Lazer Gurkow

Onward to Israel

Israel is our homeland. It is a holy and G-dly land on which G-d keeps a very careful eye. Our sages taught that the very air one breathes in Israel makes one wise to the ways of Torah. Our sages used to bend to kiss the stones of Israel when they disembarked in the holy land.

Our prayers travel from all over the world and ascend to Heaven from Israel. When a Jew performs a Mitzvah in Israel, the bond it forges with G-d is more complete than it is elsewhere.

If that is the case, why don’t we all live in Israel?

The Exile
Before we rush en masse to Israel, we should reflect on why G-d exiled our people from Israel. The obvious reason is that it was our ancestors’ punishment for their sins. If that were the only reason, it would follow that when G-d saw fit to return Israel to the Jews in 1948, Jews were meant to return to Israel. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of Jews did just that over the last seventy years. Nevertheless, not all Jews have made Aliyah. What is the religious rationale for that?

Our sages taught that G-d had another reason to exile us from Israel. Although it was a punishment for our ancestors’ sins, had they not sinned, G-d would have found another reason to exile us because He wanted us to add proselytes to our midst.

Our purpose outside of Israel is to be a light unto the nations, to bring the teachings of Torah to the world at large. Indeed, this has been a highly successful endeavor. Since our exile from Israel, we exported monotheism to a formerly pagan world. Today billions of Christians and Muslims, the world over, embrace monotheism in one way or another.

Despite the amazing succees, there is still much work still to be done. There are many pagan religions and peoples that still exist around the world. Though Islam and Christianity are monotheistic faith groups, they don’t subscribe to the pure monotheism of Abraham, Moses, and David. So there is much work left to be done and until it is complete, we must continue the effort. This effort will succeed, and when it does, it will usher in the era of our redemption as our prophets foretold that in the time of the redemption all nations will stand shoulder to shoulder to worship the one G-d.

Judaism is not a proselyting faith. We don’t believe that all people must be Jewish. But we do believe that all people must embrace monotheism and discard paganism. This is our purpose. And it is our only reason for living beyond the borders of Israel.

It, therefore, behooves us to say that if not for our responsibility to teach Torah to the far-flung regions of the world, we the Jewish people, would rush to live in Israel. And indeed, those who live in the diaspora only because it is more comfortable there, or safer there, or more luxurious there, should pack their bags and move to Israel today.

About the Author
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow, a renowned lecturer, serves as Rabbi to Congregation Beth Tefilah in London Ontario. He is a member of the curriculum development team at Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and is the author of two books and nearly a thousand online essays. You can find his work at