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Welcoming words by the hostess of Matan Circle of Friends Annual Supper
Noomi Lifschitz

The following was said at a dinner in honor of Friends of Matan, 8 Adar 5770/February 22nd 2010

Distinguished Rabbis and Rabbaniyot, Honored Guests!

I did not think I would be the one to address you tonight. I thought my husband David would do this - as usual - but this time he was adamant that I have to speak. I could have skipped my words of greeting, but I decided I did want to say a few words, specifically about Matan.
We have just celebrated the 10th anniversary of our Aliya. I was a returnee, but David is a genuine Oleh, who kept his promise to bring me back here. I thought about the venue for marking ten beautiful years of our life, and we happened to come across the date of the festive Friends of Matan Dinner, on which we have the opportunity to celebrate with our beloved friends. It is an honor and a pleasure to be here with you this evening.
One year ago exactly, at the dinner for Friends of Matan, Rabbi Epstein asked me why I study at Matan. I cannot remember my exact reply, but I do ask myself that question once in a while. When I am asked how I got to Matan, the answer is simple yet true:
A. I wanted to learn. After many years of geographical and cultural distance from the center of Jewish spiritual life, I arrived in Jerusalem, which was the right thing for me to do.
B. I consulted a few friends and accepted Rachelle Isserow's suggestion to study at Matan.
C. The third reason was prosaic: close to home, 10 minutes away, decent parking.
The question regarding why I remain at Matan is more difficult, and I will try to explain briefly. I would like to recall what I have learned here so far.
I have never considered the number of years I have been studying at Matan, but I think this is my sixth year. Over those six years I have studied themes which are seemingly unrelated.
I began my studies with Neta Shapira, who taught me Sefer Daniel. I think I chose to study Daniel because I had never had the chance before. Neta Shapira is a lecturer - a wonderful instructor, and through her class I discovered new ways and new tools I could use to bridge so many gaps. My learning experience that year made it clear to me that a revolution was happening without my noticing in the world of women's learning, and how close I was to missing the opportunity to take part in this revolution.
After Neta I spent two years studying the Tanaim with Yael Shlosberg. Over these two years a window has been opened to the world which determined our way of life for the past 2000 years. I spent the following two years studying in the "Rimonim" Jewish philosophy program, a multifaceted program with fabulous lecturs on film, literature, art, philosophy, Gemara, and more. I studied with Rabbi Daniel Epstein and Osnat Braverman-Shilo who run the program in the most thorough and interesting way possible. This year I have been taking a class on Midrash with Rabbi Daniel Epstein, following a Bible oriented creative writing and meditation group led by Avigail Antman and Ayelet Weider-Cohen.
I would not be exaggerating if I said I wait all week for Wednesday morning - this would be neither an overstatement nor flattery.
I have described here but a fracture of what Matan has to offer. If I so desire, there are programs I could attend for a good many years to come.
But the learning is not the only component in my desire to be at Matan. It is the attention to detail: atmosphere, location, the framework for each class, and the innovation - not a "fashionable" innovation, but one which renews study and knowledge. A lot of thought is put into each activity, and of course the best people are involved. This is a big part of the reason I study at Matan.
Two years ago exactly we inaugurated the circle of Friends of Matan. This is the third time we gather in our home for a festive dinner in honor of Matan.
This dinner of Friends of Matan is dedicated to a special program run by Matan, the mother-daughter Bat mitzvah Program: "Jewish Women through the Ages". I would like to share this experience with you as well.
Two years ago we celebrated the Bat Mitzvah of our oldest granddaughter. About a year before Tal reached Bat Mitzvah age I gave her "Bat Mitzvah", the book published by Matan, and edited by Sara Friedland Ben Arza. Tal and our daughter-in-law Michal participated in the program for several months. I was once babysitting Tal and her sisters, and I took Tal to the class on Deborah the Prophetess. It was a cold and rainy winter night, but I remember it well, since it was such a cozy and bonding experience for me.
Many years had passed since I had learned about Deborah, and what I heard there was so innovative, refreshing, interesting. The influence of Matan was apparent at Tal's Bat Mitzvah celebration several months later. All of the wonderful figures mentioned in the Bat Mitzvah book, from Sara Imeinu to Hannah Senesh HY"D - they were all there.
While looking through Parashat Tezaveh I found the parasha to be extremely fitting to our celebration tonight. God commands Moshe: "And you shall command the Children of Israel, and they shall bring you pure fine olive oil for lighting the Candle of Constancy". The root צ'ו'ה - to command - is mentioned countless times throughout the Tanach. However, the word "Tetzaveh" - "you shall command" is unusual, and appears only one other time in all of Tanach, in Sefer Yehoshua.
The Rashbam in his interpretations of the verse discusses the meaning of using the unusual verb specifically in the context of donations for building the Mishkan. He explains that Tetzaveh connotes a commandment for future generations. The olive oil was meant to light a candle which is constantly renewed - a Ner Tamid. We, the Friends of Matan, have gathered here tonight not only to benefit from the joy of this organization, but to give, in order to ensure that Matan's blessed activity will be constantly renewed, benefitting future generations.

Welcome to our home.
I wish you all a pleasant evening!

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