Wednesday, December 17, 2008


If you read Jewish blogs, you've heard, I'm sure of Nefesh B'Nefesh, and their conference in Jerusalem, to which I was invited. Along with hosting conferences (to which I was invited) NBN helps Jews from North America move to Israel by providing them with help navigating Israel's fun-filled bureaucracy, and with finding a job, meeting friends and learning Hebrew. They're basically a nanny service for new olim. Oh, and they also provide immigrants with cash grants, too (which I suppose makes them more like a grandmother, than a babysitter.)

Anyway, I see from the hyperactive, seizure-inducing, ad by WebAds at the top of my blog, that NBN is now offering a little something extra for those who agree to settle in Northern Israel.

It is called Go North.

Those who qualify will receive an additional grant of $25,000 (NIS 100,000) and use of a jeep or SUV for 2 years.

Not a bad deal, but it brings to mind a midrash.

Prior to the magic moment at Sinai (the midrash says) God consulted with the nations of the world and asked, "Would you like the Torah?" Each responded (something along the lines of) "What's in it for me?" When our turn came, Israel didn't ask for a jeep or a cash incentive. They accepted the commandments straight up, and to this day (the teachings continue) this leap of faith, this willingness to do the Lord’s bidding for its own sake, remains our praise.

Now here comes NBN offering cash and prizes. Does this cheapen the mitzvah of yishuv eretz yisroel/settling the land of Israel? I'm not sure. After all, Chabad often purchases new dishes and appliances for people who've decided to keep kosher. That's not a bribe. It’s a pragmatic solution: people want to keep kosher, but can't because it costs too much. In the same way, some want to send their kids to yeshiva, but if robber-baron tuition proves to be an insurmountable obstacle, NCSY or some other organization will often provide relief. All that is excellent, pragmatically speaking, but does it detract from the value of the mitzvah itself? Does someone who makes aliya without NBN smoothing the way accumulate more schar[1] than those who accept NBN’s help. And does that matter?

And so long as I’m spitballing the subject, let me ask why there isn’t an NBN for every mitzvah: Want a super-excellent Ushpizin level esrog? Desire shumra matzah on all eight days? Wish to welcome guests into your home on a daily basis? Couldn’t there be an NBN for all of it?

Well, why isn't there? [2]

1 - Whatever that means.
2 - Ok, I know the obvious answer, ie, Christian crazies aren't willing to bankroll any mitzvah besides the one that (a) gets us out of America and (b) hastens the arrival of Jesus/rapture and our soon-after expected deaths, but I mean why don't Jews fund NPOs to aid with the perfomance of mitzvot in the way that NBN helps with Yishuv EI?
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