Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why I Do What I Do...

I was recently asked by many people "Why?" Why am I religious? Why am I a Zionist? Why not bend and let modern life have a shot? It has some wonderful things to offer. I often tell people answers that they would best understand, but last Shabbos, my wife and I were discussing our pasts and she asked was there a specific point when I became religious?

I have had many times in my life that helped define who I was. But there was only one time, prior to my marriage and my daughter being born, that was my definition. For those of you who actually read this article, it may not make sense to you. If it doesn't, I hope you find your defining moment soon. To those who read it and say "Wow, I remember my special time..." you can appreciate this. This is why I write Supporting Our Israel. This is why I push and try to help Israel and the Jewish communities as much as I can. This is the essential Simon and I write this article here because, besides for being my personal forum, I think there is something very special about people relating their experiences in Israel as PR for Israel. If someone can relate their story and it helps someone else come and find their story, then my experience has payed dividends.

After I graduated High School, in 1999, I went to Israel for the year, like many Orthodox Jews do. A year off helps give perspective and matures those who go away for the year.

I decided to go to a Yeshiva called Beis Medrash L'Talmud, which is no longer in existence. None of my friends from home went there and that was the biggest draw. I liked meeting new people and experiencing new experiences. And for months, like many others, I honestly wasted my time by going out into town and living like my parents were thousands of miles away. Eventually, I did slow down and started to prioritize. I took my studies very seriously (as far as I remember, maybe some of my Rabbis would have some other words.)

I credit BMT for two things that shaped and solidified my life. My love of Torah and my love of Israel. BMT, being a Da'ati Leumi institution, helped shape my love of Israel into a burning fervor, something that, to this day, cannot be extinguished.

I don't recall the time period on which we went on the school trip up to Tsfas/Safed/Tzsfat, but I do remember the indelible mark that trip left on me. The entire Shabbos away blew my mind. The Mikvah of the Ari"zal, all of the historical Synagogues, the Abuhav, Ari, Karo shuls. All truly breathtaking. The beautiful alleyways that took us back into history, modern and further. What struck me about this city was that for being as old as it was, it seemed fairly clean. I don't know why that sticks out in my mind and I may have even made it up, but I remember thinking that for 2,000 years old, this is pretty nice.

After we had settled into our sleeping quarters for Shabbos, we prayed Minchah, Kabbalas Shabbos and Maariv (Afternoon and Night prayer services and the supplemental service to help welcome Shabbos). As soon as Minchah ended, I happened to be standing around the pulpit. A man, who must have been in his 60s grabbed my hand, his engulfing mine; his voice deep and powerful. For this guy to intimidate me was incredible, as I was 6'3" or 4" at the time and larger than I would like to admit. Those hands making mine disappear. It was truly frightful at first, then I saw this:

These windows pointed out to the Galil, Galilee and over Lake Kinneret. The windows were slanted from several powerful earthquakes in the 17 and 1800s. The beautiful historic synagogue was called the Rabbi Yosef Karo synagogue, named after the author of the Shulchan Orach, the basis of codified Jewish law as we know it today. It's said that Eliyahu/Elijah the Prophet himself would learn with the venerable Rabbi in this synagogue. It is a truly beautiful place.

Then, out of the slanted windows, next to the slanted bookshelves, holding years and years of old Seforim (Jewish Books) and Siddurim (Prayer Books) I saw the sun setting over the Kinneret and over the rolling hills in the Galil. This is when I knew that my already observant lifestyle was going to stay and was never going to take a back burner on anything I do.

These truly incredible and awe inspiring sights helped cement the love of Judaism and the love of Israel in my mind and heart forever.

Dancing, Singing ancient tunes with my friends, Rabbis and the members of this extremely holy synagogue, with the sun setting over the beautiful rolling hills and sparkling lake, something in me clicked. I remember it very well. I remember a chill run up my neck and I closed my eyes, only to reopen them a completely changed person. I had tapped into something very real and palpable and as I breathed in the fresh air from the open windows, I knew that one day, I would live in Israel as a religious Jew.

Fast forward to today: Thank G-d, I am married and have a baby girl. My family is my life. When I watch my daughter dance and clap and squeal with excitement when I put B'Chatzros Kadsheinu (A DVD of the "Superstar Rabbis) or Uncle Moishy on for her, I know that I am raising my family in the holy traditions of Judaism and I know that my daughter and any subsequent children my wife and I may have, will be instilled with a love of Judaism as well as Israel, because the two are inseparable. This personal contribution to the cause if superb. I know it is because I am raising future advocates for the best country on Earth.

After the horrific attacks in Itamar, I was speaking with my wife about my frustration. She sympathized, but could only help so much. There was something so deep inside of me that wanted to write again, as I used to. At first, I thought that maybe I'll write on the news, like so many people do. Politics is always interesting and I would feel accomplished, and a bit pacified, if I published my feelings on these situations.

Then the voices started chirping. My wife, my mother and a friend all said that being negative and reporting on negative will only frustrate you. Also, the type of vitriol and anger I can type towards hate and terrorists would boggle most peoples minds. Instead, be positive. There isn't enough positive news and enforcement out there in regards to Israel besides for their heroic helping of Haiti and Japan. Being Israel, those feats are all but forgotten at this point anyways. I enjoy business and I think there is a lot of money to be made for investors as well as for the employees and the State of Israel if business is pushed there. Boosting the Israeli economy only makes it stronger and helps people ease their tensions on leaving the US or Canada or the UK or Australia. Money talks. Positive Reinforcement works.

In summary, this is why Supporting Our Israel is up and, Thank G-d, has had some success. I hope that each and every one of you who reads this can relate. If you can't, then find a way to relate. Israel depends on you and even more than that, the satisfaction that you have from knowing who you are and what you want to do with your life, speaks volumes and makes any issue in your life that much more bearable.

As I have said before, Support Israel any way you can. The links on the sides of this page are extremely important and all should be helped. Please read the websites of the cities that I have posted and I promise to put more up in the near future. As I advocate peace and prosperity and positive thoughts, my Twitter account is buzzing with news of hatred and idiocy from our neighbors. We shouldn't have to take this any more. Besides for fighting fire with fire, we also have to worry about the repercussions to the State. By strengthening security, economy, population, the stronger our might and armed forces will be.

Do what you can while you can. Thanks for reading.

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