From the Desk - Trip to Jerusalem
Shalom Friends! I hope this email finds you all well, wherever you are! The Montreal air is as cold as ever and is keeping my cold from finally going away! This is the first email to the community since Dovid and I were privileged to visit Jerusalem for a week. We had such a special time, connecting to places which are so important to Judaism, Jewish history and to my own personal history. Here are some highlights from our trip. On our first day in Jerusalem, we had an incredible tour around the Old City with our guide, Lee Glassman who connected the stories and sites to parts of Dovid's Bar Mitzvah sedra and Haftorah! Here is Dovid standing in the site of an ancient mikveh!
On the second day of our trip, we walked around the "City of David", seeing ancient excavations from thousands of years ago. We then took a "Kotel Tunnel Tour" and stood beneath the Holy of Holies (the most sacred section of the Temple). On the third day, we celebrated Dovid's friend's Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel. Dovid said that the highlight of his trip was davening on Friday night at the Kotel. There were thousands of Jews - Chassidim, soldiers, people of all different backgrounds and ethnicities - singing the beautiful Friday night service. It reminded me of Beth Ora! On Sunday morning, we visited the Israel Museum. There was a special exhibition about the Rambam, one of the greatest rabbis of Jewish history. We got to see manuscripts with Rambam's own signature as well as a manuscript of one of his earliest works which is attributed to his own handwriting!
On Sunday afternoon, we went to an amazing little museum in Beit Shemesh called the Biblical Museum of Natural History. We saw skeletons of some of the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects that are mentioned in the Bible. We also had fun with some real live snakes and other smaller animals.
We returned to Yerushalayim and immediately embarked on a completely different kind of walking tour. Our guide was Rabbi Benji Levin, the grandson of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the famous "Tzaddik of Yerushalayim". Rabbi Benji took us on a tour of some of the streets of Yerushalayim and told us stories of some of the great people who lived there and, especially stories of his grandfather, Rabbi Aryeh. Rabbi Aryeh had been close to Menachem Begin. Dovid had just done a presentation at school about Menachem Begin so he was very excited to learn that Begin had traveled to America to be present at Rabbi Benji's Bar Mitzvah!
Rabbi Benji told me that he was once a guest speaker at Beth Ora, shortly after Rabbi Jablon started here. But, it turned out that this was not the extent of his connection with our congregation. At the end of the tour, we went into Rabbi Benji's synagogue, which was originally the synagogue of Rabbi Aryeh Levin. When we arrived, Rabbi Benji showed me the following certificate that he had found in his shul:
The certificate mentioned a Sefer Torah that had been dedicated by the Jewish community of Cairo in memory of Eliahu Hakim and Eliahu Beit-Zury - two members of the Zionist paramilitary organization, known as the Stern Gang. The certificate says that, in 5743 (1982), the Sefer Torah "was handed over by the "Beit Ora" Congregation in Montreal, Canada, to the Ahdut Israel Synagogue in Jerusalem"! It then adds "On this solemn occasion, a fraternal covenant was entered into by the two congregations and sealed with the blood of these heroes thus strengthening the bond between the Diaspora and the Land of Israel." And here the two congregations were connected again as their two rabbis completed an inspiring tour at the end of a special trip to the world's holiest city. What miraculous times we live in! Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami