Yesterday, my husband and I spent a rare day-off together in Jerusalem, doing errands, but also absorbing the pre-Chanukah atmosphere. I took lots of pictures of sufganiot (Israeli donuts for Chanukah) and other signs of Chanukah''s arrival in Jerusalem. I intended to write a light-hearted piece to contrast with the seriousness of some of my more recent posts. Truly I did.But then an issue keep nudging me from different directions and I thought that maybe this is what I was meant to write about instead.
I spend a lot of time in the geula world - the largely Internet-based world where people think and dream and learn and write about the Ultimate Redemption of the Jewish people and who search for signs of geula in headline news.
Yesterday, there was a whopper. A "Kristalnacht" in Highland Park where five Jewish-owned businesses in Highland Park, NJ had their shop windows smashed. This followed a few days after the Hillel at Rutgers had a brick thrown through the window. Most disheartening to me were the comments on the article urging people to, (I''m paraphrasing here) Stop making this sound like another Holocaust. This is America and nothing bad can happen here because our good non-Jewish neighbors will fight with us against this kind of violence.
There are a handful of rabbis who have been exceedingly influential onmy thinking, teaching me to wake up and PAY ATTENTION to what''s going on theworld, and especially in America. Rabbi Pinchas Winston was the first to teach me the idea that, in whatever Diaspora community we find ourselves, historically, we Jews miss the signs that it''s time to move on. We always stay too long.
Not only do I spend a lot of time thinking of these things, I also correspond with people around the world who are somewhere in the aliyah process. And lately, I''ve noticed a trend, a distressing question, a heart-breaking dilemma coming up with ever-increasing frequency.
In a nutshell, the dilemma is, "Okay, I get it now. I see where all this is headed and I''m ready to pack my bags and move to Israel. But, there''s a huge glitch. I have no money. I live paycheck-to-paycheck and I can''t afford a plane ticket to Israel let alone an apartment there. Rabbi X is telling us to leave America and I''m ready, but I don''t have any savings/haven''t worked in months/can barely buy groceries here, etc. What am I supposed to do now??"
What a sad question. What a harsh test. At this moment, the Jewish Agency considers aliyah from America to be aliyah-by-choice. How far are we from the point where the Jewish Agency will revise its perspective and define aliyah from America as rescue aliyah? You may think it''s far-fetched, but it''s not at all difficult for me to envision the Jewish Agency sending in planes to rescue American Jews, setting up temporary housing here and feeding and clothing them until they can build new lives in Israel.
I asked Rabbi Winston what he thinks about this dilemma of people who finally want to leave but find they cannot. His answer, "The truth? They''re stuck, short of a great miracle, and they must work on creating a mini-Eretz Yisroel where they live to remain protected, b"H. This can open doors to aliyah they don''t even know about yet, and bitachon and emunah is a must."
What I think that that means, practically speaking, is that people who are stuck in the US due to financial limitations must talk to Hashem and ask for, beg for, help. I was listening to a shiur earlier this week by Rabbi Lazer Brody, about talking to Hashem and asking for what we need. He told a story of a student in their yeshiva who went to his rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Arush, for help because he wasn''t making enough money to pay rent. Rav Arush sent him to the field to do six hours of hitbodedut, private, personal prayer. He came back to Rav Arush shortly after and said that the situation was worse and now he was being kicked out of his apartment. Rav Arush sent him to do six more hours of hitbodedut. Shortly after, he got an inheritance from an aunt and is now living in a paid-off apartment three blocks from the yeshiva.
Rabbi Brody encourages 30 minutes of talking to Hashem and asking him for what we need for 30 days. This is emunah in action.
Short of a miracle, what else can be said? If you''re here already, praise Hashem for your good fortune and say chapter 122 of Tehillim for those who are not yet Home. If you''re not here yet but can still afford to come, come now! And if you''re stuck, if you want to come but find your cupboard is bare, pray for God''s help.
Hashem has no shortage of dough.