13 Tishre 5770
October 1, 2009
Dear Friends and Family,
This Yom Tov season marks our third in Eretz Yisrael. At the end of this third year, we will no longer be “olim chadashim,” new immigrants. Our benefits will be mostly over and we will be counted among the “vatikim,” or old-timers. They say that you are ready to be vatikim when you can help the olim chadashim become more settled. This summer we had the awesome opportunity to see 500 families make aliya and help just a few of them.
As we begin this third time around the cycle of Holidays here, we notice that we no longer have to make mistakes in order to figure out the nuances of what to do, and what to avoid at this time of year. Three times in Judaism means a “chazaka,” a strengthening, or an acceptance of the status quo. Our roots are taking hold and we do feel stronger. We are finally beginning to feel that life here is normal; we are feeling settled. And that in and of itself, is a bit unsettling.
It’s been a long time since we have had this settled feeling so it’s a strange one for us.
Six years ago we set/announced our aliya date and change became our constant buddy. Changes in ourselves and changes in others. After the initial flurry of excitement from our friends and premature requests for lift space, the weight of the decision altered the way we perceived just about everything.
We stopped buying anything we could not use up or bring to Israel. Dry clean clothing was no longer attractive, electronics would need adapters before their usefulness was up, decorative items were surplus, and useful items were ones that served more than one purpose. We hung on to our cars way past their prime. And we hung on to our dearest friends for their support and love as we felt ourselves move from the center of community life.
Our move from Breezy Lane involved divestiture of massive amounts of the familiar items from decades of our shared lives: dishes, plants, art, books, tools, toys, clothes, furniture, knick-knaks, memorabilia, private letters, notes, preschooler drawings and other treasures.
It was traumatic to rid ourselves of the perceived permanence of our lives. And that is exactly why feeling settled again feels so unsettling.
All those “things” we got rid of do not mean a thing when we look up at the crystal blue sky on a weekday morning or watch it turn a majestic sapphire as the Shabbos melts away at dusk. We feel very small, and yet because we sit on a bench in Jerusalem in the year 5770, somehow we also feel mightily significant in the eternal play of history.
It is not that we are living in the most disputed piece of real estate on the planet or that constant awareness of the hovering threat of our decimation by Iran. Most of us are more concerned that we will have rain this year. With good reason. We need an substantial rainy season that will put an end to the drought we are suffering.
Now that Sukkos is knocking at the door to our safe, protected homes, we’ll move out under that crystal sky. When we leave the sukkah, we’ll pray for the rain to fall at the most beneficial times. And in the most beneficial places. And in the most beneficial amounts.
Geshem, rain, means the physical world, the “things” that make us feel safe and secure. We need these things in order to eat, dress, sleep and live in dignity. But sometimes, when things fool us into believing the status quo will endure, it can be too much. Like too much rain, we drown in our stuff.
Last week the news, facebook and twitter-talk was all of ark-building, newly acquired basement swimming pools and impromptu dangerous dips in neighborhood creeks. There were terrible tragedies, too. Unsettling to say the least. Ruby arrived home on Wednesday via Atlanta and gave us a first hand report of the muddy roof-high water she saw flying over the city we called home for 30 years.
Now, our home in Jerusalem is a comfortable rented apartment with a few water problems that our landlords work diligently to protect us from. We recently signed our lease for a third year which again includes a “Moshiach Clause.” This means we’ll iy”H soon be reclaiming a Jewish home in the newly abandoned Muslim Quarter as the owners of our apartment will surely want to settle into their home as our people’s destiny unfolds here.
This clause keeps us from feeling fooled into believing the status quo will endure. And it keeps us aware that it’s not yet time for a Jew to feel settled.
I think living in a sukkah is a bit like living in Israel. Small space, delicious, simple foods, useful furniture, less dependence on material things and much, much more on the benevolence of Hashem. Like the sukkah, none of us will remain in our homes forever, but we can look forward to joining together in the great sukkah when our Moshiach Clause takes effect.
This year you can think of moving into your sukkah as a virtual aliya. Throughout the world, we Jews will all be in our sukkahs, but because we are one people--we’ll be together. And when we move back into our storm-worthy houses, please pray for rain. The good kind, the kind that will make us all able to come home soon.
David and Renee