This post is dedicated to the לעילוי נשמה of Rabbi Uriel Malka, a man that always captivates my mind when I think about the defenders of Israel and representatives of G!d. Wishing his family comfort as they remember him with love and pride.
There is a song that plays nostalgically from my young Zionist years growing up within the Jewish community ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת—a cultural gem of a song whose message I am only just beginning to understand. The format of the song essentially follows the process of a forming environment. The song’s almost “too simple” equation subtly brings out its internal complexity and message of depth and power.
אני בניתי בית בארץ ישראל
אז יש לנו ארץ
ויש לנו בית בארץ ישראל.
“I built a house in Israel, so now we have a country and a house in the land of Israel.”
I work with children, so between the 50th and 100th time I heard these words, I finally started to listen.
The lyrics, however simplistic they may seem, don’t express the direct fruition of a simple house coming to be because it was built, but rather a home that was built so now there is a land that has a home within it.
This land; this vacant and dormant opportunity finally has color and life streaming through her veins.
Even further: the house, the tree, the road, and the bridge mentioned in this same lyrical pattern, are a reflection of the individual’s investment. The continuous growth of a physical community simultaneously as the world within comes to life.
I believe Israel to be the tangible reality of prophecy and the fulfillment of one’s role in life. Israel, with all of her glory and blend of antiquity and modernity flourishes by the blessing of G!d, and the blessings of those within her borders.
In Jewish custom, taking a moment of pause and introspection is not only encouraged but at times severely mandatory.
On a regular basis, it is forbidden to taste any food without making a proper blessing.
At a wedding, before the bride and groom unify their souls under the canopy, the husband must meaningfully pause and praise the holiness of his bride and how personal that holiness is to him.
In Eretz Yisrael, before the rush and exhilaration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, we must take an entire day of deep somber and retreat into the understanding that this blessed reality has stitching of pure agony and loss, the day is known as Yom HaZikaron.
We always take serious value in optimizing the moment, by resonating and basking within, so much so that the divinity of the time remains concentrated forever.
In the ברכות השחר portion of Shacharit, the morning blessings address many various yet all intimate parts of daily life, i.e. thanking G-d for our ability to see and have clothes to wear. Among these brachot are two that stick out to me, specifically in relation to the transition from a day dedicated to loss to a day dedicated to victory.
The first of the two; praise of G-d “who Girds Israel with strength” is immediately followed by another, praise of G-d, “Who crowns Israel with splendor.”
To me, the two brachot represent the motion and fluidity of Israel, both the land and people through their past, present, and future experiences. Strength manifested through resilience, courage, and vulnerability birth our inner splendor; self-love, self-discovery, and definition.
When I was around the age of 6 or 7 I was introduced to a man and his family that were so impactful they forever remain in my mind. This family came to my school as representatives of Israel in order to enrich my education and instill in me a foundational love of Torat Israel and Midinat Yisrael. I have vivid memories of Rabbi Malka, with light and love beaming always. I remember his energy and smile as he encouraged the young pre-teen boys stumbling to hold wooden poles for Denver’s Yom Ha’atzmaut program (he was training them for the army.) What I only realize now, is that Rabbi Malka didn’t just train those boys how to stand tall in strength and security. Rabbi Malka taught those boys how to live in splendor, in the sweetness of life and Torah. He led by example, he brought his beautiful family from Israel to Denver to inspire the souls of young Zionists, to introduce all of us to the true essence of Torah lifestyle.
The integrity of character and truth of morality, to me, lives as the factor to introduce grandeur and beauty.
Israel, the physical land resurrected and built by survivors and the broken, thrives today in innovation and advancement, equally as it succeeds in its community and social importance. My experience in Israel solidified the foundation the Malka family laid for me, the level of community and connection stands unparalleled.
Today was a day full of overwhelming appreciation. Today, I scrolled through names and pictures, and stories of strength and splendor. The strength and splendor of Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael.
Rabbi Malka died tragically in “The Carmel Fire” but he lived with holistic strength and splendor–the strength of spirituality and splendor of truth.
When I think about this individual and the legacy his wife and children carry strongly for him, I am reminded yet of another blessing said in the early morning prayers. The very first being, אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לַשֶּׂכְוִי בִּינָה לְהַבְחִין בֵּין יוֹם וּבֵין לָיְלָה”
G!d grants us, finite and fragile beings the divine power of knowing the difference between night and day. The power of faith to guide us towards the clarity that at the darkest moment, dawn has already begun. Maybe that is why some daven at Neitz, (a customary time of prayer before sunrise) as our souls beg our physical selves to see the world in the light that they do.
We praise and thank G!d for the opportunity to find solace in our spirituality, in our communities, and through the exact moments of fear, trauma, and doubt.
I’ve heard too many stories of valiant people who lived a life of truth and strength and splendor that were given a sunset at the peak of their dawn, and I pray that those long and dark nights for their families are greeted with comfort.
But a thought that brings me faith and empowers my hope are these words sung by the little voices of the Jewish nation’s bright future.
They sing with the obvious understanding that what they build is everlasting.
They build their roads and bridges with the strength of character to pick up those looking for a tremp (hitchhike) and they plant their trees and build their homes for the splendor of soul to invite those who have nowhere and to give to those who have nothing. So now, we have this land as a fertile ground of unity, with Blundstone footprints retracing the journeys of our forefathers and songs of prayer and gratitude that shake the walls of ancient synagogues.
G!d gave us this land and G!d continues to every day. The Jews are not “The Chosen People” We are the Choosing People. We choose to trust fall into the arms of our Creator and we smile doing so. With our choice comes our empowerment, our faith, our pain, our losses, and victories. We commemorate the brave fallen and celebrate their lives. G!d gifted us this land and we have chosen to make within it not only a home for ourselves but a dwelling place for divinity.
With pride and everlasting gratitude, I wish everyone a Chag Atzmaut Sameach.