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Recent Questions

Leaving Israel

I am of the understanding that if you go to Israel, you can't leave. And yet we see people doing this al the time – not only visitors to Israel, but people living there who take vacations in Europe or America, or go to visit relatives. Can you locate for me an authoritative responsa on this issue?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Talmud (Avodah Zara 13a) says that one may only leave Israel for one of two purposes: To get married and to learn Torah.

The reasons cited by the authorities are varied: Nachmanides (Numbers 33:53) explains the prohibition on account of the mitzvah to settle the land of Israel. Rashbam (Bava Batra 91b) explains that the prohibition exists because by leaving the land, one is actively removing oneself from the mitzvot that are uniquely dependent upon being present in Israel. The Lechem Mishnah (Melachim 5:12) explains that because Israel is holy, it is forbidden to leave it.

Besides that, there appear to be few exceptions. Most of the responsa we have do not distinguish between a visitor and resident. Perhaps before the advent of plane travel, when one went to Israel, he did not go just to visit.

May one leave Israel for business? Maimonides (Laws of Kings 5:9-12) writes that the only other acceptable reason to leave is in case of a famine, i.e. for the need to earn a livelihood. This is on condition that one returns to Israel as soon as business is done

Are there other exceptions?

• One may leave Israel in order to attend to his parents, under the mitzvah of honoring one's parents. (Tashbetz 3:288; Tzitz Eliezer 11:94 and 14:72)

• Certainly, one is permitted to leave Israel to seek medical care or for health reasons in general.

• It is permitted to travel to the gravesites of tzaddikim, in order to pray there. (Sha'arey Teshuvah 568:20)

• It is permitted to leave Israel to teach Torah to others. (Yechaveh Da'as 5:57)

• One may leave Israel to visit a good friend. (Mishnah Berurah 531:14)

But all of the above are conditional. One may leave but must return as soon as whatever he set out to do is taken care of. (see Yechaveh Daat 3:69, 5:57)

Is there a time limit? Maimonides lived in Israel, and then went to Egypt for the last few decades of his life. It would seem that Maimonides' mind-frame in Egypt was one of a temporary sojourner, with the intent to return to Israel as soon as the situation availed itself. Though we see that "temporarily" leaving Israel can last for many years.

Morris Curello's Movie

I watched a TV movie called "The Rabbi," which was filmed in Israel. It portrays an Israeli man who converts to Christianity and attempts to convince his family that Jesus is the Jewish messiah.

Does this movie portray normative Judaism?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It seems that you and thousands of others are victim of the deception of Morris Cerullo, a San Diego evangelist who made it his life mission to convert Jews to Christianity. Cerullo hired an advertising agency to place ads in some 80 Jewish newspapers – omitting any information that would link the one-hour "family drama" to its Christian missionary source.

Cerullo has a long history of such activities. In 1994, he allegedly obtained Israeli voter registration lists and mailed Hebrew copies of his missionary book, "Two Men From Eden," to some 500,000 homes throughout Israel. Then in 1996, he sent a mass mailing of an evangelistic booklet called "The Peace" to one million Israeli households. Cerullo also claims to have mailed 3.2 million copies of his book “Two Men from Eden” to almost every Jewish home in the United States.

To view documentation of Cerullo's 40-year crusade to missionize Jews, go to www.jewsforjudaism.org.

World War One Beginning on Tisha B’Av

I have heard that one of the tragedies which occurred on Tisha B’Av is that World War One began on that day. Can you tell me if that is actually true? On what date did Tisha B’Av fall out that year?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

In 1914 Tisha B’Av occurred on Shabbat, August 1, and was observed on the 2nd. The crisis which led to the outbreak of war (the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne) began over a month earlier. After a diplomatic crisis, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, Russia called a general mobilization on the 30th, and Germany declared war on Russia on the 1st. France, allied with Russia as part of the Triple Entente, also began mobilization on that day.

August 1 thus marked the declaration of war between two major powers from the two opposing alliances which fought in the First World War. And it was the immediate precursor to the invoking of the alliances which turned it into a global war. It is thus arguably the most significant date of the start of the war.

It cannot be overstated how tragic the First World War was to the Jewish people, in many ways. Rabbi Berel Wein observes that we tend to think of WWI as primarily a battle fought in the trenches of France. But a simultaneous vicious war was being fought on the eastern front (which was not as stationary as the western front), between the Central Powers and Russia, cutting right through the heart of Jewish Eastern Europe, home to millions of Jews. Apart from the tens of thousands of Jewish soldiers who lost their lives on both sides (over a million served altogether), entire regions of Eastern Europe were uprooted, and ordinary civilian life was not possible during the upheavals of war. The Jews were suspected by both sides of collaboration with the enemy, and Czarist Russia expelled hundreds of thousands of them away from the front, often on virtually no notice. Most of the Jews in that region of the world were living in terrible poverty without a war, but the war made life unlivable for them, and caused the decimation of cities and Jewish communal life which had literally never recovered since.

The physical devastation of the Eastern European Jewry during the war was accompanied by an equally catastrophic spiritual one. The breakdown of the community destroyed the religious infrastructure which had preserved the Jews for so many centuries. The anarchy and desperation of the times radicalized many young Jews, who became Bundists, Socialists, Communists, revolutionaries, etc., intensifying a process of secularization and radicalization which had begun decades earlier.

Furthermore, many historians view World War One as one of the major causes of Hitler’s rise to power and the Second World War. Germany smoldered under the crushing terms of the Versailles Treaty signed at the conclusion of the first war. National anger over it was one of the factors which helped bring the ultranationalistic, racist Nazi party to power. It must have been the Jews who stabbed Germany in the back and caused it to lose the war (in fact a Jewish politician, representing Germany, signed the armistice ending the war), and the Jews were behind the creation of the corrupt, cosmopolitan Weimar Republic. Thus, in a very real sense, WWI was a direct progenitor of WWII and the Holocaust.

Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. Note that this is not a homework service!

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