Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Iyar 5760 - May 10, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Can This Time Bomb Be Defused? Growing Concern Over The Crisis Of Jewish Identity

Yated's Yisroel Friedman and Benny Rabinowitz gather comments, impressions, ideas and information from public figures in Eretz Yisroel and abroad, concerning the search for a workable solution to a problem that is increasingly affecting the very foundations of Israeli society.

A Call to Action

Moscow, the Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel, not far from the Kremlin. Opposite the hotel is "the White House" -- as the building of the Russian Parliament is nicknamed -- where the student demonstrators who brought Boris Yeltsin to power erected their barricades.

Four months ago this past winter, an unusual group of guests was to be seen around the hotel. Fifty rabbonim, among them seven chief rabbis of Eastern European countries, with two hundred communal leaders from all over the C.I.S, as well as others, packed the hotel's main hall. The occasion was the fourth Conference of the Union of Jewish Synagogues and Communities, which meets in order to discuss pressing current issues that affect the nascent Jewish communities all over the former Soviet Union.

This time, the main issue was the shortage of rabbonim and spiritual leaders in many communities. The Conference's host was Rav Pinchos Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi of Moscow. Its central location also facilitated the participation of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Kristayenko and Moscow Mayor Lushkov.

"On the spot, we founded an umbrella organization of all the religious communities in Eastern Europe," says Rav Goldschmidt. Mr. Albert Reichmann of Toronto and Vladimir Gussinky, President of the Russian Jewish Congress, were elected as heads of the new organization.

The previous day, a dedication ceremony had been held in the yard of Moscow's Great Synagogue in Archipova Street, for a new beis haknesses for members of the Jewish community of the Caucasus Mountains. In recent years, a spiritual transformation has been underway in this community, many of whose members have become true bnei Torah, devoting themselves to full time Torah study in the yeshiva and kollel of Moscow's Yeshivas Toras Chaim.

Hundreds of guests attended the festive meal which followed the dedication ceremony. In the course of the evening, Rav Shlomo Bakst, rav of Odessa, delivered a message from two of the leading rabbonim of Eretz Yisroel, HaRav Eliashiv and HaRav Steinman, to the Jewish communities of the former Soviet Union.

"According to the instructions of the generation's leading poseik, the pillar of halocho, moron HaRav Eliashiv . . . and the great gaon HaRav A. Y. L. Steinman . . . it has recently become necessary to consider setting up genealogical records. I have been asked to explain the serious situation in Eretz Yisroel to the Conference's participants. Hundreds of thousands of gentiles have arrived in Israel, where they live among the general community. Their identity cards declare them to be Jewish and include the word "Jew" as their nationality. In a few years' time it will have become impossible to clarify whether or not they are really Jewish. The time has therefore come, in the opinions of HaRav Eliashiv and HaRav Steinman, to consider the preparation of genealogical records for the Jewish people. Since the main source of the problem is the immigration from the C.I.S, the rabbonim of these countries are in a position to give a great deal of assistance. Advance preparations should therefore be made and plans of action drawn up, so that the rabbonim can supply the necessary assistance in establishing a bank of genealogical records, which will save the Jewish Nation from intermarriage and assimilation."

Throughout the evening, informal contacts were made between the rabbonim concerning the new initiative and the measures they could already begin taking that would enable them to have information ready when the project gets underway in Eretz Yisroel. The establishment of an information bank, with details about the origins of as wide a group as possible, was mentioned as one of the preliminary steps.

The View from Russia I: The Records are Here

In an interview, Rav Goldschmidt clarified to Yisroel Friedman just how outdated current Israeli immigration laws are and the disastrous effects of their continued neglect.

"The campaign over changing the [Israel's] Law of Return is a campaign over the character of Eretz Yisroel in the coming decades," the rav of Moscow emphasized.

Q. Do gentiles attempt to use the Jewish community as a means of smuggling themselves into Israel?

A. They don't need to smuggle themselves in. The Israeli immigration laws are quite liberal enough for them to come in openly. If Jews want to emigrate from Russia to Germany, for example, they must prove that both their parents are Jewish. American immigration authorities insist upon receiving documented proof of Jewish identity from prospective immigrants. If someone's nationality is filled in on his passport as "Russian," then even if he had a Jewish grandfather, he won't be able to immigrate to America under Jewish immigration quotas. Such a weak connection to Judaism is not enough.

Q. So how does Israeli law come to be so liberal?

A. When the Law of Return was enacted, Israel belonged to the third world. It was a backward place, positioned somewhere between Uganda and Bangladesh. The law was suited to those conditions, when the only people who wanted to come were those who were drawn by the Jewish content of the state. Nobody dreamed then that the country would undergo such development, to the point where it has taken a place among the world's most developed countries and has become an attraction to people who could not care less about Judaism and the Jewish people and are simply seeking better economic conditions.

Who wanted to immigrate in those early years? Certainly not gentiles and not even that many Jews! The law is simply outdated. And not only from the Jewish aspect. It just doesn't address the current situation. The members of the Israeli legislative body defined the State of Israel as "a Jewish State." If the influx of gentiles is not halted, this definition will be dubious. At present, rather than defining who is considered a Jew, the Law of Return defines who has the right to immigrate to Israel. While it doesn't actively encourage gentile immigration, it does sanction it.

Q. If you were to be asked to assist in investigating the Jewish identity of prospective olim, could you do so?

A. We have been involved in checking questions of personal identity for the past fifteen years. One important source of information are the state archives, which contain over a hundred years' documentation. We can go back to people's great-great-grandmothers. Unless some kind of filtration is introduced into the immigration process, which will enable us to know who is Jewish according to halocho, the job will have to be done through genealogical records. We have the means to carry this out, in a perfectly reliable way. If the immigration continues the way it is at present, things will get even worse!

The View From Russia II: A Grim Prognosis

Rav Shlomo Bakst, rav of Odessa, echoed Rav Goldschmidt's concerns. The six hundred plus children who learn in the school run by the Jewish community of Odessa, serve as a good indication of the way in which the current situation is heading.

"In the past," says Rav Bakst, "there used to be pressure from the parents not to accept any non-Jewish child into the school because a clear majority of the families were unquestionably Jewish. Then, the parents' demands were firmly voiced. Many of the real Jews have since made aliya to Eretz Yisroel. Despite our painstaking research into Jewish identity, there are several families with children in the school where the father is not Jewish. Although according to halocho the children are completely Jewish, nonetheless a family of this type, where the father is a complete gentile, will not pressure us to refuse real gentiles.

When people speak about "Jews" in Russia today, they really mean almost always the children of intermarriages. As the aliya to Eretz Yisroel goes on, those remaining behind, on the whole, are less and less Jewish. Since the aliya is not stopping, this ultimately means that gentiles are arriving in Israel. I personally know many whom we would not take into the school, and who later found their way to Israel under paragraph 4.

Q. What is paragraph 4?

A. Its a subsection of the Law of Return which deals with those who are entitled to immigrate to Eretz Yisroel. Subsection 4b extends this right to "a Jew according to halocho," and subsection 4a extends it to "a non halachic Jew," meaning, a gentile.

Q. Do gentiles try to gain admission to the school as a means of eventually getting in to Israel?

A. Sure. Such attempts are made all the time, with people even resorting to forged documents. There is an entire forgery industry, one section of which is involved with immigration to Israel. There are even those who undergo a bris in a hospital to support their claims of Jewish descent.

Q. And how are such impostors discovered?

A. You should know that the investigations are much easier to make over here and the help of local rabbonim is therefore very important. It worthwhile knowing that when people lie, they try to put a distance between themselves and any possible disproof of their claim. Testimony about these olim is to be found right here. It is simpler for those over here to check things out. We are in close contact with the botei din in Eretz Yisroel concerning cases where Jewish identity has to be checked.

Q. How do you actually go about this?

A. In the course of seven years of communal work in Odessa, we have become highly suspicious. We have an entire team that works on verifying personal documents, using various methods that it is better not to discuss in public [but that achieve a high level of accuracy].

Once, we even requested a special consul from the Embassy in Kiev who brought in machines for checking documents to come to our school. He made a consular investigation into [the credentials of] the entire school. He was convinced that he would discover a certain percentage of gentiles among the pupils. "You just don't know what's going on in some of the schools," I was warned. It took the consular staff three days to run their tests and they were shocked by the results [i.e. the school's excellent pedigree]. But this doesn't reflect the situation in other Jewish schools. In some schools, you can see how serious things are with your own eyes . . . and these are the ones who will be arriving in Israel.

The Israeli Immigration Services: Just Implementing Policy, Not Making It

We spoke to an employee of the Jewish Agency, who works in Russia and who, for obvious reasons, shall remain anonymous. "We don't make the law," he asserted. "We just implement it. If you can, exert pressure to get it changed."

For part of our discussion, it was evident that my partner is genuinely pained by what is happening.

Q. Will Jews from the C.I.S, in your opinion, be among those putting themselves on the genealogical database, if and when it is opened?

A. I have no doubt that they will, just as masses of secular Jews in Israel will also come. Look, this is basically much more of a problem for the secular community than for the religious one. The observant community, and particularly the chareidi community, are closed. They are not liable to meet these gentiles socially.

It is the secular community that has to give attention to the problem. It is in their own interest. Many Ukrainian Jews are in the same position. A very mixed crowd comes to the Agency Ulpan that we run. Not only are some of them utter gentiles, without the faintest connection to Judaism whatsoever but they even arrive wearing crosses and speaking about J.

More than once, I have heard the Jews complain, "We suffered so much during the years of Communism for being Jewish and now they are coming and jumping on the bandwagon." Many Jews grumble about this. I have been hearing such complaints for ten years already.

In my opinion, many of the Jews of the C.I.S will be among the first to register. At the same time, there will be a need for a massive information campaign that will make a huge impact on the public. Many of those who do not register right away, will then do so later on.

At the heart of the matter, this is a very sensitive issue indeed for every Jew. But there must be an ongoing effort, which will ultimately bring about tremendous things . . . I have no doubt about it interesting many people, also among the olim from the C.I.S.

They Can't Keep Quiet

While this issue is unquestionably of deep concern to a majority of secular Jews there is, as usual, a small but vocal group who actually support the continuation of the current deliberate blurring of national identity among immigrants from the C.I.S.

A. C. is a journalist whose father, as a young man, left the path of his parental home in Yerushalayim's old yishuv. The father's antipathy or hatred towards chareidim has passed undiluted to his son who, in an article he wrote for the secular Ha'aretz newspaper on our topic, made the following remarks:

"If I had the power, I would amend the Law of Return so that not only quarter Jews or one eighth Jews could make aliya. I would happily bring complete gentiles to the country . . . they are the allies of the secular [Jews] in their struggle over the State's secular image. The more chareidi society tries to force its way of life onto the secular Jews, the more important become the gentiles as soldiers in the battle . . . as someone whose family ancestry stretches back to Mea Shearim, today I nonetheless have more in common with those who eat treifos, may they grow in number, than I have with my cousins with their curled sidelocks."

A.C. at least might be happy to know that even under the law in its present form, there are many gentiles of unblemished pedigree without even one-eighth Jewish blood, who are managing to arrive here. What is harder to understand is that if his reasoning is followed, the next logical step would seem to be emigration for him, to throw in his lot together with those with whom he feels he has so much in common, leaving his cousins with their curled payos to follow their ancestral way of life in the land of their ancestors. Even in an A.C., it transpires that the Jewish spark cannot be so easily suffocated.

Despite the loud decibel level of such histrionics, it seems clear that even among irreligious Jews there is a consensus regarding the urgency of taking some kind of step to address the alarming trend of current events. This is one issue that actually unites a clear majority of the country's Jewish population, religious and secular alike. Whether or not the different groups are motivated by quite the same thing can be debated, but the existence of a consensus is a fact.

In Search of a Common Interest

"I think that the Law of Return has become too liberal," says Knesset member Yuri Stern of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Russian immigrant) party. "Carefully, discretely and unobtrusively, we must begin to correct it."

Q. In your opinion, doesn't every Israeli citizen have the right to know who is and who is not a Jew? This is a matter of paramount importance to some people. Aren't they entitled to have access to such information, to save them from suddenly finding out that their spouse is not Jewish and their children are not Jews according to halocho?

A. You are obviously thinking of genealogical records. Look, while this is an accepted thing it should be done privately, not via the official agencies. There is certainly room for something like this, so that whoever wants to know will have somewhere to turn in order to ask and to clarify . . .

Q. As someone who represents Russian immigrants and who is in touch with what is happening, do you think that immigrants would also be among those who register?

A. I think so, but also think that the situation of mixed families who arrived under the provisions of the Law of Return, should be normalized.

[Note: This touches upon another, very serious aspect of the immigration problem namely, the sizable "foreign" population of open gentiles who did not have to forge any documents in order to reach Israel within the existing Law of Return (i.e. dependents and non-Jewish relatives). The State of Israel brought them here and is now trying to find a solution to the restrictions upon citizenship and marriage that result from their awkward status. A number of old "remedies" are being offered again: simply removing the "nationality" box from the identity card that every citizen carries -- there would then be total ignorance about personal identity and status; opening "conversion factories" to process these immigrants speedily and have them emerge as "Jews" -- we know that this wouldn't change a thing and would just be another way of allowing intermarriage. The Reform movement, ever watchful for a cause that could further its fight to gain recognition in Israel, would be ready to espouse the "plight" of yet further victims of the intransigence of the religious establishment.]

Knesset member Yoel (Yuli) Edelstein of Yisrael Ba'aliyah has a different outlook on the problem. He fears that the establishment of privately sponsored genealogical records would bring about a split in the Jewish nation. "I would take a very serious view of things were each community to have its own records. At the same time though, there does need to be a reliable and trustworthy information bank. It would have to be a governmental record, containing all the factual information, so that whoever wants to check can do so."

Q. What about the problem of the Reform movement, which insists on carrying out its own conversions? What if the State of Israel refused to establish such an information bank that held all the facts?

A. There can be no doubt that these factors would lead to the setting up of genealogical records [organized by private groups], because in the absence of government records that contain the facts, we will be unable to prevent it.

Q. And as for the Law of Return, hasn't the time come to change it?

A. Clearly there is a problem with the law. However, short of amending it, there are certain measures that should be adopted immediately. I'll give you an example: There are many schemes for encouraging immigration, all of which claim to operate within the framework of the Law of Return. Candidates for immigration from the C.I.S have to undergo various suitability tests, such as psychometric and psychological tests, as well as evaluation of their social suitability. These tests contravene the Law of Return. If someone is eligible under the law, what does it matter whether he is socially suitable or how high he scores on his psychometric? Everything is tested with one exception: the Jewish connection. And the result? Even if the candidate is the grandchild of a Jew who has since passed away, and even if the grandchild has no link to Judaism whatsoever and is a complete gentile, he is a suitable candidate for aliya. Moreover, the Jewish Agency runs ads that say, "If your grandfather was Jewish, come." So even before the law is changed, there are more immediate steps that can be taken."

What the Russian Olim Say

Viktor Polsky made aliya twenty five years ago from Moscow, after a four year campaign against the KGB. Although Viktor describes himself as "irreligious," he is one of the leading proponents of amending the Law of Return and putting an end to the massive influx of gentiles from the C.I.S.

Several years ago, Polsky served as first secretary in the Israeli consulate in Belorussia, and as an eyewitness to the large scale flow of gentiles to Israel he did whatever was within his power to limit it. "I have many friends who made aliya from Moscow," says Viktor Polsky, all of whom are against gentile immigration from Russia. Every Jew who came from there is bothered by the fact that he ran away from the gentiles and dreamt of putting an end to being in their company. Such Jews aren't interested in gentiles chasing after us. Yet here they are, and they are now doing the same things here that made us want to run away and leave Russia. I want my grandchildren to marry Jews, not gentiles. It's a different tradition, a different culture. It's all foreign to us."

Polsky emphasized that there is a very simple reason for the opposition of the Knesset parties which represent Russian olim to any amendment in the Law of Return: "The gentile immigrants are a reservoir of potential voters. Gentile immigrants are obviously going to -- and do -- vote for a Russian party. They are a reservoir of ethnic votes. The [Jewish] leftists are also opposed to altering the law, because they see the non-Jews as a political counterbalance to the religious."

According to Polsky, a certain shift in opinion is currently underway in immigrants' parties, though the only signs of it hitherto are words.

Viktor Polsky notes further that the Law of Return has fulfilled its purpose. "After fifty years, it should be clear that every Jew who wanted to come here has had the chance to do so and is already here. Those who remain are the ones who don't want to come. Now we need clear and rigorous immigration laws which will enable us to stand up to the tremendous pressure that we are facing from the hordes of people who want to escape from the C.I.S and the famine that prevails there."

Polsky is fully in favor of the establishment of genealogical records. "I am all for investigating who is Jewish and who is not, in order to protect ourselves from tricksters and liars. I think it should be done and in my opinion, a majority of the Jewish population will support the idea."

The First Lonely Voice

"The pillar which supports Klal Yisroel is the preservation of our ancestry, which is pure like refined silver -- `He made its pillars from silver' (Shir Hashirim 3:10)" -- stresses HaRav Yitzchok Peretz, today rav of Ra'anana and formerly Minister of the Interior. "The secret of our survival is the presence of the Shechina. Without this, we cannot survive. This is why the purity of our genealogy is of such importance."

When the lone voice of HaRav Peretz, then serving as Minister of the Interior, rang out in protest against the open immigration of large numbers of gentiles to Israel, a furious public storm arose that rocked the entire country and ultimately forced him to resign from his position. Sitting in his home in Ra'anana, HaRav Peretz relives the pain of those days, which has not subsided with the passage of time. "When I raised the alarm," he says, "I knew that I would pay for it with my position.

"I received information from my office employees that the situation was very grave. I decided to go [to Russia] and see for myself. My remarks reached Israel via the general media. In their wake, a dreadful controversy erupted. They called me from my office to say that because of the commotion, I had to retract. Knesset members, public figures and media people called me up to make verbal attacks. The Prime Minister called me up in Russia. He spoke respectfully but forcefully. `Your comments are harming the aliya and you have to take them back,' he said. He proposed an honorable withdrawal whereby I would clarify that `things had been taken out of context.'

"I made it very clear to the Prime Minister that nothing had been taken out of context and that the influx of gentiles was endangering the future of the Jewish people. I explained to him that there were entire family clans that were immigrating, that didn't have a single Jewish member. A grandfather had been Jewish and he had married a gentile woman. All their children, as well as daughters-in-law and grandchildren, were complete gentiles and in some cases even practicing Christians.

"When I was at the immigration stations over there, I questioned the Agency workers and I surveyed the registration. My findings were of the utmost gravity. Thirty to forty percent of the immigrants in those days were gentiles.

"On my return, I was met by a dreadful media onslaught. The country was gripped with euphoria just then over the crumbling of the Iron Curtain. I tried to make clear what the great danger was: that Eretz Yisroel would become a morass of intermarriage. Here it is far worse than abroad. In chutz la'aretz, intermarriage involves crossing the lines. Here, if masses of gentiles mingle with us, no lines have to be crossed, because no demarcation exists. Their children learn with ours, they live among us -- they are quite simply mixed up with us. The danger is compounded several fold.

Q. Did you try to explain this to the government?

A. Of course. I'll never forget the terrible disappointment I had. I felt as though I was speaking to the walls. What I said simply passed them by, without leaving the slightest impression or shock. Despite the frightening scenario that I depicted, I received a note from one of the ministers that I still have: "Rabbi Peretz, what are you getting so excited about? During the thirties, thirty thousand Subbotniks made aliya and became mingled with us -- and what happened?" [The Subbotniks were a gentile sect, the Russian version of Seventh Day Adventists.]

Q. Were you shocked?

A. Until that moment, it had been obvious to me that the gentile immigration to this country was an unavoidable fact of life, something we were forced to accept. From that moment on however, I understood that for them [the secular leadership], it was actually desirable. I saw that rather than viewing it as the lesser of two evils [as it at least enabled Jews to leave Russia], they considered it a positive thing, for their own reasons -- reasons which are being stated openly today.

Q. Did you have any support?

A. No. To my chagrin, I had no support at all -- not even from the Knesset's religious representatives. Some time later, one of the religious Knesset members came to my defense. The only one who backed me and gave me great encouragement was the rosh yeshiva HaRav Shach, may Hakodosh Boruch Hu lengthen his days and years.

And last but not least, chairman of the Jewish Agency's Aliya Department, Uri Gordon, who was one of those who fought against me at the time, said to me when we met a year after the storm: "Rabbi Peretz, you were right! You spoke about thirty percent [of the immigrants being gentiles]; today the situation is worse."

Q. HaRav Peretz what, in your opinion, is the solution?

A. With the backing of a number of political parties, the Reform movement is also growing stronger. At present, they are holding a massive fundraising drive in order to bolster their position and to wage war against Orthodoxy. A stronger Reform movement means greater intermarriage. There is a possibility that Israel will recognize Reform conversions; even today, such conversions are recognized so long as they are carried out outside the State's boundaries. Add to this the problem of the adopted [gentile] children, besides the main problem of the Russian aliya. The result is that Am Yisroel is in danger of the most widespread bout of intermarriage in Jewish history -- an unparalleled danger. This situation demands the only possible solution -- genealogical records.

Trying to Understand the Times

Q. HaRav Peretz, what is Hashem doing to us? Is it at all possible to try and understand, to whatever extent we can grasp, the significance of the process that we see unfolding here?

A. The answer is contained in an explicit comment of Rashi on the posuk (Bereishis 37:1), "And Yaakov dwelt . . . "

"After writing briefly how Eisov settled and who his offspring were, the Torah explains at length how Yaakov settled and who his offspring were . . . because they are important to Hashem, to deal with them at length . . . like a pearl that fell into the sand. A person will sift through the sand and sieve it in a sieve until he finds the pearl and when he does so, he throws all the pebbles away and takes the pearl."

Until three or four generations ago, a majority of Klal Yisroel's geonim, gedolim and kedoshim were in Russia. Their offspring -- and really, every single Jew is a descendant of gedolei Yisroel -- were trapped beneath the Communist boot. They lost their Judaism. Every such Jew is like a pearl that fell into the sand. Since we have a promise that no member of Klal Yisroel is ever irrevocably lost, [what we see is that] Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants to gather these pearls, that are mixed up with the sand.

The Jewish nation has been promised that Eretz Yisroel does not suffer those who do aveiros. Eretz Yisroel is a strainer, a sieve; "And the land will vomit you out . . . as it vomited out the nation that was before you" (Vayikro 18:28). The gentiles will certainly be spewed out; they have no permanent place here. The land will sift them out. Right now, the sand is arriving along with the pearls that are mixed up in it. Sooner or later, the land will sift them out; it will do its job.

There is a posuk in Vayikro (26:32): "And I will lay the land waste and your enemies dwelling in it will be desolate." The Ramban comments, "Similarly, that which is written here is a good tiding for all the exiles, namely, that our land will not accept our enemies. This is also a great proof and a promise, for you will not find anywhere a land that is good and spacious, that was always inhabited and that has become as wasted as it [Eretz Yisroel] has. For, ever since we left it, it has not accepted any other nation whatsoever; and they have all tried to inhabit it but are powerless to do so." Throughout history, many nations have tried to settle here and the land does not accept them. Eretz Yisroel does not accept gentiles. It filters them out.

When the first crisis comes along -- and there will be crises -- the gentiles will simply get up and leave. Some of them [already] view the country [simply] as a temporary stop. They came here because they were hungry. When I was Minister of Absorption there were many who came, enjoyed all the immigration benefits that the government gave them and then ran away. There is no doubt that the land will sieve out this sand. This is how I see the process when I try to look at it from a Torah point of view.

It should be stressed that this does not exempt us from fighting gentile infiltration. From our point of view, we have to make every effort to sieve the sand and stop intermarriage.

HaRav Peretz's tone now grows softer and warmer. It is time to speak about the Jews who are among the olim. The gemora in Makkos (24) says, "Rabbi Yosi bar Chanina said, `Moshe Rabbenu decreed four things on Yisroel and the prophets came and annulled them . . . Moshe Rabbenu said, `And you will be lost among the nations' (Vayikro 26:38). Yeshaya came and said, `And it will be on that day, a great shofar will be sounded and the lost ones from the land of Assyria . . . will come . . . ' (Yeshaya 27:13). Rav said, `I am afraid of that posuk [`And you will be lost . . . '] Rav Poppa asked him, `Maybe it means like a lost article that is sought out, `I wandered like a lost sheep' (Tehillim 119:176)."

The rosh yeshiva of Chevron, HaRav Moshe Mordechai Epstein zt'l, explains the exchange between Rav and Rav Poppa.

There are two types of lost articles. If a person loses something while he's walking in the street, he will check his pockets and if he doesn't find it, he'll give up on it. However, a shepherd who loses one of his lambs will not give up the search for it because he knows that the lamb is also looking for him. In Rav Poppa's posuk, Dovid Hamelech says, "Ribono Shel Olom, when a Jew strays from the rest of the flock, don't give up on him. Every Jew is a sheep. Whether he realizes it or not, he is looking for You and for the rest of the flock. Continue looking for him, because he is looking for You . . . "

This is the situation with the Russian aliya. A very high percentage of the masses arriving are gentiles. Many others are estranged Jews. We, like Rav in the gemora, are gripped by fear at the prospect of becoming lost among the nations, right here in Eretz Yisroel. However, Rav Poppa asks, perhaps we should view these lost souls as something that should be looked for, as lambs. Sooner or later, the Jews among the olim will find their way to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, because inside them, they have a Jewish soul, which is like a sheep that looks for its shepherd and its flock.

Knowingly or not, the neshomo seeks its source. These Jews are not just merely pearls, they are lambs. We need to extend a hand and they will come. We must draw them closer, at the same time as we stand determined against gentiles infiltrating the ranks of Klal Yisroel as part of the massive wave of aliya.

There was a lot of warmth in HaRav Peretz's voice that night as we parted. Warmth . . . and hope, great hope for the future.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.