Jerusalem Journal #5

My Dear Young Israel Family,

I know it's been a while since my last Journal installment. Since moving into our apartment (8/2 Primo Levi, Arnona, 93783), things have been quite hectic. It will be quite a challenge fitting all our belongings in a much smaller dwelling. Then, some two weeks ago, my computer apparently was disabled because of a virus and I was unable to e-mail. Such are the small inconveniences of settling in. Otherwise, thank G-d, everyone is fine.

Personal

Not long after Sukkos, I assumed a small number of teaching responsibilities which I am enjoying immensely. At the OU Israel Center, I am giving an advanced Talmud Shiur three times a week. On Sundays, I'm at Gruss (Y.U.'s Center in Israel), teaching a number of rabbis-to-be about navigating the challenges of the clinical rabbinate. On Wednesdays, I teach a class on the Teachings of Rav Soloveitchik at Midreshet Rachel, the women's division of Shappels. Hopefully, more such opportunities will be become available in the near future.

Over the Shabbos of Dec. 8-9th, I will be in Yokneam, be"H, along with our St. Louis teens for our second Shabbaton. If you have a child in Israel, please tell them they are invited to attend. Hopefully, they should have already been contacted, but if not, they can call me directly for all the details (02-672-5466 or 054-221-0748) and I'll take care of the rest.

It was wonderful seeing many families from our Shul who have visited Israel lately. The Bresler's on Sukkos, the Derby's in Netanya, and most recently, the Krantman's and their entire mishpacha at the wedding of their daughter, Sara. And while the unveiling of Ruth Fredman's monument brought back a host of sad and poignant memories, it was good seeing Aaron and so many of his family and friends come to Har HaMenuchot to remember this special woman.

On an interesting note, at the current Yarchai Kallah of the OU in Israel, five of the sixteen lecturers are from St. Louis: Rabbi Simcha & Esther Krauss, Pearl Borow, and Yocheved and I. Not a bad respresentation!

Israel Observations

On one of my many bus rides into town, I found myself sitting next to a teacher of Tanach in the Israeli school system. He noticed me reviewing the Parsha and started up a discussion. While quite conversant and respectful of classic parshanut, he was apparently quite committed to the more modern interpretations of text which he studied at Hebrew University. In the course of the conversation, he bemoaned the fact that the Tanach Department at Hebrew U. and elsewhere were poorly attended. Students were clearly more interested in pursuing studies that would train them for good paying jobs. I had a different take. To study the Bible from an archeological and secular perspective might certainly be interesting, but it will never successfully compete with courses that promise a career and self-fulfillment. Perhaps, if the universities taught Tanach as life-lessons, probing the text for insights that would offer priceless advice and guidance to young people about to embark upon their lives; perhaps, if Tanach were taught as Torah, more students would be attracted to its timeless messages.

I will have more to say about the vacuity of secularism in Israeli society and the pandemic danger it poses. But that's for the next Journal.

D'var Torah

Last Shabbos, we were invited to Kiriat Arba by my former Israeli chavrusa. It was quite an experience being among the thousands who davened at the Me'arat Ha'machpelah. By being there, we were making a powerful statement that this Holy City of Hebron was ours! The Parsha of Chayei Sarah always brings out such large crowds, and always the young from all parts of the country come. It was particularly heartening and inspiring to see these youth so committed to Land and Country.

I've often wondered about the connection between the beginning of the Parsha which speaks of Avraham's purchase of real estate from Efron and the rest of the Parsha which narrates the search for a wife for Yitzchak. Rav Soloveitchik would often speak of the Jew's "marriage" to the Land of Israel. What brought Yitzchok and Rivkah together was their shared and uncompromising commitment to the ideal of chesed. Our "marriage" to the Land also requires that we share a similar uncompromising ideal, the ideal of kedusha. In the days of the Beis HaMikdash, the mekadesh (the sanctifying agent) was the Holy Ark in the Temple. After the Churban, the mekadesh is the Jew, the Jew who has by willful choice - transformed himself into a sanctifying agent by virtue of the Torah he has studied and practiced.

Perhaps, both events in the Parsha are conveying one central message: life without a spouse is bereft of wholeness and blessing. The Jew without his Land is similarly diminished. Both can be secured and enjoyed by pledging fealty and devotion to those Torah values that have and always will guarantee our redemptive future.

I would like to thank the many people who have e-mailed and called to tell me how they've enjoyed these Journals. I'm happy to share my experiences with you. Please keep in touch.

RJB