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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Yitro

Parashat Yitro

Aliya, Are You Coming or Going?

3421
Dedicated to the memory of
Tzvi Yoel Ben Moshe HaLevi
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One of the most important - and emotional - subjects in the Jewish World today is the complex relationship between the Jews of Israel & the Jews of the Diaspora.
For centuries, this may have been a non-issue. But now it is one of the thorniest questions in the Jewish debate: What, exactly, is the responsibility of the Jews here to the Jews there, & vice-versa.
Like every other important subject, this, too, can be found in the Torah. And so we turn to this week's Sedra. There Moshe, on his way toEretz Yisrael, confronts his father-in-law Chovav (Yitro) & implores him: "Come with us, & it will be good for you, for Hashem has spoken well ofBnei Yisrael." (10:28)

Yitro shakes his head. "I will not go; but to my land & my family I will go - Ki im el artzi v'el molad'ti eylech." In 7 choice words, Yitro employs the classic arguments against making Aliyah:
My Land: "All my real estate, all my business interests, all my accumulated wealth is there. How can I leave it all behind for theuncertainty of an unsown land?"
My Land: "The place I come from is 'mine.' I'm comfortable with the language there, the culture, the idioms, the weather, the ins & outs of that place. I feel at home there; I'll never, ever, acclimate to a new life in Israel."
My Family: "You know, family is everything. How am I going to leave my elderly parents, my brothers & sisters, my aunts & uncles? I need them, they need me, we need each other. IF they were all coming, OK. But THEY are staying put, so I have to do what the majority wants."
Moshe tries one more plea with Yitro: "I beg you, do not forsake us," & then he returns to his first point: "If you go with us, then the good which Hashem does for us, he will do for you, too."

Moshe the Wise knows that he cannot counter the emotional arguments of kin & comfort. So he reiterates the same promise Hashem told Avraham when he said "Lech-LECHA," go FOR YOU, namely: "ISRAEL IS GOOD FOR THE JEW!" While Diasporas appear comfy & cushy, they all eventually turn tragically hostile. Centuries of Jewish settlement in the Galut can disappear in short order, taking all the shuls, schools and people with it. History, alas, does not lie.

Does Yitro reconsider & come to Israel? No one knows for sure; the text doesn't say and the evidence is inconclusive. So, too, the ongoing tug-of-war over Aliyah remains - then and now - an open question. It is the answer to that question - in the hands of each and every Jew - which may very well determine the fate of Klal Yisrael.

Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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