Sunday, August 21, 2011

Moving and Growing

[This week's Haveil Havalim is here]

Jack is moving, apparently, and he seems a bit down about it. [Unless this is yet another mix of fiction/fact, which Jack likes to do from time to time.]

I've moved too many times. After a lifetime in one house, from pre-school through semichah (dorming doesn't count; neither do two years in Israel), I've lived in three cities, and numerous homes.

In Rhode Island, we had an apartment and then the first floor of a house and then the second floor of a different house.

In Pennsylvania we had our one, beautiful, spacious home, for eight years; I still keep a picture of it on my cell phone. Here, take a look. It had a two-story library, 5 bedrooms, hardwood floors, double-sized yard, and three aravah bushes I planted.

Here in Toronto we're in our third year in a rented house, and we know we need to move out at the end of this year. Where in town is as yet unresolved.

I never wanted a peripatetic life. I always wanted to live in one place, be part of one community, preferably in Israel. The Israel piece didn't work out, for very good reasons that won't be on this blog. But I still wanted to be in one community, for the sake of my relationships and work, for the sake of my children and their stability. I've written about this before.

But so it is, a life of transitions.

I cope by trying to make it an experience of transformation, rather than mere transition, so that I have sense of going toward something rather than simply shifting locations. Every move should be adding something, broadening or changing me in some way.

Picking up and moving is hard, confusing, alienating. If it happens without growth, it's just all of those emotions without any payoff. The newness of a place may relieve boredom, but that's about it for most people. We naturally need some fulfillment to go along with it.

Biblically, Yosef's travels were supposed to teach him something, make him greater, transform him. It was more than a move to Egypt, to prison, to the palace; Yosef was to grow. And it worked, and he was patient and it paid off.

On the other hand, the Jews' travels when they left Egypt were supposed to teach them and make them greater, and it didn't work. They were the same people, just in a different setting, and it showed as they travelled for 40 years largely without outgrowing their original problems. Frustration. And consequent disaster.

The same applies to our many life changes – birthdays, marriages, bereavement, illness, job changes and so on. If we only transition, then we just get frustrated. We need to grow.

So I need to keep asking myself whether I am transitioning or transforming.

As a new year begins – I pick up our new Sgan at the airport tonight, and the new avreichim arrive in the coming days, and I'm planning new shiurim and chavrusos – I need to maintain that question on the front burner. Am I transitioning or transforming? And if it’s the former, how can I make it the latter?


  1. This is real- no fiction involved. I am irritated by it because it is not my choice to do it like this and my kids are having a hard time.

    But, I am sort of excited by it all because it represents growth and opportunity.

    My sweet children wanted to know if we need to bring the doors and toilets because they don't know from moving.

    Here is to transforming our transitions into something meaningful and special for all of us.

  2. I'm sure this will bring you no comfort but consider the r'ybs explanation of R'YBZ crying on his deathbed about the 2 roads in front of him - he never knew if he made the right decision(s)
    Joel Rich