My heart is in the East, but the rest of me far in the West . . .
This is the opening line of the famous poem by the medieval Spanish Jew Yehudah HaLevi. In the poem he speaks of his yearning for Zion. Legend has it that he made it there at the end of his life and died when he reached the Western Wall.
I often feel similar thoughts than the ones expressed by HaLevi. Part of the reason I decided to become a rabbi is because of my experiences in Israel. My wife and I have contemplated Aliyah, but ultimately we decided that serving as rabbis in North America is our calling. And yet, my heart yearns when I see a great Israeli work of art, or when I hear of a terrorist attack, or when I hear of a legal triumph for the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, or the Women of the Wall . . . I am comfortable in Toronto, a thriving Jewish community, but I yearn to be a part of the Jewish history that is made every day in Israel. This push and pull, I think, is part of what it means to be a Jew.
So, until my next visit to the Land, I study, I argue, I support, I engage, I pray—so many ways to be involved in Israel and with Israelis. Israel is a core part of Holy Blossom Temple’s mission and identity—from the prayer for the state on every Shabbat morning to our congregational social justice trip leaving today. We are a congregation that takes our commitment to Israel seriously. Join us this month in celebration of Israel through prayer, culture, and discussions of the issues of the Middle East.
As our hearts yearn for Zion, consider joining ARZA Canada, The Zionist voice of the Canadian Reform Movement. Joining ARZA Canada helps support Reform Judaism in Israel and the amazing work that is happening in the congregations and the Israel Religious Action Center that is making Israel a true homeland for all Jews.
My Heart is in the East by Yehudah HaLevi (translated by Hillel Halkin)
My heart is in the East
But the rest of me far in the West—
How can I savor this life, even taste what I eat?
How, in the bonds of the Moor,
Zion chained to the Cross,
Can I do what I’ve vowed to and must?
Gladly I’d leave
All of the best of grand Spain
For one glimpse of the ruined Shrine’s dust.