According to the American College Dictionary to retire means: ” To withdraw, or go away, to a place of abode or seclusion; to withdraw from office, business or active life.” That is not what we envisioned our retirement to be. Sure, it’s great to sit on the beach and bask in the sun, to golf, play tennis, etc. But how much of that can one do without feeling that something is lacking?
The famous Biblical commentators all describe the stories in the book of Beraishit as “ma’aseh avot siman l’banim” which means, essentially, one can look at the history of our forefathers as guideposts in conducting our lives. If you look at their lives, you see that they were actively involved in the world. They didn’t retire, but served Hashem and man all their lives.
There is a brachah we hear at every birthday and anniversary “ad meah v’esrim,” which means your life should continue until you’re 120 years old. And you wonder, after you retire, is that a blessing? I don’t know what I’ll be doing tomorrow, much less in the coming years!
My husband and I faced our retirement in a unique way. We made Aliyah! We had a strong connection to the land of Israel and loved our time spent here as tourists. We longed to live in the land in which our forefathers walked, and were fortunate that our children also chose Israel as their homeland. But, being tourists in Israel is totally different than retiring and residing here.
All the experts advise retirees to plan for their retirement. But how can one plan when one has no idea of what to expect? Luckily, we knew where we’d be living since we purchased our apartment before coming to Israel. The apartment needed major repairs before we could make it into a home. We would also have to cope with adjustments and solve various problems, as one always does, in a new country. Yet, once we accomplished all of that, what did we have to look forward to?
What to do? We both had emunah that things would work out and fall into place but it was rough going at first. We decided we would go slowly in finding our niche. Little did we know how many choices were available. My husband joined a Daf Yomi shiur. Even though he felt he was not a Yeshiva bachur, he enjoyed it so, that he found himself taking advantage of the many shiurim and classes available. In fact, for someone who enjoys this, the Israel Center in Yerushalayim has classes (in English) all the time. I love to swim and saw this as my opportunity to begin a schedule, which would help me maintain good health and enjoy the social atmosphere at our local pool. I also joined a women’s Beit Midrash where the learning is serious and on a high level. We both found that by joining these community activities, we greatly enhanced our social lives.
The menu of opportunities for self-advancement, improvement, and achievement is so varied that I’d recommend sampling whatever whets your appetite. We join groups that travel the length and breadth of the country, in tours organized with retirees in mind. We attend plays, concerts and take trips to museums. We participate in Tai Chi, water aerobics, and gym classes. Friends join walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons and brag to us how they keep up with the youngsters. Our lives are enriched and expanded by these activities.
We were very happy with what we were doing but felt that something was missing. We wanted to be able to give of ourselves to others. Being a teacher, I began by teaching our younger grandchildren to read English while my husband learned Chumash and Gemara with the older ones. Don’t worry if your children don’t live here. There are so many families with Sabas and Savtas living abroad, you will be in great demand to act as surrogate grandparents.
There also are so many places where one can volunteer. Don’t be concerned if you are “Hebrew-language-challenged.” English speakers are needed. These are some of the ways that our friends, neighbors, and acquaintances have found to give back to the Jewish people.
There’s the professor who helps children having difficulty learning the English language, which is a requirement in the Israeli school system. There’s the math teacher who is helping overseas boys in Beit Midrash keep up with their learning. There’s the chemistry teacher who is keeping his students’ accounts for a tzedakah fund and helping them in their quest for funds.
There’s the teacher who takes care of her grandchildren from the age of three months, since her daughter must return to work. There’s the author of children’s books who reads books to children in the library. There are those who work in Yad Sarah, soup kitchens, gemachs, and museums.
The list is endless. They all profess to feelings of joy, pride and contentment when they see the seeds of their labor taking fruit. They find, as we did, that their days are full, as full as they wish them to be.
So come, come home to Israel, not to be buried here, but to live here! Retire here and make a positive impact on those you meet and on the country as a whole. Retire here and have emunah that you will be a part of an exciting, meaningful and unique experience.
*Not just “spending.”