Where is Orthodox aliya?
I have been asking this question for years; as usual, Michael Freund puts it more articulately than I:
Where is Orthodox aliya?
By Michael Freund
Earlier this year, a crisis erupted among American Orthodox Jewry, one that sent shock waves hurtling from coast to coast.
At the speed of broadband, word spread quickly from one community to another about the budding calamity, which threatened to cast a pall on Jewish life as we know it. Various organizations rushed to issue statements, the Internet was abuzz with rumors and parents from Staten Island to
And just what, you might be wondering, lay at the heart of all this drama? Well, it had to do with raisins.
Yes, you read that correctly: raisins.
On January 27, New York's K'hal Adath Jeshurun, a prominent Orthodox congregation also known as KAJ, published a statement billed as an "important kashrus notice," which warned readers in grave and no uncertain terms that "due to bug infestation, no raisins of any brand... may be used at the present time, whether eaten plain or used in cooking or baking." The notice was then hoisted onto the Internet, setting off alarm bells for many Jews because of the Torah's prohibition (in chapter 11 of Leviticus) regarding the consumption of insects.
Obviously, the blanket nature of the ban imposed by KAJ was unnerving, and left many observant Jews wondering if they could still reach for their Raisin Bran in the morning.
But the chaos was short-lived. The tempest in a teacup, or shall we say the racket in a raisin box, quickly proved to be overblown.
As the predicament reached a fever pitch, the venerable Orthodox Union stepped into the fray and reassured the raisin-eating Jewish public "that raisins packed and stored under normal industry conditions do not pose a halachic infestation concern and may be consumed without further checking on the part of the consumer."
The Vaad Harabanim of
Now don't get me wrong. I am all in favor of the meticulous observance of Jewish law, which dictates how I live my life from the moment I awaken until I go to sleep. And the Torah's ban on eating bugs or insects is in fact quite serious, with the Talmud in Tractate Makkot (16b) noting that it can involve numerous prohibitions.
But this entire incident says a lot about the present state of American Orthodoxy, where a welcome trend toward greater observance nonetheless often leads people to lose sight of some larger and no less compelling issues of paramount importance.
IT IS TRULY wonderful that Orthodox Jews in
On matters great and small, from Sabbath observance to raisin infestations, it is common practice for religious Jews to ask their local rabbi a question seeking halachic guidance on how to proceed. This is done to ensure that the demands of Jewish law are being met.
But I have yet to meet an observant Jew in
The Sifrei on Deuteronomy, for example, states unequivocally that "dwelling in the
Centuries later, Nachmanides, the great medieval commentator, ruled unambiguously that the commandment to live in
In light of all this, one can not help but wonder: Why isn't there large-scale Orthodox aliya? Sure, Orthodox Jews are said to make up the bulk of new immigrants arriving here each year from the West. But the numbers remain small - just a few thousand annually - and most religious Jews in the Diaspora seem content to remain where they are.
This situation brings to mind the words spoken by Joshua to the people of
Indeed, it has never been easier to move to
I don't mean to stand in judgment of anyone's personal decisions. But I do mean to suggest that Orthodox Jews in the West at least need to start asking themselves, and their rabbis, the question. After all, if they seek halachic guidance about what they put in their mouths, isn't it time they also ask about where they put their lives and bodies as well?
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