Avraham Lev Weiss

More Than Just A Flag

Sometimes, when I am feeling courageous, I read the headlines of the Times of Israel as a prayer and call to the heavens, “When will You be revealed on earth?!”

Sometimes, when I am no longer patient, I unfurl my flag over the breadth and width of our land, and shout, “I am not afraid, this is my home.”

I am not embarrassed to be who I am, and I am not ashamed if it offends you. You are welcome to tell your story. And I am welcome to tell mine. But we both know that there is only one story: the one that HaShem is telling through us. And we can choose to tell it with Him. We can choose to tell it right.

You are angry with me: you feel that I am insensitive, extreme. Sometimes, when I am forgetful, I feel angry too at the ones I love most, my family, my children; being so close, they become so very easy to blame.

And sometimes, when I am humble, I ask forgiveness, I admit that I make mistakes.

For so long I could not tell the difference between right and wrong. For even longer I did not believe that there were such things at all. Life seemed random, happenstance, make the most of it, don’t get carried away.

Then one day, I began to cry, and I couldn’t stop. Not until I knew that I did not create myself. Not until at last I was ready to listen.

I used to be so angry at the Haredi men I would see on the street. Holier than thou! Self righteous! Old fashioned! I used to spit at the thought of doing a “mitzvah”, chas v’shalom. As if the million and a half good deeds I did were not enough for whatever was out there. As if G-d really cared if I drove on Shabbes, ate an urchin, spoke with an evil tongue. I didn’t want to know, and I was furious at whoever presumed he could tell me. You want to teach me? I’ll teach you!

I was wrong. For thousands of years we have guarded HaShem’s Torah in love and trembling. How now can everything turn meaningless in our callous hands, can our enlightenment darken our eyes? For millenia we have davened to return, dreamed of Jerusalem, and known what we meant. How now that we are home can we forget, give up our identity, adopt the one of our enemies, throw on whatever costume we can find?

Everything is backwards, and nobody seems to notice.

But all of this is only on the outside. And Jerusalem is the city of the inside, the deepest depths, as real as we are meant to become.

Oh Jerusalem, you have 70 names and I have fallen away from all of them. Oh Jerusalem, inside, inside, my heart is still burning. Oh HaShem, please do not give up on me. Sometimes, outside, I may not be so beautiful. But all the time, inside, I am begging to come home.

About the Author
Avraham Lev Weiss made Aliyah to Israel eight years ago and works as an educator in the Israeli school system. He loves the land and its people very deeply and hopes that his words and unique perspective as a ba'al teshuva, oleh, and teacher can be helpful to clarify truth and enable unity.