Tuesday, October 18, 2011

זמן שמחתנו The Time of our Joy

Here are some thoughts I shared with Shechter Westchester students about todays events:

Gilad Shalit….Gilad Ben Aviva Shalit.

For too long this simple name has been in the prayers of Jews throughout the world, as we have waited and wondered about this young man’s future. When will Gilad come home? When will he be free? When will he have the chance to hug his parents, to see his friends, to live his life?

Last Tuesday, when news broke that Gilad was finally on his way home, my friends and I immediately jumped on Egged bus 71; we went down Derekh Hevron, across Gan Ha’pa’amon, and up Keren Hayesod. As the bus approached the Fuchsberg center, we quickly jumped off and ran down the street to the tent that Gilad’s family had set up. We expected that this tent—which for 5 years had been a solemn symbol of our yearning for his return—would have transformed into a party, a yom ha’atzmaut take-2.

Instead, we found quiet, scared parents gathered all around. While there was definitely a real excitement, there was also a genuine fear—tekhef tireh—we’ll believe it when it actually happens.

This morning, at about 8 am, I stood waiting for that same Egged bus. Except this time, the sign that read “Mikhakim lecha babayit (we’re waiting for you at home)” was replaced by one declaring “Kamah tov she batah habaitah (how good it is that you’ve come home).” As we got on the bus the radio was blasting, and everyone was crammed towards the front trying to listen to Gilad’s first interview. “Beynenu chozer, beynenu chozer (our son is returning, our son is returning) an old lady cries.

As I get off the bus, and return to that same tent, the trepidation has completely disappeared, and has been replaced with a contagious jubilation. Beynenu chozer, our son has come home.

Still, there are genuine fears. 1,027 freed prisoners is a large price to pay. It hurts the families of those killed by these very individuals. It incites a great fear that they may return to their terrorist tendencies. Will these terrorists continue to kill? What will come next? Has this given incentive to Hamas to keep stealing our soldiers? The fear is real, justified, and pervasive. But, it is also on hold.

For now, all fear is momentarily shelved away, as we come together to declare “am Yisrael chai.” Today Israel is not worried about consequences or potential fallout. Today, Israel can stand proud. It really is a miracle, and I am humbled to have been given the chance to experience it.

So, as I left the tent, on my way to Ben Yehudah street for some lunch, a man, a stranger, an average Israeli, turned to me and said in a deep accent, “be’emet, today, we can say ve’samachta be’chagecha.” Let us celebrate zman simchateynu (the time of our joy), and continue to greet everyone with a moadim lesimcha (time for joy). Today, in this country, in our country, you can see and feel the meaning of Jewish pride.

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