Eim HaBanim Semeichah – Only in Jerusalem

Last week I saw a posting on the Nefesh B’Nefesh e-mail listserv that someone was giving away free copies of Eim HaBanim Semeichah (אם הבנים שמחה) by Rabbi Shlomo Teichtal.  The book makes the case for aliyah to Israel, from a Torah perspective.

The author, a Torah scholar who came from a line of great rabbis and Jewish leaders, shared the popular view among observant Jews in Hungary at the time that a return to Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, would come at the time of the Messiah.  But the horrors of the Holocaust, in which he ultimately perished, caused him and an entire establishment to reckon with the implications of a shattered world.

While hiding from the Nazis in Budapest, he penned this work in just over a year.  He explains its purpose in page 36 of the translated English edition:

“…if Mashiach still tarries even after the persecutions have ceased and HaShem has enhanced our status, then I accept upon myself a vow, like that of Ya’akov Avinu, to write a book dealing with the honor of Eretz Yisrael.  Its aim will be to seek out the virtues of Eretz Yisrael, to raise its pride and honor, they demonstrate to everyone our great obligation to build it, perfect it, establish it on high, and raise it out of the dust.  Through this work I will try to impress upon every Jew the importance of taking part in the rebuilding of our Holy land, for our entire redemption depends on this.  I intend to demonstrate that Eretz Yisrael, the “mother” of the Jewish nation,” longs and awaits expectantly for all of us, young and old alike, to turn our attention towards her, to establish her, and to raise her walls in glory.”

He goes on to explain that ever since the time of Ezra, when the ability to return to Israel has returned, Jews who lived comfortably in exile made all sorts of reasons not to hurry back, and they ultimately suffered for it.

Although I turn down few free books, I was particularly excited to see this title being given away for “free” because my friend cites it as the final push that made her move to Israel.  A Torah scholar herself, her eyes light up whenever the book is mentioned.   I received a phone call in response to my e-mail, and I was offered delivery right to my door.

I answered the doorbell in my bare feet, and standing just outside were two men with black hats, long beards, and suit jackets down to their knees.  The fellow who came up to the door and handed me the book asked a bit about my background, trying to be polite, but clearly assessing whether I had money, and clearly being careful not to look directly at me (while I was modestly dressed in a crew neck shirt with sleeves past my elbows, it had sequins and pinks and purples that would probably be considered scandalous in his community).

I was not prepared to meet a chasid at the door, but I expected to be asked for money.  There’s no free lunch (er, book) — not in any country.

I asked why he was giving away these books.  Was he part of an organization?  His grandmother was part of the Teichtel family, he explained.

But, “unrelated to the book” (of course) would I be willing to support a yeshiva student?

He seemed confused by the fact that I lived with a roommate and not with a family.  When I mentioned that I was getting married next month he had a perfect segue.  “You know, it’s an auspicious time to be making a donation.  You can sponsor a student learning Torah for a year.”

Just earlier this evening my fiancé and I were looking at appliances we will need for our new apartment.  It ain’t cheap.  And no, I don’t want to sponsor someone who chooses to study Torah instead of work for the year on top of all of my expenses as a newlywed.  The whole choosing to study rather than work thing is a whole other issue, so I tried to diplomatically dodge it all and asked him to please send me the information so that I could review it at my leisure, and not while he was waiting in my doorway as all the cold air blew in.

He agreed and also left me a form for Hora’at Kevah so that I can have a donation oh-so-conveniently withdrawn from my bank account on a monthly basis.  It can be a small amount, he says, like $50.  I wanted to point out that making aliyah means I get paid in shekels and that most Israeli salaries aren’t as large as those who don’t make them might think, but I just kept smiling.

The book, he explained, says that those who choose to work (I liked the word “choose”) should support those who study Torah in Israel.

I’m certainly not going to read all 525 pages tonight, but already in the introduction, Rabbi Teichtel brings strong textual proofs for moving to Israel, such as:

It is preferable to dwell in the deserts of Eretz Yisrael than the palaces of Chutz LaAretz (outside Israel)  (BeReishit Rabbah 39:8)

He who dwells in Eretz Yisrael is like one who has a God, and he who dwells outside of the Land is like one who does not have a God. (Ketuvot 110b)


A Jaffa grapefruit - the largest ruby red grapefruit I have ever seen.

If that wasn’t enough, one of the most important signs indicating the Messianic age is the ingathering of the Jews in exile. With the resettlement of Israel, there is also a tradition that the land will be cultivated at that time, based on Ezekiel’s prophecy (36:8): “But you mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people of Israel for they are at hand to come.” The Talmud teaches that there is no better sign of the coming of the Messiah than when the Land of Israel will once again give its fruit (Sanhedrin 93a).

“May we see the fulfillment of a joyous mother of children [אם הבנים שמחה] (Psalms, Tehilim, 113:9) speedily in our days.  Amen.” (pg. 56)


1 Response to “Eim HaBanim Semeichah – Only in Jerusalem”

  1. 1 Al T. Alana March 19, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    “The book, he explained, says that those who choose to work (I liked the word “choose”) should support those who study Torah in Israel.”

    IF someone who studies Torah full time does not have to work because I am working for him,
    then if I work full time and support the learner, I don’t have to study Torah because he is learning for me!!

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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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