Aliyah – No Rabbis and No Regrets

On the 55th Anniversary of Our Aliyah


Parashat Korach 5777
By HaRav Nachman Kahana
The Gemara (Bava Batra 74a) informs us that the place where Korach and his followers are being held underground completes a monthly cycle that brings them near the surface, and they cry out:

משה אמת ותורתו אמת והן בדאין

Moshe is true and his Torah is true and they (Korach and his followers) are liars.

My life too revolves around a cycle, although a daily one. Every morning upon awakening, I recite “Modeh Ani”, and thank HaShem for implanting me and my family in Eretz Yisrael – even after 55 years.

On the 26th of Sivan, Tuesday of this week, my wife and I will celebrate our 55th year since aliyah – 55 incredible years during which we witnessed, and in some way had a part in, the miraculous trek of our nation from galut punishment to Hashem’s embrace and call to Am Yisrael to return home.

Our target time for aliya was June 1962. In December 1961, we were on the east side of Manhattan and passed Ochs Trading Co., the supplier of products for people making aliya. I said to Feiga, “Let’s go in and make our purchases”. She replied, “You mean it’s real?” I answered, “Very real. Here it begins.”

Mr. Ochs greeted us warmly. We bought a fridge, stove and other appliances compatible with the electric current of Israel. We gave the date when we wanted the items to arrive at the then-existing port in Tel Aviv.

As we were arranging the delivery, a couple came to the store to pay for their purchases and Mr. Ochs introduced us. He said that they were from Argentina and were leaving that night for the Bror Chail kibbutz in the northern Negev. I told them how much I envied them.

Six months later, on the morning of our departure, I went to Mr. Ochs to make our last payment. While there, a couple came in to make their purchases for Israel. Mr. Ochs told them that I was leaving that night for Israel. They said to me, “How we envy you.” I answered, “I know the feeling.”

I left the store and the East Side where I had learned for five years in the Rabbi Ya’akov Yosef Yeshiva. I went down into the subway with the joyous feeling that I would most likely never see this place again.

That night, friends and relatives gathered at the airport. The experience was like that expressed by Juliet to Romeo, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” We were sorry to leave family, but that feeling was obscured by the sweetness of a dream come true.

Undoubtedly, leaving one’s parents and family is distressing, in fact, departing from family was one of Avraham’s tests.

By the time of my aliyah, I had already realized that every Jew is a world onto himself, and HaShem expects each of us to fulfill his personal commitment to the ideals of the Torah and to Am Yisrael in Hashem’s Promised Land.

During the years when I taught at BMT (Bet Midrash LeTorah), students would ask me why rabbis remain in the galut if aliya was imperative to Judaism?

I would reply that human beings are born one by one and that even identical twins emerge one by one.

We live essentially one by one. If your head hurts, your mother or wife can give you an aspirin, but it is your head that hurts. In the normal course of events, we die and are buried one by one, and we present an accounting of our deeds before the Almighty one by one. In the world to come, the religious leaders who are now in voluntary galut will have to justify their actions. However, their rationalizations are not yours.

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