At the close of Fiddler on the Roof, the award-winning musical that depicts life in the Russian shtetl, after the government has given the Jewish villagers three days to leave their homes, they discuss where they are going. Yente, the matchmaker declares, “Goldie darling, all my life I’ve dreamed of going to one place and now I’ll walk, I’ll crawl, I’ll get there. Guess where. You’ll never guess. Every year at Passover, what do we say? ‘Next year in Jerusalem, next year in the Holy Land.’” And so Yente bids her friend goodbye and sets out for Palestine, as the land of Israel was called then.
Like Yente I also left my home for the Holy Land but unlike her I did not walk or crawl. Rather I boarded a plane with my husband and five children and set out for a new life. I do not know what happened to Yente once she arrived here. I have no idea if she was blissfully happy or wished she had never come. As for myself, I have no regrets.
Time and time again I am thankful from anew that we made Aliyah. One of my most recent experiences was at my oldest grandson’s chumash party. Once school children are able to read well they receive their very own copy of the five books of Moses. However, these volumes are not just handed out to them at the end of the school day. No, there is a special ceremony with parents, grandparents, rabbis, and, of course, refreshments to give a festive atmosphere.
My grandson’s father received his chumash at an assembly at his school. I assume there were speeches and songs but, in truth, I don’t remember any of it. On the other hand, I don’t think I will ever forget my grandson’s program. Instead of being held in an auditorium it was atop Mount Gerizim.
Mount Gerizim is first mentioned in the Torah in Deuteronomy, Chapter 11, verse 29. And when that HaShem, your G-d, will bring you into the Land to which you will come there to possess it and you shall give the blessings on Mount Gerizim and the curses on Mount Eval. This commandment is expanded on in Chapter 27, verses 11-14. Moses instructs the people to divide themselves into two groups when they come into the land. Half the tribes will stand on Mount Gerizim and the other half will stand on Mount Eval. In between will be the tribe of Lavi. As G-d’s emissaries the Levis will recite the blessing that will follow if the Jewish people adhere to the Torah and the curses if they do not. Those atop Mount Gerizim will answer amen to the blessings and those on Mount Eval need to answer amen to the curses. It must have a most moving ritual for those who witnessed it.
Today Mount Eval holds an army base and an altar from the time of Joshua Ben Nun, the prophet who took over the leadership of the Jewish people once Moses died. Mount Gerizim holds two villages, Har Bracha, a Jewish community, and Kiryat Luza, a Samarian enclave. Between them lies Shechem, now a sprawling Arab city, as well as the site of Joseph’s Tomb. (For more information on Shechem see my article, Joseph’s Tomb, posted on 5-4-11)
The Samarians are a small religious group, not Jewish, nor Moslem or Christian. They believe in the chumash but no later Jewish texts or Oral Torah. As we drove through Kiryat Luza we saw few villagers and the couple standing outside took no notice of us. As we left there we turned a few curves and then we were atop Mount Gerizim. The view was spectacular. Not only could we see the site of Joseph’s Tomb, we were able see a number of Jewish settlements, among them Elon Moreh to the north.
Elon Moreh was founded in the year 1980. Named after the site where Avraham pitched his tents when he first entered the Holy Land with his wife and nephew, it overlooks Shechem. That is most probably where Avraham’s first tent was actually located but establishing a Jewish community inside Shechem was deemed too controversial to be successful. Instead, the founders settled for the nearest spot. Today Elon Moreh is home to over one thousand Jews.
Our grandson and his classmates had learned the first two Torah portions of the chumash. Now with books in hand they would begin learning Lech Lecha, the third portion. It is in the sixth verse that Elon Moreh is mentioned. And it was in the children’s play that G-d’s promise to Avraham was recalled. To your children I will give this land, Chapter 12, verse 7. The children did not have to use their imaginations as to what the land looked like. All they had to do was raise their eyes and look around. How fortunate they are.
When the final curtain closes on Fiddler on the Roof we have no idea what happened in the end to the villagers who are forced to flee. I would like to suppose that Yente did, indeed, make it to the Holy Land. I would like to think that being still a relatively young woman she remarried and had children. I would like to imagine that her great-granddaughter was one of the mothers sitting near me at the chumash party. And I would like to believe that Yente knows that her great-great grandchildren are living happily in the Holy Land.
I wonder what she would think of how we end our Seder here. We don’t say “Next year in Jerusalem”. Rather, those of us who have the honor of living here exclaim, “Next year in Rebuilt Jerusalem”. May it happen speedily, in our days.
A Chag Sameach, Gut Yomtof, and Happy Holiday to all.