Idealism and Pragmatism

The process of making aliyah is all about a healthy mix of idealism and pragmatism. One approach cannot exist without the other.

Here’s the issue: many aliyah priming groups and organizations convey a sense of dis-harmony between the two. Idealism is often considered the motivating factor for making aliyah. It is presented as the springboard from which we lauch our campaign for personal achievement and self-realization. Pragmatism, on the other hand, is seen as the down-to-earth manner in which we are to deal with the challenges that the process of aliyah presents. Once we’ve decided to make aliyah we are encouraged to set our idealism aside in favor of a more practical approach to life.

Logical as it may seem, dividing these two approaches to life in general and with regards to aliyah in particular is one of the most harmful and self-destructive attitudes a person can take.

Far too often new olim find themselves putting their idealism to rest in favor of being “realistic”, “practical” and “grounded”. Is it really in our best interests to do so? No one is denying the necessity of a well designed plan for aliyah, but at the expense of our ideals, our motivation – that very motivation that pushed us as far as it did? Need we stifle the positive drive that makes us who we are? 

Aliyah needs to be approached differently. We need to view idealism not as the background of our aliyah, rather as the heart of our aliyah. Similarly, we would serve ourselves best were we only to consider pragmatism as a means of planning our idealism, not as a way to replace it.   

The corollary to this approach which sees pragmatism and idealism as complementary one to the other is that we take our idealism wherever we go. Indeed, we continue to nurture and develop our inner strengths at every step of the way. Those strengths were certainly powerful to begin with, as they managed to drive us from one continent to another. Imagine if we were to allow our energy, our neshama, to become even stronger…

Our forefather, Avraham Avinu, didn’t stop after he responded to the call of “Lech Lecha”. Quite the opposite. Making Aliyah was the first of the ten challenges he would be faced with. Avraham Avinu proved to be true to himself. he continued to advance from strength to strength, from challenge to challenge. Not only did his personal development change his own life: it had a lasting affect on the whole of society.

The effect of Avraham Avinu’s prowess is alive and well today. His strength is the source of ours. May we too be wise enough to develop our own wellsprings of motivation as a resource for ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our People.  

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