After three and a half weeks of traveling for Orot, I finally came home on Friday morning. In truth, this is the first time that I've really been away from my family for more than a few days, and it wasn't fun.
I was still able to stay in touch with the family, sometimes in amazing ways. I bought a cellphone at radioshack for $10 and a plan that gave me unlimited minutes for the month, and then I could call home to our Vonage phone without giving it a second thought. It was essentially free - and I called home a lot. I also used my laptop to Skype the kids at home, and even read the children a bedtime story over the Internet. But the distance was still too much.
As easy as communication is nowadays - it's easy to forget the critical importance of presence, not over the phone, but being there in person. Making kiddush for my family. Washing the dishes. (Yes, I do that.) Giving my children blessings on Friday night, and sitting next to them during davening. While I helped my son with his Gemara homework over the phone, I learned with him in person over Shabbat.
In so many ways, big and small, it's good to be home.
But there's another dimension to coming home. This is the first time that I arrived in Israel not as a visitor or tourist or even immigrant, but as a resident. It felt strange, but also strangely comfortable, to arrive at Ben Gurion airport on my way home. Any other time I've arrived in Israel, I always felt a pang of jealousy for people who lived in Israel. I had no idea what they had gone through to get here, but they had the luxury of being both in Israel and at home.
This week, I finally got to know what that felt like. In ways both small and big, I came home.