Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5759
March 26, 2009
Dear Friends and Family,
We did not plan on coming home this way, but we were glad it worked out that we landed in Eretz Yisrael last night on an El Al flight, instead of on Delta as we had booked. Tuesday night we arrived at Hartsfield Atlanta and learned that our direct flight was extremely oversold. We could each receive a $400 voucher if we volunteered to be routed through London and arrive home 4 hours later than we’d planned. So I thought about it as David made the tenth man for a waiting maariv minyan. Hmmm, a bit of a hassle, but with family in America and budgets tighter than ever, this offer could be a gift; when I met back up with David, he agreed. And soon we boarded the Delta to London to spend the night with some of the most well behaved passengers I have ever seen. Those Brits stayed buckled when the sign was lit, made way for flight attendants in the aisles, cooed over quiet smiling babies, and conversed with one another in delightful accents.
After our three hour layover at Heathrow, we cleared security and found ourselves huddled en masse at the ElAl gate with hundreds of Israelis headed home for Pesach. The crowd was merging towards just 2 agents taking boarding passes, and funneling into one walkway toward the 747’s door. No “zone” boarding, no long thin lines, but no pushing or jostling either. And while babies cried throughout the trip and the “fasten seat belt sign” was largely ignored; the poor flight attendants were cheerful in spite of passengers blocking the aisles and the accents were, mamash, the best in the world. As we approached Ben Gurion, I peered past a young man with tears in his eyes to see the glow of lights marking the shoreline of our Eretz Yisrael.
The landing was like a kiss. And of course, because it was ElAl, we clapped.
I cannot tell you how good it is to be home. The purpose of our trip was the marriage of our precious daughter to her true bashert. We are so grateful that we merited this simcha, that her new family is so gracious, and that many of our friends and family were in attendance. I can tell you that in our entire lives, we have felt no greater happiness than this.
But days have rivaled it. Like the glorious day of our own wedding, and each of the sweet transcendent days our daughters were born, and the day we, with tears in our eyes, peered out the window of another ElAl jet to see the approaching shoreline of our Eretz Yisrael. The day we made aliya.
I can honestly say our aliya has impacted our lives and changed us for the better as much as our marriage and parenthood have. These are the milestones in life we Jews are designed for. These are what we yearn for, prepare for, pray for and cry over. And yes, we yearned to be here, prepared and prayed and cried for it. Just as we knew the Almighty preordained that David and Renee would marry and chose just these two perfect daughters for us, we knew He was also inviting us, beckoning us, yearning for us to come home.
He beckons us all. I’ve heard it said that it is a mitzvah to live here just as much as it is a mitzvah to wear tzitzit. Surely tzitzit doesn’t involve the complications that the upheaval of aliya does. So I cannot help but wonder, why this analogy? It is because tzitzit, detached from a four cornered garment, are just knots and strings? And what are we--when detached from Eretz Yisrael?
In these letters, I’ve tried to relate how spiritually enhancing living here can be-where every mundane day, adventure and mishap, detour and encounter can feel Divinely crafted just for each of us on a level that cannot be compared to when living in America. And on top of that, the geula (world upheaval leading to Moshiach, rebuilding of the Temple, the ingathering of the Exiles, World Peace...) feels imminent here. We are excited but worried. There are still Jews, our friends and family, living in the four corners of the world-and time is running out.
I’ve heard that if you yearn, really yearn with your whole heart, then you can be counted among those who are here. For the first time in 2000 years, 3,000,000 Jews have the option to come. But most do not, nor do they even yearn to live here or to visit or have their children live here. Even among “Torah Jews” like us. Why is that? I cannot judge, it is not possible for many, I know. But for so many others, it is possible and possibly even comfortable. Goodness knows, we have decent tuna fish, VOIP and wholesome neighborhoods. We do have less money, less affluence, and less crime, and more freedom.
Freedom will be the prevailing topic in two weeks when we will iy”H sit at the Pesach seder and read the Haggadah. Don’t you often wonder why 4/5ths of our people did not merit freedom? Why they did not see the signs of the imminent destruction of Egypt as they knew it? Signs so clearly from the hand of G-d-- did they explain them away as natural disasters? Did they just get used to the immorality, the violence and the loss of personal autonomy? We descend from those who did see, who could no longer bear the burdens. They cried out to Hashem and He was waiting. He brought a yearning remnant to receive His Torah and to be His holy nation. This was a nation ready to inherit the Land.
Living here has it’s challenges. I cried all morning after we saw the new couple off to Baltimore following sheva brachos in Atlanta. I do not know when we will see them again. I will miss sharing an occasional Shabbos with them and a common time zone to make calling easier. It’s true, we chose to leave our family and friends, the familiar and easy. Even though it was our choice, I still ache each and every time someone innocently asks if all of our children will be with us for Pesach.
Of course I want our children here, but they have to want it, too. I confess that I write because I hope everyone who reads this will hunger for home. And if these letters serve to feed your innate yearning, then they have also served their purpose. Yearn they way a mother yearns for her child. Yearn until tears fill your eyes and you cry out to your Father. Because if your heart is really, really here, then- when the blink of an eye moment that has been building for all of eternity finally does come, then- Hashem will count you among the ones He already brought out. And besrat H” He will bring you out, too. Maybe even sooner.
At the end of our single seder, footsteps from the waiting Temple Mount, we will still say “Next Year in Yerushalayim,” even here. Because without you, our family is not complete. So I will continue to yearn that you-every single one of you- will also yearn to come home soon.
Chag Pesach Kasher V'Sameach.
Renee and David