Rabbi Anchelle Perl – Shliach to Mineola, Long Island, NY shares:
We have just returned from a most exhilarating and uplifting experience from Israel. But it first came with a sense trepidation, for would we pass the test.
Let me explain; our ancestors on their first visit to the Land of Israel over 3000 years ago turned out to be a disaster. 10 of the 12 spies sent by Moses, came back with a bad report, delaying the ultimate entry for 40 years. So even a trip to Israel today, must be approached with respect and seriousness.
More than three decades ago I made my first trip to Israel. I approached the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a blessing, requesting that the trip be one of spirituality and depth. I wasn’t going all that way to simply eat shakshouka or falafel balls, I could accomplish this on Central Ave in Cedarhurst, NY.
The Rebbe replied with a beautiful blessing and then requested that I have all my mezuzahs and Tefillin checked before I travelled. This was fulfilled. So this remains ever most in my mind on each of my subsequent journeys to Israel. Will I pass this test of returning with a most uplifting report, one that shines with true holiness of Eretz Yisroel?
We started our trip in Rachaviah, an upscale Jerusalem neighborhood located between the city center and Talbiya. We ended in Ashdod, the sixth largest city and largest port in Israel, 33 miles west of Jerusalem. It has 7 Chabad Houses.
We joined the Shabbat morning services with Chabad of Rachavia, led by Rabbi Yisroel Goldberg, followed by a great Kiddush. The guest speaker was Rabbi Levi Sudak, Chabad Shliach of Edgware, London. Our second Shabbos was with Chabad of Ashdod led by Rabbi Schneur Goodman. The Ashdod Chabad Shul is located in a ‘Miklat’ a protected safe-room bomb shelter!
( ….At the Shabbos Farbrengen we heard the following story about a delayed international flight. It happened to the chasid, R’ Zalman Gurary, a”h, who left his house in Crown Heights and headed to the airport for an international flight.
When he got to the airport, he was informed that the flight had been canceled and that there would not be another flight until the next day.
Rabbi Gurary was faced with a dilemma. There is a tradition handed down in the will of R’ Yehuda HaChasid that if someone leaves for a trip, he shouldn’t return home for any reason until he goes on the trip. For instance, you start driving to the airport and you realize that you forgot your wallet. The tradition says that you could have someone bring you the wallet but that you should not return home – that means step foot back in the house – until after you have completed your journey and come back.
In this case, however, there were no more flights until the next day. Rabbi Gurary wasn’t sure what he should do. Stay overnight at the airport? Get a hotel? So he called the Rebbe’s office and the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Hodakov, answered.
After a pause, Rabbi Hodakov, relayed the Rebbe’s answer. “The Rebbe says that you should study a chapter of Tanya. When you study a chapter of Tanya, you will become a ‘new person.’ Once you are a new person, then you may go back into your house for it will not be the same person returning but rather a new person entering that place for this first time.”
This itself is an amazing story. But there’s an epilogue.
Rabbi Gurary obviously followed these instructions and went home. But the next day, as Rabbi Gurary set off for the airport for the second time, he received a phone call.
It was Rabbi Hodakov. He said, “I am with the Rebbe and he wants to make sure that you understand that what he told you yesterday about becoming a new person was meant in earnest and not as a clever turn of phrase (gleich vertel.)”…
Our trip moves on….Walking in the Footsteps of our Forefathers
We centered our visit primarily on the “four holy cities of Israel” Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias. We spent quality time with three visits to the Kotel, with in depth trips to the Southern Wall excavations and the Western Wall Tunnels.
We were uplifted by our visit to Hebron, the frontlines of Jewish history. Here is the Ma’aarat HaMachpelah – the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
Hebron Chabad Shliach Rabbi Danny Cohen welcomed us. We were given a private tour of by Rabbi Mordechai Hellinger.
Hebron is one of the toughest places for members of IDF to serve; yet thanks to the Chabad emissaries there, every soldier is welcomed and befriended. In a gesture of our own appreciation and deep respect to the IDF forces, we visited two soldiers in an outlying defense post and humbly gave them food gift coupons to buy themselves extra treats as they stand guard during the lonely night hours.
We also davened at the gravesites of HaRabonis Meucha Rochel, Ruth and her grandson Yishai, father of King David.
We ascended the famous fortress of Masada. At the top we met with Chabad Shliach Rabbi Shimshon Israeli AKA the Scribe of Masada. We discussed the reasons on why we don’t find the name Jerusalem mentioned in the first Five Books of Torah. Otherwise it’s cited more than 800 times in the remaining books of the TaNach.
We learned the daily portion of Rambam at the tomb of Maimonides in Tiberius on the western shore of Sea of Galilee. We experienced the mystic old city of Tzfas.
We celebrated two family simchas. First was the Bar Mitzvah of the grandson of my cousin, in Elad, located 15 miles east of Tel Aviv. We also attended the wedding of our nephew, Rabbi Levi Schtroks from Cologne, Germany to Chaya Mushka Goodman from Ashdod.
The wedding took place in Kfar Chabad, the home of more than six thousand Chabad residents. One of the guests was a relative, Yossele Schumacher, a Soviet born Israeli whose abduction as a child in 1960 became a cause celebre with Israeli Jewish society.
We traveled through Tzippori, a village and archaeological site in central Galilee region of Israel. It was here that Rabbi Judah the Prince presided over the Sanhedrin and codified the Mishneh. We checked out the colorful Machne Yehuda outdoor market affectionately known as the ‘Shuk’.
Meeting with Old Friends
On board our flight back we met Rabbi Yisroel Brod, my yeshiva friend from Brunoy France and 770 some 45 years ago.
It’s Sunday, Sept 8, 2019 at 9am
Now at Ben Gurion Airport Terminal 3, for the return trip to the USA. Where do you start when describing 10 long days of a most elated and meaningful voyage to the Holy Land – each day was spent soaking in the holiness of the land and the holiness of the people of Israel – it’s a land of amazing contrasts – from the most observant to the least observant yet – from the most expensive neighborhoods to the least expensive- Israel is a land in progress- from the upcoming elections to the ever expanding construction – everyone has an opinion wherever you like it or not – but it’s all happening in a land where the stones speak of the past and its people speak of the future.
Now looking back to the Rebbe’s answer to my first request to go to Eretz Yisroel, telling me to make sure my Mezuzos & Tefillin were kosher, I also saw this as a reminder of ‘Mach Daw Eretz Yisroel”!