By Shmuel Katz
I have repeatedly lamented the fact that our move to Israel has separated us from family and friends. We have missed many smachot, in part or in full, and not being able to fully participate in a family simcha is one of the toughest parts about making aliyah. So it was nice to finally turn the tables this past week.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail invitation to the bar mitzvah of a childhood friend’s son. My friend Mayer Weiner and I have known each other since around age 9 or 10 and have been close friends for many years. He and his wife, Miriam, were making a bar mitzvah for their oldest son and, initially, I gritted my teeth, knowing that I was to miss yet another simcha.
Then I took another look at the invitation and realized that the bar mitzvah fell within my second recruiting trip and I would be in the New York/New Jersey area (they live in Passaic) that weekend. I resolved not only to go, but to make it a surprise gift for my friend Mayer.
It was terrific. He had no idea I was coming and did not even notice me at Friday-night davening (I got to shul late and sat in the back) so he only saw me as he walked in for dinner. I really had a wonderful Shabbat, and finally being at an American friend’s simcha made all the difference in the world.
I had to miss one too—the scales must apparently always be in balance. I missed our niece Rivky Kreinberg’s engagement party/vort in Teaneck this week. Despite being in the U.S. and even in the region that evening, I was working for the yeshiva at one of the Israel Night presentations for the duration of the party. The Israel Nights were the main purpose of my trip, so I didn’t really have a choice. Thankfully, I was at Rivky’s l’chaim in Israel the night she got engaged, so I attended an engagement party for her, just not the one in the U.S.
You may have heard that the rainy season hit in earnest over the past week or so, while I was out of the country. You may even have seen images of flooding from torrential rains. The rain helped launch the season (although torrential rains are not so good for crops), and we are now in “plus” territory for the lake, with a rise of 4 cm over the past couple of weeks. However, it is only 2% or less of the amount we need for the year, so we need more. Don’t forget that you start saying “V’tein Tal U’matar” in a couple of weeks.
The difference in the starting dates made for a weird situation this year. I had yahrzeit during the week, but could only lead the davening for Ma’ariv, when there is no chazarat ha’shatz. The p’sak I have (from my local neighborhood rabbi) does not allow me to be the shaliach tzibbur in the U.S. during the few weeks that we say “V’tein Tal” and you do not. Even when outside Israel, I continue to say it in my Shemoneh Esreih, since I began it in the correct time period for those who live in Israel. With my davening being different from yours (even if only a few words), I was told not to serve as a weekday chazzan for Shacharit or Minchah. Even stranger was having to explain to the people in the minyan why I was refusing the Amud when they knew I had yahrzeit. The things we do.
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at email@example.com.