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Aliyah Difficulties

We recently moved to Israel, fulfilling a life dream, but so many things have gone wrong since we arrived – in terms of the lift, our apartment, my job options, and more. I’m hoping the worst of our issues have been settled by now, but I’m bothered on a more fundamental level. So many people I’ve talked to have their own stories of all the things which went wrong. (Usually they laugh about them in retrospect – but each of us had to live through it all first.) But doesn’t God want us back? Why does He seem to purposely make things difficult when we are only trying to fulfill His will?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I’m sorry first of all for everything you have had to endure. I think just about all of us who have merited living here know exactly what you’re talking about and have had our share of such experiences. But my belief is that none of this is because God is trying to deter us from fulfilling this special mitzvah. It is rather His way of “welcoming” us to the Holy Land. Let me explain.

A friend of mine once shared with me a beautiful insight he heard from a past teacher of his on this subject. The Talmud states that God gave three special presents to the Jewish people, and all of them were given only through suffering. They are: the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the World to Come (Brachos 5a). Why is it necessary to suffer to receive such gifts?

Regarding two of them the answer is self-evident. To merit accomplishment in Torah, one must exert himself and put long and arduous hours into his studies. There are no shortcuts to becoming a Torah scholar. The budding scholar must deny himself sleep, avoid diversions, minimize his pleasures, and tirelessly, unrelentingly pursue his goal.

Why suffering is required for the World to Come is equally evident. Every person’s share in the World to Come depends on the efforts he puts in to being a good person during his lifetime. Only one who has overcome challenges, resisted temptation, and devoted himself to living a purposeful life will merit a truly great share in the hereafter. (Furthermore, at times God afflicts the righteous with suffering in their lifetimes to grant them atonement for their sins in this world and increase their reward in the next one.) Although God judges us mercifully, eternal reward comes only with much hard work. Here too there are simply no shortcuts.

But what about the Land of Israel? Why do we have to suffer before receiving it? Because living in Israel is life on an entirely different plane. We are living directly under God’s wings and His auspices. We are no longer on our own, so to speak. Every aspect of our lives is intimately and carefully directed by God – in the manner which He knows is best for us. God controls our lives, not we. (Certainly this is true to some degree wherever we live, but it is much more intensely so in Israel.)

To prepare us for such intimate closeness, God has to first put us through some training. To learn that God is the one controlling our fates, He has to openly show us our lives are not in our control. All sorts of things go wrong, not according to our carefully-crafted aliyah plans. God makes a complete joke of our plans. He makes us feel helpless and incompetent. We can’t do anything right. We thought we had our aliyah plans carefully figured out, and our future life in Israel meticulously mapped out. And it all came to naught.

But that was precisely the plan for our aliyah – God’s plan.

God had to show us that we do not control our fates. We are living under His aegis and guidance. He will lead us along in the proper way, in the path most spiritually beneficial for us. Although as always, we must try our best to make responsible plans whatever we do in life, we need to learn that crucial lesson to be accepted into the Land of Israel. God is truly the One who runs our lives. There is no independent living here, no doing things our way, leaving God out of the picture. God therefore makes us helpless when we first arrive, He makes a joke of all our careful planning – of how we smugly thought our aliyah would look. And then He lets us in.

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