It feels like many moons ago, but the memory of coaching one of our בני בית through his dating career keeps coming to mind. A real earnest mentch, he felt compelled to list all of his character flaws on every first date he went on. All in the interest of honesty and full disclosure of course. It was a sweet, if not misguided and self sabotaging gesture. After one particularly intense venting session, he disclosed that he never seemed to get to a second date and he couldn’t understand why. We validated his need to be honest and then pointed out that he can’t expect anyone to stick around when all they hear is the bad stuff. We encouraged him to give them something to like before letting it all hang out.
I asked him what he thought was the major difference between our friends/family and the other people in our lives. He answered that our friends and family are the people that we love. I agreed with him and then expanded that it is because we have an existing relationship with our friends and family that we are more inclined to be tolerant of their inadequacies. Anyone else with the same shortcomings is deemed to be insufferable.
Any person on paper is unattractive. If given the choice, we would never actively choose people with flaws; however, our perspective shifts profoundly once we start seeing someone as a person, instead of as individual qualities. You and I can look at the same person displaying the same weakness at the same moment, and have completely different impressions. One of us has a relationship with this person, and therefore sees the context, and the other one of us doesn’t, so merely sees the negative. Context changes everything and determines how we relate to people. The pesky thing about context is that you usually only get it once you start developing a relationship with someone.
Being in a relationship means that there is a package. You see a person as more than just a list of traits, and appreciate that all of those qualities come together and compliment each other, creating the unique person who you have come to love. The opposite of a relationship is taking what you like and then discarding the rest. That is called using.
What keeps a woman married to a man who begins to bald a few years into their marriage? Or a man whose wife gains weight after pregnancies? What keeps parents invested in their children who choose a completely different path than what the parents had hoped for? How do you keep in touch with the sibling who knows just how to press each one of your buttons? It is simple. Love. Being in a relationship that you are invested in gives you more strength than you could ever imagine. Suddenly you are empowered to tackle things you never could have previously.
I have a friend who is planning an aliyah pilot trip in December. She is concerned about bringing her children with her. Is it irresponsible? Is it the wrong thing to do? She wants so badly to be here, but is terrified of putting her children in danger. After expressing all of these concerns she wanted to know if it is wrong to have these questions?
I reassured her that her concerns were completely logical and valid, but also completely irrelevant. Seeing Israel as dangerous and unsafe is like viewing one quality completely out of context of every other quality. The thing about love is that it defies logic. When you’re in a relationship, the facts are only part of the story. The Jewish people have a relationship with the land of Israel and with each other. When you view everything that relates to them within the context of this relationship, logic no longer seems pertinent.
You want to know why we aren’t scared? Why we don’t want to leave? It is because we feel extremely connected to this land and to our people. We are totally and helplessly in love. We are living in a time now where everyone we know is going through something huge, and even though we are all experiencing it together and individually, we are all managing to drop everything and be there for each other in every way that we can. Even for strangers. The feelings of love that we are experiencing now are other worldly.
You know how even when you are too busy in your life to take on any extra responsibilities you still manage to drop everything and be there for your friend or sibling when they have a simcha or רחמנא ליצלן, a tragedy? Somehow nothing else matters, and seemingly magically, you show up to take over, to run errands, to get whatever needs to get done, done. You know how? Because love conquers all. This is what is happening in Israel right now. It is the shared love for our people and our land and the desire to fight for both. This is what עמו אנוכי בצרה looks like. This is what כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה looks like.
Missiles are flying overhead, more reports of death are heard every day, and an overwhelming sense of concern for what may be hangs in the air. This is all true. But here, inside the land, ask anyone what they are experiencing and they will all answer the same thing. Never before have they been so happy to live here, so proud to be a Jew, so convinced that we are on the cusp of something momentous and life changing. We are grateful for the opportunity to be here to not only witness, but to play an active role in what is unfolding. These feelings trump our fear and concern. We are overwhelmed with our love for our land, for each other, and for our future.
We understand how you are able to go on with your lives business mostly as usual right now. You are too far to understand and feel what is going on here. And what help is it to anyone anyway if you are miserable? You’re right. Life does go on. And you being miserable doesn’t help a soul. But you know what it does do? It shows that you too have a relationship with the people experiencing what we are. That you too have a relationship with the land. That you want a חלק in whatever is coming.
Remember what I said earlier about taking what you want and discarding the rest? How that is using? Don’t think that you can just show up when everything is perfect. If you want to be a part of this family, come now.