Much like the Jews of the Exile have traded in the Temple Mount for their own Temple-Mansions in Long Island where they live and raise their children, the Jews of Israel have traded in the Temple Mount for the little remaining “Western Wall” of the expanded Herodian site. Why are we OK settling for sitting on the floor by the Western Wall crying and mourning the destruction of the Temple, when we can halachiclly go up on the Temple Mount itself, see where our Bet Hamikdash used to be, and begin thinking about how we can rebuild it? Rambam, the great codifier of the Torah and its mitzvot, who himself went up on Har Habayit in the 1100s, clearly writes that one of the 613 mitzvot, among keeping Shabbat and Kosher, is the positive mitzvah of rebuilding the Beit Hamikdash. However, sadly, we the Jews cherish our pattern of mourning so much that we have seemingly replaced that mitzvah with the “mitzvah” of weeping, broken despair, and hundreds of Kinot that keep us in the destruction instead of the construction.
Many “knowledgeable” Rabbis who when asked why they choose to continue living in the Exile where the mitzvot that they do there are at best practice, instead of making aliyah to a place where they can live a Biblical holy life and easily fulfill over a hundred mitzvot that they are not able to keep right now, often respond with the words, “It’s not so pashut” as they wave a Yeshivish thumb in the air. Really? The mitzvah and responsibility of living in Israel is a lot more “pashut” than the “mitzvah” of wearing a black hat and jacket. It is so fascinating how people rush to wear a square garment in a time when no one does just to create a reality where they are responsible to wear tzizit and fulfill that mitzvah, when they really don’t have to. But yet, the 100s of available mitzvot that one can literally begin to fulfill just by being here in Israel, eating food (especially now that we are in shmitta), and walking the land, and people just casually wave off the idea of like it’s a joke that Israel is anything but a place for vacationing, year after Yeshiva learning, and a place to ship Jewish dead bodies for burial.
The “not so pashut” Rabbis, in an attempt to allay their guilt of Exile dwelling and their utter lack of Bitachon in Hashem who they believe is only able to provide parnasa for people in the vacuum of America but certainly not in Israel, will quote various sources to portray that they are doing the right thing. They bring up ideas of the Third Temple just descending from the Heavens already built – a perfect idea for the microwave generation of JAPS who would never want to get any dirt under their manicured fingernails, men and women both, and actually partake in the building of a Jewish dynasty that will be revered across the world. Perhaps if it’s not completely built when this big Disneyland drops from the sky, they can each send their housekeepers and maids to do any leftover labor. The “not so Pashut” Rabbis quote from sources about how we just have to sit and wait for Mashiach to come, and when he does, the houses of Galut will just sprout wings and fly to Israel; a perfect Santa Claus story for the Jews. This is what I grew up learning in the wonderful distorted values of the Yeshiva system of America. But, does this make any sense to anyone nowadays?!
It makes sense to 2 groups of people: Firstly, the Rabbis of hundreds of years ago who are being quoted. They only stated these ideas because in their times they could not possibly imagine ever being privy to a reality outside of the little Shtetl. Could these Jews ever foresee a reality where the Jewish people could freely pack up, pick up, make aliyah in less than 10 hours, receive dozens of perks and benefits for doing so, and then walk the streets of Jerusalem, full of Hebrew signs and beautiful Jews wearing colorful Kippot, eating great Kosher food in one of the hundreds of Kosher restaurants, all in Israel; a nation leading the world with its technology and innovation? Of course not, so they created these nice fantasies to explain how it’s all going to unfold when the Mashaich comes, in order to give both their people and themselves a little hope in impossibly dark times. Of course when a new time day arises and people can see further than the day that came before it, they can let the sages of old know that the horizon is not the end of the earth, since we indeed live on a round planet.
Secondly, the Rabbis of today who would like to continue living in the Great Golden Galut, a place that is uber materialistic, full of broken values, American Idols & Desperate Housewives. Interestingly, while being empty, it is so full, full of their great salaries, giant McMansions, Country Clubs, and getting to be one of the featured Rabbis at the “Passover in Cancun” trips. For the Second type of Rabbi – he’d like to believe that since he is imparting words of Torah there is no mitzvah to be anywhere else. It is as if he is a teaching Moshe of the wandering Jews but with no land of Israel to get to. Should he really choose to stay in America debating about the possible halachic ramifications of a Lipa Shmeltzer concert just so he shouldn’t be a little less comfortable in Israel and possibly encounter a “harsh Israeli Mentality”. “I’d live in Israel but there are just too many Israelis”
Please listen up brother and sisters: Your house will not just lift up the with the fairy wand wave of a Jewish Tinkerbell and float here to the Holyland, just like the Jewish people didn’t float out of Egypt directly to Mount Sinai. They had to choose it. They had to want it. They had to show the Egyptians that they were not scared anymore as they broiled the Egyptian lamb-Gods blatantly in public, and then smeared the blood of the animals on their doorposts, as they excitedly waited for the next part of the journey to begin through Hashem’s instruction. But there were many non believers even then, the “not so Pashuts” who still weren’t sure if Moshe was really meant to take them from the bowels of Egypt, the ones with broken self esteem who felt that maybe being an Israelite slave is the best reality they could ever have. Maybe the little fragment of Western Wall is the best Temple we can have. Those Jews – the 80 percent(!) died out in the plague of Darkness because their headspace was such darkness that they simply could never be a part of the proud emerging Jewish nation on a mission to bring Hashem’s light down to this world. When will we stop trading Jewish destiny for the Amercian dream? When will we stop singing God save the Queen and start singing God bring the Messiah King? Let’s make that time now. We are so close to the new year of Rosh hashana, May we all witness the Jews of today following their Father in Heaven as they join their brothers in Israel. We are excitedly waiting here for your return. Lshana Habah Beyerushalayim, Amen.