11 Kislev 5781 / Friday, November 27, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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The Trampoline and the Tightrope    

The Trampoline and the Tightrope

We are still asking, is it a mitzvah to live in Israel? Let's put it this way: how many secular Jews abroad have ever heard of Tanach, Lag B'Omer or the Kotel…


In the days before the Great Redemption, the world will be engulfed in a shell of impurity. As a result, nobody will be able to tell up from down. Questions that have had very clear answers for centuries suddenly stump us.


We are still asking, is it a mitzvah to live in Israel?


On so many levels, it is. The Rambam equates living in Israel as equal in weight to all of the mitzvot combined! The number of observant Jews living in Israel has increased by a factor of 10 while the number of observant Jews outside the Land has disintegrated.


Nonobservant Jews in Israel know what the Tanach is. They know what Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Shavuout, and L'ag B'Omer are. Before I became observant, I was one of the 80% who don't know any of it.


As a Jew, it is dangerous to live outside the Land of Israel. You play Russian Roulette with your children's spiritual fate every moment they are trapped in a place where most people have no idea what Shabbat is.


In Israel, it is a national weekly holiday.


The Divine Safety Net


We all fall down, the question is – What happens then? How bad is the fall?


Let me tell you a story about two friends of mine. One learned in a New York based Yeshiva but left at age 13. The other was a party animal.


The guy from Yeshiva went to a public college. After college, he married an Arab woman. Now he works 50-60 hours a week to support his Arab wife and his Arab children. Even if he wanted out, which he doesn't, she can take everything away from him if he tried to fix his life. You think they will ever visit Israel?


The party animal has a different story. His parents moved to Israel when he was 15. He discovered the clubs, the parties, and became enamored with the nightlife. He served in a tank unit in the IDF and went on to become a tech support engineer at a hi-tech company in Tel Aviv.


Then he met a girl at a bar; they hit it off right away. He tried to get her number but she refused. He couldn't understand why.


About 6 months later, he was in Jerusalem at a conference. He was walking down Ben Yehuda Street towards Ben Sira Hummus – the best Hummus in Israel, and he finds her. Immediately, he figures out why she didn't want to give him her phone number.


She is religious.


She wanted to try something different so she snuck out and went to Tel Aviv. That's where she met him.


He begs for her number. She turns away.


He pleads. She thinks about it.


He promises to "try" learning Torah if only she will have coffee with him.


"Wellll. . . " she thinks to herself.


Today they have a big family with all the children learning in Yeshiva.


It happens all the time here.


Outside the Land, you walk a tightrope. It's easy to fall, and when you do, it's a long drop and it's hard to get back up. Here, it's a trampoline. Even if you do fall, and we all do, you can bounce right back. 


* * *

David Ben Horin lives in Israel with his wife and children.


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