By: Rabbi Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
A question which is often asked is: “Who is a Jew?” The usual answer is, “A person who was born to a Jewish mother or a person who converted in accordance with Halakha.”
A more fundamental question, however, is: “What is the defining attribute of a Jew?” The answer to this question, of course, could be the same as the answer to the previous question, “Who is a Jew?” That answer would be correct. However, on a more fundamental level, the defining attribute of a Jew can only be defined as: “The Torah.”
This answer must be correct because without the Torah, there could be no Halakha. Because Halakha answers the question, “Who is a Jew?” it would be impossible for anyone to be born to a Jewish mother or to convert in accordance with Halakha if, Heaven forbid, there was no Torah.
In other words, without the Torah, there could be no Jews; no Judaism.
The term “Zionism” means a “national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.” https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/a-definition-of-zionism
Thus, because the purpose of “Zionism” is to benefit “the Jewish people,” it follows that “secular Zionism,” that is, non-religious Zionism, is a contradiction in terms. There is not, and by definition cannot be, any such thing as “secular Zionism.”
Parasha Eqev begins:
Parasha Eqev continues:
In other words, HaShem is saying that if the Jewish people keep the Torah, including but not limited to, driving out the inhabitants from whom the Land is being taken, HaShem will bless the Jewish people “in the land,” that is, in Eretz Yisra’el, not in Brooklyn, Beverly Hills, Barcelona, or Bombay.
Why is HaShem’s blessing for Torah observance seemingly limited to “in the land,” as opposed to other places in the world?
Parasha Eqev continues – and repeats itself: “The entire commandment that I command you today you shall observe to perform, so that you may live and increase, and come to possess the Land that HaShem swore to your forefathers.” Debarim 8:1.
One implication which can be derived from the portion of this pasuk which states, “you shall observe and perform, so that you may live and increase. . . .” suggests that a Jew might not live and increase outside of the Land. In other words, this pasuk is suggesting that the only true defense against anti-Semitism is for a Jew to make Aliyah, that is, to immigrate to, and reside in, Eretz Yisra’el.
One question that might reasonably be asked is: What right do I, as a Jew, and the whole of the Jewish people, have to “drive out” the Arabs who were once were a majority of the population in Eretz Yisra’el? Parasha Eqev answers:
Thus, we see that the Jewish right of possession of Eretz Yisra’el is superior to that of the Arabs simply because HaShem gave us the Land, not because of any merit on our part.
Modern history, however, cements the Jewish right to Eretz Yisra’el in contemporary international law.
In 1947, the United Nations, through a “Partition Plan,” created separate Jewish and Arab states in so-called “Palestine.” The Arabs, both within and without Eretz Yisra’el, rejected the Partition Plan and called for what an Arab League official referred to as “a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” The Arabs believed that they, with the British troops leaving, could exterminate the Jews and create an all-Arab state.
The Arab plan failed miserably. Not only did the Arabs lose the war against the Jews, the Jewish State of Israel – Medinat Yisra’el – was created. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs – mostly the educated and elite – fled to neighboring Arab countries.
All the land that the Arabs could have had, if only they had accepted the U.N. Partition Plan, was now lost. After the 1948 war, entire cities and villages that were formerly Arab came under the control of the new Jewish state.
Not only did Arabs lose land in the 1948 war, they also transitioned from being a majority of the population in Eretz Yisra’el to being a minority. Indeed, HaShem kept his promise to the Jewish people.
A similar miracle occurred in 1967, during the 6-Day War.
Hashem has given Eretz Yisra’el to the Jewish people. All we need to do is accept the gift by keeping the Torah and misvot.
One issue which concerns many Jews who contemplate Aliyah is how to earn a living in Medinat Yisra’el. Unless these new immigrants – Olim Hadashim [עולים חדשים] – are retired and are receiving retirement income, they will need to be able to continue earning a livelihood after making Aliyah. Although the answer to this question will be different for different people, the Torah provides reassurance:
Some potential Olim Hadashim [עולים חדשים] might wonder if it is safe to live in Medinat Yisra’el. Parasha Eqev answers this question as well:
“Hear O Yisra’el [שמע ישראל], today you cross the Yarden, to come and drive out the nations that are greater and mightier than you. . . . But you know today that HaShem, your G-d, . . . He will destroy them and He will subjugate them before you; you will drive them out and cause them to perish quickly, as HaShem spoke to you.” 9:1-3.
We are living in momentous times. No longer do we stand on the threshold of the Messianic era. With the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty through the formation of Medinat Yisra’el, we have entered the Messianic era.
The establishment of Medinat Yisra’el after the Holocaust; the return of the Jewish sovereignty after 2,000 years of exile; the revival of the Hebrew language, a language that heretofore had been not been widely used for centuries as a spoken language; the beginning of the ingathering of Jewish exiles from all parts of the globe; is not a coincidence.
My fellow Jew: Not only does Eretz Yisra’el need you; you need Eretz Yisra’el. One need only look around and read the news to know that Eretz Yisra’el is the only place in the world where a Jew has a future.
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Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American attorney who resides in Jerusalem, Israel.