* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin (http://inthelandoftheJews.blogspot.com)
"Shalom Sivan, This is *Michal Kopinski*. Yitzhak, our fifth son, was born with a rare genetic mutation. During the last few years he has been a student at the Nitzanim school in Jerusalem and has made enormous progress. He has learned what it means to be a friend, to set goals and follow through, to be independent, to love the Torah.
Each year the school holds a Bible contest in which each student receives a personal study guide according to his ability. Our Yitzchak is deeply attached to Torah stories. He does not know how to read but he has a good memory, and therefore the school staff encouraged him to try to compete in the Bible contest this year.
Yitzchak charged ahead. He took the study guide pages home, devoted himself to studying them after hours, and was chosen to be the representative of his entire class in the contest. This accomplishment represents incredible resilience since Yitzchak did not speak until the age of three and began to walk quite late.
It could never have been predicted that he would take such a challenge upon himself. This testifies to his self-confidence and his ability to persevere, assisted by a constant push from his teacher Ayalah and her aide Gili.
Yitzchak was confused by one of the questions and did not win the contest, but all of us were truly uplifted by what he achieved. It gave us tremendous inspiration in seeing how each individual can strive and progress and how everyone - yes, everyone - has a personal connection to the Torah."
The treasure next door*
"Shalom Sivan, My name is Yotam Mahler. I grew up on a kibbutz in the Galilee. I always knew that I was the grandson of the great-grandson of *Rabbi Yaakov Meir*, but I did not know much about him. Only in recent years did I investigate my family roots.
Yesterday, the 9th of Sivan, was the anniversary of his passing. He was the Chief Sephardic Rabbi at the time of Rav Kook but was much less well known. Rabbi Meir was a leader, a kabbalist, and traveled to lend support to Jewish communities in Salonika, Bukhara, North Africa, and many other places. He was also active in promoting the revival of the Hebrew language and passed away 83 years ago.
Several months ago I moved to the Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem and began to search for more information about him. Yesterday I called a tour guide whom I found on the Internet and he gave me the phone number of the gabai (synagogue manager) Yaakov Cohen, who opened the doors of the Kahal Zion Synagogue on Rehov Mashiach Borochoff, located on the first floor of what is called the Sephardic Orphanage.
Yaakov Cohen told me that he remembers from his childhood that descendants of Rabbi Yaakov Meir would pray there. He showed me a Torah scroll that bore the name Rabbi Yaakov Meir, who had personally acquired it for the synagogue. I learned about this on the anniversary of his passing, a mere 100 meters from my residence in Nachlaot. I was stunned, startled, yet joyful, not knowing what to say. Within 24 hours I had gone from knowing nothing about my esteemed ancestor's legacy to discovering his Torah scroll right next door.
I write these words so that others will appreciate this special man and also in order to remind everyone that sometimes the most precious treasures are to be found close by.
To taste the flavor
What do we do about boredom? The Torah portion of Behaalotecha is full of the nation's complaints. In places named Taveirah or Conflagration (representing Hashem's burning anger) and Kivrot Hata'avah or Graves of Craving (signifying the fate of those who had a strong craving for meat), the people express great frustration before Moshe Rabeinu. Our commentators explain that they did not find meaning in what they were doing, did not connect to the wonderful prospect of leaving Egypt, and therefore complained.
Rabbi Yaakov Edelstein once asked what would happen if someone repeated a chewing motion if there was nothing in his mouth to chew. Soon enough, he would get tired. You are invited to try it. It is truly tiring to chew and chew when your mouth is empty.
But what happens when there is a delicious cake in your mouth, the rabbi asked, or some other delectable food? Then we have the capacity to chew well, and to take another bite and then another, and not pay any attention whatsoever to the energy we expend. Why? There is a pleasant flavor that we taste. So too in life. In work, in raising children, in learning, in keeping mitzvot. We do not always experience sweetness in every action, but generally it is worthwhile to find and taste the flavor in what we do. Not to just chew for no reason.
The time is short and the love is great
Summer vacation is almost here. Ruhama Vogel, principal of the Amit Ori High School in Ma'ale Adumim, wrote this week to her school community regarding the next two months. She dedicated her message to the memory of Ella Or z"l, a former student at the school who perished in a flash flood at Nahal Tzafit several years ago:
"The most precious resource in life, in which we all have an equal share, is time: A day in the life of Elon Musk, the richest person in the world, and a day in the life of the last of the beggars searching for food in the garbage, each lasts exactly 24 hours. Each minute is the same for everyone.
The most important question in life is how do we manage time, particularly the two months of vacation. It is customary to say: 'The time is short and the task is great.' (Pirkei Avot 2:15). Ella Or z"l gave this message her own twist: 'The time is short and the love is great.'
Try to spend your vacation with this message of hers in mind. To transform these two months into days of love. Love for family - by strengthening your connection with parents and siblings, with grandpa and grandma. Love for society - through volunteering and helping others. Love for the Land of Israel - in taking trips throughout the country. Love for Torah - through studying out of desire, and not because of exams.
Apparently, this was what she knew in her subconscious mind, that her time was short. She would have celebrated her 22nd birthday this month. If only we can learn from her to truly live with the awareness that time is short, and that the love is great.
Take care of yourselves, Ruhama".
What's the last verse in the Bible?*
* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin (http://inthelandoftheJews.blogspot.com)
What's the last verse in the Tanach (Bible)? This was the question asked by *Emmanuel Zilberman*, Director of the Jerusalem Education Administration, at the opening of the city's elementary schools' Bible contest.
He had first reminded us that we all know the first verse of the Bible: *"In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth."* But what about the last verse? Who knows it by heart?
So here, thousands of years after the verse that describes the creation of the world, the following verse arrives, at the end of the Book of Chronicles II: *"So said Koresh the king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth has the Lord God of heaven delivered to me, and he has commanded me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judea.Who is there among you from all his people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up".*
This is fascinating. The Bible begins with the most global and universal message. It's about God who created the universe, yet it ends with the most national and personal Jewish story: The same God who gave Koresh sovereignty over all the kingdoms on earth wants a little home in Jerusalem and wants us - with God's help - to go up there. This is the last word in the Bible: "Vaya'al" (and let him go up).
That we should never cease to go up and raise ourselves up, even when we are already in the Land of Israel.