February 2, 2018
17 Shevat 5778
Dear AJA Community,
Last month, before the icy days lead us to cancel, we were scheduled to hold our first ever alumni reunion. Well, the bad weather can’t stop us! We’ve moved the date to February 22 at 6:00 pm at AJA. Please RSVP HERE - it will be wonderful to reconnect with so many of our alumni, old teachers and faculty and even glance through some old yearbooks and photos. Please join us!
We are incredibly proud of our Alumni - from ALL of the schools who are part of our history: YA, YHS, HA, GHA and AJA. It's always a joy to share an Alumni D'var Torah. Below, you will find the D'var Torah for this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, written by Ben Huisman, a YA ‘13 graduate and a current Senior at the University of Maryland.
Rivka Monheit (YHS '92) and Danny Frankel (GHA '79, YA '84)
Alumni Committee Co-chairs
In this week’s Parsha, the Torah describes the revelation at Har Sinai. This moment is unrivaled, as we, the Jewish people transitioned from a broken enslaved people into the glorious, chosen nation of G-D.
It is interesting to look at Hashem’s opening words atop the mountain,
אנכי ה' אלהיך,
On this very line, the Midrash comments and informs us that the word “אנכי” is an Egyptian word. It’s quite odd for Hashem to start communicating in the Egyptian language. After all, our Rabbis tell us that one of the main reasons the Jewish people deserved to be freed from Egypt was because they never changed their language! It truly makes no sense for Hashem, who rewarded the Jews for maintaining their own language for 210 years by freeing them, to then start a relationship in Egyptian.
I believe that the answer lies in an unbelievable distinction. When a person endures a tough period or event in their life, they have to settle and cope with what happened and find a way to “get to the other side”. The person’s focus is to find a place for what has happened and to go on living a life that is as normal as possible, as fast as possible… This approach has some benefits: Surviving these experiences while incurring minimal harm makes someone very lucky. However, this approach has one inherent danger: the possibility to completely abandon the experience all together.
If a person who has to deal with a tough circumstance comes out on the other side merely as a “survivor” (not to underestimate this in any way), essentially, he has gone through a horror with nothing but a few battle wounds to show for it. Now, it is simply an obstruction to life, a waste of time. However, if one can find a way to integrate the tough experience into his or her life, one can convert the experience from an obstruction into an opportunity. Now he/she does not merely see this as, “I survived,” but instead as “Wow, that was difficult but I’m glad I learned from this and can use it to help guide me.” This is because no experience is meant to be just an experience. Rather, our experiences should serve to be a powerful tool for living.
This point is exactly what Hashem is trying to convey to the Jews at Har Sinai. Hashem begins by speaking in Egyptian because he wants to clarify to Am Yisrael that if they want to have any success in the future they must use this plateau moment and integrate it into their past. Instead of viewing Egypt as a 210 year hump of wasted time that the Jews managed to survive, they must see Egypt as an experience that makes them great.
This message that Hashem empowered us on Har Sinai must be treasured. Without a question, every single one of us will go through difficult experiences. G-D has given all of us the tools to persevere and make it through these challenges. What we need to do, is to decide if we choose to abandon these experiences, or if we choose to learn from these experiences and improve our lives.
Ben Huisman graduated from Yeshiva Atlanta in 2013. Since then, he spent a year in Derech Etz Chaim, a Yeshiva in Israel, and is currently in the final semester of his Senior year at the University of Maryland. He has been a leader in the Jewish community at Maryland through his involvement with several Jewish and pro-Israel programs. Currently, he is enjoying the life of a second-semester Senior, and is interviewing for jobs in the communication and marketing industry.