Yom Ha’atzmaut is celebrated in so many different ways by so many different people. To some, celebrating Israel’s Independence is done by bopping people on the head, spraying silly string on strangers and dancing in the streets. Others take to the synagogue; add to their prayers with Hallel, shofar blasts and a partial Shabbat service. Some prefer to celebrate quietly, their gratitude and happiness reflected in their study and contemplation.
This year, our yeshiva has decided to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day differently. While in the past we’ve done the usual tefila chagigit (Festival prayers), gone to an army base, hosted a BBQ and played ball with our IDF soldiers, this year we’ve decided to change how we celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut.
This year at Yeshivat Migdal Hatorah we are privileged to have a Beit Midrash full of students who would make any yeshiva proud. Our students study long hours, care about each other and participate in the Modi’in community around them. Each of our students stands out in their own unique way. Isaiah, a first year student in our yeshiva stands out in his own unique way. Three years ago Isaiah and his family converted to Judaism.
A few months ago Isaiah and I were in my synagogue together while a local teenager was having his bar mitzvah. In the midst of the singing I asked Isaiah if he had ever had a Bar Mitzvah. Having converted at 16, and having never learned how to read from the Torah, Isaiah told me that he never had the classic Bar Mitzvah party or experience that his friends all enjoyed. In fact, Isaiah shared with me, the only celebration his family had when converting was his parents’ “remarriage.” Right away the wheels in my mind started spinning.
The plan that my fellow Rabbiem and our Rosh Yeshiva hashed out is coming to fruition on this year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut. With the help of some very generous people, we were able to fly Isaiah’s parents for their first trip to Israel to witness their son’s reading the Torah at his Bar Mitzvah at the Yeshiva on Yom Ha’atzmaut morning. Isaiah has learned to read from the Torah and has been practicing hard. It is Isaiah’s parents’ first trip to Israel, and they incredibly excited to see the land and be a part of their son’s momentous accomplishment.
You might ask why we chose Yom Ha’atzmaut for his Bar Mitzvah. Could there be a more fitting day for hundreds of people to celebrate a righteous convert’s return to his new homeland than on Israel’s Independence Day? A day pregnant with meaning was able to stretch itself to welcome one of its boys. This year, our yeshiva, the greater Modi’in community, and Isaiah and his family will be celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut differently. We’ll be combining celebrations to make this most meaningful day even more meaningful for our people.
If you’re reading this in time and would like to join in the celebrations, please join us at Yeshivat Migdal Hatorah in the Tzi’irei Modi’in Beit Knesset, 12 Nachal Paran in Modi’in, Israel. Shacharit is at 8:30 AM on Thursday, May 11th.