About living in Eretz Yisroel and commuting to a job in chutz la'aretz.
Once every three Shabbosim, or every "weekend," or sometimes
only two days a month, they come back from abroad, to
families eagerly awaiting them. Most of the time, they are in
Europe, the U.S. or South America, teaching in yeshivos,
chadorim, serving as shochtim and
kashrus supervisors plus a wide range of other
occupations requiring them to remain for relatively long
periods of time away from their families — abroad. For
them, going to work entails hours of trans-ocean flights.
Their livelihood is somewhere in the Diaspora, but their
starting — and ending — point is here, in Eretz
How do they feel about it? Do they become accustomed to the
flights and the frequent changes, even the jetlags? How does
the family take to it? Reactions we received range between
"one gets used to it" to "difficult" and the in-between. Each
one and his own world, feelings, reactions. Each one and his
individual story. But on one thing they are all united
— that the home base remain Eretz Yisroel.
What Are They Afraid Of?
R' Shmuel (alias) has been "commuting" to a city in Europe
for the past four years, where he serves in a Torah-related
capacity. He came to this job in a very interesting way. A
certain kehillah was struggling with kashrus
problems and turned to Hagaon R' Nissim Karelitz
shlita for advice. The latter referred them to R'
Shmuel as an expert on the subject.
"To be sure, I responded to the plea and traveled there to
solve their problem. We instituted certain changes and drew
up plans. Meanwhile, I made close acquaintance with the heads
of the community. I returned home and after a short period,
new but similar problems cropped up in a nearby community.
Since they already knew me and my method of operation, they
turned to me, asking that I come to their aid. When I arrived
and succeeded in solving their problem, they asked that I
remain in that capacity on a permanent basis."
Did you entertain serious reservations before accepting
I had my doubts and qualms, like anyone would have before
taking on a new job. Every undertaking, every means of
livelihood is a gift from Hashem. One can never know what
awaits us, what is allocated to us or for how long. I
certainly had my reservations about the separation and
distance from my family. Even though I travel there every
week for only two and a half days, these are, nonetheless,
days of separation. I must board a plane even if the
situation at home is difficult, as with a sick child. And I
can't come home earlier, either, because I am bound by flight
schedules. I pray each time anew that these two days pass
peacefully and uneventfully.
One time, during this four-year period, the situation in the
home was very fragile. When I learned over the phone that
there had been no change for the better, I made a special
effort and succeeded in booking a flight, after a 24-hour
stay. The flight itself is only of four hours duration but
the distance is very vast when there is a problem. Boruch
Hashem, this only happened once.
In general, I had to accustom myself to different people with
a dissimilar mentality. I exercised a great deal of patience
and good will to hear their problems, understand them and
deal with them to their satisfaction. "To jump into their
shoes, so to speak."
I stay there for about 48 hours a week and when I leave, my
"head" is already in Eretz Yisroel and in my home, but they
remain there with their problems. It is very important for
me, therefore, that as soon as I return there, to step
immediately into their framework and deal with the pressing
problems as if I had never left . . .
Being a Good Will Ambassador for Yiddishkeit
Frequent flights over a period of years become routine. Is
this a difficult, nerve-racking routine or does one become
accustomed to it?
One never becomes accustomed to flights. However, when a
person makes peace with the fact that this is is mission, his
job, he makes the maximum effort to ease the difficulties and
transitions. Airline companies are very accommodating to
veteran travelers like myself and we received special
benefits of regular customers which shorten the preparation
and preliminaries for the flight. I utilize the waiting
interim for learning, and these can be very productive since
there is very little disruption. If I am tired when I am on
my way home, I rest, especially if these are pre-dawn hours
and thus, I arrive at home fresh and ready to lend a hand.
Still in all, these are only conditions that somewhat ease
the overall difficulty.
There are certain advantages to be said for work like mine. I
am preoccupied for the majority of those two days but when I
return home, I have a few days altogether at my disposal when
I can return to the kollel and study with a quiet
Do you have any particularly interesting memories from
Actually, every trip that passes safely and uneventfully is a
blessing to thank Hashem for. It is enough to hear of
occasional plane crashes to make my heart pound. But I have
no choice. "Risking his life, he brings his bread."
On my trips, I have met unique people and occasionally,
fascinating discussions have developed which, I must admit,
disrupted my learning schedule. But if I have a seatmate who
wishes to converse with me, I oblige, often seeing in them a
mission. I sometimes travel with roshei yeshiva, each for his
particular purpose, and then we discuss issues which I would
not have had the opportunity to talk about back home.
People are much more open and pleasant during a trip and
inclined to talk. Even people not from our circles feel that
up there, they are closer to G-d, as they put it. And they
are receptive to hear something about Yiddishkeit.
I have no choice; I admit it. Here are people who, perhaps
for the first time in their lives, encounter a religious
person face to face, a bearded face, which they assume
belongs to a rabbi. They pounce upon me with queries and
questions, or with their personal problems. There are some
secular Jews whom I meet week in, week out, for they also
`commute' to jobs abroad. They discuss questions of
hashkofoh, family problems etc. I am bound to listen
to them and answer to the best of my ability.
One secular Jew sits near me on a regular basis. Each time
the stewardess serves a meal, he got a non-kosher tray. He
once turned to me and said, "I see you don't throw stones at
me even if I eat treife." For a long time, I never
said anything, but only commented, "You know what is
forbidden, and nevertheless, you go ahead and eat it. Why
should I try to convince you otherwise? I can only hope that
you, yourself, will wake up to the fact, some day, and will
want to change your ways."
Upon one certain occasion, when he shared with me a terrible
disappointment he had experienced, I said to him, "Perhaps
this is the very time to change your way and begin eating
kosher." The miracle happened and he decided to order only
kosher food from then on.
I then felt on what a thin tightrope I was treading. How much
siyata d'Shmaya is required to say the right words to
the right people at precisely the right time. Each one of us
is a good-will ambassador for Yiddishkeit when we go out to
the big world. It took time for that secular person to
internalize the realization that chareidi Jews don't
`throw stones' and that one can even talk to them. To my
regret, he did not become a baal tshuvah, but his
attitude towards religious Jews did change. Anyone who enters
his store these days, no longer receives a vehement diatribe
against us as he did previously. And he did accept
upon himself the commandment of eating kosher.
I have noticed that a secular Jew in distress tends to
intentionally seek out a chareidi Jew. When he sees
that we treat him like a brother, even if it be a wayward
brother, it changes his attitude towards Judaism as a whole.
But this has its downside, as well. After a stint of
intensive work, I need to unwind, physically and emotionally.
A long conversation requiring high concentration leaves me
drained. Sometimes, my seatmates are lawyers or other
intelligentsia, and I must mobilize all of my powers to hold
my own. I feel like an ambassador, talking to one person,
with a thousand eyes riveted on me, examining every word I
[to be continued]