Today I dream no more.
Today I dream no more the dream that Abraham dreamed over 3,000 years ago. An elderly man, a novice of his time, commanded to leave the comfort and familiarity of his home for a barren and deserted waste-land. He willingly abided, and was rewarded with descendants who dreamed to follow his lead.
Today I dream no more the dream that Moses dreamed for 120 years of his full and fruitful life. Though on his deathbed his skin was clear and his eyes were as bright as the sun, his heart was wretched and weary, as he died the death of a dreamer still waiting to fulfill his dream.
No longer do I dream the dream of Rachel, of Ruth, of Esther. Of Noa, of Tirzah. Of thousands upon thousands of Jewish women who died with the dream of seeing and settling the Holy Land. Though some were blessed with fulfillment, many, many were not. It is their wailing voice that I heed. קול ברמה נשמע. A voice is heard on high. Rachel weeps for her children.
No longer do I dream the dream of our sages who sat in the study halls of Babylon, deciphering and decrypting the laws and obligations that pertained to a Land that would remain desolate and untilled for 1,500 years after their deaths. For those 1,500 years, the thousands of laws that govern Jewish life in the Land of Israel were kept and kept alive only by the Jews who studied them. Almost none of those Jews ever practiced the laws, yet they were as revered and beloved as the daily and ever-relevant laws of Shabbat, Pesach, and Kashrut. For almost two millennia, thousands of trees were prepared for planting in the Land of Israel by the men who so devoutly studied their laws, even though those men lived as near as Egypt and as far as Russia, but rarely ever in Israel itself. When Mark Twain wrote about his trip to Israel in 1867, saying that “there was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country”, it seems that he forgot about the trees that had been prepared and cultivated in the study halls of Babylon, Paris, Venice and Vilna.
No longer do I dream the dream of a Jewish Spanish banker, once a respected businessman, a revered intellectual, a proud Spaniard and an advisor to the king, who – because of his practices and his belief in his G-d – was harassed, mutilated, and burnt at the stake. What he would have done for the privilege of returning Home.
No longer do I dream the dream of an aged Yemenite Kabbalist, a relic of centuries past, who awoke every night at midnight to cry an ancient cry with tears so pure that they cleansed the muddy earth beneath his knees. His cry was one of pain, sorrow, and destruction. Yet his Hope was one of majesty, of light, and of peace.
No longer do I dream the dream of a young Polish man. A capable academic, an aspiring writer, and a proud Jew. Maybe the beholder of a biblical name, Noah, perhaps. A century or two ago, Noah would have had to forgo his religion if he wished to pursue his studies and engage his mind. But not in 20th century Warsaw. In 20th century Warsaw, Noah fought in the Polish army. Noah studied finance at one of the city’s top universities. Noah ate at Polish restaurants, watched football at Polish bars, and spent weekends with his friends by the Polish seaside. And then, Noah got fired from his job, forced from his home, and shoved hatefully into a Ghetto. Noah was marched to the Umschlagplatz – the designated area to gather the city’s Jews. Noah was thrust onto a train, transported to a concentration camp, tattooed, experimented on, coerced to work for the Nazis. Noah watched his mother and sister murdered before his eyes by a joyous Nazi officer. Noah was ultimately sent into a dark room, told to take off his clothes, and as the latch above the shower heads opened and a canister of acid was poured into the room, Noah, a capable man of 23, screamed, SHEMA YISRAEL. The sacrifices Noah would have made to board a boat heading for the Land of Israel are simply unquantifiable.
No longer do I dream the dream that these heroes and millions like them dreamed for thousands of years of their devastating, horror-filled exile. It is because of them and their dreams that today I dream no more, because today I am going home.