This past Shabbat we read Lech Lecha, my all-time favorite Torah portion. (How much of a Jewish nerd this makes me, that I have a favorite Torah portion, I will let you discuss amongst yourselves. Can't help it, don't really want to!) Lech lecha – "go forth, to a land that I will show you." It is our first real directive as a Jewish people, a push towards an unknown future, to a place that has had a hold on our hearts for thousands of years.
Lech lecha has also been translated as "go to yourself," which speaks to me personally, as I always feel most myself when I am in Israel. A friend of mine says I actually look different once I land (although that could be the jet lag . . .) and while I can't detect any difference in my appearance, I know that my heart lifts as soon as I get to this vibrant, ancient, modern, engaging piece of ground. I am thoroughly American, and when I get to Washington, D.C., next week for the General Assembly of UJC/The Federations of North America, I will, as always, be stirred by the sights of the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House as the taxi takes me to the conference. But it is in Israel that I can relax totally, where I know I am home, where, if I decide not to use the return ticket back to New Jersey, they have to take me in. (To my family: don't worry, I'm always coming home, I'm just saying . . .)
And actually, I think I can do the most good for Israel by continuing to come home to both places, to travel back and forth, helping Jews in this country and Jews in Israel understand each other, communicate their joys and their concerns, to strengthen the bonds of Jewish peoplehood, which are crucial lifelines in an uncertain world. I have an offer to make to the women of MetroWest – come join me from January 23 to January 29, 2010, on the Heart to Heart Mission to Israel, and see if I really do look different – or if you will look or feel different. For more details, go to www.ujcnj.org/missions or contact Neimah Tractenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Come with the great mother-daughter team of Adele Lebersfeld and Joanie Silver and me, and touch the heart of Israel. It will be incredibly fast and incredibly meaningful – lech lecha, go forward, to your best self!