Chaim Ekstein, Romema, Yerushalayim
The plane tickets for our move from Monroe, New York to Eretz Yisroel were booked well in advance, on Chanukah of 5780 (2019), before anyone thought about corona. The original date for our flight was July 1, 2020, but it was pushed off time after time due to coronavirus regulations. For two months we were living out of our packed boxes. It happened more than once that my kids would ask me in the morning if we were leaving that day, and only later in the day would I have an answer for them: the flight had been postponed once again.
We finally left for the airport after the sixth time our flight was rescheduled. When we finished with check-in and were finally ready to go to the gate, we saw a sign that the gate was a thirty-minute walk away. The problem was that the flight was in only forty minutes, and the doors usually close fifteen to twenty minutes before take-off. We started walking quickly, and five minutes later we heard an announcement on the loudspeaker, “Delta airlines paging a group of nine.” That was us. They announced that if we didn't board soon, they would take off our luggage. After all these weeks of anticipation, would we be let down once again, and at the last minute? I cannot begin to describe the feeling.
In those last fifteen minutes before we did B”H make it to the gate and board the plane, we felt as if maybe Eretz Yisroel was rejecting us. We were thinking, why doesn't Eretz Yisroel want us? It just didn't make any sense to us. I now realize that these hurdles were actually gifts from HaShem, granted to us so that we will appreciate Eretz Yisroel even more, and be thankful to HaShem for helping us overcome them. This appreciation and thankfulness led us to designate the day of our arrival as a new family Yom Tov, to celebrate our “yetzi'as America.”
It all started over twelve years ago, with a 10-day visit to Eretz Yisroel. It helped me see that a real and physical Eretz Yisroel exists “al pi p'shat,” and its existence is not to be understood only on some deeper, mystical level, just as with other mitzvos. For example, the daled minim may allude to different things, i.e. the vital organs, the different types of people etc., but this does not negate the literal aspect of them being four physical objects which HaShem's will is that we should take on Sukkos. The mystical aspect of tzitzis does not minimize the “simple” act of wearing it to literally perform HaShem's mitzvah, and we can be happy about that, too. I felt the same way about Eretz Yisroel; not perceiving it as also a tangible reality – HaShem's Chosen physical piece of Land, where He wants us to be – is really to be missing out.
For the past twelve years, at every Shabbos table, the subject was Eretz Yisroel. When we would get to the end of the Pesach seder, I would explain “l'shana haba'ah b'Yerushalayim” in a most literal sense. During this period, I took my family four times to Eretz Yisroel for a few weeks. Each time, we left with such a longing and broken hearts that we weren't staying. Every time we did renovations in our house, we felt sorry that it wasn't in a house of our own in Eretz Yisroel.
I began to appreciate the challenge of Avraham Avinu. At first I thought, what's the big deal? How is “lech lecha” a nisayon? Anyone who would get a directive from HaShem to go somewhere would surely do so. I then realized that it very well may be that HaShem did direct people to go, but it was only Avraham that actually took the next step and went. “Vayelech Avram,” that's the chiddush here. Though nowhere near the magnitude of Avraham's challenge, I felt many times that I couldn't get to that next step, until HaShem gave me the strength to come and be part of history, to be a part of this Geulah process. I believe that we got here only in the zechus of the countless tefillos of our ancestors over the past two thousand years.
As a business consultant, I tell people that if they want to be successful, they should speak to successful people. If you want to be a good plumber, speak to a successful plumber. If you want to be successful in real-estate, speak to someone successful in real-estate, not to a plumber.
I understood that this concept applies to aliyah as well. Hearing ten reasons why aliyah cannot be successful from people who didn't succeed, would not help us succeed in making aliyah. We understood that we didn't need or want support groups comprised of people who may be interested in aliyah but have not succeeded as of yet. Certainly, asking people point blank in shul (who are still in chutz laAretz) what they think about aliyah was not going to foster success. What was important was to create our own support network comprised of the people who did succeed.
As author of an Amazon bestseller, “Escape from the Prison of Comfort & Create the Life of Your Dreams,” I'll let you in on another tip. People may be stuck in their status quo, prevented from changing jobs or relocating, including to Eretz Yisroel. They think they need a clear picture of the future, with a plan they're able to follow through to the letter, without which they will not proceed. To move forward though, you might just have to jump in. Of course, you must be responsible and address whatever needs to be addressed, but must not forget to trust in HaShem and that He created you as well as everything you need to succeed.
Before making the move to Eretz Yisroel, I went to consult with a chashuve rav in Monsey. He told me why such a move cannot work; the school system is different, the culture is different, and there are so many other challenges. I countered that I did not come to take his advice on whether to make the move; that has already been decided.
He then literally jumped off his chair, and said to me. “Wow! I am so jealous of you! How can I help you?”
I then realized that people really do want to help. It's just that they cannot take the responsibilities that people want to throw off of themselves. These kinds of decisions have to come from you; it's you that has to decide that the reward of living in Eretz Yisroel is worth you taking on the challenges. Once you do that, people will be glad to help.