April 30, 2020
Dear Holy Friends,
I hope this correspondence finds you doing well and managing in our collective time of crisis. While our circumstances are clearly not great, at the same time, we must continue to move forward, as best we can. Please know that you can communicate with me at any time to share how things are going. My cell and email are listed below.
This past Wednesday, CBIOTP observed our commemoration of Yom HaZikaron (Remebrance Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day). Perhaps, one of the most fascinating events I personally witnessed while living in Israel was the sounding of the public siren blast for two minutes on Yom HaZikaron. Literally, the entire country comes to a standstill. Traffic halts. Commerce stops. Conversation concludes. Even more amazingly, only twenty-four hours later, the entire citizenship joins in celebration, song and dance, to enjoy Israel’s independence. This shift in national emotion is unique and awe-inspiring.
I might even suggest that during this crisis, on a microcosmic level, we may be experiencing similar shifts; one day hopeful, one day pessimistic; one day content, one day frustrated.
I am choosing in the space of this writing, to conjure the positive and joyous mood of Yom HaAtzmaut! Specifically, in honor of the holiday, allow me to share in the spirit of David Letterman, my Top Ten personal list of why Israel is more than fantastic, and a miracle in our time.
1) My first trip to Israel was with a USY summer tour when I was seventeen years old. I only knew one other student on the trip. So, I went to my Bubbie and asked, “Should I go?” She said to me, “Absolutely!” “You will never experience everything spiritually until you are in the Holy Land.” I adhered to her advice and it was an uplifting and wonderful summer!
2) My older brother whose name is Lloyd met his wife there! Who knew that from a falafel stand would come great love and blessings!
3) Do not repeat this part, but I kissed my first girlfriend in Yeshiva (co-ed apparently!)
4) I went to the Kotel and was invited to dinner at Aish HaTorah Yeshiva, which was well known for its work to bring people “into the fold.” While walking to the host’s house for dinner, I happened to meet a former teacher of mine who asked the host, “From where, do you know Eric?” The host’s answer was, “From Mount Sinai, of course!”
5) My kids attended Conservative day schools throughout their academic careers and while they have various levels of normative religious practice, they are huge advocates of Israel and huge supporters. (As a piece of advice; do not post anything negative about Israel on your Facebook. They will find you, and you will not like how they respond!).
6) I did my nephew’s bris in Modi’in in Israel. I was in the Holy Land for less than 24 hours. We did it outside because there was no air conditioning in their small apartment. It was only my third bris and God bless my sister for giving me permission! (P.S. My nephew is fine!)
7) One time when I was studying in Israel, there was a huge influx of immigrants from Thailand. Some of the new residents opened new restaurants featuring their local cuisine. I never had such tasty and authentic foreign lunches!
8) My wife, Rachel, was pregnant with my youngest daughter, Nava, while we were in the Holy Land. Nava is literally the sweetest and kindest person anyone would ever meet. Rachel and I like to think that the spark of the Holy Land contributed to her Neshama.
9) I studied a lot of Torah with some great teachers in Israel. Only in a place like Israel could it be the case that the first Rabbi who taught me a class in Halacha (Jewish law), was named Rabbi Bacon!
10) Israel is the center of Jewish life. It always has been and always will be. It is a miracle in our day, and we should never take it for granted. L’Shannah HaBa’ah Bi’Yerushalyaim (Next Year in Jerusalem)!!!!!
Finally, while I share my reflections about Israel, I know that each of you may have your own personal amazing reflections, which I encourage you to offer, always as a source of strength and blessings today; not only for you, but also for our community and for the Jewish people. Am Yisrael Chai!
Blessings always, Rabbi Eric L. Wasser
Please join us this Friday night at 7:00pm for our instrumental Kabbalat Shabbat service!
Please make sure to check out our online schedule of services posted here. All the zoom information is provided and hope to “see” you soon.