One Minute Torah – Vaetchanan 5779

This week’s One Minute Torah is from the archives. At the edge of MITs campus is a graduate-student apartment building called Eastgate. My husband David […]

This week’s One Minute Torah is from the archives.

At the edge of MITs campus is a graduate-student apartment building called Eastgate. My husband David and I lived there for two years. We were so involved in our studies at that time, I may have had only one, brief conversation with the couple that lived right next door. In that exchange, I learned they were from Beijing, and they had a two-year-old girl back in China. Their daughter was living with her grandparents for now, but they hoped to bring her over in a couple years.

They told me this so matter-of-factly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could they let go of their child? It was unfathomable to me.  And then it hit me: my great-grandparents had done the same thing to my grandmother. They had left her in Warsaw at a young age, in the care of her oldest sister, while they sought to establish themselves in New York. They sent for her three year later.

I wish now that I had taken the time to get to know those neighbors in Eastgate, just as I wish I had known my great-grandparents. What did they feel more keenly, her suffering or their own? What drove them, their own aspirations or their hopes for her future? I did know my grandmother well, and I have a good sense of the consequences she bore. Her professions of love- for her deceased parents, her children and her grandchildren- were profuse and grasping. She was never happy, but she did establish herself comfortably in New York, and all her descendants are fully American.

In this week’s parshah, VaEtchanan, Moses reveals that he had pleaded with God to allow him to enter the promised land. But God silenced him sternly. “Enough! Do not talk to me about this anymore. Go up to the mountain and raise your eyes. Look all around, because you will not cross the Jordan. Command your student Joshua, strengthen him.  He will cross over at the head of the people, and bring them to the land which you will only see. (Deuteronomy 3:26-28).”

Moses held his pain. Maybe he realized that it can’t be otherwise, that this is what it is to be an immigrant. You leap as far as you can go, but it is rarely far enough. Then you push your children ahead of you, and hope that they will go farther.