Three Unforgettable First Time in Life Experiences during This Passover Vacation

During this Passover vacation I had three unforgettable first time in life experiences. Even one such event is something that doesn't happen every Monday and Thursday, so experiencing three such events in one single week is a rarity, especially if all of them concern myself, though two of them indirectly.

The first first time in life experience during this vacation was witnessing the cultimanition of a process called aliya, or immigration to Israel, of someone very close to me. I had the privilege of accompanying this whole process, sometimes by giving advice from my own experience of making aliya. The first stage in the process was the most difficult one in retrospect - to find all the necessary official documents testifying her Jewishness in a country whose former regime tried to eradicate or at least oblitarate Jewishness. But after a long labor that didn't seem to come to its end she succeeded to prove her Jewishness. The second stage - to apply for an immigrant visa at the embassy of Israel in the capital of that country - was far simpler and quicker than she had feared. And the third and last one - to actually come to and enter Israel as a new immigrant - was even simpler and quicker, including the bureaucratic procedure at Ben-Gurion Airport.

It was so symbolic that she made aliya one day before the start of the Passover, that is, this aliya was a kind of Exodus for her. It was even more symbolic that the first seder she attended (together with me) for the first time after her aliya was also her first seder in her entire life! Even more touching was the fact that her mother, who made a one-week visit here during this Passover, joined us and celebrated seder for the first time in her life, too! I don't know how they felt during and after their first seder in life, but when I look back and think about my first experience in 1989, I'm sure there will come a day years later when they'll also look back and remember this first time in life experience of theirs as their precious experience.

And the third event directly concerned me (and still keeps exciting me). I never believed I would ever experience this in this reincarnation of mine. It's a kind of rite of passage leading to another, more important, rite of passage, both of which require a collaborator, so to speak. Especially because it was done in a traditional Jewish, or to be more precise, Ashkenazi, manner and also joined by my closest frum Jewish friends as well as my two Jewish spiritual mentors, I felt and still feel for the first time that the collective Jewish past has become a full-fledged part of my individual Jewish present.


Three Types of Health for a Modern Man

I'm starting to realize gradually and belatedly that physical health alone is not enough for a modern man in order to lead a healthy life but I haven't invested enough thought and practice in two other, no less important types of health for a modern man - mental health and financial health. Though physical health may be the foundation for the other two types of health, the three influence each other.

Compared to physical health, for which I've been investing for years by doing three types of physical exercises (bodyweight strength training for muscle strength, running and swimming for cardiovascular endurance, and stretching and yoga for flexibility), my mental health fares far less well. The first "exercise" I started for it is the study of Musar, which is commonly translated as 'Jewish ethics' but is actually theoretical study of human character traits and its practical application to improve your negative character traits. A few years ago I was invited to start participating in a weekly Musar lecture by one of the few haredi rabbis in Jerusalem engaged in Musar, who in the meanwhile has even become my spiritual mentor.

Ironically, the more Musar I have studied, the more I've come to suffer mentally, which is not supposed to be what Musar is meant to do. This is because the study of Musar has made me become far more sensitive to verbal and nonverbal behaviors of other people, especially insensitive ones. Unfortunately, insensitive behaviors are the norm rather than exceptions in Israeli society. Last year my mental health deteriorated so seriously that I started to stop functioning normally in the interpersonal relationship, until I had to receive psychological counseling for half a year. One of its positive outcomes was something I hadn't expected at all, and fortunately, it has been helping me maitain my mental health.

Since I was a child, I was fully aware of my physical health, paradoxically because I was very small and poor at sports. It's only rather recently that I've started to think about my financial health, which was quite good in my childhood thanks to my parents and has remained alright since then. But I find myself now in a blessed situation to have to think about the financial health not only of my own but also beyond this minimal family unit in both short and long terms.

I've learned many important lessons of life from my parents, but I'm sorry financial planning isn't one of them. Again ironically, since my parents grew up in severe poverty, they didn't want me and my sister to suffer from the same problem. As a result they rather pampered us financially and never taught us the important lesson of financial health they themselves had learned on their own flesh on their way out of poverty. Now I'm studying what I should have started to learn or be taught years ago in order to ensure lasting financial health.