Dear Aish Family,
One of the glorious parts of being a Jew is our holidays. Getting to spend quality time with our families and friends is priceless. An added bonus for me personally these past few weeks was getting to celebrate in Israel. As I have mentioned to many recently, there is no better proof that Israel is a Jewish State than the fact that elections were delayed until after the holidays!
Millions of Jews from all over Israel and the world descended on Jerusalem as was the custom 2000 years ago when the Temple still stood. We were blessed at Aish to organize several events every day. We had world-class inspirational singers on the roof of the Dan Family Aish World Center like Nissim Black and Shlomo Katz. The highlight by far was Simchat Torah at Aish.
Simchat Torah is a holiday where we celebrate the conclusion of the reading of the whole Torah over the course of the past year. We take all of the Torah scrolls out of the ark and dance with them all night long. At Aish, we wrap the Torah scrolls under their covers in plastic to guard against the “holy sweat” which flows in abundance. The students at our Yeshiva allow their intellectual accomplishments of the past year to manifest in song and dance.
It has become my family’s custom to host two students at every holiday meal. This way we get to know the different students at Aish. At some point, we ask them to tell us “their story.” Each one is more inspiring than the next. Many of our students did not go to a day school. If they had some Jewish education, it left them uninspired. Each felt a tug in their heart, understanding that there had to be more to Judaism than chicken soup.
This year, what struck me was how sophisticated our student body is. We dined with young men who had successful careers in tech and law before choosing to come to study at Aish. These were outstanding professionals. Yet they knew that they needed to take some time off to build a relationship with the Almighty. They understood that just as they had invested in their preparation for their careers they needed to similarly prepare for their spiritual journey.
One young man told me that he was making a lot of money in tech but knew there had to be more to life. He started to study with a Rabbi who suggested he take some time off and really delve into his heritage who recommended studying at Aish. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “Now I have been embraced by brothers I did not know I had and am spending time defending a country I didn’t know was mine.”
This is why our work is so important. So many Jews don’t know that they have a massive loving family waiting to love and embrace them. So many Jews don’t know that they have a homeland where they are respected and cherished. We must continue to seek out our brothers and sisters and let them know that we are waiting for them. This is the essence of AishVision 2030. Let us continue to celebrate holidays together with even larger robust tables with the Almighty at the head.