I went to school with a guy who dreamed of living in Chevron. When he got married, he moved to Kiryat Arba and started a family. Then his baby became ill and died. So he buried this child in Hebron and moved to Ramot. Later he told me, “All my life I dreamt of owning land in Israel, but the first thing I ended up buying was a burial plot for my child.” His words stuck with me. Well, the only piece of land that Avraham ever bought in Israel (mentioned in the Torah) was the cave of Machpelah…also a burial spot in Chevron.
Another Jewish burial spot was in the news not so long ago. Auschwitz…and the 60th anniversary of its Russian liberation. Of course, what the Russians did in Auschwitz was just one more tragedy heaped upon the pile of human ashes. So there was a big memorial service in Poland at the time (right inside those gates of Arbeit Macht Frei). Statesmen from all over the world attended, even a representative from the Vatican. To honor that anniversary, I arranged a ticket to Israel so I could look at an apartment that was for sale in Beit Ha-Kerem.
Which reminds me…I have a story to tell about dreams.
I don’t have the gift of dreams. Some people do, like Joseph, like Pharaoh. When I was young, my mother had a recurring dream. In it, I was drowning. Because of this dream she persuaded my father to hire a very expensive private swimming instructor to give me lessons. And later on, it saved my life. But that’s another story and the point is this: If you have the gift of dreams, you are able to remember what it is you’ve dreamt about. You’re able to understand the dream is important. But it means nothing unless you have the courage to act on it.
Several years ago, I planned a trip to the Ukraine (with my cousin, who is a professor of Russian studies). And I arranged a guide whose specialty was Jewish genealogical research. I wasn’t going for pleasure, I was going for information. My great-grandparents came to America long before World War II, but the Nazis later destroyed our family records in Europe. I thought that two small towns I was interested in, Bialogorodka and Kuzmin, might still have some records left intact.
I have to admit, I was harboring a secret (not so nice) fantasy. I was planning to buy some land near Kiev. I was going to put up a sign on this land. The sign would say “You tried to get rid of us. But you can’t. And now…we’re back.”
In the months leading up to this trip, I started to dream. First I dreamt about my grandparents. So nice. And I dreamt about my great-grandparents…the ones who were still alive when I was a child. Then I dreamt about relatives I had seen pictures of, or heard stories about. Finally, one night, a large crowd of unrecognizable relatives turned up in my dreams and they began speaking to me in Yiddish (I’m not good at Yiddish).
And they told me this: “We suffered in Europe. There were pogroms long before Hitler came to town. It wasn’t easy to pick up and sail across the ocean to America. And in America we struggled and our lives were bitter. You are the first generation to have it all: fluency of language, education, ownership of land, position in society and ease of life. Don’t take our memory back into Europe and don’t let our memory die in America. You are just a link in the chain…plant the seeds of your future in Jerusalem.”
But it was all in Yiddish… so, maybe I didn’t understand?
I know people who are some of the biggest frequent fliers on El Al. They go back and forth to Israel all the time. But the only piece of land they own there is a cemetery plot. Not me. Because one time in my life, I was given the gift of dreams. And even if I’m only a small link in the chain, I’m going to buy myself a place in Jerusalem. I will carry the memory of my ancestors there. I will put up a sign that says, “We’re back.” And right next to that sign I will plant a small garden. And perhaps it will be a place…… where the seeds of my future can grow.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.