Monday, June 15, 2009

What She Brought Back With Her

Like a lot of religious Zionist families in the Diaspora, we sent our daughter to spend the year after her high school graduation learning Torah in Israel. A few months into her year in Israel, she let us know that she saw no future for herself in America and wanted to move to Israel permanently.

This exact conclusion, which makes so much sense in the context of a yeshiva or seminary lifestyle, strikes fear into the hearts of most American Jewish parents who, more often than not, insist that their child return to America to "finish their education". Some children, inspired by their year or two in Israel, do make it back after they graduate from college.

But most get sucked into the vortex of Jewish life in the Diaspora.

I didn't want that to happen to my daughter. We supported her decision and proceeded to spend the next six months trying to find a viable framework in which a 19 year-old religious girl making aliyah without her family, could spend the next year.

A few days ago, our daughter returned to America for the summer - her last American summer before she makes aliyah and possibly her last American summer ever. And with her, she brought the essence of Israel.

In the six days she's been back, I already see the essence of Israel diminishing in her, a gradual puffing out, like a flame that cannot sustain itself in the absence of oxygen.

I miss Israel.

I miss the spiritual intensity that she lived in for the past nine months, the culture that supported her in reaching out to God and reaching in to understand her own neshama better. I miss the emphasis on growing as a Jew that her life had. I miss her commitment to regular prayer and Torah learning, which is already dwindling in the spiritually-thin American atmosphere.

It's not all gone, not yet. She'll say something that will remind me that, of course the world looks like that to her. She just spend a year in a rarefied, protected environment where everything was carefully crafted to help her grow.

But I know that, like soil lacking sufficient nutrients to sustain a particular kind of plant, America cannot sustain that level of spiritual achievement. It just can't. And I feel like a parent who cannot provide the proper nutrition for her child.

I don't want to live 6,000 miles away from my first-born child. But I don't want her to become spiritually dry and sapless in America either. It's bad enough I'm withering away here.

So all this monitoring of our relative spiritual strengths leaves me pining for Israel. I want to plug myself in to the Main Transformer.

But its more than that. I'm watching what's going on politically and I'm starting to feel a bit more chafing. Every day, I wait for the other shoe to drop. Will we American Jews see anything resembling anti-Jewish legislation? Something like Kristallnacht? And if we see it, will we recognize it? I know there are many who believe that America is different and that nothing like that could ever happen here.

The one thing that is certainly true is that, as the last large extant Jewish diaspora community, America has a major role to play in Yemot haMoshiach. Whether it is as ultimately as friend or foe to the Jews that remain in her borders remains to be seen.

But not by my first daughter.

With God's help, she'll already be living b'aretz.

1 comment:

Tehillah Hessler said...

Dear Rivka,

My laptop was in the US for repair so its been weeks since I've read your blog. I love this post! We just - unwillingly - sent our best friend's daughter back to America after she spent an exhilerating year in the HOLY Land. It is so refreshing that you realize the spiritual need for your daughter to live her. PLEASE COME HOME SOON!
Our first year of Aliyah presented it's challenged - today is our first anniversary here! - but certainly no more difficult than when one moves say from NY to California with the exception of the language - although in California that is also sometimes a problem :-)
We're moving to Ra'anana next week (better work opportunities in hi-tech) and I'm sorry I never got to meet you while living in Ma'ale Adumim. PLEASE COME HOME SOON!
Have an easy and meaningful fast and Shabbat Shalom!
Tehillah Hessler
http://AlmostEden.co.il