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Enjoy the Ride

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein


Library » Holidays » Shavuot » Essays | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Magnet on fridge: I am not fifty; I am eighteen, with thirty two years of experience.

It was a clear crisp May evening with an autumn wind blowing through the night air. It was autumn in May because it is always autumn in May in Australia.

At a downtown traffic light was one of those scenes that you first notice due to the rumbling sounds before you actually get a glimpse of the cause for the commotion. Twenty or so motorcycles -- Harley Davidsons, Suzukis, Hondas, and even a BMW or two -- in perfect formation waiting for the light to turn green.

I’m sure you’ve seen a similar sight before; but you’ve never seen anything like this one. The riders on these bikes were all Jewish, belonging to Melbourne’s very own Jewish motorcycle club, YOW -- Yids On Wheels.

On this night, this oddity took on an additional peculiarity; for there on the back of one of the bikes sat a rabbinical student enjoying the ride. What was he doing there?!

Now ordinarily it is none of my business who is sitting where, but on that night it was very much my concern. That rabbinical student was me.

On the back of one of the bikes sat a rabbinical student enjoying the ride. What was he doing there?!
A friend, a member of the club, offered to take me along. The offer sounded like fun, and the evening sounded like an opportunity to meet Jews. So switching my black fedora for a hard helmet and my dark blazer for a bomber jacket, I mounted one of the bikes, held on for dear life, and prayed I wouldn’t choke on my wind-frenzied beard.

After about twenty minutes of city driving, we left the busy intersections and traffic lights behind and began enjoying the mountainous climb through the hilly country side. It is for such rides that a biker buys a bike in the first place. It is awesome.

I am no stranger to the countryside; but that night was different. That night I wasn’t sitting behind a window on a bus reclining in an upholstered seat. Neither was I navigating my car through the winding roads waiting to get over the hill and hit cruise again. That night I was out there in the wild. The wind blew against my face and branches crackled in the quiet night almost as loud as the roaring engines. I wasn’t viewing the beautiful scenery; I was in it. I was part of it. I felt it. It seemed to never end.

Eventually the group stopped for a break at a quiet tavern on the mountaintop. Standing outside under a crescent moon with stars sprinkled about like a bottle of spilled glitter, I began to wonder who’d open a store up here. It is in middle of absolutely nowhere. The only people it served were the occasional traveler or, as on this night, groups of bikers.

How ironic, I thought, to see a bearded Jew out here on this mountain in nowhere land. Holy Moses! Actually, Moses was out on a mountain in middle of nowhere too, and of all places that is where G-d decided to give the Torah. Why? Were the grand ballrooms or large parks booked for that day? Standing out on that night made me realize how nowhere "in middle of nowhere" really is.

Unless of course G-d was giving the Torah to a group of travelers; or maybe even bikers!


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Jewish Identity » Who/What is a Jew?

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Prayer recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or Holiday meal--both the evening and afternoon meals. This prayer, acknowledging the sanctity of the day, is recited over a cup of wine or grape juice.
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Bat Mitzvah
The twelvth birthday of a Jewish female. On this day -- customarily celebrated with a lavish party -- the adolescent reaches adulthood and is responsible to observe all the commandments of the Torah.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.