Rav Yisroel Reisman Explains That Settling the Land of Israel Only Comes with Yissurim


rav-yisroel-reismanBy Daniel Keren

Rav Yisroel Reisman, Rav of the Agudath Israel of Madison and world famous Maggid Shiur of the Motzei Shabbos Navi Shiur spoke this past Motzei Shabbos Noach about how the settlement by the Jews in Eretz Yisroel only comes with yissurim, difficulties. He began his lecture by quoting Rav Gedalia Schorr, zt”l, who noted that the first time something happens in Tanach, it comes as a lesson regarding how we are to understand when that same action occurs any other time.

In perek beis of Sefer Yehoshua (the Book of Joshua), we learn that as soon as the two spies (Calev and Pinchos) sent by Yehoshua arrived in Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel), they are immediately spotted and agents of the King of Yericho come and try to seize them.

400 Years after Hashem’s Promise to Avraham

This episode occurred almost 400 years after the Bris Habesorim (the Covenant of the Parts) when Hashem had promised Avraham that his descendants (the Jewish people) would inherent the Land of Israel.

And why did it happen that the two spies who were on a holy mission were spotted immediately? Forty years before, the 12 Meraglim (spies) were able to easily travel throughout the Land of Canaan for 40 days without generating any unwanted intention from the non-Jewish inhabitants of the land.

Settling Eretz Yisroel in Only Accomplished thru Yissurim

Rav Reisman found an explanation for the above unpleasant situation confronting Yidden who wanted to obey G-d’s commandment to settle in the Promised Land by recalling something from Rav Chaim Kanievski who wrote that settling in Eretz Yisroel is only accomplished through yissurim (difficulties).

That would explain why the original band of spies sent out by Moshe at the instigation of the Klal Yisroel (Jewish nation) had no problems during their sojourn in the Holy Land. That fact in and of itself was proof positive that this group was not destined to settle the Land of Israel.

The second group of meraglim [sent by Yehoshua] was indeed serious about settling in Eretz Yisroel and that is why they immediately encountered serious yissurim such as the threat to their very lives by the agents of the King of Jericho who sought to capture and kill them.

The Special Challenges of Jews Fleeing from Spain

Rabbi Reisman spoke of the special difficulties and challenges that the Jews fleeing from Spain at the time of the Spanish Expulsion had to endure. In 1492 during the reign of Queen Isabelle and King Ferdinand of Spain, the Jews were given a choice – stay and convert or be killed or go into exile. If a Jew chose to leave Spain in order to faithfully continue practicing his or her faith, he was not allowed to take much money or valuables. And when they came to existing non-Sephardic communities, they were not eagerly and easily accepted.

Rav Yosef Caro was only four-years-old when his family fled Spain to neighboring Portugal in order to escape the Catholic Inquistion. Unfortunately peace and tranquility did not last long for the Caro family as the Portuguese monarch wanted to marry his child to the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabelle and one of their conditions was that their “mechutan” establish the Inquisition in Portugal and force Jews to convert or go into exile. Once again the Caro family fled and this time arrived in Constantinople.

The Irony of Turkey Today

Rabbi Reisman spoke of the irony of Turkey as a land that following the Spanish Expulsion had for centuries offered a safe refuge for Jews and that has recently become a treacherous enemy of the Jewish people vis-à-vis those living in the State of Israel.

After maturing as a Torah scholar in Turkey, Yosef Caro again travelled to a new home in Egypt before finally immigrating to Eretz Yisroel and settling in the holy city of Safad at the age of 47, where he was to play a leading role in a major Jewish spiritual renaissance that would affect Klal Yisroel around the world. At that time, Rabbi Reisman noted Safad was the only community in Eretz Yisroel with a significant Jewish population and the majority of the Jews living in Safad were Spanish refugees.

When Large Numbers of Jews Immigrate to a Strange Community

What happens when such a large number of Jews comes to live in a strange new community where the existing community has different customs or minhagim? Such was the case when many Spanish (Sephardim) refugees came to Constantinople which at the time had a predominantly Ashkenazi population.

Normally if an individual Jew or family moves to a community whose Jewish population has different customs, the individual Jew has to conform with the norms of the existing kehillah. Howcver, when the large number of Spanish Jews, came to Constantinople, their hachamim or religious leaders ruled that they should continue to practice their unique customs even on “foreign” soil.

When the Ashkenazim Came to Eretz Yisroel a Century Ago

Interestingly in the last 100 years many Ashkenazim Jews came to Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim in particular. When they proceeded to establish kehillos according to their customs in Eastern Europe, the Sephardim complained that these newcomers should adopt the minhagim of the existing Sephardic communities.

The Ashkenazim poskim who chose to respond to these complaints argued in their teshuvas that they were justified in keeping the special minhagim of their communities or origin because of a precedent established when the Sephardim themselves upon fleeing from Spain maintained their own particular customs upon arriving in large numbers in certain European communities with existing Ashkenazi kehillos.

Dozens of Different Jewish Communities in Brooklyn Today

And here in Brooklyn, Rabbi Reisman declared we see that dozens of communities have been established over the last few generations that proudly have established synagogues based on their own unique minhagim. If you understand any community, you can see that it is a product of its history of past generations and indeed centuries.

Rav Yitzchak Hutner, zt”l, the Rosh Hayeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin writes that the yissurim that comes from settling in Eretz Yisroel is beloved by Hashem.

The Difference Among Frum Jews in Israel and America

Indeed that is responsible, Rabbi Reisman said, for the difference in the attitude between frum Jews in Eretz Yisroel and their counterparts in America today. The Yidden in the Holy Land came with a desire to establish their lives on chumros (strict customs). We all know that when visiting Eretz Yisroel that the frum Jews living there today have an incredible intensity, especially in Yerushalayim. Rabbi Reisman said that we American Jews can only stand back in admiration and try to emulate to the best of our abilities.

Where does this attitude come from? The explanation according to Rabbi Reisman is that the Jews living in Eretz Yisroel have sincerely created lives based on a drive and a standard for serving Hakodesh Baruch Hu that derives from a special mesiras nefesh to live a life of spiritual excellence without any bidi-eveds.

When you visit the Land of Israel, you have to realize that it was built on yissurim that has resulted in the drive of the frum Jews to achieve excellence in ruchnius. Most of the Jews living in Israel today are the offspring of those who came to create new lives in the aftermath of having survived the indescribable horrors of the Holocaust or the upheavels that occurred in the Arab world following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

The Growing Hostility of the World Today Against the Jews of Israel

And even today, we see a world that is becoming increasingly more hostile to the Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisroel and hypocritically blaming the efforts to build a few hundred more apartments in particular parts of the Promised Land for Yidden as the cause and justification for Arab atrocities against innocent civilian populations.

Rather than be perplexed and wonder why, we should simply understand that enduring and overcoming yissurim is the natural result of a Jew’s attempting to fulfill G-d’s commandment to settle in the Land of Israel and this goes back to the first efforts by those two spies sent by Yehoshua immediately before the conquest of Eretz Canaan by Joshua.

This article was written as a zechus for the memories of  my mother (Chana bas Meyer) and my father-in-law (Noach ben Nechemia) on the occasions of their recent yahrzeits that were marked this past week.

{Daniel Keren-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Aquiring eretz yisroel in todays days is not allowed until the coming of moshiach , what the freie isrealies and so called Zionists are trying to aquire has nothing with yididhkeit , so it does not have anything to do with the gemarah that says E”Y Nikneh Byisurin

  2. The aliyah to Eretz Yisroel from Anglo countries has increased and is continuing to increase every year. Jews are finally say goodbye to France, South Africa, Belgium, England, Canada and America. BH the population of Yidden in Israel is the largest ever..