Mission accomplished?

We’re down to just a few days here, on the verge of our last Shabbos. Such a mix of emotions…

I’m excited to go back to Chicago. I miss friends, family, and the community. We were away for a full year, without any visits in the middle. Weirdly, at first, I expect it to be like a vacation from the intensity of Israel and Jerusalem. I’ve felt a lot of pressure to get everything we can out of every day here. Lots of things will be easy again, with cars and language and knowing how things work. I’m looking forward to feeling different there than I did when we left, if that make sense. I guess what I mean is that I’m hoping being back will help me see clearly the growth we experienced, and feel like a different and improved person.

But I’m terrified about retaining, and building on, my growth. I don’t want to fall back into the old groove. I don’t want this year in Jerusalem to be like a dream.

I feel incredibly sad to leave. Some of it is because the adventure is over, for sure. But when I think about the idea that our relationship to Israel and Jerusalem from here is likely to be confined to occasional week or two-week trips… well, after having lived here, that feels like an amputation.

There’s also the alternate life that seems so tangible. To live here, do ulpan (intensive Hebrew language program), find a way to make work and learning coexist… I’m not sure that would be the right move for the family, but we’ve imagined that life hundreds of times since we’ve been here.

When I think about what we set out to do – to gain skills and experience in learning, to take some time to really focus on spiritual growth, to develop a connection to Eretz Yisrael for ourselves and our children, to demonstrate to our children the importance and love of learning Torah – I feel very good, because I believe we accomplished all of those things. But when I think about the additional skills I wish I had, the pure joy of a full day of learning, and the fact that we aren’t going to be living here anymore… well, that perspective is a tough one. I think I’m having trouble simply focusing on the first perspective, even though it is far more comforting, because I’m afraid that if I take a “mission accomplished” attitude, I risk complacency and regression. I think that I’m going to have to learn to live with both, and take extra comfort in the fact that it is a very good thing that I feel bad about leaving.

And, as Debbie keeps pointing out, this trip happened because the “green light” couldn’t be ignored – the path was cleared, and the slide greased (do you prefer your mixed metaphors shaken or stirred?). If we are meant to come back here in a more permanent way, that will happen. Also, we may decide in a few months that we can’t stay away… who knows?

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