(Photo: Howie Mischel)
BY RABBI SHMUEL JABLON
From the moment my children were born, we taught them to love Israel and that Israel is where we truly belong. Every Friday night, as part of my blessing to them, I would add the following words: “May you merit to become great in Torah, to marry and perform acts of kindness, to love all of Klal Yisrael, to love the Land of Israel – and to do all of these in our Holy Land!”
One year before we made Aliyah, my parents brought our entire family to Israel in honor of my mother’s 70th birthday. At the end of our trip, as we sat on the plane, ready to return to the United States, my then 8-year-old son Akiva began to cry. I asked him why. “Because we’re leaving Israel. I don’t want to leave Israel!”
Just prior to making Aliyah eight years ago in the midst of Operation Protective Edge, I took my then 12-year-old son, Mordechai Bentzion, to see his beloved Philadelphia Phillies play one last game. Before the game, he went to retired former all star Greg Luzinski’s autograph booth. When he came back to our seats he told me about their brief discussion.
“Mr. Luzinsky, this is my last game here.” “Why?” “We’re moving.” “Moving? Where?” “To Israel.” “Israel?! Why in the h— would you do that?!” “Because we’re Jewish. That’s what Jews do!”
Prior to making Aliyah, I interviewed for a few principal positions at schools that advertised themselves as “Religious Zionist”. Shortly after visiting one, I received a phone call from the school’s president.
“Rabbi, it was clear to everyone that you can do this job; you have all the experience needed. We have just one question: if you become our principal, would you agree not to talk about Aliyah?” Taken aback, I said: “Absolutely not. I talk about all the mitzvot – kashrut, Shabbat, Aliyah – all of them. Of course, I always talk nicely, no fire and brimstone. But I would never agree to not talk about a mitzvah.” I never heard from them again.
At another school, I interviewed with the entire board. One of the officers asked: “Rabbi, I read an article you wrote about the goals of a Religious Zionist education. You said that by the end of 12th grade, a student should want to make Aliyah. What if we want our children to love Israel, support Israel, visit Israel, study in Israel – but live here?”
I responded, “You mean not even as a goal? Not even when health, finances and family all make it possible?” “Correct.” I said, “Please forgive me, but that’s classical Reform Judaism – not Religious Zionism. A Religious Zionist must always view Aliyah as a goal.” I never heard from them again.
After these two interviews, we decided that it was, indeed, time for us to make Aliyah. We told our children that it was finally time. They cheered.
Last year, my son Mordechai Bentzion (long over the Phillies) was assigned to guard duty for Shabbat in Chevron, as part of his training for the paratroopers. Before Shabbat, he called to talk and for his berachah. He started to cry.
“Mordechai, what’s wrong? Are you ok?” He replied, “I’m great. I’m crying because I’m so happy. I remember that when you drove me to school in first grade, you always played the song “חֶבְרוֹן מֵאָז וּלְתָמִיד”, (Chevron, Now and Forever) every day. And now I’m here, protecting Chevron! What a zechut!”
Rav Kook often said that Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael possess an innate segulah, a unique holiness, and are “wedded” to one another. The nation of Israel is not merely a large “insurance company” to which each individual pays in and gets back. It is a holy, unified nation with sacred goals.
When considering and teaching about Aliyah, it is not sufficient to ask what is best for us or our families. One must also ask what is best for the holy “entity” known as Am Yisrael. Though some might temporarily remain in exile, every Jew’s ultimate goal must be to return to Israel, to fulfill the prophecy of the ingathering of the exiles and participate in the rebirth and flouring of, as Rav Kook put it, “the State of Israel, the Throne of Hashem in this world.”
Rabbi Shmuel Jablon is the Executive Director of Shapell’s / Darche Noam and Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya in Jerusalem. He and his wife were recently blessed with their third sabra grandchild.