Cultivating a Love of Eretz Yisroel

From the moment I first came here to work on kibbutz, looking to experience the cleanest expression of communism in the Free World (…remember this was the 60’s!), and experienced the Land of Israel – the hills, the people, the smells, the songs, the connections – I knew that I was in love. It took me many years to go from disgruntled and passionate anti-Vietnam War protester to contented but still passionate resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, and I have logged many miles in my “wandering Jew” journey. But my love for Eretz Israel has never left my heart, and my desire to take my place among our people in Hashem’s precious land never wavered.
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Crisis in Israel

Does everyone know what is going on here in Israel? The crisis that has come to Klal Yisrael? If you are unaware –Prime Minister Sharon is in Hadassah Hospital, having suffered two strokes and massive inter-cranial bleeding. He is on life support. Ehud Olmert (!) is now Interim Prime Minister. Our enemies are rejoicing – They are saying that this as a gift from G-d. This is a very crucial and dangerous time for Eretz Israel and Am Yisrael. Please daven for all of us that Hashem should guide us through this chaos with rachamim. This whole topic deserves much more than this cursory note – but I wanted to get this out ASAP.

A Fresh Look at Davening

In the beginning, davening was all about singing and dancing and connecting to G-d. They were amazing times…..We would go to the old ivy covered Hillel House at G.W.U. (George Washington University in D.C) on Friday night, first daven the “service” and then make a communal Shabbat dinner (or maybe it was the other way around back then). There must have been 15 or 20 of us, blue jeans and long hair, loving the world, and in love with being Jewish, eyes shining and hearts wide open, and we danced and sang underneath the huge banner across one wall of the room that read, “Transcend!” We felt so in touch with G-d and the universe, so connected and united with the Jewish people all over the world, and all through history, that the words of the Shma burned deep into our souls, and I knew that I had found my place.
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Parents and the Big Picture

The Big Picture always gives me fuel to energize my life. Drawing away from the detailed mundane facts of the situation, and looking at it in higher terms always helps me pull out of my cramped, subjective position, into one where I feel I can (at least somewhat) participate in the injunction “Let Us Make Man” (which according to Rabbi Twersky, is Hashem speaking to man himself about the dynamic, Divine partnership that we have together with Him in creating our lives).

So, a part of this picture is that Hashem has blessed us all with parents who have given us amazing gifts and strengths. Read more Parents and the Big Picture

Integrating into the Frum Community

When my grandparents took the boat over from Turkey to the States in the early 1900s, they settled into a corner of New York that was flourishing with Sefardic Jews, where Ladino was the lingua franca, and the smell of borekas, garlic, pashtedas and raki hung in the air. While my father learned English as soon as he started school, developed an understanding of the “American way,” and was integrated into the American culture relatively quickly, the process was much more difficult for my grandparents. Eventually, by going out into the broader, English speaking community through work, contacts and friends made through their children, reading, and just living through the years as life happened, they became more “American.” But they always were different (Baruch Hashem!) They brought their Jewish, Mediteranean identity with them. They lived for years in their supportive Sefardic enclaves, venturing out more and more and ultimately becoming respected, productive Americans citizens.
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Finding Our True Selves

I think one of the biggest challenges for us Baalei Teshuva has to be how to take who I have been in my past, who I’ve been raised to be, who I’ve been taught to be, and transform that person into who my potential shomer mitzvot self can be.

But who is that person? I know that we can create only that which we can envision – but I don’t even know who she is! I don’t have the picture yet….We’ve grown up so long having one picture of ourselves and our reality, our present, who we are, who we can be; and now that we’ve gained the Torah perspective, seeing higher values, different role models to emulate, an altogether different future to work towards – the big question is how do we meld them, how do we integrate them – how can I morph this American 60’s humanity loving free spirited dancer into an Eved Hashem? Read more Finding Our True Selves