| Parshah |

From Midwest to Middle East

The years since World War II have seen an extraordinary wave of Jews returning to their roots on an unprecedented scale


“And you will return to Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will listen to His voice… you and your children.”

(Devarim 30:2)


ince the Torah is the blueprint for the entire Creation, it inherently contains within it allusions to everything that will ever exist or occur in the universe. The Vilna Gaon explains that the Torah’s recounting of the episode of Creation contains the events that transpired in the first 1,000 years of history, with the second 1,000 years hidden in the remainder of Sefer Bereishis, the third 1,000 years in Sefer Shemos, the fourth 1,000 years in Sefer Vayikra, the fifth 1,000 years in Sefer Bamidbar, and the final 1,000 years in Sefer Devarim (Rabbi Ozer Alport, Parsha Potpourri).

Her name was Anne, and my brain immediately dubbed her Anne of Green Gables. She had a narrow, slightly freckled face and wavy, dark-reddish (auburn?) hair. Her eyes twinkled; her personality sparkled.

Yet like Anne, she had anything but an easy childhood before entering my classroom.

A Jewish child of a mixed marriage, she’d grown up in a typical Midwestern farming town where she rarely, if ever, saw a Jew. (Proof: there wasn’t even a Chabad center!)

Still, her active brain and emotional acuity accompanied her throughout elementary school, assuring her there was a bigger and greater world out there waiting for her.

Since Sefer Devarim contains ten parshiyos (counting Nitzavim and Vayeilech as one, since they are often read together as a double portion), each portion hints to the events of one century of the sixth millennium. Based on this explanation of the Vilna Gaon, it has been noted that the early years of the Holocaust, the greatest national tragedy in modern history, fall out in the century that is hinted to in parshas Ki Savo, which contains words of rebuke and hair-raising threats of terrible suffering that will befall the Jewish People.

I don’t know how she stumbled across NCSY; it certainly wasn’t in her hometown. But Anne was one of those seeking souls who saw potential when opportunities knocked.

The first shabbaton she experienced blew her mind away, and afterward there was no turning back.

Not that she had any familial or friendly support. Everyone who knew her thought she was nuts and abandoned her to her folly. But she was unwavering.

By the time I taught her in high school, she’d been frum on her own for close to two years. Observing her, you’d be hard-pressed to realize that this vivacious teenager who was active in the G.O., had a beautiful voice, and loved little kids (I’ll babysit anybody!), had ever lived a different lifestyle.

But those of us privy to her background were in awe at her tenacity, her determination, and her persistent purpose to live the truth.

Then Anne, now Chani, graduated and went to seminary. I married and moved to Israel and we lost touch.

However, consolation may be found by recognizing that we are currently living in the century that corresponds to parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech, which is commonly referred to as the portion of repentance. Not surprisingly, the years since World War II have seen an extraordinary wave of Jews returning to their roots on an unprecedented scale, precisely as predicated by the Torah.

I recently spent Shabbos in a little yishuv near Bnei Brak. It was a beautiful place with private homes and gardens, and my kids ran around the quiet streets, enjoying the pastoral setting.

I was taking a walk along a flower-bordered road when I heard my name, or rather my maiden name, being called.

Turning, it took me a moment to place the face. The curls were now covered with a sheitel and the narrow face had matured, but one look at the toddler holding her mother’s hand had me seeing Anne’s face once again.

Turns out, she’d made aliyah, was living in this quiet yishuv for several years already, and her husband was learning part time in Bnei Brak. Her kids sounded like native Israelis.

To quote Anne of Green Gables, “Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about?”

But it takes a courageous and committed soul to embark on this quest for truth. Chani had traveled from one world to the next, from the Midwest to the Middle East. And having settled in Eretz Yisrael, like Anne, she feels that “Home is the nicest world there is.”


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 859)

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