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Avi Lewis

I’ve never been more hopeful for Israel’s future

I’ve been nearly 4 weeks in IDF Reserve Duty, and I’ve never been more hopeful for Israel’s future

The Jewish state never had natural resources

It’s strength has always been it’s people

I always knew we had the best, but it took being on base to get that reminder from the inside

Take for example all the Jews and Israelis abroad that paused their lives to catch the first flight home

Here are some personal examples of guys from my unit that I serve with:

Tom is completing his medical residency as a heart surgeon in Toronto. He left behind his wife and young kids to don the IDF uniform.

Noam is a serial entrepreneur, former Big Tech VP, and successfully led a $1 billion exit as CEO of one of Israel’s most famous startups. He swapped his apartment in Manhattan for a tent and black coffee in the field

Naor left his medical studies in Italy

Tomer was vacationing with his wife in Paris

Ron left his startup in Boston (he’s CEO)

Gabriel was hiking in Greece

Elad was wrapping up a post-Doc in Physics at a world class university

And so many more

These are just a handful of folks that I serve with that dropped everything the moment they heard their country was in need

There are many thousands more – in every unit, in every battalion and of every rank

They left behind families, thriving businesses, packed calendars, speaking engagements, sprints, paperwork, H2 planning sessions, exams and business deals – without a second thought

Now we are all dressed in green, rifles draped over shoulders, prepared to fight – and even to sacrifice – for our country

I don’t know what the future holds, but I feel confident and optimistic serving alongside these guys

They say that the IDF is a “people’s army”

That really comes to life in times like these, when all reservists are mobilized

We are tech professionals, business leaders, marketers, students, chefs, cinematographers, doctors, lawyers, accountants and educators

And although we may have diverged our separate ways after completing our mandatory IDF service post-high-school, the shared understanding that this our only home brings us back together

In the Torah Portions being read in synagogues at this time of year, we encounter the origin story of the Jewish people

Take for example last week’s Torah portion, “Lech Lecha”

Avraham is commanded to Lech Lecha – literally to “go forth for yourself” – or which can also be understand as: “within yourself” – from his land, birthplace and father’s house to the land that Hashem will show him

Avraham’s journey across the Fertile Crescent marks the beginning of Jewish history:

That remarkable and unbelievable 4,000 year old story that we, his descendants, are still living today

That journey is about seeking truth

Avraham didn’t settle for idols. His soul was eager to discover the true Creator of the world.

At every moment in everyone’s life, Hashem is calling us to “Lech Lecha”

He’s constantly whispering: “Lech Lecha, Lech Lecha, Lech Lecha..”

Sometimes we tap into it, most often we don’t

Sometimes it’s quiet and indiscernible

Other times it’s an epiphany that hits like a tonne of bricks

“Lech Lecha, Lech Lecha, Lech Lecha..”

That quiet, still voice radiating from above

You know, I really struggle with Tfilla, with prayer

It’s probably my biggest challenge as an Orthodox Jew

I always have a million reasons to focus on something else and thoughts pulling me elsewhere

Today I heard some incredible words of wisdom – they didn’t come from a Rabbi – they actually came from a non-religious Israeli singer

He said:

“I don’t really know what Tfilla is, but I have a wide interpretation for it:

Any moment that you stop for second, pause the outside world, and truly, truly examine yourself

Collect your thoughts in full honesty, in complete integrity with yourself, with what you truly believe

And stand in complete vulnerability before your Maker

That for me is Tfilla”

This war has been a watershed moment for many, but also for me personally

It’s given me a sense of moral clarity

It’s also given me a sense of perspective for what is really important in life

On Shabbat eve four weeks ago, the night before the attack, I went for a walk with my wife

We discussed our hopes, ambitions and dreams for the future

I shared with her the usual spiel about feeling unsatisfied, about wanting more impact, to be able to do more

And now three weeks into IDF Reserve Duty, I’ve never felt more proud, more aligned with my ideals and more fulfilled to be playing a small role to contributing to Israel’s defense

Last Friday night on base I finally managed to take a quick break at 2am to make myself Kiddush (sanctification prayer of wine)

I was alone in the tent except for one other non-religious soldier sitting in the corner

I looked down at my bottle of grape juice

I thought about my wife and the kids, how under normal circumstances I’d be at home, making kiddush dressed in Shabbat finest, the table perfectly laden with Challot and dips, my 5 year old son singing the prayer with me

I never felt so lonely in my life

But I knew: This is where I need to be right now

In uniform, on base, working hard

I sang the prayer quietly to myself, my head held high

The soldier in the corner noticed me and stood in respect

When I finished he said “Amen, Shabbat Shalom” and sat back down

That was my “Lech Lecha” moment

Just like my fellow reservists that flew in from abroad to heed their own Lecha Lecha

So many of our brothers and sisters around the world – from Melbourne to Monsey, from Berlin to Baltimore – are heeding that awakening mission given to Avraham thousands of years ago

Jewish history has always been filled with trials and tribulations

Now we are writing that next chapter of Jewish history

Of Lech Lecha

All it takes is to listen to that still, small voice

Can you hear it?

About the Author
Avi was formerly a news writer at the Times of Israel. Originally from Australia, he served in the IDF and today works in Israel's thriving Hi Tech sector in Tel Aviv. He lives near Modi'in with wife and 3 kids
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