Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Do You Love America?

When we were in Israel this past visit, we went to visit Beit El, a religious settlement north of Jerusalem. Beit El also happens to be the home of Israel National Radio. While visiting the Israel National Radio studio, we had the chance to meet Yishai Fleisher, the one-man aliyah motivation machine and one of the major forces behind the potently inspiring Kumah website.

I watched Yishai have a conversation with a 12 year-old girl who was in our group. This particular girl has been living in Israel for about 7 years, having made aliyah with her family from America. Yishai asked her if she liked living in Israel and she responded with a comment about the things in America that she still misses.

I thought Yishai’s response to her was brilliant, and it speaks to the rest of us just as well. He told her that he also loves things about America. And that makes the mitzvah of living in Israel that much more powerful. If you hate everything about America and can’t wait to get out of the place already, that’s one level.

But if you like “fill-in-the-blank” about America (i.e. Broadway shows, Walmart/Target, your community, your job, the ability to speak the language fluently, easy access to English books, your friends and family, etc. etc.) and you move to Israel anyway, it becomes clear that your motive for doing so comes from wanting to serve Gd.

It’s the same principle I learned about keeping kosher. When offered a cheeseburger, don’t say, “No thanks. I don’t care for cheeseburgers.” Rather say, “I would love to eat a cheeseburger, but I refrain because Gd told me they are not appropriate for me.”

So don’t say, “I hate everything about America and I can’t wait to leave.” Rather say, “I love many aspects of my life in America. But Gd has a higher expectation for me and that can only be achieved in Israel.”

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