Sunday, October 22, 2006

Israel for the Chagim

While it’s still somewhat fresh in my mind, I want to tell the world (or maybe just SerandEz readers) about my trip to Israel for Yom Kippur and Succos. Yes, if I seemed MIA during the chagim that was the reason why. I had this idea before I left the states of starting a blog and posting all the things I did on my trip but it proved a much more daunting task than I originally thought. I was actually annoyed for the first few days that I wasn’t going to be able to keep to it, but then my friend pointed out that I was on vacation and that I should just enjoy the trip. So enjoy the trip I did.

When people ask me how it was I’ve been saying that it felt a lot like my first year in Israel. When I got to Israel in 2002 for my first year of yeshiva I knew nothing about the land of Israel, not a word of Hebrew, and just had no clue what Israel was like. I went with the intention of just soaking everything in. I didn’t get there and say that I’m going to try to learn everything I can about Israel. I just went there with an open mind thinking that whatever happens, happens and whatever I learn, I’ll learn. To this day I still tell all the kids I meet that are going to Israel for the year that they should just go there with an open mind and suck everything up. I tell them to observe everything, ask questions, and just see how all the different types of people in Israel live their lives.

During that first year in Israel I met and talked to a lot of different types of people from all different walks of life and learned a lot about the country, the people, the politics and all the different angles and views that make up our great homeland. This trip had a lot of the same feelings. I’m annoyed that the blog idea didn’t work out because almost every day of this trip contained another interesting story or incident that I probably could have written at least a page about.

Out of all the little things that happened though, there is one little conversation I had that I’m realizing was not as insignificant as I thought.

One night during the week between Yom Kippur and Succos I met up with my friend Avi and we had nothing to do so we started roaming around Ben Yehuda talking about what was up and how our trips were going. We got on a bus and headed over to the Tachane Merkazit to meet up with some friends of his and while on the bus we started talking about yarmulkes and how he was experimenting with different yarmulkes and he felt like he was getting different reactions from people based on which yarmulke he wore. We both realized that was way too deep of a conversation and we weren’t interested in discussing the depth of yarmulke psychology at the moment (that’s for another post). But then he told me this little thing that happened that day. He had a locksmith over to change the locks on his parents’ apartment where he was staying for the chag and the guy didn’t look frum or not frum. He just looked like a regular Israeli and he wasn’t wearing a yarmulke. After the locksmith finished Avi offered him a drink and he said yeah. But first he asked if he could borrow a kippah to make a bracha. That was the story. The guy wouldn’t take the drink without having a yarmulke on his head to make a bracha. No big deal. People like to make brochos. And maybe he was Sefardi and some don’t always wear a yarmulke because that’s their minhag. Not a big thing at all.

And it hits me. I love that. I love those little things that only happen in Israel. There are all those lists that people have of things you only see in Israel or the lists of reasons why Israel is so great. And those lists are great and I love them and the fact that people can list endless amounts of little things that are so great about Israel makes us all feel warm and fuzzy inside. But when it comes down to it I realized that I live for those little things in a completely practical sense. Those little stories give me so much chizuk when I think about how I’m going to eventually make aliyah and how I’m going to have to support a family and raise children in a country I wasn’t born in and didn’t grow up in. People can talk all about how great it is to be in a Jewish country or about the Medina, or how the foods better, or how the air is better for learning Torah or whatever, but that’s all the big picture. I know the big pictures already. I spent years figuring out the big picture and thank God I get it in some sense. I know that God gave us Israel and how many wars have been fought for our land and I know there are so many great things about being in the land, and what the Torah says about our land and all that stuff. But it’s all about the little things. It seems almost like Ba'al Tshuvas who have all this insipiration when they first become frum and then they have to learn how to make the inspiration into reality and incorporate it into their daily lives as a frum indivduals. (Isn't that an interesting comparison? Olim to Ba'al Tshuvas? Something to think about.) I know it’s going to be hard to make a living and I know I’m going to have to worry about all types of things when I move there, but if I could hear just one of those little anecdotes a month I feel like I’d be good to go. If I can continue to be as conscious of those little things that lift my spirits when I move there as I am when I go there for the chagim every year, I know I’ll have no trouble fitting right in.