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Growing from Life's Lessons and Experiences

Friday, 15 May, 2020 - 1:58 pm

“Ah, I get it”!

These were the words that a young student in one of my Zoom Hebrew School classes shared a couple of weeks ago, as we had a class on the meaning of life and what is our purpose in the world. As I heard him say those words and saw a light go on in his mind and the meaningful and content look on his face, I too was so happy and grateful that the message of the class had resonated so deeply with this one student.

As I reflected on the moment, I thought that just for these words “ah, I get it”, it was worth preparing and teaching the whole class. I was even more gratified to hear that for the year end presentation for Hebrew School this student has decided to present on this very topic. While this took place in a virtual Zoom classroom, it is not much different than what happens in our lives every single day as the journey of life itself is one big learning experience and virtual classroom.

Each day we face countless experiences, interactions, sometimes challenges and many meaningful moments, and it is our job to try and reflect and internalize what we are experiencing so that we grow and develop in the process. It is not always easy to stop and process, but when we do, it is not simply a nicer experience, instead it is a growth opportunity and one that will help us continuously develop in life. Going with this attitude, we realize how every encounter and experience is an opportunity for us to develop, be inspired, learn to change, or simply to learn to be grateful and appreciative for the blessings in life that we have already.

Earlier this week, I took a walk with my daughter up Horse Pond Road and as we chatted and conversed, we also stopped to marvel at the details of the beautiful nature that abounds in the area. We have driven by hundreds of times, we have biked by dozens of times and even walked by many times, yet the colors just all become one big blur of the setting in which we live, which we take for granted. Yet when we stopped to marvel at the intricate details of the lush growth and beauty of the nature that was flourishing around us, it was a totally different and inspiring experience. Suddenly we noticed all the fine details and amazing beauty of the birth of new leaves, the blooming of a new flower, or the blossoming of a tree after a cold winter.

A Decision Made in Auschwitz

A couple of years ago a young teenager from Israel named Amit participated in the March of the Living at the site of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Amit was a typical young Israeli teenager who was suddenly confronted with the painful realities of what had happened just 70 years earlier. As Amit was full of emotions and reflected on the painful scene in front of him that spoke of the one of the most painful moments in the history of the Jewish people, he picked up his phone and made a fateful call to his parents in Israel.

Amit was an only child and therefore by Israeli Law, he was not allowed to enter a combat unit unless his parents gave their full consent. During that call, Amit emotionally begged his parents to allow him to serve in a combat unit and be able to do his part to defend his people. Amit’s parents agreed and right there next to the former ovens of Auschwitz, Amit made up his mind that even if it involved a risk, he wanted to be there for his people. Amit took note of where he was and what it represented and made a life decision based on that. 

Earlier this week, 21 year old Sergeant Amit Ben Yigal of the Golani Brigade, the only child of his parents, was tragically killed by a terrorist who hurled a cement block at his head from three stories up, as they were on their way to apprehend a terrorist. Watching the pain of Amit’s parents was heartbreaking and devastating, and the whole country in Israel and indeed Jewish people from around the world are trying to give the family support.

Yet amidst the story of the tragedy of this young life cut short and of the grieving parents who have no child to hold and hug, I kept thinking about the father’s description of that phone call from Auschwitz several years ago that changed his course in life. I will always remember Amit and his parents and I hope to find a way to reach out to them next week.

Yet besides remembering Amit, there is a concept of the “living shall take to heart”, and I want to learn from Amit’s power of acknowledging the moment he was in and harnessing that for change and life decisions.

Indeed every moment of life is precious and every encounter is an opportunity to learn, be inspired and yes to change one’s life and improve as needed. It may be a class on Zoom, a walk with a friend or family member, a look into nature, a challenge at work, or difficult day, but not matter what, we can shape that experience by what we choose to take away from it and and in the process we can learn to appreciate the bigger picture of life.

Dedicated in honor the student who said “ah, I get it” and in loving memory of Amit Ben Yigal Z”L.

Shabbat Shalom


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