February 26, 2011

Why Live In E”Y?

As global events get crazier and scarier, many in the Moshiach blogosphere are issuing dire warnings to the Jews who live in America. Some are expressly or impliedly stating that being in E”Y during the End of Days will be physically safer than America.
The truth is, nobody really knows where they should be to physically safe and survive.  It is almost perfectly clear from sources that at least some remnant of Jews living outside E”Y will survive the End of Days. It is also clear that, unless we do sufficient tshuva, Jews living in E”Y also face physical suffering (G-d forbid).
In my opinion, the only real choice a person has is the place where one will die – outside the land, or in the land. And Chazal is very clear that it is preferable to die in E”Y than outside of it.
Be Honest About It
In terms of right or wrong – if it IS a mitzvah to dwell in the land, then it is the “right” thing to do, or, at a minimum, to strive and long to do.
Its hard for me to understand those who claim it is not a mitzvah to live in E”Y. The great mystic, the Ramban, lists it as one of the 613 mitzvot. The great rationalist, the Rambam, does not list is as one of the 613 mitzvot but states clearly that a person should live in E”Y, even in a city where they majority of people are gentile. And he forbids leaving E”Y except in a few limited circumstances.
In my opinion, those who claim it is not a mitzvah to live in E”Y are rationalizing – so many people I talk to love to hold by the Ramban when it comes to being mystical and kabbalistic, but scream “Rambam, Rambam” as a “proof” that living E”Y is not a mitzvah. Let’s be honest people!
That said, if a person feels that moving to E”Y is unfeasible because of their personal situation, they should always strive to get there, as if they don’t have a pair of tefillin to wear and strive and long for a set, or a person doesn’t have an esrog for Succot but they strive and yearn for one.
Primary Urgency – To Live In The King’s Palace
And importantly, even if it is arguably unclear whether Yishuv E”Y is a mitzvah, Chazal is very clear that E”Y is the place for a Jew to get as close to G-d as possible. To claim otherwise flies in the face of myriad statements of Chazal.
In my view, the primary urgency should be the urgency to strive to get as close to HaShem as possible and thus, live in the King’s Palace, E”Y. This primary urgency is the main reason why a person should want to live in E”Y.
If a secondary urgency is the feeling that E”Y might be physically safer during the End of Days, then this doubled urgency can help push a person over the obstacles and make aliyah. But nobody is doing anything wrong for not feeling this secondary urgency (although its hard for me to understand how a thinking person cannot feel it).
But if a person does not feel the primary urgency, then, frankly, examination of one’s hashkofah through independent analysis of relevant sources in Chazal and the early Rishonim is in order.
“If I forget thee, Yerushalyim . . . “

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