In honor of Israel’s 69th birthday, here is a piece I wrote a few years describing how I visited Israel for 24 hours- and it was worth every second.
This past Monday, the wonderful opportunity arose for me to take a day off, and go to Israel to attend my littlest nephew’s bris. A lot of people might be thinking, that’s a very interesting place to go for a day off. On a day off, perhaps it would make more sense to go to the nature reserve for some bird watching, go to the farm for some good old fashion cow tippin, or to do some blueberry picking. How does it make sense to drive three hours to the airport, wait three hours for my flight, sit on the cross Atlantic flight for 10 hours, spend a day in Israel for the sake of a 2 minute service and an accompanying breakfast, then, that night, go to the airport, hours before my flight, and do the same exact thing, just this time wait 2 more hours on the plane since I am flying against the jet stream? Well Henry, and all you doubters out there, I am here to tell you that all of this was 100% worth it; I would do it 1000 times more, and I recommend you take a day off in Israel as well.
There are three glaring, obvious reasons this is true. The first reason is that Israel is a place unlike any other. Any opportunity to go there is an outstanding privilege that should not be passed up. We are talking about the land that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob treaded with their own two feet. This is the place that Moses so desperately desired to go, but tragically, couldn’t. This is a place that we have been exiled from for the last 2000 years. This is where G-d’s presence is so concentrated and easily perceived, where miracles happen every single day. This is the center of the universe where being a Jew comes as natural as a colorful butterfly spreading her beautiful wings at Colorado’s Butterfly Pavilion. As I once heard quoted by a great rabbi, being Jewish in America is like being a Polar Bear in the Bronx Zoo. Being Jewish in Israel is like being a Polar Bear in the The North Pole. Thus, I ask you, how on G-d’s green earth could I have passed up the opportunity to be in Israel even for one day? What would the millions of Jews brutally persecuted in the Diaspora over the past 2000 years have given for ONE DAY in Israel? What would they have given, how much money would they have paid?
Thus as I got out of the car Sunday evening in a quiet lovely little place called Nof Ayalon, I took an intense, deep breath, and as my lungs were filled with the pristine, holy air of Israel, I honestly would have been content getting back in the car, going to the airport and heading home. That one breath of Israel reinvigorated me, rejuvenated me and reignited a spark from deep within me that words cannot adequately describe.
There is a second reason I have absolutely no regrets about my day off in Israel. Quite simply, I was able to be with my family who I rarely see, at a major joyous life cycle event. If there is one thing my Pops taught me growing up, it is that family is everything. I was blessed growing up in a beautiful, loving family. In addition to my wife and kids, there is no one I would rather spend the holidays with than my Momma and Pops, my Bro and his family, and my baby sister and her family. I was also able to see my uncle, aunt and 4 little cousins. Being with my loving family at such a collective joyous, blissful moment– celebrating the bris of my nephew, effectively welcoming him into G-d’s eternal covenant with the Jewish People, was nothing less than magical. Celebrating together with my family was worth every second of the over 22 hours of flying time. As my brother-in-law beautiful declared as the bris was happening, “Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has enabled me to live, and has sustained me, and has brought me, to this (glorious) day.”
And finally, dear Henry, the third reason that taking a day off in Israel was an amazing idea that my thousands upon thousands of readers across the vast universe should do is that it drove home what I believe is one of the most crucial ideas a person can comprehend in his life time. The Mishna states: the day is short; but there’s a lot of work. Our time in this world is not infinite. We will be here hopefully 80-90 years, but in the large scheme of the universe that is but a minuscule fraction. Being in Israel for all of one day drove this point home very hard. I had 24 hours in Israel. Was I going to use that reading articles from ESPN, or playing snake on my phone? Or was I going to cherish every one of my precious moments in the Holy Land? Being in Israel for one day made me realize I didn’t have time to waste. I had to wisely use every second. And as I waited for my plane on which I currently comfortably sit in my row to myself, I realized that although I arrived at this very airport YESTERDAY, it seems like a week ago- because in the last 24 hours I bonded with my parents, sister, nephew, brother in law, aunt, uncle, 4 little cousins, and my
sister’s amazing in-laws. I also learned Torah in Israel, prayed at the Western Wall, visited some old friends, went to my rugelech guy, and falafel guy, ate a mind-blowing sufganiya, and engaged in one of my favorite Israeli pastimes by schmoozing with an Israeli taxi driver. In one day I accomplished an enormous amount. How much can I accomplish if I use my time so efficiently 365 days a year for 120 years? I believe the potential is endless.
As I sit here, somewhere over the vast Atlantic Ocean with an hour to go in my flight, I know I will be at work in a few hours and this will all feel like a distant dream. But it is a dream I dare not forget.
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