The Person Behind The Posts

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Guest Post - Resolving The Struggle to Decide on Aliyah

Earlier today, I got an extraordinary email from a woman I have known for many years. She and her husband have been struggling for quite some time with the decision about whether or not to make aliyah.

When she sent me this email, she had no way of knowing that I wrote about a similar experience  nearly a year ago. I asked her for permission to share what she wrote because I know it has the potential to inspire others.


This morning, before davening, I was really having doubts that I had the strength to ever make aliyah. I'm tired, I'm drained, how could I pull it off? I'm not even sure I should do it. I don't have that kind of clarity. You know when you told me that you had your 'Aliyah epiphany' on 9/11, I thought how nice it was for you to have moment of clarity. I'm just so tired. Finally, I pushed all my thoughts aside, or so I thought, and began to daven. The following is a progression of narrative that transpired between the words in my siddur and the thoughts in my head.

Blessed is Hashem who gives me the wisdom to distinguish... if making Aliyah is the right thing for my family. That's cute, 'aliya thoughts' in my davening. Rivkah must have these all the time.

Blessed is Hashem who did not make me a slave. Who will release me from my materialistic slavery so I can make the right decision, free of my yetzer harah, and thank you Hashem for allowing me to live in a free society where I can chose to, or not to, live Israel.

Blessed is Hashem who made me according to His will (a woman) who could enjoy living in Israel in ways only a woman could. (Wow, why all these Israel thoughts? Why am I suddenly imagining going to the mikveh in Israel, and making challa in Israel and lighting candles in Israel, and having and raising children in Israel - I don't even have a ticket yet!?

Blessed is Hashem who opens the eyes of the blind. Oh my G-d, it is so clear now, how did I not see it! Of course I should make Aliyah, what is the question!!!!? Israel, where every mitzvah will be so elevated and and the connection to Hashem will be so strong that every action, no matter how seemingly insignificant, will take on a whole new level of sensitivity and meaning......oh, what am I thinking? I will be so vulnerable, no familiarity, no language, no friends. It's altruistic but it's not practical...wait, let's see what the next bracha is, maybe there is a message...

Blessed is Hashem who clothes the naked. The naked!!!! What could be more vulnerable than naked!!!!! I've been saying this bracha for most of my life and all I ever thought it meant was, "thank you Hashem for my clothes in the closet and great selections in the mall". Hashem will be my cover and protect me from all I fear. How did I not see this meaning before? It's like I've been locked in a dark closet and I'm finally seeing the light for the first time...

Blessed is Hashem for releasing the bound I'm free! Now I see, now it's clear. What was keeping me so clueless, why all the confusion until now? I know, it's the galus, we are so entrenched, so tangled up in American society that we just can't think straight. Oh no, I don't believe it...look at the next bracha -

Blessed is Hashem who straightens the bent. So it's done, it's decided, no more confusion, no more doubts. Now I just need to commit to doing what has to be done. I'm going to finish davening and call my husband to tell him my mind is made up, get the tickets.

Blessed is Hashem who spreads the earth upon the waters. They used to take a boat to travel to Israel, how lucky I am to go by plane. Look! I'm talking about the plane ride! I'm going! I already see myself on the plane. Oh boy, I will have a lot to pack, there is so much I am going to have to learn to live without.

Blessed is Hashem who will provide me with all my needs. Ok, this is beyond creepy, every negative thought I have is squelched by the subsequent brachos. All the spirituality aside, how will I do this? It is going to be sooooooo hard to...

Blessed is Hashem who establishes the footstep of man. (This is the part where I fall to the floor crying.) Everything will be fine. Hashem will help us establish ourselves, in school, in the community, in our new home (I stand back up).

Blessed is Hashem who girds Israel with strength. He will make me strong enough do whatever has to be done. We will go, we will settle and

Blessed is Hashem Who will crown us with splendor. That's it! That's the reason I am going (of course, I crying hysterically at this point.) The splendor! That is the word that explains the reason I want to go. The grandeur, the magnificence of Israel and being a Jew in the Holy Land. Now I know why Rebbi Akiva bought his wife a crown with Yerushalaim engraved on it. Israel is our crown, our splendor. I was so down, so exhausted from carrying the burden of this decision. Now I feel light and weightless...

Blessed is Hashem who gives strength to the weary.

I think I had my "Aliyah Moment" :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Fellow Apple People

Yesterday, I finished the new book by Risa Miller.  In it, one of her characters describes herself as an apple trying to talk to an orange.  I loved that line!  That's me in America.  I'm an apple, trying to talk to a country that is largely made up of oranges.  I cannot WAIT until I can live among my fellow apple people.

I feel the pressure against Israel mounting day by day. The stakes grow ever higher as more and more irrational things are happening on the world stage.  YouTube banning "We Con The World" for copyright infringement?  C'mon.  Not even close to rational.  So, to do my part, I'm blogging the link to the video as hosted by the WeJew video sharing site.

Years ago, during the Second Intifada, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin spoke to a packed house about the importance of traveling to Israel exactly when everyone else was cancelling their travel plans, thus crippling the tourism industry. This isn't a direct quote, but what he said was so potent, it still gives me the chills.

If Israel is your Disneyland, then come when the sun is shining.  But if Israel is your Motherland, then come now, because your mother needs you.

Israel is being assaulted from all sidesNot just her classic political enemies.  Even YouTube,  iPhone and Yahoo are now taking a swipe at "Mom".

I traveled to Israel and bought real estate during the Second Intifada and now I'm less than a month away from bringing my whole life to her.

Hang on, Mom.  I'm on my way Home.  I  so want to be with you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

There's a Third

When I wrote about the yin and yang of making aliyah, I left something out.  There is really a third indivisible side to the decision, and the experience, of extracting oneself from life in the diaspora.

One needs to consider the logistics of the decision - where to live, how to earn money, where to educate one's children, etc.  That's where a lot of people get stalled.

If one is a Torah Jew, one also needs to consider all the things that Hashem has said about the spiritual superiority of living in Israel.  I recently joined a listserv whose whole purpose is to send out daily messages about loving and living in Israel.  There is no shortage of inspirational material about the pull of Eretz Yisrael on the Jewish soul.  One family I know recently spent hours looking at YouTube videos of religious life in Israel with their kids to get everyone on board their nascent aliyah decision.

But there's a third consideration, one that gets louder with each passing day.

Last Friday, my husband participated in a rally for Israel that took place on a street corner in downtown Baltimore. At the rally, a woman turned and asked him a bone-chilling question. "For how much longer do you think Jews will be free to stand and hold an Israeli flag in the streets of America?"

When Yaakov overheard Lavan's sons speaking disparagingly about him, he hightailed it out of Padan Aram back to Israel immediately, because he understood that Gd's presence had left and he was no longer protected.

The Jews of America appear to not be so insightful.  The shocking words of Helen Thomas ought to be enough to wake up American Jews.

It's not time for Jews to get the hell out of "Palestine", Gd-forbid.  It's time to get the hell out of America before it's too late.

And that's the third consideration.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Right To Cry When Saying Goodbye

Such waves of emotions (in alphabetical order - fear of staying in America much longer, emuna, excitement, grief, panic, pride in my people and in my ancient/new country, especially this week and stress) are roiling within these days that it's no wonder I'm not sleeping too well.  Thanks to my deeply insightful, spiritual role-model friend Leah, I see that I am being given yissurim (suffering, trials) in advance of our aliyah in order to earn my future life in Israel.

It is not easy to disengage from a whole life lived elsewhere. Will it be worth it? No question. But that doesn't make it easy.

A friend in Israel who must have made aliyah when she was very young, recently said to me, "I never realized, it just never hit me, how much unraveling a person has to do when they make Aliya. In my immature and idealistic view, you just make the decision and come."

Ha!  Would that that were so.  My to-do list seems to get longer each day.  The days pass so swiftly that I am caught short-winded.  The pinpricks of emotion are getting more frequent.

I know, from the years I have already lived, that the moment of parting might be painful, like the ripping off of a band aid, but soon after, I will feel better.  In 32 days, I will feel better.

But now, it really is hard.  And I don't want any of my long-settled friends in Israel to try to convince me it's not.  There are a lot of goodbyes to say - to people, places and things that have been part of my life for so long, I can't remember ever not having them.  And goodbyes to newer relationships that I lack the time to nurture, places I'll likely never visit now and things I won't have in my home anymore.  I'm more than willing to say goodbye to all that.

But I reserve the right to cry when saying goodbye.