I would like to think that I’m not completely irrational, nor an alarmist. It would be difficult to deny that I have a very strong grasp of world history, geopolitics and current events, and that, as such, I’m fully capable of making an accurate analysis of the situation we face, given the facts that are available to me.
Hitler is in Czechoslovakia and he’s on his way to Poland with the Final Solution in hand. This is by no means an over-dramatization of the threat faced by the Jewish people living in the Land of Israel today.
As the head of my household, responsible for the well-being of my family, I am carrying a nearly unbearable burden in regards to the decisions I must make and the time frame within which I must make them.
I don’t know what happened back there in Europe when the time came for my great-grandfather to have this discussion with his family and to make the decision. I don’t know how that conversation went down and I don’t know the family dynamics that were in play. I don’t know if it was a strategic decision to split the family into two camps, just as Yaakov did upon his encounter with his brother Esau. I don’t know if the family dismissed his urgency, believing it to be an over-reaction. Really, what threat did Hitler pose to them? Why should they allow the hate-filled ramblings of a madman to disturb the life they had built?
But I do know this: I have a family portrait hanging here on my wall. Being that they didn’t have five-megapixel cameras built into their smart-phones, I’m going to have to assume that a full family portrait was no small undertaking, and I would hardly be surprised to find that the picture hanging on my wall was taken in close proximity to the last months that the family was together. I also know this: Two of the brothers and two of the sisters in that portrait followed the lead of my great-grandfather and left their home for the United States and lived (one of those two sisters found her way to Israel). Two of the sisters, their husbands and one of the sons in that portrait remained in their homes and perished in Hitler’s death camps.
It was seven years ago that I followed Hashem’s command to Avraham to leave my home, my family and my land. Rashi comments that the words “lech lecha” denote leaving “for one’s own benefit.” It is only in Eretz Yisrael that a Jew can truly be himself, free to fulfill his individual and collective potential. What makes this decision so incredibly difficult for me is that I believe I am, in a small way, affecting something much larger than myself.
The generation of the desert, the generation which witnessed the Exodus from Egypt, before entering Israel, sent spies to scout out the land. The spies returned with a negative report, causing the people to fear entering Israel. Now, after seven wonderful years in Israel, am I going to bring back a negative report to my family and friends in the United States?
This is the test of our time, and indeed, the greatest test of all Jewish history. Of all the sins committed in the desert after leaving Egypt (including the sin of the Golden Calf), bringing a negative report about and lacking the faith to live in Israel is the one sin for which the Jews were condemned to wander in the desert for 40 years. Now, after wandering the earth for the past 2,000 years, we have a chance to truly rectify the sin of that generation. We do this by seeing past the superficial, seeing past the many hardships and inconveniences of living here. We need to see the true beauty of the Land of Israel: the inherent spiritual beauty, the beauty of the people who live here and the historical significance of this opportunity. I’m privileged to have taken part in this great national project. Of my immediate family, my children were the first in thousands of years to be born in Eretz Yisrael. But, as I’ve come to realize, we rectify the sin of the spies by choosing not only to come to Israel, but to stay here.
Now it is my turn to decide: Am I going to allow the hate-filled ramblings of a madman destroy the life my family and I have built here?
Whatever decision I make will in no way be influenced by my personal feelings toward the policies of the State of Israel. My decision will not be influenced by my personal assessment of the positive and negative traits of contemporary Israeli society or a social-psychological analysis of Israeli culture. My decision will not be influenced by any financial hardships I may have experienced or continue to experience. My decision will not be influenced by my experience or by my standing as a recent immigrant or by the degree to which I have had a successful or unsuccessful integration into my host society.
My decision will not be influenced by my perception of the level of social justice or injustice in Israeli society. My decision will not be influenced by the housing market or by my social class. And I must say that my decision will not even be influenced by what I understand and believe to be recently fulfilled Torah prophecy.
My decision will be based on what I perceive to be the long-term best interest of my family, and above all, the safety of my children.
It could very well be that I decide the safest place to be is directly in the eye of the storm, enveloped by Hashem’s loving hashgaha.
But make no mistake about it: Hitler is in Czechoslovakia. He’s on his way to Poland with the Final Solution in hand, and he has clearly stated his intentions to the entire world once again. Israeli leaders stand impotent, the Jewish nation is sorrowfully fragmented, and there isn’t a single damn country riding to our rescue.
So, you tell me: What’s a father to do?