By Sholom Rosner
As soon as we entered the Holland Tunnel, the excitement in our van had become palpable.
Once again, Rabbi Moshe Feiglin had planned another adventure that would deepen our connection with yiddishkeit, bring us closer together as friends, and allow us to have a relaxing time away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
You see, this wasn’t just another camping trip with friends; this was an Aliya Shabbaton. Soon we’d be free from the concrete and bricks, nestled comfortably among the mountains and trees, at the center of Rabbi Meir and Rivkie Borenstein in Goshen, NY.
When we arrived Friday afternoon, we found ourselves warmly greeted by our wonderful host, Rabbi and Mrs. Bornstein. After unloading the car and settling in, we were whisked away to a pool where we could toivel and prepare ourselves for Shabbos. Soon thereafter, dressed in our finest clothes, with smiles white and wide, we davened Mincha and Kabbolos Shabbos with our very own Rabbi Mendy Baitz leading the service throughout. Upon finishing services we made Kiddush in unison before beginning our Seudah and sating ourselves with scrumptious Shabbos food.
The next morning, we got to see Rabbi Borenstein in action as he connected with and inspired his very loyal congregants and us. While our own Leibel Gordon delivered the dvar torah between kria and musaf, we got to experience firsthand the efforts of Rabbi Borenstein’s mesiras nefesh by mingling with the baalai baatim and mekuravim he has made over the years.
When we joined them for Kiddush on Shabbos day, we got to see the power of one individual to transform and spur growth among the people that surround them. It was mamash a michaya. The local congregants really enjoyed the kiddush with our Aliya members and everyone really connected very nicely. It’s always a special experience to see the warmth Chabad shares with the world and this was another great example we could all learn from.
After sending off the Shabbos Malka with Havdala, we made our way to the campgrounds for a night of camping and bonfire under the stars. The morning came soon for us as Rabbi Feiglin roused us from our sleeping bags to daven shachris between a beautiful pond and the forest that surrounded our campsite.
“Tefillin for Israel” rang through the air as one by one we donned our Tefilin and began our prayers.
After davening we all gathered in the rope course to climb, swing, and fly to our hearts’ content. As the rabbi climbed the tree to the zip-line it became apparent that Rabbi Feiglin not only had the wisdom of a man befitting his position but the vigor of a young man half his age. After a full morning of swinging from ropes like a group of street level superheroes, we had a BBQ and then we made our way to the arena to play.
After three tough games between our teams, once our ammo was all depleted and we were covered in enough paint to pass for modern art, we packed up our supplies and got back into the car. As we stopped for one last photo of our group outside of the campsite, I felt a sense of elation pass over me as if there was a voice screaming Eureka! all around me.
This weekend didn’t just bring us closer to yiddishkeit, or make us better friends, it showed us what had been peeking out from the veil the entire time, daring us: a truth, a calling, that we are and can be beacons of hope to all those around us, that getlichkeit permeates every facet of existence regardless of its manifestation, screaming from the bottom of our neshamas to heed the call of action to reveal the potential good in all around us. This weekend wasn’t just a respite from our daily lives, but a reminder that our daily lives carry more weight and meaning than we can comprehend.
Special thank you too all the Rabbis of Aliya for always being there for us and giving us such a unique and unforgettable experience!