Saturday, September 30, 2006
This morning I woke up and around 7:45 left to daven at my favourite shul in Jerusalem, Yedidya with my friend Hillel. One of the features which reminds me of home is the fact that its about a 35 minute walk, just like when I was crazy and walked the same distance to the Hashkama minyan . This morning there was a bar mitzvah, which was very nice since not only did he do a flawless job with his Torah and Haftarah reading, but gave a beautiful D'var Torah in hebrew which I understood almost perfectly. I also enjoyed the harmonizing throghout, along with the cute little girl who led anim zemirot *(Yedidya is a modern Orthodox shul with a very liberal mechitza, and with such innovations as allowing women to carry the Torah, open the ark, asnd recite the prayer for Israel). After a deluxe kiddush, we walked back to Beit nativ for a nice and pretty delicious shabbat lunch. After som zemirot and birkat hamazon, I went back to my room for a nice 3 hour shabbat nap. A little later, I walked with a few friends to the beautiful little shul in Yemin Moshe for mincha, where I got to open the ark and a friend did hagbah. We returned to base for Seudah shlishit, Maariv (which I led), and Havdalah!
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Afterwards, keeping in mind that we are able to do so only because of others sacrifices, the entire Nativ program was taken to the Harel Mall in Mevasseret Tzion just outside Jerusalem to experience another specialty of Israel: Kosher KFC!
Monday, September 25, 2006
Today was a very interesting, (should I say) enjoyable, and meaningful fast day, which commemorates sinat chinam, senseless hatred between Jews. (The actual event commemorates was the murder of Gedalia Ben Achikam, the Jewish governor of Judea by other Jews).
This morning, after tefillot we had our Tanach class where we are examining the book of Devarim. Afterwards, since there was no lunch, I went straight to my Pirke Avot class where we had some interesting and lively discussion as usual, and a cute treat as Rabbi Frank's dog Zoe joined our class for the day. This was followed by a nice mincha service, during which I (tried to) do Hagbah, and which included as well the beautiful tradition of Birkat Kohanim (aka Duchening) which is practiced daily in Israel, and at Mincha as well on Fast Days. Afterwards we had an abbreviated midrash class, where we studied some interesting Midrashim about Yom Kippur.
The reason the class was cut short, however, was so we could participate in the rite of Kapparot, which involves swinging a (live) chicken over your head and 'transferring' your sins to it. Although some people we grossed out by it, I found it interesting and neat. After that We were then given some free time to explore Machane Yehuda, the Jewish shuk in the middle of downtown Jerusalem, where I got some amazing rugelach (still not as good as Ima's) and a kilogram of fresh grapes for 3 Shekel (about 75 cents!). I found it so educational and fascinating to explore these different customs and attractions located just 15 minutes from our front door!
Sunday, September 24, 2006
The first night of Rosh Hashanah began as all of nativ gathered to daven together at the fuchsberg centre. The tefillot were led by our assistant director, Nahum Binder (some of you may remember his Abba, Rabbi Rob Binder, who was an assistant Rabbi at Adath Israel!) who inspired us with his beautiful voice. This was followed by a very nice Rosh Hashanagh seudah, complete with a seder, including a number of foods, such as carrots, pomegranate, dates, and yes, fish heads galore(!) which are all considered good omens because of plays on their Hebrew names. This meal, our first Shabbat since switching caterers was quite tasty and I was already full by the end of the soup and appetizers!
The next morning, I woke up around seven, got a quick bite of cake and chocolate mile, and walked south to the neighbourhood of Baka and one of my favourite synagogues in Jerusalem, Kehillat Yedidya. I felt that the davening was extremely beautiful, and was very impressed by the amount of singing in which the entire congregation partcipated in, including some very catchy and well known tunes. Yedidya is a very unique and special synagogue, Modern Orthodox, yet very liberal in that the mechitza, a low curtain is split by the reader's table which straddles the two sides, and the Ark is equally in front of both sections. While the davening was only led by men, Women were seen prouly wearing Tallitot, carrying the Torah and opening the Ark! I found the service so inspirational and full of kavannah that I will definitely be returning, possibly for Yom Kippur. Afterwards I had lunch with a family friend (who grew up with my Abba in Connecticut) and lives across the street from the shul. It was very nice spending the afternoon with them, as well as with friends of theirs from the shul who had a guest my age spending the year in Israel with Young Judea. I took a nice Shabbat nap, and then returned to Yedidya for Mincha, a nice Shiur on the women (Sarah and Sisera's mother) connected to the Shofar and Maariv. Afterwards I walked over to the neighbourhood of Talpiot to have dinner with the Moshe family. I had a very fun time, and was intrigued by all of unique sefardic practices, especially their specil kiddush and version of the Rosh Hashanah seder, which included string beans, pumpkin and leeks. I spent the night there, since today I davened with many of my fellow nativers at the Masorti (conservative) congregation Moreshet Avraham in nearby East Talpiot.
The service at Moreshet Avraham was also very pleasant, being somewhere between the standard North American one and yesterday's. The shul had a very heimishe feel, and it was nice to see so many kids around. I ate lunxh at the home of the Friedgut family, whose children are members of Adath. It was a very lovely experience, with amazing company, good food, and a very pleasant way to celebrate the chag. After lunch we met back as a group and did a symbolic Tashlich and Mincha (which I had the great honour to lead). We then took the long but leisurely walk back to beit nativ and ended the chag.
Overall, despite missing everyone back at home, I had an absolutely amazing, spiritual and fun chag which I'm sure I will remember for years to come!
גמר חתימה טובה-G'mar Chatima Tova
Friday, September 22, 2006
From last night through this afternoon, approaching Rosh Hashanah has been a whirlwind of experiences, emotions and little sleep!
The night started out with attending a concert of Shotei Hanevuah, a popular Israeli rock band. Held in the old Jerusalem train station turned into a trendy bar and concert venue, this event was a perfect way to get a taste of the real Israeli culture while having a blast. All of the 300 or so attendees was up on their feet rocking and dancing. The concert running on normal Israel/Jewish time, starting almost an hour late and ended around 12:30 AM. After walking back to Beit Nativ quickly, I quickly got into bed and got a few hours of sleep before being woken up by my alarm at 3:45 in time to quickly put some clothes on for our unique early morning selichot tour. Led by our Israeli staff members, we walked through the neighbourhood of Nachlaot, which is filled with synagogues from various different countries and practices. Our first stop was at a Turkish synagogue, where the selichot was recited in an unfamiliar but beautiful chant. I was very impressed when I was handed a siddur open to the current page, and I was able to follow along with their davening. this was followed by many other synagogues including ones from Syria, Persia, Greece and even, sad enough, a community of sefardim who were kicked out of the ol.d city in 1925.
After the selichot tour, we were rewarded with a stop at one of Jerusalem's best bakeries, Marzipan, known for its legendary Rugelach. I purchased some assorted bourekas for myself for breakfast, which turned out to be some of the best I have ever tasted. When we arrived back at beit nativ, we daved a quick Shacharit and had time for a few hours of rest. At about 10:30, we joined together for some Rosh Hashanah study sessions and workshops. After a quick lunch, I and about ten friends, along with our staff member Jesse took the unique opportunity (at least for me), to immerse in a Mikvah before Rosh Hashanah. Although there is no Mitsvah involved, I still found the Mikvah experince to be a very moving and amazing way to bring in the New Year.
I guess the time has comev to finish preparing for the holiday, which starts in a little over 2 hours.
שנה טובה ומתוקה-Shanah Tovah Umetukah!
Thursday, September 21, 2006
6 God is gone up amidst Teruah, the LORD amidst the sound of the Shofar.
When the Jewish people sound the Shofar, God descends from the throne of judgement and ascends the throne of mercy. this is one of the many beautiful midrashim about Rosh Hashanah I learned on Monday afternoon while studying Pesikta D'rav Kahana, a 4th century Midrash on the yearly cycle.
I am very excited that tommorow night I will be beginning the new year of 5767 in the heart of Jerusalem, despite missing my family and friends back at home. I've had a busy week at the yeshiva, while also getting out to see the city a bit. Yesterday afternoon I took a walk with a friend to Merkaz Hair (downtown) and Meah Shearim. It was such a great and unique sight to see street performers playing our Holiday music and tables of Shanah Tovah cards lining the sidewalks, not to mention wishing the store clerks Shanah Tovah! In Meah Shearim, we walked along the main street, just studying the very different lifestyle only a 20 minute walk from the Fuchsberg Centre for Conservative Judaism. I went into the olive wood factory and boughtt myself a beautiful shtender (book stand) with my name on it, which will hopefully help me keep my back in good shape while poring over texts all day! My friend bought himself a beautiful new Tallit with silver stripes to use for Yom Tov.
Tonight, I am going to a concert with many of my friends by a popular Israeli group called שוטי הנבואה, which should be a lot of fun. I won't be getting much sleep though, because at 4 AM we are leaving for a selichot tour in the neighbourhood of Nachlaot, where every street has a synagogue with different tradition. I have a very exciting Chag ahead of me, which I hope to write about on Sunday night.
Shanah Tovah and Shabbat Shalom to everyone. I miss you very much, but will be thinking of you from Jerusalem!
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Friday afternoon around 1 o’clock, 13 Nativers and two staff members who are spending the first half of this year studying at the Conservative Yeshiva, departed Jerusalem and headed east toward the dead sea and the beautiful new Massada guest house, where we joined about 75 others, students, faculty and staff to create an amazing Shabbat kehilla (community). When we arrived, we were able to take advantage of the beautiful pool, and swim for our first time since arriving. This was especially necessary, considering the nearly 40 degree heat that was a bit shocking to us new Jerusalemites. Afterwards, we prepared for Shabbat and joined together as a group. After some silly and serious icebreakers, one of the many spiritual moments came as the Shaliach Tsibbur began Yedid Nefesh and we all joined in. As I looked around the room, it was amazing to see the variety of people from all ages, movements and backgrounds who chose to take a year off from their lives to grapple over Jewish text.
After a spirited Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, we went down to dining hall for our Shabbat meal, with both good food and good company, we had a short dvar torah in the courtyard and then moved inside for a traditional tish, where was ate, drank, sang and told some stories. While being a lot of fun, it also displayed the amazing dynamic in our community, that we were each able to bring. After a bit more singing and watching my friends take a late-night dip in the pool (I decided it was time to get into my pajamas, and not a swimsuit!) , I went to bed and got one of best sleeps since my arrival!
Shabbat morning we had some nice, yet long tefillot, since we had cantorial students leading Shacharit and musaf and a slow haftarah, but it was capped off by my friend Josh Goldberg and I leading our ECRUSY ( Eastern Canadian USY) rendition of Anim Zemirot! We then had a nice Kiddush and a shiur by our rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Shmuel Lewis on the connection between the words of our Parsha, ובחרת בחיים, “You shall choose life,” and the call of the shofar, which echoes a cry. We then ate lunch and davened mincha, which was led by Josh and I read two aliyot! After a nice long nap, we came back together for seudah shlishit and some singing. Afterwards, we had a very interesting panel discussion on the meaning of selichot with three members of the yeshiva faculty discussing their perspective of selichot and teshuva, which was interesting considering their different views and backgrounds. Soon it was time for Maariv and Havdalah, and we boarded the buses to head back to Jerusalem for selichot.
I attended selichot at the great synagogue, which is right around the corner from our dorms. I found the service very beautiful and meaningful, though it was interesting to notice the practice that nobody announced any page numbers or made any comments, making it hard for some people to follow. I thought it was very inspirational to see the entire shul packed, and the cantor and choir, all wrapped in Tallitot, harmonizing in front of us.
I will try to post some pictures soon, but in the mean time go to www.nativ.org, click on Nativ 26, and the Kibbutz, and you will find a couple of me.
שבוע טוב ולהתראות
Monday, September 11, 2006
Talmud with Dr. Josh Kulp
We're learning the end of Masechet Yoma (dealing with Yom Kippur) for now, and after the Chagim we will begin learning the ninth chapter iof Bava Kamma (dealing with the laws of theft). I have a really great chevruta, who is from Chicago and just graduated university, and the class is both interesting and fun.
Advanced Halacha with Rabbi Shmuel Lewis
We have begun studying the laws of Shofar from the shulchan aruch and mishnah berura, and will later begin to study the development of halacha.
Tanach for Nativ
We are being taught by one of the Yeshiva's advanced students, and will be learning the book of Devarim with commentary.
Midrash with Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein
This is one of my favourite classes so far, since I've never formaly studied it before, and it is very challenging, but interesting. My Chevruta in this class, as well as Tanach is Mendy Fisch, an old friend from Ramah Poconos!
Overall, the experience of studying Torah strictly for its own sake has been a very rewarding exprience, and I look forward to updating on more of what I'm learning. The rest of the week will be pretty busy with a Gemilut Chesed (community service) fair, an Israeli rock concert, and a Yeshiva Shabbaton this shabbat at Massada!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Over the past few days I have participated in many activities which portray the breadth and depth of the Jewish and Israel experience in Yerushalayim alone. On Wednesday I, along with 12 other Nativers, participated in an orientation for our semester at the Conservative Yeshiva. It was so amazing and encouraging to experince the kind of Torah Lishma, learning for its own sake, that goes on at the Yeshiva, which I will have the privilege to participate in for the next few months.
Over the past few nights, I have also begun to appreciate the diversity of the city of Jerusalem, whether it was having a barbecue in a park near the knesset, going on a scavenger hunt all over dioiwntown Jerusalem, hanging out on Ben Yehuda in the evening, or walking through Meah Shearim as I did this morning. Although it is distressing that many of the different groups in the city, such as secular, traditional, or ultra-orthodox, do not get along, it is still amazing to see the great diversity within a few square miles. Halevai, if only, these diverse groups would appreciate the great resources available here.
At the end of this wek's Parsha, we are told that one of the reasons the people of Israel would recieve the cuses contained within instead of the blessing would be "because you did not serve the Lord with joyfulness and gladness of heart" I will take this message and apply it to this and every shabat, as we all should, and observe it with as much joy as possible.
Shabbat Shalom Mirulshalayim!
Wednesday, September 06, 2006