Sunday, December 31, 2006

Seeing Jerusalem with Ima and Joshua / An exciting Shabbat in Givat Ze’ev

Since my Ima and brother arrived in Israel on Monday night, I have been in a whirlwind of activity spending time with them as well as trying to see as much of Jerusalem as possible, while still having morning classes at the Conservative Yeshiva. I’m going to try to summarize as much of the exciting activities as possible. Buckle your seatbelts!

Monday Night:

I went down to Ima’s apartment right in the heart of the Emek Refaim neighbourhood, one of the trendiest areas of Jerusalem. After they arrived, we conveniently went right next door and had a delicious dinner of Falafel and shawarma at Falafel Doron. After relaxing at my place for a little while, everyone went to bed with some much-needed sleep.


After my morning class with Reb Pesach Schindler on the topic of אנציקלופדיה תלמודית (Talmudic Encyclopedia) and דרך ארץ (proper behavior) where we broke into chavrutot and prepared a section of the encyclopedia and its sources to present to the class , Ima and Joshua joined us for Mincha and we got on our way. Our first stop was for lunch at an Italian restaurant called Macaroni, where we took advantage of the popular Israeli lunch deal called an עסקית (Business Special) where for 35å Ima and I got Jerusalem artichoke soup, bread and antipasto, a large pasta dish and a salad, and Joshua got a pizza and a drink. After lunch we continued to Machane Yehuda, the Jewish marketplace which is a highlight of any trip to the city. Ima and Joshua each purchased one of the famous Marzipan rugelach, and we proceeded to wander around through the rest of the market, picking up some fresh strawberries along the way. Our next stop was the Haredi neighbourhood of Meah Shearim, which also happens to be a great Judaica shopping destination, and in about an hour we got some books for Joshua at Manny’s Bookstore, a beautiful tallit for his Bar Mitzvah, and a personalized Shtender (bookstand) at the Olive Wood Factory. Heading back towards downtown, we stopped at Fialkoff’s Pizza and got Joshua a real Israeli sufganiya, picked up some groceries at מיסטר זול (Mister Cheap, the Israeli equivalent of No Frills!), and got a burger at burger king. We then relaxed at my place and recovered from the rainy weather that had plagued us for the previous few hours.


After a morning class by Rabbi Shlomo Zacharow on the topic of ‘Is it a Mizvah to make Aliyah?’, Ima and Joshua again joined me for Mincha, but the rest of the day was spent mostly just hanging around, with a mid-afternoon trip to Supersol, because of the snow that had taken over the city early that afternoon (see my previous post and pictures). Although the amount of snow we received would be considered negligible in Toronto, it managed to basically shut the city down, and the traffic lights being out at the intersection of Agron and King George streets right in front of my window didn’t help. Despite the weather, we did manage to get out and enjoy a delicious meal at the Olive Grill with our friends Debbie and Josh Goldsmith, and Debbie’s parents Helen and Paul Wolf from Cleveland. After a lovely meal with great company, I was still glad when I was able to return home to my warm, heated room.


Today I had a morning class with Rabbi Joel Roth, the top Posek (halachic authority) in the Conservative Movement, on the topic of ‘Pattern for Change within Halacha’, which turned out to be very interesting and informative. After leading Mincha, Ima, Joshua and I decided to have lunch at Pinati, the landmark Jerusalem hummus restaurant. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait to long for a table and exactly 19 seconds after ordering (according to Joshua’s watch), our order of two kubeh soups, a plate of hummus basar, and a plate of chips arrived. Just like last time, our trip to Pinati was a delicious experience. After relaxing for a little bit, we set out to the Israel museum, to take advantage of their special that children are free on Thursday evenings, which happened to be sponsored by the Canadian friends of the museum. Our first stop was at the new Model of Jerusalem during the second temple, which had recently been moved from the Holy Land Hotel. I was lucky enough to run into a docent who offered to give us a guided tour in Hebrew, which I was able to understand almost every word of. We then saw a new movie about the Essenes, who wrote the dead sea scrolls, and toured the Shrine of the Book. After spending some time in the museum’s permanent exhibit, we capped off our visit in the temporary exhibit about bread, which everyone enjoyed. On our way home we stopped at the Kiryat Wolfson Mister Zol (sort of like the Thornhill No Frills) and Supersol, where we bought a variety of bourekas and had a picnic in my room.


This week Ima and Joshua joined Avram and I on our weekly visit to Hazon Yeshaya. We first saw a video on their efforts to help with relief in the North during this past summer’s war, after which we got right to work peeling and chopping vegetables, and delivering and serving food. Around noon, we headed back to my place and stopped on the way for a lunch of Shawarma (for me) and Pizza (for Ima and Joshua). We then got ready for Shabbat and around 3 PM, Ima and Abba’s friends Sarah and Teddy’s daughter Rebecca picked us up and drove us to their home in Givat Ze’ev, a town a few kilometres north of the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramot. We arrived and got settled for Shabbat, and after a while left for Kabbalat Shabbat. We davened with Bnei Akiva, which was a neat combination of a Carlebach Kabbalat Shabbat with a Moroccan maariv. We then returned to Sarah and Teddy’s house for a delicious Shabbat dinner. The most exciting part of the night was yet to come, as we left before the end of the meal to participate in a tish with the Karlin-Stolin Hassidim who have a community in Givat Ze’ev. We entered the Beit Midrash and took seats along a long table, with rows of seats surrounding in each direction. We all stood up as the Rebbe and his sons-in-law entered the room, and before the tish began each of was given a piece of challah, in order to show that we were continuing our Shabbat meal that we had begun at home. The tish then got off to a start as the Hassidim, dressed in their Shabbat robes (gold for those born in Israel, Black for Chutz La’aretz) and streimels, began singing their zemirot in perfect harmony, beginning and ending at the signal of the rebbe. After the first few zemirot, everyone got up, took a cup with a small amount of wine and made a bracha. We then got into a long line and one after the other, shook the Rebbe’s hand and finished the wine. After that we sang a few more Zemirot, such as Yah Ekhsof, written by the first rebbe of Karlin, and also including one dance. Before Birkat Hamzon, a dessert of apple cobbler was passed out, and everyone ate after the rebbe. Plates of chickpeas were also passed out in honour of a new baby boy that was born. We then washed for Mayim Achronim and said Birkat Hamazon, after which there was another selection of Zemirot, an d a final dance. The tish was an amazing and unique experience, one that I won’t forget for a long time. We then walked back home, had dessert, and read for a little while before getting a good night of sleep.

Shabbat Day:

After getting an amazing 10 hours of sleep, I woke up and went with Eli, Sarah and Teddy’s youngest son who is the same age of Joshua to the Ashkenazi shul of Givat Ze’ev. Tefillot began at 8 am and were over before 10, went at a nice pace and I even received the honour of Peticha (opening the ark). I had plenty of time to relax before a delicious lunch, after which I read and napped. I went back to the shul for Mincha, seudah shlishit, shiur in Hebrew and maariv. We returned to Sarah and Teddy’s for Havdalah and a light dinner, after which we returned to Jerusalem. In order to have some sustenance before Sunday’s fast, we went out Motzei Shabbat to Tal Bagels, which are some of the most authentic bagels in Jerusalem. To go along with my onion bagel with lox, I got one of the restaurant’s specialties, an Iced Mekupelet (Israeli shaved chocolate bar!. Taim meo’d!

Sunday, Fast of Asarah b’tevet:

The day began with Shacharit at the Conservative Yeshiva, where I led P’sukei D’zimra. In the morning, we had a tanach class with Esther Israel which dealt with some of the prophecies regarding the destruction of the first Temple and the Babylonian exile in the books of Ezekiel and Jeremiah. After class, we davened Mincha, where I read the Haftarah. In the afternoon I relaxed and rested, and a little after 5 pm we had an impromptu Ma’ariv service and ended the fast.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sheleg Birushalayaim (Snow in Jerusalem)!

Although it didn't make the front of the New York Times, it was a pretty rare and interesting occurence yesterday when we had snow in Jerusalem. I'll attach some pictures, but it was quite interesting to see the whole city go into chaos. Despite this, and making it a little hard to get around, it was still a beautiful sight. תהנו מהתמונות! (enjoy the pictures):

Monday, December 18, 2006

חנוכה days 2 and 3

Although recently I've been writing only about once per week, I've had such a busy and exciting past few days that I thought I'd share a little more about what I've done for the past two days ofHanukah. Yesterday morning, I woke up as usual for tefillot at the Conservative Yeshiva, had a sufganiyah for breakfast (don't worry, I'm trying to walk off the calories!), and had a somewhat shortened Talmud Shiur. Around 11:45, we ended class and walked downtown to the Marvad Haksamim (Magic Carpet) restaurant for an end of the semester celebration before the Nativers end their stay at the Yeshiva. Marvad is a restaurant serving traditional sephardic , Yemenite and Mediterranean dishes, and it did not disappoint. I ordered the עיסקית (business lunch special) for 49 Shekel, which includedKubeh soup (Kubeh are somewhat the Sephardic equivalent of matzoh balls, with a coucous outside and meat inside), Meorav Yerushalmi (Mixed Grill) which included all types of grilled chicken, turkey and lamb, french fries, falafel balls, and delicious laffa bead. There was so much food that I took the leftovers home for dinner!
After lunch, I returned to the Yeshiva, for the final session of my Halacha class with our Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Shmuel Lewis. As a finale, we today studied a Teshuva from the Tzitz Eliezer, by Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg who just passed away a few weeks ago. The Topic is the limits of the laws of Pikuach Nefesh, and specifically if a judge is allowed to misjudge in a case where one party has threatened his life, and whether he has to compensate the affected party. It was fascinating to study thehalachic sources relating to the topic as well as Rabbi Waldenberg's interpretation of them.
In the early evening, after the end of classes, the Kibbutz group of Nativ traveled together to the Gilo Home for The Handicapped to celebrate Hanukah with the residents there, by singing Hanukah songs with them and light candles. Although it was somewhat difficult for us to communicate with some of the residents, I could tell by their smiles when we left how much they appreciated our visit.
We continued the spirit of giving by having a group of Nativers who study at the Conservative Yeshiva spend the morning at Yad LeKashish, the lifeline for the old, which is an organization that provides workshops where the elderly craft beautiful Judaica items and receive payment for their work, allowing them dignity in old age. We stopped by each of the eight workshops and in each one, lit candles, sang songs, and chatted a bit with those working there. After volunteering, I stopped by theYad Lekashish gift shop and bought two beautiful kippot for myself.
Today seemed to be the day for shopping, and my next stop was at the Shocken Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, located a block from Beit Nativ adjacent to the Prime Minister's residence. Because of the location, On my way over there I got to see a news report being filmed live on location for BBC! The Library was having theirHanukah sale of Judaica books published by JTS. As a Hanukah treat, I purchased a copy of 'Pesikta D'rav Kahana' and 'The Responsa of Professor Louis Ginsberg'! We also were shown a copy of a Bible manuscript from the year 1290 with a beautifully illuminated title page. what a treat!
Next stop was to head up to Meah Shearim with my friends Jacob and Sarah so they could do some last minute gift shopping. Although I didn't buy any, it was still nice to spend time with them and do some nice browsing.
I then went back home and had a quick bite of lunch, before I headed down to the Yeshiva for a Shiur by our director, Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, on the history and meaning of Maoz Tzur. Although I was somewhat familiar with the song, it was interesting to gain some new insight by examining each of the 6 verses critically along with the biblical verses referenced within them. After theshiur I participated in candlelighting and Maariv at the Yeshiva, before going back home to light candles of my own.
After dinner, I headed next door to Congeregation Moreshet Yisrael to enjoy a concert put on by the first year students of the JTS Cantorial School. I have gotten to know these students very well as they are also part of the Yeshiva community, and it was fun to see them on stage. While they did perform some standardcantorial pieces, the concert also included a plethora of Hanukah music, including 5 different versions of Maoz Tzur!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

חנוכה in Jerusalem

I have been having a non-stop series of amazing events, and just wanted to take a few minutes to give you a taste of what it's like to be in Jerusalem for the period leading up to חנוכה. Back to this past Thursday night, the beginning of Erev Hannukah when my friend Mendy and I took advantage of Hamshushalayim festival (חמשוש is an Israeli Acronym meaning weekend, combining Hamishi Shishi Shabbat, Thursday (night), Friday, Shabbat), where different cultural sites around the city were open to the public for three weekends. The previous weekend, I went to Israel museum with another friend and saw the Shrine of the Book, part of the permanent exhibit, and a temporary exhibit on Bread which was quite interesting. This week we visited the Tower of David museum and took a quick rendezvous to the Old Yishuv Court Museum. The Tower of David, which I had walked by many times but never actually gone inside, turned out to be well worth our while, considering we spent a good two hours there. After entering just outside the Jaffa gate, we walked through the museum entrance and into a large and beautifully lit courtyard, which I never knew could exist in what looks like such a small area from the outside. As we found out later, running through the centre of the courtyard from north to south was a wall that is estimated to date from the Hasmonean period and according the exhibit, was attacked by Antiouchus IV, quite appropriate for the day before Hannukah. We continued our visit by ascending the Phasael tower, the bottom half of which dates from time of Herod and named for his brother. At its peak we were able to witness a magnificent and unparalleled view of Jerusalem. From the west side we could see the entire New City spread out before us, and to the East we could see the Old City, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Dome of the Rock, as well as the Jewish Cemetery on Har Hazeitim and Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. After descending the tower, we entered a theatre and saw a cartoon history of Jerusalem, which was cute and funny, as well as educational and informative. The next part of the visit, which felt like a maze at times, was viewing the permanent exhibit of the museum, which tells the story of the City of Jerusalem from its begging as a Cannanite town to its present as the Capital of Israel. In between the different exhibits, scattered in rooms off of the main courtyard, we explored the ramparts of the citadel, which was a lot of fun, while enjoying the vistas and history at the same time. Although it was already 11:30 when we finished at the Tower of David, Mendy and I decided to squeeze in one more museum, the Old Yishuv Court. This site, which I did not know much about before our visit, was restored to the way it looked in the early part of the 20th Century, when eight Jewish families lived in crowded one-room apartments surrounding a courtyard, and includes actual furnishings from the period. One room functioned as a synagogue, and much to our surprise, marks the place where the אריזל (Rabbi Isaac Luria) was traditionally born. Although we only had a few minutes to explore the exhinits, it was still a great way to explore a part of the city's history I knew little to nothing about.
As I usually do each week, I woke up early on Friday morning and davened at Yeshurun, this time bringing my friend Jacob along. After breakfast, I went to Hazon Yeshaya for a shortened time and peeled some קישואים (a popular vegetable in Israel, somewhere between a zucchini and squash), before I had to walk back to base. At around 11:00, I got in a cab with Sarah Lopatin, who is on Nativ with me, and Britt Kessler, a Conservative Yeshiva student, to head down to our teacher, Rabbi Dr. Pesach Schindler's home in Givat Masuah for a brunch with our Hassidut class. גבעת משואה is one of the newest neighbourhoods in Jerusalem , built on a hill between Ein Kerem and Malha. Reb Pesach's house is on the edge of the neighbourhood, and is on a hill, meaning that the entrnce was actually one level below ground. We were the first to arrive, though a few minutes later, Liz Freirich, a HUC rabbinical student and her husband Saul pulled up on their bikes, which they had rode from over eight kilometres away. After chatting for a little bit with Reb Pesach and his wife Shulamit and waiting for the others to arrive, they took us up to their balcony and showed us the view overlooking the southern valley of Jerusalem, which has been identified as the biblical עמק רפאים. We then came back downstairs and sat around the table and made a tish, with a little l'chaim, as each one of us shared our own piece of Hassidic Torah (read mine HERE). We then partook in a delicious lunch of bagels and spreads, while we got to know the members of our class and their spouses a little better.
We took a cab back home and arrived around 2 PM, with a little time to spare to get ready for Shabbat and the first night of Hannukah. Around 3:45, we gathered in the ground floor of our building overlooking Agron Street to light our Hannukiyot and eat some gelt and sufganiyot. I lit a Hannukiyah that I had made this past Tuesday, and it was so nice that I was able to arrange all the necessary provisions for a Kosher lighting by myself, with a little help from Nativ! I davened friday night at Yeshurun, for one of their beautiful Cantorial Carlebach services. After Mincha, Hannukah candles were lit in the front of the Shul, an inspirational moment that I felt brought everyone together. We then went immeadiately into the singing of Yedid Nefesh and the Kabbalat Shabbat service led by Hazzan Asher Heinowitz and the Yeshurun Choir. For someone who loves both Hazzanut and Carlebach, the combination of the two is even better and I had a lot of fun, even joining in the spontaneous dancing that took place after L'cha dodi. Following Yigdal, I walked back to Beit Nativ, and about 45 minutes later, set out with ten others to have dinner across the street at the Home of Rabbi Paul Freedman, former Director of USY and his wife Nina. We had a great time chatting with the Freedmans, catching up with each other, and partaking in some delicious food, including some tasty latkes. During Zemirot, Nina did her famous M'nucha V'simcha routine (for any USYers out there, the word is צאתו, not SATO). Before leaving, we checked out the gorgeous view from the Freedmans' 6th floor balcony.
This morning, I returned to Yedidya after a long hiatus, and was blown away by the beautiful Hannukah tefillot. Shacharit and Hallel was led by a man with a beautiful voice and I recieved the 4th Aliyah. After a delicious Kiddush, I headed back for a small, but nice Shabbat lunch, followed by a much needed Shabbat nap. At 4:00 I walked next dpor to the Conservative Shul Moreshet Yisrael for Mincha, where I read Torah. After a very rushed Seudah Shlishit, I set out with a group of Nativers, to daven Maariv and participate in Candlelighting at the Kotel. After a scenic walk towards the old city, we walked down to the Kotel and passed through security. After washing our hands and walking down towards the prayer area, we were lucky enough to find a group of about 7 people waiting for a minyan, and we joined them and davened Maariv. After the end of tefilot, we joined a small crowd gathered around a large Hanukiyah placed in front of the wall next to the Mechitza. It was moving to participate in the lighting, and sing הנרות הללו and מעוז צור with the eclectic group who might not have had much in common, but were all Jews coming to celebrate Hannukah in Yerushalayim. While we were participating in that candlelighting, someone pointed for us to turn around and to our right, high above the plaza, a giant Hanukiyah was being lit with a torch, which was a great site. After Maoz Tzur was finidhed, the Rabbi who had lit the hanukiyah gave a short dvar torah about how amazing it is that we are able to be here in front of the Kotel, in the modern state of Israel. We had been lamenting that we would miss havdalah back home, but luckily on my way out I noticed a sign that said 'Havdalah', and I got to participate in that too at the kotel. On the way back we walked through the Jewish quarter and tried to spot as many Hannukiyot as we could on our way back. When I arrived home, I then got to light my own Hannukiyah again, and lingered to enjoy the beautiful sight for a few minutes.
שבוע טוב! חג אורים שמח!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

קבע וכונה-Consistency with Meaning

I just completed another quite meaningful weekend that I couldn't wait to share with everyone. This past friday, after a two week hiatus, I got to return to my regularly scheduled routine of waking up early, davening at Yeshurun, eating breakfast and spending the morning volunteering at Hazon Yeshaya. this week my friend Avram's mother joined us in our vegetable chopping pursuit. It reminded me that despite the sadness that there are so many hungry people in Jerusalem and all over Israel, it is good to know that there are warm, caring places like this to try to alleviated the problem somewhat. On our way home, I walked through shuk Machane Yehuda, the city's Jewish marketplace, witnessing the sights, sounds and smells of a city getting ready for shabbat. As we walked by Marzipan, a bakery famous around the world for their rugelach, I spotted some gigantic sufaniyot (חנוכה donuts), which were only 3 shekel a piece. Although they are traditionally filled with jelly, Marzipan also had chocolate and vanilla, and I got a very tasty chocolate one! I ran home for a quick lunch, after which I showered and got ready for Shabbat, which I spent in Modi'in with three of my friends at the home of my Talmud teacher, Dr. Josh Kulp (who by the way my abba used to babysit for back in New London, CT when Josh's father was his Cantor) and his family. We started walking towards downtown, stopping at Marzipan (again!) to pick up some fresh חלות and rugelach as a host gift, and then walked over to the bus stop a block away. Unlike most of the country, which is served by the Egged bus company, the Modi'in region is served by the Margalit buses, which are much more comfortable than usual. The bus took a very interesting and scenic route, first driving through Meah Shearim and the surrounding religious neighbourhoods, before passing through Ramot and exiting Jerusalem to the Northwest. We then drove along Highway 443, the northern Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway which speeds through the Judean wilderness, passing by the Yishuv of Givat Ze'ev on the way. Modi'in is a relatively new city, being established only in 1993, despite sharing a name with the ancient home of the Macabees. The city was built to function as an עיר העתיד, city of the future and was built with many parks, beautiful streets and now over 70,000 residents.

We arrived at Josh's house just before shabbat, after getting a little bit turned around, and quickly put our things away since it was almost time to leave for shul. Josh, his wife Julie and their three cute kids Yadin, Zohar and Anan daven at a new minyan begun a year ago called דרכי נעם, which meets in a school about a 15 minute walk away from their house. Their minyan is quite innovative in its attempt to try and balance adherence to the Orthodox interpretation of halacha, and a commitment to egalitarianism. Therefore, the model of 'Shira Chadasha' was adopted, where men an women sit separated by a Mechitza, but women are allowed to lead prayers which do not require a minyan, such as פסוקי דזמרא and קבלת שבת, as well as parts of the Torah service. Friday night tefillot were very inspirational and filled with singing, as well as many families with young children. After shul we took a leisurely walk home, and after a game of Spiderman Uno with the kids, it was time for a delicious shabbat dinner, a few zemirot, and some time to relax before getting some nice Shabbat rest.

In the morning, as I had been warned, we were indeed awoken by Josh's kids quite early, though I still got a decent sleep, and a little later we had a light breakfast of (real!) cereal before we were off to shul. As with the previous night, we again experienced a very spiritual davening, complete with shacharit led by my friend Josh Goldberg, and my getting to chant the Haftarah. We came back from shul and relaxed again for a while, after which we sat down for a Shabbat lunch of make your own burritos. After a nice Shabbat nap and a quick mincha service at a local shul just a block away, we passed the time until maariv with a few rounds of 'whoonu', a game where one is given four cards with nouns such as 'sleeping in,' popcorn', or 'the olympics', and each player has to decide which item the judge likes best. The player who is judging then ranks the others' choices, and points are awarded based on how much the judge likes each item. It was a great way to have fun and learn about each other at the same time.

It was then time to daven Maariv, say havdalah and have a light dinner before heading on the bus back to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the bus didn't travel through מרכז העיר (the city centre) on its way back, and we had to get a bit of exercise walking back from the central bus station near the city entrance.

On Sunday, we got to participate in a tiyul of the Conservative Yeshiva to both the archeological park of Beit Guvrin and the Children's home of Neve Hanna. The morning was somewhat fun in that we got explore ancient cities that are very significant in Jewish and general history, as well as climb through caves, which was a nice bonding experience. However, it has lost a bit of its charm being art the site for the third time. After a picnic lunch and mincha, we moved onto the part of the day that would leave a lasting impression. Neve Hanna is an amazing place in the development town of Kiryat Gat, which takes in kids from dysfunctional families an places them in a loving, caring environment. Unlike the reputation of other childrens' homes, Neve Hanna pioneered a method where they place the kids, aged 4-14 in units of 10-12 kids, with a mix of boys and girls, and two educators who care for them. Neve Hanna also has a petting zoo, which is used as therapy for the kids, and a bakery, which even supplies to El Al and Elite, to teach the kids the value of working and earning a living. A last feature which distinguishes the facility is its long-term relationship with the Conservative/Masorti movement, which has existed since its founding in the 1970's, which is manifested by the teaching of Judaism to the children and regular weekly tefillot. The movement also sends rabbinical students to serve as interns at Neve Hanna, which have included my Abba and my midrash teacher, Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein when the studied in Israel in 1980-81. After an overview of the facility and a tour, we had some time to socialize with the kids, and kit was great to see how much they appreciated our care and interest. Overall, Sunday's tiyul was a great way to get in the spirit of חנוכה, by learning about our past and attempting to create a better future for those less fortunate.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Shabbat to Remember

I just finished an extremely spiritual, enjoyable, and rewarding shabbat, which was spent at a shabbaton of the Conservative Yeshiva. Although it was held at he Fuchsberg Centre, the same complex as my Jerusalem residence, it was very different from the many other ones I have spent here as Nativ. The programming began on Friday morning with tefillot at the yeshiva, which turned out to be much more exciting than planned, as we forgot to make sure that someone would be there with a key to open up. After a few minutes, despite the early morning chill (which would be like summer compared to Toronto at this time of year), we decided to daven P'sukei D'zimra outside in the courtyard, and about 25 minutes later we finally were able to get inside and finish Shacharit. We then had a light breakfast of fresh bourekas, and after a little while we got ready for our tiyul of the morning to Ir David (City of David), the archaeological site where the history of Jerusalem began, and which continued to be its core during First Temple times. Altthough I was in the area on Pilgrimage last summer, it was nice to experience it again, especially with David Keren, the director of USY programs in Israel as our guide, providing us with updates on the latest excavations and theories. When we got to the part of the tour which took us through the ancient water system, we made a bit of a change from last time and as we were pressed for time, walked through the older 'Canaanite' tunnel instead of the famous Hezekiah's tunnel, filled with water and extremely dark. Its amazing to see how beautiful the site has become, due to the efforts of a group of people who recognized the historic significance of the area and dediated themselves to preserving it for the future. After we finished the tour, we returned to the Yeshiva for a genuine Falafel lunch from Falafel Uzi, one of Rabbi Goldfarb's favourite places. The food and company were both quite good, and it was a great way to cap off the morning. We then had a few short hours to relax and prepare for Shabbat, and by 3:45 the community began to arrive to light candles and bring in Shabbat.

Friday night tefillot were held at Moreshet Yisrael, the Conservative shul adjacent to the Fuchsberg centre complex. Although I would not usually daven there, as it feels exacly like a typical American Conservative shul, this week was very different as my friend Josh Goldberg led us in a joyous and uplifting Carlebach style Kabbalat Shabbat service. This was followed by dinner where we had some nice company, despite the food being the same as it always is at the youth hostel. The meal ended with a few zemirot, a d'var torah explaining the lessons that we can learn from the etymology of Jacob's sons' names in this week's parasha, and birkat hamazon. After the meal, we continued with a fun and educational program put together by my Talmud hevruta (study partner), Miron Hirsch, entitled JastrowDash or 'Those Crazy Milim'. Based on the game Balderdash, or 'a truth and three lies', the activity was done in game show format with Miron as the MC, a panel made up of four Yeshiva celebrities: Rabbi Goldfarb, the CY Director; Reb Shmuel Lewis, our Rosh Yeshiva; Dr. Josh Kulp, my Talmud teacher; and Scott Perlo, a University of Judaism rabbinical student who is spending the year studying at the Yeshiva, and a steady stream of students competing in the show. Miron managed to pick a list of words from the Jastrow Dictionary of the Talmud , many of which even stumped the panel members, and each one gave a convincing definition, only one of which was correct. Although only one contestant actually guessed the definition, the entire room was on the edge of their seats, and loved the amazing improvized humour. I wonder if you know what a כפלתא (Kafelta) is? No, its not an exclamation used when there's two of something...but it actually refers to Mea'arat Hamachpelah; And what about סגולרין (Segularin)? Not related to the colour purple (segol) as one might assume, but rather actually means secular games of the Romans! You never know what you can find in the Jastrow!

After the game show went off the air, we retired to the Yeshiva's cozy upstairs Beit Midrash for a traditional Tish, including singing, food, drink, stories and divrei torah. I certainly thought it was a spiritual, fun and exciting way to bring in Shabbat, and bring together the extended Yeshiva community.

Shabbat morning we organized our own tefillot, with a star lineup of leaders, including Rabbi Shlomo Zacharow for P'sukei dizimra and Reb Pesach Schindler leading Shacharit. I got to read torah and have an aliyah, and I was able to sense a feeling of ruach and kehillah abounding. Because of the shortness of shabbat we moved right into Kiddush and lunch, with okay food but fun company. After lunch we had an activity that I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the fact that only a few people decided to participate. Put together by one of the Yeshiva students, the participants were split into two groups and told that they were to create a new Jewish community, but told that they could only choose 5 of 20 different factors as the most essential for the community. As planned, It was a great way to get to know some of the other Yeshiva students and faculty, as well as think about what our Jewish priorities are and should be. Afterwards we moved right into a nice Mincha service led by Miron, and a few minutes later a large crowd gathered at the entrance to the Fuchsberg complex for a guided walking tour of the Rehavia neighbourhood led by Rabbi Goldfarb. Athough we didn't go anywhere more than a fifteen minute walk from the centre, I was amazing to learn from his vast knowledge of the area and come out with a much richer understanding of my own backyard. Our walk ended up at the home of Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, one of the Tanach teachers for the Yeshiva, who prepared a beautiful and tasty seudah shlishit for about sixty members of the yeshiva community. Although we were pressed for time, we still managed to fit in some nice singing, a D'var torah, and some time to enjoy each others' company as Shabbat came to a close. The evening ended with Ma'ariv, Havdalah and Kiddush L'vanah (blessing of the new moon).

Motzei Shabbat I had a great treat as I went with my friend Matt 'Teppy' Tepperman for dinner with his parents and a group of Nativers at El Gaucho, a famous Kosher Argentinian in the heart of Jerusalem. It was a great opportunityn to meet Teppy's parents, hang out with my friends and have some very good food, including a mouthwatering 350g steak!

שבוע טוב! Shavua Tov!

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