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"Is Seeing Believing?"

By: Max Saltzman

ALUMNI ON THE PARSHA

"Is Seeing Believing?"
by Max Saltzman, Reishit ’05-’07, Madrich ’10-‘11

One of the first main memories I have of Reishit however, are of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The ruach, the emotion, and the fire of the day… I’ve never experienced anything like it before in my life. I distinctly remember it was the first time that instead of counting down the pages in my machzor, anxious for the end, I tried holding down the last pages so that they couldn’t turn. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur of Shana Aleph were the first real times that my eyes were opened to actual spirituality/Kedusha in this world.

Parshat Ki Tavo ends with Moshe talking to Bnei Yisrael. He tells them, “You have seen everything that Hashem did before your eyes in the land of Egypt… The great trials that your eyes beheld… But Hashem did not give you a heart to know, or eyes to see, or ears to hear until this day.”

I’d like to tie this in to the mitzvah of Maakeh (building a fence around a roof) that we learned from last week’s Parsha (I heard the following Moshul from Rabbi Price from the Mechinah program at YU).

There was a very friendly Rabbi who lived in Russia during the times of the pogroms, who befriended a few of the natives to try to maintain good relations with them. One day, a Russian official came over to the Rabbi’s house to talk with him. The Rabbi led the Russian onto the roof of his house, and they walked to the edge and leaned on the Maakeh. The Russian started endlessly praising the view from the Rabbi’s roof. He continued to go on and on and couldn’t seem to stop! The Rabbi then asked the Russian official, “Surely the view from your roof is better than mine! Your house is bigger, and much closer to the city! Why is the view from my roof so much better than yours?” The Russian replied. “It is true that my house is bigger than yours, and closer to the city as well. But I have no fence surrounding the edge of my roof, so I am afraid to go to close to the edge in case I fall. But you have this fence that protects you from falling and hurting yourself, so because of this fence, you can see and experience more of the world from here.”

We are instructed to build fences for the Torah. We do it because we want to protect the Torah, and ourselves, as well. But we need to understand that when we build these fences, we endlessly benefiting from them. We shouldn’t build them just because we are instructed to, or out of fear of failing, but we should build these fences so we can go, see, and experience more of Hashems world. So we can go up to the edge and not be afraid of falling. With fences, we know exactly how much of the world we can benefit from. We can get the most out of our existence in this world. But without these fences, we either sell ourselves short by not getting as close to the edge as we can, or we may go too far, fall, and damage ourselves.

As a Madrich, seeing all the new Shana Aleph kids walking in brings back a ton of memories. It’s different from seeing them come in when I was Shana Bet. When I was Shana Bet, I viewed the Shana Aleph kids coming in as younger brothers, excited to pass on what I learned, and annoyed with them when they made stupid mistakes. But as a Madrich, seeing them come in, I cant help but look at them more like children. I’m excited for them. I’m excited thinking about when they first start getting into the learning, I’m excited for when they start coming to davening and putting on tzitzit, I’m excited for their first Reishit Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. But mostly, I’m excited for their eyes to finally open up, and for them to see the world that Hashem has given to them.

Its Elul Zman, and Reishit Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are right around the corner. Unfortunately, most of us alumni will not be back to experience the Reishit Ruach (Though the MReishit Hashana CD’s are always a big help), but seeing these kids coming in has helped me realize something about myself. Since leaving Reishit, my eyes have not stayed as open as they once were. Thank G-d they haven’t closed as much as they were pre-shana aleph, but they certainly aren’t as open as they were when I left in ‘07. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’ve become a bit jaded since leaving Yeshiva. My eyes were opened (somewhat) to see the great works that Hashem has created, but over time my eyes have dimmed. G-d willing, despite how long it has been since we each have been in Yeshiva, we will all use the rest of this Elul Zman to be more productive in our learning, and to open our eyes more than ever before to the Torah and the beautiful world that Hashem has given us.

Have a Shabbat Shalom, and a meaningful Elul Zman.