Last Sunday night, while many of you were sound asleep, my students and I made our way to the top of Mount Metzada (Massada). It was a bright night with a full moon shining above lighting our path as we climbed this significant milestone in our Jewish people’s history. We were on our way to experience the place where members of our great Jewish nation remained faithful to their chosen destiny. We were on our way to keep our promise to them, to vow that we would never forget them and remind them and ourselves that their untimely death was not in vain.
I had been to Metzada many times before. Something draws me personally to this place. I was one of them. I am one of them. Their blood runs through my veins. To walk again and again in the footsteps of the Zealots who were determined to keep their faith and remain defiant for as long as they could, makes my heart flutter. To roam along this flat top mountain, close my eyes and imagine myself as one of them, fills me with great pride. To share their joy of planting crops, educating the young ones about our Jewish history and to breath the air of freedom of being Jewish for as long as one could, is the fulfillment of the ancient and eternal promise of G-d to Am Yisrael. To stand there and look in the direction of Yerushalayim as we were sadly watching the clouds of smoke rising from the destroyed city of G-d yet knowing that the Eternal of Yisrael shall never lie, always filled my palate with that bittersweet taste that has ceaselessly been coating our Jewish essence.
On each visit to Metzada, I look down at the site of the Roman camps and wonder what it must have been like to watch them from above, try and guess their next moves and plans in their efforts to annihilate us. I imagine observing them and their thousands of slaves toiling to build the ramp alongside the western part of the mountain while worrying about our old and young frail ones and what fate awaits
Never, however, had I visited Metzada at night.
When we reached the top, I faced our ancient fortress under the moonlight. I was awestruck. The desert night had always bewitched me. Now, I was surrounded by its magnificence. Its recollections echoed against the walls of my beings.The cool air caressed my face. It soothed and cradled my soul in its ancient music.
As the first rays of the morning sun kissed the horizon, I sat on a rock as I had done in times gone by and counted my blessings. And there are many countless ones.
To be able to stand on top of Metzada as a Jew, as an Yisraeli Jew, in our Ancient/Modern Home and pledge our loyalty to our People and our Jewish heritage, to be able to vow "Again Metzada Shall Never Fall," however, is by far one of the greatest blessing of them all.
Wishing all of you Shabbat Shalom and Shavua tov.