Not that long ago I had the opportunity to guide Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel who serves as the Chabad Shaliach at the University of Illinois. Rabbi Tiechtel comes from an illustrious Chabad family. My wife had the privilege of having his mother as her teacher and principal in High School quite a few years ago. Rabbi Tiechtel himself is a very special person running a very successful Chabad on Campus operation.
I will be forever grateful to Rabbi Tiechtel for introducing me to a very, very special book, authored by his holy Great-Grandfather Rabbi Issachar Shlomo Tiechtel HY”D, murdered during the dark days of the Holocaust.
The book, originally written in Hebrew and later translated into English, deals with the topic of settling in the Land of Israel. It is entitled “The Joyous Mother of Children” referring to the great joy that the Land of Israel enjoys when her children return to the land. Keep in mind that the book was written before the establishment of the State of Israel, which only occurred a few short years later in 1948. The book was written during a time when many in the Orthodox world discouraged Jews from settling in Israel fearful of the spiritual challenges awaiting them in the Land of Israel.
Rabbi Tiechtel himself was from that school of thought until he experienced an epiphany of sort while on the run from the Nazis, and he made a full 180 degree turn, becoming a strong proponent for settling the Land of Israel.
I completed reading the book not that long ago and I was left with an array of feelings. Number one; inspired. And number two; disappointed.
Inspired because of the great wisdom, presented so clearly by the author, leaving absolutely no question as to where every single Jew belongs; Israel. Rabbi Tiechtel deals with all the classic arguments as to why Jews should wait until the End of Days before settling in Israel. I so regret not having read this book sooner.
Which is why I was disappointed. When I was young, a certain book was recommended to me; Perfidy by Ben Hecht. Perfidy, published in 1961 deals with the trial of Rudolf Kastner who was charged with deliberately withholding from the Jews in Hungary information that the trains the Nazis were putting them on were taking them to death by the gas chamber. The book presents Zionists and by extension the State of Israel in a most negative light, to say the least.
And so after recently finishing Rabbi Tiechtel’s book, I asked myself the question; Why was I handed Ben Hecht’s book when I was young, and not Rabbi Tiechtels?
Of course the question goes way deeper than that; In a time when Aliya to Israel is a viable option, why do so many orthodox Jews continue to decide to stay away?
I hope this next statement of mine is not misunderstood, but it is as if there are almost two completely independent religions; The Israel-based practice of Judaism and the way Judaism is practiced outside of Israel.
Which brings us to the next question; Where exactly is Judaism ultimately meant to be practiced?
Thank you Rabbi Tiechtel for being the key to opening my eyes in this matter.