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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Why are you still in the Diaspora?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 110

We live in an incredible era.  After two thousand years of persecution and exile, we have Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.  Even our Talmudic Sages could only have dreamed of such a miracle!  It’s wonderful that we can visit Israel, but unless we are prepared to live there, what guarantee will we have of the safety and security of our people in the future? 

The Torah declares, “To give you the land of Canaan to be a G-d for you.”
The Rabbis taught: A person should always rather live in the Land of Israel than the Diaspora, for anyone who lives in Israel is considered to have a G-d.  And anyone who lives in the Diaspora, it is as if he worships idols.

Nevertheless, Rav Yehuda taught: Whoever makes Aliyah transgresses a commandment, as Jeremiah declared, “They shall be brought to Babylonia and remain there until the day I shall remember them, says Hashem.” Rav Yehuda felt that we should only return to Israel when Moshiach comes.  And so Rabbi Zaira, who desired to make Aliyah, was avoiding him. 

How then would Rabbi Zaira deal with said verse? He understood it to be referring to the vessels of service of the Holy Temple.
Rav Yehuda quoted Shmuel: Just like it is forbidden to leave Israel to live in Babylonia, it is likewise forbidden to leave Babylonia to live in any other country, since Babylonia is a place of Torah.

Most authorities today agree with Rabbi Zaira that we should make Aliyah even before the advent of Moshiach.   Only the ‘vessels of service’ should remain in Babylonia.  Who are the vessels of service?  Those who are in the Diaspora on a specific mission, acting as ambassadors for the State of Israel. 

You should be living in Israel.  But if your mission is to advocate for Israel, then your place is in the Diaspora.  If you are actively engaging politicians, Christians, school and university groups, newspaper letter-writing, you are a holy vessel and Israel needs your vital work to keep its international legitimacy intact.

But it’s not just the physical security of Israel that is at stake.  The Jewish people are tragically assimilating at an alarming rate.  If you’ve devoted your life to being a vessel of service to the spiritual salvation of our people, then that too is a valid reason to be in the Diaspora. 

What’s more, just like Shmuel teaches that one may not leave Babylonia, the Torah centre, for any other country, if you are in the Diaspora, you need to make sure you are in a place of Torah where your soul will be satiated.  The only exception again is if you are a vessel of service.  If you’ve dedicated your life to the spiritual sustenance of our brethren, then you are an ambassador for Torah.  That doesn’t only mean rabbis and shochets; it includes people who have devoted themselves to institution building – shuls and schools – in places where a Torah drought is present.

What are you doing towards making Israel your final destination?  Alternatively, what are you doing to be a vessel of service in the Diaspora?  May you merit serving and protecting our people physically and spiritually!  

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