In honor of Memorial Day and on the eve of Israel Independence Day, I thought that this would be an opportune time to reflect on what will soon be my 13th anniversary since making Aliyah.
In Israeli culture, your date of Aliyah replaces your original Birth date. That gives you an inkling of the significance of the event. And so this year I celebrate my Bar Mitzvah. I become a man. So consider this my Bar Mitzvah speech in honor of the occasion.
I would like to concentrate on the many good decisions made by myself and others that have brought me to this time and place.
First off, my Great-grandfather, Yaakov Yoel Weiss, who was alive and well when I was born in 1959. He had the foresight, and I would guess the guts to leave Hungary and Europe in the early 1900’s for the shores of the US of A. That decision of his not only probably saved his life, but the lives of his multitude of descendants. And I literally mean multitudes.
Those many, many, many descendants of his have followed his path. Yes, he became a US citizen, but first and foremost he was a Jew. He never ever compromised his principles, no matter the challenges he confronted. America might have been a very different place than the European shtetl he left behind, but he did not succumb to the pressures of American assimilation. He retained his strong Jewish identity and observance all the days of his life. And so did his family.
My grandfather, Yaakov Yoel Weiss, who emigrated to the US as a teenager in the early 20th century, also from Hungary. He too, with that same determination and commitment raised a family who followed in the path he paved, again a multitude of descendants. He successfully reinvented what it meant to live the Good Life in America. The Good Life was living and observing those same Jewish ideals that had enabled a People to survive thousands of years of exile and suffering and still retain our strong identity.
And my dear father ob”m, Rabbi Meshulem Dov Weiss, a pioneer, a trail blazer, deciding to leave the spiritual comforts of New York as a newlywed for the unknown of Miami Beach back in the 1950’s. Following the same Jewish path of his father and grandfather, albeit very much in his own unique way. Involved in Jewish outreach before the term was even invented. A leader, a teacher who inspired countless generations of Jews throughout the world. Loving and beloved by his family and the many who knew him.
A tough act to follow, as they say. But I have made some great decisions, every single one with the help of G-d. Deciding where to study. Deciding who to marry (the BEST decision of them all!). Deciding to serve as a Shaliach of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l in Teaneck. And the most momentous decision of them all, making Aliyah.
It is clear to me that my decision to make Aliyah is a continuation of the brave and great decisions made by others that have brought me to this point in time. In the same way that I can already see the historic impact of my decision for my own children and grandchildren.
To date, three of my children have served in the IDF. Two of them are on active duty (and one of them, Mendel, just got engaged!).
What an honor to be part of a long chain of great decision makers, going back for generations and generations, with a multitude of generations in the future to follow.
To read more about my Aliyah experience, check out my book; You come for one reason but stay for Another, now also available as an eBook and Audio book.
Rabbi Mordechai Weiss