Dear Rachel,
I met a wonderful man, and we are engaged to be married. We are so happy together. The one issue is that we very much want to live in Israel, but my mother is totally against the idea. She feels it isn’t safe, is too far, she won’t get to know her grandchildren, etc. She’s putting a lot of guilt on us. I feel really torn. I want to respect my mother, but I also want to start a new life with my husband. Can you offer any guidance?

Heart Torn in Zion

Dear Heart Torn in Zion,

First of all, Mazal Tov on your engagement! It is wonderful to hear that you are so happy and have found someone to share your life and your dreams with. Marriage is the beginning of a new life; that is what we celebrate, the birth of a husband and wife. And while you are by no means disconnecting from the family life that you previously had, you are literally starting a new life together with your husband.

Your new life will invariably lead you down paths that you may never have considered as a single woman. But when you commit to a partner, you commit to decision-making together. Choosing where to live is a very big decision, and one that belongs to you and your husband alone. While input and different perspectives are important to consider, ultimately, this is about what is best for you and your new little family.

This will not be the only time in your life when you are faced with a making a difficult decision; life is full of them, that is how we grow. But you must understand that for a parent, no matter how Zionistic and supportive they may truly be, the idea of their child leaving to live in another country is nothing short of painful. Although you may see yourself as a grown and independent woman, remember that to your mother you are still her “little girl.” So, whatever you and your husband decide, just remember to have some compassion with her. Disagreeing with your mother doesn’t have to be an act of defiance, but simply a difference of opinion. You must always honor your parents—there is no question there—but your priority now, in terms of life-decision-making, is to your husband.

There is a story told of one of the Chabad Rebbes who needed to travel overseas away from his Chassidim for a time. The Chassidim were heartbroken to be away from their Rebbe. He comforted them with the following thought: “The oceans that lay between us don’t separate us; they connect us.” I encourage you to share this thought with your mother, perhaps it will be a comfort to her.

In terms of your mother’s feelings about the safety of living in Israel, unfortunately, all one has to do is open a newspaper to see that the concept of “safety” is totally relative. Living in Israel is a mitzvah. It is a beautiful and wonderful and holy goal. Our safety is never guaranteed, anywhere, it is all in G‑d’s hands. We need to trust that He guides us where we need to be.

And in terms of her very real distress about not seeing her grandchildren, that is painful any way you slice it. But, who knows, maybe your mother would one day consider living in Israel, too? Maybe you could be the one to help give her that push? In the meantime, thank G‑d, there are some amazing technological advancements that make it a little easier to be away. Although nothing replaces the feel or the smell of being physically together, a web cam, digital photography and voice over IP lines do make it much easier and cheaper to stay connected.

Wherever you and your husband decide to live, I am confident that you will make a blessed decision together. And please G‑d, your marriage will bring us one step closer to the time of our redemption where there will be no more separation between families—only one big Jewish family, all together in Israel.

Blessings to you,