The Dee Family (Photo: Talia Kirshner Photography)
“Israelis by Choice”
An Efrat Rabbi’s Message to his Community in These Trying Times
BY RABBI RAFI KADOSH
G-d so strongly expresses His love of converts in the Torah because they chose, of free will, to become Jews; because they are Jews by choice. No one ever asked me whether I wanted to be a Jew or not; I was born a Jew, I never made a choice. In contrast, a non-Jew who chooses to embrace Judaism and become a fully practicing Jew does so completely by free will, solely by his choice and his choice alone. He has the option to continue to live life as is, but he chooses otherwise.
Just as there are Jews by choice, there are “Israelis by choice.” Most Israelis today were born in Israel. No one asked them where they wished to be born and raised. In contrast, there are Jews who were born and raised in the Diaspora and choose to become Israeli. They chose to marry their destiny with the destiny of this nation.
Many of these “Israelis by choice” came from strong, wonderful communities abroad. Communities with rich Jewish heritage, including established shuls, excellent Jewish educational institutions, a broad range of kosher dining establishments, mikvaot, an eruv and countless yeshivot. Some of these places have reached the pinnacle of Jewish life – one can order strictly kosher sushi on a cell phone app that will arrive at your location within minutes!
However, during the musaf davening on Pesach, Jews both in Israel and abroad said: “Because of our sins we were exiled from our Land.” Unfortunately, many of our people have become extremely entrenched in the exile, and have forgotten the cause of this exile: “our sins.”
Some have even turned it into an ideal, and are still there “gathering the sparks” in the Diaspora. But the majority of our brethren abroad are simply not hearing the knock on their door. As early as 1956, Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik zt”l used the notion of “My Beloved is Knocking” as the allegory for Zionism. Almost 70 years have passed since then, and the Beloved continues to knock.
I sleep, but my heart is awake.
Hark! My beloved is knocking:
Open for me, my sister, my beloved, my dove, my perfect one,
for my head is full of dew,
my locks with the drops of the night…
I have taken off my tunic; how can I put it on?
I have bathed my feet; how can I soil them?
(Shir HaShirim, chapter 5)
When there is a “knock on the door in the middle of the night,” it is difficult to get out of bed to answer. It is warm, cozy, and safe in bed. There are countless reasons to roll over and just go back to sleep. “When the L-rd returns the returnees to Zion, we shall be like dreamers” (Tehillim, chapter 126). Surely the knock is meant for someone else – not for us.
But there are those who heard the knock, and understood that it was meant for them. These are Israelis by choice. These are Jews who chose to make Aliyah despite the ease of simply continuing to live their good and comfortable lives in the Diaspora. They chose to make Aliyah because it is the right thing to do as a Jew.
Leo Dee and his wonderful wife Lucy hy”d, the parents of Maia and Rina hy”d, made the decision to be Israelis by choice. They could have stayed in England with their beautiful family to live an easy comfortable life, be members of their lovely community and send periodic donations to Israeli causes. But they chose otherwise, to make Aliyah to Israel and to live in Efrat – because they heard the knock of their Beloved and heeded the call.
They chose to come here to Israel, because it is here and only here that we are in the midst of the most important events of the last 2,000 years of Jewish history. Because here in Israel, we are writing the next book of the Tanach together. They chose to write the chapters of the beginning of the geulah, instead of staying there and writing the last chapters of the galut.
Faced with the difficult events of the last several weeks, we must remember that the trials and tribulations we are experiencing now are those of the geulah. We shall always prefer the major challenges of the geulah over those of the galut. And from here, we call on all of our brothers and sisters from everywhere in the galut: Come and be “Israelis by choice.” We want you here and we need you here. Listen to the knock of the Beloved. It is intended for you.
Rabbi Rafi Kadosh is the Rav of Kehillat “Bracha V’Shalom” in Efrat, whose members are mostly “Israelis by choice.”