Judaism: Where is Home? Avraham and Aliyah
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Dedicated to the memory of Rav Avraham Zuckerman, zts"l, Rosh Yeshivot Bnai Akiva and Rosh Yeshivat Kfar Haroeh
Avraham Avinu did not have an easy life. Pirkei Avot, "Ethics of Our Fathers", tells us that Avraham was faced by ten major tests of faith, starting with being sent away from his homeland to become a stranger in a foreign land, until he was finally commanded to sacrifice his dear son Isaac. (PA 5:2)
In this week's Torah reading, Parshat Chayei Sara, we see that his troubles have not ended. When Sara passes away, Avraham has already been living in the land of Israel for 62 years and still has no place to call his home.
He is impelled to purchase a plot in Hevron where he can bury his wife. (Gen 22:2) In fact when Avraham describes himself to the local Hittite people he says "I am a foreigner amongst you". He is a man who has lived in a country for decades and yet feels like a foreigner.
It seems that Avraham’s life experience was that of a stranger in a foreign land. God's very first commandment to Avraham "leave your land, your birthplace and the house of your father" became a lifestyle of being alone, never creating a "new home land" or a "new family household".
In his old age, when he sends his servant to find a wife for his child, he implores him not to “take a wife for my son from among the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell; but rather you shall go to my country and to my kindred.” (Gen 23:2) It is profoundly sad to see that after all this time Avraham doesn’t feel like he belongs.
This story is juxtaposed with the story of Isaac who similarly tells his son not to take a wife from among the locals, but this time it is because he wants him to marry within the family, this time he already feels a part of the land in which he has spent his entire life. (Gen 28:2)
Avraham Avinu suffered his entire life, living as a stranger. A metaphor is brought by the Midrash comparing his life to a bottle of sweet perfume which must be shaken in order to release the sweet smell within. Avrahm too has been shaken in order for his sweet smell to fill the world. Avraham sacrificed much in order to make his son feel comfortable and native within the Promised Land, but left himself quite shaken up.
The Torah tells us this story about Avraham, but this is plight of many new immigrants to the state of Israel today. My father made aliyah many years ago, but struggled throughout his life to acclimate to the differences presented in the Israel and it has always been a struggle for him to speak in Hebrew to his quite fluent grandchildren.
Avraham's life is an example of the major sacrifices that parents make for their children to be able to feel at home in Israel. These are families who sacrificed their sense of home so their children and our nation can build a new home and a better society.
We should learn from his story to appreciate the difficulties that can come along with Aliyah and to give our support to those who decide to brave out the storm for the betterment of our nation.
The Torah MiTzion movement strives to inter-connect and inspire world Jewry through Torah-centered Religious-Zionism by offering various models designed to reach and impact the Jewish people at both the communal and personal levels, including the setting up of Zionist kollels in many communities abroad. To learn more. , click here.