Shayna Goldberg

Coming home and zooming out

While sheltering at home, I'd expect to long for elsewhere, but I find that there's adventure to be had here in our homeland, and this extraordinary project of nation-building
The Israeli flag is screened on the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, as Israel celebrates its 72nd Independence Day under lockdown due to the coronavirus, April 28, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The Israeli flag is screened on the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, as Israel celebrates its 72nd Independence Day under lockdown due to the coronavirus, April 28, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

We are home.

For the last seven weeks, our family has been at home, along with the rest of the world, doing what we can to make the most of each day.

Puzzles, family Zooms, art projects, intense conversations, meals, prayer, major cleanups, fights, laughter, work, Lego-building competitions, learning, cooking and movies.

Our home has become the center of every activity in our lives. It doubles and triples as our offices, our leisure space, our synagogue, and our schools.

But “when you’re safe at home,” Thornton Wilder said, “you wish you were having an adventure.”

Two months ago, we had an adventure — to the community where I grew up.

My family and I traveled to New York for a week in early March to celebrate my parents upcoming aliyah after 45 years of leading their community.

Parks, shul, my bedroom, old friends, Dunkin’ Donuts, backyards, cousins, Purim, the beautiful Long Island Sound, Target, a celebratory dinner and a week of reminiscing, recollecting and nostalgia.

My childhood home is the foundation of my values, my character, many of my most important relationships and my approach to life. Every time I return there, I draw strength from the memories the place holds, the comforting smells and tastes, the people who live nearby and the experiences that made me into who I am.

But every day we were there, the news about the coronavirus got increasingly worse, and, at some point, we just wanted to get home.

Because “when you are having an adventure,” Thornton Wilder concludes, “you wish you were safe at home.

And so we came home — to Israel.

And it felt so right and so good to be back.

* * *

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes Israel home.

I have always felt very connected to the houses and communities I have been blessed to live in, but there is something different here when you zoom out further to the connection that we feel to our nation and to our homeland.

I feel it every time it rains, when there is sincere joy in the air as we eagerly await the overflowing of the Kinneret, and I realize that I have never seen such excitement over a body of water.

I feel it when thousands are out on their porches singing Mah Nishtanah together on this very different first night of Pesach, and suddenly, this song, which has been sung for generations, feels as relevant as ever.

I feel it in the way that strangers look out for each other on the street and in supermarkets, as if they are truly brothers and sisters, helping each other through difficult times.

I feel it with each radio broadcaster who wishes us a chag sameach or moadim l’simcha, reminds us what day of the omer we are up to or shares a thought on the weekly parsha.

I feel it in the way that individuals are invested in and aggravated by politics because they care about every detail that affects the future of this country and its trajectory and know that Jewish destiny will be shaped by it.

I feel it in the way this country is rooted in its past, and the old mixes with the new, as you walk the streets of Jerusalem named for events and figures and books from our rich history.

I feel it when we stand silently during the sirens of Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron, and traffic across the country comes to a halt, as we collectively mourn the losses we have suffered as a people and the sacrifices we have been forced to make.

And I feel it when I realize that life here is not only punctuated by moments of connection to our Jewish experience, but that it completely permeates every facet of our existence in this amazing country, where life is never boring and always meaningful.

This Yom Ha’atzmaut, due to the coronavirus, we will be at home barbecuing, praying and Zooming in to various celebrations and ceremonies.

But let’s not forget to zoom out and take note of what is going on around us.

We are in the midst of the most extraordinary project of nation-building. We have been witness to miraculous and unpredictable victories, an ingathering of our people from around the world and day to day innovation and progress in every area of life. And even our collective mobilization for this latest crisis reminds us of our tenacity, our vision and our will to survive.

We are home. We are in our homeland. And we are having quite an adventure.

How amazing it is when all three of these coalesce into one.

Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach!

About the Author
Shayna Goldberg (née Lerner) teaches Israeli and American post-high school students and serves as mashgicha ruchanit in the Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash for Women in Migdal Oz, an affiliate of Yeshivat Har Etzion. She is a yoetzet halacha, a contributing editor for Deracheha: and the author of the book: "What Do You Really Want? Trust and Fear in Decision Making at Life's Crossroads and in Everyday Living" (Maggid, 2021). Prior to making aliya in 2011, she worked as a yoetzet halacha for several New Jersey synagogues and taught at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck. She lives in Alon Shevut, Israel, with her husband, Judah, and their five children.
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