As has often happened in the past, I am writing this article on an El Al plane en route to New York. At least once a year, we have a Hineni tour to Eretz Yisrael. They are always amazing and life transforming. Every day is unique and has its own flavor; every day is miraculous and spiritually elevating -this year’s tour was no exception. My granddaughter, Shaindy Wolff Eisenberg, who is in charge of our Hineni activities in Israel, suggested we make this tour a “Navi event, that we trace the paths of our patriarchs and prophets.
So we presented each participant with a Tanach – the Holy Book that encompasses all of our sacred writings, and thus armed, we were prepared to trace the footsteps of our spiritual giants, that led us to the City of David, Yehuda and Shomron, the Galil, and more. The experience was electrifying…. to see the Torah come alive before our very eyes, to walk on the paths of these giants, is a humbling and yet most elevating experience.
In the itinerary that Shaindy outlined, she wrote this introduction: “Our world stands on three pillars – Torah, Avodah – Service of G-d, and Gemilas Chassadim – Acts of Human Kindness. In order to maximize your journey in Eretz Yisrael, you must experience all three.
“But why three things?” Shaindy asked. “Why not four things, or two? If everything in our Jewish faith and literature has definite meaning behind it, what is the significance of three?
Three represents balance; a completion of three separate entities that form one perfect whole. The triangle is the most stable geometric shape. Photographers put their instruments upon tripods for maximum stability. Architects and engineers depend upon triangles to hold up bridges and buildings. Just as a chair must have at least three legs to stand, the world must have three pillars to keep it upright and stable.
“This trip will be more than a tour. It will connect you to the pillars for your life, which keep the world standing.”
The Tanach was always in our hands and we learned every day. There is something electrifying about actually seeing the places described in our Torah where our forefathers spoke and proclaimed the Name of Hashem.
Avodah – Prayer was constantly on our lips. If there is any place where the song of prayer is in the air, it is surely in Eretz Yisrael where even the trees whisper Psalms.
There is no other land where, in the middle of the night and throughout the day, the sound of prayer echoes. Whether four in the afternoon, 12 midnight, or five a.m. you can see men, women, children, and babies in their carriages, at The Wall. The Shechinah can always be felt at this ancient remnant of our holy Temple. G-d’s Presence is forever present at The Wall. He never abandons it.
Our Hineni group went every day, every night, to The Wall joining those who prayed there. It is an astonishing sight to behold: elderly men and women, young fathers and mothers with their little ones … Amazingly, in that holy place, every person is infused with new energy. And so it was that our group never tired of going there. It may have been late at night or at dawn as the sun rose over Jerusalem.
If you go to Eretz Yisrael and participate in just that one experience of praying at The Wall, your visit will have been worthwhile and you will be transformed. As we prayed and the words spilled forth from our hearts, it occurred to me how remarkable our people are. In all other countries and nations, if you wish to find a gathering in the middle of the night, the only place would be in bars or clubs.
But in Eretz Yisrael The Wall is the magnet. It is there that the lights are never dimmed… that our people continue to pray for Jerusalem, for the Temple rebuilt. It is almost 2,000 years, but we have never tired of praying, never given up on the dream, and Baruch Hashem, today we are closer than ever to beholding its fulfillment. Today, if you know how to listen, you can actually hear the footsteps of Moshiach…. at The Wall, those sounds are truly audible.
As for chesed, our very return to and existence in the land, is based upon chesed, the loving kindness of Hashem. It is only through His constant, loving kindness that it has been possible for us to survive and thrive in the midst of a sea of hostile nations, united in their goal to annihilate us. It is only through His chesed that we redeemed the barren soil. It is only through His chesed that for the past 2,000 years, the nation that was not permitted to own land and practice agriculture, succeeded in redeeming the barren soil and defending the land. Only through the chesed of Hashem are we able to survive there.
We visited army bases, as well as the chief rabbi of the IDF, who is not only a renowned Torah scholar in his own right, but also an outstanding pilot in the IDF. To me, a survivor of the Holocaust, to whom the sight of a uniform always evoked terror and fear, to see a rabbi in his splendid uniform decorated with wings and campaign ribbons, is to know that this could only have happened from Hashem.
Not only I, who survived the flames, should marvel at this. Each and every one of us should feel overwhelmed. We are the nation that has been destined to behold that, which our forefathers only dreamt of, but sadly, we have eyes and we see not… we have ears and we hear not. Sometimes, it appears that it is easier to live with a vision than that which is unfolding before our very eyes.
Chesed is the gift that our father Abraham bequeathed to us, and today, as yesterday, that chesed regulates our lives. We saw in Eretz Yisrael the myriad institutions that dot the length and breadth of the land. We saw it in places like the Laniado hospital, founded by the saintly Klausenberger Rebbe, where every patient is treated like mishpachah; we saw it in the Israeli Army, where every neshamah is precious, where our sons are prepared to make every sacrifice to preserve life.
And we saw it in the humble home of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, who from early morning to late at night, envelop every Jew in chesed – lovingkindness. It is these three pillars, Torah, Avodah and Chesed that make life in Eretz Yisrael special and unique. And it was “those three pillars that led our tour.” May Hashem grant that in the merit of these three pillars we may soon behold our redemption – the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.