On a cold winter Jerusalem night twelve years ago, a group of elite US grad students studying law, business and public policy gathered for a warm farewell dinner after a three-week exploration of Israeli high-tech and Judaism. It was a few months prior to the unforeseen market crash and worldwide recession, and Israel was on a roll helping lead the dot.com expansion. Thanks in part to a grant from the State of Israel and the HW Foundation, the students were privy to exclusive seminars including business models from INTEL, legislative challenges with a Supreme Court Justice, and start-up strategy from directors of global investment and venture capital funds. The students also studied Jewish texts on philosophy, business and legal ethics, and celebrated Shabbos with families including rabbis, lawyers and business professionals.
A student (whom we’ll call Sarah) enrolled at the #1 ranked University of Chicago Business School, addressed the students, business professionals and educators at the closing banquet.
“I would like to tell you why I came on this Israel program. When I received the email about the program in November, I thought to myself, how do I want to spend the upcoming New Year’s Eve? I can travel anywhere in the world, do what I please. I thought back to last year – partying on New Year’s Eve, dancing to the music on a table at a bar with my friends in Miami. Is this what I want for myself now? I’m 25 years old, an aspiring business and community leader. I want to do something meaningful. That’s why I came. And I’m so happy that I had this opportunity to come to Israel and learn about who I am.”
Sarah’s epiphany to apply and study in Israel was a self-motivated Yosef HaTzadik-Shevatim, “Ani Yosef, Ha’od Avi Chai” moment, from which we can all learn. In her case, she preempted, as derived from the Beis HaLevi, a Heavenly confrontation asking her why didn’t she take the time to explore her Jewish identity. She did so and gained tremendously. As rabbis and educators, we need to learn from Sarah, that deep down inside of every Jewish soul is the nekuda ha’emes looking for meaning in life.
Here are some Morasha and Thinking Gemara shiurim that can assist you in reaching out to fellow Jews looking for opportunities to add meaning to their lives, especially during this season of expectations for great things to come.