It is forbidden for Rabbis to Make Aliyah? (part 1 of 2)

For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent

On Yom Ha’azmaut May 9, 2019 (5779) a Yom Iyun shiur titled, “Q&A: Relating to EY and Making Aliyah” was given to Yeshiva University students at the Yeshiva College campus in Washington Heights in Manhattan New York. The link to actual shiur can be found online at YU Torah Online.

As a proud YU graduate (class of 1991) who made Aliyah in 2013, I was deeply disturbed by what these important Rabbonim, who are giants in Torah knowledge, had to say in regards to Aliyah and Eretz Yisrael. However, we must respect and analyze their words of Torah. For an entire year I shared these thoughts with those around me, including other Rabbonim. In light of the revolution, terrorism, riots and anarchy going in the USA today, I felt it necessary to bring this topic for public discussion.

ישעיהו מב:כא-כג

ה’ חָפֵץ לְמַעַן צִדְקוֹ יַגְדִּיל תּוֹרָה וְיַאְדִּֽיר: וְהוּא עַם בָּזוּז וְשָׁסוּי הָפֵחַ בַּֽחוּרִים כֻּלָּם וּבְבָתֵּי כְלָאִים הָחְבָּאוּ, הָיוּ לָבַז וְאֵין מַצִּיל מְשִׁסָּה וְאֵֽין אֹמֵר הָשַֽׁב: מִי בָכֶם יַֽאֲזִין זֹאת יַקְשִׁב וְיִשְׁמַע לְאָחֽוֹר:

Hashem desires [this] for His righteousness’ sake; He magnifies the Torah and strengthens it. And it is a robbed and pillaged people; all their youths are grieved, and they are hidden in dungeons; they are subject to plunderers, and none rescues [them], to pillagers, and no one says, “Return.” Who among you will hearken to this, will listen and hear for the future? (Yeshayahu 42:21-23)

I have full respect for Rav Herschel Schacter and Rav Mordechai Willig as great Torah leaders. Therefore, I want to use their Torah opinions to further the discussion and understanding of Eretz Yisrael in our daily lives. In light of current world events, I do not think that Aliyah is just a “nice thing” to do; rather this is an issue of real Pikuach Nefesh (saving Jewish lives).

It is not my place, G-d forbid, to criticize any of these great Rabbonim in any way. Just the opposite, I feel it is with full honor and respect to take their words seriously and analyze them in the context of Chazal. It could be that in light of recent events in 2020, their expressed views in the past may have changed.

In the past several months the USA has experienced “Kristelnacht” 2020. The situation in regards to riots, Black Lives Matter (which espouses the elimination of Israel and its Jews via the policy of “Free Palestine”), The Democratic Party, Anti-Semitism, Yeshivos/schools being closed (including YU), COVID-19, and the global economic crisis etc;  is getting worse every  day. The relevance of Eretz Yisrael to every Jew, must be discussed. Up until now there has never been an organized movement by Orthodox USA Rabbis for or against Aliyah to Israel.   

My YU Background

YU has changed dramatically since I graduated in 1996. I attended Yeshiva University (YU) from 1992 until 1996.  I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Biology.  During those four years I was privileged to be a student of Rav Meir Goldvicht.  In addition, I was the honor to hear shiurim from Rav Mordechai Willig and Rav Herschel Schacter as well.  While attending medical school I was a member of Rav Willig’s Shul (Young Israel of Riverdale) and was fortunate to learn Torah from him for over three years.

While I was in YU, I was the president of the Israel club from 1993-1996. The only Israel events on campus, at that time, were the ones that I personally organized. This included the annual Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’azmaut celebrations. To the best of my recollection, the only Rabbis who attended this event were Rav Goldvicht, Rabbi Blau and Rav Ram ob”m; that’s it!  After many discussions with the administration, they adamantly refused to fly the Israeli flag on campus.  In 1996 I attempted to organize a chartered plane to Israel, in order to support the Jewish settlement of  Hevron; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on abandoned most of the city in the 1997 via the Hebron Agreement creating H-1(no Jews) and H-2 areas.  I was successfully threatened by the YU administration, to cancel this solidarity flight to Israel.

My impression at the time, and now, is that Yeshiva University just gives insincere lip service to the idea of the Jewish settlement of Eretz Yisrael. In the past Rav Schacter voiced a different opinion about our leaders from the USA making Aliyah, I will quote it below.

My Rebbe, Rav Goldvicht came to YU in 1991 for only one year, on the advice of his Rebbe, the Gadol Hador, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach tz”l. He was so successful in YU that Rav Shlomo Zalman told him to stay for another year and at the end of each academic year they would reevaluate when to return with his family to Israel. This process continued until Rav Shlomo Zalman died on February 20,1995; Rav Goldvicht has been living in the USA and teaching at YU ever since (29 years!). This is very significant. Rav Goldvicht was very vocal in his shiurim to us that he does not want to raise his family in the USA and that we must also make every effort to make Aliyah as soon as is possible for us.

What changed that made these great Rabbis give up on the idea of Aliyah and Yishuv Eretz Yisrael?

I would think that a Rabbinical Torah leader would lead the way and actively move to Israel; and not just tell others to go when it’s convenient.  Many Yeshiva University graduates have moved to Israel, despite their education or lack thereof.

Why isn’t there a organized effort to maintain a Yeshiva University (Yeshiva College, RIETS) type community in Israel and build a YU style Yeshiva College in Eretz Yisrael?

YU Background on Israel

To the best of my knowledge, HaRav Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik), ordained both Rav Hershel Shachter and Rav Mordechai Willig. “The Rav”, as he is known, was said to be the protector of the Rambam (Maimonides). He also is credited as restoring the status of Maimonides from a “theologian” to a halachik authority. It was said, that the Rambam was always a focus of the Rav’s thought.

David Curwin, comments on the Rav’s commitment to the Rambam in the book “Joseph B. Soloveitchik, And From There You Shall Seek. Naomi Goldblum. Jersey City: Ktav, 2008, pg.143-44.”

The Rav, too, cherished the Mishneh Torah. In his forties, the Rav recalled how Maimonides was his only childhood friend, and he would anxiously listen to his father’s lectures to see if he would succeed in defending Maimonides from his detractors, such as the Ravad:

Lectures were given in my grandfather’s living room, where my bed was placed. I used to sit up in bed and listen to my father talk. My father always spoke about the Rambam … My father would say, almost as a complaint against the Rambam, “We don’t understand our master’s reasoning or the way he explains the passage.” It was as if he were complaining to the Rambam directly, “Rabbenu Mosheh, why did you do this?”

My father would then say that, prima facie, the criticisms and objections of the Ravad are actually correct … I would strain my ears to listen to what he was saying … Slowly, slowly, the tension ebbed; Father strode boldly and bravely. New arguments emerged; halakhic rules were formulated and defined with wondrous precision. A new light shone … The Rambam emerged the winner. Father’s face shone with joy. He had defended his “friend” … I too participated in this joy.

What is the Rambam’s Opinion on Aliyah?

Being that YU REITS is very respectful of the Rambam’s halachik opinions; it is relevant to see what is his view about Israel. Do Rabbis need to make Aliyah? Who is exempt?

רמב”ם, משנה תורה, שופטים מלכים ומלחמות ה: ט-יב

ט אָסוּר לָצֵאת מֵאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל לְחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ לְעוֹלָם. אֶלָּא לִלְמֹד תּוֹרָה אוֹ לִשָּׂא אִשָּׁה אוֹ לְהַצִּיל מִן הָעַכּוּ”ם. וְיַחְזֹר לָאָרֶץ. וְכֵן יוֹצֵא הוּא לִסְחוֹרָה. אֲבָל לִשְׁכֹּן בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ אָסוּר אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן חָזַק שָׁם הָרָעָב עַד שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה שְׁוֵה דִּינָר חִטִּין בִּשְׁנֵי דִּינָרִין. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים כְּשֶׁהָיוּ הַמָּעוֹת מְצוּיוֹת וְהַפֵּרוֹת בְּיֹקֶר. אֲבָל אִם הַפֵּרוֹת בְּזוֹל וְלֹא יִמְצָא מָעוֹת וְלֹא בְּמָה יִשְׂתַּכֵּר וְאָבְדָה פְּרוּטָה מִן הַכִּיס. יֵצֵא לְכָל מָקוֹם שֶׁיִּמְצָא בּוֹ רֶוַח. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמֻּתָּר לָצֵאת אֵינָהּ מִדַּת חֲסִידוּת שֶׁהֲרֵי מַחְלוֹן וְכִלְיוֹן שְׁנֵי גְּדוֹלֵי הַדּוֹר הָיוּ וּמִפְּנֵי צָרָה גְּדוֹלָה יָצְאוּ וְנִתְחַיְּבוּ כְּלָיָה לַמָּקוֹם:

י גְּדוֹלֵי הַחֲכָמִים הָיוּ מְנַשְּׁקִין עַל תְּחוּמֵי אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמְנַשְּׁקִין אֲבָנֶיהָ וּמִתְגַּלְגְּלִין עַל עֲפָרָהּ. וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (תהילים קב טו) “כִּי רָצוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ אֶת אֲבָנֶיהָ וְאֶת עֲפָרָהּ יְחֹנֵנוּ”:

יא אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים כָּל הַשּׁוֹכֵן בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲוֹנוֹתָיו מְחוּלִין. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה לג כד) “וּבַל יֹאמַר שָׁכֵן חָלִיתִי הָעָם הַיּשֵׁב בָּהּ נְשֻׂא עָוֹן”. אֲפִלּוּ הָלַךְ בָּהּ אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת זוֹכֶה לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. וְכֵן הַקָּבוּר בָּהּ נִתְכַּפֵּר לוֹ. וּכְאִלּוּ הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁהוּא בּוֹ מִזְבַּח כַּפָּרָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים לב מג) “וְכִפֶּר אַדְמָתוֹ עַמּוֹ”. וּבַפֻּרְעָנוּת הוּא אוֹמֵר (עמוס ז יז “(עַל אֲדָמָה טְמֵאָה תָּמוּת”. וְאֵינוֹ דּוֹמֶה קוֹלַטְתּוֹ מֵחַיִּים לְקוֹלַטְתּוֹ אַחַר מוֹתוֹ. וְאַף עַל פִּי כֵן גְּדוֹלֵי הַחֲכָמִים הָיוּ מוֹלִיכִים מֵתֵיהֶם לְשָׁם. צֵא וּלְמַד מִיַּעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ וְיוֹסֵף הַצַּדִּיק:

יב לְעוֹלָם יָדוּר אָדָם בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲפִלּוּ בְּעִיר שֶׁרֻבָּהּ עַכּוּ”ם וְאַל יָדוּר בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּעִיר שֶׁרֻבָּהּ יִשְׂרָאֵל. שֶׁכָּל הַיּוֹצֵא לְחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ כְּאִלּוּ עוֹבֵד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמואל א כו יט) ” כִּי גֵרְשׁוּנִי הַיּוֹם מֵהִסְתַּפֵּחַ בְּנַחֲלַת ה’ לֵאמֹר לֵךְ עֲבֹד אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים”. וּבַפֻּרְעָנֻיּוֹת הוּא אוֹמֵר (יחזקאל יג ט) “וְאֶל אַדְמַת יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא יָבֹאוּ”. כְּשֵׁם שֶׁאָסוּר לָצֵאת מֵהָאָרֶץ לְחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ כָּךְ אָסוּר לָצֵאת מִבָּבֶל לִשְׁאָר הָאֲרָצוֹת. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ירמיה כז כב) “בָּבֶלָה יוּבָאוּ וְשָׁמָּה יִהְיוּ”:

Rambam, Mishna Torah: Shoftim, Laws Kings and Wars, Chapter 5: 9-12

  • It is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora at all times except:

to study Torah;

to marry; or

to save one’s property from the gentiles.

After accomplishing these objectives, one must return to Eretz Yisrael.

Similarly, one may leave Eretz Yisrael to conduct commercial enterprises. However, it is forbidden to leave with the intent of settling permanently in the Diaspora unless the famine in Eretz Yisrael is so severe that a dinar’s worth of wheat is sold at two dinarim.

When do these conditions apply? When one possesses financial resources and food is expensive. However, if food is inexpensive, but a person cannot find financial resources or employment and has no money available, he may leave and go to any place where he can find relief.

Though it is permitted to leave Eretz Yisrael under these circumstances, it is not pious behavior. Behold, Machlon and Kilyon were two of the great men of the generation and they left Eretz Yisrael only out of great distress. Nevertheless, they were found worthy of death by G-d!

  • Great sages would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, kiss its stones, and roll in its dust. Similarly,( Tehillim 102:15) declares: ‘Behold, your servants hold her stones dear and cherish her dust.’
  • The Sages commented: ‘Whoever dwells in Eretz Yisrael will have his sins forgiven as (Yishaya 33:24) states: ‘The inhabitant shall not say ‘I am sick.’ The people who dwell there shall be forgiven their sins.’

Even one who walks four amos there will merit the world to come and one who is buried there receives atonement as if the place in which he is buried is an altar of atonement as (Devarim 32:43)states: ‘His land will atone for His people.’ In contrast, the prophet, (Amos 7:17), used the expression ‘You shall die in an impure land’ as a prophecy of retribution.

There is no comparison between the merit of a person who lives in Eretz Yisrael and ultimately, is buried there and one whose body is brought there after his death. Nevertheless, great Sages would bring their dead there. Take an example, from our Patriarch, Yakov, and Yoseph, the righteous.

  • At all times, a person should dwell in Eretz Yisrael even in a city whose population is primarily gentile, rather than dwell in the Diaspora, even in a city whose population is primarily Jewish.

This applies because whoever leaves Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora is considered as if he worships idols as (Shmuel I 26:19) states ‘They have driven me out today from dwelling in the heritage of God, saying ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Similarly, (Yechezkel 13:9) prophecies of retribution state: ‘They shall not come to the land of Israel. Just as it is forbidden to leave the chosen land for the Diaspora, it is also forbidden to leave Bavel for other lands as Yermiyahu (27:22) states: ‘They shall be brought to Bavel and there they shall be until I take heed of them… and restore them to this place.’

The Rambam is very clear. ALL Jews, including Rabbis, should strive to live in Israel even among non-Jews; for sure among non- religious or other types of Jews!  There is not special dispensation for Rabbis or teachers. He even clarifies that a truly pious Jew will not rely on these stringencies.  Clearly, living in Chutz La’Aretz is not what a Torah Jew is to strive for.

Disclaimer – Rav Shachter and Rav Willig are Great Torah Leaders

The purpose of this article it to initiate sincere thought and discussion about Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, specifically in 2020. I initially hesitated to write this article fearing that it will be misconstrued as disrespect for Rabbis Shachter and Willig; however, the opposite is true. I was the utmost respect reverence for these Rabbis. However, at this time I feel we can learn a lot from their expressed opinions. I quote from Rav Teichtal’s sefer (Eim Habonim Semaicha, Rabbi Moshe Lichtman edition, pg. 28), whom Rav Shachter himself has praised.   My thoughts are echoed in the words of Rav Teichtal in his approbations preface:

…I will not revoke my Torah opinion because of any gadol or Rebbe of our generation, unless he debates the issues with me in the manner of Torah dialogue, using proofs from the words of Chazal…Hashem knows and can testify that I did not write this to be boastful or arrogant. I wrote it for the sake of truth and justice, for the sake of G-d’s glorious name, for the sake of our nation’s honor, and the honor of our Holy Land.

Just at Europe dramatically changed for the Jews in 1943 (when Rav Teichtal wrote his book); we can also state that in 2020, times have changed for the worse in the USA.

Rabbi Berel Wein recently wrote:

[In the USA] There will be more governmental regulations regarding curriculum, and the nature of educational classes in schools. Education separated by sex will certainly not be allowed, and the concentration on Torah studies will be severely limited…

Certainly, the America that I grew up in and lived in for most of my lifetime no longer exists. There is no longer wholesome entertainment nor a feeling of moral probity. America was once a religious country. Today it has become overwhelmingly secular with all the attendant evils that such a change in society inevitably engenders. History teaches us that nothing goes on forever, and that great countries and empires rise but inevitably fall.

For many years, I thought that the United States was the exception to that rule, but I no longer believe so…

The entire order of the USA has turned upside down with closed shuls, yeshivas and wanton destruction of Jewish property, with messages ” Kill the Jews” and “Free Palestine” which advocates killing the Jews of Israel, are sprayed on walls and banners. Society is rapidly deteriorating with laws being enacted  to defund the police – whose job is to protect the Jews. The younger Jewish generation has not future in the USA.

Rabbi Kenneth Brander, is a 1984 alumnus of Yeshiva College and received his ordination from the REITS where he was a student of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. From 2005–2018, he served as vice president of Yeshiva University. He currently lives in Israel. He has also recently commented on Israel.

A study of the Jewish federations shows that 85% of Jews in America feel that Israel is not their home. This is due to the activity of anti-Israel organizations in the US and the way in which some Israelis express themselves. I think the Rabbis trained in Orthodox institutions like Yeshiva University can solve this situation…

Those have opposed Aliyah in the past, are mistaken to repeat this opinion in the present.

תהילים קל”ב:יג

כִּֽי בָחַר ה בְּצִיּוֹן, אִוָּהּ לְמוֹשָׁב לֽוֹ:

For the Hashem has chosen Zion [Eretz Yisrael]; He desired it for His habitation (Tehillim 132:13)

The Shiur – Yeshiva University Campus, Israel Independence Day 2019

I will paraphrase the discussion of the shiur.  If there are any mistakes or misunderstandings in the transcription, I apologize if this has occurred. In between the Questions, I have added my personal comments for discussion and clarification, in italics.

Student Question #1: What should we be doing to have Eretz Yisrael on our minds?

Rav Herschel Schacter: YU does a lot [to help with this].

Rav Mordechai Willig: We daven three times daily, all about Eretz Yisrael. We do not need extra things. Eretz Yisrael is in all of our Tefilos. Most YU students have studied one to two years in Israel, so most have a connection [with Eretz Yisrael].

        שחרית, תפילה “יהי כבוד”

כי בחר ה בציון, אוה למושב לו (תהילים קל”ב : יג)

שחרית, “אהבה רבה”

והביאנו לשלום מארבע כנפות הארץ, ותוליכינו קוממיות לארצינו.

שחרית\מנחה מודים דרבנן

ותאסף גליותנו…

ברכת המזון

נודה לך ה אלקינו על…ארץ חמדה…על הארץ הטובה…

הרחמן…והוא יוליכנו קוממיות לארצינו.

מעין שלש

…ועל ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה שרצית והנחלת לאבותינו…ונודה לך על הארץ…

קבלת שבת, “ה מלך”

ה’ בציון גדול, ורם הוא על כל העמים (תהילים צט:ב)

Rav Shachter: I did not learn [in a Yeshiva] in Eretz Yisrael [as a student].

Rav Willig: I learned in Kerem B’Yavneh (KBY) as my Junior [College] year abroad. It was a very transformative year. My children went to KBY. Nowadays, students go to Israel after High School. I am sure that when you learned in Israel, someone told you that you are not allowed to return to the USA and that you must stay [in Israel]. They quote the Ramban that says it is a Torah Law that one must live in Eretz Yisrael.


Student Question #2: Why did you decide not to make Aliyah?

Rav Shachter: Rav and Shmuel lived in Eretz Yisrael. They left to go to Bavel because there was a problem of Am Aratzos (ignorance of Torah knowledge).  They went to Bavel and built a Yeshiva there. Not everyone is obligated to live in Eretz Yisrael. If you are needed in Chutz La’aretz, for example those who are Rabbonim or in Chinuch (education) are not allowed to go to Eretz Yisrael. The Rav,  (Rav Soloveitchik) , compared this situation to that of a Captain of a Ship. He is not allowed to leave. There is a danger סכנה and all of the passengers need to be taken care of. We have communities in the USA.

The Maharam Shik (1807-1879), student of the Chasam Sofer, was asked the question: In Europe, if one of the local Rabbis could take a job offer as a Rabbi in Eretz Yisrael?

This Rabbi was ready to move to Israel and the Maharam Shik did not give him a bracha to go. One who is a Rav is a captain of the ship and he may not go on Aliyah. Rav Kook left Europe to be the Chief Rabbi of Israel. Rav Kook encouraged Rav Chaim Ozer to make Aliyah. Rav Ozer refused, saying they needed him in Vilna.

Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski (1863-1940) was offered the position of Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim, he declined. He died of cancer August 9, 1940 (5th of Av 5700). He played an instrumental role in preserving Lithuanian yeshivas during the Communist era, and temporarily saved the yeshivas of Poland and Russia during the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, when he arranged for these yeshivas to relocate to Lithuanian cities.

Rav Teichtal concluded his second introduction to Eim Habonim Semeicha on the 1st of Shevat 1943 – in honor of the anniversary of the death of the Maharam Shick.

However, lots of Rabanim fool ourselves, even in Yeshiva College. They say that, “If we leave USA Jewry will collapse”. Jewry in the USA will not collapse if Rabonim make Aliyah. We are certainly helping out, doing our work. Simply בפשטות , not everyone is supposed to move to Eretz Yisrael.

This opinion seems to go against the Rambam, “לְעוֹלָם יָדוּר אָדָם בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל ““. Also, Bavel was a specific exception to the rule which applied only until the time of Ezra.  Ezra HaSofer even begged for the Rabbonim of Bavel to return; they also refused to make Aliyah and join in the building of the second Beis HaMikdash…

I met Rav Avraham Shapira (1914-2007), the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel (1983-1993). He was also the Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav since 1982. At that time I was giving shiurim in the summer, in a yeshiva in Kiryat Arbah.  I went to the RCA conference that was in Yerushalayim.  Rav Shapira confused me with Rabbi Herschel Shachter (1917-2013) the famous US Army Chaplain (he was the first US Army Chaplain to enter and participate in the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp. He personally rescued seven year old Yisrael Meir Lau who became Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel 1993-2003).

He said he knows me and that he wanted to have a meeting. At the meeting he said that he wants me to come to Eretz Yisrael because they need people like me. He said that he has money to facilitate my move and he will find a position for me; he will even build a yeshiva for me. It was a twenty-five minute sales pitch. I told him about my shiurim in YU, Queens and the vast numbers of people who attend my shiurim.  When he heard how many people I have influence over, he said, “Don’t come to Eretz Yisrael. You are not allowed to come.” I would be happier in Israel. We have to stay here [in USA].

The Rambam does not mention any special dispensation for Rabbonim or those who have” influence” in Chutz LaAretz. That conversation with Rav Shapira was around 30 years ago. Many things have changed in Israel and the USA. Is there a need for YU style Rabbonim in Israel? YU has been closed down for many months in 2020 (and for the expected future) because of the COVID-19 virus. Shiurim are only on computer. This influence can be achieved also from Israel via Zoom and You Tube, with arguably an even greater number of people to have “influence over”.  Rabbi Shalom Rosner, for example, is a YU RIETS graduate and he lives in Israel. He has one of the most popular online Daf Yomi Shuirim in the entire world.

I would be living there in Israel. America has different problems than Israel. Simply מסתמה , we have to stay here [in USA]. Every couple of years there is a rumor that Rav Shachter is moving to Eretz Yisrael. I am not going anywhere.

In 1873 Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld decided to leave Europe and make Aliya. In 1931 Rav Chaim sent a message to the Jews in Klausenberg, “…now is the time to liquidate their assets and move immediately to Eretz Yisroel…”

On the topic of the Meraglim, Rav Cham asked the question. “How can we understand that such great men, leaders of their tribes during the Generation of Knowledge, spoke evil about the Promised Land?…When these great men came to Eretz Yisrael, a spirit of prophesy rested upon them and they peered into the future and saw all the generations that were destined to live there. In their vision, they saw also those  generations that would sin, including the secular Zionists of our own generation…If so, they reasoned, it would be better to remain in the wilderness and not enter Eretz Yisrael. This is the meaning of their statement, “It is a land that consumes its inhabitants ארץ אוכלת יושביה “…To this Yehoshua and Calev responded, “The land is exceedingly good…we will surely go up and take possession of it. In spite of everything, it is incumbent upon us to go up and take possession of the land and to withstand all the tests. It is not for us to fathom the hidden ways of the All Merciful.

Rav Chaim commented to the Agudah leader Dr. Isaac Breuer [YU has a Yeshiva Branch called IBC – Isaac Breuer College], when he visited him. In the Musaf of Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tov we say, ” Because of our sins we have been exiled from our country and distanced from our land. וּמִפְּנֵי חֲטָאֵינוּ גָּלִינוּ מֵאַרְצֵנוּ וְנִתְרַחַקְנוּ מֵעַל אַדְמָתֵנוּ” The apparent redundancy…although we were initially exiled from our country against our willwe subsequently distanced ourselves by losing interest in our homeland.

Professor Yosef Patai published an interview he conducted with Rav Chaim. Rav Chaim stated, “ How many times I have begged and commanded that religious Jews in the Diaspora be told that whoever had the opportunity to move to Eretz Yisrael but does not, will have to answer before G-d for his failure!…It is specifically religious Jews who must come here and build the land according to the Torah, for the land is waiting for them to redeem it from its desolation.

Rav Chaim’s grandson, Rav Yitzchak Yerucham got an appointment as Rav in one of Czechoslovakia’s leading communities. Rav Chaim told him, “My son, I feel that being a laborer in Eretz Yisrael is greater than being a Rav in Chutz La’aretz.” (Guardian of Jerusalem, Artscroll 1998).

Rav Teichtal writes in his sefer, Eim Habonim Semeicha,

…Who amongst us is greater that the Meraglim? The Torah testifies that they were proper individuals אנשים. Nonetheless, since they were influenced by their desire for authority , they rejected the desirable Land and led others astray, causing this bitter exile (as Chazal explain). The Zohar and the Shelah explain that the spies were afraid that they would lose their positions of leadership upon entering Eretz Yisrael…

The same holds true in our times, even among Rabbis, Rebbes, and Chassidim. This one has a good rabbinical position; this one is an established Admor, and this one has a profitable business or factory, or a prestigious job which provides great satisfaction. They are afraid that their status will decline if they go to Eretz Yisrael…

Rav Yeshayah Muskat of Praga…He says that most of the time a person fools himself and thinks that he acts for the sake of Heaven. In reality, though…the Divrei Chayim (Zanz) states that a person sees only what he wants to see. Therefore, one who is prejudiced on a certain matter can no longer judge truthfully.

(Translation by Rav Moshe Lichtman. 2000) This sefer was praised by Rav Shachter in the hascamos he wrote: “…I read several section of the beautiful work, Eim HaBanim Semeichah, and I enjoyed it tremendously. The saintly author, may HaShem avenge his blood, certainly does not need by approbation, G-d forbid.

Today unfortunately, there is much confusion, even among Torah Jews, on the issue of Eretz Yisrael, which is a vast discipline in the Torah…Tzvi (Hershel) Schacter     7 Kislev, 5760.

The influence of the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel BLM movement is rising in influence and power in the USA today. Similarly, Hitler ominously gained influence starting in 1933.

On Rosh HaShanah 1933, right after Hitler came to power, Rav Kook delivered a very ominous sermon in the Churvah Synagogue. This is paraphrased from the Book, Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah, Rav Moshe Lichtman, 2006.

ישעיהו כז:יג

והיה ביום ההוא יתקע בשופר גדול ובאו האבדים בארץ אשור והנדחים בארץ מצרים והשתחוו לה’ בהר הקדש בירושלים.

It shall be on that day, a great shofar will be blown, and those lost in the land of Assyria and those cast aside in the land of Egypt will come and bow to Hashem on the Holy Mountain in Yerushalayim (Yeshayah 27:13).

The Navi prophesied about a great shofar of redemption. There are various levels of the shofar of redemption. There is a great shofar, and ordinary medium sized shofar and a small shofar.

The shofar of Moshiach is the regular shofar of Rosh HaShanah. There are three levels of kashrus with regard to the shofar of Rosh Hashanah: 1) the most preferred is the ram’s horn. 2) Be’diavad (ex post facto) all shofars are kosher. 3) a shofar from a non-kosher animal was worshipped as a god, is pasul. However, if one blows such a shofar, he discharges his obligation Be’diavad.

At various times in Jewish history, there was an awakening and a desire for redemption that originated in holiness. This is the great and excellent shofar.

At times, there is a natural desire to become a sovereign in its land, like all other nations. This normal-nationalistic feelings, is the ordinary, medium shofar, which can be found anywhere. This too is a kosher shofar.

There is a third category of the shofar of Mashiach. It is a small, invalid shofar, used under duress, when there is no kosher shofar to be found. Our enemies come and blow the shofar [BLM/anti-Semitism etc.] of redemption in our ears. They force us to hear the sound of the shofar. They shout and make noise in our ears, denying us rest in the Diaspora. The shofar of an impure animal becomes the shofar of Mashiach. Amalek, Petliura (Ukrainian leader responsible for pogroms that killed 50,000 Jews), Hitler, [BDS, BLM, Democratic Party] etc. awaken us to redemption. He who did not want to listen to the sound of the first shofar, and he who did not want to listen to the sound of the second ordinary shofar either, because his ears were closed up, will listen to the sound of the impure, invalid shofar. He will listen against his will.

Nonetheless, even he discharges his obligation. Even this type of nationalism – that of the staff, of Jewish persecution – contains some form of redemption…Then the redemption will be complete.


Rav Hershel Shachter, 1984 journal of Halacha and contemporary society:

…every period of history has its own mitzvot of the hour. Today, when every Jew settling in Israel contributes measurably to the security and economy of the State, and to the Jews in it, Yishuv Eretz Yisrael may indeed be called the mitzvah of the hour.

Rav Willig: A person needs to make a decision where he should be. Once he starts a path it’s difficult to abandon the position you have taken.

A Captain or a General needs to find someone his equal to replace him, and then it is ok if someone else will take over. That does not always exist. What will the influence of this person be in Eretz Yisrael.

“Influence” is the power of the meraglim, kavod. Since when is our goal in life influence? Where the source that “mitzvah of influence” is supersedes the requirement to live in Israel?

Using the metaphor of the “Caption of the ship”, what is the captain to do when the ship in sinking? The job of the captain is to bring his passengers safely to their destination (Israel0. If the ship is sinking, the job is to get out the lifeboats and row with the passengers to safety and then onward to the final destination. It is not efficacious for the Captain to go down with the sinking ship, or to waste time rearranging the deck chairs as the ship is sinking. The ship of the USA is rapidly sinking.

One famous Rav, a classmate of my son, wanted to go to Eretz Yisrael. I told him that he cannot go! He was a Rebbe, he had a shul, he had influence in the USA. Once he had the opportunity in Eretz Yisrael to be a Rebbe and Rav of a shul in Eretz Yisrael, I said to him to go! The USA yeshiva and shul did not collapse without him [after he made Aliyah].

I know others who were doing important work in chinuch (education) in our community [USA] with a burning desire to go to Eretz Yisrael, they went. Their replacements were not the same type [quality], this resulted in a lot of negativity.

So what, if there is negativity? Following the will of G-d, making Aliya is actively bringing the geulah and the Moshiach.

We often see that a person may be aware of his obligations and may know what is incumbent upon him to do in the Divine service, yet neglect it, not because of lack of intelligence, but only because his indolence is dominant…He will come up with a myriad of excuses m and even quote Scripture, Talmud, and present logical arguments to support his erroneous thinking… (Mesilas Yesharim, Ramchal).

If he would have asked me, I would not allow him to go. He did not ask.

There is a famous story [about me]. When I was a young man in kollel, I was a part time Rebbe. I was corresponding with Rav Aharon Lichtenstein (1973). Who was living two years at that time in Eretz Yisrael.

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein (1933-2015) was Rosh Kollel at Yeshiva University for several years. In 1960 he married Tovah the daughter of the Rav and then became the Son in law of Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik. He made Aliyah in 1971 and joined Rabbi Yehuda Amital in leading Yeshivat Har Etzion, located in Gush Etzion, and moved to Yerushalayim . He maintained a close connection to Yeshiva University as a Rosh Kollel for the Gruss Institute in Yerushalayim, an affiliate of Yeshiva University and its rabbinical school, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

I gave an example shiur in Yeshiva Har Etzion [Gush] in 1973. They liked my shiur and I was offered a job. I came back to the USA, Rav Charlop (performed a Charlopian coup) and offered me and several other Rabbonim jobs as a Rebbe in the YU Yeshiva.  I went from no job to having two jobs.  I made the decision to stay in the USA, I hope it was the right decision.

Once I was established here as a Rebbe and Rav of a shul, subsequently I was offered many jobs in Eretz Yisrael. I turned them ALL down “flat”. I can’t leave!

Student Question #3: Where should we move to in Eretz Yisrael?

Rav Willig: Move to a place where you will have a “Klita Tova”. Absorbed properly into the society. It depends on who you are. Three of my children live in RBS (Ramat Beit Shemesh), one in Yerushalayim. Rav Reichman has four children in RBS. Rav Schacter has children all over Eretz Yisrael! In the Golan, Rehovot and Raanana. The YU Rabonim have a lot of family representation in Eretz Yisrael.

I don’t preach Zionism! I am not there myself. I can’t preach what I don’t practice.

“Hashem chose Zion, He desires to live there (Tehillim 132:13)”

ה’ בחר בציון, אוה למושב לו

G-d preaches Zionism?

My children absorbed from our house the tremendous kesher to Eretz Yisrael. They went and we never objected; we consider this OUR chelek in Yishuv Eretz Yisrael. We should all be zoche, that you and your children live there. Because that is where the future of Am Yisrael is.

Does this contradict what he said before, rabbis and those with “influence” can not make aliyah?  

Student Question #4: What are some of the challenges of moving to EY?

Rav Shachter: The politics of Eretz Yisrael are very complicated, no one understands it. It would take me fifty years to figure out what is going on. So I would need to avoid taking a stand on every political issue.

Rav Willig: There is a negative story written about RBS, it’s called the “Anglo bubble” debate. Is it healthy and sustainable? In YU, one has balance, less polarization. Have secular studies and can be full Ben Torah. It is hard to find this in Eretz Yisrael. It’s impossible to find.

Is this because Rabbis are being told that it is forbidden to come from the USA to build such yeshivas or communities here? YU should build a Yeshiva University in Israel, just as the Slobodka Yeshiva was sent by the Alter of Slabodka to Chevron in 1924 with Rav Avraham Grodzinski.

In the YU community we have many frum medical doctors who are mekadesh shem shamayim. In Eretz Yisrael it is very difficult to find a person from a Torah society who later on became a doctor. The only way to do it is to go to a Hesder Yeshiva. But Hesder is looked down upon.

Since when does a Jew need to be a doctor? There is no mitzvah to be a doctor. Rav Shacter does not give any heterim for YU medical students to compromise on Shabbis or other halachos, just to become a doctor; many don’t follow this advice and do what needs to be done to become a doctor in the USA.

Compared to the USA, it is undesirable to be a doctor in Israel. This is due to the very low salaries and lack of job satisfaction (patients can be physically and verbally abusive).

In the USA, from YU one can go to a Chareidi yeshiva and become a doctor. It is possible.

Or is it possible ? American Chareidi (“Yeshivish”) is very different that Israeli Chareidi.

Rav Schacter, Shemiras Shabbos for Doctors and Medical students,, 2007.

A brilliant person is not obligated to go to medical school…chilul Shabbos is allowed [for Pikuach Nefesh]…these halachos only apply once someone is already a doctor. We would not, however, allow one to be mechalel Shabbos in order to attend medical school in order to save lives at some later time…the future doctor must take special care to make sure he has a Shabbos observant residency. If that can not be arranged, the student must simply look for a different profession.[!]

This psak eliminates 99% of the medical professions and residency programs in the USA. The vast majority of YU graduates and frum doctors did not train in a Shomer Shabbis program. Firstly, there are very few programs in the USA. Most programs are located in low quality training programs. Most importantly, most professions do not have a Shomer Shabbis option at all. For example,  NONE  of the surgical specialty residency programs (General Surgery, ENT, Urology etc. ) have a shomer shabbis track.

In reality, it is not so easy to train as a frum doctor in the USA.

In Eretz Yisrael now, there is a desire to bring Charedim into society. Places like Machon Lev are trying to create a model.

Rav Karmi Gross, who learned in the Lakewood BMG Yeshiva, founded a chareidi hesder yeshiva called Derech Chaim. It is a four-year program completely approved by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Education. The first two years, the boys learn regular two sedarim in the Machon Lev beit hamidrash. The iyun seder, in-depth learning, focus not only on the theoretical but also on the practical halachik outcomes of the Gemara text. The boys have a second seder, in which they cover more than 150 blatt over the course of the year. At 6:30 p.m., the boys start learning technology. Machon Lev sat down with the army and created these courses. Machon Lev to teaches the technology courses.

My son is at Mesivta in RBS, trying to copy the Maaravah model yeshiva. They offer a solid High School education, secular studies and Yeshiva “yeshivish” environment. There was opposition to their opening. It is difficult to do this in Eretz Yisrael.

It’s difficult, but possible and Mesivta is very successful. So improvements can be done in Eretz Yisrael when USA Rabonim make Aliyah to help others have a “Klita Tova”.

This is an example of a positive influence of Americans on Israeli Society. The moderation factor of “live and let live” [of the American Jews] compared to native Israelis. The Israelis are born with a “us against them” mentality. Whereas, we in the USA are brought up with a “live and let live” mentality; that is a good contribution to Eretz Yisrael.

It is a good thing for Klal Yisrael and the Jews of Israel, when Rabbis make Aliyah.

 Student Question #5: What factors made you stay in the USA versus Israel?

Rav Willig: Mine are personal in nature. It does not affect other people.

Student Question #6: Rabbonim chose not to make Aliyah because of their “impact” that they can make on the USA. One who is just graduating college; it is difficult to determine if he will have an impact on the USA in the future. It is gayva (haughtiness) to say that “I know” that I will have a major impact years later.[ How can I solve this dilemma]?

Rav Willig: It depends on ones line of work. [If one chooses to study] Computers, online high-tech business; he should lean towards Eretz Yisrael.

Consider establishing a proper family. Rav Lopiansky wrote a letter about a parent’s obligation to make sure that their children are frum. Be careful that the Aliyah will not lead to a yerida in ruchnius. There are cases when one moves from a YU community like Teaneck or the Five Towns. There is no equivalent in Eretz Yisrael. Because in the USA there are so many chashuv Rabonim, when they go to Israel they think it’s the same thing but it is not.

Thank G-d! Many YU graduates, like myself, chose not to leive in communities like Teaneck with Coe-d schools and Five Towns huge emphasis on gashmius wealth and mega mansions for homes. Communities where married women do not properly cover their hair and the girls wear pants with complete disregard to the laws of znius. Feminism, which is anti-Torah, abounds in these communities with women learning Talmud, becoming Rabbis and having their own prayer groups. What is attractive about these types of communities for a Torah orienentered person? Thank G-d such communities are rare in Eretz HaKodesh. We do not want a Riverdale here with “Open Orthodoxy”. The feminist movement was founded and run by YU Rabbis.

Eretz Yisrael has the BEST communities available for Jews to grow in Torah and closeness to Hashem, unparalleled by anything in the USA. I think one should only say good things about Israel and never the contrary דיבה על הארץ. I know this last statement was well intentioned, but the facts are that these USA communities can not be compared to the Holy cities of Eretz Yisrael.

The reason is that there are not a lot of YU type Rabonim there [in Eretz Yisrael] like here.

This is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Rav Shacter and Willig, just paskened that USA rabbis cannot make aliyah. Then they say non-rabbis should not make aliyah since there are no communities in Israel with YU type Rabbis? Reality is, there are a lot of YU Rabbis in Israel including the children of Rav Shachter and Rav Willig…

There are not that many real mekomos HaTorah [in Eretz Yisrael]!

What?! This amazing statement was made at minute 46:09 during the lecture. In Israel we have MANY mekomos HaTorah including: Yerushalayim, RBS, Rehovot, to name a few. It is an amazing statement to say that Teaneck and the Five Towns are mekomos of Torah with prominent YU Rabbis unlike Eretz Yisrael! Berlin is not Yerushalyim. כי מציון תצא תורה. The American students come to learn in Eretz Yisrael for a year or two, because there is a lack are real mekomos HaTorah in the USA which inspire the youth to be real Torah observant Jews! I wonder what Rav Willig was trying to say.

There is an attrition rate [in Eretz Yisrael]. What is called the Dati Leumi community has a significant percentage of those kids who are not frum .

“YU” is not a homogenous entity. It is not “black hat” for sure not all frum. When I went to YU there was significant percentage of the students at YC and Stern who were not shomer shabbos. Some boys and girls even lived together in the 191st apartments.  The mainstream YU is probably most closely related to the Israeli Dati Leumi community. In reality, YU is a microcosm of the Jewish world and incorporates all types of Jews. The feminist movement, Open Orthodoxy and embracing the Jew as normal who practice a “gay” lifestyle, all have their origins in YU.

All USA communities, including Teaneck and the Five Towns have a large frum attrition rate.  YU has problems because it has embraced feminism and has planted the seeds for open orthodoxy and looks for ways accepting of Gay lifestyle in the Orthodox Jewish community. This slippery slope began with the Rav teaching gemarrah to women and allowing co-ed Jewish schools as a lechatchila. Just like Teaneck, the Dati Leumi communities have similar problems and challenges just as the YU communities do. This is not a unique Eretz Yisrael problem.

איכה ישבה בדד – Israel is being ignored by the USA Jews.

A child in the USA who is “Off the Derech” is really lost . Whereas, here in Eretz Yisrael he is speaking Hebrew, exposed to all of the Jewish culture and Holidays. Kosher food is accessible everywhere. Here there is more of a chance marrying a Jewish spouse compared to USA and thus not being lost from the Jewish Nation (even some of the cheylonim leave the USA and return to Israel for this reason).

Let’s not forget a “non-frum” Israeli is very religious! Every four amos that one walks we get a mitzvah. Get another mitzva of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael every moment that we live here. Also by living here, one  gets zechus of keeping the 613 mitzvos(Siferei).  If one performs a mitzvah here (example Mezuza, Tefilin) he actually gets the credit for the mitzvah; whereas in the USA it’s just practice (Ramban). The great Kabbalist from Chevron, The Chessed LeAvrahm , writes that all those that live here are considered a Tzadik. When Moshiach comes, those who are here will actually greet him. Only those who are buried here will experience Tichiyas Hamaiesim (revival of the dead).  ONLY those who are Tzadikim buried in Chutz LaAretz with be revived from the dead ,forty years after the revival of the dead of Israel, and will get here by the painful process of rolling underground.

There are real spiritual advantages for a Jew to live in Israel. This is the best place to have true D’Vekus (closeness) to Hashem.

Rav Willig: Being in both worlds (Torah and Secular) in Eretz Yisrael is difficult.

Being a frum Jew in the USA is more difficult. Here all of the official holidays are the Jewish holidays. No need to explain to your boss why you need a vacation on Pesach, since that is an holiday for everyone.

In the spiritual world, real growth is work, life is not supposed to be easy. That is the American lie that many are now protesting about in the streets of the USA.

In Eretz Yisrael the IDF is a focal point, you are either in or out. Hesder is an option. But they have a huge attrition rate [of not being frum].

There are many other Chareidi programs in the IDF now. Nezech Yehuda, Nachal Charedi, The Derech Chaim Yeshiva with a IDF computers-Tech program. There are many real Bnei Torah (no less committed to Torah than any YU student) in combat units of the Paratroopers and Nachal. These boys are real combat soldiers and real Benei Torah. They daven with a minyan three times daily and learn Gemarrah daily.

In my recent miluim, one of these soldiers made a siyum on all of Rambam Mishna Torah. I started learning a perek a day of Rambam with them.

My grandchildren in Eretz Yisrael are not going to the IDF, because the spiritual risk is too great. Those who are in computers or high tech, go live in an Eretz Yisrael community where Torah is strong. It is very important who are the Rabonim and peers. Keep your children  Shomer Torah and mitzvos, IF you can do it.

It can be done, and it is being done here in Israel. It is naïve to suggest that the USA communities to not have a major problem of keeping their boys a girls Torah observant.

If you are in the field of chinuch or Rabanus it is a more difficult decision.

Difficult, but the children of Rav Shachter and Rav Willig who are Rabbis have successfully made Aliyah.

In my house we joke that we are all in the family business [Rabbis/Chinuch]. Half live in the USA and half live in Israel. They all have a positive impact on their communities. They chose their own personal decision. The career choice answers the question.

About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA , made aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. He is also a active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya; speciaizing in the surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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