These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Paying a price

Posted on April 20, 2013 by Avi Benson-Goldberg

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From my blog:

This week, in Israel, has been particularly focused on the costs of establishing an idealist state in a previously inhabited plot of land. I’m not trying to dig too deep into the politics of it; rather I’m interested in the idea of the prices we pay to live where we do.

After all Carlos Arredondo, brought back into the public eye by the current tragedies in Boston, has paid high prices. It is not an infrequent thing, the terrible burdens families bear on their backs for their communities, for their countries.

This past Sunday, at my Yeshiva, we had a panel of faculty speaking about their personal Israel narratives. They spoke as individuals and then in a dialogue. In light of today’s theme, I’d like to highlight what Leah Rosenthal said. In her own words:

I was brought here when I was 10. 6 months before the Yom Kippur War. My parent’s never planned to make aliyah, they had vibrant careers. They were interrupted by a job offer—the question was reframed from “Do I want to go?” to “Do I want to refuse?”

Dramatically he speaks of an inner voice that told him to make the decision. There’s something irrational that drove him or lead him or pushed him—something at work that can’t be communicated in rational terms.

How do you communicate something that’s not really translatable to rational terms?

It had a price tag: my parents paid a personal price for uprooting themselves from a fulfilling life, even Jewishly, where they lived in vibrant communities, were contributing importantly. And going to a place, where clearly their ages and occupations: they couldn’t, did not and will not do the same. The price tag was there. The ability to pay that price!

The decision to make aliyah is the decision to expand your perspective on your story. Your story is not just your personal story, ‘Where can I be fulfilled? Where can I best be served and best contribute?’ To a large extent, to be here contextualizes your story into a much larger and greater story. Your children and descendants, your ancestors all participate in your story.

In response to the question, how does an arch-rationalist reconcile with the irrational nature of this family narrative:

I will accept the talmudic part. If you scrape the surface of the Talmud, there’s a pulse, a heart, a drive, an intuition, an impulse. The logic is the method, the means and not the goal.

There’s something else out there that is at work. It’s hard to put to words. It’s in the Talmud too.

And this, in response to whether or not it’s fair to move to a country where we ask our children to pay a price we’ve never paid:

We make choices all the time that affect our children, and we can’t torment ourselves about it daily.

Their context their frame of reference is so wide, these high schoolers. It restores my feeling of… you read the newspapers and you want to despair… but you see these young people and it restores my sense that something is happening here and it’s real. And there are challenges and struggles and setbacks but still something is happening! It’s a gift.