This post is dedicated to the refuah shlema (a full and speedy recovery) of Mordechai Leib Ben Shayna Esther, Larry Levine. Our dear friend, Avi Levine’s, father.
It’s also dedicated to Nefesh b’Nefesh, which has allowed so many of us to follow in Avraham Avinu’s footsteps.
I don’t think there is a parsha (weekly portion of the Torah) to which I feel more attached. Hashem says to Avraham,
“Get a move on it. Pick up everything and everyone that you have and leave your father’s house. Come on now, don’t look at me that way. I mean it. Just have complete and total blind faith in me and come to the Land that I will show you.”
And it sounds crazy, ridiculous. Who would simply believe in this sort of promise? Who would have the faith to pick up everything that they know, and convince their family to go as well, and move away from the land that they’ve always known and the people that they’ve always loved?
This story is sounding suspiciously familiar.
When I think about what Hashem told Avraham, and then I reflect on our journey for the last eight plus years, it’s really amazing to think about how it all begins.
What makes one person decide that it’s time to move, despite it all, while another chooses to stay put?
This week, as I think about that question, I’m brought back to one name: Rocky Brody. I wonder how many of us have one, two or three people from whom we received so much encouragement that we decided to finally make the move. They were the proverbial tipping point.
We had considered Aliyah for awhile and I was always the one who was nervous. I came on a pilot trip in December of 2003 and was put in touch with Rocky Brody. Sitting in her home in Alon Shvut, with a few other supportive women, I was struck by their words and by the encouragement that they offered. However, while their lives looked lovely – mine did as well, back in Potomac, Maryland.
And so, I went home and thought and stewed some more.
Sometime after that visit, Josh came to Israel for a visit and I had a sleepless night at home. Could we really pick up and move everything that we’d ever known? Could we really do this? And in the middle of the night, I dug out Rocky’s email address and wrote the longest, most rambling email of my life. I filled it with every worry, every fear, every trivial and important concern I’d ever had. All to a person that I didn’t really know.
And then I went to sleep.
In the morning before taking the kids to school and going to work, I raced to the computer to see if she had answered me. And I was utterly confused.
I had over 100 emails in my in box.
While I slept, Rocky had forwarded my email to the close-knit email lists throughout Gush Etzion, requesting that people offer me strength and encouragement; that they answer me honestly and help me with my difficulties. As Rocky recalled,
“I remember the emotional email I wrote to the lists asking them to help you like they had helped me before my Aliyah- calling on my new extended family of Gush Etzion to address your fears with honesty and compassion.”
I sat at the computer reading email after email and crying and laughing and crying some more.
Who were these people who were willing to take time out of their busy days to write to some random person half way around the world?
Who were these people who were gushing about living in Israel? About life in Gush Etzion? About their experiences that were similar to mine?
And I felt a shift in my core.
We could do this.
We really could.
And that day, and the decision by one acquaintance to take my email and forward it to her many lists, created a marked shift in me. These beautiful, strong, confident Zionistic strangers were calling me home; they were drawing a picture for me of a life that was rich beyond my wildest dreams and that would lead my children to destinies that I couldn’t even fathom.
Hashem promises Avraham (in a loose English translation), “Raise now your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward and westward.
For all the land that you see, to you will I give it, and to your descendants forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth so that if one can count the dust of the earth, then your offspring, too, can be counted. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth! For to you will I give it.”
And walk, indeed, we have.
Parsha Lech Lecha is a great time to think about the people who have influenced you in your life, whether you’ve been influenced to make Aliyah or to do anything else noteworthy, scary, and challenging. And to offer thanks to them for leading the way.
And thanks to all of you nameless, faceless friends in Gush Etzion who offered me their hand and encouraged me to follow.