September 7, 2010
Dear Friends and Family,
With Rosh Hashana no longer just around the corner, but looming right before us, the business of taking stock of ourselves is unavoidable. Shiurim are filled to capacity and now everyone-Asheknazim and Sephardim- is getting up early for Slichos. The Old City streets are flowing at all hours with every kind of Jew visiting their Father at the holy Kotel, seeking forgiveness and a year in which their heartfelt prayers will be answered.
With so many people out and about, I’m sure to run into someone I haven’t seen in a while. So a chance meeting with Naomi last Shabbat was no surprise. Neither was the content of our conversation. After a year here, she’s longing for the more predictable life and reliable parnassa, income, she remembered having in America. And frankly I was sympathetic. She is working very hard and seeing progress, but it’s not going as well as she’d planned.
Not surprising at all. In Israel, most things having to do with this material world are riddled with confusion and difficulty. It’s hard to get around, it’s hard to find your place, and it’s hard to make a living. They tell you this all pre-aliya, but still, we olim usually get hit with setbacks we did not envision. More often than not, the difficulties are financial.
In Israel, earning a livelihood has its own set of rules. “Survival without begging, that is considered parnassa here,” says Rabbi Zev Leff. Pretty shocking isn’t it? But we are all beggars in a sense, begging Hashem for everything we feel we need, including parnassa.
I didn’t write much about our own parnassa problems because the point of these letters is to feed your natural yearning to be here. I wanted to be positive and you’d probably never believe me for one moment ever again if I told you that worrying about, and struggling for parnassa is a positive thing.
But it truly has been. It has strengthened our emuna and opened in us wells of gratitude. It has brought Hashem into our lives in a constant way that we never imagined possible.
No matter what we perceive of our effort, He really IS running the world. He is the One Who gave us a good business and a big house with a great view on Breezy Lane. And He is the One who brought us to our much smaller rented apartment below Misgav Ladach Street with no view…and with no job. Want to guess where we’d rather be?
He is the One who gave us opportunities and watched how we responded when they fell away. What did we do? The only thing we could: we turned to Him. We were scared, but we tried our best to accept it with simcha. After all, look where we were!
So David sat in yeshiva rather than sit around the house. I wrote and tried to help people as best I could. We encouraged each other and worked on our middos together and alone. For sure we fell into some very dark and panicked moments (days, weeks), but we simply had to drag ourselves out. What other choice did we have?
We knew deep down that this hardship was for our own good, to help us grow. And emuna (faith/trust) was the unemployment benefit. Knowing that everything we need to complete our task in this world is supplied by Hashem. We may not always like our pekele, but it is truly for our own benefit. The best part is, it’s a benefit that does not ever end, even when prayers are answered.
I’ll tell you a secret we learned through our struggle: Parnassa doesn’t always come from a job. We do not rely on miracles, but they happen with astonishing regularity here. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve heard how someone suddenly had exactly the right amount of money… exactly when it was needed. Just yesterday a man told us how he bought his apartment (from an owner who said he’d never sell) when he had absolutely no savings. A woman we know could not attend a special simcha in America until someone she had done a kindness for unexpectedly offered her points to cover her air fare and hotel. Neighbors received an out of the blue windfall that matched exactly the cost of their daughter’s wedding.
We have our own “miracle” stories. Flashes in the darkness when we clearly saw Hashem’s open Hand. They gave us hope when we wondered if we were ever going to have a positive cash flow again.
Then, about a year ago, Hashem gave us another chance. L’at, l’at, (slowly,slowly) the business is growing. Slowly our days are more and more occupied with phone calls and to do lists, clients and computer screens. We hope it continues and we’ll do our part, the result is up to Him.
We miss how David’s full time learning permeated our home. His shortened daily seder is all the more precious now. I miss being able to dedicate so much time to helping out others, attending shiurim and writing. I especially miss writing these letters to you as often as I’d like. But even this, after all, is an answer to our prayers.
~That’s how it goes here, so be careful what you pray for.
May you be blessed with a parnassa kalla v'nikiya (an easy and clean livelihood) & have a Shana Tova u’metuka, A Good & Sweet New Year~
Come Home Soon,
Love, David and Renee
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