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Next Year in Jerusalem - לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלָיִם

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

Every year at the Seder table we sing “Next Year in Jerusalem” with great fervor, but how many of us turn that enthusiasm into action? Here are just a few of the many great rabbis and community leaders who have come to Israel over the centuries, when travel was much more difficult and setting up a new home was far more challenging than today.

Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi make Aliya from Muslim Spain in 1141; large groups of Jews moved to Israel from France in 1209-1211, including prominent community leaders such as Rabbi Yehonatan of Lunel and Rabbi Shimshon of Sens. Rabbi Yechiel of Paris came to Jerusalem in 1257 with plans to renew the practice of the sacrifices on Temple Mount; the Rambam, one of the greatest halachic adjudicators of all time moved to Israel in 1270; the Maharam of Rottenberg, the greatest sage of Ashkenaz in the late 13th century invested great effort in organizing a large group to make Aliya in 1286.

Two groups of families moved to Israel from Spain in the 14th century – the first in 1315, and the second following the pogroms of 1391. Some of the greatest sages of Ashkenaz organized a group to make Aliya following the Jewish persecution during Black Plague in 1348. That group founded a community in the Old City of Jerusalem.

In the following century a large group from Italy, led by community rabbis motivated by messianic hopes, came to Israel in 1435. Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura, in Italy, made Aliya in 1488 and became the rabbi of Jerusalem. The expulsion from Spain in 1492 was just a few years after that, and many Jews decided to settle in Israel after a long and arduous journey in search of a safe haven. Among these olim chadashim were Rabbi Yaakov Beirav, known as the Mabit, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz (author of Lecha Dodi that we sing every Friday night). Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, made Aliya in 1536 and settled in Safed. The holy Ari, the greatest of the Kabbalists in Safed, was born in Jerusalem but went down to Egypt as a child, with his mother, and returned to settle in Safed in 1570.

The following 200 years also witnessed large groups of Jews who left Europe to settle in Israel. In 1622 Rabbi Yehoshua HaLevi Horowitz (the Shlah), one of the leading rabbis in the 17th century, made Aliya and settled first in Jerusalem and then in the Galilee.

In 1700 an enormous group of over a thousand Jews arrived from all over Poland, led by Rabbi Yehuda he-Hasid. They were joined in 1718 by Rabbi Emanuel Chai Riki, the author of Mishnat Chassidim. In 1733 the first group of Chassidim, led by the Baal Shem Tov and his famous disciple Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonne tried unsuccessfully to reach Israel, but the renowned Rabbi Chaim Ben Atar had better luck in 1741, when he came from Morocco, leading a group of 30 of his students and their families. In 1743 the Ramchal made Aliya from Amsterdam and in the following decades many more Jews joined the growing communities: the Baal Shem Tov’s brother-in-law, Rabbi Avraham Gershon of Kitov, made Aliya in 1747; Rabbi Shalom Sharabi came to Israel from Yemen in 1751; Rabbis Nachman of Horodenka and Menachem Mendel of Premishlan led a group of Chassidim in 1764; the leader of Chassidim in Belarus and Lithuania, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk came with a large group of followers in 1777; and groups of Torah scholars from Lithuania made Aliya in the 1780s and 1790s.

The Vilna Gaon himself dearly wanted to make Aliya and started his journey toward Eretz Yisrael, but was stopped along the way and had to turn back. In the early 1800s and again in the 1830s, hundreds of disciples of the Vilna Gaon, including many of the great rabbis of that generation left Lithuania to fulfill the promise of “Next year in Jerusalem.”

רבי יהודה הלוי שעלה מספרד המוסלמית והגיע לארץ ישראל ב-1141; עליות המוניות של בעלי התוספות מצרפת בשנת 1209־1211 שכללו מנהיגים בולטים של הקהילות כמו רבי יהונתן מלוניל ורבי שמשון משאנץ; ניסיונו של רבי יחיאל מפריז לעלות לארץ בשנת 1257 ולחדש בה את עבודת הקורבנות; ניסיונו של המהר״ם מרוטנבורג, גדול חכמי אשכנז במאה השלוש־עשרה, לארגן עלייה המונית של משפחות לארץ ישראל בשנת 1286; הרמב״ן, מגדולי הפוסקים, שעלה לארץ ב־1270; רבי אשתורי הפרחי (בעל כפתור ופרח) עולה מספרד ב־1315 לירושלים ואחר כך לבית שאן; חכמים מספרד העולים בתוך גל העלייה לאחר פרעות קנ״א (1391); כמה מגדולי החכמים באשכנז עולים לארץ באמצע המאה הארבע־עשרה לאחר מגפת "המוות השחור" ומייסדים את הקהילה ביושלים; רבי אליהו מפרארה, מרבני איטליה במאה החמש־עשיה עלה לארץ ב-1435 עקב התעוררות משיחית ולימד בירושלים; רבי עובדיה מברטנורא, שעלה מאיטליה ב־1488 והפך לרבה של ירושלים; כמה מגדולי הרבנים בדור שאחר גירוש ספרד הגיעו לארץ ישראל לאחר נדודים וגלגולים שונים, ובהם רבי יעקב בירב, המבי״ט, רבי שלמה אלקבץ ורבי יוסף קארו, מחבר השולחן ערוך, שעלה לארץ והשתקע בצפת ב־1536; האר״י הקדוש, גדול מקובלי צפת, שנולד בירושלים אך ירד עם אמו למצרים כילד וחזר לצפת ב־0157; רבי ישעיהו הלוי הורוביץ (השל״ה), מגדולי רבני אשכנז במאה השבע־עשרה, עלה לארץ בשנת 1622 וחי בירושלים ובגליל; ב־1700 מגיעה לארץ ישראל קבוצת עולים עצומה המונה כאלף איש בהנהגת רבי יהודה החסיד; ב־1718 עולה רבי עמנואל חי ריקי בעל "משנת חסידים"; ב־1741 עולה רבי חיים בן עטר, בעל "אור החיים", מגדולי רבני מרוקו, בראש 30 מתלמידיו ובני ביתם; ב־1743 עולה הרמח״ל מאמסטרדם לארץ ישראל; מייסד תנועת החסידות רבי ישראל בעל שם טוב ותלמידו הגדול רבי יעקב מפולנאה מנסים ב־1733 לעלות לארץ ונכשלים; עלו גם כמה מגדולי תלמידי הבעש״ט, כמו גיסו, רבי אברהם גרשון מקיטוב, שעלה בשנת 1747, ורבי נחמן מהורודנקה ורבי מנחם מנדל מפרמישלאן, שהנהיגו עליית חסידים ב־1764; בשנת 1751 עולה מתימן לירושלים הרש״ש (רבי שלום שרעבי); מנהיג החסידים בבלארוס ובליטא, רבי מנחם מנדל מוויטבסק, הנהיג עליית חסידים גדולה ב־1777, ואף עליות של למדנים מליטא הגיעו בשנות השישים והשבעים; במחצית השנייה של המאה השמונה־עשרה יוצא הגאון מווילנה (הגר״א) למסע עלייה לארץ שלא צלח; בראשית המאה התשע־עשרה ובגל נוסף בשנות השלושים עולים לארץ מאות מתלמידי הגר״א, ובכללם כמה מגדולי הרבנים שבאותו הדור.

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