By Rina Weinberg
As a child, I remember my father telling me about Rav Chaim Tzvi Katz. Rav Katz, a Rebbe at Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland Ohio, was notorious for the packed suitcase he kept under his bed in anticipation of Moshiach’s–the Messiah’s–arrival.
Last Friday afternoon I received a phone-call from a close family friend who lives here in Eretz Yisrael. I say “here,” because my husband Dovid and I, along with our nine-month-old daughter, Noa, made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) this past summer from Woodmere, New York to the holy city of Yerushalayim. She was calling to make sure that “the new olim (those who made aliyah)” were OK and weren’t overly panicked about “their first time.” She was referring to the weeklong military operation underway in the Middle East.
I assured her that while the current state of affairs was certainly nerve-wracking, we were nonetheless doing fine. “After all,” I said, “we are in Yerushalayim, far from the centers of action near the Southern border of Israel.”
Still, I felt the need to ask her if she had any advice regarding additional safety measures that we should take before Shabbos. Amongst other things, she suggested that we keep our radio on the silent channel (a station reserved for broadcasts in the event of an emergency over Shabbos), and that we pack a bag of essentials for the unlikely event that we would have to go into the miklat, our safe room, over Shabbos.
After hanging up the phone, we dutifully purchased a radio, tuned into the silent channel and I, skeptically, began packing a miklat bag which I situated next to the front door of our apartment.
A few minutes after 5 p.m., the eerie wail of air raid sirens rang out over Yerushalayim, and broke that silent serenity that comes only once a week after you light Shabbos candles. Our daughter in hand, I grabbed the miklat bag and a siddur, and ran to the shelter.
Luckily, our miklat is literally adjacent to our apartment so that within seconds, I was safely inside. Shortly thereafter, I was joined by my neighbor and her three children who seemed relatively calm. For the next minute (and, yes, it was only a minute, if even that), I stood in the back of the shelter with Noa in my arms in a state of total uncertainty.
When the former silence reigned again, my husband Dovid (who had returned from shul, synagogue, to check on us) assured me that it was safe to come out. I stepped back into the front hall of our apartment and, incredulously holding up the bag which hung from my arm, I pronounced, “This is our miklat bag.” Without hesitation Dovid smiled and said, “Where is our Moshiach (Messiah) bag?”
A sigh escaped my mouth as I began to say, “I know, you’re right; if I have a bag packed for the miklat then I should have one packed for Moshiach,” but I quickly interrupted myself, “We live in Israel, why do I need to pack a bag for Moshiach? We are here already!” He smirked and replied, “You’re right, I guess we don’t need a Moshiach bag.”
While there is undeniable discomfort in having to pack a miklat bag full of diapers and formula for your nine-month-old daughter, the events of this past week have offered tremendous perspective regarding what it means to be a member of Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel, in Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. We continue to hope and daven that the next siren we hear will be that of the shofar, ushering in the final redemption and arrival of Moshiach.
But until then, I derive much comfort in knowing that when that siren sounds, I won’t need to pack a bag.