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Does all this ‘taking the knee‘ stuff sound familiar to you?

Cos it sure as heck sounds familiar to me.

In biblical times, whenever the nation of Israel was going to go out to war, there would be a selection process whereby those that had ‘knelt to the Baal’ were disqualified for service.

On a similar note, doesn’t all these statues – pessalim, idols – being smashed up, defaced and toppled all over the place remind you of something else?

Like, what happened in ancient Egypt during the 10 plagues, when the nation’s idols were destroyed one after another – except for the Baal Tzafon, that was left standing right until the end?

We appear to be in the middle of a modern day 10 plagues.

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Over the last week or so, there have been a series of 6.0+ earthquakes fanning out across the globe.

Dutchsinse got taken off the internet, because the powers that be didn’t want him educating the population about how geomagnatic phenomena and seismicity really works, so I can’t give you any ‘predictions’ for a big one, at least not from him.

But, I guess I don’t have to, because Rabbi Pinto told us many weeks ago that a big earthquake is coming soon:

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The kabbalists have told us that we are now in the middle of the 9 months of the ‘foreign rule’ that precedes Moshiach’s coming.

It’s all happening, folks.

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One last thought for today, then I have to get on with finishing another book project for the Rav, BH.

There’s a big discussion going on about aliya right now, given the mounting violence etc we are witnessing worldwide, and the fact that orthodox Jews are now being stabbed in the head in London, etc.

I live in Israel. I’ve struggled to live in Israel, financially, and socially, and in many other ways, too.

But I still know that living in Israel is 100% a gift from Hashem, and that when people are ‘stopped’ from making aliya, it’s because they are the subject of large spiritual judgments, above.

I’m not here because I have more emuna, more foresight, more bravery, more wisdom than anyone else.

I’m here because God decided to give me and my family a gift 16 years ago, and to push us out of the UK and into the Holyland.

For me to think that I somehow got here under my own steam, or because of my own spiritual merit is totally laughable. I was really not such a nice person when we made aliyah, and my emuna was practically non-existent. We got here because God basically scared the pants off me via a series of nightmares, and then helped me to buy a much bigger house here, than I could have afforded in the UK at that time.

There was a very big carrot, and a very big stick.

What there wasn’t, was a person with great middot or a burning desire to move to Israel for spiritual reasons.

I can’t claim any credit for moving here, it was all God’s doing.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that if God could get me to Israel, then He can certainly do that for everyone else, too.

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All this upheaval is a present, to clear away the judgments that have been preventing Jews from coming to Israel.

The single best way to help people to make aliya – including ourselves! – is to:

  1. Pray
  2. Make some sincere teshuva
  3. Connect to the true tzaddikim, and their Torah and advice, including Rebbe Nachman and Rav Berland.

No-one got out of Egypt without Moshe Rabbenu.

No-one.

And no-one got into Eretz Israel if they were still bad-mouthing other Jews, speaking badly of them, and going against the Tzaddik HaDor.

I’ve written about this subject elsewhere, below, I’ll attach a few posts on the subject.

But let me end with this snippet from Rabbenu, which goes to the heart of the question of whether moving to Israel and living here is really enough, to be ‘saved’ from the chevlei Moshiach all by itself:

The motive for making the journey to Eretz Yisrael should be purely spiritual: to draw closer to God. A person who goes there with this as his aim will certainly benefit….On the other hand, if a person’s motive has nothing to do with devotion to God and cleansing himself of his evil, then what help will Israel be to him? The land will vomit him out…

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I am sure that there will still be an opportunity for people to move here, even though most of us still haven’t woken up to the unpleasant fact that the State of Israel has closed its borders to Jews abroad – and from what I can see, this seems to be part of a deliberate strategy to stop people making aliya.

Otherwise, why not just test anyone who flies here for Corona first, why not just put them up in the empty hotels and Air BnBs for 2 weeks of quarantine?

As that Cypriot billionaire showed us all last week, where this is a will to get people into Israel, there was always a way, even at the height of the lockdown here.

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The Rav said many months ago that people will come on boats – and I don’t think he was referring to private yachts.

He’s talking about luxury liners that can hold thousands of people. At some point, the penny will drop, and Jews abroad will realise that every word the Rav says should be explored in total seriousness.

But even if that’s not the case, and people don’t make it here – God has a plan for them.

As long as someone is working on coming closer to God, and working on their emuna that whatever God does, it’s for the best, ultimately they will end up in a good place. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting to Israel, or even coming through the whole process alive.

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There are no guarantees for anyone, wherever they happen to live, except this:

If we accept God’s will for us with emuna, then whatever happens down here, live or die, aliya or not, our souls will end up in a very, very good place.

And that’s really the whole point, hard as that can be for us to swallow.

We all remember the stories of the chassidim in World War II who danced into the gas chambers, because they knew that their souls were going straight to the highest places in shemayim.

And we all remember those reshaim in Israel, all those Labour Zionists, and others, who survived the war and even held prestigious jobs running the country for decades.

Where did their souls end up?

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So, take courage dear reader. Wherever you live, you can continue to do God’s will sincerely, and if you get the chance to move here – take it! And if you don’t, your emuna is what is really going to count, at the end of the day.

Rav Berland has explained more than once that we all have to die before techiat hametim can occur, even if just for a second.

So trust God, remember that the SOUL is what really matters, not the body, and get as close as you can to Rav Berland and Rebbe Nachman’s Torah.

Because no-one got out of Egypt and into the Holy Land unless they were following Moshe Rabbenu and listening to the Tzaddik HaDor

Even if they already happened to live in Israel.

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UPDATE:

I just noticed something interesting:

Black Lives Matter = BLM.

BiLaaM.

There is nothing new under the sun.

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Apparently, the gates of Eretz Yisrael are now shut to Jews.

That’s what I’ve been hearing from many of my contacts abroad, that unless you have prior Israeli citizenship, you can no longer move to Israel because of ‘COVID’ (sarcasm is included in the quote marks).

The last few weeks, I’ve had a bunch of conversations with people all over the world, who are trying to get back to Israel, but now can’t. Some of them own property here, some of them were in the process of making aliyah formally and were literally at the last step and had tickets bought – but they still aren’t being allowed in.

Yesterday, I had this email land in my inbox from someone in the States who wants to get to Israel ASAP, and has been told they can’t, unless they are a citizen:

Rivka, I spoke to Jewish Agency and been informed Aliyah would take too long.

The dangers may be imminent, all this information im hearing about FEMA camps that can actually be concentration camps and martial law worries me and Poskim over there like Rav Berland and Rav Yoel Shwartz of Dvar Yerushalayim has said to return to Israel asap. I definitely want to leave at most in a few weeks. A bunch of companies especially Elal are restarting 2nd week of May.

Can you inquire from any of your sources if non Israeli Citizens / just US citizens have been able to fly to Israel and get in, which defers from what they say online about not being able to unless Aliyah has been completed. Ive read that they might be more lenient than they say.

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I was pondering all this in hitbodedut this morning, and God reminded me about these MTV ‘commercials’ from back in 2011 (warning: they are not shmirat eynayim suitable).

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They were taken down very quickly, and scrubbed off the net.

But some people saved them at the time, and are now re-uploading them (we’ll see how long this video stays up on Youtube, more evidence of the ongoing censorship in action). That’s also why the quality is grainy – they aren’t the originals. They got ‘removed’ a long time ago.

When I first saw them 9 years ago, I thought they were bizarre – but a warning from Heaven.

Today, they are making me pretty nervous.

So, WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT ALL THIS?

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Here’s what I think.

We need to put our own brains aside, and follow the advice of the Tzaddik HaDor, Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

Last week, he put out a statement saying that millions of Jews will come to Eretz Yisrael on ships.

Just like the authorities shut down the escape route to Eretz Yisrael (in connivance with the people who then went on to become the ‘official’ government in the State of Israel….) before World War II, so history appears to be repeating itself.

The planes are down, the gates are apparently shut, for now.

But I am sure that God is not going to leave it like this.

I’m sure that anyone who really wants to get here still can. Just it’s going to take a lot of prayer and mesirut nefesh.

And probably, hiring a boat.

Dumb as this sounds, if you really want to get to Israel and they aren’t opening up the flights soon, and they aren’t letting ‘non-citizens’ come, club together, hire a boat, and sail to the Holy Land.

The boat ride will act as official ‘quarantine’ in the meantime, and then the Israeli Authorities will face a public relations disaster of enormous proportions mamash, if a boat full of Jews who want to make aliya shows up at an Israeli port, and the State of Israel tries to turn it away.

Only nazis would do something like that…..

And our wonderful government, with the holy Bibi at its head, would never do something that evil…

Especially not when the public is watching, and the civil unrest in the country is already starting to build.

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So yalla!

Start organizing the next ‘Exodus’ ASAP.

Things are going back to fake ‘normal’ for a few more weeks, a few more months, so that anyone who just woke up and now wants to make aliyah can still do it – just with a lot of effort.

BH, they will re-open the flights, and re-open the ability to get here as a non-citizen in an easier way soon too, but don’t rely on that. If the Tzaddik HaDor is talking about coming on ships, that’s probably good advice to at least start exploring from a practical perspective.

Because just like those MTV commercials, I’m starting to get holocaust deja vu.

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PS: I just want to add, as an afterthought, even though part of me is so sick of repeating the same thing and being almost totally ignored, that if more of us would throw our weight behind Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the Tzaddik HaDor and hezkat Moshiach of our generation, that all these negative scenarios would disappear like a puff of smoke.

But so many of the Jews out there seem to be playing some kind of weird game of ‘chicken’ with God, seeing who is going to blink first.

It seems to me that so many people are so invested in their egos, and their public appearance, and have such an overwhelming need to be ‘right’, that they literally can’t climb down from whatever ‘anti-Rav Berland’ tree they backed themselves up into, by believing all the lying media reports of recent years, even if it’s going to prevent another holocaust.

28 people downloaded Rabbi Berland’s Prayers #2, and just one holy soul – may God bless them! – actually bought the paperback version, so the book was officially ‘printed’ in the world.

Modest as that sounds, I know that sweetened things tremendously, at least here in Israel, because yesterday – the last day of the free download – nearly all the businesses in Israel reopened, albeit with the dumb masks and police state still clearly lurking.

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Getting behind the Rav sweetens all this, and brings geula the much easier, nicer way, without FEMA camps, COVID-19 or martial law.

BH, I really hope more people will be able to swallow their pride, and admit they made a mistake. About slandering the Rav, about mocking the rabbis who were calling for people to make aliya for over a decade, about thinking they know better than our holy leaders….

If we make teshuva, everything can and will turn around in the blink of an eye.

The choice is ours.

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Six days ago, Israel upped the # of tests for COVID-19 to 11,000 a day.

Before that, they were testing at somewhere between 5-6.500 tests a day:

On Wednesday, 5,570 tests were conducted; on Thursday, 5,421 tests; and on Friday, there were 5,980 testing kits that arrived at the coronavirus laboratories.

It’s important to understand that the number of tests being done in Israel has effectively doubled over the last week, so that you can really start to grasp just how much COVID-19 has come off the boil here.

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The figures below are from the Worldometer website.

They show some very good news.

This figure shows the ‘peak’ of the number of people actively infected with COVID-19 that occurred on April 15th, i.e. they hadn’t either recovered from it, or died from it, lo alenu.

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This shows where we’re holding now – the TOTAL number of active cases is down, plus they also effectively DOUBLED the number of people they are testing – so the real infection rates in Israel are falling even lower than this number suggests.

The last 5 days, the number of new cases has just been in the 200+ region.

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Similarly, daily deaths are down from a ‘peak’ of 13 a day (and can I just point out again, that on average 131 people die in Israel EVERY SINGLE DAY, even when there is no pretend pandemic):

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And there is a sharp spike in the numbers of newly-recovered, while the numbers of new cases has dipped – and remember again, they have doubled the testing over the last week, so these stats are even more impressive than it appears, on first glance.

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In Israel, there is no pandemic.

And in the rest of the world, the numbers of people dying are also well in line with a bad flu season.

Let’s take the UK, which so many people like to talk up as a ‘terrible example’ of mortality from COVID-19.

In 2017 – known as a ‘bad’ flu year – this is what the UK National Office of Statistics says, about total number of people who died that year:

There were 533,253 deaths registered in England and Wales in 2017, a 1.6% increase from 2016 and the highest number registered annually since 2003.

So, in a bad flu year, 533,000 divided by 12 months of the year = 44,416 deaths every month, on average.

When you have that context, 17,337 deaths in total (over three months, meaning 5,779 deaths per month – when 44,500 normally die every month), attributed to COVID, in the UK, just doesn’t sound so much. It’s around a 9th of the normal dying rate).

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This table shows the excess mortality from winter deaths in the UK, from the office of National Statistics.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/excesswintermortalityinenglandandwalesreferencetables

It shows that over 50,000 EXTRA people died during the winter in 2018, presumably from flu and other cold-weather related issues.

This figure hugely dwarfs the 17,337 people dying from COVID-19 – and we are almost in May.

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If you look at that same table, in figure 3, it also shows the daily death rates for the UK in 2018.

There is not a day goes by that has less than 1,150 people dying every single day – as normal – even in the middle of the Summer.

And in the winter, the ‘normal death rate typically spikes up to well over 2,000 people dying a day.

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So, let me ask you again: Does this really sound like an unusual pandemic is going on, with COVID-19?

In the meantime, it’s now illegal to go to the Kotel, to grab a breath of fresh air without wearing a pointless mask, and to visit your friends, go for a long walk, or invite guests for Shabbat.

Why?

Even though COVID-19 is already fading from sight, the OTT dictatorship and police state is sadly not going anywhere fast. They are now trying to talk up the ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 to justify keeping us under lock and key for the foreseeable future, seeing as the first wave failed to deliver millions of dead people, like it was meant to.

The good news is:

Geula is on the way.

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And you can do your bit to get it the sweet way by encouraging as many people as you can to download Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s Prayers for Health, for FREE, over the next five days.

The book contains a prayer to be saved from the Coronavirus, and as regular readers of this blog already know, without the Rav’s prayers, self-sacrifice and sweetening, we would be in a very different situation with the COVID-19 ghost pandemic.

But there is still a lot to do, especially for the Jewish communities in NY and New Jersey, who HAVE been hit hard by COVID-19. There is a lot of teshuva still to make, a lot of ‘sweetening’ still required.

You can go HERE to download the book for free, and it will stay free until Sunday, April 26th, 2020.

(Personally, I’d keep it free permanently, but Amazon won’t let me….)

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Two days ago, Rabbi Berland gave over a shiur where he said this:

If everyone would have made aliya to Eretz Yisrael, then immediately the Moshiach would have come.

Everyone needs to make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, we need to return everyone to here, great and small, as one. Rabbanim, Admorim and Chassidim – everyone needs to ascend to Eretz Yisrael.

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It looks like the time of the ‘3 oaths’ preventing Jews from ascending ‘like a wall’ to Eretz Yisrael has now been clearly ended.

Even if the COVID-19 ‘pandemic’ drops off, there will be another birth pang along shortly. As soon as the skies reopen, plan to make aliya ASAP. Don’t forget the lessons learned from what we’ve all been through the last 2 months, if things go back to ‘normal’ soon.

That lull is only temporary.

It’s only so you can get your act together, and get over to Israel ASAP.

Don’t forget that, when it all starts to return to ‘normal’.

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UPDATE:

Look at this headline, from today’s Jerusalem Post:

Here’s how it’s misleading the public, deliberately or otherwise:

  1. As opposed to the number of people who are ACTIVELY infected, which are the numbers I’m using in the article above, which peaked at 9,808 thousand people 7 days ago, and is now dropping every day, as more people recover than are infected, they continue to tell you – wrongly – that ’14, 326 patients are infected’. I.e. they are including everyone who ever came back with a positive test result for COVID, even though well over 4,000 people have now officially recovered.
  2. Maths is not their strong point, you can tell. Even though we are now – after 6 weeks of total fearmongering – getting a little bit of honesty from the MSM about the numbers of old people dying from COVID-19, even now, the Jpost is still fudging the issue. Their headline makes it seem as though 25% of people who apparently died from COVID were UNDER 70. But if we add up the numbers for how many people were over 70, we actually get:

88.58%

And if they would include the figures for the over 65s too, then this figure would expand significantly.

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To put this in other words, close to 90% of all the people who died from COVID in Israel were over 70.

If they were telling you this fact from a few weeks ago, would you have agreed to let them stop schools, shut down synagogues and crash the economy so that 25% of all Israelis – and 50% of those aged 35 or less – are now unemployed?

Nope, me neither.

I guess that’s why they didn’t tell us.

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This year, I want us all to come back together.

The last four days, I’ve been squiring my 11 year old niece – and her mum – around a whole bunch of different sites in Israel, in preparation for her upcoming batmitzvah.

We went to Kever Rochel; walked on top of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem; plunged 40 metres below ground to visit a 2,000 year old mikva beneath the Kotel that still has water in it; did the ‘Journey to Jerusalem’; had a look at the amazing finds from the 1st Temple they unearthed in the Givati car park in the City of David; heard the story of how Nechemia rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in just 52 days; and ended up today in Shiloh, the place where the Mishkan came to rest for 369 years, and where Hannah’s prayer for a son become our blueprint for heartfelt prayer.

It’s been epic.

Every now and then, when I catch a glimpse of Israel, of Jerusalem, through other people’s eyes, it reminds me of the tremendous privilege I have, of living here.

And that’s what makes it all worthwhile, even tho honestly? Being apart from my brothers, my siblings, and their children and their lives, is sometimes so painful.

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I dropped my SIL and niece at Ben Gurion airport a few hours ago, and my niece asked me:

“Are you going to cry when we’re gone? Are you going to miss us?”

I’m a tough old boot, I reassured her. I’m not going to cry.

She looked at me.

“My daddy cried at the airport when we were going home after visiting Uncle A.,” she told me. “Daddy and Uncle A. are besties.”

Her daddy is my brother, and her Uncle A. is my other brother. I see her London-based daddy maybe once a year, if I’m lucky, and Uncle A. lives in the USA, and I’ve never actually met three of his four kids. I’ve seen him twice in the last 15 years in person.

I have another sister in the States, too, who I haven’t seen in six years, and haven’t met her kid. I have another brother in the UK who I also see on average once every three years. (Hey, there’s a silver lining to everything…)

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But this is the price of making aliya, of trying to give God what He wants, and of moving to Israel.

Sometimes, it’s pretty lonely. Sometimes, it’s pretty sad.

I lit my Chanuka candles with such a deep sigh this evening.

God, is it too much to ask for me to see more of my family? Should I just cut my losses, and try to focus on my two kids, who Bezrat Hashem will live in Israel with their husbands and children, and then I’ll finally get some extended family within 2,000 miles?

Honestly? Sometimes I get so petrified that my kids will end up moving out of Israel, God forbid, and then I’ll have this awful experience on both ends. I know I’m not in control, I know I can’t guilt my kids or pressure them to live their life in a way that suits me. But if they end up living out of Israel, I’d be heartbroken.

Because already, we’re all so scattered around.

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Every family simcha involves massive expense and many holiday days.

I have 3 bar / bat mitvahs next year, all in chutz l’aretz, and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to pull it all off.

How I wish, with all my heart, that I could just get in the car, drive an hour or two, and meet up with a bruvs, and their family. Just pop in for an hour, a cup of tea, and then come home again.

It’s never going to happen.

This is one of the very painful parts of making aliya.

So, I lit my candles today in a somber mood, wondering if this might be the year that all the divisions, all the distance, all the separations that seem to be keeping me away from the people I like and love – in so many different ways – will finally be smashed into pieces.

That’s what geula is really about, isn’t it?

Us all coming back together, as one people with one heart in one country, and with the psychos doing a 180 degree turnaround to actually be part of the solution, instead of causing the problems….

That’s what I wish for this Chanuka.

That is my Chanuka prayer.

I hope God is listening.

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So many anusim, or lost Jews in Latin America are trying to return to their Jewish roots, but it’s really not easy.

Around four years ago, I got an email from someone who’d been Google translating some of the stuff I’d been writing on the Breslev.co.il website into Spanish. She lived in Latin America, and was going through a very hard time.

After we’d been corresponding for a while, I took the plunge and asked her:

“Are you Jewish?”

It took a while for the answer to ping back to me. She had Jewish roots that went back to the anusim, the hidden Jews of Spain. She was desperate to learn more about emuna, and the authentic, orthodox Jewish approach to serving God.

But no, she was not recognized as being officially Jewish.

I kept in touch with my Spanish-speaking pen-pal over the next few years, and I was astounded when I got an email from her, around 18 months ago, when she told me she’d totally turned her life around left her soul-destroying job, and undergone a full orthodox conversion.

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I was seriously impressed.

Had I known more details of what was really taking place in my penpal’s life, I would have been far more impressed. Because while her conversion was carried out 100% according to halacha; and was performed by a chareidi rabbi in Israel who lives with his family in Bnei Brak.

This rabbi used to spend a lot of time in Latin America on business, and over the years, he’d taken a great interest in trying to build up the observant community there. But there was a fly in the ointment: the local Chief Rabbinate where my friend lives wasn’t recognizing her conversion.

Back then, I was still a little naïve. I had no idea what was really going on, so I didn’t press for too many details, and I figured it was just one of those technical things that eventually get sorted out.

Then a year ago, I got another bombshell email: my penpal had met someone who’d been learning full-time in yeshiva in Israel before moving back to Latin America to find a wife. They were getting married the next month, and even though they barely had a penny to their name, she was looking forward to a much happier future.

What can I tell you?

Hashem has been giving my penpal, and the community she belongs to, a lot of tests.

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Last Summer, I invited her to come and spend a week with me here, in Jerusalem, to have a bit of a break from all the tremendous stress she was under at home, and to come and get acquainted with the holy city.

She spent 10 days in my house, and we went to a whole bunch of holy places together, including the Kotel, Kever Rochel and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron. When she was too tired to keep traipsing all over the city, my friend would spend hours on end in her room with her prayer book, either reciting the three standard prayer services or quietly whispering tehillim to herself.

In the middle of a blazing August summer, her level of tznius put mine to shame.

She was wearing her bullet-proof black tights, and her high collars, and her heavy beret, when the heat was peaking at well over 40 degrees. And we talked a lot about God’s plan for us, and what it really means to have emuna, and a few other things besides.

At one point, I felt I could now broach a topic that had puzzled me right from the beginning:

Why didn’t you convert with the local Chief Rabbinate where you live right from the start, and avoid all the problems you’re having with being barred from using the communal mikva? (Not to mention all the other issues that she’d only hinted at.)

She sighed a deep sigh, and told me:

I don’t want to talk any lashon hara.

But journalist that I am, I could tell there was a good story here.

I kept nudging her until she told me that the main problem boiled down to money: potential orthodox converts were being asked for thousands of dollars in ‘donations’ to convert in her part of the world and my friend – and the community she was part of – simply didn’t have the cash required.

Since last Summer, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Senior figures in the ‘official’ Jewish community there have been persecuting my friend and her husband for months, preventing them from finding a job. The non-Jews don’t want them, because they dress, behave and believe the same way as the sorts of Jews you see walking around the frummest neighborhoods in Israel.

And sadly, the ‘official’ Jewish community in their country also doesn’t want them.

Headline from Haaretz saying 23% of Latin Americans have Jewish roots

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When I showed my friend this draft, ahead of posting it up here on the site, she asked me to add in the following:

“I want to add something so that people understand that it’s not just me and my immediate community of lost Jews who are being personally persecuted. There are many converts and potential converts across the whole of Latin America who are experiencing a lot of problems.

The “official communities” in a lot of these countries don’t want to deal with us, either because there is no correct, orthodox conversion procedure in place, or because we don’t have a lot of money we can ‘donate’ to join the Jewish community, persecution against us, or because they are worried that we are really just part of a xtian sect called the “Jewish messianists” (i.e. Jews for Yoshki).

Some of those messianists now also dress as Hasidic, or ’religious-looking’ Jews, and because of our background, we are suspected of being part of these sects.”

So my friend and her community have been falling through the gaps, stuck in a kind of no-mans-land where so many of them are literally struggling to put even basic food on the table, or to find the money to keep paying the rent.

They can’t move to Israel, as many of them would like to, as they aren’t formally recognized as being Jews.

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The conversion committee in Israel keeps telling them to convert ‘officially’ with their local community, spend a year there, and then move to Israel. But of course, they can’t. I’ve heard rumors that the ‘donation’ new converts are being asked for is $10,000 a person – and these people can barely put food on the table.

Last month, when things hit a new low, I said to my friend:

Let’s tell your story. Let’s explain what’s happening to you and your community, in your own words. I think the Jewish world really needs to hear about your plight  – but also, the remarkable courage and emuna that my friend and her community are showing in the face of some really tough circumstances.

After a little bit of persuading, she agreed.

So here is her story, in her own words.

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My father was the second child of a religiously “conservative” family of lost Jews.

His parents never openly spoke to him about Judaism, and in many ways, they acted like the other Christians around them – only much less ‘Christian’.

But my grandfather always told him: “You should always love Israel, you should always know that Israel is the world’s clock”.

My father grew up in a rural area, totally detached from material things, which were not abundant in any case, as he was sharing the house with 11 brothers.

During his childhood, my father’s family had certain “Jewish” practices. For example, if an animal drowned, they wouldn’t eat it. And all the meat they ate was always slaughtered in a particular way, and the animal’s blood was covered over with earth.

They were taught to be extremely respectful to adults, and the children didn’t participate in any festival that was dedicated to a Christian idol, nor did they join in with the religious ceremonies in school, and neither did they celebrate Christmas. In my father’s childhood home, it was totally forbidden to cause harm to any animal, or to make fun of other people.

My father was very spiritual, even as a child.

From seven years old, he was already longing to know more about God, and what God really expected from him, and he often had some very powerful dreams and premonitions. Throughout his childhood, he was teased and ostracized for not being part of the regular Christian world around him.

At around this time, news started to reach Latin America about the Shoah that was engulfing the Jews of Europe, so my father’s unexpressed yearning for Judaism was pushed even further underground.

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My mother’s parents divorced when she was very young, so she was raised in what appeared to be a traditional Catholic house.

But from the age of 5, she decided that she was only going to talk and pray to God, and not to any images of people. Those idols scared and repulsed her.

After she married my father, they both started to think more about the spiritual side of life, and my mother decided to ask her mother about the family. My grandmother told her that her grandparents were Jewish. Her mother had died from pneumonia when my grandmother was 8 years old, and her father had then married a Catholic woman, who raised her and her brothers. And so, all the Jewish traditions the family had were totally lost.

When my parents were in their mid-thirties, Latin America was hit by a wave of self-styled ‘Orthodox Messianic’ movements.

People who called themselves ‘rabbis’ started coming to the country, and began conducting religious services and teaching people Hebrew. These ‘rabbis’ started to appoint leaders, and to form communities, and they had the money required to start bringing Jewish books and religious items into the country .

They’d sell these items – talissim, kippas, tefillin, siddurim, and even shofars – to the locals. At that stage, my parents decided they would convert their house to being ‘kosher’, and these moves were very cautiously welcomed by the more religious Jewish communities in our country. But then, the messianic ‘rabbis’ started trying to convince the lostJews who had started to adopt more Jewish laws and halachot to accept their Christian ‘messiah’.

Many people were very confused about what was happening, but as time went on, more and more people started to realise that there was something very wrong here, and that all this ‘messianic’ propaganda didn’t fit in with the Torah, or with halacha.

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At that point, before they had formally converted to Judaism, the community came across the letter that Don Isaac Abarbanel wrote to the monarchs of Spain.

The letter was written at the time of the forced conversions and expulsion of the Spanish Jews. There he wrote:

“[A]s the last spokesman of Spanish Jewry… I will leave you with a parting message although you will like it not.

“The message is simple. The historical people of Israel, as it has traditionally constituted itself, is the final judge of Jesus and his claims to be the Messiah. As the Messiah was destined to save Israel, so it must be for Israel to decide when it has been saved.

“Our answer, the only answer that matters, is that Jesus was a false Messiah.

“As long as the people of Israel lives, as long as Jesus’ own people continue to reject him, your religion can never be validated as true. You can convert all the peoples and savages of the world, but as long as you have not converted the Jew, you have proved nothing except that you can persuade the uninformed.”

Sadly, even Don Isaac Abarbanel’s own brother converted to Catholicism, and when that happened, every church in the country rang its bells in celebration. But the Abarbanel dreamed of the day when all these lost Jews would return to their faith.”

My friend continues:

“After we found that letter, many of us became much more interested in our traditions, and we started spending a lot of time at the national archives in our country, where we started to learn more about our Sephardic heritage. Throughout this time, we were very isolated. For around 18 years, we didn’t really know what to do or where to turn, and in the meantime, the formal communities around us were refusing to even sell us matzahs for Pesach.

Then one day, a friend from the formal Jewish community told us about a rabbi who was spending a lot of time in Latin America on business, and suggested that he might be willing to us more about the Jewish traditions of our heritage.

We faced obstacles every step of the way.

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Even from the age of six, I had decided that I didn’t like all the stories about Yoshki that always seemed so cruel, and so full of blood and death.

Instead, I started telling people that Moses was my hero. But that didn’t go down so well in the communities we were living in, and our non-Jewish family and friends started to push us away, and to accuse us of being ‘fanatics’ and ‘murderers’.

As soon as these people discovered we were lost Jews, they’d move away from our communities very quickly. Before we started our journey to Orthodox Judaism, we’d been a wealthy family, a wealthy community. But as the years passed, our businesses started to fail, as more and more people were ostracizing us, and the money dried up.

There were weeks when we struggled even to find the money to make food for Shabbat, and this continued for years. As our community has become poorer and poorer, sometimes, there hasn’t even been money to buy food. But we don’t complain about our poverty. Most of the converts we know had to face this test, and we’ve also seen such tremendous miracles.

Yes, there are some very difficult tests.

Some of the men who couldn’t find a Jewish woman have strayed, and the main Jewish congregations in our country have been told not to give us any access to their facilities, including the communal mikva, or to offer us any type of help or tzedaka.

Yet, I’ve also seen more kindness in these communities than I’ve seen anywhere else.

I’ve seen people share their small bag of flour with a friend, so their family can also have something to eat. I’ve seen people go without sleep, and walking many kilometres just to attend a religious service. I’ve seen people spend their own time and money just to teach others, and I’ve seen women recite so many tehillim for the people in need, and people who suffer hunger all week, because they refuse to work on Shabbat, or to buy non-kosher food.

I have seen people investing literally everything they have for the common good, and making so many sacrifices to help other lost Jewish souls out of the prison of Christianity.

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None of the 200-300 people I know who have undergone an orthodox conversion have had it easy.

Some people have lost everything they had, even their families, and so many of us have had to deal with being rejected by our parents, our friends, our communities, and with being gossiped about and slandered.

And things are no easier on the Jewish side of the equation, either, where we continue to be rejected, and our conversion discredited, by the ‘traditional’ Jewish population. Sometimes the tests are so hard, people fall back into their old life. But I’ve also witnessed three generations in one family convert.

When I’ve asked some of the people in my community if it was worth it, after everything they’ve gone through, the majority of them say:

“I’m a Jew, how else could I live?”

Here and there, there have been some movements, meeting and groups to create a strong Torah community in the Latin American countries, but it seems that there is not enough “Jewish glue” among the Latin American converts and the lost Jews to really make it work. Some people have tried very hard to get our communities more organized and vocal, but it never really spreads very far.

It’s not easy to deal with people who have even spent 50-60-70 years as “good Christians”, and now you come along and suddenly tell them that everything they believed in is wrong, and that they must become some other sort of people. It’s like being told that you have lived someone else’s life by mistake.

Many people simply can’t accept it.

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Many of us would like to move to Israel, but the anusim like us are just a statistic to the State of Israel.

Even though some of us converted 30 years ago, already, none of us have been invited to speak to the policy makers in Israel, although I know they listen to Arabs and other non-Jews on a regular basis. Yes, there are some ‘politically correct’ initiatives, but nothing that really leads to anything concrete.

I’ve never heard of an Israeli embassy running an initiative to try to get to know the anusim that exist, still half-hidden, in the countries where they are located. The only contact we have with Israel is via the letters written by our ‘official’ rabbinate, where the conversions that cost us so many tears, and so many prayers, and so many nights of study and effort, are falsely discredited.”

Why is that happening, I wanted to know? Why so much antagonism against the lost Jews?

My friend sighed, then continued:

“As happens everywhere, there are some people, some “anusim” who have been seeing all this as some sort of a “business”, and their actions have closed the doors for the rest of us more and more. Baruch Hashem, they are a minority, and they cannot dim the light of those who really want to live a Jewish life, even when our bad middot still get in the way.”

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She continued:

“Today, the future does not seem so clear.

The people who have the ability and knowledge to help us move forward don’t want to. The people who could be sharing our story, and lighting our path back to teshuva and Hashem and Israel, continue to turn their backs on us.  But there is still something I am sure of:

This is only the beginning.

There is a Divine force driving all this, and while there are some people, some converts, who really don’t have such good intentions, there are hundreds and thousands of us who are being carried forward by our holy, pure desire to serve Hashem and keep His mitzvoth.

These are the people who are prevented from using a mikva in their own communities; people who can’t find a Jewish school to accept their children, people who are refused places to study in yeshiva, and refused permission to settle in Eretz Yisrael.

But even so, if you lift your heads and look around, you’ll see an amazing sight: There are thousands upon thousands of humble people, simple people, who are coming back to life. There are Jewish souls who were once considered to be dead, who are being reborn. Those dry bones have been covered by muscle and tendons.

“And we are living once again, as Torah-observant Jews.”

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And so, her story ended.

Or really I should say, her story began. Last year, the small group of sincere converts that my friend belongs to, these Sephardic anusim, decided to try to move several families en masse to a rural part of the country, where the cost of living is far cheaper, and where there is some potential for the community to become self-sufficient.

They didn’t have any resources, or investment. All they had was some firm trust in Hashem and a little bit of charity money that was being sent in from outside. And even that is now dwindling, as the government has recently enacted a law limiting the amount of money that can be sent to their country via money transfer to just $500 a year.

Nevertheless, my friend and her community didn’t give up. They started trying to slowly buy a few more domesticated animals, and to start making a few more basic products to sell to the tourists that come to the area. But the crushing poverty began to take a huge toll on the community, and tragedy has continued to dog their heels.

A few weeks ago, my friend told me that all the animals a certain family had spent two years carefully raising all caught some freak illness, and died overnight. Then, there is another family where the father was caught up in an awful road accident last year, and was so ill he couldn’t work for months.

Just as he got back on his feet – last week – he was run over again.

This last problem fell like a thunder-clap on this close knit community of anusim, lost Jews who are trying to hard to return, and my friend was totally distraught about what was happening, with one problem and one challenge after another.

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When I first wrote this piece, a couple of months ago, my friend and her community were planning to try to start a few businesses with a little bit of investment money, with an eye to building up a real community with it’s own mikva, synagogue and school.

Today, the plans are in a state of flux.

What’s clear is that this community still needs an awful lot of help to just start being able to put food on the table, pay rent, and to build a very basic mikvah. Until these basic things are taken care of, they can’t see any further ahead on the path they need to take.

But once that’s done, there is a pressing need for the community to get organized – and for the other communities of anusim to get organized – and to start figuring out the process of how they can be allowed to convert again, if necessary, in order to be given full rights as the orthodox Jews they really are.

I’d love to tell you there’s a plan, a process to give us the happy ending to the story, but right now, there isn’t. All I can really do for my friend at the moment is pray that God will open the door for them, and pray some more that they’ll have the ability to walk through it, when the time comes.

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Almost 600 years ago, Don Isaac Abarbanel told the rulers of Spain:

“Woe unto you, authors of iniquity. For generations to come, it will be told and retold how unkind was your faith and how blind was your vision. But more than your acts of hatred and fanaticism, the courage of the people of Israel will be remembered for standing up to the might of imperial Spain, clinging to the religious inheritance of our fathers, and resisting your enticements and your untruths.”

All over Latin America, there are lost Jews still desperately trying to cling on against all the odds, and to return to their Jewish faith.

And I don’t know what we can really do, or how we can really help them, but one thing I do know:

We have to try.

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If you think you can help, either with a financial donation or by making some introductions and opening some doors for this particular group of ‘lost Jews’ in Latin America, please get in touch. Who knows, maybe the time has come for this to finally start moving. I hope to be writing more about this subject of the lost Jews in the next few weeks.

Rabbi Berland’s New Prayer to Move to Israel.

So many of the people I’m in touch with want to move to Israel, but feel totally petrified about the whole idea of uprooting their whole lives, and trying to plonk them down again in a totally different country, however holy that country may actually be, and however much God really wants the Jews to move to Israel.

This is totally understandable. Moving country is not a simple thing, it has profound consequences for everyone involved. You can understand why so many otherwise believing Jews are twisting the words of the Torah, ignoring the whole ‘sin of the spies’ episode, and making all sorts of bizarre claims about there being no need for Jews to move to the Land of Israel.

The fear is in control. The fear is running the show.

Fear is one of the yetzer hara’s most powerful tools for keeping people away from doing the right thing. How many people stay trapped in a secular lifestyle, because they are scared of what people will say, or what’s going to be, if they take the plunge and start keeping kosher….

Or take the plunge and start keeping Shabbat….

Or take the plunge, and start dressing more modestly….

Or take the plunge, and ditch the i-Phone for something far more basic and better for the soul….

Moving to Israel is no different, except the fear is less about what people will say – because after all, it’s a new start, and you’re leaving the people who are against moving to Israel behind – and much more about what will be.

Will I find work?

Will I find friends?

Will I find a place to live?

Will my kids acclimatize OK?

And maybe the biggest fear of all:

Will I regret doing this for the rest of my life?

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Again, all these fears are totally, 100% normal and reasonable to have. If we don’t acknowledge that these fears are coming from a rational place, and that they have to be addressed properly, rather than squashed or mocked, then we can’t move forward with the whole discussion of moving to Israel.

Israel is the land of emuna, it’s where a person can really start to LIVE their belief that God is running the whole world, and not just talk about it.

The answer to all of the ‘issues’ stated above – the answer to every ‘issue’ and worry a person has about moving to Israel ultimately boils down to the same thing:

God is in control. Whatever God decides, that’s what’s going to happen.

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That’s a massive level of emuna to be striving for, isn’t it? And I’m not sure that I’m there myself, really, although I’d certainly like to be.

But the more we can live our life from that genuine place of really believing in Him, and really believing in concepts like reward and punishment, and really believing that 99% of the ‘yuck’ we go through in our lives we totally bring on ourselves, via our own bad middot – the more easy we will be able to deal with any potential move to Israel.

Really, there’s only one answer to ‘why move to Israel?’

I could tell you about the amazing day I spent yesterday, swimming with my family in a stream up North, together with a bunch of frum Jews with payot, and fully-clothed Beis Yaakov girls all happily splashing about.

I could tell you about last Wednesday night, when I went off to the Kotel to recite some tehillim for the Rav, and how I watched the swallows duck and dive, swooping so close to the wall before soaring back up into the heavens.

I could tell you about how everything here is kosher (I live in Jerusalem. That’s not true of everywhere in Israel, especially not Tel Aviv.)

I could tell you about the farm one of my kids went to volunteer on last week, up in the Shomron hills, that’s being started by an idealistic young Jewish couple.

I could talk about the sun, the sea, the way my soul just feels way, way happier here, and way, way more peaceful than it ever did in London.

But really, all of these things are missing the point.

The point of moving to Israel, is because it’s a mitzvah that God commanded the Jews to keep.

So maybe you’ll move here, and you really will struggle with making a living. And you really will go through years of feeling so lonely. And you really will find it very hard to ever buy your own place, especially in Jerusalem.

And maybe you won’t.

But the point is, whatever happens to us in Israel – and in New York, and in London, and in Melbourne, and in Paris – it’s all just to bring home that same message:

God is in control. Whatever God decides, that’s what’s going to happen.

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If a person is really working on their emuna, then they will increasingly be living their life according to this idea wherever they happen to live.

But there’s another point to make here, and that’s the idea of having some humility, and overcoming our own arrogance. Or to put it another way, to start thinking much more about what does God want from me, and much less about what do I want from God.

We are here to serve God, not the other way around.

Again, let’s keep things real.

This is a huge spiritual level! It’s a level that we will have to struggle and fight for ad 120. It doesn’t come easily to anyone, and especially not to those people who find it very difficult to put anyone else’s needs and wants ahead of their own.

That’s why there are two things that really clear the path to moving to Israel, and those two things are:

  1. Working on our own bad middot
  2. Working on our emuna, particularly the idea that we are in control of our lives

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We need to pray to get to Israel.

That’s part of the process of really getting ‘ready’ to actually live here. We need to pray to get here, and we need to pray that all the bad middot that are stopping us from moving somehow disappear. And then once we’re here, we need to carry on praying every single day, that we will continue to have the merit of staying here.

Because in Israel, all the bad middot that we fooled ourselves we didn’t have in chutz l’aretz come roaring out of the closet.

Because God wants us to finally start dealing with them, and acknowledging them, and to stop making excuses about what we are really down here to work on and fix.

BTW, that’s also why even the very process of moving to Israel can be so very taxing and upsetting. It’s all part of the preparation process for the spiritual work of developing some real humility, and understanding that God is in charge of the world, not us.

All this sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn’t it?

And honestly, it is.

You can totally understand why so many otherwise believing Jews would prefer to stay in chutz l’aretz and pretend that moving to Israel is something God doesn’t really require of anyone. It’s certainly much easier that way, it’s certainly much more comfortable.

At least, on one level.

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This post isn’t for those people.

This post is for the people who are really yearning and longing to get here, and who really do know that God wants the Jewish people to be in Israel, but who can’t quite manage to overcome their fears (yet!) in order to give God what He really wants.

For those people, there is a shortcut to moving to Israel, which is basically the power of prayer. Every prayer we say on this subject, shortens the road we need to walk in order to get here. Why? Because it’s tackling the obstacles that are blocking our path at their root.

A praying person is a person who already acknowledges, at least on some level, that God is in control. A praying person is someone who knows that God is behind all the difficulties, and that if we start to clean up our own act, particularly with our own bad middot like arrogance, laziness, greed and complacency, that God will then blast so many of the ‘issues’ keeping us stuck out of the way, too.

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That’s why Israel is really only acquired via prayer.

And that’s why so many of the people who actually live in Israel still haven’t really ‘got here’ spiritually, even though they moved here with their bodies, or were born here.

Those people moan all the time about what’s going on in Israel. They complain all the time about the taxes, and about other groups of Jews, and about all the ‘bad’ they see going on all around them, because the whole world is just one big mirror, and God is beaming a very unpleasant reflection straight into their faces.

Like we said above, in Israel, bad middot are amplified – both ours, and other people’s – so we’ll stop making excuses, and finally knuckle down to the work of fixing them.

Luckily, there is a shortcut. The shortcut is to get close to our true tzaddikim, to follow their advice, and to use their prayers to circumvent all the stuff that’s holding us back from being able to even describe the problem, let alone deal with it.

Rebbe Nachman’s advice to do an hour a day of hitbodedut has totally transformed my approach to the world, and it’s the single biggest ‘help’ to navigating life in Israel. You can read more about it HERE. But in the meantime, I want to share with you a prayer that Rabbi Berland just put out for people who want to move to Israel, but who are stuck, somehow.

It’s not a long prayer, but it sums up so precisely what’s really going on when people get stuck unable to make aliya, even though they admit it’s the right thing to do.

You can see the original HERE, but here’s what it says:

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A Prayer to Come to Eretz Yisrael

TO MERIT COMING TO ERETZ YISRAEL WITHOUT LOSING ANYTHING. TO SELL EVERYTHING FOR ITS FULL VALUE. AND MAY I MERIT LEAVING THE DEFILEMENT OF THE LAND OF THE NATIONS THAT WE ARE IMMERSED IN. AND MAY WE SMASH ALL OF THE OBSTACLES THAT ARE MOSTLY OBSTACLES OF THE MIND.

Master of the World, who can do everything. Merit me to go up to Eretz Yisrael with sublime self-sacrifice. That I leave all of the property and all of the belongings that I have outside of Eretz Yisrael. That I not leave anything over, that I not leave any remembrance.

Rather, I should sell everything as quick as possible at full value, and not lose even one pruta by moving to Eretz Yisrael. And may I not incur any other damages by moving to Eretz Yisrael.

For we have no more strength to stay in exile, in chutz la’aretz, even for one second.

We want to go up to the land of our forefathers, that you gave to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, “The land flowing with milk and honey”.

For Eretz Yisrael is holier than any other land in the world.

And Hashem Your G-d chose her over all other precious things in the world.”

Please, Hashem, merit me to go up to Eretz Yisrael with self-sacrifice,

“And bring us to Your Holy Mountain.”

For we have no more strength to stay in chutz la’aretz, but on the other hand we’ve been here for so long, in the defilement of the land of the nations, and we have no idea how to free ourselves from it.

Now we are turning to You, with humble kneeling and prostration:

Help us, Hashem our G-d, to come to Eretz Yisrael in the blink of an eye! And help us to break all of the obstacles, and all of the postponements, for the main obstacle is in the mind.   

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May Hashem help us to give Him what He really wants, as easily as possible.

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What’s stopping you from moving to Israel – take the quiz

 

I think I’ve covered most of the main challenges and concerns people have about moving to Israel. If there’s something I missed, please feel free to add it in to the comments section, and let’s start to figure this issue out a bit more, together.
For sure, there are some very real, very solid concerns and obstacles in the path to getting to the Holy Land. I know many people who really do want to come, but can’t seem to get here, for one reason or another. So let’s see what’s the biggest issues that are standing in the way, and then I will do my best to put some resources together here on the site, that might help you to find a way past them.
Also, take a look at the aliyah category, for some more pertinent information, discussion and background.

Yesterday, I got a text telling me that Rabbi Berland, aka Eliezer ben Etia, was heading out to Ashdod.

Rabbi Berland was going there after the evening prayers to go to the city square there, and recite the Tikkun Haklali seven times to “stop the rockets.”

I woke up this morning curious to see whether Israel was still being pounded by another round of rockets, after 690 rockets rained down on our head over the previous 48 hours and what did I see?

A cease-fire.

This is strange for so many reasons. Why did the Palestinians stop? What did Israel do to them, to get them to stop? Yes, there were a few targeted killings, some minor bombing – pretty much business as usual, in this part of the world. But there was nothing I could see that the IDF had done to ‘persuade’ Hamas to stop rocketing.

And on the Israel side of the equation, this latest round of terror has cost us very dear. We’re so used to miracles in Israel, that when I heard that 4 people had died, and that scores had been hospitalized with light-to-moderate-to-critical injuries, it really felt to me like the usual high level of Divine protection we get has dropped off a little.

God forbid.

Of course, teshuva and tehillim can turn everything around, as Rav Berland has repeatedly told us, ever since he first called for the first prayer gathering in Hevron before Chanuka 5778, when he warned us that:

“Every part of Israel is now under threat of being deluged with rockets. After we saw 400 rockets falling on Ashkelon and the surrounding cities, including Beer Sheva, Netivot, Ofakim and Sderot, now they are preparing thousands and thousands of rockets, which will reach to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

“And we have no possibility of stopping this from happening, because the whole world is against us. They can launch 10,000 missiles, and if we fire back even just one, they will say that we are the aggressors, and they are the victims.

“They will say that we began [hostilities], and that they are simply defending themselves.

“We have no [military] might, we only have the power of tehillim (psalms). All of the State of Israel’s efforts to stop the missiles of Hezbollah and Hamas ended in failure. Every day, we are threatened with thousands of new rockets. They can reach any target precisely…

So for now, it seems that the seven Tikkun Haklalis – and the rest of our prayers – have worked, and the rockets have stopped.

But it’s still kind of heavy.

I just finished working on a long post that sets out the dark roots of white supremacy in modern America, and it makes for pretty disturbing reading. I’m just running it past the bloke before I go ahead and post it up here, because when I shared some of what I’d discovered with an American friend of mine in Jerusalem, her eyes grew as big as saucers and she looked petrified.

I don’t want to shock anyone unduly, but the situation in America is far more dangerous for Jews than anyone imagines.

A few days ago, a friend of mine on the East coast called me to tell me that whole swathes of Jews are now considering moving out to Texas, from the State of New York.

Why Texas? I wanted to know.

New York is so corrupt, she replied. She told me about the recent law they passed enabling doctors to kill a newborn even as it’s being delivered – for absolutely no reason. Infanticide, pure and simple. Then, she told me about the massive fines New York State is now handing out to the families of unvaccinated children, and how they are ending the exemption from vaccines based on religious views.

Unless I vaccinate, I won’t have a school I can send my kids to next year.

And she’s not going to vaccinate.

Lastly, she told me about the plans to outlaw instruction in Hebrew in religious institutions in New York State, which will effectively make studying the Torah very difficult if they are passed into law. Life is getting very hard for many religious Jews in New York, who want a Torah-true education for their children, and who also don’t want to be forced into giving vaccinations they don’t believe in.

Ok, but why Texas? Why not Israel?

Texas, because the Jewish community is still ‘relatively normal’, and the rest of the state is ‘relatively religious’,  and conservative, so it’s easier to continue living an orthodox Jewish life there without being assailed by moral corruption of the highest degree at every turn.

And why not Israel?

Just because I’m scared. It’s scary to think about moving to Israel, even though I do really know that it’s the right thing, and that it’s what God ultimately wants.

I understand her concern. Moving to Israel is scary, for so many of us. New beginnings are always difficult, and it’s not easy re-adjusting to a different culture, and there’s also the challenge of overcoming all the slander and lashon hara that’s spoken about the land.

But after doing all this research on white supremacism in the US, and the Turner Diaries connection to the synagogue shootings, more and more I can see that there are no easy choices up ahead.

Israel has its own problems, as the last two days of rockets clearly shows. You don’t come to Israel for an easy life, or because it’s going to solve your problems, or give you a sun tan.

You come to Israel because that’s what God wants you to do, as a Jew.

But honestly, that’s really the only reason that matters.

  • I’m starting to hear more and more stories of people who have apparently been denied the chance to make aliya by the Jewish Agency. If you are an orthodox Jew and you’ve been denied the chance to move to Israel, please drop me an email and tell me your story, so we can start to figure out what’s going on here.

I wrote this post two weeks before the shooting in the Poway shul in San Diego, but didn’t get a chance to put it up.

Violent anti-semitism is shooting through the roof all over the world at the moment, and the question we have to ask is why?

Sure, we can point fingers at radical Islam, and at fanatical right-wingers, and at all the very many other sources of anti-semitism out there, but when all is said and done, God is the one causing the problem.

If we’re looking at this from the place of emuna, we have to ask why?

Why is God making it more and more uncomfortable for Jews to live in chutz l’aretz? Why is He piling the pressure on Jewish communities all over the world, from NYC to London to Paris to San Diego and back again?

Why is God doing that?

Maybe, we can find some answers in Rebbe Nachman’s Torah:

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As you know, I like to quote authentic Torah sources wherever possible, to support any opinions on this blog, to counteract the growing tide of daas me. Personal opinions certainly have their place, but not when we’re discussing something as important as whether living in Israel is a mitzvah for a Jew, or not.

In line with that, I thought I’d take a look at what Rebbe Nachman of Breslov has to say about Eretz Yisrael, and whaddya know, he has a lot to say on the subject. The following is excerpted from Likutey Etzot, that was translated into English as ‘Advice’ by the Breslov Research Institute:

  • With truth emuna (faith), prayer comes into its own. Prayer is bound up with the concept of bringing about miracles. To attain this level of emuna is only possible in the Land of Israel, for it is there that prayer ascends to the worlds above….
  • If we abuse Eretz Yisrael we go down into exile.
  • Every upward movement we have to make towards holiness can only be accomplished through Eretz Yisrael.
  • It is impossible to come to the Land of Israel without difficulties and suffering. The root of all the difficulties and suffering lies in the slanderous image of Israel, which is put about by the wicked.
  • Through the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael, the true guide and leader of our age will be revealed.
  • The mitzvah of the succah is a segulah for coming to Eretz Yisrael.
  • The motive for making the journey to Eretz Yisrael should be purely spiritual: to draw closer to God. A person who goes there with this as his aim will certainly benefit….On the other hand, if a person’s motive has nothing to do with devotion to God and cleansing himself of his evil, then what help will Israel be to him? The land will vomit him out…
  • Through the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, one can attain pure faith.
  • Pray to God, to ask Him to give you the desire and yearning for Eretz Yisrael. Then you will succeed in reaching there.
  • God repays man ‘measure for measure’. Nowhere is the repayment more exacting than in Eretz Yisrael.
  • The holiness of Eretz Yisrael is the epitome of holiness, encompassing all other levels of holiness. It is there that we can free ourselves completely of the materialistic viewpoint which claims that events take place naturally. We can come to know and believe that everything comes about only through the hand of God.
  • Genuine enlightenment and wisdom come only in Eretz Yisrael.

Rabbenu says a great deal more, these are only snippets, but I think you get the idea.

It’s time for some Torah sources, to help us start deconstructing the idea of aliyah.

Off the back of the discussion that’s been taking place around the Deconstructing Geula post, I thought I’d write something deconstructing the whole idea of aliya.

This is such a fraught topic, and so many bad middot and other subconscious impulses come into play with this subject, which is why I’ve generally stayed away from it in my writing. But, after that atrocious book was published to great acclaim in the orthodox Jewish world, which was ‘anti aliya’, to the point of degrading it even as a God-given mitzvah, I think it’s time to look at this subject in some depth, and to deconstruct what’s going on with it.

The first, and really primary, place to start is this:

Does God want Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael, at this stage in time?

Because if the answer is ‘yes’, then there has to be an extremely good reason for not moving here, if you consider yourself to be a God-fearing Jew.

So, without any further ado, let’s dive in the deep end, and see if we can answer the two parts of the question:

  • Does God want Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael generally; and
  • Does God wants Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael now.

THE BIBLICAL MITZVAH TO DWELL IN THE LAND

The following comes from 110b in Ketubot (Artscroll Translation):

“A person can force all the members of his household to go up to Eretz Yisrael to live there, but he can force none of them to leave there.”

The footnote to this clear pronouncement says the following:

[According to Rashi] If a family is living in some country outside of Eretz Yisrael and the father or mother decides that the family should move to Eretz Yisrael, the entire household is coerced [by the Rabbinic Court] to accede to the wishes of the parent and to go and live in Eretz Yisrael….According to some Rishonim, there is a biblical mitzvah to settle Eretz Yisrael…..[o]ther Rishonim maintain that there is no positive commandment to settle Eretz Yisrael.

However, even those authorities agree that it is a worthy cause to live in Eretz Yisrael.

(Which is why they enacted the law that would enable someone to ‘force’ his family to move there, with him. Or her.)

By the way, the mitzvah of settling the land doesn’t depend on ‘the land’ being an easy place to live.

When Moshe’s 12 spies go to take a look at Israel, 10 of them can only see the negative points of the country.

It’s hard there, there’s giants. The land devours its inhabitants. The people are really rough and rude. It’s full of wife-beating Arabs and awful daycare centers. The bureaucracy’s a nightmare, it’s too hot, I can’t get a decent job and my wife will miss her parents too much….

What does Caleb, the spy who figured out that you make it in Israel by doing a lot of hitbodedut and praying at the tombs of holy people tell them, in reply?

We can do it, if God is with us, we’ll eat the Caananites for lunch! There’s no problem that God can’t solve! Israel is where we’re really going to discover if we have emuna, or not, where we’re really going to grow into believing that Ein Od Milvado, there is only Hashem!

Come on, guys, the last 40 years you’ve been giving all these Torah sermons about ‘what God requires from us’, and ‘living our emuna’, and having faith – now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, and to really live it! So what, you’ll lose your social status?! So what, you don’t speak the language properly and no-one appreciates your PhD?! So what, you can’t even figure out how to ask for a stamp in the post office?! 

All that stuff is humbling, and we know a humble person is much closer to God. God can’t dwell with an arrogant person, we know that! This is your chance to really get humble, and then to get real and stop thinking you’re such a big tzaddik and success, and then to get closer to God. Whaddya say?

 

We know what the spies said: Thanks, but no thanks.

They had prestigious, well-paying positions outside of Israel. They had respect. They had ‘their’ seat in shul, they had their established set of friends, they knew where to get the best chicken. They had nothing against visiting Israel every year for Pesach – still cheaper and nicer than having to clean their own home and cook everything themselves – but that’s as far as it goes.

Was God happy about this?

Nope.

The spies got punished awfully for slandering the land, and putting their fellow Jews off from moving to Israel.

But, your kid is going to struggle in school! Your husband is going to miss out on his amazing Rav, his amazing chavruta! You have a nice bunch of friends here, in the desert! But, you don’t speak the language, you can’t get a good job there, you won’t be able to afford your own home if you move to Israel, the place is full of wife-beating, idol-worshipping Canaanites, the divorce rate there is 80%….

Everybody has the same fears, the same concerns. People can’t live on thin air, it’s true. But again, God often expects some mesirut nefesh, some self-sacrifice from people, in order to keep His mitzvahs.

If someone is interested in working on their soul dimension, then Israel will be appealing to them for a lot of reasons (and if they aren’t, it won’t be, also for a lot of reasons.)

Let’s explore that idea a bit more, tachlis.

ISRAEL IS THE LAND OF EMUNA

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that Israel is the place where you’re going to learn some real emuna. How? Because you’ll be surrounded by miracles and challenges every second of the day.

In Chutz L’Aretz, a person can sin and sin and sin again, and because spiritual matters are more hidden there, they don’t feel the effect of their sins until the end of their lives – usually when it’s way too late to change course and fix things.

There in the hospital, with a tube up their nose and a drip in their arm, they finally start to realize how much of their life they wasted, chasing after stuff, and holidays, and traif food, and non-kosher experiences, and money, and status, and their own bad middot, because God was out of the picture.

God can hide much easier in chul. You don’t keep Shabbat, you don’t keep kosher, you don’t pay your 10% to charity, you don’t pay any attention to what God really wants from you – you’ll just keep swallowing your Prozac, drinking your G&T and going on holiday, or shopping, or working like a dog to drown out any inner discomfort you feel as a result.

And God lets you.

That’s why being in galut is such an ordeal, spiritually such a test. Because it really can seem as though you can game the system, and live a good life even if you’re a bitter atheist with terrible character traits.

But in Israel, it’s not like that.

It says that you walk dalet amot, four amot, in Israel, and that atones for your sins. Do you know why? Because every dalet amot here, you’ll be faced with another rude person, another problem, another challenge, another issue, that has been 100% tailored by God to bring your bad middot to the fore, and to show you what you still have left to work on.

Really? You’re not so bothered about gashmius? Let’s see how you’re going to cope when every brand of kosher-for-Pesach mayonnaise in the country has kitniot in it. Let’s see how much you start craving all the brands in TX Maxx, let’s see how you cope with just one toilet between seven people, and no cleaning help.

And there’s more tests, too. Like, trying to find a school for your kid; and trying to deal with the wounded ego of your spouse, who used to be a ‘bigshot’ in shul, or at work, but is now scrabbling to hold it together as a relative ‘nothing’ in Israel; or dealing with the tremendous loneliness and boredom of being an Anglo in Israel on Shabbos, which used to be filled up with six hour long Shabbos lunches, and ‘kiddush clubs’ at shul (that went on to 1pm…) and yet more shiurim on how to keep super-machmir standards of kashrut. Etc.

And we didn’t even get into the tests involved with having rockets fired at you on a regular basis, or people trying to stab you just for being a Jew, or getting shot or run over as you wait for a bus.

All these things, all these difficulties, build a person’s emuna like nothing else.

Because if you don’t turn to God to deal with the difficulties in finding work, or finding a place to live, or the million and one other things that force you to get real in Israel very quickly, you can quickly sink without a trace.

That’s why Israel is the land of emuna – dafka, because it shows a person what they need to work on, and how far away they are from really having emuna, and really serving Hashem properly, 24/7.

So when people point to the hardships of living in Israel as a reason to not make aliya, they are kind of missing the point – if they’re really interested in the more spiritual dimension of life.

Which honestly, a lot of people really just aren’t. Even in the ‘orthodox’ world.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the halachic arguments underpinning the ‘anti’ aliya argument.

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TORAH-BASED ARGUMENTS FOR NOT MAKING ALIYA

This approach was basically set out by the late Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, z’tl, in his book V’Yoel Moshe.

Rav Teitelbaum wrote his book after going through the holocaust. He saw half a million of his Hungarian compatriots sold out by the Zionist government in Israel, who were offered the chance to buy the freedom and lives of the Hungarian Jews by the cash-strapped Nazis – and who turned it down.

The whole sordid tale is told in Ben Hecht’s excellent book, Perfidy, but the Satmar Rebbe was one of the brands snatched from the conflagration in Hungary, and he had personal experience of this most ugly face of secular ‘zionism’. The awful actions of the secular politicians in Israel before, during and after WW II almost certainly influenced the opinions he put forth in his book.

Remember, the Israeli authorities in the 1950s were irradiating the kids of Moroccan immigrants in the tent camps, and cutting off people’s payot, and selling Yemenite children to the highest bidder. They were yucky, ugly people in every sense of the word.

Many of our other leading orthodox leaders, within Israel and without, also recognized who they were really dealing with, and that the secular leadership in Israel was spiritually corrupt, and corrupting to a very high degree.

The Satmar Rebbe took this idea to an extreme in his book, where he puts forward the idea that the anti-Torah Zionists in Israel caused the holocaust to happen, at least indirectly, by their actions, and by ‘forcing the time’ for returning to the land. (We’ll look at what this ‘forcing the time’ is referring to, in a moment.)

First, there’s a partial translation of some of the Satmar Rebbe’s words in V’Yoel Moshe, HERE, which the following ideas are taken from. The Satmar Rebbe avers that:

  • The anti-Torah Zionist groups in Israel caused the holocaust by ‘informing’ on the Jews in Europe to the non-Jewish authorities, and making trouble for the Jews there, in order to turn up the heat and get these Jews to move to the fledgling State of Israel.
  • That these anti-Torah Zionist groups “violated the oath of hastening the end by claiming sovereignty and freedom before the time.”
  • That the secular Zionist groups performed several “cruel actions” before, during and after the war which also lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
  • Furthermore, among those who have moved to Eretz Yisrael in these times, most of the immigrants from Arab countries were living peacefully and tranquilly in their countries, lacking nothing, until the establishment of the heretical kingdom in Israel. Through the establishment of that State they began to suffer hatred and persecution in their countries, and the Zionists themselves aided this through their wiles, so as to increase the persecution until they would be forced to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael, destitute and with nothing, and they glorified their saviors, but the truth was the opposite – that [the Zionists] had brought about all of the destruction in the first place. (Va-Yo’el Moshe 123)”

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THE THREE OATHS ‘PREVENTING’ ALIYA

The idea of the three oaths that prevent Jews from returning to Israel before God actually wills it comes from the Gemara (Ketubot 111a), where it brings a discussion between R’ Zeira, who wanted to make aliya to Israel from Bablyonia, and Rav Yehuda who said:

Whoever ascends from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael transgresses a positive commandment, as it says: “They will be brought to Babylonia and they will be there until the day that I attend to them – when I shall bring them up and return them to this place.

Rav Zeira said that this verse is referring to the sacred utensils that were used in the Temple service, but that people are permitted to make aliya, still. Rav Yehuda disagrees, and says that the verse I have adjured you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by gazelles or by hinds of the field etc means that the Jews are bound by an oath not to ascend to Eretz Yisrael until the Final Redemption.

Rav Zeira says that’s not what this verse means. Rather, he says it means that:

The Jewish people should not converge upon Eretz Yisrael in a wall of force, but that an individual is permitted to settle there, if he wants to.

Rav Yehuda again disagrees, so then R’ Zeira explains there are three oaths, as follows:

  • The Jewish people should not converge upon Israel as a wall of force;
  • Hashem adjured the Jewish people to not rebel against the nations of the world [to try and force their way back to living in Israel before the time God wanted that to happen]; and
  • Hashem also adjured the idolaters (i.e. the non-Jewish nations) not to subjugate and terrorise the Jews more than was required.

R’ Zeira explains that any case, an individual is never adjured to not make aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

This discussion in the Gemara is ‘sandwiched’ between the following statements:

BEFORE: Whoever dwells outside Eretz Yisrael, it’s as if he worships idols.

AFTER: The people dwelling within Eretz Yisrael are forgiven of sin.

This discussion is the halachic basis for the Satmar position, together with some other groups, for why it’s not a mitzvah to make aliya.

But you’ll notice, even in this discussion, it’s clear that the main ‘problem’ being discussed is for groups of Jews to ‘ascend’ all at once. There is no problem for individuals to make aliya, and as is clear from the surrounding text and discussion in the Gemara, the Sages considered it a very praiseworthy thing, to move to Israel.

ARE WE AT ‘THE END’ OR NOT?

The main argument revolves around a discussion of whether we are at the ‘the end’ of the galut, as determined by God, or not. If we’re at ‘the end’, then there is no problem at all with making Aliyah en masse.

If we aren’t at ‘the end’, then it’s good for individuals to make aliya, but still problematic for large groups to come on aliya.

Here’s a few suggested reasons for why the 3 oaths have been superseded:

  • The nations of the world actually gave permission for the State of Israel to be created, back in 1948.
  • The Gemara in Sanhedrin (98a) says that “when Eretz Yisrael gives forth fruit abundantly, it is a sure sign that the redemption is coming”. This was already happening in the early 1900s, in the time of Rav Avraham Kook.
  • Only very large groups coming in a short period of time violate the ‘oath’, it doesn’t apply to a slow trickle of Jews moving here.
  • The Ari’s student, R’ Chaim Vital, said that the oath only applied for 1,000 years.
  • The Vilna Gaon states that the oath applied to rebuilding the Temple, not to resettling the land.

And then, there’s all the evidence we see with our own eyes today, and things that we feel with our own hearts, that tells us whether we are at ‘the end’ or not.

DON’T CONFUSE ‘THE STATE OF ISRAEL’ WITH ERETZ YISRAEL

Another important point to make here is that the State of Israel should not confused, or conflated, with Eretz Yisrael.

When we talk about moving to Israel, we’re not talking about the State. We’re talking about moving to the land that God gave to the Jews more than 3,000 years ago.

Sooner or later, the secular ‘State’ will fall away – as Rav Kook describes it, as the ‘peel’ around the fruit’.

SUMMING UP WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ALIYA, AND RELIGIOUS JEWS IN CHUL

This is a long post, I know (but still probably not doing real justice to the subject….) But let’s try to sum it up, and bring all this information together into something practical and easy-to-digest.

  • If you are a God-fearing Jew, and keeping mitzvahs is important to you, then moving to Israel is a big mitzvah for an individual.

Not one of the Rishonim or Achronim commentators disagrees with this statement.

  • If you want to come to Israel as part of a very large group of people moving here ‘all at once’, there is a Torah view that this is prohibited, as long as we haven’t yet reached ‘The End’.
  • If we’ve reached ‘The End’, the three oaths don’t apply anymore anyway.
  • There’s lots of things that suggest we are now in the stage of ‘the end of days’ – not least, all the pronouncements by the nations’ leading rabbis that we’ve reached ‘the End’.

That’s a basic sum-up of the halachah.

Now, I just want to spend a little bit of time, finally, to explore why more orthodox Jews aren’t moving to Israel.

GETTING REAL

There are three main reasons why more orthodox Jews aren’t coming to Israel:

  • They are scared to come out of the comfort zone.
  • They really do want to come, but God isn’t let them.
  • They actually don’t care so much about keeping mitzvahs, getting closer to God, or working on their emuna.

I won’t belabor this segment, as this is where things can get very sticky. Each person knows what’s really in their heart.

There are people who really do want to come, but are stuck outside for a whole bunch of reasons that really are out of their control. For these people, they are learning emuna and humility by being kept away from Israel.

Then, there are others who really don’t want to come at all, and are just looking for excuses to justify their own spiritual shortcomings – at Israel’s expense.

Then, there’s the third group, who would like to come in theory, and know that it’s good to be here, but are too scared that they won’t have the lifestyle, the money, the connections, the big house, or the career they currently have now, if they leave.

But if we truly have reached ‘The End’, then God will find a way to coax everyone who really can, to make aliya, and He will open the gates to the Holy land, one way or another.

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You might also like these posts:

Deconstructing Geula

More Rebbe Nachman on Israel