I made Aliyah from Australia in November 2013.
Three years ago.
Embarking on my journey in the week that bridges the Torah portions of “Lech-Lecha” (Genesis 12:1–17:27) and “Vayera” (Genesis 18:1 – 22:24).
Looking back, it may be that the divine providence of this unplanned timing was the Universe’s way of sending strength and guidance as I left the familiarity of my sun burnt country to a foreign land; just like the journey of our forefather, Abraham, millennia before in the Torah portion of “Lech- Lecha” – a journey from the comfort zone to embrace the vast unknown.
And three years are perhaps analogous to the three angels that visited Abraham’s tent in the Torah portion of “Vayera”. Gabriel’s mission was to destroy Sodom; Michael’s mission was to inform Sarah that she would give birth to Isaac in a year’s time; and Raphael’s mission was to heal Abraham and save Lot. (Talmud-Bava Metzia 86b, Rashi-Genesis 18:2 and 19:16). Three years, one for each of the missions of the three angels with respect to the three portions of time: Time to destroy the vestiges of materialism and superficiality of the past; time to heal and save my core truth and integrity in the present; and finally, time to embark on a fruitful journey, one of progression and birth – rebirth and renewal – for the future.
Three is a significant number.
In Judaism, the number three represents a permanence – a ‘chazakah’, a completeness and stability, as represented by the three Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the three pilgrimage festivals – Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot (I Kings 17:21; Daniel 6:10).
Further, the number three symbolizes a harmony that connects the dichotomy of two opposites, exhibiting a common purpose and exemplifying a unifying element. Three parts create a complete form by joining the end with the beginning (Sefer Yetzirah 1:7, Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 46:10).
Similarly, according to the teachings of Pythagoras (Greek philosopher and mathematician, 580 B.C.), when expounding on the mystery of numbers and shapes, “the triad represents the number three and the equilateral triangle serves as its geometric representation.” The number three is the only number equal to the sum of the previous numbers immediately preceding it (one plus two equals three). And, three is also the only number whose sum also equals their product (one plus two plus three (six) equals one times two times three (six)). Pythagorean philosophy therefore views the triad as “signifying prudence, wisdom, piety, friendship, peace, and harmony”, and “the triangle represents balance and is considered a polygon of stability and strength.”
So, dear reader, what does the significance of my three year Aliyahversary practically mean for me and for those of you embarking on a similar journey, considering a move, or generally contemplating your presence in this Land?
Like my ancestors from the Twelve Tribes of Israel, I too came on a pilot trip to “spy” out the Land. Inspired by books like “Start-up Nation” (Dan Senor and Saul Singer), and “The Prime Ministers” (Yehuda Avner), I traveled Her length and breadth, “from the Negev Desert to the Heights of Golan; from the Port of Haifa, to the Sea of Galilee“, meeting people from all walks of life, including – members of Government; ex Unit 8200 Israeli Intelligence Corps personnel, now CEOs and CFOs of many biotech, nanotech and hi-tech start-up companies; NGOs; legal professionals; business entrepreneurs; and social entrepreneurs. I breathed the air of Safed; swam the waters of Tiberias; consumed the fires of Jerusalem; and walked the earth of Hebron. I saw the good and the not so good. I felt the energy and the intensity. I heard the battle and experienced the struggle. I was amazed and disappointed. I was high and I was low. It was a love-hate relationship.
Like the Ten Spies, I saw a Land that “eats up Her inhabitants” (Numbers 13:32); a Land that may “vomit you out” if you defile Her (Leviticus 18:28); a Land of unrest; a Land of spiritual and religious tension; a Land of financial hardship; a Land of harsh grazing and farming land; a Land of scorching sun and drought; and a Land of tedium and bureaucracy. But, on the other hand, like the Two Spies – Joshua and Caleb, I saw a Land that protects and blesses Her inhabitants; a Land of constant movement and progression; a Land of deep connection to our religious and historical roots; a Land of abundance; a Land of eternal warmth and sunshine; a Land of sweet rains of blessing; a Land of seven species; a Land flowing with milk and honey; a Land of miracles; a Land transcending the confines of time and space; and a Land of diversity, growth and change.
Ultimately, with some gentle and not so gentle pushes from the Universe, I took a leap of faith, threw caution and comfort to the wind, and I made it here. And, the choice was in my hands. I could take the perspective of the Ten Spies, or I could choose the alternative view of Joshua and Caleb.
People often ask me:
- “Are you happy?”
- “Do you miss Australia?”
- “Do you regret your decision?”
- “Will you stay in Israel forever?”
My short answers to these specific questions usually are:
- “Happiness is a relative concept, there are ‘great days’ and ‘other days’, but such is life wherever one is.”
- “Of course I miss Australia, country of my youth, laid back energy; nothing like the Aussie lamb, the life comforts and familiarity of mentality…”
- “No regrets…progression is never easy but it was necessary to keep moving.”
- “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, my life journey has taken me to many countries; nothing lasts forever, but for now, I am here.”
Yet, there are deeper answers to all of these questions.
The truth is that I came to Israel for personal progression – to experience a more dynamic, meaningful energy and to renew my core with depth and spirituality; to leave the rowing of a stagnant lake and to begin riding the riptides of a flowing river. Life is not easy here, but I did not come to this Country for an ordinary, easy, natural life. Rather, I came here for an extraordinary, meaningful, supernatural life.
And so, on the ‘great days’, when I bravely choose the expansive big picture view of Joshua and Caleb, all of my experiences and perspectives are framed in this way. My days are magical, with serendipitous meetings, mystical encounters, and speed of thought and action that science cannot explain. On those days, I am large, and liberated by the G-dly transcendence of the confines of time and space. On the ‘other days’, when I choose the path of the Ten Spies, and focus on the small-minded, tedious details and physical difficulties of this country, She indeed becomes one that “eats up” and “vomits out” Her inhabitants. Her intense religious and spiritual energy consumes me; Her heavy Middle East unrest frightens me; Her grueling physical/financial constraints stifle me; and Her bureaucracy puts me into a narrow, tight box making me want to scream, but alas I find I have no voice and no words. On those days, I am small, and bound by the constraints of man-made time and space.
There have been both ‘great days’ and ‘other days’. The Journey is ongoing. Some days feel like progress and some days feel like regress. But, I try to remember that “[T]here is progress whether you are going forward or backward! The thing is to move!” (Edgar Cayce).
However, I pray that as I complete my third year, it will bring more ‘great days’ and less of the ‘other’. More of the symbolic blessing of the number three – namely, harmony, peace, completeness, unity, and stability – in all the trios of – life, love and work; joining the end and the beginning with the unity of – past, present and future; for all of the facets of – mind, body and soul.
And, for now, I am grateful for this moment of permanence, a ‘chazakah’. She has not vomited me out. She has not consumed me. I am here. She likes me. She wants me. She embraces me.