Leah’s Blog Parashat Vayikra 2023
Vayikra – How is Tefillin used as armory- March 2023
You’ve probably seen pictures of the rift in public spirit these days in Israel. Lots of flag wavers and passion for the allegiance to a Jewish and Democratic state. Do these ideas conflict? There are those that call all nationalists chauvinists and the other side sees the dire need for reform in order to not be ruled over by a thin atheistic capital of power dictating here. Especially if they do not even know the first thing about being Jewish- we DID say- Israel- a Democratic and JEWISH state. Israel is experiencing growing pains. If you’ve ever been here you’ve seen the palatial glass skyscrapers of Ramat Gan and the modernized systems of highways and supermarkets bulging with KOL TUV. It’s been some time now we’ve surpassed many modern nations in the foreground. So, zehoo? We’ve reached GEULAH? Not yet. WE have a dire need to preserve our Jewish heritage before it crumbles away.
Just over the hill, (literally) a vast and ancient legacy that runs through the middle of Israel from the north to the south- the LAND COVENANT PLACES of the foundation of the Jewish people – from Shechem in the north to Chevron in the south with Jerusalem smack in the middle on the mountains- a place still underdeveloped and sadly neglected. THE HEART OF ISRAEL. There are heroes that live here that do not consider their own comfort or honor. Their courage is breathtaking- I am blessed to know some. David and Rachel Stern are a couple who came with ideals to live a life of valor on a barren hilltop- their goal- to bring it back to life. Dave, an ex -Marine wraps his Tefillin on his right arm over his old tatoos – he is a lefty- and dons a knitted kippah, the scraggily kind, the color of earth- the earth he so loves and tills on their farm. Rachel, a tiny powerhouse is always making me thank G-d she came into my life; an incredible person of sense and fortitude. Rachel for all I know is the gilgool of Rachel immeinu- a beauty coming with the sheep. You have to love her.
These two in their names alone tell you how the story goes- regal and connected to their Judaism. It is their memory that caused each one to leave the place they were born and come here. They did not forget the promise to return home and their journey here is a story of overcoming obstacles. Parshat Vayikra is all about sacrifice. I have written on this blog about the Fogel massacre on this very parsha of the horrific nightmare of human sacrifice when a whole family were murdered in the beds here in Itamar. But we are shifting in the spheres now. The LIVING sacrifice of strength in the face of audacity, of endurance in the face of chilling determination to murder us was met by Dave and Rachel at the terror traffic circle in Huwara this week. Bullets entered Dave’s scalp and shoulder -bullets met bullets in Dave’s swift response of JEWISH PRIDE and STRENGTH- he fought back. Rachel told me she dreamt about hyenas biting her just nights before. Our minds are overflowing here while the wind howls on the mountain, your imagination doesn’t trick you because these are real things. Out of our way jackals, hyenas. Keep the wild orcs out of our path! Don’t let them run in our direction! Our arms are ready to perform – wearing tefillin as armor.
Patriotism is a strong force. It can make you do strange and heroic things. Dave and Rachel introduce us into a new story. The theme of it- when times are unpredictable and you need to “travel through the dark woods of Huwara”, you know it’s only one aspect of the story. Underneath it- a rich history of legacy- they are paving the path to it! We are certain we will arrive at the deeper level of why we are here in this country- Israel- Eretz Yisrael- what we have been praying for- for our past- for our future. This story of Rachel and Dave is the symbol of the shift in this present time. They are not endangering their lives by being here- they are enabling all of us to live freely in our land.