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The Value of Faith and Hope

February 13, 2014 Jewish Times BY NOAH ABRAMS

Parshat Ki Tissa

This week’s haftorah echoes some of the themes found in the parshah of Ki Tissa. Its setting is in Northern Israel at a time after the 12 Tribes had been split into two kingdoms.
What intrigues me in the reading is when Elijah strongly opposes the beliefs of Ahab and Jezebel, the king and queen of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. A foreign wife from the north, Jezebel brought idols into the land of Israel, causing many Israelites to leave Judaism and turn to the worship of the chief idol of Baal. Jezebel became enraged when she heard that Elijah, a very important prophet of the Lord, was not worshipping the idols and that he stayed true to his belief in the one and only God. She was so furious she went on a rampage and started killing the prophets. Elijah took 100 of them and hid them in a cave, providing them with food, drink and safety. Many rabbis say that when Elijah acted with such valor, he resembled Moses. As a true leader, Elijah protected the prophets. Moses, similarly, exhibited true leadership by speaking up on behalf of his people in Egypt and, as we read in this week’s parshah, in their defense after the sin of the golden calf. I feel that Elijah’s firm belief in God took much conviction. He knew that if he defied the king and queen’s religious practices, one of them would become infuriated and want him dead. But even knowing this, Elijah stayed true to God and would not become an idol worshipper.
The lesson here is that even in the worst of times, we can be optimistic. We should not lose faith and hope, even when everything seems to be going wrong. Just like Elijah, who kept his faith and belief in God although many of the Israelites did not, I hope that my faith and belief will help me throughout my life. For my bar mitzvah project a few weeks ago, I organized a three-on-three basketball tournament fundraiser to benefit the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. As one person, Elijah protected 100 people from the king and queen and their army; the IDF has to protect the small State of Israel against much larger bordering countries. The FIDF’s motto is: Their job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them. I wanted to do something to help “look after them.”
As a result of putting together this fundraiser I learned that by giving some of my time to organize the tournament and raise money I was able to help the Israeli soldiers who look after Israel. If one simply donates a small amount of time, they can help others. By doing so, this person is fulfilling one of the most essential and significant mitzvot in the Jewish religion.

Noah Abrams is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School and raised over $1,100 for the FIDF as his Bar Mitzvah project look for Noah to raise twice as much in 2015!

Local Lone Soldier writes -Why I Choose To Be A Soldier Instead Of A Student

By - Naomi Mallin, Published in the Baltimore Jewish Times Nov. 14, 2013

It was like something out of a comedy sketch. I stood at the front of the classroom, nervous, and launched into the Hebrew-language presentation I had prepared for that day’s lesson. I say launched, but really it was closer to a sputtering. A stammering verbal “balagan” riddled with grammatical mistakes and laced with “Baltimorese” undertones.
My classmates at the mechina, a 10-month pre-army preparatory program in which classes are peer led, were all Israeli. Even though they weren’t yet enlisted, clearly they had already honed a take-no-prisoners attitude. Unable to contain themselves, they fell about laughing at the pathetic attempts of their American peer to speak Hebrew. My year at the mechina was a most difficult endeavor, but it was also most rewarding.
After completing a year with Young Judaea, I knew I wanted to make Israel my home. I also knew that being in the Israeli army would help me assimilate. I had a good life in the United States and was already accepted into college (with scholarships). But I knew that if I didn’t take the plunge now, later on I might be too old for the army or I might build connections in America. My grandparents were olim too. In the 1970s they uprooted from America to establish Neve Ilan, a collective village a few miles from Jerusalem. I was inspired.
At 10, I became a Young Judaea camp addict. I would count the days until camp each school year. Those summers made up the sum of my connection to Judaism. My Baltimore family had a mild affiliation to the Reconstructionist movement. I did not go to a Jewish school, and neither did I have many Jewish friends — other than those from Young Judaea.
I eventually became director of youth education for Young Judaea Mazkirut, which led to me spend my gap year in Israel as a volunteer. I tutored Ethiopians and used my culinary know-how to open a soup kitchen in South Tel Aviv. Yet still, something was missing. Somehow it wasn’t enough for me to pat myself on the back for having gotten through the year so that I could check off the “Israel experience” box. I wanted the Israel experience to be my life experience. And that was when I decided I would enlist with the Israeli Defense Forces. I was told that the best way to get prepared for the army was to join a mechina. But there, our days were long. I was the only American; no one had heard of Baltimore.
But slowly, the classmates at the mechina — the same ones who mocked my Hebrew — became my adopted family. On free Shabbats, they took me into their homes when I had nowhere else to go. At the end, I knew I was ready to enlist in the army. Getting a top and challenging position involved a set of grueling tests and interviews. I made it. Last week, I formally became a soldier in the IDF. There’s a sense of triumph here. I fought to come to Israel, to learn Hebrew, to immerse in the culture and get into the army. My Israel experience has become my life experience as I am now a lone soldier. But I know I am not alone as I have received care packages and support from the FIDF Baltimore Chapter. I am looking forward to sharing my stories and saying, “Thank You” when I return to Baltimore on leave sometime in May 2014.

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