In the summer of 2010, my father and I led our respective synagogues on a trip to Israel. Besides the typical tours of Masada, Golan Heights, and Old City of Jerusalem, we searched for the local stories that were not in the headlines at the time. Day after day, we witnessed a small crowd of people under a white tent, set up in front of the Prime Minister’s residence. We saw a man in a black t-shirt and jeans greeting all those who approached him. His name was Noam Shalit, and his son Gilad Shalit, had been help captive by Hamas for the last few years. Noam was a father, not only praying for his son’s return, but actively pursuing a way for his son to sit again at the family Shabbat table.
Through his activism, Gilad Shalit was freed after six years in captivity.
This week, Noam Shalit passed away after a battle with Leukemia. I will never forget the actions of Noam Shalit on a personal, national, and international level.
Tomorrow, we will remove three Torah scrolls from the ark. One for Parashat Tazria, a second for Rosh Chodesh, and a third for Shabbat HaChodesh, where we welcome the month of Nisan. The Torah teaches, hachoadesh hazeh lachem, this month should be for you. Sforno explains that from now on, we will have authority in how to organize our days. This is in contrast to our slavery in Egypt, where we had no freedom to set our own timetable. While enslaved, our days, hours, and even minutes were at the beck and call of our taskmasters.
I will always remember staying up all night when the news broke of Gilad Shalit’s release from prison. I watched in the early morning hours the initial embrace between father and son, Noam and Gilad. It was a modern Exodus; it was a modern miracle; it was the story of the Jewish people; and it was the story of Shabbat HaChodesh. In 2022, we have a proud State of Israel, where we as a Jewish people organize our days, set our own timetable, and are at the beck and call of our own hearts and souls. Nissan is a time of renewal. Let us not take for granted how we live our Jewish lives today. Seforno, living in the 15th century, was commenting on his reality, without a Jewish State. He could never have imagined the blessings we have today.