It is hard to grasp that the diminutive Natan Sharansky, through his superhuman struggle to realize the call of Lech Lecha, was instrumental in toppling the Soviet regime.
With characteristic warmth and wit, he shared his perspectives with a roomful of new Olim from Russia and Ukraine in Jerusalem last night.
When a young man asked him how he can convince his parents in Volgograd to leave now for Israel, Natan commented that aside from the importance of learning from history, when one’s needs for freedom and identity exceed all other ambitions, then a person is ripe for Aliyah.
He also later joked that it was far easier being a Zionist in Lefortovo Prison than in the Israeli Knesset!
There is an inner voice that urges every Jew throughout their lives: Lech Lecha – Go, towards yourself.
Many of us have the luxury to respond in our own time to this call, but sometimes history leaves us no choice at all.
In both cases, it is for our good and even our enjoyment, Rashi says.
My heart goes out to the tens of thousands of new FSU olim who are navigating a new language, culture and life in Israel – more suddenly then expected, but with hope and determination.
We need to do all we can to let them know they have come home. To remind them and ourselves that the unnamed “Land I will show you” is not just a place, but a lifelong process of drawing closer to our authentic identities!
Natan said that this is the source of his life’s joy and meaning – to be continuing his People’s history and traditions in his Land, with his children and grandchildren, for whom he left our meeting at 8:30 to go babysit.