Article 10 in Arutz Sheva's aliya series.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner heads the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva, located in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem. I asked him if Diaspora Rabbis should encourage their congregations to make Aliyah.
He replied, “People don’t make Aliyah because they are still in love with the Exile and don’t want to give it up. Therefore, it isn’t enough that Rabbis merely call upon people to make Aliyah. The Rabbis must make the mitzvah of Aliyah a constant and central part of Jewish education. And, it goes without saying that they should make Aliyah themselves.:
"Concurrently, Israel must find practical solutions to the difficulties which new olim encounter, such as finding a livelihood, the education of children, and arranging for klita in communities where the language of the oleh is spoken.”
“A Rabbi who comes on Aliyah can’t always find work as a Rabbi in Eretz Yisrael, where Torah scholars abound,” I responded.
“That is true, but it is preferable to be a simple Jew in Eretz Yisrael than to be a Rabbi in the Diaspora, as is stated in the Yerushalmi, Tractate Nedarim, 6:3, ‘The Holy One Blessed Be He says: A small group in Eretz Yisrael is more beloved to me than the Sanhedrin outside of Israel.’ There is no obligation to be a Rabbi, but there is an obligation for a Jew to dwell in the Land of Israel."
HaRav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld, co-founder of the Edah HaChareidis in Jerusalem, and Maran HaRav Kook, Israel's first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi and the iconic sage who was the undisputed leader of Religious Zionism, both believed that a working person in Eretz Yisrael is preferable to a Torah scholar outside of Israel.
(The rabbis had a close relationship, but were vigorous opponents in many areas In 1913, the two traveled together to the Galilee to visit secular Jewish pioneers..
In the book, ‘Ha-Ish Al Ha-Chomah’ (pp. 157-158), it is related that Rav Zonnenfeld's grandson, like many yeshiva students, was in a difficult financial state but had a great desire to continue learning Torah. He received an offer from one of the famous cities in Czechoslovakia to become its Rabbi, which would solve both of his problems.
He went to discuss the matter with his grandfather. HaRav Zonenfeld lovingly looked at his grandson and said to him: ‘According to my opinion, it is preferable to be a working man in Eretz Yisrael than a Rabbi outside of Eretz Yisrael.’
Similarly, it is told that a student of HaRav Kook asked him about traveling to America to become a Rabbi. HaRav Kook discouraged him, saying, ‘It is better to start some business here in Yerushalayim than to embark on a Rabbinical career in America," (‘Le- Shelosha B’Elul,’ Vol. 2 #32.) The student followed Rabbi Kook’s advice and succeeded, while continuing to learn Torah on a regular basis.
Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984, he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbis A. Y. Kook and T. Y. Kook. His other books include: "The Kuzari For Young Readers" and "Tuvia in the Promised Land". His books are available on Amazon. Recently, he directed the movie, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman."