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Aliya - Why so Tough?    

Aliya - Why so Tough?

Many of those who have made abortive Aliya attempts come back to the West and tell horror stories that scare away anyone other than the lion-hearted who long for Zion…


Unfortunately, not every Westerner immigrant succeeds in adapting to a totally new life in Israel. Many of those who have made abortive Aliya attempts come back to the West and tell horror stories that scare away anyone other than the lion-hearted who long for Zion no matter what. Without delving into specific common complaints - which is not our focus in this article - we still must ask ourselves, "Why is Aliya so tough?"
The Gemara answers simply, "Three things come with difficulty - Torah, a place in the World to Come, and the Land of Israel." All three intrinsically require sweat, blood and tears. That's a good explanation for the brain, but the heart needs something more.
Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk (1730-1788) was one of the prominent disciples of Rebbe Dovber, the Maggid of Mezeritch. Rebbe Menachem Mendel, together with Rebbe Avraham Kalisker, spearheaded the "Chassidic Aliya" in the latter part of the 18th Century, when some 300 Chassidim from Russia and the Ukraine settled in Tzfat and in Tiberias. There challenges were indescribable, for they were forced to deal with poverty, hostile neighbors and disease. Yet, their faith was so strong that they held on.
Rebbe Menachem Mendel minced no words: once in Israel, he wrote a letter to his followers who still lived outside of Israel. Among other things, he wrote: "Be aware that many transformations and developments will occur with every person who comes to the Land until they are established there." He explains that Hashem wants a person to love the Land of Israel, so much so that he must refine himself to the following three levels:

He should be able to find even the stones and dust of Israel pleasing;

He should even cherish the ruins of Israel;

He should be satisfied with a modest sustenance in Israel.
In point 3, Rebbe Menachem Mendel is telling his followers that if they want to succeed in Israel, they must strengthen their emuna, since emuna essentially is being satisfied with one's lot in life.
A person who is looking to live an American or Western lifestyle in Israel won't be able to refine himself to the degree where he truly loves the Land of Israel. Since the Land of Israel is rich on spirituality but limited in material amenities, the westerner who desires to perpetuate his western lifestyle will most surely be unsatisfied.
In addition, says the Rebbe, the Land of Israel "is not for thin-skinned people...it takes many years until the days of absorption are over and the newcomers live an integrated life." So, Israel requires loads of patience. Those who seek the path of least resistance won't find it in Aliya.
Moreover, Rebbe Menachem Mendel adds, "Whoever approaches the holiness of the Land must begin life anew." The level of holiness in the Land of Israel is much higher than outside, and a soul that comes here is like a reborn soul, which must start from scratch in building emuna and spiritual strength. An old parable about life in the Holy Land says that one's behavior in the king's palace must be much more refined than behavior in the cowshed. Accordingly, the Rebbe explains that one's acquired character traits from abroad are not necessarily compatible for the Holy Land. A person must go through a process of spiritual refinement, to the extent that he might feel that his brain is torn and shattered and he has no place to rest. But, Hashem is doing all of this for the best, by helping the new immigrant to be spiritually worthy of the Land.
The inner holiness of the Land of Israel doesn't come cheap; we certainly don't acquire it for free.
Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman of saintly and martyred memory says that the Land of Israel is the best place in the world for a person who seeks to get close to Hashem, but the worst place in the world for one who doesn't observe the Torah.
Successful Aliya requires preparation, and the best preparation is prayer, the more the better. May we soon see a massive Aliya, redemption and the ingathering of all our exiles, soon and in our time, amen!

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  4 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  Successful Aliyah
Karen6/17/2013 11:01:21 AM
  Depends on how attractive you are, pussycat. (only subject)
Lev4/24/2013 4:28:26 PM
  is aliyah for men only?
nettie feldman4/11/2013 1:47:36 PM
  totally agree
Sara4/10/2013 3:26:39 PM

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