Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson
Part III

“Economic Difficulty”- the Most Common Excuse for Not Making Aliya

In the ,we asked how much does one need to lower their standard of living in order to make Aliya. We asked how much should one spend on Mitzvot and saw a disagreement between the Poskim. We ended saying that Important Mitzvot oblige more expenditure.


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Shvat 5773
G. The hardship of moving is not considered in the 10-20%
Moving to Israel apparently obligates a person to leave his home. Rav Moshe Shternbuch, who is of the opinion that obligation of expenditure for a positive mitzvah is only up to 20%, is also of the opinion that "kal vachomer, one is not obligated to leave his place of dwelling in order to fulfill a positive mitzvah". 1 On the other hand, this basic premise, is not so simple, for we are taught that when there are "two cities, and the shofar is only blown in one of them… one goes to the place where they blow the shofar". 2 Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch rules regarding hearing parshat zachor, "residents of villages who don’t have a minyan must go to a place where there is a minyan". 3
In these cases, the traveling may be considered a significant physical effort, which can be considered an expenditure of 20% of his possessions, and nevertheless, one is commanded to leave his home! On the other hand, R. Shternbuch can claim that regarding aliya, the real hardship is not the traveling, but rather the physical effort involved in moving a household, which may exempt him. Maybe there is a differentiation between a relatively simple "one time" trip to hear the shofar or parshat zachor, as opposed to the difficulty in permanently moving an entire household?
Nevertheless, the poskim apparently liken the mitzvah of aliya to the obligation of the רוצח בשוגג , the accidental murderer, exiled to a city of refuge, which also involves permanently moving an entire household. In this mitzvah, not only is the physical effort part of the essence of the mitzvah, but the refugee is also obliged to give up his land, shop, customers, and all of his sources of income. It should be noted, as we mentioned above, this obligation applies to loss of his future income, as well! All this is defined as "the exile atones". 4 If this is true about a city of refuge, how much more so regarding the mitzvah of living in Israel, where one fulfills a mitzvah every second, 5 and not just by moving.
Moreover, it seems that the physical effort involved in observing a mitzvah is not considered part of the 20%. For example, even regarding honoring one’s father/mother, where we are told that it is meant to be observed "from the father's (and not the son’s money)", 6 if it is possible to honor him with physical effort instead of expense, he is obligated to do so. For example: if the son needs to travel a significant distance in order to honor them, theoretically, the son is not obligated to pay the airfare, yet he is not exempted from walking by foot! In other words, apparently, physical effort is not considered an exemption. Accordingly, we have yet another reason, why the poskim did not apply the lenient limitations of Usha regarding aliya.

H. Mitzvot which in their essence involve expenditure and effort
In addition, there is another major distinction between the mitzva of aliya to Israel, in that the physical effort is an integral part of the mitzvah of moving to Israel. The Decree of Usha applies to mitzvot which may involve physical effort and large expenditures on a circumstantial basis. Not so regarding mitzvot whose very essence includes expenses and difficulty. Rav Moshe Feinstein applies this principle to explain why one is obligated to spend even all the money he owns in order to redeem his firstborn son, 7 "for the Torah obligates him to give a specific sum of money, obviously, even a pauper is obligated in the same manner…because the sum of money is the integral part of the mitzvah". 8 His explanation apples also to the mitzvah of aliya laregel, the second example cited by the g’mara as a mitzvah that involves expenditure and physical effort.
This principle applies to many mitzvot, where the limitations are not specified because the essence of the mitzvah does not allow for this limitation. For example, Rav Kook explains similarly why the positive mitzvah of the death penalties of the Sanhedrin, and the positive mitzvah of "and you shall destroy the evil from your midst", aren’t cancelled by פיקוח נפש, the mitzvah to save a life. He explains quite simply, that the essence of the mitzvah in this case, is the putting to death. 9 Likewise, if Re’uven lent someone more than 20% of his possessions before the sabbatical year, or if a Beit Din rules that Re’uven owes someone more than 20% of his possessions, he is obviously obligated to deal with the loss that will be brought about through observing the mitzvah of shmitat ksafim or the mitzvah to obey a Beit Din. 10
Likewise, regarding a positive mitzvah where the physical effort involved is more than the value of 20% of his possessions, such as the suffering of circumcision, or sacrificing one’s life for the sanctification of Hashem's name, or in an obligatory war – where the physical effort and suffering are an integral part of the mitzvah. It is obvious that there is no logic to apply the limitations of Usha in these cases, because, in effect, it would permanently nullify the mitzvah, making it totally obsolete.
We have assumed that the essence of the mitzvah of living in Israel (and also the mitzvah of moving to the city of refuge) is the physical effort and having to leave one's home. However, seemingly this is true only if the act of moving to Israel is part of the mitzvah and not just a preparation for fulfilling it, as it seems from the Ramban, that the mitzvah "and you should conquer the land and dwell in it", 11 is phrased explicitly to those who live outside Israel. The Ramban cites the commandment to the generation who were in the desert, "go up and conquer it (the land of Israel)" – and when they didn’t go up as commanded, it is considered ‘and they rebelled against Hashem’." 12 However, even according to those who disagree with the Ramban, and consider the moving to Israel as only a preparation for the mitzvah (dwelling here), 13 inevitably, a loss of income and possessions are a direct result of the essence of the mitzvah (and not of the preparation for the mitzvah). The loss of income and possessions are certainly more than 20%, just like he who must run and relocate to a city of refuge, and nevertheless, the Torah commands him to do so.
It is possible that even according to those poskim who see the act of making aliya as just a preparation, the mitzvah of living in Israel itself inevitably involves great effort even for one who is born here. In the words of chazal, "the Land of Israel is only acquired through hardships". 14 Also war, which is part of this mitzvah – "and you shall inherit the Land" – can only be fulfilled through trial, tribulation, and sacrifice. 15 Life in Israel naturally involves difficulty, as found in many midrashim: "’It is better to eat a dry morsel’, 16 – this refers to living in Israel, even if one eats bread and salt every day and lives in Israel he merits the world to come". 17 "It is better to sleep in the deserts of Israel than to live in the palaces of chutz la'Aretz". 18 "Even if I will only have dry carobs to eat in Israel I chose to be in Israel". 19 Similarly, the mitzvah of settling the Land involves a special obligation to settle those difficult places that were desolate (as the Ramban says: "and we will not leave her in the hands of other nations nor desolate "). These hardships are an essential part of the mitzva, applying even to one who was born in Israel, irregardless of the hardships of moving.
This instruction is not just agadah, as the halacha states, "a husband (or wife, A.C.) can force his wife (or husband, A.C.) to move from chutz la'aretz to Israel, and he can even force her to move from a nice place (there), to a unpleasant place (in Eretz Yisrael)". 20 The financial difficulties are taken into account regarding every person who makes aliya, as the g’mara 21 cites regarding a person who sold all of his possessions with the intention of moving to Israel. Upon his arrival, his absorption was not successful. Nevertheless, according to the conclusion of the g’mara, 22 even though one might have thought that the sale of his possessions was conditional, the sale is kosher and not annulled. Many poskim explain, because when one makes aliya to Israel, he should (and does) intend to make do with the most minimal housing and livelihood, and considers (or should consider!) his move as final and unconditional. 23
Since the mitzvah of living in Israel inevitably involves physical hardships, Rav Kook declares that "of course the mitzvah of living in Israel isn’t cancelled because of physical hardships… and Hashem gave three great gifts to the Jewish people (Torah , the World- to- come, and the Land of Israel), and all of them were only given through hardships". 24 This idea may also help us understand the seemingly strict words of the aforementioned Avnei Nezer, one of the most respected poskim of the past century, "I don’t know if the prohibition of not becoming dependant on others applies to a continuous mitzvah which is considered equal to all the other mitzvot (=aliya)". 25 For despite the fact that the hardships of living in Israel are inevitable, nevertheless (and apparently, even davka ), Hashem commands us do so.

I. Changing profession
A lack of income is considered by the poskim as close to pikuach nefesh 26 and the Trumat HaDeshen even wonders "who would be able to stand all of this!" 27 However, today everyone has the opportunity to change profession and if he does not manage to make a living from working in his field of expertise, he can find employment in a different area. However, for many people it is difficult to change profession. Does this hardship justify not moving to Israel?
Indeed, chazal do not treat the hardship involved in a change of profession lightly, because Hashem makes everyone's profession attractive to them. 28 They even explicitly instruct "one should not change his profession 29 and his father's profession". 30 This approach is strengthened in light of Rav Moshe Feinstein's question, why one who has yet to fulfill the mitzvah of having children and is therefore obligated to have marital relations at all the set times, is not obligated to find a different job that will allow him to have relations more often? 31 [Interestingly, Rav Feinstein himself does not explain that changing professions is a loss which is equal to 20% and that he is therefore exempt, as he does in somewhat similar circumstances! 32 ]
However, as we said above, the limitations of Usha do not apply to mitzvot which essentially involve physical effort and expenditure. To the same extent, it would not be applicable to mitzvot which require a change of profession in order to observe. It is logical that a mitzvah which requires a change of place, such as moving to a city of refuge, usually requires a change of profession (he leaves his orchards, clients, partners, etc.). Especially in the agricultural society described in the Tanach, the move to the city of refuge undoubtedly forced the average person to change his profession.
In connection to the mitzvah of aliya, Moshe Rabbenu already alluded to the need to change professions, as the midrash explains: "When Am Yisrael was in the desert for 40 years, the manna fell, the well went up, the pheasant was available for them, the clouds of glory surrounded them and the pillar of fire traveled before them. When the Jews entered the land of Israel Moshe said to them, ‘Every single one (!) of you, take a hoe and plant saplings for yourselves’." 33
We are not so naïve as to think that it is easy to change professions. Our rabbis teach that the motive of the m'raglim, the righteous spies who, nevertheless, did not wish to enter Eretz Yisrael, was because they did not want to lose their respectable jobs. 34 Even if their actions are understandable, they are clearly not acceptable, as they were severely punished. R. Yisachar Teichtel, one of the revered leaders of anti-Zionist Hasidic Jewry in pre-war Europe, castigates his rabbinic friends for not willing to make that same sacrifice, thus repeating the sin of the m'raglim. 35
Contrarily, many important rabbanim saw a great merit in the act of changing one’s profession upon arrival in Israel to be "farmers and cattle herders like their forefathers before them". 36 It is important to remember that considerations of avodat Hashem are more important than considerations of avoda (work). "Even peel hides in the marketplace, and don’t say it is beneath my honor". 37

J. Begging
If we ask in the birkat hamazon that G-d not bring us to be dependant upon others, apparently this is something negative? Making aliya seemingly involves the dependence of the new immigrant upon "the gifts of flesh and blood". Benefit from the absorption basket which is given by the Israeli government, unemployment benefits given to one who is unable to work in his profession, and much more. Can all this be considered begging and relying on other people?
Indeed, some poskim also considered this factor and said that one’s aliya should not be at the expense of others. 38 However, the support that the community gives to help with immigrant absorption is not just for the sake of the olim, rather it is for the good of the entire nation. Successful absorption of new immigrants will, at the end of the day, help the financial stability of the country (through the children of the olim); an increase in the number of residents will strengthen the security forces ; boost the connection between the Jews in Israel and those in the Diaspora- enabling fundraising and more olim ; provide a solution to the demographic problem which threatens the State of Israel; and mainly, actualize the vision of the State of Israel and of Zionism as a whole – to gather all of the Jewish people. Accordingly, these benefits are more worthwhile for the State than for the immigrants, and "the mother wishes to nurse even more than the calf wants to eat".
There are those who claim that while living off of others, during the time that the immigrant will not be able to work he is not even fulfilling the mitzvah of settling the land of Israel. Indeed, the Avnei Nezer writes "it is clear that the main way of fulfilling the mitzvah in its entirety, is by those who live in Israel and are financed from the bounty of Israel". 39 Living in Israel without working and having an income does not fulfill the halachic definition of the Ramban "do not to leave (the Land)… desolate". 40 However, even the Avnei Nezer admits that "if one receives money as a present from chutz la'Aretz… this is not the main point of the mitzvah of living in Israel in its complete form, but in any case he does fulfill the mitzvah of living in Israel". In addition, as stated above, this is a temporary situation. In the long term, the entire country benefits, even from the aliya of the unemployed.
There were poskim in past generations, who opposed the aliya of the poor for this comes at the expense of the despondent already in Israel. 41 However, today, when the state distributes unemployment benefits and welfare to each family according to their needs, there is no longer any validity to this consideration.
Similarly, there is no need to worry today about the former fear 42 that the dependence upon others will cause the receiver to deteriorate and habituate parasitism and spiritual decline. Many different sectors of the country benefit from various benefits and stipends, kollel students, university students, large families and many more – and this does not affect their spiritual levels. On the contrary, the spiritual danger of living in the Diaspora is a dire consideration. 43
We find that all of the financial justifications for not making Aliya do not apply today, and, as the Tzitz Eliezer summarizes "with the declaration of the State of Israel, the obligation to make aliya increased… the financial difficulties due to the inability to make a living have been removed and accordingly, the halachic claims for exemption from the mitzvah of living in Israel have also been removed". 44 It is should be noted that this was written more than 50 (!) years ago, in the relatively dire financial conditions that existed then. 45

K. Despising the Beloved Land
In addition to the obligation to make Aliya, there is a prohibition for one who is able to make Aliya and does not do so, as the Ramban writes, "and you should not despise the inheritance of Hashem". 46 According to R. Eliezer Waldenberg, 47 the Ramban means "that the essence of setting up residence in another place is considered "despising Hashem's inheritance". The Ramban writes elsewhere, 48 that this was the sin of the spies "when they didn’t want to go up (to Israel)… it is described as "and you rebelled against Hashem's command". 49 It seems that this is "the sin of Chutz La'Aretz", referred to by Rashi. 50
The Yerushalmi quotes Rabba bar Kriyah, who sees the coffins of people who died in chutz la'Aretz, being brought for burial in Israel and said "What use are these people? I apply to you the pasuk: ‘You have made my inheritance an abomination’ in your lifetimes, and ‘you came and defiled my land’, in your death". 51 The Pnei Moshe explains that the abomination is "that they were able to make aliya in their lifetime and they didn’t". According to Rav Yehoshua Trunk of Kutna, one who is able to make aliya and does not do so, loses his portion in the Land of Israel. 52 It is of no avail to claim that he was forced, as R. Chaim Falaggi writes, "One who does not make aliya, because he loves his location (in exile), is punished, even though he truly was unable to make aliya, because he is ‘willingly’ compelled". 53
Similarly, R. Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, testifies that the spiritual Maggid admonishes him and his colleagues, for placing the desire of money above the desire of the Land. "One should push aside his idols of silver and worldly pleasures, his idols of his gold and desire of money and make aliya to Israel, because you can do it, just you are drowning in the mud of worldly desires and its nonsense. 54

L. Summary
In this article, we attempted to clarify the justification of the "financial excuse" for not making aliya to Israel. The fear is that by making aliya one lowers his standard of living and also lowers his monthly salary. We summarized the opinions as to when the Decree of Usha applies, not to spend more than 20% of his assets on all other positive mitzvoth, apart from tzedaka.
We found that the unanimous definition of the many rishonim and achronim who allow Jews to live in chutz laAretz for financial reasons, is that this is only if one needs to turn to begging (aside from the Avnei Nezer who holds that even in such a case, there is no exemption from aliya). Although they do not cite their rationale, we saw several reasons why, both then and today, this is the halachic definition:

1. The topic under discussion regards the loss of future income, which does not justify exempting from a mitzvah. The monetary limitations of Usha apply only to expenditure of past savings.
2. Lowering one’s standard of living is not considered a loss of 20%.
3. The Decree of Usha does not apply to mitzvot with special importance, including the mitzvah of living in Israel. This is especially true regarding mitzvot which enable fulfillment of many other mitzvot, as well. Moreover, not fulfilling the mitzvah of living in Israel is considered "despising the beloved Land".
4. There is no monetary exemption for mitzvot which inevitably involve, by definition, significant expenditure or effort.
5. Changing profession is not considered a loss of assets.
6. The only financial predicament which exempts from aliya, as defined by the rishonim and achronim, is if one must beg for a living .
7. Benefiting from the rights granted by the State of Israel for new olim or unemployment, is not considered begging.

^ 1.See footnote 6.
^ 2.Rosh Hashana 34b.
^ 3.Shulchan Aruch O. Ch. 4395, based upon the T'rumat HaDeshen 108.
^ 4.Sanhedrin 37b. See also the commentary of the Maharal on the Agadot.
^ 5. See footnote 114.
^ 6.See footnote 28.
^ 7.Kiddushin 29b, the Decree of Usha does not apply to this mitzvah.
^ 8.Igrot Moshe, O.Ch. 5,41.
^ 9.Resp. Mishpat Kohen 144, p. 327.
^ 10.It is possible that for this reason, the Decree of Usha does not apply to the mitzvah of having children.
^ 11.Bamidbar 33, 53.
^ 12.Dvarim 9, 23.
^ 13.For example, Resp. HaRivash 101 and Resp. HaRashbash 1.
^ 14.Brachot 5a.
^ 15.It should be noted that "inheriting" the Land need not necessarily be done through military conquering. See Ma’amarei Re’iya, pp. 252-253, in a speech of support for the Jewish National Fund, Rav Kook says that it is even preferable that we acquire the land through transaction, thus fulfilling the ideal of Yishayau, 26, 2, "פתחו שערים ויבוא גוי צדיק... ", "… and the righteous nation shall come". This, too, involves great sacrifice.
^ 16.Mishlei 17, 1.
^ 17.Yalkut Shimoni Mishlei 956.
^ 18.Breishit Rabba 39, 8.
^ 19.Tanchuma Re'eh 8.
^ 20.Shulchan Aruch E. H. 75, 3.
^ 21.Kiddushin 50a.
^ 22.The achronim who note this, follow the principle that the halacha is according to the lishna batra, the second version (Yad Malachi, "Safa").
^ 23.According to the Drisha, Taz and Pitchei T'shuva on Ch. M. 207, 3, and the Resp. Chatam Sofer, E. H. 70.
^ 24.Resp. Mishpat Kohen, 147.
^ 25.Resp. Avnei Nezer, Y.D. 2, 454, 55.
^ 26.Resp. Mabit 1, 139.
^ 27.T'rumat HaDeshen, Psakim v'Ketuvim 68.
^ 28.Brachot 43a.
^ 29.However, see the Tosafot and the Maharal that according to some editions of the g’mara, it does not read "his profession", but only "from his father’s profession and from the profession of his forefathers", deeming the source irrelevant to our topic.
^ 30.Erchin 17b.
^ 31.Igrot Moshe, E. H. 3, 28.
^ 32.See footnote 24. In this context, it's interesting to note a letter of the Chazon Ish (Igrot, 1, 105) who writes regarding "the matter of our aliya, according to the Me’il Tzedaka cited by the Pitchei T'shuva (E. H. 75, 6), the obligation is if he can find a way to make a living there. And regarding this, I need to know if it is possible to have a manufacturing store, because she (my wife) is not used to other work and I am unable to work, as you know. And how much is needed for this, and can one buy on credit? As for location in our Land, I don’t care, for all of the Land is holy". It is hard to learn halacha from this letter, as many vital details are missing.
^ 33.Vayikra Rabba 25, 5.
^ 34.Zohar, vol. 3, p. 158a; Shnei Luchot HaBrit (Sh'la), Torah SheBichtav, P. Shlach, p. 68a, "B'Inyan".
^ 35.Em HaBanim S'meicha, p. 36, in the 5743 edition.
^ 36.The Responsa of R. Yerucham Perlman, The "Gadol of Minsk", quoted in the compilation R. Y. Schipansky, "Eretz Yisrael BiSifrut HaTeshuvot" vol. 3, p. 60. See also R. S. Moholiver, R. Eliyahu Gutmacher and others in Shivat Tzion (ed. A. Slutzky), Warsaw, 5652, pp. 11, 12, 32 and in vol. 2, p. 41.
^ 37.P'sachim 113b.
^ 38.Resp. Maharam Shik, Y. D. 225. He cites that the same is written in the Resp. Me'il Tzedaka 26, and also in the Resp. Chatam Sofer E. H. 4, 132.
^ 39.Resp. Avnei Nezer O. Ch. 2, 535, 10.
^ 40.Ramban, add. to Sefer Mitzvot, Aseh 4.
^ 41.Resp. Ridbaz, 1, 454; R. Shlomo Kluger, Resp. HaElef L'cha Shlomo, E.H. 118.
^ 42.T'rumat HaDeshen, Psakim 68 and Resp. Mabit 1, 139.
^ 43.For example, Professor S. Della-Pargolah and Uzi Rabhun, "American Orthodox Jews: Demographic Trends and Scenarios", Jewish Action pp. 30-31, Elul, 5759, show a large rate of assimilation even in orthodox communities.
^ 44. Resp. Tzitz Eliezer, 7, 48 (12), "Gam zot".
^ 45.See footnotes 37-39, that the Yishu’ot Malko, Avnei Nezer and others, declared similarly, already a century ago in 1891/תרנ"א!
^ 46.Bamidbar 33, 53.
^ 47.Resp. Tzitz Eliezer 7, 48 (12), "Yeshnam".
^ 48.See footnote 159.
^ 49.See footnote 131.
^ 50.Rashi, Y'vamot 64a.
^ 51.Yerushalmi K'tuvot 12, 3, based upon Yirmiyahu 2, 7.
^ 52.Likutei Torah, Parshat Terumah.
^ 53.Artzot HaChaim 5, 12.
^ 54.Shnei Luchot HaBrit (Sh’la), Shavuot 30a.

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