Reuven Tradburks
Reuven Tradburks

Aliyah and Living a Transcendent Life

I want to share some thoughts about our aliyah.

We made aliyah 7 years ago. I had been in the rabbinate for 23 years. We chose to make the move, following our children, all of whom were in Israel at that time.

Much of what we expected has been realized. And much was unexpected. However, I don’t think our experience is any different than any other immigrant to a new land.

The challenges of moving to Israel is similar to any immigrant moving to any other foreign land. There is unfamiliarity. Need to re-establish a social group. New jobs. New language. Different bureaucracy. It is those things that cause aggravation to olim. Understandably.

However, there is a uniqueness to the aliya experience which is not shared with other immigrant experience.

We live our lives on two planes. The ordinary. And the transcendent.

The ordinary is all that I have described above. Daily routine of schools, shopping, working, language, news, buses, and all the rest that occupies our time.

The transcendent is our sense of satisfaction in life: the feeling that our lives are valuable, worthwhile, meaningful, fulfilled. It is the experience occasionally of a soaring soul, moments of elevation, of dveikus, feeling close to or closer to the Divine. It is feelings of elation, of satisfaction. Of being centre stage, not stage right: the actor, not the audience. The sense that life’s opportunity has been seized, not ignored.

So while the ordinary is disrupted, jarred, by aliya, the transcendent is animated, alive and richly nourished.

I would frame this in the context of the epochs in Tanach of entry into Eretz Yisrael: Avraham, Yehoshua and Ezra.  They symbolize 3 parts of our lives: the private spiritual, the national miraculous and the belonging to a family, to a people.

Avraham entered the land quietly. There was no Jewish people, just a Jewish person (together with Sarah and Lot). He was on a spiritual journey. It was there that he experienced a vision of the Divine. He left behind a world whose values and belief did not fit anymore.

Aliya has its Avraham experience.  For me, spiritual murmurings are a big part of living in Israel – perhaps the biggest part. It is the pursuit of a higher meaning, of a closer reach for the Divine, of a desire for dveikus. And there are moments of elevation, of soaring. To be sure those moments are attainable anywhere in the world. But for me, these trascendent moments are richer, fuller, more regular here in Yerushalayim.

Yehoshua entered the land with miracles. He led the entire Jewish people. It was the promise to Avraham fulfilled. It was the Divine Hand leading the people into the Land to make good on the promise.

Modern day Israel feels to me miraculous. To me it looks like the Divine Hand leading us back to our land. I find myself incredulous frequently – the wows of what we have done in building this place. The military victories. Building economically, with creativity, amidst all the challenges. I can’t but think that we have an Angel investor backing us – I mean, a real Angel investor.

Ezra left Persia to go home. The Jews left the rivers of Babylon to return home. They made the decision to be centre stage and not watching from a distance. This is the epoch of Jewish people, the epoch of belonging.

Living in Israel is taking our place centre stage. In Toronto, the first thing I would read in the papers was the news about Israel. To live here is to trade reading about it for living it. There is a very deep feeling of satisfaction to be in the middle of Jewish history. We have but one Jewish state, where Pesach is a national holiday and “have a good weekend” is Shabbat Shalom.

Life for us in Israel is dramatically different from in Toronto on many levels. In the dual plane of existence, of the ordinary and the transcendent, the ordinary is disrupted, at times frustrating, unfamiliar and sometimes disappointing.

However, the transcendent part of life dominates the ordinary, overtakes it, overwhelms it. The transcendent makes the irritations of the ordinary trite and insignificant.

For me, living in Yerushalayim is living a life of reaching for the transcendent. It is taking centre stage. It is a life of soulful satisfaction, of a nourished neshama.

About the Author
Rabbi Reuven Tradburks is the Director of the Rabbinical Council of America, Israel Region. He served as a congregational rabbi for 23 years, most recently in Toronto, where he was also director of the Beit Din of the Vaad Harabonim for 10 years. He and his wife Joyce made aliya in 2009 and reside in Jerusalem. All views expressed here are the authors and are not the views of any organizational affiliation.