Jews are no wiser. So I’m calling bluff on that one.
They are worried about their safety in Israel. Right. Because the first thing galus Jews check when they decide where to live is the crime rate. If safety were their foremost consideration, it’s hard to explain why galus Jews tend to live in cities with high crime rates, and move in groups to rundown inner cities simply because the real estate is cheap. Safety first!
One galus Jew even told me that he believes Jews should stay in galus so that if Iran nukes Israel, the Jews in galus will survive and keep the Jewish people alive. What self-sacrifice! Staying behind in galus just to restart our people when God allows Israel to be nuked! Of course, it makes one wonder why galus Jews live in large clusters in places like New York City and communities near the White House, which would be prime targets for large-scale attacks. If the name of the game is spreading out as much as possible to increase our chances of survival, we can do much better than that.
They also claim that there isn’t enough land in Israel, or food, or water, were all Jews to come home. The galus Jew is staying behind just to make it easier for God, who they seem to believe cannot sustain us all in Israel, even though He did just fine when we were in the desert. Okay, maybe God CAN, but how can we rely on that? We have to do our hishtadlus just to be sure. When God sends the Manna from heaven they will return, so we Jews in Israel won’t have to worry about food shortages. The religious fervor of these people, their unswerving faith and devotion, is remarkable.
There is only one explanation for the galus Jew. He has been overcome by the yetzer hara.
Chazal teach that a person does not sin unless a spirit of insanity overcomes him. Indeed, no rational person can learn the Torah, witness the rebirth of Israel, and conclude that God wants him to stay in galus. No rational person can see the situation in galus declining day after day and resist the idea of leaving as if his life depended on it, when the very opposite is likely true. No rational person will fight for the honor of his foreign stepmother, who at best is only mildly abusive, while he disgraces the birth mother that is yearning for him.
It is the yetzer hara. The yetzer hara will do anything to get us to commit a sin. He will manipulate us and have our minds play tricks on us to justify wrongdoing. Living in Israel is a transcendent mitzva, and the entire Torah is centered around Israel. Do you think for one moment the yetzer hara would not devote every possible effort to convince Jews not to live there? Convincing a Jew to choose galus over Israel is the greatest coup for the yetzer hara. It is the most logical strategy for the yetzer hara to employ, and the only logical explanation for the twisted logic of the galus Jew.
I daresay the evil temptation to choose galus over Israel is the greatest challenge of our generation. It is irrational, it runs counter to the very essence of the Torah, it requires distorting or ignoring clear divine messages, and it is the greatest impediment to the redemption that is so tantalizingly close. The yetzer hara is fighting desperately to keep us with a galus mentality, and thereby to prolong the galus – a galus that has already ended if only we allowed it to be over.
Enough with the excuses. Come home, help us reclaim our land – all of it! – and end the galus once and for all.