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Shabbat Parashat Balak| 5765
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Rabbi’s Responsibility to Educate for Aliyah - An Address to the Council of European Rabbis (5743) - Part II - Adapted from Harabbanut V’hamedina 121-125
[We discussed last time the centrality of Eretz Yisrael to the Torah and the rabbinate. We also “heard” Rav Yisraeli’s plea to European rabbis to urge their communities, especially the youth, to come to Israel and make aliyah. He tempered his impassioned remarks with the concept that one gives words urging strengthening to those who are involved in strengthening themselves.]
The gemara (Yoma 9b) tells a story. Reish Lakish was swimming in the Jordan when one of the Amoraim of Bavel approached. Reish Lakish said: “I hate you people of Bavel.” He continued to explain that because the Babylonian Jewish community did not come back to Eretz Yisrael in sufficient numbers in Ezra’s time, the settlement in Eretz Yisrael succumbed to deterioration and destruction. He used Shir Hashirim’s metaphor of “a door of cedar wood” to describe the insufficient aliyah that came with Ezra and, like wood, was susceptible to rotting. One version has it that Reish Lakish was addressing R. Zeira, who went to great efforts to move to Eretz Yisrael against his rebbe’s objections. What did he want from R. Zeira, or whomever the Amora was, for the shortcomings of the community several hundred years earlier? The answer is that this is another case of saying strong words to strengthen those who strengthen themselves.
Therefore, our approach is to speak to those who believe in Hashem, who build places of Torah and see living in the Diaspora as a permanent phenomenon, without seeing the signs of Divine Providence that encourage the return to Eretz Yisrael. Emulating Reis Lakish, we address those who have a connection to Eretz Yisrael and an interest in making aliyah. If all those had actually come, how much stronger the settlement of Eretz Yisrael would have been. One needs to know to seize the moment and take advantage of the revelation of Divine signs. If one looks at the opportunity to move to Eretz Yisrael as a door, open today, closed tomorrow, without seeing any permanence, then nothing will come of the opportunity. The reason things will not materialize is not because it wasn’t meant to be or that our time is not reishit tz’michat geulatenu (the beginning of the flowering of our liberation), but because we did not accept it as such. If you do not open the door and do not see the open Hand of Providence then the gateway closes.
Reish Lakish told the arriving rabbi from Bavel that he welcomed him in a way that strengthens his decision to move from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael without his rebbe’s blessing. He saw it as a partial remedy for the old sin of the Babylonian community in Ezra’s time. Without a doubt, in Reish Lakish’s time, the Babylonian community flourished, with the arrival of Rav, to the extent that it was equated to the community of Eretz Yisrael in different ways (see Gittin 6a). Certainly we are nourished to this day from that community’s achievements. However, there could have been an even greater center, with ever increasing Divine Presence, had more people seized the opportunity to come to Eretz Yisrael.
So we want to encourage. Dear colleagues, you are in the Diaspora, and I am not demanding that you make aliyah. Officers cannot leave their troops behind, leaving them like a flock without a shepherd. But you must be aware of the obligations of our time and act to carry them out. We have lost out on a lot, but there is still a lot to do. The new communities that have been built are awaiting reinforcements to strengthen and reinvigorate them. Teach your flocks that their future is in Israel, especially the youth who are less rooted. Let the call of the Jubilee Year, “each man shall return to his land of inheritance,” be our motto. See yourselves as emissaries of the Land and succeed in doing your part, with Hashem’s help, in ingathering the dispersed and revealing the Divine Presence.
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