Jews with Views – Chanukah Edition 5784
In these challenging times, what is one moment that has given you inspiration?
BY RABBI TZVI WOHLGELERNTER
When Rav Meir Shapiro started the daf yomi, he had a dream. Conceptually it is very simple – all the Jewish people united in learning the same daf everyday no matter what. The success of daf yomi has proven itself many times, however personally I never fully appreciated it until now.
Amidst all the chaos of war in our base in the south I had the great privilege of making a siyum on Masechet Kiddushin (and Seder Nashim) with a sponsored BBQ seudat mitzvah for over 100 soldiers. The joy of celebration of Torah cast a great light in the darkness we find ourselves in. It was particularly inspirational that we finished a Masechet which is all about a Jewish couple choosing to build a home together and continue the chain of the Jewish people.
This siyum followed the wedding of two soldiers on our base in a simple, yet moving chuppah. This event imbued in us an even greater appreciation of Am Yisrael and Torat Yisrael. The spirit of the Jewish people is rock hard. Needless to say once the copies of Bava Kama came out they were quickly snatched up by soldiers hungry for more Torah.
Rabbi Tzvi Wohlgelernter works for Mizrachi-JLIC at Givat Shmuel. He is currently serving as a reservist on an IDF base in the south of Israel.
BY ORIT SAMUELS
A moment that has given me inspiration during these challenging times (I have many in mind) is from last week, when I was helping with Mizrachi’s global women’s Unity, Song, Tefillah and Hafrashat Challah event in Efrat. A lot of preparation comes with these sorts of events that sometimes you don’t enjoy the moment. It’s like your own event and you want everything to turn out just right.
As the lights turned on, cameras were all on me, I stood on the stage and the producer gave me a thumbs-up that the event is now live streaming. There were over 400 women from around the globe and close to 400 women who came in person.
I stood there in awe, almost in tears as one who put so much energy in a single initiative, finally saw all the pieces come together, it was a moment of gratitude. I looked around and saw the amount of women that came together from all walks of life and all parts of the world כְּאִישׁ אֶחָד בְּלֵב אֶחָד.
I felt the need to say a שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ and so I did.
During these challenging times, when a single day that goes by feels like a year, when at nights it is hard to sleep and breathe, when we worry about our soldiers, those murdered, wounded and of course all of our brothers and sisters taken hostage, it is moments like this that inspire and give us hope. It is the sense of unity that will keep us together and give us strength.
“אַחֵינוּ כָּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל הַנְּתוּנִים בַּצָּרָה, בַּצָּרָה וּבַשְּׁבִיָּה…”
Orit Samuels lives in Efrat, having made Aliyah from LA in 1994. She is the program director for Yachad at Camp Ennismore, and is Israel Project Manager on behalf of Mizrachi Canada.
BY RABBI BENTZI MANN
In many past wars, I have found myself on the giving side – writing letters and sending care packages to soldiers. I sometimes wondered to myself: “Do these really go anywhere and make any difference?”
This war, I find myself on the receiving side, and I see just how much they do matter! Working in my role in the army is emotionally very taxing, and letters and chizuk really means a tremendous amount.Sometimes the gifts are really perfect. Last week when I returned home I took out my guitar to play a little, and my three-year-old son Lavi broke my guitar pick. The next day, I was showing a group around our base, showing the avodat haKodesh that we do, and at the end one of the group came over to give me some tokens of appreciation – including a new guitar pick!
Rabbi Bentzi Mann is the director of Mizrachi’s Schools Department. He serves in the IDF, in the unit of the Rabbanut that identifies and prepares the deceased for burial.
BY NOA LEWIS
I take a lot of inspiration from the words at the beginning of shacharit: הֲרֵנִי מְקַבֵּל עַל עַצְמִי מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁל וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ.
Every day, again and again, it gives me a goal for the day, inspiration for the day. What does Hashem want from me – when I am scared, worried about soldiers, when I am with people who are staying in hotels instead of their homes?
It always comes back: Hashem wants us to love our fellow person. When we love Am Yisrael, it is an expression of our love from Hashem, and brings us closer to the geulah.
Noa Lewis is the CEO of ECHAD, and director of OLAH, a program for Jewish women in Europe.
BY ARI BAR-SHAIN
I am currently serving down South in an area that was heavily attacked on Shabbat over a month ago. The beit knesset where I am was sprayed with bullets during the massacre.
There is one sefer on the shelves that was pierced by a bullet, and the bullet ripped through the spine until it stopped on a page in the middle of the sefer. Upon opening the book, Likutei Moharan, to that very page (רפב), it seemed like Hashem was trying to send Am Yisrael a pertinent message.
The text reads: “Know that you must judge everyone favorably, even if they are evil, you must find within them something good.” (translated from Hebrew)
Before the war, our nation was torn apart internally. Political and social differences caused much animosity and there was name-calling. With the start of the war, however, it completely disappeared. The achdut has been tremendous.
From a group of Charedim in Meah Shearim bringing dozens of pairs of tzitzit to base, to secular Jews in Tel Aviv inviting rabbis to their homes to kasher their kitchens in order to cook kosher food for soldiers, to a Druze family driving hours to visit us and give us care packages, we feel like all of Israel is in this together. We put our differences aside, recognize that everyone has good inside them, and together, with Hashem’s help, will win this war and return to a world of peace and unity.
Ari Bar-Shain is a Platoon Commander in the IDF, currently serving in the south of Israel. He is a current participant in the Mizrachi Musmachim program, and an alumnus of Mizrachi’s Shalhevet program.