Last week, one of my greatest dreams came true. I arrived in Israel for an entire year of study at the Conservative Yeshiva. I have to admit, in the last moments of uprooting my family, I doubted myself and wondered, “Is learning in Israel so important that I should pull my kids out of their preschool to come to Israel?” After one week here in Jerusalem, I can tell you that the simple answer is YES. Living here is crucial to understanding Torah.
Here, Torah sounds clear, rings true and remains relevant. Take the statement from this week’s Torah Portion of Nitzavim, “But not only with you am I making this covenant and this oath. But with those standing here with us today before the Lord, our God, and with those who are not here with us, this day.“ (Deuteronomy 29:13-14) It means that the covenant (and Torah in general) applies to all Jews. The Torah is simply part of us, part of our Jewish neshama (soul), part of our Jewish DNA.
Nothing proves this point better than my experience arriving at Ben Gurion airport after a fourteen-hour flight. My wife and I were carrying our kids and dragging all of our carry-ons (too many to mention) down the terminal in Tel-Aviv. Walking down the hallway overlooking the airport food court, a Chabad Rabbi walked into the center of the busy food court and blew the Shofar (as is the daily tradition during the month proceeding Rosh HaShanah).
Everybody in the food court below and everybody in the hallway above stopped what they were doing—walking, talking, eating—and came to a complete standstill. Men and women, young and old, religious and secular. The Shofar blast united us all. All of us, Klal Yisrael (the entire congregation of Israel), listened to the ram’s horn's sound of wonder and awe and warning.
And then in the middle of the series of blasts, a secular gentleman to my left, turned to his family and loudly announced in Hebrew, “Di, kadima!" ("Enough, let’s go!") Immediately, I smiled. In Israel, all Jews are bound to Torah. But some Jews say “Di” earlier than others—And that’s okay. Listening to half of the Shofar blasts is better than saying that Torah doesn’t apply. Much like the simple blast of the Shofar, Torah speaks to all of us. And we all receive it differently. It will always be our decision as to how to listen. Let’s choose this upcoming year to follow the State of Israel’s example and always surround ourselves with Torah and always know that we receive it differently.
Like my wife tells our kids, it’s alright to say “Enough” sometimes. At least that means you’re trying it. This upcoming year, let’s try experiencing more Torah. Let more Torah into your heart. Allow yourself to strengthen your part of the covenant. Connect better to your community around you and to your spiritual home—always and forever the Land of Israel.
May you have a happy and healthy 5774… You and all your loved ones should all be inscribed in the book of life!