Back in 1983, I served as a pulpit rabbi in Los Angeles in a young Orthodox synagogue in a good Jewish neighborhood. My future was bright and it looked like a promising career awaited me. However, as time went on, I began to be tormented by a verse in Ezekiel 36 that gave me no peace of mind. The verse read, “These are G-d’s people, but they are outside of His Land.” The interpretation was that the presence of a Jew in the Exile was a desecration of the name of G-d. It made G-d look weak. In essence, the verse was saying, “If you’re G-d’s chosen people what are you doing outside of His chosen Land.”
I knew that I needed to be true to my ideals and it was obvious that I needed to move to Israel with my family. Thank G-d, in the summer of 1983, I made the most important decision of my life by making Aliya. Never in the past thirty-two years did I ever regret that decision because it was the right thing to do. I constantly feel blessed and fortunate to be able to live in Israel. I am home.
It’s time that other rabbis and Jewish leaders shout out this simple message. Israel is the only home for the Jewish people and is the only place in the world where Jews are truly welcome. The doors are open for our people to come home and nothing is preventing this except for Jewish weakness. Jewish leaders have lost the courage to lead and encourage their communities to do what is right. And more importantly, they must lead by example by moving to Israel.
Anyone whose eyes are open should realize that we are living in incredible times. The rebirth of the State of Israel is in itself miraculous with so many achievements in such a relatively short amount of time. But the rise of Islamic radicals and the hate that is spreading throughout Europe is not going to end there. America is in such a volatile position on so many levels, starting with its own lack of leadership, tenuous economy, and inability to fight terrorism. Where does this leave the Jew? Is it realistic to assume that if we wait around things will get better?
It is important to study Jewish sources to see if there is some kind of plan behind the chaos that envelops the world. The mere fact of the return of over six million Jews from all over the globe, is indeed historic. These are ancient prophecies being fulfilled right before our eyes. Aside from showing gratitude to G-d for allowing His children to come home, Israel is the SAFEST place for a Jew to be. Reading the news would not make one believe this, but for those of us who live here, we know this to be true.
One of the blessings in the Torah is that we be able to return “Komemiut”. This word means that we come home to Israel with our heads held high and with our dignity. We still have the opportunity for Komemiut. But we do not know how long this will last. Is it smart to hedge our bets or is it smarter to sanctify the name of the Al-mighty and come and live in His chosen Land?
Rabbis of synagogues throughout the world must stop being afraid. It’s not about comfortable jobs and life contracts. It’s about courage and leadership. They must lead by example and tell their congregants, “It’s time to go home.”
We will all have to stand before G-d one day to give an accounting for our behavior throughout our lives. There’s no doubt that He will ask us if we did everything possible to sanctify His name. Let’s hope that our answer will be that as difficult as it was to make the right choices, we put our faith in G-d and the Torah before everything else. Jews come home. Israel is home.