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Rabbi BaGalut or Yehudi Ba’aretz


Rabbi Jonathan Blass

17 Cheshvan 5763
I am currently serving as a rabbi in an Orthodox shul in Buffalo, NY. My hope is to make Aliyah, but at the same time I do not want to abandon my Ba’alei Bayit. I have seen two sources which state that a rabbi should not abandon his Kehillah in the Galut: Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot vol. 2, siman 465 and Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 98-99. Do you know of sources which states that making Aliyah outways the profession of being a rabbi in Galut?
There is a detailed discussion of the question you raise in the article: “Mitzvat Yishuv Eretz Yisrael Bizman Hazeh”, written by HaRav Moshe Dov Wolner, appearing in B’Tzomet Ha Torah VeHamedina (published by Machon Tzomet) vol. 3 from p.138. The sources discussed there are Megilla 16b; Medrash Shir HaShirim 2,6; Shu”t Chatam Sofer Yoreh Deah 234; Shu”t Maharam Shik Yoreh Deah 225-226. The conclusion of HaRav Wolner is that even a Talmid Chacham who is teaching the multitudes and who has no replacement should come on Aliyah and “his students must follow him” to Israel. Only if he knows that he is unable to bring the multitudes with him, and his Aliyah will leave them without an equivalent rav and teacher, only then is he obligated to stay in Galut. As I’m sure you know, the custom is for each community in Chutz LaAretz to sign its Rav on a contract for a limited time. At the end of the time he is free to leave (see Shu”t Chatam Sofer Orach Chayim 206). Most rabbis do not remain- and are not obligated to remain- in one Kehillah for their entire professional lives. The reason for this is that it is a rare person who can, with any amount of justice, see himself as irreplaceable and therefore rabbis are mobile for all kinds of reasons- professional and personal. If a rabbi is permitted to move from one Kehillah to the other in the Galut for a better salary, for example, “Kal V’chomer” that there is no restriction on his leaving the Kehillah for the purpose of Aliyah. In the absence of a restriction, the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael binds him as any other Jew. Let me add that today the need of the State of Israel for more Jews is so intense that any “Heter” that may have applied in the past is no longer relevant. The Jewish State is under demographic assault; the Jewish character of the state is challenged by Europe, the Arab nations, Israel’s Arab minority, and the importance of Israel's Jewish identity is not fully understood even by some of its Jewish citizens. At the same time, Torah is flourishing as never before and the Jewish population is growing. That at such a time, Jews who are committed to the Torah and to Jewish identity can choose to remain in Galut, even as G-d has miraculously opened the gates of Israel to His people, is an anomaly and worse- a Chilul Hashem, for which I am afraid all of us will have to do Teshuva. Please accept my wishes and Brachot for a successful Aliyah and an easy Klitah. May your example in making Aliyah serve as an example to your community who should see it- not as a commendable act of volunteerism- but as the fulfillment of a binding positive commandment that obligates them as well. May Hashem grant you the ability to study and teach Torah in the Land of Israel so that the sense of contributing to the community that you have now will continue with even greater Kedusha.
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