There is something I don’t like to say as a religious Jew, and that is that Judaism has a weak spot. Men have the power to serve as arbiters of Jewish law yet men are human and humans err. Sometimes, even often, men are evil.
Yet the common man (and woman) is meant to follow the dictates of the rabbis.
Worse yet, humble Jews are put in the position of choosing a rabbi who is righteous. How is a regular Joe of a Jew supposed to ascertain which rabbi is the right one to choose? And if we had that sort of foresight, wouldn’t that tend to obviate the need for someone else to tell us what to do?
I think about this every time I hear a rabbi outside of Israel urging his congregants to stay put, and not to make Aliyah. I kind of can’t help but think that of course he’s going to tell them to stay. If they leave, he loses his bread and butter.
This is what I think of when I read about French rabbis telling French Jews not to leave France.
It is what I thought of when I read the response of French Chief Rabbi Haim Corsia’s response to the suggestion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Jews of France should make Aliyah.
“We have participated in building this country and we will continue to build it,” the Chief Rabbi said. “We dream in French, we think in French. I want to say to the Jews in France that we can live happily here as well.”
(Well, he certainly can live happily in France, as long as his congregants don’t make Aliyah.)
And it’s what I thought of when I read this statement by Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association (EJA):
“Aliyah is one’s personal yearning and should definitely be a goal for the State of Israel. However, anyone who is familiar with the European reality knows that a call to aAliyah is not the solution for anti-Semitic terror,” he said.
“The Israeli government must increase security for the European Jewish community, rather than just repeat Pavlovian calls for Aliyah after every terror attack.”
Not only does Rabbi Margolin call on Jews not to make Aliyah for reasons of safety, but he expects the government of Israel to pay for increased security for European Jewry. What a win/win situation for Margolin!
Not only would he not lose his salary, by dint of European Jewry making Aliyah en masse, but Israel would have to foot the cost to ensure the safety of his charges. (Of course, the corollary here is that if these Jews would, God forbid, end up dead, it would be Israel’s fault for not properly providing for their security.)
And get this: the chief rabbi of Denmark, Rabbi Jair Melchior expressed disappointment in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for European Jews to make Aliyah, the day after two shootings in Copenhagen.
“Terror is not a reason to move to Israel,” said Rabbi Melchior.
And so it was that the rabbis of Europe on the eve of the Holocaust, urged their congregants not to leave. And so it was that they listened and were murdered.
Not that, chalila, the murders of the 6 million are the fault of the rabbis. If I wanted to assign blame, the rabbis would be the last to suffer my pointing finger.
Nonetheless, these unsettling thoughts have been running through my head to the point that I want to scream at these coreligionists of mine, “DON’T LISTEN TO THE RABBIS. PLUG YOUR EARS AND LISTEN TO YOUR HEARTS. MAKE ALIYAH.”
But then, that would be a blasphemous suggestion.
As a religious Jew, I just don’t have the courage.