Rabbi Nanus' Shabbat Message - June 21, 2024

  • Clergy
  • Shabbat
Rabbi Nanus' Shabbat Message - June 21, 2024

Over the last few years, I have written my Shabbat message in many different forms and styles. Sometimes it was a teaching, sometimes it was a commentary; sometimes it was a personal reflection, or a call to action, or a political opinion. This time, I am not writing it all.
Instead, I would like you to hear from Ronnie Britton - an elegant, erudite, African-American writer, translator and poet in his 60’s who has lived in Paris and is fluent in French, was raised Christian, and discovered that he has a Jewish soul. He had explored many paths, many religions and beliefs, and finally came to understand that Judaism spoke to him like nothing else did.

After completing our Choosing Judaism program 4 years ago, Ronnie changed his name to Ya’akov and joined my adult B’nei Mitzvah class because he wanted to study Torah, learn Hebrew and deepen the unexplainable connection he felt with the Jewish people and our 3000-year-old Jewish heritage. One of the highlights of our time together was when I took him and another student to the Chabad store on Fairfax to buy their first tallit. As Ya’akov wrapped himself in the simple blue and white prayer shawl, he absolutely glowed.

As he continued to strengthen his Jewish identity, Ya’akov’s heart began to tell him that he must live in Israel. That even though he’d never been there, Israel is where he belonged and where he would find the fulfillment and completion that he’s always searched for. Ya’akov began the process of Aliyah and nothing deterred him. If anything, the tragedy of October 7 strengthened his resolve to live in Eretz Yisrael and stand strong with the Jewish people.

A few weeks ago, I received this letter from him and he gave me permission to share it.

Dear Rabbi,

I thought you might like to hear that although I have not yet made Aliyah (due to government paperwork I am still awaiting from Europe) I did make a trip there last month; it was a kind of reconnaissance mission to test the waters and experience for myself what the actual atmosphere might be.
I was so thrilled to witness such an overwhelming sense of calm and peaceful feeling. I walked all over Tel Aviv (looking for my future neighborhood!) and Jerusalem.  I took public transportation like I’d been taking it all my life.  I didn’t hear one air raid siren, saw no demonstrations or soldiers patrolling the streets.
Of course, there were lots of soldiers but they mostly seemed to be en route to or from their posts.  But they were also so young it made me sad.  From the time my plane landed at Ben Gurion until the evening I left, people were so welcoming, so warm to me.  It must have been the Magen David I always wear.  The guy who rented me the tiny beachfront studio I stayed in (a glorified closet really!) welcomed me to Israel as a “future citizen.”  And I felt like one.  
Traveling to Israel as a Jew strengthened the bond I already felt.  The immigration official wished me “Chag Semeach” (it was Passover) when I entered the country. When I left, the young passport control official asked if I had an Israeli passport.  “Not yet,” I replied.  “But I will.”

I was really sad upon leaving.  The connection was so intense, something so real to me I felt I could almost wrap my heart around it.  Emotionally I did.

I am often asked if I had a “good time” in Israel.  I tell everyone it was so much more than that.  Hardly merely a “good time” but a glimpse of my life to come; something powerful and so beautiful it almost belies expression.

I am coming to Resnick this Friday for Shabbat services.  See you then!



Whatever we hear, whatever we read, whatever we think. It’s only when we go there that we know.

Shabbat Shalom and Am Yisrael Chai,