Moving to Israel – Factors to Consider
Dear Rabbi, I plan to graduate from university this year and am considering my options for the future. Specifically, I’m thinking about going to Israel and seeing what it would be like to live and work there. I’m not all that religiously observant, but I am interested in learning more about Judaism and I’m also already thinking about where the best place to raise a family would be. Any insights you could share with me would be greatly appreciated — I realize that the decision is ultimately mine. Thanks.
We are taught by our Talmudic Rabbis: “The air of the Land of Israel imparts wisdom.” Perhaps, if you are able to, the best advice I could give would be for you to make a “pilot trip” over the summer and check out all of the issues that are personally important to you. However, in a general manner I can share the following ideas and advice.
The Land of Israel is central to Judaism. It’s an intrinsic part of the covenant between God and Abraham, and it’s where the Patriarchs and Matriarchs lived and are buried. Most events recorded in the Tanach took place in Israel.
Israel is the only land conducive to developing the faculty of prophecy. All the prophets either received prophecies in Israel, or prophecies that related to the Land of Israel. For example, Abraham’s only prophecy outside Israel was the command to go there.
Even today, people who live in Israel experience extraordinary Divine assistance in Torah study and spiritual growth. This is based on what our Sages said: “There’s no Torah like the Torah of the Land of Israel,” and “The air of the Land of Israel helps one become wiser.” These teachings imply that in Israel one can experience a higher level of tranquility, wisdom and growth than can be experienced elsewhere.
Some factors to consider: Will you be able to find work that provides you with the time and money to fulfill the mitzvot — for example, study Torah, give charity, and provide a Torah education for your children? Halachic authorities throughout the ages have emphasized that a person should come to Israel only if reasonably sure he can support his family and guarantee his children a Torah education.
However, one shouldn’t seek luxuries. The importance of living in Israel outweighs driving a Ferrari and eating steak every day for breakfast.
Other factors to consider: How will you deal with living far from family? How will you adapt to a new culture? What suitable marriage prospects are available? What appropriate Torah study program will you connect with? Will you be able to live in a Torah neighborhood?
God forbid anyone should say a life isn’t ‘worthwhile’ just because it’s lived outside of Israel. A life dedicated to Torah and mitzvot is certainly worthwhile, wherever it is. And aside from personal considerations, sometimes a person’s contribution to the Jewish People can be even greater outside of Israel, especially when involved in Jewish education or outreach.
Coming to Israel is sort of like getting married: Everyone should do so eventually, but not because a well-meaning friend or relative talks you into it. And if you do so when you want to, you’re more likely to fall in love.
Sources: After the Return, Rabbi Mordechai Becher and Rabbi Moshe Newman (Feldheim Publishers) Chapter 7