Yom revi'i, 26 Av 5768/27 August 2008, Wednesday.
"Thanks for the call, Son. Let's talk again soon, okay?"
Joe said goodbye to his father, and cradled the phone in his hands for a few moments. He felt guilty that he only spoke with his father occasionally. The old guy really seemed to love the contact. But Joe was so busy... He switched off the computer, feeling another twinge of guilt. Too often -- and today had been no exception -- he played a fairly simple computer game while he talked with his father. Most of the time, he could stay focused; but every once in a while, his mind would wander. He always hoped his father couldn't tell. He told himself that he was usually pretty smooth, and that his dad was busy with his own thoughts anyway. But Joe didn't completely convince himself. He promised himself that he would improve.
This worry, that he was not being a terribly good son, ate at him. Finally, he decided to talk it over with his rabbi.
"I just feel like I'm not doing my job somehow, Rabbi Michoel. My calls seem half-hearted... I get distracted when we're speaking. I know Dad would like it if I called more often, and if I didn't rush through the calls. I really try, but --" Joe had trouble continuing. "I think my mother would have expected a little more -- attentiveness. Do you have any suggestions?"
Rabbi Michoel looked thoughtful for a moment. "Yosef, you have been talking about moving closer to your father for the last few months. You know how much the rebbetzin and I love having you near us. You've become like a son." The rabbi smiled. "You are never distracted when you talk with us."
"Well, that's because we're here in the same room, Rabbi." Joe smiled sheepishly. "It's hard to play "spider solitaire" when I'm sitting in your living room."
"Yes," nodded the rabbi, with a gentle smile. Rabbi Michoel paused, and then looked at his talmid meaningfully. "It would be very difficult for us to let you go; but we would understand, if you felt you had to move closer to your father."
As he stepped away from the door of his father's home, Yosef felt an exhilaration that brought him close to tears. He replayed the conversation in his mind. Seeing his father's face in motion really changed the quality of the dialogue. His father's face crinkled into laugh echoes when they spoke, giving Yosef the impression that his father was much younger and stronger than he had thought, when their communication was merely aural. He had never realized how closely his father hung on every word, as if just hearing Yosef speak gave him intense pleasure. And Yosef seemed to himself so much more articulate in person, perhaps because he was completely focused on the interaction.
Another positive result of his move was that Yosef felt drawn to the visits with his father, in ways he had never felt compelled to phone. If he felt a little lazy back in the old neighborhood, it was easy to come up with twenty rationalizations for why he really was too busy. But here... the very physical nearness of his father caused Yosef to bypass his own rationalizations. Before he even knew what he was doing, it seemed, he was out the door of his apartment, and on his way toward his father's home. Or, it would seem only natural to stop by on his way home from work. He was grateful for the relative effortlessness of fulfilling this once-difficult mitzvah.
"I can't believe how much better our conversations have been since I moved here!" he thought to himself. "Unbelievable. I could have saved myself a lot of grief." Yosef laughed at himself. Why had it taken him so long?
As I stand at my living room window, watching the clear blue sky resting on the Mediterranian horizon, I am exhilarated by the realization that once again, I am in the middle of my davening, without having had to force myself to begin. It's as if the very air of Eretz Yisrael does some of the work for me.
I am no tzadika. Some days are harder than others. Some of my visits to tefilla are less fulfilling than others. It's not that my mind never wanders. But pulling it back on track seems easier.
I am awed by how much easier it is here for me to be in spiritual mode, than it was in Chutz l'Aretz. I am overjoyed at how much more often I can really feel that I am talking with my Tatte b'Shomayim. My thoughts, my connection to the words and their several layers of meaning, and to my Jewish self, all seem much clearer here, in the heart of our history.
Thank you, Hashem, for letting me live so near You.
Please make it easier, clear all the obstructions, so that all of my siblings will come Home. I miss them; and I want for them this wonderful level of connection with You.
And even higher...