Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why I live in Los Angeles-and not Israel (part 2)

A colleague who I assume lives in Israel, expressed to me after reading part one of this article, that "with all of the positives regarding other Jewish communities, let me remind you that only Israel is our real home - period."

I can only speak for myself, but I believe that these sentiments reflect anyone who has been to Israel, and has the depth and vision to appreciate what they have seen and experienced. I want to share with you my experience: Back in '74, I graduated from YU, and was accepted to Shaalavim. My intention was to go and learn for a year, become more proficient in hebrew, raise up a notch the level of my learning, return to YU, learn for smicha, and consider the opportunities that would be presented as that point. It was exciting, the prospect of going to a foreign country (As an immature 22 year old I had never been to Israel, and spoke a very broken hebrew), but my exposure to Israel and Israelis, heretofore has been anything but endearing: I had found Israelis to be pushy, aggressive, dogmatic, smelly, and anything but what I had viewed as spiritual. In LA where I grew up, I had been an NCSY kid, and we viewed the Bnei Akiva kids as reactionary Israeli cheerleaders, with little depth, seeming to worship Eretz Yisrael above the Ribono Shel Olam and the Torah . BTW that's one of the reasons why I chose Shaalavim, specifically because it was not a Mizrachi Yeshiva, as it was associated with Poalei Agudat Yisrael, which at the time was a much bigger tent, far more inclusive and quite different than Kipa sruga Mizrachi, but I digress. A funny thing happened: though, when I got there: I fell in love with Israel, was overwhelmed and totally caught off guard by the depth and intensity of its kedusha, and I have longed to return ever since. I have gone back many, many times since, trying to spend Tishrei and the period betwen Lag Baomer and Shavuos there each year, though alas, I haven't always been successful in doing so. As a great mekubal in Bnei Brak told me, I'll know when the time is right for me to make aliya. But the biggest problem that I face each time, leaving Israel, is the "chalal", the void that I feel. It is enormous and unbearable. So how have I learned to cope and function in Galus? By talking to Ha-Shem on a daily basis, really, talking out loud in a place of privacy without distraction, I have come to the realization of the importance of bringing Eretz Yisrael with me into Galus. There is a different mindset, a different set of values and a connectivity that contagiously infects, wisens and deepens one's neshama being there, at least it does to me. By carefully considering how important every decision I make is, and by constantly asking myself whether my actions will please the Ribono Shel Olam, I am comforted in feeling that I have brought Eretz Yisrael with me wherever I am, even in Los Angeles. Of course, nothing replaces being there, and I long for each opportunity that presents itself for me to come, but in the meantime, I find solace and joy in each day, even here, and am extremely grateful for the enormous blessings that He has granted me as I continue to long to be there.

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