Bensi Abadi, Ramat Beit Shemesh
Several years ago I was in a serious predicament and needed guidance. I made the trip from Lakewood to Eretz Yisroel, to solicit advice from Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l. Rav Chaim told me, “come to Eretz Yisroel.”
We had come to vacation in Eretz Yisroel several times before, and made all of our boys' bar-mitzvahs there. We just never envisioned it as a place to actually live in.
At the time, we had been living in Lakewood for 13 years. We had a whole list of reasons why not to come live here. I was well-established there; I had opened up my own kollel, ran a chabura, had a shul, and operated a successful gemach. My children were older and therefore at high risk for successful transition. There was the issue of making a parnassa in a new country, and making sure the kollel I had started would continue. My wife did not feel confident to just pick up, leave everything behind, and move to Eretz Yisroel.
Rav Chaim insisted though, “ta'aleh laAretz” (make aliyah to Eretz Yisroel). Knowing that such a move would be challenging, and also wanting to ease my wife's concerns, I asked Rav Chaim for a havtacha (promise) that things would work out. He responded “havtacha!” That was it! We came, and we definitely see his bracha playing out.
We moved to the very 'Anglo' city of Ramat Beit Shemesh. People here are helpful, and go out of their way to welcome you – many are themselves immigrants from America who understand you. It's a great landing place for kids. Here, any random store I enter will generally have a majority of English speakers. Though we're living in a city, the culture and pace of life is more country-like, with beautiful mountains all around, and many parks, malls and stores. Socially, it's a place where many different kinds of people can find their 'crowd'.
One thing that had a major impact on me and my family is being part of the shul of Rav Avraham Halevi. Although the davening is nusach Edot Hamizrach (Sephardic), the open and welcoming, happy and comfortable environment attracts a mix of all different kinds of people. There are many Yeshivish English-speakers davening there.
Rav Halevi had been the rav of a large kehilla of 200 people in Mill Basin (Brooklyn, New York). He always had a tremendous love for Eretz Yisroel, and so every year he asked gedolim for permission to move to Eretz Yisroel. When they finally allowed him to go, he already had a large family of eight children, but making the move at that stage didn't faze him!
Here's one concept I learned from Rav Halevi: When replanting a tree from chutz laAretz to Eretz Yisroel, the orlah process (the first three years of a tree's life, when it is forbidden to eat its fruit) may start again. Similarly, when 'replanting' a Jew in Eretz Yisroel, there is a 'renewal' process the person's neshama goes through. This resonated with me very much, as I really felt a difference here. I felt that I hadn't really known myself before living in Eretz Yisroel. It was as if for the first few decades of my life, I had not really actualized my true identity.
Ever since I was in yeshiva, and all through different trades and business ventures I was involved in, I was always learning at least a half-day, so I know what learning is all about – and I feel that my Torah learning in Eretz Yisroel is simply on a different level. The same is true for davening – it's on a completely different level here. It used to bother me to daven in a garage, or in a shul without chandeliers; but now I feel that davening in the simplest place in Eretz Yisroel can get me to a higher madrega than davening in any high class setting in America.
Having grown up in America, where, in many frum communities, the Torah's viewpoint on Eretz Yisroel is not actively taught (I think it's just not yet in style, after years of having to challenge secular Zionism), we were inadequately prepared on an emotional level to tackle the challenges that inevitably accompany anyone's move here. Learning from Rav Halevi and educating ourselves about the ma'alot of Eretz Yisroel through other venues, while appreciating the significance of us Yidden coming back to live here after many long years in galut, helped us accept these challenges as part of the process, and played a crucial role in helping us tide over the waves, aiding in our process of acclimation.
B”H, despite every challenge or perhaps actually through every challenge, I believe we have managed to instill in our children a love and appreciation for Eretz Yisroel. This definitely had a positive impact on their adjustment to the move. The bottom line is that moving to Eretz Yisroel is the best thing that ever happened to us!
Helping Others Connect
B”H we have a solid connection with Eretz Yisroel by living here, being mekayemmitzvat Yeshivas Eretz Yisroel.
I think that if we can give Jews living in chutz laAretz a tangible connection to Eretz Yisroel – in which they can relate to it as real and relevant, not just as some abstract concept – it would serve to keep Eretz Yisroel in their conscience. With this in mind, I helped establish Eitz Mitzva, an initiative which gives Jews in chutz laAretz the opportunity to own fruit trees and a piece of land here and be mekayem the relevant mitzvot. For more information call (845) 280-0840 or visit eitzmitzva.com.