Shayna Goldberg
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Life rolls on

The kids had no school, and the adults a day off. It was Election Day in Israel, and we slept in, went to the beach, and breathed a little
Waves rolling in at the beach in Ashdod

One of my happiest places in Israel is the beach in Ashdod.

The parking is great, it’s a short walk from the lot to the water, there is the huge Pirate park that my kids loved when they were little, it’s a family friendly crowd, the bathrooms were recently redone and the nearby Pizza Hut is always ready to deliver.

On October 7th, I thought we might never feel safe enough to return.

But this morning, with the sun shining and the weather predicting high sixties (after 13 years my brain still thinks in Fahrenheit), we threw our beach mat and chairs in the trunk, packed some snacks and headed out to our happy place.

It felt so good to be back there.

I can spend hours watching the waves roll in one after another. There is something relaxing, soothing and comforting about their never-ending nature. The fact that, come what may, they just keep rolling. The understanding that all these months when we couldn’t visit, they were still here, doing their thing.

Sometimes they are gentle and smooth. They roll in as small, soft and quiet ripples. Sometimes they are rough and choppy, crashing hard against the shore. But they always keep coming. Nothing can stop them or get in their way.

It’s another Election Day here in Israel. One of those rare “Sunday” type of days we miss from our previous life. The kind where kids are off from school, workplaces are closed and there is no chag to prepare for.

It felt so good to sleep in, relax and breathe a little.

It’s a day that Israelis love to take to the roads and explore the country. And although we are in the midst of a war, this time was no exception. On our drive to Ashdod, every park and hike departure point was overcrowded with cars lining both sides of the street. The flowers are blooming, the fields are bright green, the air is fresh and clear and the water is sparkling. Small but bright reminders of what a beautiful county we are blessed with and the wide range of scenery you can access within a short drive.

It felt so good to be out and about.

But not everyone was hiking or at the beach. Not everyone had that option.

On the way we passed through the Re’em junction. The bus stop that was the scene of a recent terror shooting is now covered in flags and signs memorializing those murdered.  Along the sides of the road are posters of those kidnapped, still waiting to come home. The soldiers are always on our minds, and the digital boards on the highway declare “Together we will win.”

The Jewish people are resilient, and life in Israel rolls on, but sometimes it is not soft and gentle. It is rough and choppy, and the waves come crashing down. It has ups and downs. It is small pleasures and tremendous pain mixed together.  It is the wide spectrum of human experiences and emotions all rolled into one.

A few weeks into the war, I came across a powerful video of a young man named Yehuda Bacher from Beit Shemesh. He had filmed himself singing in the car on erev Rosh Hashana, in order to give strength to a friend in need. A few weeks later, he was murdered at the Nova festival, and two of his brothers recorded the song professionally in his memory. My family and I can’t stop singing it. It touched us deeply.

In the video, Yehuda sings the words to “Elokai Neshama,” a short prayer that is recited as part of the morning service when we thank God for restoring our soul at the beginning of each new day:

“My God, the soul You placed in me is pure.
You created it, You formed it, You breathed it into me,
And You maintain it within me.
One day You will take it from me and return it to me in the time to come.
As long as the soul is within me, I will thank You.
Lord, my God and God of my ancestors,
Master of all works, Lord of all souls.”

We have tasted death, we are feeling real pain and yet we still have so much to be grateful for. Small things. Big things. Our pure souls. Life itself.

Life rolls on.

And as I sat there, watching the waves roll in, these words resonated more than ever:

“As long as the soul is within me, I will thank You.”

About the Author
Shayna Goldberg (née Lerner) teaches Israeli and American post-high school students and serves as mashgicha ruchanit in the Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash for Women in Migdal Oz, an affiliate of Yeshivat Har Etzion. She is a yoetzet halacha, a contributing editor for Deracheha: and the author of the book: "What Do You Really Want? Trust and Fear in Decision Making at Life's Crossroads and in Everyday Living" (Maggid, 2021). Prior to making aliya in 2011, she worked as a yoetzet halacha for several New Jersey synagogues and taught at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck. She lives in Alon Shevut, Israel, with her husband, Judah, and their five children.
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