(Photo: Dov Kram)
From the Editor – Pesach Edition 5782
BY RABBI ELIE MISCHEL
Last November, just three months after we made Aliyah, a well-meaning friend in New Jersey asked me: “Have your kids adjusted yet?” Taken aback, I was reminded of the regular feature in MAD magazine called “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.” What I wanted to answer was: “Adjusted? Are you insane? I just brought my high school and middle school daughters across the ocean on Aliyah. It’s a miracle they don’t hate me every day!” Of course, what I actually said was: “Adjusted yet? Umm… not exactly. It’s a process.”
Adolescence anywhere can be challenging, and Aliyah has a way of intensifying those challenges. New schools, trying to make new friends, all while sitting through class after class in rapid-fire Hebrew – it’s enough to drive an adult crazy, let alone teenage girls still searching for their own identities. The Rabbis say that the Land of Israel is a gift that is only acquired through suffering; clearly, they also tried to learn geometry in Hebrew!
Fortunately, there are also plenty of small victories. My older daughter’s joy in learning to take the bus to Jerusalem and the freedom that comes with it, her confidence after doing well on her first Bagrut (Matriculation) test, and that time her sister found the right words to order an iced coffee (the slushy kind, obviously) in Hebrew. We celebrate those moments!
But the longer we live here, the more I realize that there is another source of strength and inspiration available to my daughters. For they are part of a nation that is blessed with incredible role models of strength and courage, with women who teach the rest of us how to overcome – women like Miriam Peretz.
We all know of her sacrifice; how could we not? Two of her sons, Uriel and Eliraz, gave their lives to protect us; her husband, Eliezer, died of a broken heart. And yet, somehow, she continues to live, lead and inspire our nation.
“Our spirit is strong, and even if I hurt and cry over the deaths of my sons and my husband Eliezer, I am not broken. You can’t break a spirit. It grows stronger and takes on new forms of giving and dedication, of connection to this land and our heritage. Out of the darkness that visited our family and many other families in Israel, every day I choose to spread light.” (Miriam’s Song, p.335)
Miriam’s sons possessed her spirit. After Uriel was killed in 1998, she found a note in his drawer. Uriel wrote, “With all the thorns and barbs that have scratched my body, you could put together a three-foot hedge. But these aren’t just ordinary thorns – they’re thorns from the Land of Israel, and whoever lives in this country must know how to accept these thorns with love.” (Ibid., p.340)
As we navigate the mundane travails of Aliyah, the awesome sacrifice and strength of the Peretz family reminds me – and my daughters – that we are far stronger than we realize. If Miriam can laugh, if Miriam can overcome, if Miriam can make room in her heart for others, so can we.
This Pesach, may we merit to see the final redemption that will, once and for all, heal our broken hearts, wipe away our tears and reunite us with all those we love – in joy!
Rabbi Elie Mischel is Editor of HaMizrachi.