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!

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