Monday, October 10, 2005

could I convince Tevye to make aliya?

So the halacha vs mesoret issue is still chasing me. I have a few more things I think I'd like to say (although this probably won't be the last word on the topic.)

First of all, after quoting Hayim Soloveitchik's article, I realized I forgot to quote the classic rebuttal: Tevye!

[TEVYE] Tradition, tradition! Tradition! Tradition, tradition! Tradition!
[TEVYE & PAPAS] Who, day and night, must scramble for a living, Feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers? And who has the right, as master of the house, To have the final word at home? The Papa, the Papa! Tradition. The Papa, the Papa Tradition.
[GOLDE & MAMAS] Who must know the way to make a proper home, A quiet home, a kosher home? Who must raise the family and run the home, So Papa's free to read the holy books? The Mama, the Mama! Tradition! The Mama, the Mama! Tradition!
Of course the question remains what happened to Tevye...

The next issue is perhaps there isn't a simple distinction between anshei mesoret and anshei halacha. Maybe it's a matrix (that's how most of the sugyot in the gemara were presented in my yeshiva):

So maybe I'm B, and my rivals on the community issues are C. But maybe we both need to be striving to reach A or at least reach a balance. Or maybe all the approaches are legitmate.

I'm still not sure.

The last point is an issue I've been meaning to blog about for a while. One of the issues that bothers me the most as a Religious Zionist Baal Teshuva is the fact that there are so many Orthodox Jews who simply ignore what seems to be the clear halachic opinion - that they must make aliya. For a long time I've thought of making a comprehensive web site arguing against every possible excuse to remain in chutz l'aretz. I still hope to do that someday (soon).

But maybe I'm fighting an impossible battle? Or at least ignoring the main point, that those who are committed to mesoret over the halacha won't care that the halacha clearly states they need to make aliya, for they have a tradition from their parents and teachers that it's fine to stay in the States!

I found a letter I wrote to the leadership of Bnei Akiva back in 1997. Looking back at it now, I'm not sure if I was naive or maybe smarter then than I am now. What do you think?

I would like to relate to an issue brought up at the recent meeting of the Moetza Olamit of Bnei Akiva. Much was made there of the recent trend towards "chareidiazation" in the Orthodox communities in the gola, particularly in America. This trend was the basis of a proposal on the one hand to make the tnua entirely separate, and on the other hand to even question whether we should be pushing aliya at all. These suggestions seem to me to be putting the tnua on the defensive, when in fact, we can be using these trends to our advantage.
I believe, in fact, that it is a mistake to refer to the current trends in the gola as "chareidiazation". The truth is that the Modern Orthodox community is not heading in the direction of Charedim as we are familiar with the concept. In the average Modern Orthodox family, both the husband and wife are active members of the community in which they live, and there is a strong emphasis on success in limudei chol. There is also still strong support for Tzionut, in as much as Medinat Yisrael is viewed as a positive entity (even if they disagree with its policies).
What we are seeing in the gola, is rather a trend towards chumrot in halacha, and hakpada in mitzvot. As HaRav Druckman pointed out in the meeting, this is in itself is a positive development. There is much more limud torah, and concern for mitzvot than there was in the past. This trend exists among the Orthodox communities in general, and is encouraged by "Ba'alei Tshuva" movements such as NCSY, Aish HaTorah and Chabad. Part of this trend might also be attributed to the success of the shana b'aretz programs in yeshivot, which Bnei Akiva can even take some credit for.
What Bnei Akiva needs to do in these circumstances, is to "ride on the back" of these trends. We need to strongly point out, both to our chanichim, but perhaps more importantly to their parents, rabbis and community leaders, that a life of hakpada on mitzvot can not ignore the overwhelming significance of the mitzva of living in Eretz Yisrael.
We need to point out that the vast majority of Rishonim and large numbers of Achronim felt that living in Eretz Yisrael was a mitzva. We need to show that if one is trying to live a life of chumrot, one can not ignore a mitzva d'oraita with such a strong basis in chazal.
We are now davka in a particularly ripe time for emphasizing this mitzva. While rates of religious aliya from the West are not what we would like, the spiritual and halachic leadership of Orthodoxy is moving to Israel. With the passing in the past few years of the gedolim of Orthodoxy in America - R' Moshe Feinstein, R' Y.D. Soloveitchik, the Lubavitcher Rebbe z"l - the center of Torah in the world is firmly being placed in Israel.
Again, a lot of this trend can also be attributed to the fact that so many of the members of the Orthodox community have learned in Yeshivot in Israel, and particularly the young rabanim, and view Israeli Roshei Yeshivot as their halachic authority.
How do we go about promoting this mitzva? First of all, we have to be aggressive. We must place the mitzva of aliya on the same level as shmirat shabbat or kashrut. As far as practical plans, I suggest we act on two levels: activity in the gola, and activity within the yeshivot in Aretz. In Chutz L'Aretz, we need to get our idea out in the widest possible fashion. This does not need to be a very expensive project. First of all, I would suggest translating and publicizing currently existing books such as MeAfar Kumi by Tzvi Glatt HY"D and Em HaBanim Smecha by R' Teichtel HY"D. Other books can be translated, or collections of articles and teshuvot can be assembled and published. New articles and books can also be written to explain the significance of the mitzva. These publications can be authorized by the WZO, and be made accessible to the Orthodox public, rabbis and schools. I also believe that to publicize an idea like this, the internet can be a very helpful tool. It is inexpensive, and has a huge audience.
We should also take advantage of the currently existing network of Jewish newspapers and journals. We can write columns, letters to the editor and serve as subjects for news stories reflecting our emphasis on the mitzva of living in Israel. We can also use Bnei Akiva's parshat hashavua sheets to promote these views, as I did when I edited them for Bnei Akiva during my shlichut.
We also must confront Orthodox rabbis, schools, and movements as regards their views on this mitzva. If they believe that an obligation exists to live in Eretz Yisrael, how do they promote it? If they do not believe such an obligation exists, what are their sources?
Questionnaires can be sent to community rabbis, school principals and Roshei Yeshiva and movement heads asking them to clarify their views, with the option of publicizing the results. We should also use existing educational frameworks of our own, such as camps and kollelim, and insist that they encourage aliya from the point of view as a mitzva as well.
As far as the shana b'aretz is concerned, we must take maximum advantage of this very influential period in a young person's life. Many students who come here find themselves more religiously committed at the end of the year, and we must emphasize that this religious commitment must include a commitment to aliya. In principle, this should be easy - the yeshivot are in Israel, so the yeshivot should naturally support aliya. But we see that despite the thousands who learn in yeshivot in Israel, only a small percentage make aliya. Individual yeshivot might be afraid to push aliya as an obligation too strongly, from the fear that parents might be discouraged to send their children to such a yeshiva. But if a concerted effort was made to organize a joint front of all or almost all yeshivot, no individual yeshiva would have to be concerned. And I am not recommending that we encourage aliya immediately after the shana b'aretz, both for the fact that it would discourage parents from sending their children to Israel, and also how it would leave a significant leadership gap in the gola.
With the implementation of these proposals, I believe we can increase the "relevancy" of Bnei Akiva, while remaining true to our principals. We can also increase our influence beyond our own camp to all of Orthodoxy, perhaps influencing the kiruv movements as well.
I hope these suggestions are thought provoking and provide for fruitful discussion. In my opinion, these issues are appropriate for discussion at the upcoming veida, but can be put into place even before it.