Last week I wrote to you about the special Three Week period before Tisha-B’Av and the collapse of Jewish life as we knew it.
On Tisha B’Av we use a special prayer book which includes Kinot (sad poems), portions of the book of Lamentations. Composed during the difficult times of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, these Kinot express prayers, dreams and hopes. Most of the topics are about the sinful behavior of the Jews, and their love for the land of Israel. These Kinot have a strong influence on our human psyche and also in our prayer books today. Other Kinot were written in response to tragedies in Jewish history.
Some of the most popular Kinot poets were Elazar Hakallir (eighth-century), Solomon ibn Gabirol from the Golden Age of Spain, (eleventh century), and Yehuda Halevi, a twelfth century physician, poet and philosopher who was born in Spain, and died soon after he fulfilled his dream of reaching the Land of Israel in 1141. Noted for both his religious and secular poems and also for his philosophical works, he is considered to be one of the greatest post-biblical Hebrew poets of all time. Much of his poetry reflected his love for Israel, and kept alive the love of Zion as a part of Jewish culture. Many of his religious poems are today integrated into the liturgy.
A Longing to Return to the Land of Israel
My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west. How can I find savor in food? How shall it be sweet to me? How shall I render my vows and my bonds, while yet Zion lieth beneath the fetter of Edom, and I in Arab chains? A light thing would it seem to me to leave all the good things of Spain - Seeing how precious in mine eyes to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary.
I am looking forward to seeing you on the 9th of Av (THIS Monday at 7 PM) for our Tisha B’Av program. Please bring a friend.
Most of our congregants were blessed to have been born in the U.S.A, but not
everyone is so blessed. I remember well September 1969 when I came to the U.S.
with my family. We left Israel because my mother said, "Your Dad survived
Auschwitz, the Israeli War of Independence, the Sinai War, the Six Day War, and
I want to have some peace. Your Dad deserves a Sabbatical year. We want to try a
different life." I was still serving in the IDF when she made this declaration.
I was shocked! "What did you say?" I asked my mother. She repeated what I
thought was her dreadful, appalling and outrageous statement. Never, never in my
life did I think I would hear this sentence.
I was raised in a very Zionist home. What, to leave Israel? Never! To be a Yored – one who descends? To ‘descend’ is the opposite of to ‘ascend’, in Hebrew to make
Aliyah). Never! It seemed like we left Israel in a clandestine operation. I was not allowed to talk about it with anyone. I did not want to leave. I was told, "Come and try it for six months." How could I leave Israel, I thought to myself? My heart was heavy with guilt and shame. Six months after my arrival I met Chuck, and the rest is history.
We were eligible to receive our Green Card about six months after our arrival when my father’s employer sponsored us to become U.S. citizens. My parents and little sister became U.S. citizens immediately. I, however, waited. In the beginning, I felt that with the Green Card I would be just like any other American, except that I would not be entitled to vote.
When another of my sisters decided she wanted to come to the U.S., I went ahead quickly with the process of "Naturalization". That was about 35 years ago. It was a process of studying for a few months some historical facts and civics and governmental information that was required to pass the citizenship examination. Throughout my preparation, I remember my feelings of conflict. I was tormented by feelings of betrayal and an emotional infidelity to Israel, the land where I was born, my homeland.
The day I stood with 2000 other people in the Music Center, declaring my
loyalty to the USA was one of the most important and decisive days in my life.
My heart was beating so strongly, I felt as if it was going to jump out of my
chest when we were asked to raise our right hand and repeat, "I hereby declare,
on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and
fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or
which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and
defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all
enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the
same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the
law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United
States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance
under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this
obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help
Today, I feel that my heart has many chambers which enable me to love many people around me. I feel that my heart has enabled me to have two loyalties, one to Israel and one to the U.S.A. I feel totally privileged and blessed to be able
to travel with two passports. I feel totally blessed to raise a family in the U.S. With great humility in my heart, I share with you that I feel totally blessed to live my dream of being a congregational rabbi.
Thank you, God, for all my many blessings. May you have the good blessing of
a life’s dream. May you have the good blessing of fulfilling and living your life’s dream. Amen.
Some of the information in this article was taken from the website of U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.