Category Archives: Going back

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?

Major adjustments ahead

I was downstairs this morning, getting ready to go to shacharis, when I heard the front door open. That was puzzling, since I knew Debbie was upstairs. It turns out it was Yitzi, coming back from the makolet (!). Debbie had sent him to pick up a few things.

This was yet another reminder, as we enter the stretch run here, that there are going to be some jarring adjustments when we get back to Chicago. Yitzi is not going to be strolling to the store alone to pick up pudding and yogurt. Nor will he be walking himself to school, or often seeing Debbie or me walking through the square when he comes out for recess. School itself is going to be very different for him; we’re just now beginning to understand just how far ahead he’s going to be in limud hakodesh (nonsecular subjects). He has been learning Sefer Bereshis (the Book of Genesis) and Shoftim (Judges), in Hebrew, with enough comprehension to ask questions that stump not just his rebbe, but also the principal (major nachas for us, by the way).

It is going to be really strange to be back in Chicago. Driving all over the place will be weird. We’ve gotten used to much less living space – we’re going to be lost in our house. (Frankly, if not for the love of our neighbors and the pain of moving, I’d be tempted to sell our house and move into something smaller upon our return.) There won’t be any jukim[1] (yay!) but also no lizards on the porch (boo!).

Of course, going back to the office, and tucking in an hour of Torah learning here and there when I can, is going to be a massive change from the luxury of learning all day. Not to mention being surrounded by others who are doing the same.

It will be strange not to be in a place full of Jews, where being observant is routine.

I won’t constantly feel guilty about the lameness of my Hebrew, but I won’t constantly have the opportunity to work on it.

It is going to be very weird.