April 9, 2015

The power of giving

We are about to light our Yom Tov candles and enter into the eighth and final day of Pesach.

We started counting the Omer on the second night of Pesach. We will count up each night until we reach 49 and arrive at Shavuot, the giving of the Torah.

These seven weeks represent self growth we should be focusing on during this time. This first week is all about chesed or loving kindness.  We make our blessing every day of the first week, aspiring to focus on kindness. 

I happened to hiking though Nahal Dishon with Amir on Tuesday and saw an incredible act of kindess. Walking along a part of the Shvil Israel that is also a popular off road biking route, we saw a cyclist approaching a rocky stream bed. He was riding a tandem bike and a second biker was seated behind him. The biker went for it and splashed across the stream, spraying water. I looked at the cyclist pedaling behind him. She was a woman in bicycle garb with dark sunglasses.

Hikers and bikers
Then the next biker arrived. And another. One passenger on the back was not wearing sunglasses and I immediately could see he was blind. This whole group was comprised of seeing riders with blind passengers. The route was technical, rocky and uphill.

We walked on and passed a group of day hikers cheering on the cyclists, then saw a stranded cyclist fixing his chain. He explained that he was a volunteer with group called Ken Velo, which in Hebrew means ‘yes bicycle’ or 'yes and no,' referring to those who some can see and those who cannot. 

This cyclist's blind partner was holding the bike and chatting away, very excited to be out on the trail.

I did not know who I had more admiration for: the strong, confident bikers who could navigate this tricky uphill path and bring their passengers along safely; or the blind cyclists who clung onto the handlebars and pedaled without seeing the obstacles or the scenery along the way. 

I was in awe and very touched by everyone in this group. This was chesed, ultimate giving and receiving.

Aviva was also on the giving end of Pesach this year. Instead of sitting comfortably with family and friends to celebrate the seder, she volunteered to be at a seder with lone soldiers. These are soldiers who have no family and who have volunteered to be in the IDF. 

The army, with the help of generous donations, holds a seder for these 650 soldiers, offering to be their warm, extended family.

Aviva explained that the afternoon before Pesach, the whole group gathered and invited one Ukrainian solider up on stage. They asked him who he missed most and when he said his family, his father tapped him from behind on the shoulder. 

Father and son hugged while the entire group burst into tears. This soldier’s father had never been to Israel and could not afford the trip. The IDF secretly organized the reunion so they could be together.

Over the evening, Aviva met soldiers from any countries. They may have identified Jewishly in different ways but they all had one belief in common and that was a love of Eretz Israel. 

When we picked up Aviva after the yom tov, she told us she felt as if she had truly been liberated just as we aspire to do on the Passover seder.

“To be among so many people speaking so many languages and sharing one common love was liberating at a soul level,” she told us.

“I would not have missed this for anything.”

She may not have had the most halachic, traditional seder, but she had the opportunity to inspire and give and to be inspired.

Wishing you all a chag sameach.

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