Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Kislev 5766 - December 21, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

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

Part I

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 Yisroel.

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 the office?

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 head.

Do you have any particularly interesting memories from your trips?

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 utter.

[to be continued]


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