The Gemara in many places is clear that there is some level of mitzvah to live in Israel. This is also the accepted consensus among the rishonim. In the past, it was very difficult to move to Israel, as the journey alone had many dangers, and no one knew what would await them when they arrived in the desolate land. However, nowadays it is very simple to move to Israel, and one doesn't even need to pay for the 12-hour flight there. It's not even difficult financially as Israel has a growing economy, and parents do not need to pay for their children's tuition.

So what justifications are there for not moving to Eretz Yisrael?

Some say that the Mitzvah to live in Israel is only a Mitzvah Kiyumis, so one is not obligated to fulfill it, but what evidence is there for that position? How do we even know such a concept exists? Every man has to learn torah, daven, wear tefillin, eat in the sukkah, etc. so why should yishuv eretz yisrael be different?

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    We need to clear up what "some level of mitzvah" means. Also, what "accepted consensus among the rishonim" means per se, and what the implications are for us. IMO a broad decision like moving to EY goes beyond mechanical halachah, i.e. involves a holistic look at the person and his/her life. – yitznewton Nov 3 '11 at 13:46
  • "some level of Mitzvah" means that there is a direct commandment :) and "accepted consensus among the rishonim" means that they agreed that it was a mitzvah to move to Israel, but also had reasons why it was not possible. (for example, it wasn't possible) – avi Nov 3 '11 at 13:58
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    I think it's time to fork this into a new question: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/11084/… – yitznewton Nov 3 '11 at 14:30
  • OK, but part of my question was what evidence there is that it's just a mitzvah kiyumis. – Ariel K Nov 3 '11 at 15:15
  • you might take into consideration that while it is indeed very positive to live in eretz yisrael, as there are additional mitzvas not possible elsewhere, if one moves to eretz yisrael they may not be aloud to leave. furthermore, in chootz l'aretz one should not abandon their community if by being there they are relying on you (minyan, financial support, emotional support, needed for strengthening yiddishkeit among community members) – Dude Jul 2 '14 at 16:00

One reason taught to me is that there is still work to be done in the Diaspora. You must take into account the contribution you can make and are making to the Jews in your country of origin, and what effect its loss might have on them.

I remember my Rosh Yeshivah pointing out to us that Yeshivah bochurim are special and valuable members of the community. South African Jewry is not about to make aliyah en masse and it needs learned people to teach and guide and be an example. We should add our strength to SA Jewry and not abandon them without considering the effect this would have on the community.

That said, there are plenty of Alumni of my Yeshivah who have successfully and happily made aliyah.

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    " not about to make aliyah en masse and it needs learned people to teach and guide and be an example. " Wouldn't putting money where your mouth is.. i.e. Making Alyiah be the true teaching and guiding, by being an example? – avi Nov 3 '11 at 12:35
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    @avi: not if you've concluded they're not going to follow you. – yitznewton Nov 3 '11 at 13:41
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    @avi, that's obviously not comparable. Such factors may come into play. I heard that a prominent Aemrican rabbi asked an prominent Isreali rabbi whether he should move to Israel, and was told that since no one would replace all his shiurim in America, he should stay there. – Ariel K Nov 3 '11 at 14:17
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    Being a light to the nations seems to require maintaining a presence among them, yes. – Monica Cellio Nov 3 '11 at 15:32
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    There is a similar answer of the Tzemach Tzedek who answered a Chossid "Make here Eretz Yisroel" – ertert3terte Feb 23 '12 at 5:20

The Rambam states explicitly in Hilchos Melachim 5:7 that it is permissible to live in chutz la'aretz.

  • Is there a reason why Rambam says this? – user6781 Aug 1 '14 at 2:47
  • Amazing how this can be on point and miss the mark at the same time. Given the context there of course this is irrelevant, as he's discussing the prohibition of living in Egypt, not the positive values of living in Israel. – Double AA Nov 8 '16 at 14:20

Mitzvos aseh seem to have different levels of chiyuv and 'exemptions'. In general, mitzvos aseh do not require one to spend an exorbitant amount of money to fulfill. Certain mitzvos have particular parameters for being fulfilled that can exempt a person when they are absent.

For example, there is a mitzvah to eat and sleep in the sukkah on sukkos. Yet if it is too hot or cold or its raining, one is exempt. One is also exempt if he is travelling or caring for the sick. The Gemara says a general principle of " 'teshvu'-k'ein taderu" - i.e. one must dwell in the sukkah like one lives in a house. In many cases, one wouldn't live in a house in such a case, so one need not stay in the sukkah either.

Similarly, the Gemara mentions different reasons that permit someone to leave eretz yisrael - to learn torah, for parnassah, or to find a wife. Perhaps one can also say about Yishuv eretz Yisrael " v'yashavtem -'k'ein yashuvu" that one does not need to live in Israel if one won't be able to live a normal life there (See R.H.Schachter). This may be even more broad than by Sukkos, since one will be there for more than 7 days, so other factors can come into play. For example, some people may not know anyone there, or feel that they cannot find the right community there. Some may also be worried for security reasons, even if its not actually 'pikuach nefesh' for other cases. Maybe these and other factors can also be exemptions to the mitzvah.

However, a small financial difference would not exempt someone. In addition, not finding the right community could maybe help an individual, but what about the whole community? Why don't large numbers of them move to Israel together? Also, it seems in many cases in halacha and practice that matters remain as they are even if the reasons no longer apply. People may have had legitimate reasons in previous centuries for not moving to Israel, so that became the established practice, even if it nowadays conditions are very different. It is also hard to move to a completely new place, so sometimes people fail to do it, such as the Jews in the time of Ezra. So people need to evaluate if their reasons are legitimate, or its just out of lack of initiative.

For further discussion and reasons, see R.H.S Schachter's essay and R.A.Lebowitz's outline and sources.

  • Similarly, the Gemara mentions different reasons that permit someone to leave eretz yisrael Actually, that is not particularly similar. The exemptions for Succah are very poor examples considering they are almost certainly a g'zerat hakatuv that limits the mitsvah to cases which resemble one's house. If one would stay in the Succah, one would not even be doing a mitsvah! If one holds that living in Israel in a mitsvah, then even if one has a reason to leave, staying would still be a mitsvah. – mevaqesh Nov 8 '16 at 15:41
  • Perhaps one can also say about Yishuv eretz Yisrael " v'yashavtem -'k'ein yashuvu" We do not generally make our own derashot even the Geonim felt they were unqualified for this. – mevaqesh Nov 8 '16 at 15:42

Cultural adjustment, particularly for children of school age. It's my anecdotal understanding that there is no clean equivalent of "working right-wing Modern Orthodox/'black hat'" in Israel, so unless one is internally ready to become Dati Le'umi or Haredi, moving there means putting yourself and your family in a position where they will not fit in. This is a generalization.

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    You are correct and not correct. There is no "clean equivalent" because the entire issue of Israel is gone. However if you move to Har Nof, or Ramat Beit Shemesh, they will fit in perfectly with all the other American Olim who thought they couldn't fit in because there was no "clean equivalent" It is not true that DL or Haredi are your only options. – avi Nov 3 '11 at 13:52
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    If enough people moved there, finding a community shouldn't be an issue. Though its true that the army issue (and others) makes things much more polarized than in America. – Ariel K Nov 3 '11 at 14:14

The Lubavitcher Rebbe advised many people against moving to Israel in order to benefit their present communities, see this link for a clear presentation of this topic, sources included.

The Rebbe on moving to Eretz Yisroel

  • That "many people" though is somewhat disingenuous as it is still a vast minority of Jews. – Double AA Nov 8 '13 at 20:11

I only know of two reasons why one is allowed to not make Aliyah.

  1. Fear of danger.
  2. Unable to make a living.

Each point can be argued over with the reality today. Danger is a relative term and while Israel is still fighting wars, many will argue that this is proof that Israel is Dangerous. However, if you look at the facts, you will find that this is not true.

As for being unable to make a living, again I imagine that this is a fear not based on fact. Unemployment in Israel is at 6.7% While Unemployment in the United States is at 9.6%

How one decides if danger and employment are real concerns will determine if they are able to find a heter or not for their situation.

  • with regards to unemployment rate, isn't it much higher if you look at the religious Jews alone? Which is probably the target audience for people who fell halachically obligated to make Aliyah. – Menachem Nov 3 '11 at 14:12
  • While this seems accurate overall, Israel does face graver existential threats, which perhaps may be a factor. – Ariel K Nov 3 '11 at 14:14
  • The existential threats are political not physical. @Menachem The unemployment rate is higher amongst Haredim who choose to be unemployed on purpose so that they can go to Kollel. For that target audience, 'making a living' is not even a concern because the State and Charity orgs will provide all your needs. – avi Nov 3 '11 at 14:18
  • Iran represents a physical threat to Israel, though I don't know if that could be a halachik justification, and one should have faith in the God of Israel. – Ariel K Nov 3 '11 at 15:20
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    @avi, evaluating the financial impact isn't just about comparing unemployment rates (as you point out by raising cost of living). But even if it were, an unemployment rate alone doesn't tell us whether the person employed in such-and-such job can get anything close to that or if he'll end up flipping burgers because, say, his professional credentials aren't relevant there. I'm not saying that is likely; I'm saying I don't know and summary unemployment figures don't tell us. Someone considering aliya would need to look at employment data for his field, which might be better or worse there. – Monica Cellio Nov 3 '11 at 22:02

There is a broad range of "personal considerations" -- the cultural-adjustment issues for kids raised by @yitznewton, but also:

  • caring for elderly parents who will not go with you
  • custody factors if you are divorced
  • change in quality of life due to employment changes (you can't find comparable employment, only much lower positions)
  • if you are particularly anxious about giving up an established social/family support structure (e.g. always lived in one place and relies on those roots)

These are just examples, not a complete list. As with many other decisions, someone facing circumstances like these needs to discuss the pros and cons at length with his rabbi.

  • Many of those points are important halachic principles, such as Kivud Av v'am, or Taking care of your children, and general pikuach nefesh, but I'm not sure if "less money" is a valid halachic concern. Though "not enough money" definitely is. – avi Nov 3 '11 at 16:07
  • @avi, I was thinking of "can't support the family to a reasonable standard", not "have to settle for only one luxury car" et al. – Monica Cellio Nov 3 '11 at 16:16
  • do you have an actual example, one person's "reasonable standard" is another person's luxury. – avi Nov 3 '11 at 16:20
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    @avi, I don't think there's a universal standard; I think this has to be part of the conversation with one's rabbi, who can probe the "is that really a hardship?" question. I know people who took big pay cuts to make aliya and some are happy and others are resentful; I think it's about the person more than the numbers. – Monica Cellio Nov 3 '11 at 18:12
  • I'm only asking because the Rambam makes some specific statements like if 1 dinar of wheat costs 2 dinar, or it costs 1 dinar but he can not get a job to buy it. – avi Nov 3 '11 at 18:18

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