Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

27 Kislev 5766 - December 28, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Eretz Yisroel at All Costs
by E. Weil and B. Schwartz

They are well known figures at the airports, which is almost their second home, as they `commute' cross-continent to their workplaces, to remain for a few days, weeks or even months. But the home base is always Eretz Yisroel. They wouldn't trade that for anything . . .

R' Shmuel's job entails his being on duty in a European country two days every week, forcing him to shuttle back and forth accordingly.

How do you maintain contact? Upon your return, do you feel out of touch with whatever happened at home, with the family, in the interim?

In the era of modern communication, every Jewish community is connected to one another and to what is going on in the Jewish world. Sometimes, in Europe, I can be updated to what is going on in Eretz Yisroel much quicker than if I were home.

I have a steady telephone rendezvous with the family once or twice a day, not during work hours, of course. If any problem arises, I try to solve it by `remote control' through the phone. As for the kehillah, I try to give them the feeling that even when I am back home in Eretz Yisroel, I am still with them, since I know how much they need me and rely on me.

I make my departure even when I am uncertain that I will be able to get away and return at my usual appointed time, not knowing what may develop. For example: If a strike is imminent, I take my chances and go, not knowing when and how I will return. This is my job, my mission, and I know that I am needed. How I arrive — that I leave up to Hashem. And thank G-d, until now, I have never encountered a glitch except for the bombing of the Twin Towers.

It will be remembered that all flights were stopped at that time. It was right before Rosh Hashonah and in my kehillah, they arranged a place for me for Yom Tov. My family and I began to make peace with the idea of our separation but in the end, I returned two days after my usual time with an unscheduled flight. I traveled to another European country and there, I was able to board a plane going to Eretz Yisroel. Being a frequent traveler, I was given preferance and this special flight was made possible for me. Thus, I was able to spend the Yom Tov with my family, after all.

What is particularly difficult? How does you wife handle this situation?

She replies:

"Difficult" — she sums up succinctly. "But I try to make the best of it. We maintain a daily telephone contact. I daven more fervently when my husband is far away . . ."

How is the difficulty mainly manifested?

I must make decisions by myself and learn to manage by myself. The older boys wait for my husband to come back and review their studies with them. Then there are the PTA meetings for the boys that almost invariably fall out when he is absent. And the little ones miss greeting him and sharing their daily experiences with him.

Can you say that you become accustomed to the schedule?

Somewhat. I learn to put off the important things for when he is home, but this is not easy since new problems and situations crop up all the time whose decisions require his involvement. As a working woman, I truly need a helping hand every day. When everything is going smoothly and no problems crop up, the difficulty seems to shrink. It looms much bigger again when a child become sick or something happens. Then I especially feel his absence. When a week passes uneventfully, without any glitches, we heave a sigh and say, "Boruch Hashem! It shouldn't be worse . . . "

Do the children take an interest in your husband's work in some faraway place?

My husband shares his experiences with them at the Shabbos table and they relive it with him. The older ones insist on knowing every minute detail, including the flight and the scenery. Even though this has been going on for several years, each week has its story, its experiences, its novelties. That's the up side, the pleasant and interesting side.

The difficult side is the anxieties before the flights. In the winter, I am afraid of sudden snowstorms preventing takeoff, or making delays. I also worry about security and unexpected situations. The tension is renewed each week. I thank Hashem each time I see him returning home safely.

Difficult, but also a mitzvah

Originally, we held a family caucus in which it was decided that it was possible and that we agreed to the offer. We discussed it with the children and explained to them that Abba would be going on a shlichus (mission) abroad and that we had the privilege of being his partners.

It would be difficult, we told them, because Abba would not always be accessble, but on the other hand, we would be associates in the mitzvah. The older ones understood and accepted the decision with due appreciation. The little ones didn't exactly understand what it entailed. Their focus was on the gifts and surprises they would receive.

R' Yeshaya's wife, experiencing a similar situation, presents the family's part in the decision making. She felt that if she presented the facts to the children in a happy, optimistic manner, as an interesting challenge of value, that is how the children would see it, too. "But when we project the difficulty in the matter, if we are tense and anxious about how we will cope, the children will see it in the same negative light."

When do you most feel his absence?

On Shabbos, of course. The daily high pressure routine makes one forget the difficulties, but Shabbos intensifies the feeling of loneliness and longing. The children feel more at loose ends, that the rein of discipline has slackened. Each one recites his dvar Torah quickly, out of obligation, whereas when he is present, the Shabbos table is much richer, full of meening and content. At least for Yom Tov, he is never away, except for Chanukah, and then, too, it is felt very palpably. The candlelighting has something missing to it; it is cheerless. When I felt it, I was suddenly moved to pray to Hashem not to remove other fathers and husbands from any family!

What do the children say about their father's absence?

I discussed the problem and explored it with the older children, and the question always arises if it is all worth it, if it is feasible for him to continue on this way, doing his important work, or to stop. The talks are very open but the younger children find it much more difficult to express their feelings. One young child, however, formulated his ambivalent feelings by stating, "I don't like it that Abba goes away, but I know I also share a little of his mitzvah." He once even came out bluntly and said that he hates it that Abba is so far away; he wants him to come and learn here, close to him.

I hear undertones and overtones of anger and resentment, especially from the little ones. They feel closer to him. They miss accompanying him to and from shul and studying with their Abba. When the older boys are away in yeshiva for Shabbos, I ask friends of theirs who have come home for Shabbos to come and take the boys to shul, and even to coach them along and make sure they daven properly. That is one of the solutions I have devised, and I encourage it by giving prizes to the ones in charge.

"When I am there, my heart is here"

In a talk with R' Yeshaya, he says: "I call my family three times a day. I even call my sons in yeshiva."

Don't these frequent calls interfere with your work?

Even when I am on a mitzvah-mission, I am not absolved, nor do I shirk my main mitzvah of educating my children. On the contrary: When I am far away, it is all the more important that they toe the line. And even though it does disturb me, one does what one is obligated to do and I experience siyata d'Shmaya. Someone who is concerned with the education of others, merits Divine assistance with the education of his own children and I admit that I see it tangibly in a most wonderful way.

I work together with my wife; I make my effort in maintaining contact, in advising, listening, encouraging and doing whatever is possible through the phone. When I return home, I try to be there 100% and to give my family my full attention to try to fill the gap.

As for me, when I am abroad, I feel as if I am with them, here. Sometimes when a person is far away, he can feel even closer and more attached; he thinks more about his family and is more concerned about them. The younger children love to hear about my travels and experiences. They always ask when they will be allowed to accompany me. It is my wife, actually, who sometimes does this. If I am unable to come home for Shabbos and she manages to set up the children by a family, she comes to join me. She enjoys it, and the community where I work is happy to have me with them. She also spends a week vacation there occasionally when she can arrange it. I think it is important that she get the feel of the place where I spend so much of my time and energy and not feel it so removed from her.

[final part next week]


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