Migration has two aspects – movement from, and movement to. We find this in Lech L’cha. God says to Abram, “Leave your land”. He also says, “Go to the land I shall show you” (Gen. 12:1 etc.). He adds, “To your descendants will I give the land” (Gen. 12:7).
The rabbis, utilising a verse in Vayikra (“To give you the land of Canaan, to be your God”: Lev. 25:38), explain (Ket. 110b), that this means, “There alone will I be your God”, with the deduction that one who lives in Israel has a God, and one who lives outside Israel has no God. The Talmud immediately protests, “Has a person, then, who does not live in the Land no God?”
We echo the protest and make two questions out of it. Not only, “Is it really true that anyone who lives outside Israel has no God?” But, “Is it true that everyone who lives in Israel is a believer?”
The sociological facts of our generation surely recognise that some, however few or many, Israelis are secular and atheistic, and many, whatever the full figures, of the Jewish people in the Diaspora are committed religious believers who lead a life of observance of the commandments.
We have to find a solution to the conundrum or else we will constantly wonder what motivated the sages to make an apparently preposterous assertion. Can it be that what we are being told is that life in Israel has a flavour that at least sporadically turns every Israeli into a believer, and that there is always going to be a missing dimension in the spirituality of the Diaspora?