Shalom Friends,

I hope that this epistle finds you all in good health.  It is incredible to think that a few days ago we were all together in Jerusalem getting ready to go  to the spiritual epicenter of our Jewish people, the Western Wall…

As we are about to enter our first post-Birthright Shabbat I feel that we were all enlightened and enriched from our experience together.  Together we experienced the “secret of Jewish immortality” (Mark Twain) that is, we celebrated our tradition with our people in our land.

The big question now is, what next?  The most important thing is to stay connected, with each other, with our faith, and with our land!  I would suggest making http://www.timesofisrael.com/ your home page on your computer and reading a few books to get the ball rolling.  Regarding Judaism, I would start with, “The Nine Questions People Ask about Judaism,” by Telushkin & Prager (http://www.amazon.com/Nine-Questions-People-About-Judaism/dp/0671622617).  It is short, concise, highly articulate, relevant, readable and above all, thought-provoking.

Concerning classic Zionism…get hold of a copy of the novel “Exodus” by Leon Uris (http://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Leon-Uris/dp/0553258478).  It is based on history ,and covers the formative period leading to the creation of the State of Israel, and the vital part played by the young heroic men and women who helped shape the Zionist dream.  Cancel your weekend plans, get the books & step over the threshold.  As the Chinese proverb states:  “Every thousand mile journey starts with one step.”

Most importantly, start by doing something!  It can be as simple as lighting Shabbat candles, or shopping around for a warm and receptive synagogue in your area, or applying to work for Birthright as a recruiter, or staff, in order to “spread the wealth”…but remember “passive Judaism” is an oxymoron.

TO JEW IS TO DO!

As we prepare to celebrate this Shabbat it is important to remember that Shabbat is a time to hang out with family and friends (and think of our friends in Israel, especially those who are keeping our country safe for us and our children).  It is a time to reflect, plan ahead and a time for study. Each one of us can celebrate Shabbat in his or her own way.  The main thing is to do something to mark it as a time period different from the rest of the week.  Shabbat is an island of tranquility in the midst of a sea of noise.  Turn off your phones, do not check FB every 2 minutes.  Disconnect from the machines in order to connect with yourselves.  Do not forget, we rule the machines, they don’t rule us!  Think back of walking single file in the Judean Desert at night under a canopy of stars.  Think of the “sound of silence” that touched our souls.  That is a “Shabbat moment.”

I sincerely hope that you treasure the gift you have all received.  Sometimes the best things are free!  I hope that you all learn and grow from the precious time we spent together on our “Amazing Israel” Birthright experience, and most importantly, in the immortal words of Rabbi A.J. Heschel:

Remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power…Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art.

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuvia