Friday, April 9, 2010

Descending in order to ascend...

It's hard to come back to the States after spending any time in the Holy Land, however brief that time may be. On the one hand, it's good to be home, yet it's saddening that I have to call Galus "home". The only consolation I take is from the additional memories that each subsequent visit to the Holy Land gives me. Those experiences enhance my bond with the Land;they enrich my spirit, nourish my soul, and allow me to feel strengthened until the next time I have the merit to return to my real home.

On the flight home, I had an opportunity to reflect on our trip, and I have a few observations to share...

- I found that the experiential value of visiting the Holy Land with a spouse and child far outweighs visiting alone. This is especially true when you have so much to share with the other person, and you have an opportunity to see things through their point of view. It was very enjoyable to rediscover the beauty of things I found during my tenure in Yeshiva in the Holy Land through the perspective of someone else, and to get their take on it.

- In a similar vein, introducing my family to those people who I built strong relationships with is even more gratifying. It underscored for my wife the warm memories and stories that I often share of my time spent in Israel. The Israeli family that I spent nearly every single Shabbos with at some point or another (usually around mealtimes)was as impressed with her as she was with them. By bridging these two separate points in my life together, it helps me appreciate everything that HaShem has done for me, and helps me share myself with my loved ones. Another highlight of the trip was visiting the Tolna Rebbe of Jerusalem to bask in his presence. Thankfully, the Rebbe encouraged me to bring my family into his study to receive blessings of health and wellness. I think that the impression he made with his warmth and insight did more than any glowing description I could regale her with. I used to go to his Shul on Friday nights to greet the Shabbos and listen to his lectures on the Torah of the previous Rebbe of Ger, the P'nei Menachem, who was his mentor. I sought advice from the Rebbe several times during my Yeshiva experience in the Holy Land, and this trip was no different. As always, he put my mind at ease with some encouraging words, and gave me advice I needed to hear.

- I had a chance to visit the newly reopened Churva shul in the Rova Yehudi (the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem), and it was absolutely breathtaking. The shul - which is being affectionately referred to as the B'nuyah ("rebuilt"; the word "Churva" literally means "destroyed") - has the old ruins incorporated into the actual structure, and the original artwork that adorned the walls of the main room have been faithfully reconstructed. the shul is only open for prayer times, so my father and I went there for Mincha on Friday, before continuing on to the Kotel to greet the Shabbos.

- Sometimes, the most valuable source for a lesson in Emunah (belief) and Bitachon (faith) is an Israeli cab driver. My nieces, who joined us for the Chag without their parents, took a cab ride from Ramat Shlomo to my parents' apartment one night, and they couldn't stop gushing about the cab driver. He showered them with blessings, and told them that they should tell their father to say the prayer for sustenance and fortune with more kavanah (intent) so that they should be able to afford to move to Israel, as they had been planning to do before the economic meltdown. He also gave a rousing sales pitch advocating for them to make aliyah, and had them near convinced by the end of the ride. I myself always look forward to those cab rides where I get to sit in the front and just chat with the driver.

- Nothing smacks in you in the face with the reminder that you're a Galus jew harder than walking to the Chutz minyan on the eighth day of Pesach and smelling fresh croissants wafting down the street from the Cafe nearby...

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