I was 18 years old when I came to Israel for my gap year. I explored life and ended up discovering my Judaism.
My friends and I came to the Old City in Jerusalem to attend an all-night learning program for Shavuot (the Jewish holiday celebrating the Jewish People receiving the Torah). I absorbed every word, and still recall some of the content of those classes to this day.
We then continued on to the Kotel (the Western Wall) at sunrise to pray. In that moment, I experienced absolute clarity that I wanted to lead a Torah-based life.
That moment led me to make choices and decisions that have paved the way of my journey. I married a man with the same aspirations - to lead an orthodox life, and to live in Israel. My life came full circle from that moment on Shavuot all those years earlier when my son enrolled in a 6-year combined Yeshiva and IDF program.
I sometimes wonder what direction my life would have taken had I not stumbled onto this path - had my friends made other plans on Shavuot over our gap year.
This week, a year after my mom’s passing, I see her hand in my journey. My mom was orphaned at a young age. Despite not having much of a connection with Torah Judaism, she ingrained a strong sense of right and wrong in me. She taught me to always live life with purpose, and how to make things happen when they are important to me.
Thanks to those values that she instilled in me, it is no surprise that when I discovered Torah-based Judaism, I chose to make it the anchor of my life.
As we prepare for Shavuot, may we all find that anchor to bring meaning and direction to our lives.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach