We learned this verb, LATET (to give) at the ulpan, and one of the examples in the official curriculum was this question:
’What does Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel) GIVE to olim hadashim (new immigrants)?’
We looked at each other in the classroom and started to list the things we had got and would get from the State of Israel. We began with practical things. Such as the ulpan. Medinat Yisrael gives us ulpan (free Hebrew language course). And teudat zehut (ID). Medinat Yisrael gives us teudat zehut. And kupat holim (health care). And discount from taxes. And money to start a new life.
At this point we countinued with less practical things. A new life. Medinat Yisrael gives us a new life. And a new home. Medinat Yisrael gives us a new home.
And then something happened. I don’t remember what. Someone might have come into the classroom with vital information about our next excursion. Or someone with a big box of tomatoes as a present for us. Or someone just to repair the flickering neon tube.
Whatever had happened we finished talking about the beginning of this beautiful friendship between our tiny, humble ulpan group and Medinat Yisrael.
And a very important question has remained unanswered.
’What do olim hadashim GIVE to Medinat Yisrael?’
I remember Rabbi Finali’s drash in Budapest about Avraham and Yitzhak – a drash that scared the living shit out of me. He asked the congregation what was the most valuable sacrifice one could offer to God? ’Their own life’, he answered his own question. ’Is there any sacrifice that is more valuable than one’s life?’ I couldn’t think of any. Rabbi Finali helped me out. ’There is one’, he answered his question again. ’Their children’s life.’
When the new transcendent God asked Avraham to sacrifice Yitzhak’s life Avraham didn’t think twice. He grew up in an age of idolatry. He was used to human sacrifice. He was ready to sacrifice to the new God the single most important thing in his life. The life of his son. But the new transcendent God stopped him. S/he wanted to teach Avraham something very important. S/he wanted to teach him that the times of idolatry were over. There was no need for human sacrifice anymore.
When I look around in our classroom I see the faces of my fellow new immigrants. Young mothers and fathers who – like Avraham – brought their families to Israel.
And I recall the question that remained unanswered, ’What do we, olim hadashim GIVE to Medinat Yisrael?’
’Our strength… our hearts… our talent… our dreams… our future…,’ I answer my own question.
’Is there anything that is more valuable than your strength, your hearts, your talent, your dreams, and your future?’ Rabbi Finali might ask us if he were in the classroom.
Hell, yeah. There are some.
’Our children’s strength… our children’s hearts… our children’s talent… our children’s dreams… our children’s future…’
Together we have seventeen daughters and sons in the ulpan group.
This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Between our tiny, humble ulpan group and Medinat Yisrael. We can’t let important questions unanswered.
This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. There are some questions we must ask and answer together.