Before I made Aliyah I would hear people who had already moved to Israel describe their new life as ‘holistic.’ They would say things like “I have never had so little and yet felt so rich.” I could not completely grasp what they were saying until we moved here and experienced it first-hand. Two events that occurred in the last month drove the message home more than any other. This past Friday, my kindergarten son had his end of year production. But it was no production. It was real, it was simple, and it was absolutely beautiful. The event was centered around the children receiving their siddurim for the first time, or as their Rebbe put it, they received their ‘friend for life.’ To prepare the children for this momentous occasion, they went on a trip to teach them about prayer. And what better place to teach Jewish children about Jewish prayer than the place that Jews have been praying at and towards for last few millennia; the kotel. The kids prepared little notes to place inside the ancient walls and then delivered them in person. Although my son’s prayers included a request for the whole world to be made out of Bamba, I think he got the idea that there is Someone to pray to and Someone that cares. By going to the kotel he also learned that he was about to become part of something much bigger than himself. I know that he felt a sense of pride when he received his siddur two days later because when they called him up to get his siddur he looked out at the audience, flashed a huge grin, and bowed 3 times! Ahh…this is what they meant by holistic. To learn about prayer and to go to the kotel. To pray in a language that you understand. To live in a country whose most important site represents your most important value. Just a few weeks earlier at my first grader’s commencement the sentiment was much the same. After learning the entire book of Genesis (i.e. 1/5 of the Torah) the children and their parents celebrated at Ma’arat Hamachpela – Tomb of the Patriarchs. After learning the stories of our foremothers and forefathers the children were actually standing at their burial sites! Not to mention that they already live in the area in which many of the stories took place! Before the ceremony, someone leaned over to me and said “you are really going to enjoy this. With all the struggles that moving here brings you can sometimes forget why you came here. After you see this, you will remember why.” The kids proceeded to act out most of the stories in Breshit. Which isn’t so unusual for a first grade production. Except that they were doing it on the actual site that the stories took place. One could not help but feel deeply that the kids were not just re-enacting the past – they were continuing the story in the present. In the same place. With the same values. And Gd willing with an equally positive impact on our future.
This is what it’s all about.