The following is a translated excerpt of the speech given at the mechina graduation in June by Rabbi Yoav Ende, Rosh Mechina and Executive Director, Hannaton Education Center.
To sum up a year so full of excitement, learning, hard work, amazing highs, and also, of course, some challenges is not an easy task. You are members of the fourth cohort of Hannaton’s mechina program and you experienced a lot this year.
You received and gave of yourselves and we were with you on this journey – with you and beside you. Today you join the community of our graduates which now comprises some 122 men and women. But I want to talk to you today as individuals and to tell you some things that only now, after so much learning, will be clear to you, despite their complexity.
This week, we read the parsha of Shlach, in which we are told the story of the spies who came to tour the country and see the land.
The spies are unable to dream. They see themselves as so small compared to the giants in front of them – “we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.”
Even though you accomplished great achievements this year, we must not think of ourselves as “great” or “chosen” — for the best youth come from all strata of society, not just from mechinot. That said, your commitment to being in action and to contributing to society, means that each of you are special and capable people, and you should not minimize your potential or your ability to change our society for the better.
The children of Israel blow their mission. And we must take heed of this as our mission is not assured us – we have the right and the ability, but the actual realization depends on us, on our willingness, our efforts and our behavior. The right to the land does not guarantee us the land, but rather places on us obligations which, if not met, we will understand that this country, as the midrash explains, was given to us conditionally.
This country would not have arisen without dreamers. And you – do not stop dreaming! It is unrealistic not to dream! Aim higher, strive to achieve, believe in the possibilities – and at the same time, stay connected to the land and the people living in it. Do not let the dream blind you to the day to day and the people who are beside you, regardless of what your role is. And on the other hand, do not let the day to day and your fears prevent you from dreaming – always strive to move forward.
One word we talked a lot about this year is pluralism. Pluralism does not end with the acceptance of the various religious streams in this country, even though this is very important. Pluralism is broader than this – it’s a way society understands how to live together, to see the differences as the ideal, and not as a compromise. To understand that while one language and sameness may be enticing for some of us, this is not the human reality. Pluralism is relevant to us and to the other. Pluralism connects us to our non-Jewish neighbors. Pluralism is about understanding with humility that I do not possess the entire truth and that the person standing opposite me may have something to teach me.
“Who is wise? One who learns from every person.”
“Both these and these are the words of the living God.”
At the same time, and in the same breath we must strive for the truth and not give up. We need to find the right way, as individuals and as a society.
I know you will not give up working towards the right path, while at the same time deeply respecting different ideas and people who hold different views from your own. And you will come to understand that not only do we need to hear them, but also to understand them and know how to speak the language of others.
And now, dear students, some final words.
You are going to defend our country in a variety of places and roles.
Go in peace and return in peace and may God protect you on your paths.
And now in the “singular male,” but addressed to each one of you:
May God bless and keep you.
May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
And may God lift up his countenance to you and give you peace.