Saturday, September 30, 2006

Another Amazing Shabbat in Yerushalayim

Since yesterday morning, I have been blessed with many opportunities to get out and experince life in the city outside of our complex and the Yeshiva. On Friday, a little before noon, I went wirh my friend Jacob for a little authentic Jerusalem shopping, which included buying handmade kippot at the Kippah man, a little hole in the wall on Rechov Yafo, and then moved onto Agrippas where we did some pre-shabbos shopping in and around Machane Yehuda, the Jewish shuk. Whuile there, we got huge falafekl's from a stand just inside the shuk that is said to be one of the best in Israel-I was full after eating half of it! Afterwards I headed back to base to get ready for shabbat, and just take a bit of time to unwind after a busy week. After showering and getting ready, I walked down to the emek refaim area to daven Kabbalat Shabbat at Shira Chadasha, known as the Orthodox Egailtarian minyan, where there is a mechitza but women are permitted to lead parts of the tefillot such as Kabbalat Shabbat. I thought that the singing was very beautiful and inspirational, but that the service was a bit long to do every week. Afterwards, I walked a little bit to the outskirts of Katamon to have shabbat dinner with my chevruta (study partner), his wife and a couple other students from the Yeshiva. It was very nice having a relaxed shabbat dinner, some nice conversation and especially some beautiful singing, since two of the students are in Cantorial school! Following Birkat hamazon, I walked back towards 'home', passing by the Prime Minister's house on the way, and had a tish in Gan Haartzmaut (the park next to the Sheraton Plaza) with my Nativ friends who were in Jerusalem for Shabbat, and we had some food and drink, along with stories and singing. Around midnight, I headed to bed to make sure that I would be able to get up for shul in the morning!
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!
שבוע טוב!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

For the Stinger and the Honey על הדבש ועל העקץ

Although I do spend a good portion of my weekdays studying at the Yeshiva, I have treasured the opportunities that I have to appreciate and interact with the society of Israel at large. One such opportunity took place yesterday afternoon when the entire Nativ group headed towards a JNF forest near Latrun to participate in the AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel)'s annual memorial service for North Americans who died in IDF service and from terrorism. While some people, including myself to an extent, came into it thinking it would be another boring ceremony, I came out of it deeply moved. Included in the program was a list of everyone inscribed on the memorial, including names I recognized such as Mickey Marcus (died in a friendly fire incident in 1948), Koby Mandell (murdered in 2001 when hiking near his house in Tekoa) , Marla Bennett and Ben Blutstein (Students killed in the Hebrew University bombing), Chezi Goldberg (a Torononian killed in 2004), Michael Levin (and Active USYer and Nativ graduate killed in Lebanon) and others, but I was shocked to see that these were only about 1% of the names, as there was also a long list of those whom I did not know about. While the ceremony was very somber, as it is hard emotionally to recall the stories of these beautiful and promising lives, it was an appropriate time to reflect during these Yamim Noraim, and provided some of the most emotional moments in Israel so far for me: To see representatives of the IDF, US, Canada and my friend Matan from Nativ lay wreaths in memory of these Olim who made the ultimate sacrifice; to hear their friends recite the prayers for Tzahal and The State of Israel; and finally, to join together in Hatikvah for the first time since arriving looking over a beautiful scape of the land.
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

Tzom Gedalia:Learning and Shuk-ing

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

ראש השנה-תחל שנה וברכותיה Rosh Hashanah-Let the year and its blessings increase!!!

I am writing this message soon after the end of the chag here in Jerusalem, although I realize that it is still Yom Tov back at home. As I look back at the last two days, Its hard to believe all of the incredible experiences i had, and the fact that I just began 5767 in Yerushalayim.
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

An Exciting and Moving Erev Rosh Hashanah

A magical night...
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

Shanah Tovah שנה טובה

ו עָלָה אֱלֹהִים, בִּתְרוּעָה; יְהוָה, בְּקוֹל שׁוֹפָר.

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

An Unbelievable CY (Conservative Yeshiva) Kick-off Shabbaton

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, click on Nativ 26, and the Kibbutz, and you will find a couple of me.

שבוע טוב ולהתראות


Monday, September 11, 2006


I began classes at the Conservative Yeshiva yesterday, and its been a lot of fun, despite the long days. Here's a sampling of what I've taken so far:
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!
שלום מירושלים!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Week Wrap up/ פרשת כי תבוא

Since its almost Shabbat, I thought I'd try to combine my update of the last few days with a bit of a d'var torah. It is quite appropriate that we read this parsha whose opening words (Devarim 26:1) describe B'nai Yisrael entering the land of Israel and cultivating it, as I and my fellow Nativers have also just arrived in Israel to spend the next nine months here. It is also an appropriate metaphor for those living outside of Israel as well, as entering the land is analogous to beginning anew, which is something we are all doing as the school year and Jewish year begin.
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

I'm Here and loving it!

It's Tuesday at about quarter to 3 in the afternoon Israel Time, and I'm sitting outside at the Fuchsberg Centre ampitheatre enjoying the wireless internet. I can't explain how amazing it is to think that I'll be spending the year here, and the next 5 months of it here in Jerusalem. I spent Sunday aftewrnoon at a shul in Long Island, getting to know my group, and getting ready to depart for JFK airport. Checking in for the flight was pretty intense (considering it was my first time on an Israeli airline. It took about three hours to wait in a few different lines, and by the time we got through security, it was time to board the flight. Israir wasn't deluxe, and on the contrary, was quite cramped, but it was nice to hear Hebrew being spoken and the fact that all of the food was kosher! We touched down around 6:15 in the evening, and went through passport control and got our baggage. After loading our suitcases onto a large truck, we started heading towards jerusalem, stopiing briefly for an overlook and opening ceremony. After a late dinner, we went almost straight to bed, being pretty jetlagged and all. Today, we davened and had breakfast, after which we took a walking tour around Jerusalem. I already took some pictures, and can't wait to upload them soon
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