(This is an expanded version of an article published in The Jewish Press on June 5.)

In April, Rabbi Moshe Taragin gave remarks on the fifth yahrzeit of his rebbe, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, zt”l. He recounted at one point:

“He was the most refined person I ever met: dignified, elegant, his speech, his dress, his manner…He had perfected his personality on so many fronts…He taught us that that’s part of being an oved Hashem, is to carry yourself with dignity, speak with dignity, with respect, not chas v’shalom egocentrism or cockiness.”

This is what eidelkeit looks like. Thus, Rav Lichtenstein called mussar “an indispensable realm of study.”

An example of Rav Lichtenstein’s refinement was his approach to aliyah, which he made in 1971. He felt that “Klal Yisrael has always been bound up with Eretz Yisrael. These are our roots, and ultimately, this is our future.”

However, Rav Lichtenstein rejected an attitude of haughtiness toward fellow Jews in the diaspora. He wrote after living in Israel almost forty years:

“Many Israelis are wont to assume that the primary restraint upon aliya among religious Zionists derives from cleavage to the fleshpots of Egypt. This is a convenient assumption, especially inasmuch as it enables its advocate to flatter himself by basking in the reflected glory of his own comparative idealism. It is, however, also simplistic.”

With a powerful blend of gratitude and humility, Rav Lichtenstein concluded:

“I hope and trust that I am neither so vain nor so foolish as to fantasize, personally, presumed superiority to peers who have chosen to serve the Ribbono Shel Olam and to service Knesset Israel within the context of continued residence in the Diaspora. And yet, without harboring illusions, I also trust that I am fully appreciative of the spiritual benefits harvested by my family and myself due to pitching our own tent on the soil of eretz hakodesh.”

Furthermore, Rav Lichtenstein considered aliyah inappropriate in some cases. Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb recounts of the guidance Rav Lichtenstein gave him, “He didn’t feel someone who was in klei kodesh in America should come to Israel to be a farmer or to be an accountant.” (See 2:15 here.)

Contrast Rav Lichtenstein’s nuanced treatment of aliyah with the grobkeit displayed by too many aliya advocates in our time, which has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the recent riots in Minneapolis and elsewhere, Jerusalem resident Tzvi Fishman wrote that “all of the aliyah blogs, Torah proofs, and Rabbi videos won’t make one-thousandth of an impression on America’s Jews compared to the persuasion of 10 million rampaging Blacks advancing on the conclaves of Boro Park, Lakewood, and Beverly Hills. Go get ’em fellas!…Burn their Cadillacs and Audis.”

On June 2, he called for a gerush:

On June 4, he celebrated boarded up shops in Manhattan:

Likewise by others:

And after the desecration of a synagogue in Montreal (which also happens in Israel):

(Given that Israel has one of the world’s highest late-term abortion rates and promotes homosexual pride events in numerous countries, Israelis should reconsider talking about Divine kicks. They would also do well to take in Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’s statement last month: “From the 1960s until this day, there has been no time that our brethren in the Diaspora did not help the State of Israel. There is no establishment that was built without their aid. There is no military unit that was not supported by them. In every school, studio, and locality we find their contributions. Every hospital or university we can see their generous support.”**)

Rav Lichtenstein pinpointed the abhorrent mentality of such people when he wrote of “the rejoicing you encounter among certain staunch advocates of aliya every time they read about a murder in Brooklyn or Long Beach; they make sure to republish it in their newspaper in large type.” (How quickly they forget sites of carnage like Neve Tzuf and Har Nof and names like Ori Ansbacher, Hy”d.) Eight centuries ago, Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam identified the underlying character flaw in Hamaspik L’Ovdei Hashem:

“Discipline yourself accordingly: Whenever you are seized by pride concerning your observance and righteousness — given that you observe the mitzvot and avoid the aveirot — remember your omissions and offenses of the past, present, and uncertain future…How can you marvel at your observance, when your thoughts and conceit reduce your religiosity, and your admiration ruins its very object?”

Kibbutz galuyot is part of the Shemoneh Esrei. When people turn the mitzva of aliyah into a whip, they alienate fellow Jews and disgrace a sacred cause.

**Rav Aaron Rakeffet — who made aliyah in 1969 — has put it more incisively:

“Everyone in Israel’s a schnorrer. There isn’t an institution in Israel, including the building you’re sitting in, where we don’t have to go to chutz la’aretz to plead for money…If we were to depend upon Israeli money, we could never succeed…I can tell you the money to do all these renovations was not raised here. It comes from the United States. Nu, when you give money you’re entitled to an opinion…And if you want our money, you have to take our opinion.” (See 26:55 here.)

Occasional writer, fan of racquet and barbell sports, dabbler of languages