There are a million and one things to say about Aliyah, each with its seemingly-almost-equal corresponding contradictory points.
Aliyah means Jews “ascending” and returning to their homeland, the Land of Israel, based on God’s promises uttered and documented in His Book to us again and again, via our Patriarchs and Prophets, that He will return us to our land. (Btw, the Quran states this too…on the other hand, there is now the trend to try to deny this…).
On the one hand, I want to plaster the classified ads pages with “WANTED”s calling all what Israelis call “Anglos” (native English-speakers) to Come Quick, Make Aliya NOW to help put together a good ole American-style “Boston Tea Party” in Israel! We need just the right people who can help change the miserable government and red-taped systems here. We need the masses and mobs to fix the over-taxation of the people here. We need to “drain the swamp” here too! We need the “spirit of the American Revolution”!
Of course, we wouldn’t be tossing tea into Haifa bay (the Brits have been out of here for almost 70 years). But maybe Turkish – aka “botz” – coffee (though the Turks have been out of here even longer) or maybe falafel balls would do the trick!
On the other hand…we need to remember that, alas! – we are still in galut. Our Sages even warned us that this is the way it would be during Ikvata D’Meshicha, the last generation of the galut that we are in right now (see Mishna Tractate Sota, chapter 9).
Eretz Yisrael is not just another country on the globe. The Holy Land is a unique, one-of-a-kind sui generis. On the one hand, we are told that three things are granted only from suffering, one of which is Eretz Yisrael (along with Torah and The World To Come, Tractate Brachot 5a). On the other hand, we’re told –
Forever should one live in Eretz Yisrael even in a city whose majority is idol-worshippers and not live in the diaspora and even in a city whose majority is Yisrael; while whoever lives in Eretz Yisrael resembles one who has a God and whoever lives outside Eretz Yisrael resembles one who has no God (Tractate Ketubot 110b).
So, why should we strive to transplant the Diaspora into Israel? Do we really want to copy the same name-of-the-game, fame-and-fortune priorities, life goals, and expectations as those living outside the holy Land of Israel? And why does Am Yisrael hold on to the foreign mindsets that keep them from returning?
With all the trials and tribulations here, the truth is that, from their anecdotal records (because there are no formal statistics), Nefesh B’Nefesh states that only 10% of olim from North America return. That means that 90% succeed and remain in Aretz however they design or redesign their lives here. B”H!!!
Rabbi Zeira of Bavel fasted 100 fasts to be able to forget all the Torah he learned in galut and so he could learn everything anew in Israel, but on the level of Eretz Yisrael (Tractate Baba Metziah 85a).
This shows that we have to re-invent ourselves when we “ascend” to Eretz Yisrael. There’s a humbling that’s part-and-parcel of making Aliya, whereby we learn to recognize the difference between needs (what we truly need) and wants (and when that’s more than enough). Here we also utilize the very air of the land to strengthen our emuna and bitachon: Avira d’Eretz Yisrael Machkim (Tractate Bava Batra 158b). And this in turn enables us to be in love with the mitzvah of living in our Promised Land – to truly love being here.
Like Avraham Avinu, we just need to get up and go out of the lands of the diaspora – to just come. It means we need to also let go of galut, detach from its mentality, and not try to schlep it here too – galut values and galut mentality – which includes the deep-seated non-Jewish belief that our material possessions and financial success define us.
What we also learn from Rabbi Zeira is that new faculties are received only once a Jew is in Israel. So, many of the spiritual conflicts we experience cannot even be dealt with abroad. Moral of the story: Don’t try to sort it out before coming. Come with emunah and bitachon that Hashem will show you here how to figure out how much is really enough and how much is really needed.
The Rav Dessler reminds us that “[t]he greatness of Eretz Yisrael lies in the fact that it ‘corresponds to the Eretz Yisrael of above’ [Zohar III 72a]…and, as “[t]he Torah tells us that ‘God’s eyes are upon this land from the beginning to the end of the year’ [Devarim 11: 12], meaning that in Eretz Yisrael one can perceive more clearly than anywhere else the direct providence of Hashem – hashgaha pratit. Through this, one can approach more closely the ideal of complete and selfless purity of service – lishma gamur.
The influx of holiness into people’s minds is different here, in Eretz Yisrael. If a person is willing to think deeply about Torah in Eretz Yisrael, he will find his efforts rewarded with a flow of ideas much deeper and more abundant than he would achieve with the same effort elsewhere.”
This also translates to the point that meeting the challenge of overcoming galut values can really only happen here – once you’re actually here.
Considering the resurgence of unveiled, unfeigned, and unabashed anti-Semitism in North America and Europe, from here it is also hard to understand why Jews even stay in these foreign continents.
Am Yisrael, your homeland is here – is Eretz Yisrael.