28 Dec Judaism – Personal Growth
My trip to Israel
Before leaving for Israel, I didn’t know what to expect. I sat down with a Rabbi I knew from my
hometown in Toronto and he told me something that forever changed my life.
Going to lectures about Judaism in the United States or Canada is one thing, but living the life
our ancestors lived is another thing completely. That is why I packed up as quickly as I could to
find out more about myself and my culture upon meeting with the Rabbi. I found myself drawn
by teachers and fellow students who were serious about doing great things with their lives, and
for the lives of their fellow Jews. I quickly developed a bond with a Harvard trained lawyer who
taught us at Ohr Somayach. He was an expert in business ethics from a Jewish perspective, and
I found myself thinking back to my days examining case studies in business school on Corporate
disasters like Enron and WorldCom – what would I have done if I was a CEO of a company who
was potentially doing something unethical? What is the ‘right’ answer in this case, according to
the law? Is there another perspective that perhaps the law does not have an answer for, that
may be ‘legally compliant’, but still leave a moral black hole? As a lawyer, and a curious person,
these questions intrigued me.
I felt a tremendous happiness being in Israel, but one of the happiest days of my life was
spending the holiday of Purim in Israel. The entire city of Jerusalem and surrounding areas shut
down completely, and there is only one thought on people’s minds – how to celebrate life to
the fullest. On Purim in Israel, there is a sense of profound unity amongst the Jewish people in
the area. How can there not? We were neighbours in a land close by centuries ago, with a mass
destruction event planned against the Jewish people, and now we were back together,
celebrating with wine and food, giving of gifts to friends and the poor, and joyous singing. It was
truly an experience I will never forget.
I decided that I wanted to venture out a little and try to experience Israel beyond the area that I
was accustomed to living in. In my Indiana Jones style travels, I found a great synagogue in an
area of town called Shaarei Chesed (Which translates into ‘The Gates of Kindness’). The
synagogue was tiny and on a little tucked away street where a golf cart would have had trouble
getting though. It was an incredible group of families who were celebrating Bar Mitzvahs,
sharing words of wisdom, and eating (again with the eating!) delicious food. I felt a closeness to
my heritage that only prolific melodies composed by very holy people can describe. After
speaking to my new friend (who I met 30 seconds ago) over a good Rugalach, I found out why.
He was actually a professional singer in an acapella group and had been asked to perform at a
birthday party for a prominent person in place of the Maccabeats!
I am already planning a way to get back to Israel, and I hope to see you there upon my return
Kol Tov (“Have a good week” in Hebrew)