Thursday, April 30, 2009

Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Flu and Basement Stuff

What a wierd heading for a blog entry! But I have a few things to write about and did not want multiple entries; besides, time is short.

YOM HA'ATZMAUT: It was our last one here in Chicago. Every year, I participate in the Bnei Akiva davening along with about 500 others. It always is a nice experience, but at the same time, I have never been able to muster the excitement commensurate with the importance of the day when I am not in Israel. The joy and celebration seem (FOR ME) tempered when it is self-contained in one building and not city-wide.

And while I am on the subject, allow me to pontificate just a bit. It is quite sad that this day has become a flashpoint among Jews. Hallel with a Bracha, without a Bracha, Tachanun, neither one...all of these fuel the on-going debate after 61 years. And isn't that sad! We do not have arguments about customs such as "gebrokht" or about other things that serve to identify us, by differing traditions. One never hears that someone is an Am HaAretz for not eating kneidlach on Pesach; yet, we hear all types of negative comments about people who will look upon the day of Yom Ha'Atzmaut as a day to celebrate. People hurl epithets (there goes one now!) at those who recite Hallel and recognize the Nissim and Niflaot of a state born out of the ashes of the Churban of Eastern European Jewry. This gift from Hashem should not be what divides is truly sad.

End of pontification...begin blogging again: I had the opportunity to speak to the Fasman Yeshiva High School/HTC today about what were some of the motivating factors in our decision to make Aliya. Once this is posted online, I will add a link here to listen to this 15 minute presentation. (ADDED: The link for the audio is here: Just scroll down to ISRAEL and click on my talk. Thanks to the HTC for posting this audio!)

FLU: While indeed there are a lot of people getting sick, the BIG concern seems to be the NAME of this flu...SWINE Flu...that has been cause for consternation. People from all over the world have called for a change to the name. Allow me to weigh in on the subject as well...I think we should officially call this "The Jimmy Carter Flu." Why, you may ask? Well, Jimmy Carter has blamed every world ill and problem on the Jewish people and Israel, so I figure we can blame HIM for this flu and name a flu after him!

Basement Stuff: Our basement has been the official home of anything in our home that did not have a home somewhere else in the house. So, over the years, it became more and more cluttered and filled with "stuff." Well, after years of not seeing some flat surfaces down there, I can now proudly say we are making major progress in clearing out, packing and donating a lot of things. It is amazing how much you find when going on a treasure hunt of this magnitude! I think I found a guest who came a few years ago, and who was still down there somewhere!

Once the basement is cleared out and our lift goes, it is highly likely that it will become the sleeping quarters for some of us, as our large, American mattresses wing their way (boat their way??) to Israel on the lift.

Ok, back to work...SIXTY-SEVEN days and counting....

Monday, April 27, 2009

More and More PBO's

PBO..."Packed by Owner." These are the boxes that, when moving, have been (as the words say) packed by the homeowner, rather than the moving company. We are well over fifty PBO's so far and many to go. Basement, kitchen, den, bedrooms (x 3), end in sight at the moment. As we see the finish line on the horizon, the packing has gotten a LOT more serious and the "weeding out" more in earnest. We are still working on the House/Moving Sale (scheduled for this coming Sunday, May 3rd!) and still trying to sell the house. So...all in all it is pretty much status quo.

One little change in our schedule...we HAD been scheduled to go to Israel LATE May to do "house stuff" but things have shifted some and looks like we will be going IYH MID-May.

As of today, there are 10 weeks left. That means 70 days B'ezrat Hashem until we leave for NY for the Nefesh B'nefesh flight. TICK...TICK...TICK...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tachlis, tachlis, tachlis...

One of the downsides of planning Aliya for TWO years (actually longer than that) is that there is a lot of hurry up and wait moments. A lot that needed to be done early on was taken care of and then there were stretches of time that not a lot could be done. But, now that we are 75 days away from boarding a plane, everything we do needs to take into consideration how it affects our timeline....what is the TACHLIS of that action and the time consumed. So, if we have choices to make between various options, we MUST choose to do those things that will help us to meet our goal of the LIFT being picked up (ie, packing items that WE must pack) or the goal of selling the house or finding a job, etc etc. In addition, there still is quite a bit of paperwork that needs to be done. I just spent about 3 hours filling out all the paperwork for VISAS to Israel. All the main forms need to all be originals, meaning that while the info is the same, I must fill it out all by hand and not just photocopy the originals.

We are told that "Eretz Yisrael Nik'neit B'Yisurin," meaning that the Land of Israel is acquired through tests/trials/tribulation...but, in the end, it will be IYH all worth it.

Everywhere I go now, people are asking me "So, how many days until you go?" I do not mind the question at all. The FUNNY thing is that many are surprised when I reply with "how many days" until we leave. People are surprised that I am keeping a count. Truth is that for every single trip I have taken over the past many years, I have ALWAYS kept a count-down sheet (usually beginning around 125 days). I have kept each and every one of those sheets as well for my Aliya Diary. I began the diary about this since 2003. At the time I began the diary, I did not yet have true hope that we would be making Aliya, but I used it as a personal vehicle to keep it on MY radar screen. I write in it occassionaly, but the one entry I look at often is the one that I made the day we made a family decision to make Aliya....seems like just yesterday....

Well, gotta run as we have someone coming to look at the house...Maybe this will be "the one" !! (We only need one buyer...who knows!?)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Vatterns and Nygrunds and Femmens, Oh My!

Now, before you think that the title to this post is a typo, think: IKEA! I can not tell you how many countless hours we have spent in that monstrous store searching for all the cabinets, book cases and various other items we need to put on our lift. Literally hours at a time. On one of our first expeditions, we spent two hours working with a salesperson on a series of cabinets for bathrooms, laundry room, etc only to find out that the amounts shown in their computers only vaguely matched the amount they actually had in stock, and, by the way are on close-out. SO....back the drawing board! We sifted through strange-sounding names like Vatterns and Nygrunds and finally decided on items they actually HAD in stock (and now WE have in stock in our house here in Chicago!). We also picked out beautiful bookcases that we will need to have delivered to us shortly before the lift goes in the beginning of June.

While these decisions are VERY time-consuming, it is both daunting and exciting at the same time.

Now that Pesach is behind us, the intensity TRULY begins...deciding what does and does not make the final cut as to keep or not keep; ship or do not ship; give-away or...well, you get the idea. We are going to have a "Moving Sale" (likely on May 3rd) so come early and get some great bargains! [Details to follow]

If at some point, you do not see me around, come look for me at Ikea. I will be the one sitting in a corner staring at more cabinets....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Hashata Hacha..."

"Hashata Hacha...," now, we are here, in Chicago..."L'Shana Ha'Ba B'ar'a D'Yisrael...," but next year, in the land of Israel. Jews around the world said these words on the night of Pesach at the Seder. THIS year, these words took on an entirely new meaning. As I sat there at the Seder (and again at the second Seder), I thought about these words at the beginning of the Haggada and the "L'shana Ha'ba'a Birooshalayim," at the end of the Haggada, and I smiled to myself. Finally, after all of these years of yearning and waiting, B'ezrat Hashem these words that I was saying were coming to fruition. But at the same time, it was a moment that was bittersweet as well. I looked around the Seder table at my parents' home and looked at my parents, at all my siblings, nephews, nieces, brother-in-law and sister-in-law and realized that this would be the very last time we would (in all likelihood) be sitting together at a Seder. That surely is a sad thought. Yes, as I said before there will be things that I will miss, and the Seder night with my Chicago family will be one of those things. But...I WILL NOT MISS A SECOND SEDER!!!!!!!!!! To me, for the last many years, the Second Seder presented a major challenge for me. It was the most "Galut" feeling I could experience the entire year, yet I needed to be involved in the Seder no different than the night before.

As soon as Shabbat was over, I also realized that this was the VERY LAST 3-day Yom Tov that I would have for the rest of my life IY"H (Of course, when Rosh Hashana falls on Thursday, even in Israel it will be a three-day event. This will occur in 5771 and, yes, I have already checked!)

[One last thing...the other day, I posted about Birkat HaChama and said that the next one will occur on the day after Pesach in 2037. Someone pointed out to me (and correctly!) that this happens the day after Pesach outside of Israel, but IN Israel it will be two days after Pesach. I wouldn't want you writing down the wrong date!]

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

When "Sunday" Occurs on Wednesday

While techincally this is not a post about Aliya, I am including here in any event as its subject is the rare event of Birkat HaChama...

What a day today has been! For the past few days, in anticipation of the once-in-28-year Bracha of Birkat HaChama, I checked the weather forecasts almost on an hourly basis. At one point, there were reports that it would be storming in the morning, but as the week wore on, the forecast became more and more optimistic.

And then the big day came. I was so excited that by 5:00am I was up looking out the window to see if i could see stars to indicate that the day would be sunny. With trepidation and through sleepy eyes, I looked and saw the stars. YES! There would be Birkat HaChama!!

As our Shacharit wound down, I found my personal sense of excitement growing as the opportunity for which we had waited 10,227 days had finally arrived...the time to make the Bracha commemorating the exact moment that corresponded to the Sun and the Earth being the same relative position as at the time they were created.

We began by reading four Pesukim one at a time, one kapitel Tehillim and then...we all made the Bracha together--in unison---K'ish Echa, U'blev Echad. It was magnificent! The blue sky, the bright sun, the cool morning air...all combined to make this a most memorable Erev Pesach. We numbered some 70 people including some young children who will have the Zechut (IYH) to make this Bracha a few more times in their lives, as well.

It is with clear Shevach and Hoda'a (praise and thanks) to Hashem, that we had this opporunity to stand and make this Bracha!

May we all have the zechut (merit) to live to see the next time we make the Bracha on April 8, 2037, corresponding to the day AFTER Pesach, 5797. Pencil it in wouldn't want to miss it.

A Chag Kasher V'Sameach to all

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I just finished doing my last Hag'alat Keilim (kashering utensils) for Pre-Pesach, at the Shul. What a bittersweet moment...I have had many over the past few months. These moments are filled with the dual emotions of glad to be doing this/last time doing this sort of feelings...

One thing that I have noticed over the past few weeks (and not from a lot of people, but from enough that it sticks with me) is the feelings of negativity I hear from some about our move. NOT negative about us going...but saying things like: "It's a crazy time to sell a're never gonna sell," or "I hope you don't think you are actually going to sell your house for a couple of years." Then come some of my other "favorites," when I hear things like: "So, how soon do you think you will move back here? I know So-and-So and they came back so fast." The implication being that one must be nuts to make Aliya and the move is doomed to failure.

To all of them I is a lot easier and more productive to look at the positives and not dwell on potential negatives! If I dwelled on negatives, we would not be making Aliya! Will it be hard to sell the house? YES! Will it be a difficult adjustent in Israel? YES! BUT, is it all worth it? YES! Do we have Emunah that we will sell the house, we will find jobs, etc etc? YES and YES!

I do not suffer naysayers very well...PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) is what it is all about!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Odds and Ends

Over the last couple of weeks, I needed to sit down and evaluate how my time is being spent and how I will spend my time logically over the next few weeks. In order to do that, I needed to prioritize all of those things that I do or am involved in. Not only was it a good exercise in time management but it also helped to cause me to focus over the short term and the long term.
Until the day I board the plane, the NUMBER ONE priority is serving in my capacity as Rav of KJBS. To that end, all other activities (including all other organizational work) needed to be re-evaluated. With only one exception, I have informed all of the various organizations with which I am involved that I will no longer be available for meetings, as I need to focus at this point on Shul activities and the move to Israel. By doing this, I not only take some of the pressure off of myself, but I also feel a sense of calm as I know WHAT I need to concentrate on! It has been an honor to have been involved in so many worthwhile communal organizations, but now it is time to concentrate my energy elsewhere.

I forgot to mention something humorous (it wasn't humorous in the moment!) that occured last week. I received the paperwork to fill out for our VISAS to Israel as Olim. When I opened the envelope, surprisingly, there was no paperwork for me to fill out for my oldest daughter, Daniella. A mistake or oversight, I thought. So, I called Shira Ozery (the Midwest Shlichat Aliya, who is GREAT!!!) and told her of the oversight. Nope...not an oversight, she told me. Seems that when I filled out the original application for Aliya, I checked off "no," that Daniella would not be making Aliya! OOPS!! Now what!?! Within hours, I had gathered the paperwork I needed (which I THOUGHT I had originally submitted but had not) and brought it in to the Aliya office. All of that paperwork was uploaded to the Jewish Agency in Israel, and in a matter of a couple of days, MY error was corrected. Daniella, too, is approved for Aliya. We really would have missed her not being with us in Israel :)
[My sincere thanks to Shira for the speed with which this mistake of mine was corrected!!]

Over the past year and a half, I have saved all emails and websites that people have sent to me with suggestions of what to bring with on Aliya and what to leave behind. Also, I have received so many helpful hints being on the Nefesh B'Nefesh listserv as well as the Maale Adumim chat list. I was always told that when you tell people you are making Aliya, that those who MADE Aliya and those who LIVE in Israel would be very helpful and cheerful about helping. You can not imagine how true that has been for us! Even bus drivers in Israel have given me good advice when we happened to chat about Aliya...I look at this blog as part of MY responsibility to then pass along what I learn to others. While it is axiomatic to say that one can learn from one's mistakes, I prefer to learn from OTHER PEOPLES' mistakes!

Our plan is to have a Moving Sale after Pesach to sell off many of the items that we will not be taking with us....stay tuned!

Time to go get ready for Shabbat...Shabbat HaGadol...the week of Erev Pesach and Birkat HaChama! Once in 28 years...don't miss the opportunity!!!
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My first entry...

As of today, it is 95 days (B'ezrat Hashem) until we make Aliyah. While I have thought for a LONG time about writing a blog about this adventure/journey, I am finally sitting down to do so! I do not know how frequently I will write, but I do hope to share with all of you what we are going through to provide a window into the world of "making aliya."

The truth is that this journey began 28 years ago when we first got married. (Don't worry, I am not about to write a 28 year history!) But it is only over the past three years that the IDEA started to take shape. It was at that time that we decided on making Aliya, and that we would make our home in the Mitzpe Nevo neighborhood of Maale Adumim.

Over the past number of months, I have been asked hundreds (literally) of times the same three-four questions, so let me answer them here:

1) How did you pick Maale Adumim?
Over the last many years, I have had the zechut of being in Israel dozens of times. The vast majority of those visits were taking groups around Israel. Each time I would visit another community, I asked myself if it would be a place in which I would like to settle. Every single visit ended in the same conclusion...not here. But then we got to Maale Adumim. I can honestly say that it was love at first sight! NO community is perfect, but I did find (WE did find) most of what we were looking for! For example, the physical beauty of the location; the proximity to Yerushalayim without the prices of Yerushalayim; the school that my youngest daughter, Eliana, will attend (Zvia) has an outstanding reputation; the presence of SO many Talmidei Chachamim and Yeshivat Birkat Moshe; and finally the Hashkafa of those who live in this particular area.

2) What will you be doing there?
Your guess is as good as mine. Ok, so I am only partly joking here! While this is hardly the best time to be looking for a job, I have been doing so diligently and will continue to do so. There may be something brewing in the area of education, but I will save that information for a later date.

3) Have you sold your house yet?
NO! And for all of you reading this, the house is still available!! We recently lowered our price and if you want the info (either for yourselves or for someone else) please email me, and I will be more than happy to send you the info!

4) Will your house in Israel be ready on time?
I certainly hope DOES seem fairly likely that it will be barring any significant issues.

5) When are you (finally) leaving?
While we await final confirmation, it is with 99% accuracy that I can say we will be leaving Chicago, IYH, on July 5th (Sunday) and heading to New York. Then, on July 6th, we will leave NY on a Nefesh B'Nefesh flight to arrive IYH in Israel (as Israeli citizens for the first time!!) on July 7th.

The main focus (focii) now? Packing up the house, sorting out what we need, what we want and what we will donate. Timing all of this work/packing to be ready for the people to come to our home on June 8th to pack our lift. We are also working diligently on getting the word out to try to sell our house. We still have paperwork to fill out, as well. While we (I) took care of all the NBN and Jewish Agency paperwork a long time ago, I now have to fill out all the paperwork to apply for VISAS for entry to Israel as Olim Chadashim. (One other bit of paperwork to fill out was for a grant from the Cyrus Foundation. Anyone reading this, who is planning on making Aliya and sending a me if you do not know what this is!)

It is so hard to believe that we are at this stage...that the time until Aliya is being counted in terms of WEEKS and not months or years. There will be SO much I will miss and so much that I will not miss...but more on that at a later date.

For now, this is for starters. I do not know how often I will write, nor do I know if I will manage to do this long-term. Feel free to send in your comments and ask all the questions you want to.

Over the years, as I have taken trips to Israel with groups (see earlier), I have always written about the experience along the way to "take you along with me." I invite you to join me on this "trip" as we begin to make our dream come true!