22 Nissan 5768
Isru Chag shel Pesach
April 27, 2008
Dear Friends and Family,
As the first year anniversary date of our aliya approaches we want to acknowledge our gratitude to Hashem for all He did to bring us here. For ten years we talked of living in Eretz Yisrael. It was our dream. Until the day David said that if we did not set a date to work towards, it would remain just a dream. So we looked at our life and set our date for three years into the future: May 7, 2007. We started to plan. Of course, G-d laughed.
Our aliya story is a megilla of hidden and revealed miracles.
December 2006. Five months before our projected aliya date, things were not coming into focus. David felt he could not responsibly leave his position until the company he worked with, could hire medical sales professionals. He was trapped. They had no present plan to make this hire and we had no parnassa plan for Israel. However, David said things could change in the blink of an eye, so we started filling out the Nefesh b’Nefesh paperwork.
By February it was time for us to renew our lease at the apartment we’d rented as part of our aliya plan, which had included selling our house. We had a decision to make. Renew for a year, six months or three? We calculated the costs to sign at a lower rent for year and break it when things hopefully fell into place. Would it be wiser to commit to staying 6 months at a bit higher rent? It was quite pricey to sign for three months, yet that would bring us almost exactly to May 7, the date we’d chosen three years earlier. It had seemed so, so far away then. Now May 7, 2007 would be here in the blink of an eye. We decided to show Hashem that we wanted to come and we meant it. We signed for three. If He wanted us, we’d be ready.
The next week, David was somewhere he’d not been in 3 years: home in the middle of the day during the workweek. He was between appointments and decided since he was closeby, that eating his packed lunch on a table at home was nicer than eating in his car. On that day at that time, his cellphone rang. It was Rabbi Solomon who wanted to know if he’d be interested in working for HaRosh Yeshiva Noach Weinberg, may he have a refuah sheleima. This amazing opportunity came in the blink of an eye-after 10 years of prayer and effort.
An interview in Jerusalem was arranged for mid-March. David and I both felt that this position with Aish was a long shot, besides he still had that commitment to the company he was with. But the chance to spend a week with Rav Noach, shlita, was worth the trip alone and if that was not working out, then maybe another opportunity would arise while he was there. Just a few days after he booked his flight, David came home in the middle of the day again. This time he had news: management had finally decided to put on a medical sales team! In the blink of an eye, he was free...and we were jobless as well as homeless.
The interview in Jerusalem at Aish headquarters lasted a week and after a few days, all thought it was a match made in heaven. The compensation they offered was considerably less than a US salary but plenty to live on here, and the position was irresistible because it would, number one: be an exciting employment of David’s talents and energies on behalf on k’lal Yisrael and number two: get us to Israel: start date may 20.
I began a serious apartment search. Before David left, I had posted our desire for a 3BR 2 BA apartment with A/C on yahoogroups, luach, and flathunting. David was going to work in just 8 weeks, we needed a place soon and we preferred to live in, or at least near the Old City. I spent hours combing real estate listings, emailing agents and calling potential landlords. Nothing. Then, in the blink of an eye, that very week David was in Jerusalem, an apartment suddenly appeared on luach.com. David looked at it immediately. It was the apartment of our dreams, and still is...less one bathroom.
After a gracious outpouring of kindness and well wishes from our Atlanta community and mesiras nefesh, self sacrifice by our family who had to say good bye, we flew New York to catch our free El Al flight on May 7, 2007. But without David’s passport. It had vanished, and we weren’t going over the ocean without it! It was a tense, trying two days in New York to obtain another passport and aliya visa. The overnight passport agent charged $500 for his services, miraculously, I had stashed exactly five $100 bills –for emergency-in the same envelope that I thought held both our passports. On the afternoon of May 9, we stood in the consulate lobby with the Israeli guard who cried with us when our aliya shaliach exited the elevator, brand new passport and visa in hand.
David’s tenure at Aish HaTorah lasted about as long as the blink of an eye: only 6 weeks—it was a wonderful experience but not a good fit. However, that job gave our aliya a practical basis and was very meaningful work, exactly what he needed at the time. A month ago, David began working for Rabbi Berel Wein-also great lover of k’lal Yisrael who has dedicated his life to teaching all Jews about their heritage. This position promises to be an exciting challenge, too. Those nine months between jobs afforded David the once in a lifetime opportunity to learn Torah full time. He loves learning at Yeshiva Rabbi Akiva, it is tailor made for him. Rabbi Gold is kind and serious, and understands both the limitations and aspirations of his talmidim. They work hard to earn their share in Torah.
Now it is bein hazmanim. Yeshivas have been on vacation since Rosh Chodesh Nisan, and this week the whole country is on vacation from work. Everyone is free. Free to be with family, free to travel this outrageously beautiful Land. But first, we cleaned and planned, purchased and prepared. We made our one, pure Seder.
In the Hagaddah, we said “...He took us out from there in order to bring us to Eretz Yisrael and to give us the land that He promised to our ancestors.” The ultimate purpose for which Hashem took us out of Egypt was to make us a nation, to give us His Torah and to bring us to the Land so that we can serve Him here. He did it in the blink of an eye-after centuries of suffering and yearning.
And miraculously, here we are. Our aliya anniversary lands squarely between Yom Ha’atzmaut, the day commemorating the miracle of the modern state of Israel and Yom Yerushalyim, the day of the miracle of a unified Jerusalem. Since we know that there are no coincidences, we’ve wondered about the message in this juxtaposition.
Jews began coming home en masse just 60 years ago. Untrained farmers and poorly armed fighters, with help from Above, built this country into a world economic power on a foundation of hope. It happened in the blink of an eye- after a long, dark disastrous decade...and Hashem’s promise to our forebears over 3,600 years ago. Then Jerusalem was given into our hands in 1967- in the blink of an eye-after 6 miraculous days and 2000 years of our longing.
Salvation comes in the blink of an eye. I thought of this over Chol haMoed when crowds came to pray at the Kotel at sunrise. While the night sky still hovered, we covered our eyes and said Shema, thousands of Jews together. Suddenly the black peeled away and revealed a sky turned that true Jerusalem blue. The Shema left us with clarity that, G-d who is merciful, is the true Judge, the same One who loves us.
Here we stand again –arab armies and world opinion a wall of ill will surrounding us. The only place to look is up. It may seem that we are alone in the black night, but dawn will soon break and we’ll then see that Hashem’s love and mercy have been surrounding us the whole time.
The great Chassidic rabbi, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk says that in times of trouble we should talk of the miracles that Hashem performed in Egypt, and through this, He will continue to perform great miracles of salvation. At our Seder we talked about how the miracles of Pesach story are the paradigm for the future salvation. Those miracles will be even greater than we can imagine! We also said that even though it is a miracle that we are a distinct nation with the living Torah and our home is Israel, without the Bais haMikdash, the ultimate purpose of our nationhood and Torah are not realized. And so, our Seder here in the Old City of Jerusalem ended just like yours did: “l’shana haba b’Yerushalyim.”
May we merit to see the Almighty’s miracles. May we speak about them throughout the year, and may all of His children-in the blink of an eye- come home soon.
Renee and David