You Come for One Reason but Stay for Another
Making the Odyssey to Israel
By Rabbi Mordechai Weiss
Devora Publishing, 2010, 131 pages
Distributed by Urim Publications
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - August 17, 2010
This is the personal tales of a Lubavitch rabbi who left his rabbinic position in Teaneck, New Jersey, with his family, a wife and nine children, to settle in Israel. He describes his experiences in frequently humorous, always entertaining, down-to-earth letters to those left in America. His admirers suggested that he collect his letters in a book, and this volume is the result.
Rabbi Weiss felt at home in Israel and came to love it. If America is a melting pot, he writes, "Israel is the family pot. Which other country in the world can claim that practically all its citizens are blood relatives." He acclimated, but not entirely. "We still retain plenty of our American traits and always will. Sometimes when I give my neighbors a lift in my car, I don't just drop them off in the middle of the city; I actually drive them door to door, which is not an Israeli custom." He says that if you want to know if the Hebrew language classes in Israel work, you need to ask his wife, in English.
Baseball, he writes, is virtually unknown in Israel. When his four-year old described a round object in a picture during an eye exam as a "baseball," the nurse had no idea what the child was talking about. Bureaucracy in Israel is a problem. Readers will enjoy reading how the rabbi solved the problem by seeing his necessary bureaucratic moves being "like playing a big board game…. I would roll the dice and each time move my piece one step closer to attaining my goal."
The rabbi had many adventures. By 2008, after five years in Israel, when he ended his book, he had two more children. He works now as a tour guide. He wears sandals and carries a gun. One of his sons served two years in the Israeli Army. "The most important thing," he writes at the end, "is that no matter where you live, or what you do, make sure that every moment is meaningful and dedicated to helping others."