There is no doubt that living in Eretz Yisrael is something that involves a
tremendous amount of expense and hardship. Accordingly, there are three factors
that may exempt one from the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz: finances, safety,
and one’s level of spirituality.
Will you be able to survive in Eretz Yisrael financially? If
you can survive without begging, that’s called making a parnasah.
What is the standard of living that the Shulchan Aruch has in
mind that would exempt a person from a mitzvah in which he is otherwise
obligated? Is it a question of owning one car instead of two? Or dwelling in
five rooms instead of twenty? Will you be able to afford only one maid instead
of two, or maybe no maids at all? A person who is used to a certain standard of
living, who would have to sacrifice that standard in order to live in Eretz
Yisrael, might indeed be exempt from the mitzvah.
But the question is: How proper is it to maintain a life
style that prevents you from keeping mitzvos? Is that the kind of life that
HaShem wants of a person? So it depends on how we define making a living.
Baruch HaShem, there are people living here who are eating, who are
functioning, wearing clothing, and are making ends meet without going around
begging. Or if not, at least they’re close to making ends meet. And if they’re
not close, someday it’ll get close.
But I’ll tell you a secret-there are also people in America
who don’t make ends meet. It all comes from HaShem. The same Ribono shel Olam
who can give you a parnasah in Eretz Yisrael can take away the
parnasah in America. I know people in America who, by American standards,
aren’t making a living. Maybe they should move here.
Safety: I find it very amusing. I live on a moshav in what
the newspapers call “The West Bank.” I don’t lock my door at night. True, the
moshav is surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and we have guards all the time.
But, Baruch HaShem, even after the intifada, the problems have been very
minimal. At least I know when I walk out, what my enemy looks like. And I know
that the people in the street with the guns are on my side. But in Boro Park,
I’m not sure that the people in the street with the guns are on my side.
When I visit the States, a day doesn’t go by without somebody
being mugged. I find it extremely amusing to hear someone asking me, “Don’t you
feel unsafe living on the West Bank?”-as they lock the six locks on their door.
One has to face the fact that it’s not safe in America, either. And in Eretz
Yisrael one has a very good protection policy, Hinei, lo yanum v’lo yashen,
Shomer Yisrael. HaShem has a special connection with Eretz Yisrael.
Will living in Eretz Yisrael enhance my mitvah observance? In
Miami-at a time when we had neither a mikveh nor a yeshiva in the community-a
baal habayis came to me in all seriousness, and said, “Rabbi, there is only
thing missing in our community, that if we would have it, it would make it a
top-notch Torah community.” I was anxiously waiting for him to suggest that we
build a mikveh, and I was going to make him the chairman of the committee. What
was missing? He told me that what we were missing was “an elegant, glatt kosher
French restaurant!” Now, I have nothing against French food. I love French
fries. But that would make it a top-notch Torah community? In all my years in
yeshiva, there was never a course given in French pastry-making. There’s
something not right with such an attitude.
The places of Torah in chutz l’aretz are just an
extension of the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. They are meant for people who want
kedusha, but cannot go to live in Eretz Yisrael. For such people, for all
practical purposes they are in Eretz Yisrael. (Whereas someone who has
his feet in Eretz Yisrael, but his mind is in chutz l’aretz, is in
It’s said that someone who learns the parshayos of
korbanos, it’s as if he brought a korban. But that’s only for
someone who cannot bring a korban, because there is no Beis HaMikdash;
someone who can bring a korban in the Beis HaMikdash and learns the
parasha instead, isn’t fulfilling anything. If you can be here and
choose not to, just wanting doesn’t help.