Thursday, June 10, 2010

Car-less and Korach

Now that the Netivot 2010 program has ended and the kids have safely (BH) returned home, it is time for me to turn my attention back to many items that have been on hold for weeks. But, since the program IS over, I had to return the car that was on loan to me during the duration. I was asked by a few people if I miss having the car...the truth: NO! This is not a matter of sour grapes. Having a car here in Israel is not like in the States. When driving in Yerushalayim, and I did plenty of that, is like driving in the Indy 500 while blindfolded and driving backwards with directions being given by a blind man who is unable to speak. I had two small fender benders along the way (neither my fault thankfully) and the pressure sometimes got to me while driving. In between cities, the driving was nice and often relaxing. it WAS nice t be able to do shopping by car and not bus, for sure, but in the long run there was much more (and IS much more) that I accomplish on a bus: I can learn, I can rest, I can shmooze, I can relax and not worry about traffic.
So...while I truly appreciated having the car, it is just fine to be without one for now. Once I have another group like this, it will be back in my hands, but till then I will indeed leave the driving to Egged.

It only occured to me last night that this week marks a double anniversary for me. It is THIS week's parsha (Korach) on which I announced our upcoming Aliya and it is this week's parsha also on which I made my "goodbye" speech. I sit here and think back to those two events and I amazed at all that has transpired in those years and especially the past year. However, I will save the reminiscing to a later date once we are here the full year BE"H.

I am re-printing below the speech I gave when we "announced" on Korach 5767 that we were making Aliya. I do this more for ME than for the readers, as I found that moment most liberating to be public and I enjoy re-living that moment.
Parshat Korach
Public Announcement of Our Aliya Plans
June 16, 2007

Every year, when we read the Parsha of Korach, the same thought runs through my head. It is not a thought that I tend to share with others but today, I think it is appropriate.

As you recall, Korach challenges Moshe and Aharon in their capacity as leaders. Not only that, but we see an amazing Pasuk that absolutely boggles the mind:

 וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח מֹשֶׁ֔ה לִקְרֹ֛א לְדָתָ֥ן וְלַֽאֲבִירָ֖ם בְּנֵ֣י אֱלִיאָ֑ב וַיֹּֽאמְר֖וּ לֹ֥א נַֽעֲלֶֽה:

Moshe sends messengers to have them appear before Moshe. Not only do they refuse, but they make what had to be the most Mechutzefdike statement ever made to Moshe:

הַֽמְעַ֗ט כִּ֤י הֶֽעֱלִיתָ֨נוּ֙ מֵאֶ֨רֶץ זָבַ֤ת חָלָב֙ וּדְבַ֔שׁ לַֽהֲמִיתֵ֖נוּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר כִּֽי־תִשְׂתָּרֵ֥ר עָלֵ֖ינוּ גַּם־הִשְׂתָּרֵֽר

I can not even fathom how Moshe Rabbeinu must have felt on that day and at that moment. The man who had spent his entire adult life serving Hashem to near-perfection had just been (as they say in modern vernacular) DISSED in a big way. He had been dis-respected to the nth degree.
Moshe, being Moshe Rabbenu, reacts in a proactive manner to show them that in fact Hashem is not happy with them, nor with their power grab.

We all know the end of this narrative in that Korach and his followers are swallowed up and never heard from again.

And what is it that I think about each time we read this Parsha? How fortunate we are here at KJBS. This idea, that the person leading his congregants and being maligned, taunted, derided and mocked by his so-to-speak congregants is an all too familiar one in the American Synagogue. How often do we hear of shuls that are in fights with their rabbi and who break off from their shuls (only to put the name of SHOLOM or AHAVA in the name of the NEW Shul). How commonplace it is to see people speak with chutpza to the Rav of a shul or in many cases, behind his back.

However, I must acknowledge here this morning, that it is with complete gratitude to HKB"H that this has NEVER been the case in my 8 years plus while serving as your Rav. NEVER have I been in such a position. This does not mean that I have not been questioned or gotten into heated debates at times as part of normal human interaction.

But, how fortunate I have been to serve this shul and NOT ever, not even once been in a position that Moshe Rabbenu and hundreds of rabbis after him have been in...publicly being humiliated by those he is entrusted to care for. Yes, I feel blessed to be in such a situation.

And this year, like in all of these past years, I think of this, on Parshat Korach. And that thought today makes me a little sad. Because it makes what I want to say to you today even more difficult than I thought it would be to say.

If you had looked in the sky the past few weeks you would have seen a few things flying: birds, planes, helicopters.....and rumors. These rumors had to do with my future here at KJBS as your Rav. So, today, allow me to clarify many of these rumors and put speculation to bed, once and for all.

As you have noticed over the past eight years that I have served as your Rabbi, I have exhibited a passion in one area that transcends our shul. The area I speak of is the Land of Israel. My FAMILY'S passion is one that can truly be called a שלהבת a fiery passion for Israel. It has been our dream, since Andy and I were married nearly 26 years ago, to make our permanent home in Israel by making Aliya.

I stand before you today to announce publicly that we are in the process of making this dream of our's become a reality. It is our family's goal to make Aliya iy"h in June 2009, two years from now.

While it is still two years away, I felt it necessary after speaking to the administration to go public sooner rather than later so that the rumors and speculation can end and facts can be discussed and we can move forward.

While I am very aware that this announcement may come as a surprise to many of you, I want you to understand that it is not by any means an easy decision for a variety of reasons. First and foremost our familial ties to the city of Chicago. Secondly, my very close ties to our Shul family and third, our close ties to the extended family of the community of Chicago.

However, if I am to be honest with myself and true to who I am, I must realize that our desire to live in our HOMELAND and be מקיים the Mitzva of ישוב ארץ ישראל will supercede all of these obstacles. We have been inculcated with the idea of Aliya since we were growing up. I have personally spoken about Aliya for many years. I can think of no greater example to set for our community than to make this ultimate move and go live in Israel.

I want to make a few pledges today before we begin Mussaf. First, until the day I leave for Israel, I will continue to act in the capacity as your Rav. The future plans of Aliya will not impede my work for the Klal. It is, as they say, "business, as usual."

Secondly, over the course of the next two years, anyone who has even a glimmer of a desire to make Aliya and is interested in speaking with me about this track, please feel free to do so. It is the שלהבת that burns in me that wants to assist others. BUT, I do not intend on becoming a "poster boy" for Aliya and making "stump-speeches" and go RAH RAH RAH ALIYAH. I think that you know me better than that. I hope to lead by example.
Third, after we are already living in Israel, and in particular in Maale Adumim, I will continue to be in contact with as many of you as possible. Either in the capacity of Rav, if so desired or in the capacity of "former Chicagoan." With the communication available today, I will be an email or phone call away.

Finally, when the time comes many months from now that the shul begins the process of looking for a new Rav, I stand willing to help in any capacity in which I am able to assist in that process, if it is desired by the shul.

I ask for your blessing and support on this journey. It will be a much easier journey knowing I have the support of the shul I so love. It will make the road less bumpy and ultimately, I pray it will lead some of YOU to join US along the way, as well.

I am certain that this announcement leaves more questions than it does answers, but we have a long time together still IYH and I hope, over the course of the next two years to answer as many of those questions as possible.

Shabbat Shalom!

Hard to believe...three years since I gave this speech...