7 Cheshvan 5781 / Sunday, October 25, 2020 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
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The Returning Citizen    

The Returning Citizen

To succeed in Israel, you must have a strong desire to be a Jew in Israel, and not a comfort-level seeker in Israel. Comfort and aliya don't always go together...


Several years ago, Hashem kicked me off His turf. It was a swift, unexpected punt, resulting in a household of goods going straight into storage and a new life across the globe forged under difficult circumstances.
I can look back now and understand why I had to go; at the time I didn’t because I was too deep in self-made emotional muck. I had never really wanted to be in Eretz Yisrael, before I moved and even while I lived there. I had gone initially because it seemed to be the right thing to do at the time, following the wishes of others despite my own. When I arrived I put my energies into forging a good life with new friends, most whom fit into my world of the journey to frum. I tried to keep ‘chin up’ at the setbacks and even managed to view common annoyances (people cutting in line; strangers yelling at each other; the worst parking maneuvers) with a sense of humor.
The years passed and each visit back ‘home’ made me more nostalgic for what I’d left behind – calming greenery and bodies of water; effortless parking; smiling strangers; excellent customer service; Target and Trader Joe’s. Each year, it got harder to go back to Israel. Until one year, I just didn’t go back. I left my life behind, with all the fixins, and started a new old one.
“Our sages teach that Hashem takes a person wherever that person wants to go,” Rabbi Shalom Arush writes in The Garden of Wisdom (B’Gan HaChochma), due out in English in the coming months.
I went my way. Problem was my way was only good enough for a short period of time. My neshama soon began to yearn for what I’d left behind, and I felt neither here nor there, belonging nowhere. Not even wide parking spaces, smiling strangers and the best of American consumerism appeased me.
I tortured myself with guilt for having even wanted to leave Israel, and for not being truly happy with my lot. Or accepting that it was Hashem’s will that took me out of Israel and put me exactly where I needed to be for an unspecified allotted amount of time. I viewed my removal from the Holy Land as punishment for being unfaithful to Him and for taking my time there for granted.
After months of despair, I gradually learned how to speak to Hashem, with heartfelt thanks to Rabbi Lazer Brody’s CD shiurim, articles and personal encouragement. In particular, the book The Garden of Gratitude flipped my life around, though it took reading it a few times for the magic glue to stick to my soul.
I finally got it. I accepted, with a full heart, the international marathon Hashem had me running. I told Hashem I completely believed that when He would be ready to move me back to my true home, I’d be game. But in the meantime, I was perfectly happy with where I was, because it was exactly where He wanted me to be.
Rebbe Nachman teaches us when a person recognizes that whatever happens to him is for his very best, life in this world is like paradise (Likutei Moharan I:4). I recognized that life in Eretz Yisrael was sweet and life in America was sweet. Life was simply sweet anywhere and everywhere. Once this concept became engraved within me with no way out, I was in paradise all the time. (I did need to constantly remind myself of this, especially when dealing with whining kids and dishes piled mile high in the sink.)
An amazing discovery was made right before Rosh Hashanah. Our mezuzahs were checked, as they are annually, and all came back a-okay. Except for one: The large front door mezuzah. The sofer (scribe) informed us that a word in one sentence of the Shema prayer was smudged to the extent that the entire mezuzah was pasul (defective). When I found out what made the mezuzah defunct, a chill went down my spine.
V’avadtem meherah m’al ha’aretz hatovah asher Hashem noten l’chem.
“And you shall vanish quickly from the good land which Hashem gives you.”
Merely a few months after my spiritual transformation and the mezuzah discovery, Hashem gave me and my family the green flag to go home. The month of Kislev has been replete with personal miracles, very much revealed. A great job in Israel and finding a great home to rent in nearly a snap of the fingers are a few examples.
Hashem is giving me another chance. All along He’s done mind-boggling chessed for me, whether it’s been west of the Atlantic Ocean or east; whether it’s been with tough love or kid gloves. Whether I’ve recognized it or not.
And now, with tears of joy in my eyes, I prepare for my trip eastward as a returning citizen. G-d willing, once and for all. 

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