There is a famous chassidic story of a Chabad Chossid that went to the Tzemach Tzedek to ask for permission to move to Israel. The Rebbe replied that rather than moving to Israel, he should "מאך דא ארץ ישראל", make the place where he was living at the time, presumable Russia, into Israel.
This story has been on my mind quite a lot lately.
As the regular readers of my blog know, my current life-situation is somewhat unusual and difficult. Walking tenuously along the fence separating the charedi and secular worlds requires tremendous effort and results in many falls.
When I share my story with others, I often get asked why I stay. In other words, why don't I just jump off on the secular side of the fence and make a run for it? Why do I insist on staying in such a difficult scenario?
They are asking a good question. In fact, I often ask myself the exact same question. I look into the future and wonder how much longer I can live a double life, how much longer can I remain on this fence without getting worn out? I am not a person who is comfortable with lying, nor am I a good liar, so this scenario is quite difficult for me.
However, at the same time as these thoughts enter my head, I can't help but think:
"מאך דא ארץ ישראל"
While the Tzemach Tzedek obviously did not intend for this phrase to be interpreted in the way that I am about to interpret it, it seems that this concept has a lot of merit for those of us living undercover in the frum world.
It is the tendency of human beings to search for utopia. To sit an imagine that if only one could live somewhere else, live with someone else, live in a different time, or live in a different way, one would be happy. This search for an elusive place where happiness and fulfillment can be achieved have led people on physical and spiritual journeys for centuries.
Whether the utopia that one imagines is a messianic redemption, retirement on a tropical island, or an escape from a restrictive community, it often has the same effect. Focusing on the thought that life could be better "if only..." prevents one from living life to the fullest now.
Of course, the desire to move away from harmful surroundings can be beneficial. If one actually has the opportunity to improve ones life in a way that the benefits to oneself and others outweighs the cost, then it is self-evident that one should take advantage of the opportunity.
When this is not the case, however, the search for an elusive utopia that cannot be obtained, or at least cannot be obtained without causing significant harm, can be detrimental. While part of me feels ready to jump off the fence, it seems that doing so may well cause more harm than good.
Therefore, I need to find a way to "מאך דא ארץ ישראל".