This opinion column is dedicated in righteous memory of Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, Rabbi Calman Levine, Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Zidan Saif – May their memories be a blessing.
“Go to yourself.” It is a command to Abraham, the first Jew, and the rest of us as well. “Lech Lecha” entails an inner journey to discover one’s essence, and to integrate that essence into our life and environment. It is a message of inner discovery that leads to movement in a positive direction” (Chabad.org).
It’s Winter of 2012, I am studying in the renowned seminary in Har Nof, Neve Yerushalayim. I have been given the opportunity of a life-time, the chance to delve deep into my Jewish roots, discover the deep insight, thought, and philosophy on life, inspiration and knowledge of the holy Torah. I lived in the Neve dormitories with two of my good friends from Penn State University.
We would laugh over having to walk to the “wi-fi bench”, the well known bench down the hill from where the dormitories were, to seek connection with the outside world. We would hurry to pile ourselves with all the warm clothes we owned before we went to sleep at night. And we would surely end the evening with “kariot fights”, which you guessed it, consisted of the three of us throwing cereal at each other, and yes, of course then eating it, because it would be just plain wrong to let chocolate filled cereal go to waste.
Our mornings were dedicated to learning. Not the type of learning that confuses you, makes you wonder why you’re paying X amount of money towards tuition or the type of learning that makes you regret not getting that extra hour of sleep in. Our mornings consisted of learning that opened my mind more than any book has, any lecturer, or any class for my major ever has. It was in Har Nof that I learned what truth really is, what a meaningful life really is, and most importantly Har Nof is where I discovered what it means to be hospitable, humble and selfless in its truest form.
On Shabbat the streets of Har Nof are silent, amidst the joyous Shabbos songs that you can hear circumventing from inside people’s homes to the outside. On Shabbat my friends and I were sent to host families. I remember getting lost in the streets of Har Nof with one of my friends. We searched the empty streets for our host families home, nearly giving up, desperate to find an English speaker who could give us directions. You can imagine our excitement when we finally found someone who spoke Spanish, ironically a language that both my friend and I know better than Hebrew.
Har Nof holds the most majestic, breath taking view in what I may argue all of Israel. I could never erase from minds eye the sun-set around Havdallah time, the sky a combination of a fiery red, orange and yellow, so potent and so surreal.
Har Nof is a peaceful, serene, Torah-loving, mitzvah-doing, G-d dwelling, place.
Through sharing my memories in Har Nof, I have hopefully provided you my reader with what I hope felt like your own journey through the neighborhood of Har Nof (if you have never had been), I have confided in you dear reader my memories as a Jewish-American college student, living at seminary during the winter time at Neve Yerushalayim.
My essence – who I am – I am part of Israel and Israel is a part of me. I am devastated to hear of today’s tragedies in a place that put so many smiles on my face. Terror won’t prevail, and life will somehow go-on. Lech lecha – we will move forward, we will move uphill, we will “be obsessed with good and horrified by evil (Chabad.org)”. Am Yisrael Chai.