In the next few days, MTA 2018 will end. It was a year of beneficial experiences, a year of self-development and hopefully a positive upgrade of our emotional and spiritual maturity. When experiencing a development with a cohort, its end can often be an emotional one. After all, you spend a year with certain individuals, growing in your respective institutions. It will be emotional, without a doubt, as we watch some people depart to the airport back to South Africa and Australia. Essentially, we will be dispersed to our respective communities. However, this is exactly what can remind us of how connected we are. We strive to be the leaders, at least for the youth of our community. We are added to the network of young religious Jewish leaders around the globe in our respective communities who impact the lives of those around us. It is through this perspective, that we can possibly compartmentalise these promising and hopeful thoughts at the same time of the departure of our friends. This idea was highlighted in the second and final Bnei Hachshara Seminar at the beginning of October in Eilat (a seminar with all the different Bnei programs from around the world). We trekked the landscape of Israel’s majestic south; beautiful sights and scenery. Tiyulim in Israel are great too. They’re not just a hike; the very land you stand on is alive with biblical history. Personally, I find the Tanach tiyulim an enriching process alongside learning about those very things in our respective institutions. We also had the opportunity to go tubing on the Red sea which was an absolutely engaging and wild activity. It was definitely something. At the same time, we got a feel of what the Bnei Akiva young network was, and the tremendous influence that it has on Jewish communities worldwide. In some communities, Bnei is the lifeline for the continuation of Modern-Orthodoxy and seeing this was remarkable. Towards the end of the year, we also had the final AZYC seminar. This experience was also important as it reminded us that our community is a collection of different youth movements with idiosyncratic ideologies. Yet, it is these very distinctions that allow each youth movement to bring unique qualities to events and discussions together.
Indeed, this year was a ‘selfish’ year.It was a year for us to soak up every single word that benefits us. However, it was necessary as it solidified our individual cocoons of self-development before we are able to give to other people; like Bnei in Australia. Each specific institution on MTA provides something unique for the individuals who attend it. For me in Gush, the learning experience was unique. I spent a large amount of my time in the Beit Midrash, developing my Talmudic skills, or delving into books that ameliorated my connection with G-d. This investment has tremendously benefitted me. ‘Avodat Hashem’ and ‘Yirat Hashem’ – to serve and fear Hashem-, are terms that I carry around in my pocket now. Before this year, I didn’t grasp the endless breadth and depth of these concepts. This is one reason I am grateful that I chose MTA.
In fact, we recently had an MTA Shabbat in Tel Mond. We visited the home of an MTA alumnus from 30 years ago, who shared the following idea: There are two types of individuals who go on MTA: The first, runs into someone else who went on MTA and reminisces about the memories and experiences they shared. They usually say “Wow, I remember my time on MTA”, and list the people of that year. MTA was a powerful experience for them. The other individual says that MTA was the foundation and platform for their Judaism. For this individual, MTA was not just an experience, but was a pedestal for the continuation of their learning. The year of MTA cemented their values as young Modern-Orthodox Jews.
His observation really touched me, as it spoke true to the mission I intended to pursue at the beginning of this year. Here I was, witnessing a product of MTA from over 30 years ago, still dedicated to their Judaism and to their pursuit of growth. He really embodied the message of ‘The day after’. MTA is not just the pursuit of theoretical discussions of Jewish values. It’s the way you act the day after you finish MTA which is real testament to the content you adopt into your network of values throughout an entire year. The day after MTA is when your values are actualised as you step into the outside world. The decision to actualise is yours alone; to act or not to act. This choice has consequences; positive and negative. This very responsibility is inspiring as well as frightening.
These are some of the messages I gained from MTA. It provided the necessary framework for me personally to flourish; an environment where people embodied my values and actualised them on a daily basis. MTA goes by so quickly. Anyone will tell you that. This program is structured for you to flourish. It creates a platform for you to continue to grow after it finishes. It is up to you to make the most of it.
See you soon!
Eddy Lichtig, Melbourne, MTA, Gush