When people make aliyah today, they are faced with many ethical dilemmas and challenges. They wonder where they should live, where will they find a job, where are the best schools, will their kids make friends and be happy, and more.
We made aliyah over 25 years ago. We faced many of the same dilemmas. But there was one dilemma that we did not think about. Perhaps we didn’t want to face this dilemma. Maybe it was too much of a challenge for us. Or perhaps, we really did not think about it. Whatever the reason was, we now know and understand. When we made aliyah, we left our parents behind.
There are many young adults who leave their parents behind. We have friends who went to live in other states, as they were studying in different states and ended up working in other areas. There were many, particularly women, who met guys from other cities and states who went to live with their new spouse. Some chose to be closer to their spouse’s families. Others chose to live far away from both. Whatever the situation, most of our friends still lived in the USA. They or their kids are able to “come home” for the holidays, or their parents can easily go to them. They can send the kids to be with the grandparents for a long weekend, or the grandparents can “come over” and babysit. Even today the airlines are filled with families that travel “cross country” to visit and be with each other. It’s become so common that you can even send underage kids to visit their grandparents and the airlines will allow these kids to fly as “unaccompanied minors”.
We living in Israel live much further away. For many of us, it’s a 5, 10 or 15-hour flight across the world to visit our families. Quite a long haul, and very expensive. Some are lucky. There are parents who have the means to come visit us in Israel or bring us to them. But for those not as fortunate, this can be a real challenge.
Did we do wrong? Was it wrong to leave our parents far away? What about the effect on our children? They are growing up here for the most part without grandparents!
I actually started thinking about this dilemma the other day, when speaking to an Israeli friend. He’s a young married guy, originally from Akko. He lives with his wife and three young kids near me in Givat Zeev, just outside Jerusalem. His parents still live in Akko, in northern Israel. About a 3 hr drive away. His father is not well, and he feels bad about moving “far away”. When he told me this, I almost started to laugh. How far is far away, I asked. What’s a 3 hr drive? We left our parents a 15 hr flight away! You, I told him, have it made! You can drive up, take the bus or train, whenever you feel the need. You can even take your whole family to visit your parents, and almost every holiday you are either with your parents, or your wife’s. What, I asked, is the dilemma?
After giving it some more thought, I realized that my Israeli friend has the same dilemma as we who made Aliyah. The dilemma of leaving our parents. The Torah teaches us that we are to honor our fathers and mothers. Does this mean that we are always to be there for our parents? Stay with them, or near them, forever? Does it mean that we are meant to always be at their beck and call? Must we always be there to take care of them?
If the answer to the above questions is yes, then I have another very important question. How then, are we to lead our own lives? Wouldn’t our parents want us to move on? Didn’t they encourage us to build our own lives and futures?
There is another verse in the Torah. We are also taught that a man is to leave his mother and father and become one with his wife. Aside from the physical act of marriage, I believe there is another meaning. A person is supposed to actually leave his parents, his family and create a new family with his wife or spouse. From here on, a person is supposed to focus on his or her nuclear family. It’s not a matter of leaving your parents behind. Its’more a path to a new dimension of your life, with your own family.
I think that our parents were proud of us for making Aliyah. Sure it hurt. Sure they were sad when we left. But I think the pride in the path we chose overtook whatever pain and sorrow they may have felt. I think that no matter where the kids have moved to, as long as they are living according to their convictions and ideals, the parents are happy. I would even say that parents of kids who made Aliyah, shep “Nachas” in the path that we have chosen.
Now our kids have all grown up. They are now at the age where soon they will be entering relationships and sprouting their own roots. And I wonder. Will they stay close by? Will they stay in Israel? Will we be able to continue to be part of their lives, even if they move far away?
Hopefully, we have raised them well. Hopefully, we have given them the tools they need. As long as they follow their chosen path, they should be fine. I take pride in knowing that we have set them on the right path. They are now free to choose and make their own way in the world.
And when it comes to taking care of us, I am sure they will be nearby. Even from far away.