good (kosher) meatballs?

Friday, 19 August, 2022 - 5:09 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I was listening to a conversation between a father and a son in his early teens.

The family owns several homes in locations around the world, some of them quite exotic in places with exquisite natural beauty.

Father asks son ‘where would you like to live after we are ready to move on from our current location’?

The son answered, naming a European country. The reason he gave for his choice? ‘Because I have heard that they make good meatballs’.  

The father thought that this was rather comical. Who chooses a place to live based on the quality of their meatballs?

I started thinking about the reasons I have heard from people about their choice of where to live. Sometimes the reasons don’t sound very different than ‘meatballs’ in terms of their deeper significance.

It’s a good week to discuss this. As in this week’s Parsha Moshe tells the Jewish people about the qualities of the land of Israel.

‘For Hashem your G-d is bringing you to a good land’.

‘A land with streams of water, springs, deep water sources… a land of wheat, barley…. olive oil and honey.. a land in which nothing is lacking… from its hills you will mine copper… a land you will eat and be satisfied, and you shall bless G-d for the good land that He has given you’.

Clearly, it is a blessing to live in a land that has the important resources of water, food, and building materials.

But is that the sum total of what is referred to as our ‘Promised Land’?

(There are many deeper interpretations about what the aforementioned qualities allude to, but I want to stick to simple meaning in this article).

Allow me to point out what is not written explicitly but is the background and framework from within which the Promised Land is being discussed.

Moshe is talking to the entire People of Israel.

He tells them that ‘Hashem your G-d is bringing you to a good land’.

The description of the goodness of the land starts after that verse. In other words the material qualities of the land of Israel begin to be relevant only after two conditions are met.

It is Hashem that is bringing you there.

It is the Jewish community as a collective that is being told they will enter the land of Israel.

A recurring theme in the answers that the Rebbe gave to those asking for his guidance about where to live, were based on these two criteria.

Where will one be drawn closer to G-d and Torah-based Jewish community.

Environment and societal behavior have a great influence on one’s life. Choosing a place to live ought to first take into account the moral and spiritual implications of living in that locale.

The Rebbe would emphasize that it’s not just about what is better for the person as a ‘private citizen’. For people who are ‘influencers’ in their environment, it is critical to consider in which location is one’s contribution to the Jewish community more beneficial and perhaps even vital.

You may be surprised to learn that not always was moving to Israel the answer that the Rebbe gave his approval to.

When someone was instrumental in their diaspora Jewish community the Rebbe considered it their holy duty to stay and influence their community. Like a captain doesn’t ‘jump ship’ till all the passengers have safely disembarked, so too, one should not seek the spiritual growth of the ‘holy land’ on the account of leaving a void in the spiritual needs of the community.

Once one knows that it is Hashem who is bringing you to your location of residence.

When it’s clear that your intended move is going to allow you to be together in that location as a Jewish community.

Then, the discussion can move to (KOSHER) ‘meatballs’ and other factors of varying levels of importance.

When Moshe describes the goodness of the land to which the Bnei Yisrael are about to enter, the unstated (because its so obvious) premise is that it is Hashem who is giving the land. And that it is the collective community of Israel who is being instructed by G-d to enter that land.

It is my understanding that to truly be considered a strong Jewish community in terms of a choice for relocation, it is not enough that there are basic amenities of Jewish life. There needs to be a viable Jewish schooling option and a sufficient pool of Jewish families to allow for dating and marriage options within the local Jewish community.

I have been very inspired to see how some families take assertive actions and relocate from ‘remote’ communities once they sense the dangers of intermarriage and assimilation where there is not a large enough pool of young Jewish adults.

Or, while practical considerations have hindered their move as a family, they make the great sacrifice of sending their adolescent children for schooling in vibrant Jewish communities where they have the best chance of meeting, dating and marrying Jewishly.

Once those criteria of coming closer to Hashem and His people are met, the discussion about ‘milk and honey’ can begin.

Clearly, making a choice about where to live and raise a family is a very weighty one. It should not be based primarily on ‘meatballs’. Nor on household help availability. Not even on weather (unless of course there is a medical issue).

Those are secondary things.

The Torah way of choosing where to live is based on the primary reasons for which we live.

To draw closer to G-d and fulfill His mission here on earth.

I am mindful of the fact that there may a very small group of readers to whom this discussion is relevant in its complete sense.

I have many readers in very vibrant Jewish communities both in Israel and in the diaspora.

On the other hand, many are in remote locations. Not entirely by choice. Economics and various other sociological factors govern where they reside.

However, there is a lesson here for us all.

Let us ensure that the true values of our lives be uppermost in our minds.

Having an abundance of material conveniences is fantastic.

But it can also be most empty and unfulfilling. Sadly, many entitled and pampered young people, grow up dissatisfied and unhappy.

When the material wherewithal comes from a background of connection to G-d and giving back (tzedakah in all its forms) benefiting your family and community, the materialism becomes a vehicle and conduit for living a meaningful and purposeful life.

Here is a call to action.

Place your arrows firmly in the ‘bullseye’ of the target and draw the circles around that.

Make G-d and His people the primary factors in your life.

The focus and clarity that this will bring to your life, will render many of your subsequent life dilemmas and decisions less confusing.

Ultimately, when you live life by the above values, you create a holy land in your own environment.

The Rebbe used to constantly encourage people ‘Make your own Israel’ via the holiness you inject and the atmosphere you create around you.

With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

 PS It’s the Shabbat that blessed the month of Elul, which means Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are around the corner. Hence its time to give early SHANA TOVA blessings as well.



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