Monday, May 27, 2013

I Have Factories, Family - Aliyah Is Not For Me

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Baruch Duvdevani served as the Executive Director of the Jewish Agency's Aliyah department. He recounted this frightful story:

It was the winter of 5716 (1956), immediately following the Sinai Campaign. Poland and the USSR had just signed a treaty allowing all Polish citizens who had fled to Russia during World War II to return to Poland. Jewish or not, they had the right to return, as long as they were Polish citizens on September 1, 1939, the day the War broke out. As a result of this treaty, thousands of Jews throughout Russia returned to Poland, and the majority of them subsequently immigrated to Israel.

I was privileged to spend that year, and the next, in Poland, helping organize this mass aliyah to Israel.
One December morning, when the temperature in Warsaw reached 19 degrees below zero (Celsius), I arrived at the Israeli embassy where we were stationed for our immigration work. The courtyard was filled with scores of people who had come from Russia to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael. I stopped and talked to each and every one of them at length. Our hearts were so filled with joy that we did not feel the cold.


I noticed an old Jew standing in the corner of the courtyard. He was bone-thin, with practically no flesh on his body. His dim eyes lacked any spark of life; his cheekbones protruded profusely; and his clothes were tattered and torn, despite the bitter cold. I realized immediately that the man wanted to speak with me and that he was simply waiting for me to finish talking to the others.

When I finished, the man approached me and asked if I was from Jerusalem. I told him that I was, and then he asked me if I knew Rav Kook, of blessed memory. I answered that I had been privileged to benefit from his exalted Torah and inspiring discourses. At that moment, the man burst into tears and said, "What a shame! What a shame that I did not listen to him.

He continued to sob for a while, and when he finally calmed down a bit, he told me his story:

In the early 1920's, I was a big manufacturer in one of Poland's famous industrial cities. One day, I decided to take a trip to Eretz Yisrael and spend Passover there. Being a religious Jew, I visited Rav Kook zt"l immediately upon my arrival. 
Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook
He welcomed me warmly and encouraged me to seek out the good of the Land and consider settling there. After a few weeks of touring, I returned to the Rav and asked him, among other things, what I should do regarding the second day of  Yom Tov, seeing that I was a tourist.

The Rav answered with a smile: 'Decide right now to bring your family here and to build a factory in the Land. Then, you can keep one day of Yom Tov already this Passover, like all inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael.'
I took his answer jovially, and since the holiday was still a few weeks away, I decided to return at a later date and pose the question again, when it was more practical.

A few days before Passover, I went to Rav Kook and asked him the question once more. This time, the Rav answered sternly: 'I already told you that you should move here; then you may keep one day of Yom Tov starting now, even if you must return to Poland after Passover to settle your affairs.'

I said to him: 'Excuse me, dear rabbi, I have thought about it at great length; but in the end, da'ati lachazor — my intention is to return to the Diaspora. How, then, can I celebrate like the residents of Eretz Yisrael?'
The Rav banged his hand on the table and said with great emotion: 'Your da'at [intention] is to return? That is nothing but lack of da'at [sense]!'

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The man continued in a broken voice: 'I did not listen to the Rav. I returned to the Diaspora and remained there. I lost my wife, my children, and my grandchildren in the Holocaust, and here I am today, lonely and desolate. I have come back here with nothing, after wandering for years through Russia. And I constantly recall Rav Kook's prophetic words: "That is nothing but lack of da'at!

(Originally appeared in the book 'An Angel Among Men' by R. Simcha Raz, p. 257)


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9 comments:

  1. Steve from TorontoMay 28, 2013 at 1:05 AM

    This inflames me. You are using the murder of 6 million Jews to make your aliyah point??!! Please have some tact.

    North America is totally different than Germany and anyone who thinks otherwise simply has his head in the sand. Yes, there is some anti-Semitism here, but give me a break. Are you telling me we have to flee to save our fortunes. No way Hosea.
    I rest my case. This post is in poor taste and basically flawed in reason.

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    1. Agree. Using the Holocaust for the Aliyah propaganda is doing a debasing the entire cause. It's one thing is to move to the Land of Israel is out of love for it; however, this is something you can request from yourself but not from others. It's another thing to move to Israel because of actual anti-Semitism in your country of origin; unfortunately there are still people out there who hate us and, if they turn overy violent, safety comes first. And it's yet another thing to move to Israel because of the fear of anti-Semitism in a country that is not showing any significant threat as of time being, just because we had historic precedents of tranquility followed by severe persecution. We can't ignore history, but this cursed-nation mentality must stop. It's like moving to Israel because you aren't good enough for any other country. It doesn't work that way. By the way, how about this: let all Muslims abandon their established homes in Europa and America and return to their authentic Arab lands. Somehow they aren't doing so; instead they're trying to chase Jews away. So, let me ask this: are they any more privileged and blessed than us that they're allowed not only to feel comfortable in lands that aren't theirs but even to threaten the host population? To be more blunt: are they blessed and are we cursed? I DON'T THINK SO!!! The Jew has as much freedom to live anywhere he wants as his Arab enemy does. For the moment, we aren't talking about the mitzah of inhabiting the Land; that's a different level of thinking and, if you move to Israel for this reason, then Kol HaKavod to you, but you can't expect everyone to be on your spiritual level. Also, but prematurely and deliberetly leaving America (or any other diaspora country) en masse, we would do a favor to our foes: make those countries Judenrein, abandon synagogues and yeshivas, etc. So, before Mashiach comes and the whole world is on our side once and for all, we can't afford doing that. We can't afford turning our synagogues to churches or mosques; it would be a shame, not a glory. If it's physically enforsed by our enemies, then there's no choice. But as long as we have freedom to preserve and expand our presense anywhere in the world, we won't buy on your propaganda, especially if it's using the Holocaust.

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    2. Steve, I would disagree with classifying this story as using the Holocaust as Aliya propaganda.
      The story about personal experience of old man. He had full right to feel like he felt

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  2. Dear Jew,
    Do you know those tapestries? When you look very close you see only rows of stitches. But when you step back you begin to see a picture. Step back further and you will see the entire picture with all its shades and colors. My friend, you are standing far too close to see what others can see from Eretz Yisroel.

    Just last year, I asked my daughter about the Nevuah that says the Ishmaelites will be rule for 9 months. How could that happen, I wondered? Did you ever think life in France, England, most of Europe and even Toronto would be as it is now? Can a Jew walk through the streets with a kipa? Are there armed guards outside neighborhood shuls? The world is changing so rapidly, nothing seems too far fetched any more.

    The post is spot on. Please take off the rose colored glasses.

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    1. Oh, yeah? How about the two intifadas? How about Iran working on nuclear weapons? How about Arabs with Israeli citizenship who are not restricted from rapidly growing their population? How about the Jews being expelled from Israel two millenia ago? Surely, nothing seems too far-fetched, inclucing that. On the other hand, what you're preaching is a cursed-nation mentality. We are not a cursed-nation; we are a blessed nation. As such, this constant trembling is no the way to go. Why not those Ishmaelites not trembling? Are they any more blessed then we are? Also, how about learning to protect ourselves? Surely, Israel now has the strong IDF, and it's great. But how about learning to fight back the persecutioners everyhere else, wherever they may start bothering us? How about making the Ishmaelites run away to their countries? Besides, regarding the Nevuah about Ishmaelites ruling for nine months, if that's to be taken as something inevitable, how can we wait for Mashiach so eagery if we know that the majority of our population would be wiped out by those Ishmaelites? Apparently, it's only one of many other possibilities of what will be happening, and a lot depends on our own behavior. Of course, nothing is far-fetched. But if that's the case, you aren't immune even in Israel - until nobody in the world is questioning its belonging to us.

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  3. While I agree with Steve that the situation in North America today is very different that pre-war Europe; the point of the article is that the situation could deteriorate quickly. I'm not suggesting we all need to flee North America immediately; but we should have a "back-up" plan in case things start to get worse here.

    Michael from Toronto

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    1. That certainly makes sense. But in addition to having a back-up plan for the worst-case scenario of absolutely unbearable situation, we should also learn to protect ourselves wherever we are. How about taking a self-defense course? Or, obtaining a permit for gun ownership (and then buying that gun)? Finally, how about stopping being a victim and make our potential enemies (in this day and age these are primarily Arab Muslims) afraid of messing with us? We don't know what will happen at any time, and we ought to be optimists. But our national self-esteem must improve regardless. And being self-protective is an important step in that direction.

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  4. I think it is a good post. There is nothing wrong with encouraging Jewish people to go home to Israel, It IS an inheritance after all. I can also see some people's point of not wanting to go to Israel until things improve there, it's a hard situation to navigate. There are the security concerns, reading as how the police and IDF lack in protecting people; there is the lack of housing, and midnight expulsions. But then again, moving there and acting to make a difference, can really help to change Israel into the place people want it to be. For me personally, the sexism I read about there makes me weary, feel defeated. Also the other day, hearing about a Hebrew Playboy being approved there enraged me! It's supposed to be the Holy Land, the land of priests, not of adultery idolatry filth. I was so upset. I want my inheritance, but I am so angry with Israeli Government for all the issues above and more. I do wish to go home to my inheritance.

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    1. Encouraging Jewish people to move to Israel for the sake of Israel itself is nothing wrong. Using the Holocaust to "sell" Aliyah by creating a sense of a threat while there is no sign of an actual threat IS wrong. On your rightful concerns regarding your potential absorbtion in Israel, especially if you have a vailuable job or business in America, these propagandists would say: "In pre-war Poland they said the same thing". So, whhhatttt? Is there a curse on us that inevitably manifests itself in physical persecution? I thought we're a blessed nation, and I still believe we are. By the way, there was no State of Israel before the Holocaust, so the whole analogy is flawed. The real test for local Jews back then was not even in Poland (unfortuantely); it was on the Soviet territory. That's where there was a real opportunity to flee to the east as soon as they found out about the danger. Thank G-d many acted smartly and evacuated (that's why I'm around); and we know what happened with those who didn't. But the threat was real and imminent: Nazis had crossed the Soviet border! Besides the unwillingness to leave the cow, the other reason was that they remembered what Germans were like in 1914. So, ok, we've learned the lesson: miracles happen, and sometimes they may be negative (we have no way to explain G-d's reasoning). But this is not a reason to panic and flee from a threat that is not there as of time being.

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Feel free to comment on the above post. If you're going to attack me, do it with elegance.