Jerusalem Journal #6

My Dear Young Israel Family,

Thank G-d, the Bienenfelds are doing fine. It's been a real treat to be able to spend time with the many Young Israelites who have recently visited Jerusalem. Keep coming!


Little by little, with G-d's help, things are slowly falling into place. Yaakov Mosheh has found some part time office work with the World Mizrachi Organization which is housed in the same building as the Kollel Mitzion on King George St. He gets a chance to see Rav Boaz from time to time and genuinely enjoys his time there. Hopefully, we will find other opportunities for him in the coming weeks.

Dena has found a job working for Yeshivat Shaarei Mevaseret Tzion and is proving to be quite an asset there.

Through my friends at Gesher, I was able to meet and speak with a fine group of young Israeli officers in the IDF. It was quite an experience, one which I hope to repeat. Last Shabbos, Parshas Shemos, Yocheved and I were guest speakers at the OU's Israel Center Shabbaton. There, too, we met some wonderful people, and the opportunity to speak and give shiurim gives me much sipuk nefesh, deep satisfaction.

Israel Observations:

At the Israel Center where I teach, I often see and meet with people significantly older than myself. Although on in years, these individuals demonstrate a remarkable resiliency. They travel the buses, shop by foot often carrying heavy bundles by hand or in a small shopping cart, and attend lectures and shiurim throughout the day. Many are widows and widowers, but they clearly are not home-bodies. And if they have problems, as a rule, you will not hear them complaining. Perhaps, Jerusalem does that to you. In any case, it is quite an incredible phenomenon, one which merits deep admiration and respect and...emulation.

One of the unfortunate consequences of Arab rhetoric and remonstration is the effect it is having on our IDF soldiers. I've discovered both in my readings and in speaking to a variety of people, that many soldiers—even in the dati-leumi community and certainly in the secular sector—lack the depth of historical knowledge to convincingly rebut the half truths of Islamic propaganda. Slowly, and with the help of the political Far Left in Israel, a disturbing uncertainty seeps its way into the fair-minded young soldier. "Perhaps, there's some truth to the Palestinian claims," he says. "After all, they are so adamant and unyielding in their arguments." It is primarily for this reason that I feel I might be able to contribute something of value toward helping to correct this factual and psychological imbalance. There are few armies as dedicated and as loyal as the IDF. It is simply unacceptable that such doubt exists at all, especially when it can easily be remedied with solid educational initiatives carried out with passionate conviction, confidence and pride. We'll see.

On a more inspirational note, Yocheved tells me of another "only in Israel" moment. She and Yaakov were recently leaving our bank, when the security guard stopped them and asked if they would like to smell some besamim and have the mitzvah of reciting a bracha. Of course, they agreed. Both said the bracha, with the security guard responding "amen." Another typical and wonderful day in Yerushalayim!

D'var Torah:

The Ramban denominates the Book of Shemos as Sefer HaGeulah, the Book of Redemption. If by redemption, we mean the ultimate geulah sheleimah, the messianic redemption, then clearly, the exodus narrative and the subsequent delinquencies of B'nai Yisroel (e.g., the Golden Calf) certainly did not satisfy this eschatological understanding of the term. If so, why call Shemos, Sefer HaGeulah?

I'd like to suggest, based on the Ramban, that there really are two types of geulah. The geulah shleimah speaks to that final redemptive era for which we pray daily in the "Ani Ma'amin." There is, however, another type of geulah, equally significant and critical. In fact, it is this concept of redemption that may very well be a necessary prerequisite for the first. This geulah is defined not by messianic overtones, but rather by our success in the reclaiming and restoration of the way Yahadus , Judaism, was meant to be lived and practiced. It is a geulah that finds fulfillment in our prayer of "chadesh yamainu ke'kedem, renew our days as of old."

This way of life, the Ramban asserts (in his introduction to Sefer Shemos), was defined by our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. The geulah of the Book of Shemos was the thrilling and inspiring story of a people who, with the normative guidance of HaShem, reclaimed the bris avos, the covenantal relationship of the Forefathers and restored, on a national level, the unique and sacred bond that HaShem had established with Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov. It was at once a return to the past and the precursor for a glorious future.

The lesson is clear. We have much to repair and restore. More Torah study, more passionate prayer, more unselfish chesed and tzedakah, more committed mitzvah observance. Paradoxically, in returning home (geulah), we can rescue and guarantee the fulfillment of our most powerful dream (geulah sheleimah). Yehi ratzon—may it only be so.