Twenty And Counting

The day we arrived (image courtesy of author)


At twenty for pursuit [of livelihood] (Pirkei Avot)

Dedicated in honor of my hero Rabbi Yehoshua Fass.

The Torah Reading of the week in Israel is “Chukat”. In it, among other things, the narrative advances to the final years of the Children of Israel’s wanderings in the desert until they arrived at the threshold of the Land of Israel.

The words of the Torah portion resonate with me, for it was exactly 20 years ago that I heard this very same reading while still residing in the United States, the week before I made Aliyah to Israel together with my family.

“Bamidbar (Numbers) Chapter 22; Verse 1: The Children of Israel journeyed and encamped in the plains of Moab, across the Jordan from Jericho.”

Today, I can see that very same area from my back porch in Mitzpeh Yericho, albeit from the opposite side of the Jordan!

What are twenty years after all? Well, that depends on your perspective. On the one hand, twenty years is barely a blip when considering the entire length of human history. Still, in many other ways, twenty years can be regarded for some as a lifetime. Just think of the myriad of advances and “things” that we take for granted today that didn’t even exist twenty years ago.

In July of 2003, a “mere” twenty years ago, I made Aliyah together with my wife and children. I was a “young” 44, father to 10 children, and grandfather already to an Israeli-born grandson. I was leaving a highly successful, 21-year run as a Chabad emissary in Northern, New Jersey for the “unknown”.

Like the hero, “Mordechai” in the story of Purim whom we are told at the end of the Megilla, was “accepted by most of his brethren” (but not all), we too received lots of support for our decision, but also, only “mostly by all”. Throughout our lives we look back at the many decisions we have made, regretting some but hopefully celebrating the majority; the good decisions and the “Great” ones. Marrying my bride Ellie is without question, hands down, the best, best decision of them all. Living all those years in Teaneck, New Jersey was also very good. And deciding to make Aliyah remains up there with the great ones.

We recently celebrated the State of Israel’s 75th year of independence. Sometimes I find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that The State was so young when I first came into this world in 1959. First and foremost, appreciation must be given to G-d and to the brave who were instrumental in the founding of this State.

Often in life, we sometimes inadvertently take for granted the many blessings for which we are blessed with. From time to time it’s important to take stock and offer our great appreciation to those responsible for getting us to this point in our lives.

Many of my earliest memories revolve around the importance of being part of the Jewish Nation. Without question, those experiences thrust me into connecting with everything “Jewish”. That connection is a priority in my life and I have tried throughout my life to base my decisions on that connection. That is my life.

And so, when I ask myself “Why?”; Why was the decision to make Aliyah “GREAT”, the simple answer is “connection”, both for me personally and for my growing family.

My parents, thank G-d, made it easy for me to connect. They gave me a great Jewish education and raised a family seeped in Judaism. The truth is that you can connect no matter where you live. Many people do.

What I and many other Olim love about living in Israel is the so very natural way of connecting that we are fortunate to have here. Of course, you can celebrate Lab Ba’omer or Purim or even Yom Ha’atzmaut anywhere else in the world. But the connection we experience in Israel as Israelis, as Jews, cannot be replicated anywhere else on this planet.


NBN ‘03

About the Author
Rabbi Mordechai Weiss was born in Miami Beach, Florida, and served as an emissary for Chabad in Teaneck, New Jersey for 21 years. Together with his family, he made Aliyah in July 2003 and is the author of "You Come For One Reason But Stay For Another." He is a licensed Tour Guide, a father of 12 children, and a grandfather of many. He resides together with his wife Ellie and family in Mitzpeh Yericho, Israel.
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