I have just returned from Eretz Yisrael. Hineni tours are life-transforming experiences – those who are secular become Torah committed, and those who are already observant reach a new plateau in their emunah and love of Hashem. The change commences from the moment we set foot in the Holy Land.
Israel’s Ben Gurion is a modern, state-of-the-art airport; it’s probably more high-tech than most. But we were determined never to lose sight of where we were, so before boarding our bus, we found a moment to kiss the earth and thank Hashem for having granted us the privilege of beholding Eretz Yisrael.
In the 21st Century, it is easy to forget where you are or where you are going, so as we approached the Holy City of Yerushalayim, we got off our bus, recited Psalms and focused on the awesomeness, the miracle of entering the City of David, the City of Hashem. As if by magic, we were linked to our brethren, who throughout the millennia, yearned and wept for Jerusalem.
And now, we were actually in the Holy City. After such a long trip, it would have been normal to go to our hotel, freshen up, grab a bite, and rest, but we were in Yerushalayim. In this holy place, we first had to go to the Kotel, cut Kriah as a sign of mourning for our Beit HaMikdash, and pray that we may soon see our Holy Temple rebuilt. It was with this sense of awe that we commenced our journey, and this awe never left us. From the very first moment, every day was punctuated by amazing events that revealed to us the constant, guiding hand of Hashem.
That very first day, after davening at the Kotel, we visited with Pamela and Aba Claman, whose beautiful home faces the sacred Wall. From their rooftop garden, we had a breathtaking view of the Kotel, Har HaBayit, and Yerushalayim. Over 80 young members of the IDF joined us. Pamela offered them dinner, while the members of our Hineni group felt honored to help serve them and present each and every soldier with a copy of my book, Life Is A Test, and I was honored to address them
Since we were in the land of our fathers, the following morning, we made our way to Beis Lechem and Chevron to render homage to our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. In Chevron, our guides were David Wilder and Noam Arnon, leaders of that amazing courageous community that lives in a sea of hostile Arabs.
From Chevron we made our way to Beis Lechem and poured out our hearts at the gravesite of our Mama Rochel.
By the time we returned to Yerushalayim, it was close to 7:00 p.m. Nevertheless, Rabbi Friedman, of the magnificent Belzer synagogue, waited for us and welcomed us. The beauty of the Belzer shul is beyond words, but even more significant is that every part of the shul, down to the smallest detail, was constructed under the supervision of the Belzer Rebbe.
What I found most inspiring was the beautiful story that Rabbi Friedman related about the old Belzer Rebbe. When the Rebbe built his original shul in Europe, the women’s section was not yet completed, although the men’s section was ready. The men were anxious to begin davening there, but the Rebbe would not grant them permission. He explained that the tears of the women were needed to ensure that the prayers of the men would reach the Heavenly Throne.
It occurred to me how critical this teaching of the Rebbe is for us. While we sleep Ahmenidjidad plots to annihilate our people; the pressure on Israel to give away Yehudah, Shomron and parts of Yerushalayim, keeps mounting. So, more than ever, we need the prayers and tears of our women, for it is only with Hashem’s help that our salvation will come.
Next we visited Tiveriah and Tsfat. Praying at the burial places of our Torah giants infused us with strength and renewed commitment. We met a resident of Tsfat who told us that they had just completed building a “state-of-the-art” mikveh for women not far from the mikveh of the Ari HaKadosh. She begged us to come and visit, so while the men immersed themselves in the mikveh of the holy Ari, we took her up on her invitation.
In these two cities, Tiveriah and Tsfat, there were so many tzaddikim at whose gravesites we wanted to daven, that by the time we arrived in Amukah, we found ourselves in total darkness. There were no lights or candles to illuminate our path. Nevertheless, our group was determined… so we slowly made our way to the graveside of Rabbi Yonasan Ben Uziel. Since it was pitch black and we couldn’t see anything, there was no point in opening our siddurim or Tehillim, so we decided to offer prayers from our hearts.
Then, as if from nowhere, chassidim appeared, carrying breathtaking lights. We felt as if they were malachim from Hashem sent to give us illumination. But when they came close, they told us that we were standing in the men’s section, and we women would have to relinquish the place.
For a split second we were disappointed, but then I decided to speak to them and related the story of the old Belzer Rebbe, who taught that the prayers and tears of women were needed to open the Heavenly Gates. Without a moment’s hesitation, they agreed to let us daven first, while they remained outside to daven Maariv.
On the bus back to Yerushalayim, I told our Hineni group that we should engrave this moment on our hearts and remember that no matter how dense the darkness, no matter how hopeless our situation, we must forge ahead and daven. And if we do so, Hashem will send us light. As it is written: “G-d is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?”
(To Be Continued)