Op-Ed: Why We Chose to Make Aliyah
Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 1:50 AM
We finally shared with everyone our good news.
Rabbi Zev M. ShandalovRabbi Zev M. Shandalov served as the rabbi of Kehilath Jacob Beth Samuel (KJBS) in Chicago, Illinois, until his family's Aliyah in 2009.
About one week ago, we let the rest of the world in on a little secret that our family had known for well over two years. We finally could share with everyone our good news: we were going to make Aliyah.
As the Rabbi of a synagogue in Chicago, and being very involved in the community, I was concerned that the reaction would be a very mixed one. On the one hand, I hoped that people would be happy for us, but on the other hand, I expected some negative feedback. I was pleasantly surprised when the "positive" comments were 99% of the reaction. However, I must say that one comment caught me a little off guard.
For a moment, I hesitated in my reply.
One man approached me shortly after the conclusion of the Shabbat on which I "announced" and, after verifying that he had heard correctly, that indeed we were making Aliyah, he posed a one word question: "Why?"
For a moment, I hesitated in my reply. I thought he was asking why we chose to live in Maaleh Adumim. "No," he said, he was curious why we were making Aliyah altogether. I told him that, rather than give him a brief, dismissive answer on the spot, I wanted to put my thoughts into writing and share them with others. That is the genesis of this article.
The reasons are manifold, but I will try to coalesce them down into just a few thoughts that should encapsulate all that I and my family feel is the reason we are making Aliyah.
First, though, I should address the reasons we should not make Aliyah. My wife and I were born and raised in Chicago. Almost all of our family is in Chicago. We have most of our close friends in the city. I am a rabbi in the community, with involvement in many people's lives and in many organizations. We have, thank G-d, a very nice, modest home, and we have been very happy with the education our daughters have received and continue to receive. Our roots are here and our lives are here. So, how do we even think of making Aliyah?
The truth is that there is one major flaw in the preceding paragraph. While our physical roots are in Chicago, our historic and spiritual roots are in the Land of Israel. That being the case, our decision to make Aliyah is, simply put, returning home.
"Home" - it has such a warm and comforting sound. From the historical and spiritual perspectives, it is the land that HaShem promised our forefathers and gave to them as an inheritance for all of their children. As a descendant of the Patriarchs, we are entitled, nay, obligated, to accept this gift from HaShem and to settle in the land that He chose for us.
Imagine for a moment that a human king came to your home and brought you a most beautiful present. The wrapping was magnificent and the box was very heavy. Then, imagine leaving that present in your garage for years and occasionally looking at it. People come over and see the gift of the king and marvel at the beauty from afar and even encourage you to open it. But, alas, you have not been moved to open the gift. Occasionally, you unwrap a little of the outer paper, but quickly, after a few days, re-wrap it, only to leave it covered for a few more years.
In my mind, this is how I see our relationship with the Land of Israel. HaShem gave us this magnificent gift. He told us that, in that land, we can do more mitzvot than anywhere else on Earth. He told us that we will have a special reward for living there, and He told us that He too will "live" there with us.
After many years of "leaving His gift in the garage," and after many years of "unwrapping" this gift only to re-wrap it and leave it behind, we have decided to "open the gift."
Perhaps the best way I can explain why we want to live in Israel is to quote from a piece I wrote a few years ago:
I want to live in a country...
- where the seventh day of the week is Shabbat, and not Saturday;
- where your elected officials live on your block and pray in your synagogue;
- where Torah is taken so seriously;
- where people do not spend a year's salary on an SUV;
- where a person's home is not a measure of his success;
- where my forefathers walked;
- where the street names are from the Bible or names of Torah sages;
We let the rest of the world in on a little secret.
We let the rest of the world in on a little secret.
- where the guy delivering water can tell me where the closest minyan may be found;
- where the land itself has kedushah;
- where the land itself is a gift from HaShem;
- where the spoken language is the language G-d used to create the world;
- where even secular Jews invoke the name of HaShem;
- that has the mountain upon which the Temple will be built;
- that we pray for three times a day;
- where you don't have to explain to your employer why you need to leave early on Friday;
- where you can eat chametz on the "eighth day" of Passover;
- where the majority of events in Bible took place;
- where many of its soldiers pray;
- where people are passionate about politics;
- where you can feel Shabbat is coming;
- where you can feel that it is Shabbat;
- where it is not "Saturday night," but it is Motzaei Shabbat;
- where Sunday is not "Shabbat Sheni shel Galuyot";
- where Jews have died protecting the land;
- where one can be proud to be a Jew;
- where Shalom is not the name of a cemetery, but it is the fervent hope of every resident.
So, when I am asked, "Why are you making Aliyah," the answer is that these are merely some of the reasons that we have made this decision.