The Value of the Unneeded

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” -Ann Landers

A new tactic in my arsenal of Aliyah discussions is to state that Israel no longer needs its Jewish masses from the Diaspora. From a military, economic, cultural and demographic perspective Israel is blessed with a healthy, productive, educated population with no critical personnel needs that cannot be fulfilled locally.

This does not contradict the value and the benefit to the individual or family that chooses to join the Jewish people in its homeland. Nonetheless, the tactic of guilt, of implying that a person’s presence in Israel is critical to the physical needs and success of the country seems disingenuous to me.

The Ohr Hachayim (Leviticus 21:8) however, does not let people off the hook merely because they are not needed. Individual obligations are still in force even if communal needs have been satisfied. He draws his proof from the sanctity required of a Kohen. The main function of the Kohen was to work in the Temple and to do that work he had to be in a state of sanctity. One might think that as soon as there were enough Kohens to perform the Temple work the requirement for sanctification of the unneeded Kohen would lapse.

That is not true. Even the unneeded Kohen has an obligation to sanctify himself. Even if there is a quorum of ten men, there is still an obligation to pray with a Minyan. Even if the State of Israel has not identified a need for you, there is still a commandment for Jews to live in Israel. The question is not only what can you do for your country or your people. The question is what must you do for yourself.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the Young Israel of Woodmere, now considered the largest Young Israel around. They have understood that the strength of a community is not necessarily for all its members to pray in the same room at the same time. They have found a way for its members to fulfill their individual obligations from a selection of more customized communal venues. I think that makes for a stronger community.

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay and a candidate for the Knesset for the Zehut party. He is the author of three books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.