Encouraging the non-observant Jews to make Aliyah

[Q&A from Ha-Rav's radio call-in show]

Question: The book "Lev Eliyahu" of Rav Eliyahu Lopian (vol. 3, pp. 38-39) mentions a story which he heard from a trustworthy source about Maran (our revered teacher) Ha-Rav Kook ztz"l, who he does not mention by name but as the Rav of Yafo. When Rav Yitzchak Blazer visited Rav Kook, Rav Kook explained the verse from Yirmiyahu (2:7), "You came and defiled My Land" as meaning "If only My children would come and defiled My Land." Rav Blazer responded that there is a verse in Parashat Acharei Mot (18:28) which says "Let not the Land vomit you out when you defile it," if this is so than what is the benefit of coming and defiling the Land – they will be exiled again?! What then does Rav Kook mean when he said "If only My children would come and defiled My Land"?

Answer: The statement "If only My children would come and defiled My Land" was not invented by Rav Kook, it is the words of our Sages in the midrash in Yalkut Shimoni (Eichah #1038) when Hashem says: If only my children, my Nation, would be in the Land of Israel, even though they make it impure. Our Rabbis mean that the essence is for the Nation of Israel to return to the Land of Israel, even though they are not observant. The question is: should a non-observant Jew make aliyah or not? According to this midrash, a non-observant Jew should certainly make aliyah. But won't he transgress and defile the Land? The logic is that even though the Land will suffer, Be-Ezrat Hashem – with the help of Hashem, he will repent over time. This means that when there is a meeting between the hidden holiness of the Nation of Israel and the hidden holiness of the Land of Israel, the Nation of Israel will repent. We in fact see in our times that the Jews in Exile are assimilating and disappearing, while the Jews in Israel are repenting and strengthening themselves.

There is a story that after the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews from North Africa and Yemen made aliyah and were abandoning traditional observance. The person who headed the Department of Aliyah at the Jewish Agency was a Torah scholar named Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Shragai, and he was being eaten up inside by this fact. He did not know whether it was proper to continue to bring Jews to Israel under such circumstances and he turned to the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Tzvi Pesach Frank, and asked him what to do. Rav Frank said to him: Can you do me a favor and hand me the Yalkut Shimoni? He opened it and showed him the words of the Yalkut Shimoni on Megillat Eichah: "Hashem says: If only my children, my Nation, would be in the Land of Israel, even though they make it impure." And he continued: What do you want from me - to transgress the words of our Sages?! You are not guilty for what is occurring. You must bring Jews to Israel and make every effort to connect them to Torah. Rav Shragai continued to bring Jews to Israel and he mentioned this story various times. I printed a letter which Rav Shragai sent me in my book "Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Eretz Yisrael" (p. 57, 221-222) describing exactly what happened. It is even more severe in this case since we are not discussing unobservant Jews outside of Israel, but observant Jews who made aliyah and then were no longer observant. If this is so, what was Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank's calculation? Rav Shragai once visited France in a place where many North Africa Jews, who did not make aliyah, settled and he saw their situation. They did not only abandon traditional observance, but abandoned Judaism altogether – complete assimilation. He then understood that Ha-Rav Frank was correct that we should bring the Nation of Israel to the Land of Israel and we should know that everything will work out in the end.

We can also recall that a certain Rav once explained the line in the Haggadah, "If we received the Torah, but did not enter the Land of Israel – it would have been enough," that it would have been better for the non-religious pioneers to have remained outside of Israel rather than to commit sins in the Land of Israel. These words caused much consternation and when the students came to class, they told our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, what they had heard. They thought he would discuss this issue at length, but he responded briefly: "See Yalkut Shimoni #1038" and taught the class as usual (Iturei Cohanim #181).