As I sit writing this on Israel’s 64th birthday, I am reminded of what the Talmud tells us about our day of judgment. Before being granted admittance in the World to Come one is asked multiple questions, among which, “Did you yearn for redemption?”, or in Hebrew, “Tzipita l’yeshua?” The question, itself, is interesting because there is no implied physical action in it. The others all have some aspect of an act, i.e. setting aside set times for the study of Torah, conducting our dealings with integrity, etc. The yearning for redemption is simply a feeling – a desire, like love.
The Talmud, however, chose a strange word. Generally, one who is yearning – desiring – redemption, would be asked “kivita l’yeshuah,” literally, “did you hope for redemption?” The word here comes from the word “tzafah,” which means “to see” (it is from this word that Mt. Scopus, “Har HaTzofim,” derives its root). The Talmud is telling us that we are not merely being asked if we desired redemption – no, we all desire it – but rather if we actively sought it out.
I recently read an article by Dr. Michael Salamon highlighting the rise of anti-Semitism, and that Israel is our dam against the tide of hatred. To people who espouse this attitude I say that those who see Israel as a last resort will not merit in its protection when they need it. It is a truly sad state of affairs that Jews – Zionists! – see Israel as their ‘safety school,’ like some undesirable place that they’ll only live in if they have to. It is the complete antithesis of seeking out redemption; it is a passive, “let the redemption come to me” attitude.
Israel is not easy. It is expensive. Hot. The people are rude. It’s a religious democracy which isn’t quite sure of how religious it is, and just how democratic it wants to be. It is constantly between wars. Did I mention that it’s expensive?
Israel is not easy. Aliyah is not easy. It has never been easy. For millenia, Jews have thought of its 20,000 square km or so as “A land which devours its inhabitants!” If aliyah were easy, we would not be commanded to do it. We would not be asked if we sought out redemption. A nation is not handed to its people on a silver platter: you have to earn it, you have to yearn it.
From a purely mathematical, economical and practical perspective, Aliyah will probably never make sense. There will always be sacrifices to make and comforts to live without. You have to want it. You have to feel incomplete without it. Only then will you actively seek it.
This is my prayer as I watch the sun setting over the Mediteranean. This is my desire on the close of our nation’s 64th birthday: please help our brothers and sisters be illogical. Please let them want it before others force them to. Come home, and let us seek out the redemption together.