It has been an exciting two weeks for me and the group of physicians, spouses and friends who joined our mission.
During my adult years I have taken part in many presentations of a sefer Torah to an organization, synagogue or community These have always been exciting and uplifting experiences. However very few ceremonies in my life compare to the spiritual highs of the Ashdod Naval base Hachnasat Sefer Torah (presentation of a torah scroll) ceremony.
When our Talmud study group in Good Samaritan Hospital, in Suffern N.Y. decided to raise funds for a Torah, they invited their colleagues to join, and be a part of this great mitzvah.
Thus a large segment of the Jewish physicians of Good Sam participated. The cover of the Torah.(mentle) had each contributors name embroidered on the back ,in addition to that of the Community Synagogue of Monsey and World Mizrachi who gave us assistance in our project.
On the first morning that our group spent in Israel, we started the Rosh Chodesh (new moon) day by attending morning services at a new hesder yeshiva (Yeshiva Hagevoah Tel Aviv Maaleh Eliyahu)That morning they celebrated a bar mitzvah of a non-orthodox neighborhood youth .
. Back at the hotel, our group was honored to welcome Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau shlitah of Tel Aviv (and former Israeli Chief Rabbi ) In his wonderfully powerful and charismatic talk,he proceeded to inspire our group as befits the double celebration of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut.Perhaps more importantly he prepared us emotionally and spiritually for the upcoming naval ceremony.
At the actual ceremony at the Ashdod Naval Base,close to 200 male and female soldiers and sailors danced and kissed the Torah with such enthusiasm and love that tears came to our eyes as our pride and joy reached an unbelievable high..We all realized that we were witnessing a phenomonom.
Young Israelis almost all of them non-orthodox smiling and overjoyed with spontaneity they each had the opportunity to walk under the huge rolling 20 foot high crown and canopy(chupah) accompanied by a sound truck while holding the Torah, surrounded by the dancing of our group and their colleagues What was remarkable was that this dancing which lasted almost two hours was joined in by all who were on the base from the most junior recruit to the Commander with the rank of Naval Captain
A surprise guest was Rabbi Zev Leff formerly of Miami and a strong supporter of the OU and NCSY who was invited by one of the Commanders on the base who live in his community of Kfar Matisyahu. Both Rabbi Leff who is an old friend and I spoke .
I pointed out that the portion of the Torah that week was EMOR whose first sentence is an admonition to the priests to prepare their children for the duties of the priesthood, as a protective reminder that only vigilance and piety to our traditions and laws will be the source of our survival. The Torah is our lifeline to protect the spiritual continuity of the Jewish people. How appropriate it was for our group to present a Torah to the Navy whose responsibility it is to guard our physical well-being from those who would seek to destroy Israel by using the surrounding bodies of water This gift speaks to our commitment to support the religious, spiritual and physical security of our brethren and our homeland
Since that event each and every member of our group cannot stop discussing its impact on them.
In a few days as the jet lag disappears I intend to discuss lessons I have learned from the Moscow-Berlin portion of our trip