Israel Makes Judaism Better

Is Judaism better in Israel?

“Anyone who resides in the Land of Israel is considered as one who has a God, and anyone who resides outside the Land of Israel is considered as one who does not have a God.” (Ketubot 110b)

I think this sort of answers the question, no?

Jewish tradition presents living in the Land of Israel as the optimal situation.  We know, however, that Judaism is fully relevant, binding, and flourishing outside Israel.  What are we to make of these sources?  Why would a rabbi in the Talmud say that those of us who live outside Israel are Godless?

They all understood something that needs reinforcing today: We need Israel.

Quantitatively and mechanically, Judaism is Judaism everywhere in the world.  Qualitatively, Israel provides Judaism with a certain something that cannot be acquired elsewhere.

This has always been true, and is truer than ever today.  Even in the observant, religious, and Zionist corners of the Jewish community, we need a reminder of just how much Israel enhances, expands, enlivens, and elevates our spiritual lives as Jews.  Our Judaism looks, tastes, and acts differently because there is a State of Israel, and we must never take this for granted.

Especially today, when there are so many reasons why we think our Judaism is just fine without Israel, we need to double down on our spiritual connection to Israel.  We need to, as the saying goes, feel emotionally connected to Israel deep in our kishkes!

In today’s world, there is concern about the Jewish community’s connection to Israel.  It is weakening – especially within the younger generation.  A frank conversation is needed as is more education.  But one way to instill pride and strengthen the positive feeling for Israel is to love Israel even more.  Let’s identify all the great things Israel has accomplished, is accomplishing, and will accomplish.  Are there problems to address?  Absolutely!  We can better address those with an appreciation of just how much better Judaism is in Israel and with a love of Israel in our lives.

There is no magic formula formula to instill an appreciation in us. It must just come from the heart.

In the early twentieth century someone brought to Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel, the following dilemma.  He had given his son a good Jewish education.  He had always kept the commands at home.  Now, however, the son had drifted far from Judaism.  He no longer kept the commandments. He did not even identify as a Jew.  What should the father do?

“Did you love him when he was religious?” asked Rav Kook.  “Of course,” replied the father.

“Well then,” Rav Kook replied, “Now love him even more.

Israel is only 71 years young.  As the magic of Yom Ha’atzmaut fades, how can we better connect ourselves and our children to the State of Israel?  How can we properly evaluate, praise, and even critically discuss the Jewish State? How do we ensure a stronger relationship with Israel by all Jews?

Let’s love Israel more.

About the Author
Rabbi Elie Weinstock is Rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City. A believer in a Judaism that is accessible to all, he prefers "Just Judaism" to any denominational label.