Should we emigrate or stay put?

February 19th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments

Shalom,

 Firstly I would like to sincerely thank you for every podcast, thought tool, answer to every question with so much thought and wisdom.  It’s been life changing listening and reading everything you and your wife share.  

We live in Namibia, a country bordering South Africa and linked to the South African Rand.  We are going through a huge recession and as the saying goes here – if South Africa has a cold, Namibia has Pneumonia. Everything that happens in SA has a huge impact on us.  

We are seriously contemplating if we should emigrate. Why?  The main reason – to create a better future for our children.  There is little to no future for them in Namibia.  As the economy worsens, corruption and violence increases.

 Moving to another country like New Zealand means we can create a new life with new possibilities together.  They can go on and study at numerous universities.  They can get married and we can see our grandchildren grow up together…

 …or we can stay and they will most probably move away themselves somewhere in the future, and with our weak currency visiting them anywhere in the world will be next to impossible…

We don’t know the future of our country but for now the future does not look great. We are by no means doom and gloom people and as mentioned earlier we are still safe but when does one get to the point where one actually takes a step toward something like what you call “the American dream”? When does your children’s future take preference before your own comfortable life(or seemingly comfortable life)?

Do we have a lot to give up? TONS!!! Both our families are all here.  We are a very close knit family.  We live on a stunning plot outside town with lots wide open spaces, My daughter (age 11) has her own quarter horse, the boys (ages 13 and almost 4) can climb trees and hunt birds. They love the animals and freedom. Here everyone knows who you are. You’ve already made your name. Basically our whole life- 14 years of marriage.  Everything we worked for… we will have to leave that behind and look to the future, for our children…or stay and pray it gets better…

When is considering to emigrate a good option?

We have done a lot of research. We’ve made our lists of pros and cons. My head says go, my heart says no.

 Any advice/thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

 Thank you so much,

The B. family

Dear B. Family,

Thank you for writing and thank you for your kind words regarding our teachings.  We derive great joy from hearing that our work benefits people’s lives. 

While we shortened your letter a bit for this column, we hope we haven’t removed the emotional impact. As with so many other important life decisions, twenty years from now you will know what was the best thing to do, but by then you will be living the consequences of whichever decision you make.  The good news is that by far and away, most decisions are not matters of life/death.

In all probability, twenty years down the road people will still be living, for better or for worse, in both Namibia and New Zealand.  Occasionally the wrong decision places people in the heart of terrible war zones.  Think of Jewish families who fled frightening rural parts of Poland in 1938 and settled in Warsaw only months before the Nazis invaded.  Or the people who wanted to get away from it all and relocated to the Falkland Islands just before the war of 1982.

In the spring of 1960, there was a terrible event in which about 70 people were shot dead by South African policemen in Sharpeville.  This was followed by a mass exodus of many South Africans who had opportunities elsewhere in the world.  The conventional wisdom was that this was the right time for people, particularly those with white skins, to leave the country.  Many did just that.  Yet in the fifty years since then, South Africa has had some of its best times. 

Today, however, with disturbing socio-political trends in Southern Africa including Zimbabwe and Namibia, I think that for people in the right circumstances, it could be a good time to start a new life elsewhere.  That said, I have advised a number of South Africans over the past year or two to remain and help bring stability. Everything depends upon circumstances.

We don’t, and more importantly ancient Jewish wisdom, doesn’t, minimize the impact of leaving one’s homeland and family. In Genesis 12:2, after telling Abraham to leave his land, birthplace and family, God promised him three blessings to compensate for the typical costs of major relocation—family, finances, and reputation.  These are exactly the same concerns mitigating against you leaving Namibia today.

We point out a few ideas to ponder. Taking as a given that we cannot guarantee security, looking to the future and taking into account what is going on in southern Africa, it does seem that you are wise to anticipate worsening conditions.  It goes without saying that what we recommend to you with your young family is quite different from what we might say to a semi-retired couple who have lived in Southern Africa with their families for over fifty years.

In addition to the points you made about New Zealand offering your children more educational and economic opportunity, we’d like to add an idea. In Jeremiah 35:7-11  we meet Yonadav the son of Rechav, whose descendants survived a war by relocating because they did not feel tied to land.  Now Yonadav’s prescription to avoid owning real estate is a bit extreme as a practical policy. But the point is to feel sensitive to the subtle signals that it’s time to move without being overwhelmed by the emotional impact of all the immovable property one owns. 

You can carry your family heritage and your beliefs with you and establish a home wherever you are. While parting from close family will be wrenching and you and your children will lose out by being ‘strangers in a strange land’, is it possible that you should be establishing a foothold in a new country?  Maybe your destiny is to provide a landing site if things do deteriorate rapidly.  Perhaps one day you will be able to offer your extended family a haven and refuge.  This was very often the thinking behind the grueling emigration that brought many Jews to America and South Africa in the late 19th century.  In the end they did make it possible for many of their friends and family later to escape the Nazi death machine. 

We do not know if you have the ability to land in a new country with a nest egg to launch your new life or whether you would be starting entirely from scratch.  (Ancient Jewish wisdom does recommend keeping a third of your assets in easily movable form—hence the Jewish fondness for the diamond business.  A nice pouch of high quality jewels greatly eases immigration!  I’ve often contemplated the question of whether crypto-currency could serve this purpose but at this point I do not trust it as possessing real value.)  Either way, as more years go by, and some of the flexibility and adaptability of youth fades, starting over does become more difficult.

In a way, dear B’s, your final sentence pretty much provides the answer.  You wrote that after weighing it all up, it is coming down to a head vs. heart analysis.   It is always very clarifying when a difficult decision resolves itself into a head/heart conflict.  We think you know what we would say.  Nearly always, head trumps heart.  That doesn’t mean there is no pain.  It just means that ultimately there is more gain. 

Do whatever you can to minimize the heartbreak and pain of leaving, plan for success as much as you can, but in the final analysis, if you have the strength to do so, follow your head. (And make sure that your pro and con lists are complete.)

With blessing for peace, prosperity and success wherever you are,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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25 comments

Lee says:

Reading this brought tears to my eyes– praying for the B Family ♥

Kiki says:

Such wise advice from Rabbi Lapin! What a blessing he and his precious wife Susan are to the world! He weighed everything out so carefully so as to be able to clearly see which side of the scale is heavier and which is lightest. See you in New Zealand!♡ ;0)

matthew j gabor says:

Hello
I am a very conservative American and love my country. I have the same thoughts of leaving as I think we are past the point of no return! Each day brings more craziness from the left wing trying to ruin our once great country. Historians will look back many years from now and say we had the greatest country in history and we ruined it! I believe everyone should have a plan to move on short notice just in case of an emergency along with food, weapons, gold and silver. Yes I checked out New Zealand also and it is a wonderful place to live!

Anna says:

Hi everyone. I love reading these answers.
I am from New Zealand and yes it is a great place to live. However it may be behind the downward trend of the rest of the world but it does have issues . We can see the whole world deteriorating until the return of theLord Jesus Christ and our country also which is affected by the trends in other countries including America. So yes I love it here so you just need to prayerfully make sure.

Susan Lapin says:

Anna, you’re making an excellent point that many troubles are rapidly becoming world-wide and one has to know that no place is a panacea.

Marne Burger says:

Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan

We can’t put into words the appreciation we have for you replying to our letter. To think that we are mere strangers and you not only took the time to reply but to do so with utmost care and adressing every single point. We will never forget your generosity- we are humbled by your wisdom and knowledge.

The answer you gave is in line with what our heads tell us, but the supporting facts, suggestions and thoughts you add are immeasurable in value!

Our circle of friends & family are also mostly in agreement with our thoughts and to have another most valued opinion of wise measured advice is such a relief.

May the lord bless you abundantly for your obedience and commitment to spread your wisdom and knowledge so generously!

This letter touched my heart more than I can say. I am praying for the B family that their decision will be crystal clear to them. I am also considering “emigrating” out of California because our state is crumbling as well. My consideration is only minuscule compared to theirs however.
Blessings, DP

Susan Rueger says:

My husband and I are in the process of moving within our state, nearer our children, after a similar, painful head/heart struggle. The Rabbi’s teachings have helped us, too!

Alessandro Mecle says:

Dear Rabbi, I had an immediate identification with this family. Five years ago my wife and I faced the same issue. God bless the family! Thank you for your teachings.

Susan Lapin says:

Alessandro, if you are comfortable sharing what you decided, I know people would be interested in hearing about your choices.

Alessandro Mecle says:

Dear Susan Lapin, my english is a work in progress, so I will try.
Five years ago, Brazil was ruled by a marxist government, which ruined the economic and the social tissue, putting on progressists policies. Beside of that, outside our family inner circle, we face corruption, violence, organized crime, poor education, a lack of good and positive values, and so on. Plus, the culture in Brazil has been deteriorating along the years due the leftists programs in universities, media an so on. My wife and I weighed carefully the situation: we have a big and warm family, we have been living in a good city and I have a domain in the field that I have been working. But ours children cannot go alone anywhere (we even avoid to put pictures of them in social media), and we miss the freely moviment the kids enjoy when we travelled to Canada, for example.
By the end, we decided to stay. The marxist governement was defeated by a conservative one, the economy has reacted and we started an effort to criate ties between the chidren and Canada, aimming that in the future they could rotate, if they please – and more important, if they must. Of course we have moments of doubt, but in general we agree that decision was the best for us.

Thank you both for the teachings and for sharing wisdom and hope. It is important to know that we are not alone.

Rodolfo Lima says:

Dear Daniel and Susan, I am from Brazil and I identify my situation with Family B situation.
I appreciate your comments and conseling.
May God continue blessing your lives and family!

Susan Lapin says:

Rudolfo, we pray that you make the right decisions for your family.

d m says:

Could you please elaborate on the comment “Ancient Jewish wisdom does recommend keeping a third of your assets in easily movable form?” This is the first time I’ve heard this.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear DM-
I realized that I have never written or spoken of this before. The advice is 1/3 in tradable assets–whatever your business is; inventory and so on. 1/3 in real estate and 1/3 in movable assets. It’s not a mandate, merely advice. And it doesn’t have to be exactly one thirds. If I lived in a very stable-seeming society, I’d probably go with less than 1/3 in movables, but if I was resident in a turbulent region, I might go higher. You get the idea. It’s mainly a reminder to at least think in these terms and analyze one’s financial strategies in ways that take into account how the world REALLY works
Cordially
RDL

D M says:

I would love to see a podcast or another post on the concept of keeping wealth divided in thirds. Also, I’ve taken the admonition “Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth” as an admonition to diversify. It would be great to hear your views on these and related topics.

Frank D says:

The decision that B’s Family is being played out across the world. It reminds me of the stories of my new friends from south of the US border I have made in the last few years. Living in SoCal my whole life until recently I was blind to what was going on in Central – South America. It was only after moving to the Midwest and being introduced to people through my local church and my new Wife’s family that my mind has opened to the plight. Great response Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin.

Susan Lapin says:

Frank, what we find scary is how many people are moving but without recognizing what went wrong in the countries where they lived so that too many are bringing bad ideas to their new homes. Not all by any means, and many people recognize clearly the blessings of their new homes, but more need to do so.

Mr. B,

I Will Keep You In Prayer & Fasting! Blessings In Your Journey!

Susan Lapin says:

Elrita, I think that many people thought this, but thank you for stating it.

Andrea says:

Such a caring and wisdom filled answer! Such respect for you Rabbi and your wife! Thanks for putting such effort and care in your answer! May the Lord bless you always!

Kevin says:

If we could only get Americans to listen to the head. Most of the one’s around me do what “feels” dot, dot, dot. I feel this and I feel that. I always appreciate the Rabbi’s lessons in head over heart. I remember a very wise one regarding marriage and relationships advice. I used to focus on feelings and get into a lot of trouble. They are relevant, but cannot master one’s ultimate goals!

Tim Shephard says:

I notice many people around the world expressing concern for the future.
I’m from Canada.
Over the last ten years or so, I’ve watched the Balkanization of this country…
And, I’m concerned about the future too.

I’m a bit of a nomad, so I’ve gotten to see a pretty wide swath of this country. Different people, and places. As an aggregate “People”, Canadians have had it too good for too long. We are soft, and completely unaccustomed to violence, dealing with loss, or even skipping meals. The few people that I see making preparations for the future, offer little or no accommodations to the tough days that we are inevitably, to face. And so, many of us will suffer for this.

I thought about leaving Canada, and going to New Zealand ironically enough. It’s really easy to emigrate to from Canada, and I have distant relatives there.
But, I have a strong sense that this problem that we face is a global problem, and that it will be faced by each of us, no matter where we set our feet.
Geography won’t be our salvation.

So… I ask myself. Where to, Tim?

…The best answer that I could come up with was to find a rock solid, and Stable community, and then… look inward, and then… look upward.

We need to surround ourselves with a strong community, that we can make a stand with. And then, develop our skill sets in order to better serve that community.
My father blamed religion for ripping his family apart, so he didn’t raise us in a religious household.
Over the last few months I’ve come to realize that every question that I have ever asked, or probably ever will ask, has already been answered.

The troubles that are staring us down right now, are the inevitable fate of a people that have been lost to God. We need to turn back to God in both our words, and actions so that he may find us again.

Susan Lapin says:

I love what you wrote here, Dr. Tim, and you are making such an important point. Nevertheless, some countries are going south more quickly than others and our question writers are in a volatile area. But, the world is shrinking rapidly and I am sure they will follow your advice in their new location.

Hi Everyone ,

The point about both families living closely seems to have been missed .
“Family”IQ is what makes the difference , if I am not mistaken God uses families as the building blocks for His Kingdom and leaving a country based on fear not only ends up crucifying your sole but rips a holy building block apart . NZ has it own fair share of bombings as well for those who haven’t noticed .
There is also something to be said for blooming where God plants you , who is suppose to do the fixing if everyone’s flees the onslaught of evil.
I appreciate all the kind-hearted opinions but God does still send us signs or proper answers if we allow Him.
it is no longer a questions of which country to flee to , we have become 1 global community and we should step up and take the responsibility for the task God has given us .
it has nothing to do with what our hearts or head say , it is all about what God says .

Hope it helps.
Dereck

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