Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Right of Return

"The Right of Return" means different things to different people. This post does not include the Palestinian definition of the phrase. 

I haven't blogged since early May. I chickened out of dealing (publicly) with the tenth anniversary of our return to Baltimore on July 29 (Hebrew date: erev Rosh Chodesh Av).
Although we were welcomed back so warmly and graciously by family and friends alike, the anniversary is still an emotional day for me - and the 10th, all the more so. The plan (mine alone) was to be heading Home this summer, after what I originally told the kids would be a "ten year visit" - the amount of time it would take to see them all through high school in the States. I've come to grips with the fact that we're a bit off schedule but I reserve our Right of Return for the earliest possible opportunity, please G-d.

The aforementioned mission was indeed accomplished when Zevy joyfully accepted his high school diploma in June.
He left for Israel on August 6, his first time back since we lived there. People ask if I'm "farklempt" (choked up - Yiddish) about sending my "baby" across the ocean for a year (at least) of Torah study. I reply that it isn't the "my baby" thing - rather, the mere thought of Zevy returning to Israel, the first home he ever really knew, is enough to blur my vision. Some parents struggle with the decision of whether or not to send their kids abroad immediately after high school.
For us it was a no-brainer. Zevy was done relying on family photos, videos and this blog to Remember Jerusalem. He was more than ready to exercise his Right of Return. May he blossom and grow in the holy soil where he is now planted; may he once again "cherish her stones and favor her dust" (Psalms 102:15). He's been there about a month now and, as Cousin Bob likes to say at this time of year "shofar so good"!

Just six days after Zevy's departure, Berel took off in the same direction. I'm delighted that my seasoned Yeshiva-student-in-Israel is there to help Zevy reacquaint himself with the sights, sounds and soul of Jerusalem. And Berel's thrilled to have his only kid brother in close proximity. On his summer visit with us, Berel noted that for the second time in his 21 years, he can now say "I've lived in Israel for more than half my life". (The first time was when he was 11.) I continue to thank G-d for what has become Berel's annual Rite of Return.

We are nearing the end of the month of Elul, the Jewish month designated for a different Right of Return - a return to our Source; a time of teshuva (repentance) and preparation for the High Holidays ahead. Our prayer books are replete with references to both kinds of return - and even of G-d Himself returning to His holy city, as He promised He would.
May it be His will that our personal spiritual return will be a prelude to our national return and that the new year will see us welcomed Home to stay, greeted warmly and graciously by family and friends.
On behalf of the whole gang, best wishes to you and yours for a healthy, holy new year with many happy Returns! 
K'sivah v'Chasimah Tovah
(l to r) Shani, Yoel, Yours Truly, Bill, Berel, Simcha and Z'ev 
(Not much in the way of a formal family photo this year but you get the idea.) Below, my annual Rosh Hashanah poem - with a new stanza for the new year, as always.

Rosh Hashanah 5774

We ponder again the year in review;
what was accomplished, what's still left to do. 

Looking back, we can count all the ways we've been blessed
and assess how we've scored on G-d's many tests.

So many should’ves and could’ves but didn’t. Surely I would’ve if my heart had been in it. No more excuses! Or at least not as many. Gotta work hard to make hardly any…

What have I learned in the year that has passed? That no two people will take the same path. Be it highway or foot bridge, a road lies ahead. Walk yours with G-d, King Solomon said.

Our sacred laws, beloved traditions see us through challenges and transitions. From day to day, from year to year, our faith and our trust calm every fear.

The years come and go in the circle game. Events ever-changing; the cycle, the same. Like wood being shaped by the artisan's lathe, we marvel at eych ha'galgal mistoveyv.

Begin a new calendar, start a clean slate,
fill it with good deeds and character traits;
with memorable moments and meaningful days, months full of emulating G-d’s holy ways.
Yomuledet Sameyach! 
Congratulations, dear Earth,
on the 5774th year since your birth.
With what shall we bless you on your special day? Global peace. Gentle weather. Prosperity...

Soon the air will turn brisk; the foliage, bright.
First, the table we'll set and the candles we'll light.

The challahs are baked; the honey dish glistens.
The shofar will blow; to its call we will listen. 

Ripe pomegranates bursting with seeds
remind G-d of our merits, not our misdeeds.
The angels are ready to plead every case
to the Almighty King Whose judgment we'll face.

May He grant us good health and joy that is true, contentment and nachas and simchas "by you". Let this be the year that He takes our hands and leads us back Home to our holy Land.

We shall pursue our Right to Return
to our Source, to our Land, to the words that we learn
from our Torah, the treasure that keeps us alive
as we wait for Mashiach, soon to arrive.

Now we are ready, the holiday's here.
May it be the start of a wonderful year.
As we don our finest, it is so nice to know
that for Rosh Hashanah
We're all Good to Go!