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!