Israel and the Diaspora
by Rabbi M. Kripke
If we were to look for some historical source of information on the relations between the land of Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora, we would not generally look at the Bible. Yet there is something of primary interest in our Sidrah: it is here that Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, and it is here that Jacob comes down to Egypt.
Isaac had been commanded: “Go not down into Egypt,” even though there was famine in the land, and he might have followed Abraham, who went down to Egypt during a time of famine.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each experienced famine in Canaan. Abraham and Jacob, but not Isaac, came down to Egypt.
The people of Israel became a people in terms of multiplying in number, not in Canaan, but in Egypt. Further, they became a people spiritually with the acceptance of the Ten Commandments in the Sinai wilderness. The Bible itself makes clear that some of the books of scripture (e.g. Ezekiel) were written outside of Canaan.
The Babylonian Talmud was produced outside of Israel. The great productions of Spanish Jewry, the great medieval Bible commentaries and and the great medieval philosophical works: outside Israel. It is apparent that creativity lies in the Jewish people, and loyalty to Judaism is the soil from which it springs.
Let no one infer that this is meant in any sense to denigrate Zionism and the grand achievement of the sovereignty of Israel. I believe firmly that Judaism cannot continue without a central independent concentration of Jews. The continuously astonishing creativity of the Jews of Israel amply illustrates what Jewish minds can do in their own land. The world is richly rewarded — in science, medicine, music, literature, agriculture and a host of other fields — for the release of the Jewish spirit in the land of Israel.
But the Diaspora, despite the staggering problems of survival which we face, can still be spiritually creative. And part of the paradox of life in the Diaspora is this: that if indeed we are spiritually creative, a substantial part of our best young people will regularly opt to live in Israel. And we congratulate ouselves when it happens.