By the Grace of G‑d
29th of Iyar, 5713
[May 14, 1953]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

After the long interval, I received your letter of May 23rd, in which you wrote that you plan to make a trip to the Holy Land in June, and that you have reserved a place on the S.S. Israel.

I am answering your letter immediately because of the seriousness of the matter. No doubt you know that the captain and the crew of the said ship are Jews, and that it will be en route at least two Shabbosim. The voyage is therefore prohibited, involving open and public Shabbos desecration. I am sure that it is superfluous to enlarge upon the seriousness of this matter.

I only wish to emphasize one particular painful aspect, namely, that when planning a trip to a land which is regarded as holy even by gentiles, and concerning which every Jew prays and hopes there will be soon the true Redemption, when the Beis Hamikdosh will be rebuilt, and once again the word of G‑d will come forth from Jerusalem for the whole world—yet, a trip to this Holy Land is planned in a way which would be a direct contradiction of G‑d’s commandment, involving the desecration of Shabbos, one of the basic Ten Commandments.

The question may be asked: “If this is so, how come so many Jews, unfortunately, use these boats to make their trips to the Holy Land?” I cannot go into this painful question as to why this matter has not been brought to public attention and how these passengers have been misguided or misled into believing that there is nothing wrong in making a voyage, or that it should even be given preference above other means of transportation. I can tell you, however, most emphatically, being myself an engineer and knowing intimately the mechanical intricacies involved in navigating a modern ship, there is no question whatever that such a voyage is definitely forbidden by the Torah.

If you want to go to the Holy Land very much, you can go by El Al, or by a non-Jewish boat, and the like, or even not go at all. At any rate, your planned voyage is absolutely contradictory to the Torah. The contradiction is all the more glaring if we remember the well-known saying of our Sages that Jerusalem was destroyed only because of Chilul Shabbos, and if all Jews would observe at least two Shabbosim properly they would be redeemed immediately (Talmud Bavli, Shabbos 119B, 118B).

I was pleased to read in your letter that you have appointed times of study with ——, and I trust that in these studies you fulfill the words of our Sages, that the importance of study of the Torah is that it leads to good deeds, and as also the Mishnah emphasizes, the essential thing is not the study but the practice.

I trust that you will be able to inform me the good news that you have canceled your reservations on the above-named ship, and may G‑d help you to get established well in your affairs, materially and spiritually, in accordance with the dictates of our Torah, the Laws of Life, which as the term implies, means also simply the Law of Daily Conduct.

Wishing you a happy and inspiring Shavuos,

With blessing,