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My Own Private Exile

My Own Private Exile

Making Passover Personal


It’s easy to live life with the assumption that G‑d has forgotten about you. After all, there are scores of other people out there already doing His bidding, so why would it matter if little old you fell by the wayside?

I think that I’ve had the ebbs and flows of this feeling throughout my life. Sometimes I feel so close to G‑d that I can almost touch Him; other times I feel like more of an empty shell, rather than someone with a G‑dly soul. I think that one of the major contributing factors to this cacophony of mixed emotions is a plain, yet enormously significant five-letter word: exile.

Each one of us creates our own exiles The simple definition of exile is prolonged separation from one’s country or home. I like to think of it as just living on the outside. In today’s world, there are so many obstacles in getting closer to G‑d, and they all always seem to point back to exile. That’s not to say that exile is the same for everyone. Each one of us creates our own exiles, and only we can discover and learn the correct path to righteousness.

For me, exile is threefold. The most obvious is my current geographic location. I live in Bethlehem, Pa., better known as X‑mas City. And, not surprisingly, when I visit the supermarket, finding kosher food is no small task. Just last Sunday, I found myself standing in the “kosher” section, which is more like a kosher shelf where the usual fare consists of some pareve cookies, jarred gefilte fish, matzah meal and candles. Every week, I stand in that tiny section, scanning that one shelf, searching for signs of life. Breadcrumbs, yahrtzeit candles, maybe a piece of meat? I always arrive with hope, and often leave defeated. Even on the drive home, with my several packages sitting in my trunk filled with as many kosher varieties as I could find, I pass a myriad of churches with large billboards painted with words like “community” and “salvation”—and it is a bold reiteration and reminder of my exile.

Living life as a “work-at-home” mom is also a form of exile from potential coworkers and friends. I do work part-time, but I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to telecommute from my home office. Thus, I can spend more time with my two children, and also keep tabs on them while they are with the babysitter. It leaves enough time in my day for cooking, laundry, dropping off and picking up from preschool, bath and bedtime, among other things. However, I do miss out on those impromptu conversations with coworkers at the water cooler; donning attire that’s more business casual rather than comfy and convenient; and enjoying a sushi lunch out with other adults, instead of yogurt with the kids. It is hard not to get lost in an endless list of tasks and fall victim to your own routine. In fact, I often find it difficult to have time for anything else. And so, I am in exile. Not only do I anyway feel exiled from both my Creator and myself, but now also from my peers.

We are each our own MosesLastly, and possibly the most difficult for me, is the exile from my family. The feeling generated from this exile is so tangible that it’s painful. Ever since I began my learning and felt comfortable enough to share with others the discovery of myself as a Jew, with some people things have changed. We still get together, we talk, and we buy each other birthday gifts. The connections are there, but that mutual understanding between us has disappeared. The greetings and emotions are no longer genuine. This is the hardest. Being an outsider with those who are supposed to know you best. This is exile.

With that said, how can we better understand and cope with exile? First, I thought about Moses. He was in the same predicament, and even after he led the Jewish people out of Egypt, they ended up wandering around the desert for forty years. In exile, that is. Although Moses led a nation, and my personal struggle is considerably less daunting, it is nevertheless the same idea. We are each our own Moses. Only we can create the paths, and utilize the paths that we encounter throughout our lives, in order to point ourselves in the direction of home.

In other words, we make our own exile, and we can bring ourselves out of it and closer to G‑d. We do this through lighting Shabbat candles, eating kosher food, and giving tzedakah, charity. Doing mitzvahs and learning and living Torah are the vehicles that bring us one step closer to ending our exile. However, the journey is not the same for all of us. For example, the path is starkly different for someone brought up in an observant home, as compared to another who just today read a passage from Exodus for the first time. And yet, no matter who we are or where we live, we all will always have that one thing in common: we are Jews living in exile.

A few days ago I needed some milk, and I stopped in at the supermarket, one closer to my house. For fun, I went to the kosher section to see what was there. I found the two shelves with all the Jewish goodies, and to my utter amazement, there stood a lonely package of tiny kosher soup macaroni shaped like the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the alef-bet. Well, if someone were looking at me at that moment, they probably would have thought I found gold. There it was, a fun, edible, kosher product that I had never seen before in the Lehigh Valley—waiting there just for me. It gave me hope, purpose, and the strength to keep forging ahead on my journey to ending this dreadful exile.

Angela Goldstein is a wife and mother who divides her time between family and a passion for writing and exploration. A freelance grant writer, she has several years of experience writing grant proposals for organizations in multiple disciplines. She also sits on the Boards of two non-profit organizations and is currently working on her first non-fiction project.
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Discussion (28)
March 15, 2013
Thank You Veronica( Granada)
Thank you and you have shown me a couple of things like going close to the Hotels, it never dawned on me but it seems logical that they would want to have ingredients to help tourists from different countries, it's really a good idea and the fruits and veggies they sell here to try in some way to use them in our meals. My husband also buys online that helps alot. I thank all the ideas a few have sent to me.
Anna ( Ponce)
March 13, 2013
To Anna in Ponce, PR
I too live in the Caribbean and my husband and myself are embracing the Jewish lifestyle. We also have a problem finding Kosher here to some extent. What we try to do is incorporate lots of local fruits and vegetables. I also grow some of my own stuff. my sister lives in New York and every year she packs a barrel of kosher foodstuff that she ships down for us. One other thing, I do most of my shopping at supermarkets close to the major hotels found in the Tourist belt, this helps a lot. Lastly, if you haven't already done so get to know the kosher labeling signs really well. I pray Hashem to help you and your Husband in this Journey.
April 11, 2012
Deborah from Kansas
You have a true, remnant Jewish heart who cares for everyone. May Hashem bless you and keep you under His Shekinah for ever.
Mesa, Arizona, USA
April 10, 2012
I have in my travels that when I need Jewish assistance, there is always a Chabad Rabbi nearby. For Anna in PR, go online and I bet you will a wonderful and loving Chabad Rabbi and his family for incredible support. You are not alone....
Marv Hershenson
Indianapolis, IN/USA
April 6, 2012
What am I?
Dear Anna in Ponce, PR - The Father knows your heart and that your intent is to be a fully compliant participant in His teachings and principals (Torah). All he asks of you is that you do your very best with what is available to you at this present time. MOST OF ALL, do not allow guilt or condemnation to have a place in your heart. Your spirit is ALIVE in HaShem and G-d will accept your heart's desire to please Him. Although I have to constantly remind myself of the Jewish people during WWII who did not have access to adhere to their holy traditions, they had to make do w/what they did have and perform their traditions the best they could (secretly) and in great fear. It is the HEART's 'intent' that matters to G-d.
Halstead, KS
April 6, 2012
What am I?
I found out I have Jewish roots and so does my husband but he knew it before I did. What do I do if everything I knew to be the truth is only parts of the truth, I was raised catholic and now I'm all mixed up. But in a funny way I'm seeing things in a different way but there are no Jewish people here and even though we are starting to change on our own we do NOT have anything in our supermarkets Kosher, you see I live in a Caribbean island and only spanish products are sold. We are trying on our own as best as we could but now I feel guilty because it's not the way it should be. I might not get an answer to my predicament, it's complicated but I do hope someone could answer me. Thank you for your time in reading this..
Ponce, PR
April 4, 2012
Thank you Deborah from Kansas
I really appreciate you giving me comfort. I am here in AZ. Have lost my friends, and some family. At 64 there is not much one can do. I keep a Torah Life the best I can. My strength is in Hashem, blessed be He. He promised that He would gather us all from the four corners of the earth. I trust in His precious Word. Until we meet with Him at the Gathering. How Precious is our G-d!!! Lets bless Him and praise His Name!!!
Mesa, Arizona, USA
April 3, 2012
Ex Isle
It is said that no man is an island (John Donne) but we all do feel at times intensely alone and that feeling is intensified when we feel cut off from our roots, for whatever reason. Finding one's way home, is a human endeavor and takes many forms. I do deeply believe that identity is a profound part of this journey, and some find it late in life, and some always know they have it.

I appreciate your honesty in discussing this personal issue, and one which is truly, universal, as it does cross cultural and religious lines.

Once we find our roots, and put them down, in a solid way, we feel somehow nourished, and whole For many it's the journey of a lifetime.
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
April 3, 2012
Private Exile
Evidently, the second supermarket is better than the first--it has two shelves of Jewish food, while the first had only one. Note: if you ever encounter a package of meat on those shelves, don't buy it! Meat out of refrigeration can be pretty dangerous!
Your exile is self-imposed. The Lehigh Valley has many Jewish communities, maybe not in your immediate area, but you can get to them. Imagine being in your 70s, of sound mind but faltering body, living alone in a seniors community and dependent on other people for transportation to Jewish events that noone else wants to attend.
Delray Beach, Fla
April 3, 2012
Thank you
Thank you very much for writing this article, then I learned that I am not the only lonely one who passes churches and wish and pray to live some where to see more Holy Synagouges, for the same reason of being Kosher living in exile then I turned into a vegeterian, when I was reading your article then i felt exactly like you. Happy Pesach for all Holy Jewish Nation.Amen
Cary, NC
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