Three American men: a Baptist Pastor, a Seventh Day Adventist Minister and an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi – what do they have in common?
No, this is not a riddle or joke, there’s story.
During my quest for truth and purpose in life, I ventured through a few of America’s religions (actually the truth is that there were many if you consider the various forms of idol worship that the average American participates in – materialism, musical artists, actors, “must watch” TV shows, etc.) and this is my account of conversations I had with these three particular religious men.
The Baptist Pastor
Pastor America was the youth leader of a large congregation. Everyone adored the young, selfless, compassionate man. One Sunday morning I was in a discussion with him about the Sabbath being on Saturday, not Sunday. He agreed as he had also studied this topic in-depth and understood that the “old testament” did in fact refer to sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday as the Sabbath. So the logical question then was, “why do you hold worship services on Sunday?” To which he responded, “if I held them on Saturday, then I’d be working on the Sabbath and that would be a sin”. But what about all the fund-raising youth activities he ran on Saturday, like car washes and flea market type sales? He explained that this was his job and he had to do what the old congregation pastor instructed if he wanted to continue to receive a pay check.
Note: Non-Jews are not required to keep the Jewish Sabbath, but at that time neither of us understood that.
The Seventh Day Adventist Minister
Minister America led an SDA congregation of more than 1,000 people in a city with a population exceeding 600,000 that had 5 competing SDA churches. In the midst of a fund raising campaign to expand the building, I sat in his office discussing the foundations of his chosen religion. As I questioned the concept of the trinity, he uncomfortably shifted in his over-sized leather swivel chair. Rather than go on the defensive, as I had anticipated, Minister America leaned forward and confessed that he did not believe the words he preached every Saturday morning for many years, he was well aware that there is only One God and that nowhere in the “old testament” can one find a reference to a “son of God” being half human/half god born of a virgin human! Then why not tell the congregation the truth?
Settling back into the plush upholstery, he blissfully smiled and described his luxurious home overlooking the golf course where he planned to spend his retirement that was coming up in just a few years. He explained that he was not about to throw away his SDA pension in exchange for sharing a truth with his congregation – a truth that they wouldn’t want to hear anyway. His financial security was dependent upon the SDA World Church’s perception of his performance.
The Orthodox Jewish Rabbi
Rabbi America seems to never sleep as he coordinates the various daily minyamim, shiurim and classes (several of which he teaches) in his 300+ family-strong modern Orthodox congregation (1 of 19 Orthodox synagogues in his city). He selflessly assists congregants with their personal crises and simchas, collects and distributes tzedakah, heads the community’s vaad kasruth, sits on the eruv committee and chevra kadisha society, and somehow finds time to write inspiring Shabbat drashot in addition to being a husband and fathering his many children and grandchildren.
I sit with him discussing my distress over the cold shoulder I’ve received from the majority of the community now that they know I’m making Aliyah, and ask why more people aren’t doing it. He kindly admits that he can’t explain the behavior of others or their passionate attachment to life in exile, but he assures me that I’m doing the right thing. If so, then why doesn’t he set the example and make Aliyah like the Rabbi he recently invited to speak to our congregation? His response, “In Israel, rabbis are a dime a dozen. What would I do for parnassah (to earn a living)?”
I found myself at a loss to respond at that moment because I had spent a sum total of 2 weeks in Israel out of my 50 years of life and didn’t know the job market or the details of his many qualifications.
After three years of LIFE (and I emphasize that because I was never truly alive until I came here) in Israel, I can unequivocally answer his question (which may be the same question running through the minds of many people afraid to make Aliyah): YOUR PARNASSAH WILL COME FROM THE SAME SOURCE IT HAS ALWAYS COME – HASHEM. I’m not suggesting it will be easy, but from what I hear there is no financial security in exile anymore either.
For the Rabbi, I would also add that others have come before him and paved the way. A sterling example is Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, who inspired a large number of congregants from his NYC shul to make Aliyah with him – thus creating not only a source of parnassah for himself, but also the merit of leading those people home. Another great example is Rabbi Stewart Weiss, Director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana. There are many, many more.
Another important point for those Rabbis who remain in exile for the purpose of kiruv (Jewish outreach) is that there are millions of unaffiliated Jews in Israel equally deserving of your time and energy. And for those Rabbis living in exile who think there are already too many Rabbis in Israel, did you know that there are Christian organizations like the Baptists, Catholics, Jews for Jesus, Messianic, Seventh Day Adventist and more, planted here ready and willing to evangelize and draw in Jews seeking to fill the spiritual void in their lives? These Christians are too often successful (e.g., Adventist Church Ordains First Jewish Pastors in Israel) just because they were in the right place at the right time. Shouldn’t you be here for your Jewish brothers and sisters?
Answer to the Original Question
What they all had in common was lack of sufficient faith in the One Who provides all financial security, good health, and the myriad of blessings in this world.
Begin your Aliyah application now.