Saturday, November 8, 2008

Native Sons of Israel

During World War I, Palestine was under Turkish jurisdiction and the Ottomans made life very difficult for the citizens. Press gangs would roam the streets arbitrarily drafting anyone in their wake. The conditions of these forcibly drafted soldiers were exceedingly difficult. They were subjected to hard labor, and since food was exceedingly scarce they were severely underfed.
These circumstances could all be circumvented by paying bribes to officials. However, there was one decree that was exceedingly difficult to avert. The Turks declared that anyone not born in Palestine would be deported. This was more difficult to deal with than forcible conscription, since the only way someone born out of the country could get around this was to lie on the government forms.
Since everyone knew that Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, was very careful to avoid falsehood in any form no matter what it might cost, people were afraid that he would forbid people to lie on the forms. During those difficult times, simple honesty would result in the sundering of many homes. When someone ventured to ask the Rav’s opinion about this issue, he surprised everyone in the Old Yishuv. “It is certainly permitted!”
“But why is this different from any other falsehood which the Rav prohibits?” the questioner asked.
Rav Sonnenfeld explained, “This is explicit in Kesuvos 75 on the verse, ‘U’l’Tzion ye’amer ish v’ish yulad vah’—‘And of Tzion it shall be said, each and every man is born therein.’ The Gemara learns from the redundancy of word Ish, each and every man, that one who yearns for Tzion is as one who was born there. We see clearly that any Jew who yearns for Tzion is actually considered as one who was born in Tsion! So to write of those who came up to Tzion out of longing for her holiness that they were native citizens in no lie at all: it is a declaration of the absolute truth!”

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