By Shmuel Katz
As olim, we have spent a lot of time touring the country in order to experience and learn more about the wonder that is our land. Yet we are often constrained by the limits of school obligations for the younger kids, work obligations for us and the older kids, and, often, life. This is one of the reasons that it is really cool to work in the yeshiva.
Our talmidim are here for one or two years before they head off to college. While many of them have been here before and some have even toured here extensively, we try to give them the full sense of the land and our history. Some of the trips are educational, while others are recreational. And a few times a year we make major trips that are both.
To avoid the second-year guys repeating many tours, we have a two-year rotation for trips and destinations. This year, our Eilat trip (timed to coincide with the week of the Super Bowl) saw us returning to the techeilet factory in Kfar Adumim.
You may recall that my father decided to adopt the hiddur of techeilet around two and a half years ago, and I followed suit. At the time, I asked my rav if it was acceptable to put them only on my tallit and not on my tallit katan (hey, they are really expensive), and he told me it was fine. I wrote then how excited I was to finally add this mitzvah, one I had dreamed of performing ever since I heard a shiur by Rabbi Tuvia Silverstein during Tikkun Leil Shavuot about 20 years ago.
Well, having worn them on my tallit every day since then, I decided to take the next step and add them to my regular tzitzit as well. I bought them on Monday, came home on Wednesday, and by Friday afternoon I had the first pair fully tied. (I love doing the preparation for this type of mitzvah on my own.) So last Shabbat was the first full day I had the z’chut of wearing them.
I could write about the fun we had on the rest of the trip. Yes, we visited Kibbutz Yotvata and learned all about their pioneering methods of dairy farming and crop farming in thedesert, which was fascinating. Yes, we had an awesome morning on the Red Sea with some water sports (you can see pictures and videos of all this on the yeshiva’s Facebook page). Yes, we had a cool hike in the desert and an amazing, hours-long football game in the desert sand. But for me, the highlight was buying more techeilet strings to tie as tzitzit.
I often write about things like baking my own matzot or tying my own tzitzit. I am inspired to do these things because I feel much more connected to them here than I ever did in the USA. I go to the Kotel to leinEichah for the same reason. While we have intellectual capacities to imagine things and use logic and reasoning to make intelligent connections, there is nothing like a physical sensation to help you really connect to something.
I may be fooling myself, but I personally feel a greater sense of holiness in my everyday life here, as I have told you in the past. Eating food that requires removal of terumot and ma’asrot. Birkat Kohanim at least once every day. Shevi’it. There was even a group that did hakhel at the Kotel. All this is part of my everyday life.
And this feeling is also part of my inspiration. I feel that we are on a higher level of kedushah here, and thus we have a sense of responsibility to motivate ourselves to do more than we would have in our former lives. I know that I learn much more here than I did there. I even teach more! I try to find mitzvot in which to involve myself and my children, like Shevi’it or making matzot or hafrashat terumot, etc.
I’m not claiming to be anyone great. There are many, many ways that I could do better in my personal observance. But I think I am better here than I would have been there.
Another reason we’re glad to be here. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), 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 email@example.com.