Why I Moved to Israel (5)

If you haven’t been following this series, you can go back and read the first, second, third and fourth post now.If you have been, you know that guest posters from different walks of life and different parts of Israel have been sharing their reasons for moving to Israel. If you would like to contribute your own post, leave a comment below.

Guest post by Gil Reich

The simple answer is I thought that’s what G-d wanted me to do. Someone once told me to try to find a single page in Sefer Dvarim that didn’t say something about “these Mitzvot are to be performed in the Land of Israel.” I couldn’t. I think that says something.

I know there are some people who are scared by the idea of doing something because G-d said so, especially those that believe the canard that most killings in the world are done in the name of G-d. Not true. In fact, most killings in the world were done in the name of pagan or atheistic ideologies whose goals included the destruction of the Jewish G-d and His people. OK, so there were also many religious killings in the name of the destruction of the Jewish G-d and His people. But I digress.

On the other side, I know many Jews who somehow doubt that we’re supposed to live here. I admit to finding it remarkable how some Religious Jews debate what kind of Mitzva, if any, you fulfill by living in Israel. As if it matters. The entire Torah is based on the premise of the Nation of Israel in Israel. The storyline of the Torah is of the Nation of Israel observing the Torah in Israel. Halacha is about combining the Torah’s big ideas with the detailed ideas. The big ideas include loving your neighbor, loving G-d, being kind to widows, orphans, and strangers … and living in Israel. Beyond that, when you live in Israel every time you make a purchase, or pay your taxes, or smile at your neighbor, you’re fulfilling other Mitzvot like v’Chai Achicha Imach. And the Torah even provides the story of the Spies to teach us that even when our greatest religious leaders rationalize a heter to live outside of Israel, or an Issur to live in Israel, they’re wrong. And to the Religious Jews who reject Zionism and publicly support Ahmadinejad and Arafat … well, I hope they spend eternity with them. Too harsh? Seventy faces to Torah? That’s not what G-d said to the Spies.

I used to be on the other side of this issue. My family spent a year in Israel when I was 10, and I was completely miserable. When my sister returned from Orot all Zionistic, I made fun of her a lot, and waited for the brainwashing to wear off (it didn’t). I’d go to Bnei Akiva and criticize them for their hyper-focus on Aliyah at the expense of other issues. And when my year in Gush convinced me that I needed to make Aliyah, I came up with a nine-year plan that would leave me plenty of time to get over it.

But a year later some funny things happened. I spent a Shabbaton with people just back from their year in Israel, and I saw the spark that I had already lost. And I noted that I had tried to work out a plan to get to Israel earlier because of a girl (that didn’t work out), and I couldn’t justify not making the same efforts to get to Israel earlier because of G-d.

So I told myself that if I could graduate that year I would make Aliyah right afterwards. No big risk here since this would involve three very unlikely things. Getting 29 credits for my year in Israel (nobody else in my school ever got more than 6), getting a passing Physics Lab grade (it was pretty clear that I had earned my F), and being able to work out a 21 credit schedule for the last semester. Was it a deal with G-d? I guess. And when the last semester’s schedule of courses was announced, I remember playing with it like a puzzle, but there was just no way of fitting in 21 credits. And then I got the 29 credits for my year in Israel. And the Physics Dept. chairman gave me a D (I was never so thrilled to get a D). And at the last minute, the school announced one more 3 credit course where the students would determine the hours. And all of a sudden, I was graduating in May. Part of me says it was a coincidence. The other part thinks that G-d called my bluff, and that this was one of two times in my life where G-d crossed the line between subtle intervention and blatantly flaunting the odds to push me in a certain direction. Am I crazy? Probably.

So why did I make Aliyah? I guess you can decide which of these reasons is true:

– Because I thought it was G’d’s will

– Because I thought G-d called my bluff and forced my hand

– Because I’m nuts

Maybe they’re all true. And to some degree I went kicking and screaming. I was in Israel for my sister’s wedding the summer before my Aliyah, and I cried because I was so bored and unhappy and couldn’t believe I had to move here. And I loved — and still love — America, its values, its culture, and its sports leagues.

But here’s the punchline. G-d fulfilled all my hopes and desires. A few months after my Aliyah I met the beautiful and wonderful woman with whom I just celebrated our eighteenth anniversary. Thank G-d we’ve been successful professionally, and even get to travel. Even silly things like my sports addiction worked out. After a five-year blackout in the early 90s (which for a Mets fan was probably a blessing) the Web and satellite TV gave me as much sports access as I ever had. And as I write this I hear my (thank G-d) wonderful children laughing with their friends. In another year my daughter will begin Sherut Leumi,and a year later my son, who has the courage that I never did, will proudly join the army where his zchut in defending the Nation of Israel will trump anything I’ve done in my life. So my sacrifices were temporary, even illusory. And I thank G-d for the opportunities, the support, the wonderful gifts He bestowed on me and my family — and perhaps even more so, for the feeling that I’m living with the courage and integrity He desires, and according to His will.

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