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Tag: Eliyahu Safran
Recently, my wife Clary and I traveled to Lithuania to experience what remains of one of Judaism’s most magnificent centers of learning. My journey, organized by Zvi Lapian of Israel and led by the eminent historian and distinguished scholar Dr. Shnayer Leiman, took me to what was once the world’s center of Torah learning.
Our sages teach us that when we have left this life and face the Court on High, we will be called upon to answer for our lives. Among the questions we will be asked is, “Did you throughout your lifetime eagerly await and anticipate the geulah, the ultimate redemption?”
For me, Israel is personal. I was born as Israel’s War of Independence raged, just weeks after the state’s miraculous birth. As I lay in the hospital room with my mother, the windows shattered with the relentless attacks of those who sought, once again, to destroy us – this time not on their bloodstained soil but on our own sacred land. Once again, by God’s hand, we prevailed. The few against the many. The weak against the so-called strong.
A young teacher described this episode that occurred early in her teaching career: “One beautiful spring morning when I arrived at school, I was surprised to see a youngster waiting at the door. ‘It’s locked,’ he said sadly. His expression brightened as I began to fumble for my keys. ‘You’re a teacher!” he exclaimed in obvious delight.
A fisherman once lived near the banks of a river. One evening, exhausted from his labors, he straggled home dreaming of what his life would be like if he were suddenly rich. Suddenly, his foot brushed against a leather pouch filled with small stones that lay on the path. Falling back into his reverie, he picked up the pouch and absent-mindedly began throwing the pebbles into the water.
What does it take to experience a miracle? Nothing more than to live a life with eyes wide open. The truth is, we live in an age of miracles and wonder. Does that sound like a ridiculous statement to you - to characterize the age of the Internet, gene therapy, and biological science as an age of miracles? For many people, the idea of "miracles" comes straight from Medieval times. They view miracles as fantasy and "anti-science."
There are those who view an authentic Jewish life as confining and repressive - pessimistic even. So many restrictions. Countless obligations. So much "observance" rather than "celebration." Yom Kippur fasts. Tzom Gedaliah. Tisha B'Av. The Seventeenth of Tammuz. So much sadness. So much pain. And then there is the emphasis on the in-depth study of mussar - ethics - emblematic of the Jewish need to continually rise to higher moral and spiritual levels.