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What’s better – a history book or a newspaper?

Friday, 24 July, 2020 - 1:28 am

 They say that if you want to know how bad things are, read newspapers; and if you want to know how good things are, read a history book. This is true in many senses, but not, of course, in all of them.

We are going to begin to read the chumash of Devarim, a full chumash written just as Bnei Yisrael were about to step into the Promised Land, moments before Moshe Rabbeinu was going to say good-bye to the nation and to his personal dream to enter the land. Thinking about this brought up the above saying in relation to the love of the land.

If we open the history books, we will surely see that throughout the generations Jewswished to immigrate to the Land of Israel. The love of Eretz Yisrael is evident everywhere. But what if we open newspapers? Let’s say, a paper from yesterday, or last week, or this past year? What will we see? What is the situation today?

Eretz Yisrael is in much turmoil; demonstrations and protests abound.

For someone looking from the outside, and to me, a person who lives in the exile, definitely considered to be someone looking on from the outside – it looks very bad. There is no other way to express this. It just looks bad. So much so, that I would think that people will not want to immigrate to this land, so full of arguments and shouting, so divided and angry. It really does look like that sometimes. But it’s interesting that, in reality, people are still immigrating from all over the world, including from first-world countries.

Yesterday I was in Berlin with my 15-year-old daughter, Baily, for the screening day of the “Naaleh” program of the Jewish Agency, an excellent program that has been operating for 18 years already and enables Jewish youth to continue their high school studies in Israel, the goal being to strengthen the connection between the youth and their land, their nation and their Torah.

At this point I must praise the Jewish Agency and its staff, which are doing wonderful, well-organized and orderly work, in spite of the Corona, which changes our plans so frequently.

In normal times, Berlin is a matter of a morning flight and then an evening return flight, but in these Corona Times we drove for almost 9 hours in each direction, stopping on the way and even staying somewhere overnight. And yet, when I entered the hall where the teenage girls and their parents were gathered, I was deeply moved. I saw people from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, unquestionably first-world countries; countries where it is really much easier to live in than Israel. Jews, as well, live good lives there: they have institutions and communities, recognition and equality from the government etc. I looked around: here we are, people from all ethnic backgrounds and sectors and all are talking excitedly about their desire that their children be involved Jews, Jews who know the language of their forefathers, who know their way of life and their land, our homeland; Jews who will in the end want to be Israelis.

So at least from the viewpoint of the Jews of the Diaspora, I saw with my own eyes that history is no better than the present reality.

If there is such love for the Land of Israel, all we have to do is to improve the situation regarding the love of the nation of Israel, of other Jews, and then certainly these days will become days of joy and happiness, and we will witness the complete Redemption, soon.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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