THE OU’S NATIONAL YARCHEI KALLAH:POINTING THE WAY TO SPIRITUALITY-AND FUN!
By Naomi Soman
Naomi Soman is a junior at Williamsville North High School in Buffalo.
She is the Vice President of Publications for Upstate New York NCSY.
If you light a candle, the flame will always point up. It points up to the sun, the stars, the heavens; even if the candle is upside down, the flame will still point towards the sky. The NCSY | Jewish Youth Leadership logo has a flame in the center rising into the air. At the Orthodox Union’s National Yarchei Kallah, the NCSYers are like flames. As they consume knowledge, they burn upwards spiritually higher and higher towards God. Most teenagers spend their winter break shopping at the mall, watching television, and hanging out at home, but the teenagers who came to National Yarchei Kallah spent their winter break making Jewish friends from across North America, discussing Torah, and singing and dancing arm in arm. Spiritually, flame by flame, we built a fire together burning up towards God.
The National Convention was an ideal way for NCSYers and advisors to encourage each other to delve further into Judaism and become closer to God. From shiurim (classes taught by rabbis) and advisor chaburas (study groups) to inspirational speakers, we had several different learning opportunities throughout the day. In these discussion groups, we had the chance to ask questions and steer the conversation where we wanted it to go. We were the leaders and not just the listeners. Bouncing off each other’s ideas, we encouraged each other to learn while having fun at the same time.
However, after a day packed with learning and delicious food, we enjoyed swimming and arcade games at Sportime USA. The convention came to a peak on Shabbat in Teaneck, NJ, with dynamic circle times, interesting d’vrei Torah; regional cheers; a heartrending ebbing; and the grand finale, a Havdalah that no one will ever forget. From learning together to singing arm in arm, we all made countless memories at National Yarchei Kallah.
In this learning environment, the discussions focused on appreciation both in the Torah and in our own lives. The first sign of appreciation in the Torah is in the Garden of Eden. Rabbi Menachem Nissel spoke about the secrets of beauty, for not only do we need to appreciate the entire flora and fauna God created, but we also need to appreciate physical human beauty. Eve was the most beautiful woman in the world followed by Sarah, Rachel, and Queen Esther. Rabbi Nissel taught us that the even symmetry in our facial features reflects the harmony of God’s holy world, the world to come, and external beauty complements someone’s internal beauty. God made humans in his own image so that we could be grateful for physical beauty.
Later on, when Joseph fought with his jealous brothers, we learn to be thankful for our rivals. In a disagreement, only by appreciating our opponent’s point of view can we judge everyone favorably. The brothers envied Joseph; Joseph ignored his brothers’ anger. Without any mutual understanding, the two forces inevitably crash. As Bereshit comes to its conclusion and Shemot begins, Moshe Rabbeinu teaches us our third lesson in thankfulness. Moshe refused to hit the water to initiate blood, the first plague, because the water saved him from certain death as an infant.
Was Moshe thankful for the water? No, he appreciated God and all of God’s creations that help us every day. During our learning sessions, we discovered the Torah continuously shows us the importance of appreciating God, his creations, and each other.
The rabbi in my shiur told us that it’s great to learn about thankfulness, but if we do not internalize the message, its purpose remains meaningless. Thank you. This one simple word could make a huge difference. He told us to thank just one person. At first, I thought, this is ridiculous. Who am I going to thank? In the morning, however, the maid knocked on my door to clean my room. The words spilled out of my mouth before I thought about them. “Thank you,” I smiled at her, “I really appreciate that you clean our room every morning for us.” A grin stretched across her face and she nodded. Someone once told me to think of every single person as a whole world. By brightening just one person’s day, I could make a world of a difference. That day I understood. If we just appreciate all the small miracles God provides for us, then the world would be a much brighter place to live.
At National Yarchei Kallah, we discovered the power of appreciating God’s everyday miracles. Jewish teenagers had the opportunity to spend five days together learning Torah, davening, laughing, singing, and dancing, but if you asked any one of them how it was, he couldn’t possibly use words accurate enough to capture the experience. We learned not only to appreciate the Torah, but to appreciate each other. NCSY stands for the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, but it also stands for Nothing Can Stop You. At National Yarchei Kallah, one flame burns and then dies, but together, all the flames create a fire that burns on and on, higher and higher.
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