Friday, April 03, 2020

Sivan Rahav-Meir, the well-known and well-regarded Israeli news anchor and inspirational author/lecturer, brought her unique perspective to Middlesex County recently when she served as guest speaker at the Melave Malka held to support the Lefkovits Family Park Mikvah in Highland Park. The event took place at Congregation Ohr Torah in Edison.

Edison resident Dena Lieblich noted that she had heard Rahav Meir speak in Israel and was looking forward to hearing her present in English. Rosanne Koenigson, also of Edison, came for “all good things”—to support the mikvah, see friends and hear a great speaker.

Event chair Sara Scott of Edison noted how gratified she was to see the women of the community provide such strong support to the mikvah. Funds raised have gone to offer classes on taharat hamishpacha to the community, and to provide mikvah staff with training on mikvah laws and how to recognize abuse.

Rahav-Meir took the stage and joked that with all the talk in Israel about elections, it would be a pleasure to spend the next hour talking about other things.

She noted that she is a seventh-generation Israeli who knew nothing about religious Jewish observance, having grown up in a secular home. Her talent for writing and journalism emerged when she was very young. While most of her friends were good at sports or crafts, her gift was writing. She began to write poems and stories and for the first time in her life was better at something than anyone else. She noted that this is a life lesson for all of us: We tend to focus on our failures when we should be concentrating on our successes.

Published in a children’s magazine at a young age, she followed with frequent submissions involving interesting interviews of her classmates. When Israeli television added new channels in the ’90s, opportunities opened up and a program seeking a youth reporter hired the young Rahav-Meir, noting that she met all the criteria: secular, politically left, Ashkenazi and from the center of Israel.

While covering a Bnei Akiva youth conference, Rahav-Meir met some religious Jews for the first time in her life. When they invited her to spend Shabbat with them, she did so to cover it as an investigative journalist. She noted that she was surprised by the rush and panic caused by the announcement that it was only “15 minutes until Shabbat.”

For the first time she experienced Shabbat with no external distractions. At first she thought her hosts were crazy to set aside everything for Shabbat, but she began to see the treasure that religious observance was and came to realize that the pre-Shabbat panic was caused by devotion and not insanity. She also observed that while Shabbat seemed to consist of a large number of “nos,” in reality, the “nos” made up a large “yes.” One can focus on the “no” and never see the beauty of the “yes.” While there appear to be many restrictions in religious observance, Rahav Meir noted that there is real freedom in the laws of Shabbat and family purity.

She began to increase her level of observance gradually after that weekend and even met her future husband when she attended a party that was specifically held on a Saturday night after Shabbat was over. When she arrived, the party’s host said he had to introduce her to the other “crazy” person who was observant.

Rahav-Meir raised the topic of social media and the stranglehold it has on our lives, noting that there have always been challenges to being able to work, be a wife and mother and be observant. Society has become addicted to the internet world of keeping up with others by posting pictures of every positive aspect of our lives. Privacy is a Jewish value, yet every private moment is posted for the world to see online. She noted that the way to defeat this addiction to showing off your life is to specifically strengthen the private parts of your life and do things that don’t require posting publicly. Spend more time sharing something only with your spouse or only with God. If you must share, share the beauty of Shabbat with those who may be unfamiliar with it.

The Lefkovits Family Park Mikvah was founded in 1969, and has undergone several remodeling projects to create a beautiful, welcoming space. For more information, visit https://parkmikvah.org.