One thing that I have not completely addressed on this blog is the RELIGIOUS/SPIRITUAL aspects of Aliya that I have encountered. While some may be too personal to publicly address, others are fine for public consumption.
1. Tefilla...While I have ALWAYS placed a high priority on davening/tefilla/prayer, and I have taught classes over the years in it as well, I must tell you that my kavana (concentration, thought process, etc) is completely different here! First of all, I can daven at the pace I want to and can concentrate more on what I am saying. Since the minhag (custom) in most places is that the one leading the davening waits for the Rabbi to finish his Shemona Esray before the repetition begins, I was always mindful of this and did not want to go too long so as to cause a situation of "tircha d'tzibura" (loosely translated as a burden on those present). I considered it a hazard of being a Shul Rabbi. But at this stage, I feel free to daven as long as I wish, and it has made a HUGE difference in my davening.
2. Mitzvot...I can honestly say that I remember back to the day I put on my Tefillin for the first time. The newness and excitement were palpable. Every time I saw a young man put on his Tefillin for the first time, I tried to encourage him to keep that fervor and excitement as long as possible. Sadly, like most people, the action of day-to-day Mitzvot, such as Tefillin was not always met with the same excitement and fervor as it was when I first put on the Tefillin 37 years ago. HOWEVER, that zeal, excitement and joy at doing "even" the daily Mitzvot has come back VERY strongly, and I am acutely aware every time I am making a Bracha, putting on Tefillin, putting up a Mezuzah, etc, etc, etc. It is SO hard to put into words this feeling of "newness" (that I realistically fear will not last for 70 more years) at doing all of the Mitzvot. It is a wonderful feeling!
3. Closeness to Hashem...One other thing I have always strived to do is fulfill "dvekut Ba'shem" (cleaving to Hashem). At this time of year, for the past 10 years, I would be sitting writing my High Holiday sermons, and summer therefore became intense periods of reflection and introspection. This year, with no sermons to write (although I may STILL write and email out a pre-Yom Kippur "Three Images" speech!), I have had even more opportunity for introspection. The closeness to Hashem, the feelings of "I am HOME"...His home...and that I am (hopefully!) giving Him "nachas" that I/we are here, makes me feel even closer. Put it this way...if you recall the look on your parents' face when you did something that made them proud, you felt a closer bond than before...THAT is what I am feeling now.
4. I have never felt prouder to be a Jew! No further explanation needed on this one...
Once again, Shabbat was magnificent. We actually ate at home, by ourselves, for the first time in months. Back in Chicago, we ate out for a number of weeks before our departure and the first three weeks here, we had invitations every week. It was nice to be alone in our home in Maale Adumim for a Shabbat meal.
Looking forward to a post-Tisha B'Av week coming up. Nice to hear music again!