OJC’s March of the Living, Day 8 – Time to soar
With what seemed to be a shared burst of adrenaline, we were up and out early this morning to catch our flight to Israel. Predictably, by the time we all boarded the flight, we were crashing, physically and emotionally. Our spirits, however, were sensing that the moment to soar was fast approaching. We landed a bit late in Ben Gurion, but breezed through baggage claim and customs, met our agent, tour guide, driver and my sister, Randi, who shleps to the airport for nearly every trip I have ever taken to Israel to greet me with a hug, several kisses, lots of tears and ten whole minutes of my time.
Our first obligation was to fulfill the mitzvah of giving back to the land upon our entrance. We drove to Neot Kedumim, a scenic biblical landscape, home to every type of tree mentioned in the Torah and reminiscent of the land of milk and honey that God promised to the children of Israel. Under the warm and bright afternoon sun, we spoke prayers of thanksgiving that we had been restored to the land, and got down on our knees to plant olive trees in the soil.
Back aboard the bus, we settled in for the climb to Jerusalem. Sweet renditions of “If I forget thee O Jerusalem” filled our ears, and the glow of the stones reflecting the golden rays of the setting sun dazzled our eyes. We got off the bus at Yemin Moshe to view the Old City, and to share a bottle of wine, a long braided loaf of sweet challah, a song of Jerusalem, and a blessing thanking God for bringing us to this day.
We earned this day. From slavery to freedom, from degradation to exaltation, we have spent the last week bearing witness to moments of our people’s greatest suffering. As our tradition teaches, those who mourn her will be privileged to know her greatest joy. Today our spirits fly.
With Shabbat coming in tomorrow afternoon, I will take this opportunity to wish you a Shabbat shalom. We’ll have to wait until Sunday to catch up!
Rabbi Craig Scheff