If the Jewish people do not claim their home, they will leave it open to be claimed by others.
At the beginning of the Torah, the famous Torah commentator Rashi ponders why the Five Books of Moses begin with the creation of the world. Since the Torah is primarily a book of laws and guidelines for Jewish daily life, Rashi humbly suggests perhaps a more appropriate starting point for the Torah would have been the first commandment given to the Jewish people, to sanctify the months via the new moon.
Rashi dismisses this approach with an illuminating answer that remains as relevant today as it was when Rashi’s commentary was first published close to 1,000 years ago. Rashi explains that the Torah begins with an account of creation to establish that since God created the world, God had authority to promise the land of Israel to the Jewish people, which is the claim upon which Jews continue to inhabit the Holy Land until this very day.
Why Aren’t Jews Coming Home?
Is life outside Israel so great? Is life in Israel so bad? Why aren’t the Jewish people flocking to their ancestral homeland?
Comfort and luxury are certainly two common reasons. If you’ve got a good job and a nice big house, why move to a different home? Nobody really likes change, right? With the current exile lasting close to 2000 year, Jews have had enough time in nations like the U.S. and Canada to establish roots, despite being kicked out of many different countries along the way. It’s not easy to emigrate when you’re leaving behind your parents, siblings and other extended family — especially when they don’t share the dream of returning to the promised land.
Since a Jew can live in a beautiful community with a nice synagogue outside of Israel, alongside lots of other Jews, with Jewish schools, kosher food and more, many Jews feel that preserving their Jewish identity outside the land of Israel is perfectly acceptable. That’s assuming that there is even a Jewish identity to maintain. Jews exist side by side with many wonderful non-Jewish communities with whom they live in harmony. Sure, there’s anti-Semitism, but in many places it’s not enough to make life dangerously unbearable.
So what is the problem? Should the Jews even be moving to Israel? Aren’t they better off where they are?
Israel is a Gift
I’ve heard Israel referred to as a gift, and personally, that is exactly what Israel is for me!
Most of what people warned me about turned out to be false. The land is gorgeous and the weather is fantastic. The community I live in is filled with parks, flowers, fruit-bearing trees and truly wonderful people. We were welcomed immediately and offered help from virtually everyone we met. Speaking only English was not a problem, even shopping in places where they only speak Hebrew. Someone always comes to my aid.
The homes here are stunning. It really depends on what you expect and what you really need. The three-story luxury home may be left in Canada, but the apartments are definitely spacious and the view is spectacular. I’m not sure what more a person could want.
Then there is the land itself. Jerusalem is so special and unique. Walking around, you find ruins of ancient outposts, ritual baths, archaeological sites and more. You can visit ski slopes on a Monday morning, swim in the Dead Sea in the afternoon and visit the Western Wall in the evening.
Are You Waiting for the Shofar?
Anti-Semitism is on the rise. Almost daily, I read about threats that are issued to the West. When will the next attack be launched? Today? Tomorrow? Next week? All we seem to know for certain is that attacks are coming. Being in Israel, we have the IDF (and many would argue, Divine Protection). If, G-d forbid, there was an attack, we have the army and citizens who are ready to take action.
I just read that in a university in South Africa, students are calling to expel all the Jewish students. Campuses all over North America are becoming unsafe for Jewish students. Where is this all leading? Could there be another Holocaust? We scream the words “never again,” but can we really stop it if it comes?
I’ll end with the following. There are many Jews who may not be able to make it here. I met enough people in Canada who tried to live here, but wound up running back. And I meet people every now and then who wonder how much longer they will be in Israel. Perhaps they miss their big homes and big backyards. Perhaps they miss the luxuries and high salaries of the US. A lot of the time, they imagine that greater opportunities exist for them elsewhere. Maybe they’re right.
But this is a great land. It’s worth fighting for. It is the rightful inheritance of every Jew, but to earn it takes work. To keep it may take a lifetime of work. But if your expectations are realistic and you believe in your right to the land, why not be here? The shofar will eventually sound. All the Jews will return home. Personally, I think the question is: Did you choose to come home, or was it forced upon you?