Aliya -- Players and Spectators in Judaism?
By, Moshe Burt

(Former Arutz-7 link;

One night few weeks ago, I was in Jerusalem's "Old City" for a housewarming party (in Hebrew -- Chanukas HaBayit) for friends of mine -- a Rabbi, his wife (Rebbitzin) and their four children (a fifth on the way). They live on Chabad Street near the Moslem section. 

The family had returned home to Israel after a two year stay in the United States. That evening, many visitors came to wish the family success and happiness in their new abode in Israel. Individual visitors stood and spoke words of Torah relating to the Rabbi and his family and their sojourn in the United States and subsequent Aliya. 

The words spoken by one such visitor were particularly poignant to me. The speaker was short, yet huskily built and attired in a sweat shirt, jeans, a knitted kipa (which covered the entire top of his head) and was wearing a 4-cornered tasseled garment (Tzitzis) on the outside of his sweat shirt. He spoke about the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael (the importance of settling The Land of Israel) in a way that struck a responsive cord in my memory. I recalled my journey as a Ba'al Teshuvah (A Secular Jew who found truth in becoming Religious) and saw parallels with a Jew's journey to Aliya. 

He equated different levels of Jews with those who love sports. There are sports fans who like to read accounts of a game in the newspaper. There are fans for whom the print of the sports section is not enough. These people want to watch their favorite sports events and teams on television at every opportunity. There are fans for whom television is not enough and who enjoy being at the stadium or Arena to view the event in person. And finally, there are those whose love of the sport drives them to play -- to be participants in the game. 

A similar point was made to me some twelve and a half years ago. After having attended a number of weekend or one-day "Discovery Programs" given at local sites by the Aish HaTorah Yeshiva, I decided to take the plunge -- to start learning our history, traditions and laws in an Observant community. Shortly thereafter, I started coming into the Religious Community in Northeast Philadelphia for Shabbos once, then twice a month. In the summer of 1990, I made my move and became religious and Shabbos observant. 

During one such Shabbos back in 1989, my host drew a similar equation. I was asked, are you a spectator -- an observer or are you a player ?? 

I always identified Jewishly and with Israel. I'm 53 years old, born within days of Israel's Statehood. Unlike all of the previous generations of the dispersion of the Jews, I have never known a day in my life when there was not an Israel. 

I have felt as one with my brethren in Israel and with the Land through the various wars, terrorist attacks, trials, tribulations and political machinations. Since my first visit to Israel made in February, 1975 with my then-wife, I sought to come home to Israel to live. But lo, there are marital and child-rearing responsibilities, mortgage and debt responsibilities, often disagreements with one's spouse who may not share the love and committment to Our Land vs. day-to-day responsibilities of current residence -- all of these responsibilities and difficulties obscure our will to come home. And in many cases, there is divorce, subsequent spousal support and child support responsibilities which make any attempt at Aliyah even more difficult. We find ourselves in a "vicious cycle" of the responsibilities of day-to-day life in the nation in which we reside and can't break out. 

For many of us born in the "enlightened" 20th century, our grandparents emigrated from Eastern European dictatorships. The Jews of Eastern Europe held stubbornly to the uniqueness of our Religious/Spiritual/National purpose throughout the dispersion up to the turn of the 20th century. We, who were born in the 20th century were born in or resided in a land, a nation which "killed us with love." One's first allegiance is to the nation of residence has been inculcated into our learning. Therefore, the Jewish People's unique status as a spiritual religion, culture and nation based on our divine legacy of the Land of Israel has to be subserviant to allegiance to the sovereignty of one's residence. This allegiance to the land of one's birth or residence necessarily meant that he must assimilate -- melt into the mass of population, be like everyone else thereby losing his separate, distinct, multi-dimensional Jewish heritage lest he be seen as holding dual-loyalties. 

I recall the story often told by Rabbi Moshe Ungar of Philadelphia about a criminal who has been imprisoned for many decades. In prison, he was assigned the task of turning a large wheel. Each day, through all of his waking hours, for all of the years of his imprisonment, he dutifully turned that wheel. After decades in prison, it was time for him to be set free.  As the prisoner was about to exit the prison for the last time, the prison warden asked to show him the fruits of his labor. The warden took him to the spot on the opposite side of the wall from where the prisoner turned that wheel from morning until night. And there was...nothing! Our prisoner turned that wheel for years and years, morning until night and ... nothing. 

And so, in my case, I said at age 27, maybe by age 30, I'll make Aliyah. And lo, age 30 came and went, as did age 40, and age 50 and I was still stateside. I was divorced for some 15 years, working the same job for the previous 12 years, had an apartment, a TV/VCR and a car. But what did I REALLY have besides a lot of temporary material things?? I was religious and attended Shul and Torah Shiurim (lectures) regularly. I had/have many friends. My adult children had, by then, moved to a different state, far from Philadelphia, with their Mom and her husband. My parents were in their 80's, retired and living in Florida. What did I have in Philadelphia?? It was my time to come home. The Nationalist in me was heartsick as I watched Oslo unfold. I tried to do what I could from the US -- pray a lot and find old, posul Sifrei Torah for repair and recycling to needy locations in Israel but felt as if I accomplished little. I even made 3 trips to Israel between 1995 and 1998. But I was not living there -- I had not done my Yishuv Eretz Yisroel yet. 

Our connection with G'd is strongest when we live in Israel where there a direct, unhindered connection to the divine presence. There are Torah commentators who say that the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel is equal to all of the 613 Mitzvot. The commentator Rashi, who expounds on the words of Torah, says that performing Mitzvot in Galut is considered merely a rehearsal for performing them in Eretz Yisroel. In Israel, "It's Showtime", the "Real Deal", the "Whole Enchilada" for performance of Mitzvot. And just as the sportsman's passion is in the direct participation in the game, this Jew's passion was for direct connection to Eretz Yisroel and a direct connection to our source -- HaShem. 

In the summer, 1997, I got my Aliya paperwork moving with the local Shaliach (Israel's local Aliyah emissary). In March, 1999, I boarded the plane for Israel -- I was going home. 

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, of Blessed Memory, beautifully expressed Yishuv Eretz Yisroel when he penned an English translation to the Hebrew prayer of "V'HaSheiv Kohanim" -- "Restore the Kohanim to their service..." It reads in part, "Return again, return again, return to the Land of your soul. Return to who you are, return to what you are, return to where you are born and reborn again...."

Sefer Torah, Sifrei Torah, Sefer Torah Recycling, Sefer Torah repairs, Torah scrolls, Torah Scroll Restoratation, Sefer Torah restoration, Sefer Torah transfer, Israel, Eretz Yisrael, Mokom Torah, Mekomot Torah, chessed, mitzvah, tzedaka, donations, raise funds, Shuls, Israel, Eretz Yisroel, Yeshivas, Yeshivot, Israeli Yeshivot, chizuk, Ahavat Yisroel, Sofer, Sofrim, Sofrus, Synagogues, Synagogues in Israel, Beit Knesset, Israeli Batei Knesset, Israeli cities, Israeli towns, needy locations in Israel, Memorials in Israel  Mission: Acquires donations of Sifrei Torah and raises funds to restore them to a Kosher state for transfer to needy locations in Israel.