Is aliya a mitzva from the Torah?

A recently posted 34 second video of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky (שליט”א) is one that should be making major waves in the Yeshivishe world in the Diaspora.

As can be seen here, Rav Kanievsky is asked a very direct question about Aliya. A person standing at his side comments that there are those who say it is prohibited to make Aliya. His reply (in his usual way) is one word: חלילה (G-d forbid!). When asked if it is a Torah-based obligation still TODAY to make Aliya, once again he answers with one word: “Yes!”

To understand the importance of this 34 second clip, it is important to understand who Rav Kanievsky is.

Rav Kanievsky was born in Pinsk to Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (also known as the Steipler Gaon) and Rebbitzen Miriam Karelitz, sister of Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (also known as the Chazon Ish). He married Batsheva, daughter of Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv and granddaughter of Rav Aryeh Levin. He lives in Bnei Brak and receives thousands of visitors every year from Jews seeking religious advice. He is known throughout the world as a giant in the Torah world and is especially revered in the Haredi world.

And now, with that important piece of background, re-examine what he said! He said that making Aliya TODAY is a mitzva that is a Torah-based mitzvah. When asked if it is prohibited to make Aliya, he is repulsed by the thought and declares “G-d forbid!”

This statement should indeed send ripples throughout the Jewish world in the Diaspora and especially in the Haredi world. One of the leading Torah sages in the Haredi world has made a clear statement!  ALIYA IS A MITZVA FROM THE TORAH. Now, if that is the case, it is no different from putting on Tefillin or from keeping kosher, etc. Why, then, may one choose one mitzva and negate another. Why would someone look to Rav Kanievsky for guidance in Torah matters, quoting his Piskei Halacha (Halachik decisions) on a daily basis and then hear these words and not be moved by them? Can someone in good conscience who sees the Rav as a beacon of Torah and halacha choose to disregard his statement?

I once asked a very good friend of mine in the States, who is Haredi, what would happen if someone like Rav Elyashiv would say it is a Mitzva nowadays to make Aliya. He said “It would cause a panic and people would not know what to  do.” Well, this statement was not from Elysahiv but rather his son-in-law, a leading Torah luminary.

So, I ask in very plain and simple terms: Now that you hear and see it directly from Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a, are you willing to make the move? Are you willing to fulfill a Mitzva from the Torah that Hashem tells us that He wants us to live in His home? If not, why not?

And as Hillel says in the Mishne: “אם לא עכשיו אימתי” (If not now, when?)

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.