Allow me to introduce myself. Hmmm. How to do that accurately?
I am a child of Hashem. I'm a changed person from whence last we met, these six months past. Where to begin? What to say? How to say it?
Just the facts, ma'am: We moved back to Ramat Beit Shemesh just before Pesach, two months ago. As much as I loved the yishuv, we feel as if we've come home. Just to sit in our garden (and I use that term loosely) and be able to look out again at the green hills, filled with blooming flowers and grass and trees; to be able to walk on the streets with hundreds of other people – and hear English spoken from all sides; to walk out the front door of our apartment building and reach a shul in any direction in five minutes or less; to walk 100 steps across the sidewalk into the door of the makolet (grocery store) or just around the corner to the bus stop or produce market; to have friends EVERYWHERE telling us how glad they are that we've returned and spending every Shabbos and Yom Tov (holiday) with different families either at their home or ours; these things in themselves are enough to make David and I so very, very grateful and so very, very happy to be here.
But it's more than all these wonderful things. It's the bottomless joy in feeling Hashem's presence in my life every second of every day. It's not that I didn't feel Him on the yishuv. It's that in the past two months I've “opened wide my mouth” and He has filled it – with strength and understanding and love. Yeah, it sounds corny, but what can I say? It's how I feel. There's growth in everything I read and everything I do because I'm concentrating on the learning and the growing. And while I've gone through periods like this in the past 16 years of becoming observant, it's never been to this degree or with this much sensitivity. Part of it is having the zchut (merit) of being able to live in this holy land, and part of it is that I'm more amenable to opening my eyes and my mind to all that He's showing me.
And knowing that my husband is right there with me, feeling the same awe and growth as well. We feel so blessed! We thank Hashem that he's given us a decent parnassa (livelihood) that enables us to have not only what we need, but even a little extra to be able to help others.
I'm not saying it's all perfect and rosy. We live in a VERY small apartment – not even large enough to invite more than 6 people to have a meal with us. We're in an apartment building with young, Hebrew-speaking families with many (very many) small children who can be quite noisy at times (see, I'm smiling). The people upstairs decided to add a few rooms to their apartment, causing among other things, sparks to fly down into our yard and starting a fire; burning the glider we brought with us from St. Louis into total ashes (Baruch Hashem they got the fire out before it burned anything else). The bus commute to work can take an hour and a half or more EACH way. And for some reason, there are some tiny little ants who seem to be crawling on my desk right now – wonder where they came from?
But these things are NOTHING. They're so unimportant in the scheme of things! We have a place to live in a great location, near shuls and friends and with a small yard for Emma and our patio furniture where we can sit in the evenings and look out at the twinkling lights on the hills of Gush Etzion. We feel an inner peace and excitement here that I'm not sure we've ever felt before.
The political situation here doesn't lend itself to feeling peace and security, but that's a whole other thing. I'm not willing to look into that so deeply right now.
Only two things make me sad. The first is that there are so many Jews out there who just simply don't know the joy of living a Torah life. They don't understand, they don't want to know or understand, or they just don't care. They don't understand why we're here on this earth or what they're living for, and they've never even questioned why. I should know – that's how I was for the first 38 years of my life! The world is spinning slowly and slowly out of control: recessions and foreclosures and job losses and immorality and nuclear threats. What should be obvious (blatant anti-Semitism) is looked at as normal – even by Jews! Defending our land, defending our right to live in our land and to populate every inch of our land is looked at as evil, while real evil – terrorism – is overlooked and even condoned! The fact that Torah-observant Jews don't even know that they should be here; that they don't want to give up their comfortable existence because of the challenges they'll certainly encounter here makes me so sad. Hashem is taking away people's savings and their homes and sending disease and storms and other disasters – and no one's taking notice.
The second disheartening situation is that my sons live some 6000 miles away and the older one is one of those Jews who doesn't know what it means to be Jewish. He and his (non-Jewish) girlfriend of eleven years just had twins 3 months ago, which brings the number of their progeny up to four. He's thankfully working full time (as a cook in a treif restaurant) and they seem to be handling the added stress well. I may never get to meet my new granddaughters; their brother was only eleven months old when we made aliyah, and the oldest rarely wants to speak to me on the phone. It breaks my heart. I've been hearing rumors that my younger son may be making aliyah within the next year, but he hasn't said a word to me (his friends told me at a wedding we attended about three months ago). I can only pray...
I heard Rabbi Lazer Brody speak recently. He reminded me of Stevie Wonder, sitting in front of the crowd with his eyes closed and a wide smile on his face, swaying in his chair and speaking about Hashem's love for us. He said we needn't be afraid, that this time before Moshiach's arrival (the Messiah) is simply leading us to our greatest joy. He said it's like taking a tablecloth and shaking off all the crumbs and dirt to get it clean. Hashem is “shaking the world clean.” Those with emuna (faith) will be able to hang on, while those who don't have emuna will unfortunately be shaken off. He reminded us that everything that Hashem makes happen in our lives not only has a purpose, but is ultimately for our own good. We just have to have emuna in Hashem and do our best to work through our challenges. Hashem never gives us more than we can handle, and each challenge is tailor-made for each of us. He was so inspiring!
David has decided that we're going to drive into Yerushalayim for work tomorrow instead of taking the bus, so I should try to get some sleep because he likes to leave early. It's motzi Shabbat (Saturday night), and Shavuot was the day before Shabbat. We ate with different friends for 3 out of the 4 Yom Tov meals, and this afternoon as David and I were walking Emma I stopped at a woman's house who I used to play mah jongg with and both of her daughters were also home. David took Emma home and I had a wonderful afternoon playing mah jongg for the first time in over two months. Life is good!