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Sunday, 1 March 2015

When are you coming home?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 25

The Kuzari is a fictional conversation between the king of the mediaeval Khazars and various faith leaders concerning in which religious direction he should take his people.  It was written in the twelfth century by Rabbi Judah Halevi as a defense of Judaism. 

At one point during the conversation, the Jewish sage extolls the greatness of the Land of Israel.  In response, the king accuses the Jews of hypocrisy for praying daily for a return to the Land and yet failing to get up and make Aliyah.   Thereupon, the sage admits the guilt of the Jewish people and concedes that the final redemption could have come centuries earlier, had the people only returned to Israel with Ezra and the building of the Second Temple.

The Torah declares, “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: Upon your arrival into the land which I am bringing you there;  and it shall be when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall tithe a gift to G-d.  The first of your dough shall be called challah, you shall surely gift it.”

The Beraisa teaches: One might think that the mitzvah of challah begins once two or three spies have entered, therefore the verse states, “Upon your arrival,” which means when you all arrive and not when a portion of you comes.  Indeed, when Ezra brought the Jewish people back to Israel after the Babylonian exile, most remained in the Diaspora.

The Almighty has given our generation a gift.  For the first time in thousands of years, we are beginning to see the fulfillment of the prophecy of our people’s return home to the Land of Israel.  Even in the days of Ezra, when the Holy Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem, most of our people didn’t bother coming home.  But within the next few years, we will finally see the day for which we have all prayed for two thousand years.  The majority of our people will be living in Israel.

Which side of history will you be on?  Will you be one of those who remains in Babylonia?  The consolation for those who didn’t heed Ezra and Nehemiah’s call was that most of their brethren didn’t either.  And misery loves company.   But this time you won’t be as lucky.  Before we know it, with estimates as soon at 2020, the majority of our people will be living in Israel. 

Unless you have a very good reason to remain in the Diaspora, you should have some sort of plan regarding Aliyah.  Certainly, if your spiritual mission is best achieved elsewhere or you live where you do because of family or work commitments, our Sages do offer a dispensation.  Nevertheless, you should constantly be asking yourself where Israel fits into your long term plan. 

Never should you become complacent about living in the Diaspora.  Not when we have such an incredible Divine gift, the likes of which your grandparents only dreamed of.  May you merit making Aliyah and fulfilling all your spiritual, physical, and material dreams in the Land of Israel!

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