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This and Next Year in Jerusalem

03/30/2023 02:49:51 PM


The first matzahs just hit the shelves in Tel Aviv as I was packing up to leave Israel this past Wednesday. My Passover preparation this year was to spend the past two weeks as the rabbi for a group of 20 young couples from Atlanta on a trip with Honeymoon Israel. They traveled to Israel to build Jewish community in Atlanta and to strengthen their relationship to each other, to Judaism, and to the Jewish people. 
Our people are no strangers to the power of a long journey to open us up to revelation and to connect us to one another. This trip to Israel was a powerful example of that. While I left Jerusalem just in time to be able to pray at my seder to be in Jerusalem next year, a holy reverse commute of sorts, I brought some beautiful lessons and new relationships home to Atlanta with me. 
We traveled far and wide in Israel. We met with David, a Kabbalist artist in Tsfat, taking refuge in his home studio from the pouring rain. We made zaatar from fresh herbs with Druze family Snir and Maya in their living room in Maghar. We danced with Ashager, an Ethiopian Israeli in Tel Aviv, and heard how her parents had fled to Israel. And in Jerusalem, over shabbat dinner with Avraham, he wove us into stories of his life and travels and joyfully welcomed us all as part of the Jewish family.
We heard stories from people who had come to Israel from all around the world, and in each we were welcomed into their lives. In each moment, it became more and more clear to me that a connection reverberates through your whole body when you recognize yourself in someone else’s stories. We grew closer as a group as the group found its place in Israel. 
As this group began to bond and open up, over and over again I heard how relieved, delighted, and grateful these couples were to meet other people like them— people with the same questions, needs, and challenges. They told each other their stories and they were met with friendship. We traveled so far to learn the strength and vibrancy of the community we have at home.
Passover centers on the power of telling a story, the story of our enslavement and liberation, the story of building our people, and seeing ourselves as part of that story.  I went as the rabbi on this Honeymoon Israel trip so that these couples might know me, know each other, and feel like they too are building our people. When we pray for next year in Jerusalem, may that prayer be for the unity and connection of the Jewish people. May we all feel that sense of family and belonging this Pesach.
Shabbat Shalom!
Fri, December 1 2023 18 Kislev 5784