Leadership With Heart
Years ago, there was a time when I rebelled against religion, Judaism, and G-d. It was my version of running to the Supernova Music Festival, where I could dance and party to the music under the desert sky.
I was young, and probably like many others, went through a stage when I wanted to express my freedom and independence. I started hiking in the mountains first on Sundays, then expanded it to holidays, and finally even sometimes on Shabbat. I enjoyed the fitness aspect of it as well as communing with nature in a beautiful, quiet, and peaceful setting. I got hooked on it like a drug, on feeling good and getting away from life and its problems.
But I overdid it by going on Shabbat sometimes, and then one year, I even went on Rosh Hashanah. I knew it was wrong spiritually, even though it felt right physically. That year, I missed the spiritual high of the worship of Hashem, the prayer, and hearing the holy blasts of the Shofar, which I had erroneously tried to replace with the physical high of the mountain run.
Now, years later, I wonder whether this was perhaps my equivalent of going to the Supernova Music Festival on Shabbat and Simchat Torah on October 7—raving, partying, and dancing to the psychedelic trance music instead of sanctifying the Sabbath and singing and dancing with the Torahs.
In my story, it wasn’t immediate, but it happened later that I ended up losing both my hips and almost succumbing to an infection. However, only by the grace of Hashem was I fortunate and given a second chance. I found the errors of my ways and made my way back to Hashem. I’m still not completely there yet; it’s a journey, and I believe that I am on the right track now. The Torah, my parents’ voices in my head and heart, and my conscience guide me and I remember always what happened when I went off track.
On October 7, of the almost 1,200 people massacred that day, 364 were at the music festival. No one can say why anyone lost their lives, were brutally tortured and raped, or were abducted by these radical Islamic terrorists that day—it was pure evil—but like me missing Rosh Hashanah that year, people at Supernova were also misplaced from the holy Shabbat services and the singing and dancing with the Torahs for the holiday. This is a kind of Jewish tragedy.
I’m not saying that anybody is “bad” or that everyone who went to the rave at the Supernova Festival was wrong in doing so. People need to relax, de-stress, and have some fun too. But also, I think that what happens to some at these events in terms of the proverbial “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” is not aligned to the values that we want our children to have and to the Jewish faith that we hold dear.
We all have our own paths in life, and we are not necessarily meant to serve Hashem in the same way. But like me losing my hips and almost my life in my pursuit of what felt good, a lot of beautiful young (and older) people suffered incredibly, and even more, were brutally murdered or abducted with friends and family by Hamas terrorists on that fateful day.
The juxtaposition of people raving in the Negev Desert just 3 miles from Gaza on Simchat Torah on October 7 reminds me in a sense of the Jews when they left Egypt and when Moshe went up to bring down the Torah. Instead of singing and dancing for that momentous event, they were led astray in the Sinai Desert and built the Golden Calf. The Israelites then too suffered an enormous calamity, and G-d wanted to destroy them, but Moshe interceded and asked for G-d’s compassion. In the end, instead of G-d wiping out the Israelites, the Levites aligned with Hashem and killed 3,000 of them, and the Golden Calf was consumed in fire.
After the devastating events of October 7, I believe we must face some hard questions in terms of not only how we let down our security that day in Southern Israel, but spiritually, how we let 3,000 to 4,000 beautiful Jews end up at a rave dance party in the Negev Desert and at the murderous hands of hordes of rampaging Hamas terrorists instead of celebrating our faith and honoring G-d and the Torah for Shabbat and Simchat Torah in our synagogues.