Monday, 6 December 2010

Finding a Home in Israel

My thanks are extended to the Mishna Berurah Yomi program (learn an Amud a day and complete the entire Mishna Berurah in 5 years) for bringing the following story to my attention:

One of the challenges facing the new Oleh is often the difficulty in dealing with his financial situation in Eretz Yisrael after having come from a more affluent life style. In fact, not only this, he may even feel himself losing ground in a variety of other parts of his life as he finds himself shifting from one type of lifestyle to another.

The Shulchan Aruch 1:3 teaches that anybody who fears Heaven should be distressed and worried over the destruction of the Temple. The Mishna Berurah points out that though he experiences distress and worry over the destruction - nevertheless, his Torah study and his prayer to G-d must be with joy! How does one ever come to deal with such opposing feelings?! On the one hand, distress and sadness, and on the other - happiness?

The Chazon Ish teaches "עיקר עשיית מצוה הוא שמחתה שזכינו לכך " - The main fulfilment of a Mitzvah is our joy that we merit to do Hashem’s will through Mitzvos.” Yet we may wonder: How can we feel joy while undergoing personal or collective hardship?

One great answer was supplied by the Abir Yaakov of Sadigura, zt”l. Shortly after the Holocaust, when Rav Yisrael Grossman, zt”l, paid the Rebbe a visit, he was surprised to see that the Rebbe was clearly exceptionally joyous. When the Rebbe noticed Rav Grossman’s surprise, he used a parable to explain why he was filled with joy despite the recent tragedy. “Imagine a poor Jew, beaten down and sickly, who has nowhere to even rest his head. If people have mercy and open their homes to him, he will surely be filled with boundless joy from gratitude.

“The Jewish people today are likened to this poor man. Although we endured such cruelty which resulted in the murder of millions of Jews, we must never lose sight of the positive. Now that we have entered Eretz Yisrael, which is our homeland, we are exactly like a poor displaced man who has finally found a home. 

“Now you might argue that the spiritual level here is not exactly optimal. Nevertheless, the very fact that Hashem has brought us back home after such a tragedy is also enough to make us joyous!”

This is an amazing idea to keep with us - those who take the "plunge" to make our lives in Eretz Yisrael, who take ourselves very often from a life of affluence, and settle for a life which is somewhat less (physically) comfortable - and very often even spiritually unsettling! Those who make the move to Eretz Yisrael should come to see that while difficulties may abound, the first step of the journey has actually been made. They are at home. The ambivalent feelings of feeling unsteady on the one hand - yet excited on the other are normal. Now it's about moving onwards. 

One has found one's home. Now it's about "settling" it and bringing blessing in to it. So too, as we live in Eretz Yisrael as the Beit HaMikdash - the Temple - stands in ruins, we must feel this pain similarly. We must mourn this loss. At the same time, all our Torah, all our prayer and all our acts of kindness, must be done with joy. Through the expression of feelings as they should be expressed on each thing in its own way, we can be certain to do the right things and restore the complete blessing back into Eretz Yisrael with the dwelling of the Shechina (the indwelling Divine Presence) in the Land itself. 

May it be immediately!

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