18 Tishrei 5782 / Friday, September 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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Burn your Bridges    

Burn your Bridges

One must come to Israel with the right mind set - whatever obstacles and tests Hashem sends, we’ll simply pray for assistance and the privilege of staying here.


Since the time I first made aliya to Eretz Yisrael, I’ve become more and more convinced that for a Jew, it’s almost impossible to have a genuine relationship with The Almighty anywhere else.

I’ve seen how much my husband and I have grown, how much ‘G-d consciousness’ has permeated into every nook and cranny of our lives; how much we’ve had to recognise that we are not in control of our lives, and how much our yirat shemayim has increased, as a result.
This simply wouldn’t have happened if we’d stayed in our comfort zone in London. Yes, G-d would have continued to send us the wake up calls He was sending us. He would have continued to send us the feelings of anxiety, of mounting stress, of dissatisfaction, of strained family relationships, or panic. But I seriously doubt that we would have ever put two and two together, to get the message He was trying to send us.
I would still be dreaming that more money was the answer to all the stresses we were under, and killing myself to make it – which in turn, would have exacerbated all the stresses and brought me that much nearer to the nervous breakdown that I just knew was down the road, if ‘something’ didn’t change.
For us, the ‘something’ was aliya. When we moved, life was so deeply unpleasant and uncomfortable for my neshama – despite all the external comfort – that really, we no longer had a choice. Either we moved to Israel, or I was going to crack up.
Hashem was very kind to us. As well as giving us the firm conviction that we absolutely had to move to Israel, He also put the idea in my head that we absolutely had to burn our bridges to the UK.
My parents had moved around a lot when I was younger, and I saw first hand that people who kept their family home as an ‘investment’ nearly always ended up living back in it, despite all their best intentions. Moving isn’t easy, even when it’s not a move to Israel.
There’s always unexpected developments and bumps on the road, and if the bridge back to where you came from isn’t burnt, it’s the easiest thing in the world to give up at the first hurdle and go back ‘home’. That’s partially how my family pinged between Canada and the UK – with a brief sojourn in France – for a number of years. By the time I ended up in Neve Daniel, I’d moved over 20 times.
When we decided to make aliya five years ago, prices in London where still going through the roof. Even an average three bed semi like ours was going up by around £50k a year. At that time, it seemed very clear that if we sold the house, the chances of us ever being able to afford to buy it again were very tiny.
“Sell it!” I told my husband. Burn the bridge to London, because if we don’t, it will be an irresistible pull back to the UK. At the time, many people thought we were bonkers. Why weren’t we keeping it as an investment? Didn’t we know that if we sold it, we’d never be able to move back to London, if things didn’t ‘work out’ in Israel?
“Sell it!” I still told my husband. “I’m not risking moving to Israel unless we are thoroughly ‘stuck’ there, and have no choice but to make a go of it!”
It was the right thing to do, but it didn’t turn out exactly how I expected. To further the process of being ‘stuck’ in Israel, we bought a home in Modiin – just before the prices there went absolutely mental – and thankfully, when we had to sell it a year or so later, it had gone up by more than $100k – which paid off a big chunk of our debts.
Then we bought a much smaller, cheaper house in Ramot, a suburb of Jerusalem. Which we never lived in, as G-d had other plans for us. We sold that house too – and it had gone up enough in six months to cover most of the repeated real estate and lawyer expenses.
After a lot of praying, Hashem sent us a house in Neve Daniel, that was easily $100k below market value, and perfect for us. Two years on, prices in Neve Daniel are also now going through the roof, while prices in London are static, or decreasing.
In short, burning our bridges made us – and saved us – an awful lot of money.
But more importantly, it ensured that we came to Israel with the right mind set; that whatever obstacles and tests G-d was going to send us, we were going to pray, and pray and pray some more that He would give us the enormous privilege of staying here.
If we still had our London house, I can think of at least five occasions when I probably would have left. Like when my business failed. Like when my husband lost his job. Like when his business failed, and he was unemployed for a year. Like when we couldn’t seem to find a community that suited us. Like when it felt that everything was going wrong.
But we couldn’t leave – we’d burned our bridges. So instead, we prayed, and prayed and prayed. I prayed so hard, for Hashem to send my husband the parnassa we needed to enable us to continue to live in Eretz Yisrael. And thank G-d, He had mercy on us, and sent my husband a perfect job, in Jerusalem, that enables him to learn for a couple of hours every day before his working day even starts.
He’d never have had that in London. I’d never be able to pray at the Kotel whenever I want, or to see my children living in the place they read about in Tanach every single week.
With hindsight, the experiences we went through showed me that the single biggest obstacle standing in the way of a person’s successful aliya is a lack of emuna. If we hadn’t started to develop the emuna that G-d wanted us in Israel, but that He wanted us here on His terms, we never would have stuck it out.
If you want to be happy here, you have to leave your ego and your inflated expectations at the departure lounge. You have to accept every obstacle with love, and internalize that every difficulty is rubbing off the sharp edges on your soul, that are preventing you from being the best Jew you can be.
Israel is never the problem. You are the problem.
If you understand that before you even get here, you will have the easiest, smoothest, most enjoyable aliya. If you don’t, then you can live here 50 years – and kvetch the whole time – and miss the whole point.
And the point is this: G-d is running the world. The point is, that G-d knows much better than we do what is really best for us. The point is that we might think that we can live a full Jewish life in chutz l’aretz, surrounded by all our luxuries and comforts – but really, we can’t.
Moving is hard, no question. But in the long run, it’s much harder to be in exile. Your home is in the wrong place. Your family is in the wrong place. Your future is in the wrong place.
As Rabbi Nachman teaches, this whole world is a very narrow bridge. At one end of that bridge is galut – a physical and spiritual exile – and at the other end is redemption, genuine happiness and a future as part of the Jewish people.

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