GUEST EDITORIAL: Touched by the Experience

In the process of preparing our editorial, this letter came in from a reader, expressing the thoughts that were percolating in our minds. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. – Editors


I would like to thank the throngs of individuals who gave me renewed faith in the ability of our generation to bring Moshiakh:

To the young man (probably no more than 13 years old) who procured a program for me when I couldn’t find the Selikhos in my siddur. I was trying to read the unfamiliar words off of the papers of those around me, but that was hard, what with their swaying and, as I said, the words were not too familiar.

You could have just closed your eyes and focused on your tefillos but you couldn’t continue davening knowing that I, your brother whom you had met for the first time one hour before, was uncomfortable. So you either had the foresight to take a few programs for this type of situation or you made the effort right then and there to find one for me. You didn’t even expect to get reciprocation because I had no clue who you are. I still have no clue. I can’t thank you enough.

To those who helped me have kavanah that night when saying the words “Hareini mokhel l’khol mi she’hikh’is v’hiknit osi… bein b’oness, bein b’ratzon; bein b’shogeig, bein b’meizid…” in which I forgive all those who have hurt me in any way.

I would have appreciated standing in one place from beginning to end, but I understand your zeal. As I said, “Hareini mokhel eskhem b’leiv shaleim…” [I forgive with a whole heart…”]

I give thanks:

To the man standing behind me without a hat (and a kippah a bit different than mine) for proving my belief that this was not just an “Ultra-Orthodox” gathering, but an outpouring of ahavas Yisrael and achdus.

To the children (of all ages and stripes) who inspire(d) me; some with their mature seriousness and some with their enthusiastic energy.

To those who helped me see my own shortcomings, my lack of ahavas chinam, because I realized that I would rather have been seen and have been with more people from my particular sect. I guess I still have to work on this.

To the many volunteers who sacrificed their own experience (i.e., being in the thick of thousands) to stand alone behind the barricades and make sure that we were all safe.

To the organizers who did such an amazing job putting together such an orderly gathering in such a short period of time.

To the NYPD, MTA, other agencies and their respective employees for coordinating, and enabling us to have such a wonderful event in the heart of downtown Manhattan.

The greatest part, though, was simply being with the people around me: To my right were a bunch of chassidishe fellows (who stood with decorum).

In front of me and to my right were a group of Sephardi kids with their rebbi. In front of them were Litvishe bachurim. To my back-right was a Sephardi man who enhanced my tefillos with the way he said them so beautifully and with such intensity. Behind me was a yeshivishe guy with a sefer. As we were waiting to begin he reopened his sefer and commented to someone, “Every piece in here is gold, mamash gold!”

After all of these feelings have washed over me I realize that for each one of the things mentioned above, and for every second of the approximately two hours I spent in Manhattan this Sunday, I must thank Hashem more than I possibly can. He is the One Who caused all of these experiences, and He is the One Who opened my eyes to them. But all the writing in the world cannot properly thank Him, so I will just say two words: BARUKH HASHEM!

Yehonason Sternberg