By Shmuel Katz
One of the pleasures of having this weekly opportunity to reflect is that it gives me a chance to really appreciate many of the unique pleasures of living here in Israel. Without this mandatory pause to review what I’d like to share with you each week, I would miss the opportunity to enjoy the week that was.
I often remark how this time of year is special to me. Living in a country where most of the people celebrate my religious holidays alongside me never fails to give me a warm feeling of belonging, and it serves as a reminder that we really are home. Shanah tovah greetings are inked on our eggs, flash from the buses, and are offered verbally by almost every shopkeeper, bus driver, bank teller, etc.; it is very hard to not be swept up by the season.
And it isn’t just on the chagim themselves. There are special tours and events geared toward increasing one’s focus and spiritual level for the Yamim Nora’im. These are not simply visits to a rebbe or yeshiva. These are visits to places that are at the core of our religious experience and are bound to have a meaningful impact on each participant.
In the last day, I have seen invitations to daven Selichot in Chevron at Me’arat HaMachpela or at the Kotel, and there is even a small group that is going up to Har HaBayit in preparation for Yom Kippur. (Yes, I know there are many halachic issues, and I am neither endorsing nor recommending the practice, yet it is still a unique experience.)
And the kids get the full experience of living here as well. Many of the schools run special programs during this week. A number of them (including our Batya’s high school) organize special nighttime “Selichot tours” where they travel to Yerushalayim and go from shul to shul in the Old City to participate in their Selichot tefillot. How much better can it get than a visit to the Kotel and many shuls in the Old City as you prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?
And this year Mordechai was invited to an event that truly tops them all. One of his classmates is celebrating his bar mitzvah this week. In honor of the bar mitzvah, his family has coordinated a celebratory event–a special seven-hour tour of the Old City and surrounding areas: it is their own Selichot tour. Isn’t that an incredibly meaningful way to prepare for Yom Kippur?
As we prepare for Yom HaDin, please accept my warmest wishes that we all be inscribed in the Book of Life and that we merit much success in the year ahead. G’mar chatimah tovah! v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (, a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at

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