Torah Tidbits

21 August 2014 / 25 Av 5774
Issue 1039
Shabbat Parshat Tzav-Hagadol-Shmini
March 21, 2013

Chizuk and Idud

CHIZUK and IDUD for Olim not yet Olim respectively

With Pesach fast approaching, images of the Exodus fill the mind. Our thoughts and imagination naturally turn to the future redemption as well, for our Rabbis tell us that the redemption from Egypt will serve as the model for the final redemption yet to come. How, then, did the Jews leave Egypt? The Torah says that they came up from the land “chamushim” (Sh’mot 13:18). Rashi explains that “chamushim” may refer to the fact that only one fifth of the Jewish population actually left Egypt. This statement has always bothered me: How could it have been that the overwhelming majority refused to leave? Was this because they were so deeply assimilated into their Egyptian surroundings? Yet, today, when I scan the Aliyah figures, that same figure - one fifth - suddenly appears rather impressive. If five and a half million Jews lived in the USA in 2012, the Aliyah numbers of that same year (2525 Olim) represent a miniscule one twentieth of one percent of American Jewry.
For the benefit of the reader who might wish to question the importance and consequence of numbers in this regard, I would like to relate the following Talmudic story (Yoma 9b). Resh Lakish was bathing in the Jordan River and Rabba Bar Bar Chana who had come from Babylon to study Torah in Israel, offered to help him climb back up on to the riverbank. Refusing the offer, Resh Lakish noted: “I swear that I hate you.” Rashi explains that the hatred was not personally motivated, but rather a general disdain Resh Lakish felt towards Babylonian Jewry. Resh Lakish could not overlook the long term effects of their choice many hundreds of years earlier in the time of Ezra, not to return to Israel en-masse (“Shelo O’lu B’choma”). By choosing to remain in exile, their ancestors had prevented the return of the divine presence to the Second Temple. Despite the many intervening years, resentment was still being harbored because of the fact that only a small percentage of Jews had accompanied Ezra and thus an opportune moment in history was missed.
Hundreds of years after Resh Lakish, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi re-imagined the following conversation between the King of the Khazars and the Rabbi (Kuzari 2; 22-24): “If the Land of Israel is so holy, and it is such a great mitzva to live there, how come the Jews remain in the Diaspora and don’t ascend to the Land?” To this the Rabbi responded: “Indeed you have found my disgrace! Surely it is because of this that G-d’s mission was not fulfilled in the Second Temple”.
We must do all in our power to finally put a stop to this ongoing disgrace!

Rabbi Yerachmiel Roness, Ramat Shiloh, Beit Shemesh

TORAH THOUGHTS as contributed by Aloh Naaleh members for publication in the Orthodox Union’s ‘Torah Insights’, a weekly Torah publication on Parshat HaShavu’a

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