Wednesday, February 03, 2016

My Letter to the Rebbe asking for a bracha (or, permission) to leave Israel.

Below is a letter (a "pidyon nefesh") that I wrote to the Lubavicher Rebbe.  I sent it to the Ohel via their website, printed out a copy for myself, and I put it in one of the Rebbe's books.

22 Shvat, 5776 
Ana L'orer Rachamim Rabim ba'avor... 
Dear Rebbe, 
As a follow-up to my letter nine months ago, our family has been living in Israel, and as of a few days ago, we have officially spent one year living in Israel. 
As you know, last year, we made Aliyah and we moved to Rechovot.  I learned Chassidus once a week, but because we were unable to fit in with the community (me, my wife, our children) were isolated from the community, and because of a few potential disasters that happened, after spending Sukkos in Beitar Illit, we decided to move to Beitar, and we have been living here happily for the last three months. 
While in Rechovot, we experienced a theft of a lot of money -- over 100K sheckels was stolen, along with whatever else the thieves took when they ransacked the house.  I suspect that the thieves were individuals who looked at our home to rent it after we decided to move to Beitar.  The reason for this is because I almost never left the house, at it appears as if they were stalking us to see when both of us (my wife and I) would leave the house.  They went through our locked door as if it was butter, and the police did almost nothing to help find them.  This saddened us because the income we lost was many months of work (pushing myself every night to work overnight), and we wondered what we did to have Hashem cause this to happen. 
Shortly before the theft, we "lost" our oldest daughter for a few hours because the bus driver who we hired didn't know she did not get on the bus.  My wife drove over to her school, and called me crying that she couldn't find her.  We couldn't find her, and there was no person to call or to hold accountable to know her whereabouts.  In the end, a friend's parent picked her up and took her home, but this did not negate the terror we experienced not knowing where she was, or who to call for help.  Then when I confronted the bus driver, he apologized, but I wanted to punch him in the face because he didn't seem to care that he lost our daughter. 
Then there was the Rechovot community.  We tried to fit in, but there was really nobody that we could befriend.  Much of the community was Hebrew speaking, and even so, the families kept to themselves and did not interact with the other community members, and thus every Shabbos and every day, the kids were stuck after school from 2pm until bedtime without friends to play with or people to interact with, so it was us they turned to, all the time, every day.  We tried to play with them, to learn with them, to take them out to the park, but it was never enough to give either us or the kids any comfort or tranquility.  And after a long day, only then did I need to spend the overnight working at the law firm, every night. 
We moved to Beitar after the theft and after a very difficult few months over the high holidays, where we realized that with all of the time and efforts we put into developing.. [OMITTED PERSONAL STUFF]. 
So we moved to Beitar, and while there is still no place to call my own (still no makom kavuah), at least I am making friends and my kids have friends at school.  We are still not integrating with the community as we would like to, but this is more our fault than anything, as my wife and I are often overwhelmed with just raising our now six children. 
The difficulty is that even here, I am still working crazy overnight hours to work the law firm, and it is taking a toll on us emotionally and no doubt it is affecting my mental health and my physical health.  I never leave the house except to go to shul or to run an errand, and I am feeling lonely, isolated, as if I am (yet again) a prisoner in my own home.  I have been trying to shift my work hours from what has been 4pm-4am (or 4pm-6am) Israel time [6am-6pm Denver, Colorado time] to starting to work at 12pm, but that has almost never been happening.  The reason I have been trying to do this is so that I can live a normal life and wake up with everyone else and go to sleep with everyone else.  It is a work in progress. 
My wife has gotten ill these past few days (we had a stomach virus move between each one of us), and she has been feeling quite homesick and missing our life in Denver.  She feels as if we have made a mistake by moving to Israel, and that the whole experience has been one disaster after another.  She expressed her desire to move back to Denver, and that has released in me an overflowing desire to also leave -- to throw everything into a crate, and to move back to Denver. 
We have had deep and detailed discussions comparing our life in Israel to the life we had in Colorado, and we feel that we made a mistake for coming here.  We would like to go back as soon as possible, and we ask for a beracha for guidance on how to make the correct move both spiritually, physically, as well as how to choose the best time to move. 
Since my wife brought up the topic, I have felt a deep overflowing of remorse and sadness that I have been holding back from the difficulties I have experienced over the past year.  I finally see an end to the sadness, and an end to the constant and daily struggles I have experienced since moving to Israel.  My wife hedges and wants to visit Denver over Pesach to test whether we actually want to go back (or, whether we would be happier staying here), but my heart actually aches from thinking about staying here. 
It really hurts me to be in a room all day and all night with almost no motivation or desire to socialize with the community because I cannot get myself together to shower, to get out of the house, and to socialize with the community.  Rather, I wake up, have a coffee with my wife, sit in my office (upstairs bedroom of our duplex apartment) with no sunlight, and play with the computer, the news, and the kids by day, and work by night, stressing my body to the point of illness.  I miss seeing people, I miss being able to handle problems that come up (now I am an illiterate immigrant who doesn't speak Hebrew well, and this causes such embarassment for me since most of the community now speaks Hebrew [the Anglos are not Chabad and they live somewhere else]), and thus I rely on my wife to handle all of the school issues, all of the electricity, gas, government, taxes, and everything that has to do with speaking Hebrew.  Rather, I sit at home and bring money in to the family while my wife takes care of everything I am incompetent to take care of.  Then on Shabbos, seeing sunlight for the first time all week, I walk to shul disoriented, jetlagged, and a bit "hung over", and then I need to face the community who wonders where I have been all week.  And I have such a difficult time being friendly because I feel disoriented. 
Since my wife started talking to me about leaving back to Denver, I have had a difficult time thinking of anything else, and I cannot wait to leave.  I ask for a beracha that moving back is the healthy option, and that we are able to move as fast as possible to return to Colorado, and to resume the semi-tranquil life that we were living before we left.  I ask that our parnossa be restored to the levels of income we were making in Colorado, and that we "do something" to reconnect with our Jewish roots so that our descent should only be for an ascent.  I ask for a beracha for a smooth and comfortable transition, and I ask for a bracha for the safety of myself and my family both in physical safety, health, tranquility, in their learning, and in living a healthy and meaningful lifestyle. I also ask for a beracha that my children learn well in their school, that they work well with their teachers, and that each of our children develop strong friendships with their classmates, and that us as parents also develop close friendships and integrate with the Denver community, and that we all remain a cohesive family.  Amen.
NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.


Anonymous said...

Good Lord Zoe! You need not write the Rebbe to get permission to live where your family wants to live.
Make a decision on your own and make it happen.

Zoe Strickman said...

I don't want to be one of those people who every day say, "I wish I never left Israel. I can't wait to go back, because leaving was such a mistake!"

There are so many good things here, and yet there are some really strong bads as well. Staying or leaving is not such a clear-cut decision.

Denver is cool and all, but it too had its problems (hence, the reason we left to Israel in the first place). Also, the US has problems of its own, and I am not sure I want to go back right before the economy or social infrastructure tanks.