By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

Aliyah" means "going up." In the Torah we receive the mitzvah to go to Jerusalem for the three festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Succot (Deuteronomy 16:16). The Mishnah in Hagigah 1:1 calls this "aliyah l'regel," which means "going up by foot." (For most of us now, it is by plane.)

Aliyah l'regel was a literal ascent, to one of the highest places in Israel, and a spiritual ascent - to the holiest place in the world.

Being called to read from the Torah is called getting an "aliyah" (Talmud, Megillah 23a.) Whatever the topography of the synagogue, making the blessings over the Torah and reading from it, or following while someone else reads, represent a spiritual ascent.

Immigrating to Israel is called "making aliyah." This is not just a smart marketing ploy of the Jewish Agency. For many halachic authorities, it is a positive mitzvah to live in Israel (unless there are overwhelming reasons not to. The relative scarcity of Cadbury's chocolate in Israel does not count.)

Moving to Israel enables one to live a more whole and fulfilled Jewish life, without the anxieties of perpetually feeling like an outsider which are characteristic of diaspora life.

Whatever the undoubted difficulties of living in Israel now, it's an opportunity to participate in the historic unfolding of the Jewish people's renewal in its land and the building of a Jewish country of which we can all be proud.

Last updated: 10:20am, October 28 2008