When is it time to cut your losses and bail out? We see warning signs of social and political unrest, huge gaps between rich and poor, increased anti-semitic rhetoric and propoganda, as well as all many of the fascist tropes such as, “Stay in your homes for your own safety”. Oy, when the government starts telling that they are worried about our safety and want us to “shelter in place”, this is the time to get worried no matter what your political affiliation is. Many of us live a comfortable life in America and cannot at all imagine rebuilding our social and financial networks in Israel, even if it is our true homeland.
The Gemara on Amud Beis uses a prooftext from Bereishis 19:15
וּכְמוֹ֙ הַשַּׁ֣חַר עָלָ֔ה וַיָּאִ֥יצוּ הַמַּלְאָכִ֖ים בְּל֣וֹט לֵאמֹ֑ר קוּם֩ קַ֨ח אֶֽת־אִשְׁתְּךָ֜ וְאֶת־שְׁתֵּ֤י בְנֹתֶ֙יךָ֙ הַנִּמְצָאֹ֔ת פֶּן־תִּסָּפֶ֖ה בַּעֲוֺ֥ן הָעִֽיר׃
As dawn broke, the angels urged Lot on, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two remaining daughters, lest you be swept away because of the iniquity of the city.”
Let us meditate together on this dramatic verse. We understand, that Lot and his family must abandon their home and their possessions because of the imminent apocalypse of Sodom. The commentaries (Chizkuni, Rasham) note the angels' forbearance for Lot’s indecision and nostalgia. They consider it a credit and sign of G-d‘s love for Abraham that the angels indulged him in this procrastination. Hindsight is 2020 and we can shake our heads and wonder at Lot’s apparent disrespect and foolishness.
However, I am reflecting on what kind of effort it took for my grandfather to leave Poland in the 1920s. My Zaidy, Avraham Yitschok Twersky Z”L, out of self-protection refused to heed his father and his grandfather‘s wishes (the Trisker Magid), and even the possibility of becoming a future leader of the dynastic Chernobyl sect. Many others have heard of similar experiences by their grandparents who had to risk it all, based on a premonitory unease. This is not only true for European Jewry, but there are many Persian Jews who escaped Iran before the fall of the Shah. They too gave up fortunes and risked their lives in order to emigrate because they sensed doom. What courage! What clarity of thought!
As we are in unusual times of political and social unrest, unprecedented trampling of free speech and other constitutionally protected rights, this kind of reflection is particularly troubling. Am I just sticking my head in the sand and ignoring the warning signs like so many of my grandfather's contemporaries? Or, do we need to wait for things to get much worse before we make Aliyah?
Translations Courtesy of Sefaria