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Hungry for the Homeland

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

Listen to the short Fascinating Insights podcast at https://jewishpodcasts.fm/fascinating-insights, where it can also be downloaded!

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Hungry for the Homeland

Many great people throughout history yearned to come to Eretz Yisrael but were unable to for various reasons. However, in the past, coming to Eretz Yisrael was fraught with hardship and significant danger. It was a long risky trip under arduous and sometimes disturbing conditions. Many times the ships were dilapidated and it was always dangerous. Shipwrecks, with the loss of all those on board, were not uncommon. When R’ Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk (1730-1788) headed an Aliya of chassidim in 1777, one of the ships in his group sank during their voyage, in which 30 Jews died. There were cruel captains that robbed their passengers and subjected them to cruelty and not infrequently pirates raided the vessels, robbing and murdering the travelers or selling them into slavery. Roads were in poor condition. Travelers could expect to be confronted by bandits, robbers and murderous gangsters, and it wasn’t unusual to be beaten and robbed of all one’s possessions. For observant Jews, food and lodging for the lengthy journey presented additional problems. Birchas Hagomel was recited with passion and intense kavana by any Jew fortunate enough to reach Eretz Yisrael.

 

The Vilna Gaon (1720-1797) attempted to move to Eretz Yisrael. He intended to first go there himself and then to send for his family. However, his trip was beset by difficulties and upon getting as far as Amsterdam, he was compelled to turn back. The Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760) tried to move to Eretz Yisrael in 1742. After many tribulations which included being robbed of all his possessions, he reached as far as Constantinple before heading back. R’ Yaakov Emden (1697-1776) also tried to reach Eretz Yisrael but was forced to end his journey before attaining his goal because of personal travails and health problems.

The Chazon Ish who was in contact with the Chafetz Chaim (1838-1933) mentions that the Chafetz Chaim deeply yearned to move to Eretz Yisrael.[1] In fact, he planned to settle in Eretz Yisrael, deciding to move to Petach Tikva. Indeed, to prepare for his arrival, the municipality built a spacious home for the Chafetz Chaim along with public bathrooms, in the expectation that his presence would attract a large number of people to visit.[2] But it was not to be, as events prevented him from coming to Israel.

 

R’ Yechiel Michel Tucazinsky (1871–1955), author of the Gesher Hachaim, recounts in his sefer Eretz Yisrael,[3] first published in 1950, the unbelievable obstacles that Jews had to overcome in order to make their way to Eretz Yisrael and their exceptional sacrifices in settling the land. He concludes: “And what about today? How easy is it to get to Eretz Yisrael! A flight by air from America is just 36 hours (this was written in the late 1940s), and by luxury liner, only two weeks. It is only an hour’s car ride from Yaffo to Yerushalayim. All the roads are paved, there’s no shortage of water or basic food, or of electricity or fuel enroute. The [Jewish] government is the master of the land, the gates are open to all. There…is no longer the necessity to pay bribes to the Turkish overlords or to conduct other shady dealings with them. So what is lacking today? The strong desire that beat so strongly in the hearts of loyal Jews of earlier generations who lived in Chutz La’aretz.”



[1] Igros Chazon Ish 1:175.

[2] She’al Avicha V’ya’geidcha, volume 2, p. 89.

[3] p. 99.

 

Author of three books including the recently released Extraordinary Insights

 
Listen to the short Fascinating Insights Podcast at https://jewishpodcasts.fm/fascinating-insights

 

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