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It’s Aliyah all over Again

August 8, 2009 – 7:29 pm3 Comments
Photo by Richard Nowitz

Photo by Richard Nowitz

By Paul Brown

I only saw Shlomo Carlebach perform once. It was at the Wix Auditorium in Machon Weitzmann Science Institute in Rehovot, Israel, in the summer of 1969. I was living in Israel at the time. I did not know then, that in his kitbag, Carlebach always carried a copy of the Mei Hashiloach, the Isbitzer Rebbe’s most well-known work.

The Mei Hashiloach is named after a spring, which is mentioned once in the Torah. In Isaiah we are told that the Jews spurned the Shiloach spring whose waters ran only slowly. The waters still flow through Silwan at the foot of King David’s city in Jerusalem, and shortly, my wife Marta and I hope to be looking down to the brook from the Gate of Silwan, (also known as Sha’ar Ha’ashpot, or Dung Gate).

We are returning to Israel as Toshavim Chozrim (repatriating citizens). Marta and I left Israel for Oz in 1989, and we are about to return to the Holy Land. Why did we leave then, and why are we returning now, or rather, why did I lead Marta away from Jerusalem then, and why am I now taking her back now?

The key can be found by delving into the Mei Hashiloach, the posthumous work of the Isbitzer Rebbe. The Isbitzer developed a novel, introspective concept of Divine service. He posited two paths to unification with the will of G-d: the traditional, halakhic path followed equally by all Jews, and a personalised path, which actualises personal destiny. The Isbitzer exhorted his followers to discover both aspects unification with G-d’s will: the universal halakhic route and the particular path that is unique for each individual.

For the first thirty years of my life, my destiny was wedded to Albion; for the next ten years, to Zion; and, for the last twenty years, to Terra Australis. Now, I am 61! Australia has been a finishing school. When we left Israel, I believed that it would merely be a finishing school for my professional development as a psychiatrist.

In the event, it proved to be a finishing school in several other ways. I unexpectedly discovered Chassidus. While I continue to pray nusach Chabad like I did when I left Israel, I have discovered the joys of the Polish School of Chassidism, of the Mei Hashiloach, and of those sharing his roots ~ the Kotzker Rebbe, and the Seer of Lublin to name some of the most prominent.

These great Chassidic rebbes re-framed Jewish orthodoxy in line with the needs of the individual ~ in terms of the individual, who must survive morally and spiritually in an increasingly fragmented, mass, social environment. They integrated the personal destiny of the individual, qua individual, with the destiny of the individual as a member of the Kahal, the Jewish group.

My destiny in Australia was to complete my professional development, and to learn about Chassidus. I had to leave Israel to achieve that! Now that we are returning, I feel much better prepared. Although we are classified as Toshavim Chozrim (repatriating citizens) rather than olim (immigrants), I really feel that this is an aliyah. Literally aliyah means ascent, and as I move to Israel for the second time, I feel that this is the actualisation of my personal destiny. Australia gave me the tools to achieve what I was unable to achieve twenty years ago. I am truly grateful for that.

Dr Paul Brown is Psychiatrist who has been living in Melbourne for the last two decades.

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