Meira is in the East and We Remain in the West

What is it like to see one’s daughter off as she makes aliya?  Yesterday, I found out.

Off to Israel!

Our oldest, Meira, flew to Israel yesterday.  After the mandatory 14-day quarantine, she will join Garin Tzabar, a kibbutz-based program that supports lone soldiers.  She will be adopted by Kibbutz Yavneh, which will become her home away from home before and throughout her IDF service.

We are very proud as we get used to this new reality.

Just think: We teach our children about Israel and encourage them to be Zionists.  And they listen!  How can it be better than that?

Fifty-five years ago, Rabbi Norman Lamm gave a sermon devoted to Yom Ha’atzmaut.  He said aliya could not be just an ideal; it must be a principle that governs our behavior and conduct.  If we cannot move there, we can encourage and assist those who can.  Rabbi Lamm warned, though, that this was not enough.  “Such an approach may lead to the position of the two Zionists who express their Zionism by deciding that a third Zionist must go on aliya.”

Rabbi Lamm suggested a more proactive approach.  Our children, he says, must be encouraged to go.  If not all of our children, then pick one and prepare them for the move.  Ensure that their Hebrew is excellent, help them choose a career that will be useful in Israel.

Well, Meira did go to Moshava for years and loved it…

As we observe Tisha B’Av, we will recount destruction.  I can’t help but incorporate the miracle of the State of Israel into the sadness of the day.  Tisha B’av post-1948 is a significantly different day even if the rituals remain the same.  This Tisha B’Av, I will be thinking about what it’s like to have a daughter who will, please God, be defending Israel and actively participating in its future.  Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Levi, the great poet and lover of Israel wrote,“Libi ba-mizrach va’anochi b’sof ma’arav – My heart is in the East, but I am in the far edges of the West.”   My heart – and our daughter – is in the east, and it’s the beginning of a whole new relationship with Israel.

I often describe myself as a “Wanna wanna.”  This means I want to want to be living in Israel.  I have strong desire to live in Israel, but I am just not ready.  At the same time, I like being reminded that Israel is where Jews belong.

Rabbi Doron Perez (Leading the Way, p. 48) records a story of a person who was visiting Israel and who came to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach to discuss the halakhic debate concerning the mitzvah of living in Israel.  He mentioned his analysis of the issue, and he noted to Rabbi Auerbach that the topic seems to be quite complex.  Rabbi Auerbach responded to the man, “In truth, it does not really matter what kind of mitzvah it is, because one thing is clear; this is definitely the place that Hashem wants the Jewish people to live.”

Why aren’t we all there?  It’s a question with various long and personal answers.

Maybe we can’t be there, but it’s not so bad to be made to feel a little guilty about it.

Or maybe just follow Meira…

About the Author
Rabbi Elie Weinstock is Rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City. A believer in a Judaism that is accessible to all, he prefers "Just Judaism" to any denominational label.
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