A couple of hours ago, I arrived in Dallas after a short trip to Israel. With Israel’s 63rd anniversary around the corner, and Israel very much on our minds — with all the tremendous challenges she is facing — I thought I would share a few thoughts and feelings from the past week that I spent there with my family.
Besides the challenges Passover travel poses (we flew there after the seders), Pesach is one of the most beautiful times to be in Israel. In my native Jerusalem neighborhood of Bayit Vegan (meaning Home and Garden), we joined a unique gathering worthy of mentioning. The seventh day of Pesach is the day we commemorate the miraculous splitting of the Sea of Reeds when the waters parted, allowing the Jews to escape the pursuing Egyptians of dry land, their pursuers drowning in the cascading waters which plunged them back in the sea. The Jews, witnessing that miracle, sang the “Song of the Sea” read from the Torah on that day of Pesach. Beginning at 11:00 pm the seventh night of Pesach, over 1,000 men and women crowded into a shul in Bayit Vegan to listen to words of Torah from a leading sage in honor of the occasion. At 11:45, an elderly gentleman took the podium, and with great song and joy, led the entire congregation in reciting that song, first sung over 3,300 years ago, verse by verse. Afterwards, the entire gathering burst into song and dance which lasted until well after midnight. I think that the joy felt and expressed in that room will last those in attendance until the next Pesach.
After Pesach, my family drove deep into the Negev to the IDF officers’ training school to attend the graduation ceremony of hundreds of officers of the Israeli army, navy and air force. The reason we attended was that our own son, Benny, became an officer in the IAF that day. (Hopefully you’ll read more about that in an article in this paper to be written soon).
The next day we were in Sde Boker, the burial place of Ben Gurion, and there happened to be a “swearing in ceremony” of an entire intelligence unit of IDF, which we attended. It was an emotional experience, hearing a large group of young men and women swearing to do everything in their power to defend the country, even to give their most precious possession, their own lives, if necessary. Each one received their own rifle and a Tanach, (the Torah, Prophets and Scriptures, upon which each took their oath). A leading officer spoke to the group about their responsibility and the historic proportions of their work. He told the story of Moishele, a boy in the Warsaw Ghetto, who, after asking his father the Four Questions on Pesach night, asked an additional question, would he and his father, or any Jewish child and father, be alive next Pesach? The father answered, he didn’t know if either would be alive, but he does know the promise of G-d that the Jewish nation is eternal, and there would be a Moishele and his father somewhere asking the Four Questions. The officer told the unit that their job is to be G-d’s emissaries to ensure there will always be a Moishele to ask those questions, and their mission is to take their place in the unfolding eternity of the Jewish people, with the help of the All-mighty.
A trip through the Negev, an unforgettable sunrise prayer service at the Wall, a visit to my sons’ yeshivos and meeting their rabbis, visiting with my children and, especially, my granddaughter, together with all the above, make me raise my voice with Jews everywhere and proclaim “Next year in Jerusalem!”
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.