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Who are the 10 most influential Jews and what does the answer to this question say about us?

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Wow. So many graduation ceremonies are taking place these days together with so many beautiful farewell speeches. This is how Rabbi Ilai Ofron summarized the year at the Ruach Chadashah pre-military training school. His message is relevant to all of us:

At the beginning of the year, he said, trainees are asked to choose the ten Jews who, in their opinion, had the greatest influence on the Jewish people. During the last week of their studies, the trainees are asked the same question. The change is amazing. If Ilan Ramon, Eli Cohen, Miriam Peretz, Viktor Frankl, Amnon Shashua, and Roi Klein appear on the list at the beginning of the year, at the end of the year, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the Rambam, the Baal Shem Tov, and Rabbi Yosef Karo are on the list instead. By the way, Ben-Gurion and Herzl appear on the list at both the beginning and the end of the year.

This is how Rabbi Ofron explains it: "During a year of learning Torah, they discover 2,000 years of a Jewish world that they did not know well enough. They leave a perspective of history highlighted by Bible stories and the War of Independence in 1948 and discover a rich history of our people in between. They stop trying to be find sophisticated answers to their questions and return to simplicity. And the main thing is that they stop seeing themselves as the center of the universe. The reason that half of the figures they choose at the beginning of the year are from the present century is connected to seeing the Jewish people from their own limited personal perspective: whoever has a direct and immediate effect on me. After a year of hard work, they discover that they are not necessarily the center of the universe. Several years ago, a couple came to see me regarding preparations for the Bar Mitzvah of their son and said: "It's important to us that for one evening he will truly feel that he's the center of attention." I answered them that a healthy child always feels this way, even 'a little too much.' A Bar Mitzvah is an excellent opportunity to begin to understand that you are not the center of the universe."

Have a pleasant vacation.


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