Thursday, June 28, 2012

Harder to Access

I just returned from a brief trip to the US. Before the trip, I felt anxious about leaving Israel and asked one of my rabbis for a spiritual perspective about journeying to chutz l'aretz (outside the Land). The trip was prompted by the wedding of a much-loved nephew, a wedding I had to overcome several financial and logistical hurdles to even attend, a wedding at which my husband had the honor of officiating.

The brand-spanking new Jewish couple.
The wedding was surprisingly emotional for me. Besides the joy of witnessing the very first moments of the establishment of a new Jewish family, I had the opportunity to be with family members I love, many of whom I have not seen in the two years since we made aliyah. My heart was full. And I was reminded of how hard it can be to live so far away from so many people I love.

In the end, the trip to the US gave me a new perspective on a number of issues related to aliyah, and to the profound difference I experience between life in America and life in Israel.

Of course I know that not everyone lives a materially blessed life in America, but the material life I experienced there was so, so easy. We were blessed with access to a (nice) car, a GPS and a private apartment. The shopping opportunities were plentiful and the stores were all clean, spacious and beautifully designed. Parking was plentiful. The things we wanted to buy were affordable. The hotel we stayed at was luxurious. And the customer service, nearly everywhere, was outstanding (and in English!)

It was actually a bit scary how easy everything in the material world was there.

My husband, a master of metaphor, offered me this simile. In America, materialism is like really loud music. Even if you like the music, even if you are dancing to the music, its volume drowns everything else out.

So while we were there, albeit for less than a week, I had a bit of amnesia about God. About my neshama. About geula.

To me, it seems an extraordinary feat to live in America and still manage to stay connected to the spiritual dimensions of life. I applaud that ability. I'm not saying that spirituality doesn't exist there. But it surely was much harder for me personally to access.

I loved being with my family. I especially loved seeing my nephews, both of whom are now grown men (and one a newly-married man).

At the same time, I am incredibly grateful to have come back home, where the spiritual side of life is so much easier for me to access.


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

To Know God Is With You

We are reminded of the connection between Ruth & Boaz and Moshiach on Shavuot.
Last year, our first Shavuot in Israel, was the first time I didn't teach on leil Shavuot in many years. And I felt the difference. There is just no comparison between attending shiurim and preparing and delivering one.

We are grateful to live in a neighborhood in Israel where there are English shiurim offered on leil Shavuot, but, as in previous years, this year's schedules indicated that all the teachers, in three different locations, were men. Sometimes the same men, teaching the same material in multiple locations.

In that context, I thought to organize an evening of women's teaching and learning, so I contacted a few of the many talented English-speaking women teachers in our neighborhood. After some preliminary set-backs, I nearly abandoned the project until a neighbor asked if she could give it a whirl. Hashem blessed her efforts and, in a short time, she had four back-to-back classes, primarily by women for women.

Owing largely to the fact that I am a night owl by nature, I took the late night slot. Now if you've ever tried to stay up all night learning Torah, you know that the crowd thins as time goes on. By the time it was my turn, the clock said nearly 2 AM. Women who had attended the previous three shiurim dragged themselves out, begging forgiveness, claiming exhaustion.

It's a shame, because, had they stayed, I'm convinced they would have enjoyed a second or a third wind. From 2:00 to 3:00 in the morning in that room, something magical occurred.

My topic was, "Geulah b'rachamim" - the name of a book and a seminar based on the book that was developed by Rabbi Pinchas Winston.



That special time, late at night, when Jews have already been studying Torah for hours, was a perfect time to talk about elevated ideas related to geula - the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people and Moshiach - the human being who will lead us to redemption, just as Moshe led the Jewish people out of Egypt.

There is such power in the ideas of the Geulah b'rachamim seminar. That G-d is waiting for us. That He wants us to participate as partners in the redemption process. That we have a spiritual job to do in these precarious times. That we are the last generation of Jews before G-d redeems His people. That we have a choice about whether we will participate in bringing the redemption peacefully.

I didn't get to cover all my material, but I know from the unusually positive reaction of the women who attended, that what I was able to present was powerfully received. I felt, that night, that I was a kli, just a vessel, and Hashem was putting words in my mouth in order to touch the souls of my neighbors and friends who were kind enough to stay up with me.

Since coming to Israel, I have often felt the power of G-d's Hand guiding me much, much more strongly than I used to. And this is borne out by Rabbi Winston's teaching that, outside of Israel, Jewish people are subject to the same Hashgacha Klallit, general Divine supervision, as the rest of the people in the country which hosts them.

Ah, but in Israel, Jews benefit from Hashgacha Pratit, private, individualized Divine supervision.

I feel it.

To know G-d is with you. That is a very great privilege.