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Why The Recent Surge in American Aliyah? 

01/22/2021 09:03:56 AM

Jan22

Trying to calm down a impatient and exasperated Moshe, Hashem promises again to uphold His end of the deal: 

וְהֵבֵאתִ֤י אֶתְכֶם֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נָשָׂ֙אתִי֙ אֶת־יָדִ֔י לָתֵ֣ת אֹתָ֔הּ לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְיִצְחָ֖ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹ֑ב וְנָתַתִּ֨י אֹתָ֥הּ לָכֶ֛ם מוֹרָשָׁ֖ה אֲנִ֥י ה׃

I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession, I am G-d” (6:8).

What does the term מוֹרָשָׁ֖ה mean and why is it used here? 

Rabbenu Bechaya suggests that the terms comes from the hebrew word morasha, to inherit, which already foreshadows to Moshe that neither he nor his generation will merit to enter the land themselves but they will be able to count it as something that they bequeath to their children as a direct inheritance. 

The 12th century Tosafist (known as the Bchor Shor) posits that this special term reveals something about the nature of the land of Israel--that it is never owned by individuals but it is always in the process of being passed between generations.  

My favored approach is that of the Netziv who suggest that this term is intended for an audience, like the slaves in Egypt, who were not yet living in Egypt but were planning to be soon. An inheritance is something that is not yet here but is coming imminently. It is almost tangible, even if it is not in our possession just yet. This is the proper attitude for people living in galut to adopt: we are on our way towards the land, getting closer and closer with time. 

Many more American Jews are acting on this feeling now. Nefesh B’Nefesh has reported a significant uptick in aliyah applications from North America over the last nine months. In a typical year, they process on average between 3,200-3,500 applications; that number has increased by %136 since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The VP of NBN, Marc Rosenberg, in a recent presentation to the Rabbinical Council of America informally reflected on a few of the new motivations for making aliyah, beginning with the proliferation of remote work options. More Americans are now able to keep their American jobs while working from Israel. Another factor is that for various stretches of time, Israel shut their borders to all non-citizens, preventing many Americans from visiting their families in Israel. Some younger American jews were impressed by the resilience of the Israeli economy and found it easier in certain sectors to find employment in Israel than in America. 

Anecdotally, I will add two more motives that I have heard from a few people in my immediate community and beyond. Already before the virus hit, many American Jews were concerned with the rise in anti-Jewish violence in America and wanted to ensure that they always had a safe haven should they need it. This worry has only grown, with the awareness that Jews are a soft target for redirecting anger and blame, which has often been the case for many Jewish communities in medieval and early modern periods of Western Europe following plagues. 

Furthermore, this pandemic has been a crucible for many people with regard to their values and the things that are most important in life. Several people I know have changed careers because they felt that their professions were not meaningful or useful enough. Others have made lifestyle changes that reflect their true passions and talents, like honing certain hobbies that provide joy and purpose. More people are being more true to themselves and to the ideals that they aspire towards, which has inspired more Jews, both observant and non-observant, to take the plunge and move to Holy Land.   

As a side note, I learned that the bottleneck in the Aliyah process that many people have experienced, is due to the unfortunate reality of many non-essential governmental agencies, especially those that process some of the physical documentation needed for an Aliyah application,  being hit by the pandemic shutdown and being forced to adopt  a remote setup, which has slowed down the processing speed. With greater interest from many Americans, not just Jews making Aliyah, to get their documentation together in order to be more easily mobile, there is a significant backlog in several agencies. 

May we merit to make the Holy Land a מוֹרָשָׁ֖ה in our lifetime, not just by growing ever closer to the land but by claiming our portion and passing it directly to our children. 

 

Wed, October 20 2021 14 Cheshvan 5782