Thursday, December 01, 2011

Donuts and No Dough

Yesterday, my husband and I spent a rare day-off together in Jerusalem, doing errands, but also absorbing the pre-Chanukah atmosphere.  I took lots of pictures of sufganiot (Israeli donuts for Chanukah)



and other signs of Chanukah's arrival in Jerusalem. I intended to write a light-hearted piece to contrast with the seriousness of some of my more recent posts.  Truly I did.

But then an issue keep nudging me from different directions and I thought that maybe this is what I was meant to write about instead.

I spend a lot of time in the geula world - the largely Internet-based world where people think and dream and learn and write about the Ultimate Redemption of the Jewish people and who search for signs of geula in headline news.

Yesterday, there was a whopper. A "Kristalnacht" in Highland Park where five Jewish-owned businesses in Highland Park, NJ had their shop windows smashed.  This followed a few days after the Hillel at Rutgers had a brick thrown through the window.  Most disheartening to me were the comments on the article urging people to, (I'm paraphrasing here) Stop making this sound like another Holocaust. This is America and nothing bad can happen here because our good non-Jewish neighbors will fight with us against this kind of violence.

There are a handful of rabbis who have been exceedingly influential on my thinking, teaching me to wake up and PAY ATTENTION to what's going on in the world, and especially in America. Rabbi Pinchas Winston was the first to teach me the idea that, in whatever Diaspora community we find ourselves, historically, we Jews miss the signs that it's time to move on.  We always stay too long.

Not only do I spend a lot of time thinking of these things, I also correspond with people around the world who are somewhere in the aliyah process.  And lately, I've noticed a trend, a distressing question, a heart-breaking dilemma coming up with ever-increasing frequency.

In a nutshell, the dilemma is, "Okay, I get it now.  I see where all this is headed and I'm ready to pack my bags and move to Israel.  But, there's a huge glitch.  I have no money.  I live paycheck-to-paycheck and I can't afford a plane ticket to Israel let alone an apartment there. Rabbi X is telling us to leave America and I'm ready, but I don't have any savings/haven't worked in months/can barely buy groceries here, etc.  What am I supposed to do now??"

What a sad question. What a harsh test. At this moment, the Jewish Agency considers aliyah from America to be aliyah-by-choice.  How far are we from the point where the Jewish Agency will revise its perspective and define aliyah from America as rescue aliyah? You may think it's far-fetched, but it's not at all difficult for me to envision the Jewish Agency sending in planes to rescue American Jews, setting up temporary housing here and feeding and clothing them until they can build new lives in Israel.

I asked Rabbi Winston what he thinks about this dilemma of people who finally want to leave but find they cannot.  His answer, "The truth? They're stuck, short of a great miracle, and they must work on creating a mini-Eretz Yisroel where they live to remain protected, b"H. This can open doors to aliyah they don't even know about yet, and bitachon and emunah is a must."

What I think that that means, practically speaking, is that people who are stuck in the US due to financial limitations must talk to Hashem and ask for, beg for, help.  I was listening to a shiur earlier this week by Rabbi Lazer Brody, about talking to Hashem and asking for what we need.  He told a story of a student in their yeshiva who went to his rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Arush, for help because he wasn't making enough money to pay rent.  Rav Arush sent him to the field to do six hours of hitbodedut, private, personal prayer.  He came back to Rav Arush shortly after and said that the situation was worse and now he was being kicked out of his apartment. Rav Arush sent him to do six more hours of hitbodedut. Shortly after, he got an inheritance from an aunt and is now living in a paid-off apartment three blocks from the yeshiva.

Rabbi Brody encourages 30 minutes of talking to Hashem and asking him for what we need for 30 days. This is emunah in action.

Short of a miracle, what else can be said?  If you're here already, praise Hashem for your good fortune and say chapter 122 of Tehillim for those who are not yet Home. If you're not here yet but can still afford to come, come now!  And if you're stuck, if you want to come but find your cupboard is bare, pray for God's help.

Hashem has no shortage of dough.

11 comments:

Tidbits of Torah said...

What a wonderful post Rivky! Soon IY'H my family will also be in Israel. Meeting with NBN in 2 weeks. (I already have my passport stamped with my aliyah number)Since then had a baby.

Rachel said...

1) one way ticket to Israel for olim is free, courtesy of the Socnut
2) NBN, The Cyrus Foundation, and Ebenezer are three organizations that offer personal grants to people making aliyah who have a financial need, and who have a good plan for their aliyah.
3) there are many benefits offered to olim by the Socnut to help facilitate their aliyah, not the least of which is sal klita, rental assistance, and more.
4) resourcefulness, an ability to take many steps backwards with regard to career and income, and frugality will go a long way to enabling a successful aliyah
5) the right attitude helps too: expect the best, acting as if, wearing a smile on one's face, all help.

To those who want to make aliyah: you CAN do it...

Anonymous said...

That's it?!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post Rivkah!

One way tickets are not available to returning citizens.

Anonymous said...

To those in the heartbreaking situation of being desperate to make aliya, but in such financial straits:
Even though it seems impossible to you right now to make aliya the first thing is that you have to believe that Hashem can do anything, including turning around your situation. I strongly recommend following Rav Brody’s shiurim and website, and being in touch with him for advice and chizuk.
On the practical side, contact Nefesh B”Nefesh and the Jewish Agency to see what kind of assistance is available to you. Regardless of what people tell you, make sure you get your information directly from these sources because the conditions change and everyone’s story is different. Look into making aliya to a kibbutz, at least for the ulpan, and right now start learning as much Hebrew as you can. There’s lots of free stuff on the internet. A knowledge of Hebrew will greatly improve your employment prospects.
Also, try to get your affairs in order as much as possible. Sell as much as your non-essential stuff as you can. (And most of what we have is non-essential). And set up the spiritual aliya fund (this is from one of Rav Brody’s shiurim). Set up the account, and deposit one dollar a week and let Hashem do the rest.
And to end with a story I heard first hand from the son:
A Jewish family was sent to Siberia in the forties. Somehow they heard about the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the father was ecstatic. His wife said to him, why are you so happy we’re still here how are we ever going to get to Israel. Well, Stalin died, they were released and were among the first Soviet Jews to make aliya. B”D they prospered in Israel, and one seder night, many years later, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, the same father said, “I’m the happiest man alive”, and then he passed away.
None of us know why we (as a people) have to go through so many trials and tribulations, but we do know that Hashem is with us and can turn anything around. Just imagine how this man felt when he heard about the creation of the Jewish state. And just how impossibly far away he was from it. Yet, as his son told me, his father was always optimistic throughout the FIFTEEN YEARS(!!) IN SIBERIA (that was the son’s whole childhood from age three), and that is what sustained his family. (Unfortunately he told me about other families that were literally broken by their terrible experiences.) Of course, the point is not to judge, (I can hardly survive a thirty minute power outage), but to be inspired by the amazing faith of this man.
I wish you all strong emuna and yeshuat Hashem bekarov, memash. B”D.

Sara Layah said...

Powerful post with inspiring and informative comments combine to give much food for thought!

The hand-writing is on the wall... Come on home - aliya - be an active participant in our Jewish destiny!

Batya said...

good post
american Jews should have their kids study in Israeli universities as olim chadashim or even as tourists. They'd save a fortune and the kids would be ready for life in Israel.

Anonymous said...

I was one of the ones..who came to claim the Land my rightful place as a Jew, I expected the best..a smile on my face..one of Jacobs children returning home..My Lazer Brody tapes and Rav Kook literature..I was home after all the years of wondering in Chutz...Well, Israel has a way of humbling you, since my aliyah I have been found in the Shuk begging for enough money to make Shabbos, to keep my lights turned on..to keep clothes on my kids backs, I have cut carpet and put it in my shoes because they were so full of holes in the Jerusalem rain I was soaked, I have walked through the shuk to pick up fruit dropped by vendors so my child would smile and Thank God for the Apple Abba brought home today employed or not the situation changes little. Things have gotten better for me..now I only get called once a week by the bank, my teeth dont hurt as bad..once the abcess it stops. I have only gotten one call from a Lawyer..this year. Channukah will come and go, we are really practical..we give my kids a piece of candy or a new box of crayons..of course the money will come from the food budget.Thank God I have one.. Life isnt all that great after Aliyah..those who bring you here desert you here...dont look for help from All the kool aid drinking zionists..because they dont care. There is no such thing as food stamps here..no help..I went to a charity in Jerusalem..one I had given to for years while living in that awful place of Chutz..we neeeded food..the Rabbi refused to help me.. because I wasnt in Kollel..my jeans werent as clean as his black and white suit..its a racket folks..please wake up! Those who write here about all the glory of the land of Israel..have no want..they travel back to America..that awful place at least once a year..to secretly do all their shopping and etc.. Dont expect to find a sympathetic ear..After all as one told me..use your credit card..well I dont have one because I have NO money! Free schools I havent seen one..I have seen letters from the schools...demanding money..or face a bet din.. For the sake of your children..you are better staying in America. You maybe upside down in your house but at least you have one..if you want someone to house set for you let me know. Here in Israel its not all its cracked up to be unless you have no kids at home and are well of Please dont come.

Daniel said...

Few i think from america could afford aliyah less but that was only a minor bump and we came anyway. We trusted in HaShem all the way and He has not let us down. If you want to come then come. "I will return them (us) from the north south east and west, when your 401-k is big enough" oh guess the last part wasnt there! Things just have a way of working out here! Life is wonderful in Israel!

Karen Eisenberg said...

We got free tickets as returning residents. If you are in that situation be in touch with me and I'll tell you how we did it.

Gidalyah said...

Nice post. I have been saying the same thing...We have to wake up! I am a certified nut job, is what friends and family say. BS"H we are going to be on the Feb 13 flight. We too are going with virtually nothing and starting new, if not now then when? IT IS TIME... READ THE SIGNS... Things can turn against the Jewish people in hours, not days, or weeks. The days and weeks you will never see it coming until it is too late. COME HOME