Monday, October 30, 2006

In the news (sort of)!

Although I'm on my way to class right now, I just wanted to let everyone know that myself and some of my Nativ friends were featured on the MASA website following the event I described from last Thursday. Here's one of the pictures, and another is on the website!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Thursday morning, I along with many students from the Conservative Yeshiva attended a daylong series of events intended to bring together Jewish young adults spending the year in Israel on all different types of programs, from socialist to secular to Orthodox. An estimated 2000 people participated in the day's activities, out of an estimated 10,000 Jewish young In response to the war in Lebanon, MASA, the arm of the Jewish Agency which works with long-term Israel programs, chose to hold the event in Akko in order to lend support to that city, where six Israelis were killed from rocket fire this summer. To kick off the day, MASA chartered a train to take us from the Jerusalem station up to and following shacharit and breakfast, we took a bus that dropped us off at the train station, my first time doing so in Israel. When we got to the platform, we found out that they had pulled out all the stops and had mimes, stiltwalkers, and music. Although we did have to wait an hour to board the train, it was definitely worth it because the ride could only be described as the Hogwarts express, because of all the students aboard, and also because of the entertainment, which included drummers, a klezmer band, more mimes, and actors dressed up as Theodore Herzl, Albert Einstein and Hannah Senesh just to name few. I found it a really neat experience to ride through Israel on the rails, and to watch the beautiful scenery go by. We traveled west from Jerusalem, towards the coast, stopped in Tel Aviv to pick up some more people, and then we traveled by the sea through Haifa to our final destination of Akko. After we arrived at Akko station, we walked over to city hall, where all of the participants were given free backpacks and got ready for a solidarity march through the streets of Akko to show our support for the residents. At one point, a bunch of us got split off from the rest of the group, but in the end we wound our way through the streets of old and met up with everyone else. After that, we all gathered in a park underneath wall where we hung out and were eventually given deli sandwiches for dinner. Following dinner, we we went up a ramp and ascended to the wall, where we had a concert, along with a few speakers, a laser light show and some nice fireworks to end off the day. Around 9 PM we boarded a bus to head back to Jerusalem, and after dealing with the bus breaking down, arrived back in Jerusalem a little after midnight. On Friday, I continued with the routine that i had set the previous week, starting off with Shacharit at Yeshurun, coming back for breakfast, and spending the morning volunteering at Hazon Yeshaya. This time, 5 of us walked over to help out, and I brought my camera along so I could show the amazing work that this organization does. I walked back around noon, passing through machane Yehuda (the Jewish shuk) and seeing the city prepare for shabbat, and came back to Beit Nativ for lunch and to prepare for shabbat. This week, I davened friday night at yakar, a modern orthodox shul known for its carlebach style singing. The shulo has 2 minyanim, and I went with a bunch of friends to the one upstairs, which is known as the 'young' or 'singles' minyan because of the crowd it attracts. I enjoyed the experience and the singing, and will probably be back there sometime. Following Maariv, I came back to have dinner with my friends, after which I relaxed and we had a nice oneg shabbat. this morning I returned to Yedidya, where there was a very nice Davening as usual. This morning there was an aufruf, and the chatan chanted the haftarah. He did an absolutely beautiful job, and reminded me of Adath Israel in that he chanted with the German trope, just as Rabbi Schild does, especially with Yonah on Yom Kippur Afternoon. After Kiddush I walked back in the piuring rain, which wasn't so fun, though at least when it rains here it usually only pours for about 15-20 minutes, so it wasn't coming down the entire way back. When I got back, I caught the tail end of a parshat hashavua discussion, and then had shabbat lunch. After taking a nice nap, I went with my friend Josh to daven Mincha at Yeshurun. It was followed by seudah shlishit, where the food was good (but nothing compares to Adath), but we got to enjoy a bit of singing, a cantorial piece by one of the members, and a nice d'var torah. We then davened maariv, where specially for the land of Israel we began to recite ותן טל ומטר('vten tal umatar'), give dew and rain for a blessing, which normally added only on December 4 in the diaspora. The special custom in Israel comes from the early start of the rainy season, evidenced by this morning's downpour! שבוע טוב! Shavua Tov!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

From Yeshurun to Yemin Moshe!

I've had a busy few days, including another enjoyable and meaningful shabbat, but I wanted to take you through a few of the highlights. Friday morning, following Shacharit and breakfast I set out in a cab with my friend Avram to our first time doing weekly volunteering at an amazing organization called Hazon Yeshaya . Founded in 1997, the organization now serves over 200,000 meals per month at 60 locations across Israel. We arrived at the main Jerusalem soup kitchen and were immeadiately put to work cooking, first preparing a salad and then making plates of hot food to serve each client their hot lunch. It was a great feeling to be playing a hands-on role in helpingto fight hunger in israel, and knowing how much our work would be appreciated. As well, it was amazing how much the staff appreciated our help and how friendly everyone was. Next week I'll be sure to bring my camera and document some of the amazing work that goes on there.
After finishing a little before noon, we had the bonus, because of the location, of walking back to Beit Nativ by way of the Shuk and seeing everyone in Jerusalem preparing for shabbat. We came back to base for lunch, and a few short hours later, it was time for candlelighting. For Kabbalat this week, I had the unique and very beautiful experience of davening at Yeshurun for their monthly Cantorial Carlebach tefillot. It was so beautiful and spiritual to hear Hazzan Asher Heinowitz and the Yeshurun choir sing all of my favourite Kabbalat Shabbat tunes, and even have a little dancing after lecha dodi. It was definitely a great way to kick off shabbat. Afterwards, I returned to Beit Nativ to have dinner with my friends, followed by and oneg and a little relaxing before I got to have an early night.
The next morning, after our traditional Fuchsberg Centre shabbat morning snack of chocolate milk and cake I went to daven at the Ashkenazi shul in Yemin moshe, which is a really enjoyable place to daven when I'm too lazy to take my 35 minute hike to Yedidya. YM is a comfortable 15 minute walk from here, and is situated in one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in the city, with windows overlooking the walls of the old city. The tefillot started at 8:15 an were over at 10:30, with Musaf led by former Torontoinian Rabbi Robert Binder and a sumptuous kiddush as usual! I returned home for a short parashat hashavua discussion and lunch after which I got some nice Shabbat menucha. For Shabbat Mincha, I went back to Yemin Moshe with few friends, where I was even asked to do Hagbah! We then had a light seudah shlishit with a Shiur by Rabbi Yeres, followed by maariv and Havdalah. I was still a bithungary after shabbat, so I took advatage of having a Pizzaria 1 block away (only a bit closer than King Kosher), right across from Ehud Olmert's house!
Today I had some nice Rosh chodesh tefilot at the Conservative Yeshiva, followed by my talmud and halacha classes!
חודש טוב! Chodesh Tov!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

אחר החגים After the holidays

After a day off on Sunday, life has begun to pick up more of a normal routine as we resumed classes at the Conservative Yeshiva and my friends at Hebrew U began their regular courses. On Sunday morning we had a nice surprise as one of the Shlichot from Ramah Nyack had ran into some of my friends Saturday night and invited us over to her house for brunch the next morning. Anat was just a 20 minute walk from Beit Nativ, and in a beautiful part of Katamon. It was so nice to see a familiar face, and catch up a bit, as well as use my Hebrew. We had a very nice meal, including fresh-made tea from her garden. What a small Jewish world it is, especially in Jerusalem. It is also heartening to know that the more that I participate in programs like Ramah and USY, the more people I will have to vidit in Israel and around the world!
I've been learning a lot during my long but rewarding days at the Conservative Yeshiva, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of what I learned in my classes and share some Torah for the week. In both my Midrash course, we studied the very beginning of Midrash Rabbah, the Aggadic midrash on the book of Bereshit learned some interesting insights on this week's Parsha:

*The first midrsh we learned was a beautiful teaching about how when God began to create the world, he did so not out of the blue, but consulted with his most precious creation, the Torah, which preceded the world. Just as when a king sets out to build a palace, his workers do not just start to work but carefully plan out the building, so too did God create the Torah to be his plan for creation.
*We also learned the teaching of R’ Huna, who interprets a verse in Psalms to teach that one should be humble when approaching the subject of מעשה בראשית, the creation story. While the Torah was given to us as a gift, it is important to retain a sense of wonder in its immensity and God’s power. Since nobody can know exactly how the universe was created, R’ Huna’s midrash comes to teach that humility is essential in Torah study, and consequently in all of our actions. Abraham Joshua Heschel taught that one should look at the world with ‘Radical Wonder’; Already two thousand years ago, the Rabbis were teaching these values, which despite being confined to this single topic, are still current and relevant to our entire life. The following pasuk, from the Psalm for Rosh Chodesh and which is also recited in the daily Shacharit service, often evokes my feeling when I behold nature, and R’ Huna’s vision of one’s feeling’s when they study Bereshit:

כד מָה-רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ, יְהוָה-- כֻּלָּם, בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ;
מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ, קִנְיָנֶךָ.

24 How manifold are Your works, O LORD! In wisdom have You made them all; {N}
the earth is full of Your creatures.

While it is important to study critically as well, we must not lose sight of the majesty of creation and the potential for immense meaning in the Torah, especially in the first few lines alone.

This week, following the end of the Chagim, the structure of our program has changed a bit in that we have a bit more independence, which means that for many nof our meals we are now given a stipend instead of being served. For now I have been shopping at the grocery store an buying food more than before, and soon I hope to experiment a bit more with cooking!

With a little more time on my hands now, I have been trying to take advantage of the many events, some of them free going on In Jerusalem. By checking the Jerusalem city website, I found out about a free concert of 9 Chazzanim taking place just 1 block from Beit Nativ at Beit Knessrt Yeshurun. While the concert started late and I left about two thirds through, It was extremely enjoyable, and amazed me about what’s available right in my backyard. Some of the Chazzanim were very amazing, including Israel Rand, who sang at Adath Israel two years ago! Speaking of Adath nIsrael, it was very nice to be able to visit with the Schnurbach family, who are in Jerusalem for a few days and staying right down the street from me! It’s always nice to have a taste of home here!

שבת שלום ומבורך!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Simchat Torah--J-Town style!

Jerusalem has been quite an interesting place in which to celebrate Simchat Torah, and I definitely had a wide variety of interesting experiences over the past 30 hours. Friday night after candle lighting, I left with a few friends to start Simchat Torah off at Yakar, an Orthodox shul which does a lot of singing and harmonizing in their tefillot. The room was divided in half with a mechitza splitting it (though the women were in back, which I didn't like so much), and although it was empty when we arrived, the room gradually filled up until there was no room to move. After davening Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, Hakafot began and we immediately moved into the street, where the Hakafot were to take place. A large crowd was present, including many Yeshiva students. As well, our Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Lewis even got to Carry a torah for the second hakafah! I stayed there for a few hakafot, but after a while, a few of us wanted to look for a minyan where there was more dancing. I went with my friends and walked down the block, where we soon came upon the 'young minyan', which was held in a sukkah and only one this one occasion. I enjoyed it very much, because it was mostly people my age and a bit older, and everyone was into the dancing. It was nice that I even got to carry the torah. After hakafot ended there, we started heading back to Beit Nativ where the entire groupcame together for a festive dinner. Following dinner. I headed to bed somewhat early, since Yedidya was beginning tefillot at 7:30 the next morning, the reson being that tefillot run quite long when Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are combined. I walked with my friend Yosef to Yedidya in time for the start of shacharit, which was held in a smaller room downstairs through hallel. The shul planned tefillot in a somewhat ingenious way to allow for the most Kavannah during tefillot and the most fun. To this end, we continued with a joyous first Hakafah, after which the men and women seperated for Torah reading once through and Haftarah. The kriyah included the Kol Hanearim Aliyah (all of the children), which was very nice to see especially as I grow up, and was very moving as the entire congregation sang Hamalach Hagoel afterwards. Following the Haftarah, we reconvened for the Yizkor service. This time, as I often do, I decided to stay in shul during Yizkor, which was made more meaningful as the shul passed around a special prayer to be said by those whose parents are still alive. I felt that it helped me take advantage of this moment and make it special. Afterwards, the special prayers were made for victims of the shoah, soldiers killed defending the State of Israel, and Yitzhak Rabin, after which the Torah was put away. Following the Israeli minhag, the prayer for Geshem was made immediately afterwards and before Chatzi Kaddish. During musaf, we had a huge birkat kohanim, with 18 blessing us! After Musaf,the simcha continued with a very nice kiddush provided by the members of the shul, and the remaining hakafot. During this time, everyone in the shul, both male and female got an Aliya, with the women upstairs in the main shul and the men outside in the sukkah. As if we couldn't get enough davening, there was a mincha service held outside right after hakafot so we could daven it right then! After shul, my friend Koby, who had arrived part way through shul and I were invited to lunch at our family friends the Ablemans, where we had a dairy, but very tasty and enjoyable lunch. We walked back from Baka towards Beit Nativ, and arrived back in time for Seudah Shlishit where we had some beautiful zemirot, followed by Maariv and Havdalah. After Shabbat, most of Nativ participated in an Israeli tradition called Hakafot Shniot, or second Hakafot. While much of Nativ went to the semi-oficial celebration at Gan Hapaamon, myself and a few friends decided to go to a similar celebration in Meah Shearim instead, since I figured it was an experience I wouldn't be able to have anywhere else. While the main Meah celebration in Kikar Shabbat was somewhat interesting, it was nothing compared to when we arrived at the shul of the Shtrapkov chassidim. Although it was mentioned on a website as one of the top places to go for Hakafot, I found it by the great music coming in from the street. When we peeked in the door, one of the Chasidim warmly invited us in, and after a few minutes, the Rebbe started the next hakafah and the Keyboardist and vocalist started up the music, and we started dancing around the sifrei Torah. It was a quite interesting experience, especially with the music, but I really enjoyed it sincit wasn't Yom Tov anymore. I didn't know that chasidim could have so much fun, but it was a real party. This was one memory that I will hold onto for a long time.
Pictures of Hakafot Shniot:
From Nativ 26!

What a different world: Separate sidewalks in Meah Shearim
From Nativ 26!

Our Hassidim:
From Nativ 26!

!שבוע טוב! Shavua tov!

Friday, October 13, 2006

עם אחד לב אחד One People, One Heart

Yesterday, as part of our Sukkot experiences, was was devoted in my mind to Jewish unity, especially among those affiliated with the Conservative/Masorti movement worldwide. The bulk of the day was spent at Neot Kedumim, a biblical nature preserve near Modiin, spending time and socializing with Jewish young adults from around the world spending the year in Israel, on programs just like ours from England and Latin America. We were split into eight groups with a mixture of people from each programs, and had a whole day of team-building activities. We started out with sheep-herding, which was actually not too hard when we worked as a group, and was a lot of fun. After that, we had an interesting and unique lunch, where we were given a group of ingredients, all of which were known and used in the time of the Tanach, as well as a fire, and were instructed to prepare a lunch for ourselves. In the end we actually prepared a pretty tasty meal of pita, rice, lentils, and salad. After that, we did a few more group building activities,such as balancing 10 people on a see-saw followed by a barbecue dinner with a DJ. While this day was only a start, it showed how important and nice it is when conservative/Masorti Jews from around the world gather and share what we have in common.
The excitement didn't end when we headed back to Jerusalem around 7 PM...Since as you might know, I am very into maps and directions, I noticed that we had started driving in circles, and asked my staff about it. Her replied that there was a huge demonstration in front of the Prime Minister's house, which happens to be about half a block from the Fuchsberg centre. This meant that most of the roads we had planned on taking were blocked. When we finally made it back, we found out that it was a rally by reservists and their supporters calling for a more thorough government inquiry. I was able to watch it from both our roof and my bedroom window, and got some pretty good pictures of the action. It was a nice reminder of how amazing our location is, and how nice it is to be able to take of it. Later last night, I took advantage of another benefit of living in Jerusalem, the Jewish cultural events that abound. Last night, as part of a Hoshanah Rabbah all night learning program at the Yeshurun Synagogue down the street I was privilege of hearing Dr. Norman Lamm, the President of Yeshiva University A prolific scholar and speaker, he spoke on the topic of 'Jews and Non-Jews', and discussed different sources in our tradition, which ended up overall supporting warm and close working relationships with non-Jews, especially Christians and Muslims. It was very nice to hear Dr. Lamm speak in person, even more so, since we read articles by him in our Jewish Philosophy curriculum at CHAT last year. After the lecture I had some refreshments in the Shul Sukkah, which was pretty neat since it was really a room with the celing removed and Schach put in its place. I returned to Beit Nativ afterwards, and got to sleep in the Sukkah for the last time this year, with almost perfect weather throughout the night.
This morning, I attended Hoshanah Rabbah tefillot at the Conservative Yeshiva, and then had brunch at Tal Bagels with my Friend Josh's Ima and sister who are in Jerusalem and some other Nativers.
Its almost time to get ready for Yom Tov, a one day Marathon combining Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.
חג שמח! Chag Sameach!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

כאפיקים בנגב Like streams meandering through the Negev

After our 3 day tiyul in the negev, I can truly understand the psalmist's description of streams in the Negev: Awesome cavernous dry riverbeds which seem to stretch unto eternity, but finally join together into one large river, which could be infinitely strong when filled with water...This is analogous to the rebirth of the State of Israel where Jews streamed in from all corners of the world to build the amazing reality that is Israel!(based or Rashi's commentary on Psalms 126:4)

Last night, around 8 o'clock the 25 members of Nativ who will be spending the second half of the year on Kibbutz Sa'ad returned from our survival tiyul in the negev, specifically in the area around Machtesh(crater) Ramon. We headed out early on Sunday morning after tefillot and a quick breakfast, and drove out of Jerusalem on highway 1, before heading south towards Be'er Sheva and our destination of Mitzpe Ramon, the small development town which overlooks the crater. We arrived a park in Mitzpe Ramon around noon, where we were served a pretty delicious lunch of pita, bourekas, and deli. After benching, we reboarded our bus for the last time for 3 days to get to the start of our hike.
We got off the bus and immediately entered the ruins of a Nabatean fortress, which was used by this ancient desert people as a stop on their spice trading route. Sunday's hike was relatively flat and painless, which was a good way to ease into the trip for me. We got to our campsite, at the intersection of two dry riverbeds around 4 PM and laid , out our gear for the night. We then worked together as a group to prepare part of dinner, which ended up being very tasty. We had a bonfire after dinner where our guide, Yonatan, baked Bedouin pita bread and brewed tea with a plant we found along the way. While there were tents available, myself and a good number of others decided to sleep out under the stars, which was pretty neat. We went to sleep pretty early, since wake up the next morning was before sunrise at 4:45 AM. We davened shortly after 5, had a light breakfast, and then packed 2 more meals to eat on the trail. The hiking that day, about 10 hours of it, was a bit of a challenge for me, since I'm not in perfect shape; I needed help from friends at certain points along the way. Despite this, the experience, and the rewarding views from the top of the mountains we climbed were well worth the effort. That day we scaled Karbolet Harrarim, 564 m,and got an amazing vista of the entire Makhtesh spread before us. We spent the rest of the day making our way through the desert, and climbed over another mountain to reach Ein Geled, a remote natural aquifer which feeds many plants and animals in the area. We then stopped to daven Mincha, and descended into Nachal Geled, one of the above mentioned smaller streams. We ate dinner and chilled for a little bit, but this time we had we had an evening activity which involved going out into the desert, laying on a mat, and trying to apprecisate the unique sensual feast on our own. While it was an amazing activity, I along with some others as I understand, were quite wiped and feel asleep during this time. I went straight to bed when we returned to our camp for the night, and got a little bit of shut-eye

...until we were woken up at 5:30. Again we davened, had a light but nice breakfast, and headed out on the trail for our third and final day. The hike started out with about 4 kilometers of flat walking, which should have been easy if not for the blisters that had already developed on my feet; but I trudged along nonetheless. We stopped for Aruchat Eser (late morning meal) at the foot of Har Yahav (372m), which was one of the most challenging parts of the trip, because of the steep and strenuous climb.
It was not easy at all, but with encouragement from Yonatan our guide and my friends I finally made it, and it was quite worth the view. We did a group activity on top, took some photos, and then started our descent, which was long but much easier. After a few kilometers of flat walking, we reached the jeeps which would take us back to our buses. After lunch, we were rewarded with an amazing, crazily exhilarating jeep ride, after which we arrived back at our air conditioned bus. We made one quick bathroom stop (the first real one in days!), and then had a pretty nice dinner at the Massada youth hostel, where we even got to cool of in the pool! The following is a bunch of us who chose to cool down by dipping in the kiddie pool

This morning, after having a nice sleep back in the Sukkah, I decided to daven shacharit at Beit Knesset Yeshurun, a Modern Orthodox Shul down the street since Nativ had no organized davening. It was a pretty nice service, including Birkat Kohanim (x2) and plenty of room to walk around for Hoshanot!
מועדים לשמחה! Moadim L'simcha!
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