Sunday, September 20, 2009

"How Was Your First Rosha Hashana in Israel?"

I was asked this at least 20-30 times today, and I was thrilled to give everyone the same answer: MAGNIFICENT! The tefilla, the ruach (spirit), the food (we ate out all four meals), the learning, the entire atmosphere...all added up to make a WONDERFUL way to begin 5770.

But, let me back up a bit and make some comments that are a little more specific.

Erev Rosh Hashana, on Friday, the entire feeling one had walking down the street was that the Chag was on the way. If you looked across the street from the shul I daven in, you would see men lining up to go to Mikveh. In front of one home, there stood a man who was practicing his davening before entering the shul later in the day to be the Chazan and lead the Tefilla. Kids of all ages rushing hither and yon (did I really just use that expression?!?!) doing their part to get ready. The local Makolet (grocery store) and all of the other shopping locations were in pre-holiday frenzy mode. And the aroma...the aroma walking down the is a wonder I didn't just gain weight from the smell!

And then, as dark descended upon Mitzpe Nevo, we joined the rest of the country in welcoming the New Year, 5770. I looked at the mountains that surround our area and thanked Hashem out loud that I had the zechut of celebrating our first Rosh Hashana in Israel.

I had the opportunity to speak (at the Bet Kenesset HaGilgal) the first night, as well as to be the Chazan for Maariv. I paused on a number of occassions before Rosh Hashana wondering what it would be like to NOT be a functionary (in the role of Rav) for Yom Tov. The best way I can answer that question is to say that on the one hand it was indeed a wonderful feeling to be able to daven at the pace I wanted to; not to have to be concerned about giving a lot of speeches (and hope they would turn out as good as I thought they sounded in my head); not to have to be responsible for overseeing all of the aspects of the Yamim Noraim. And yet, there were points at which I did indeed miss the role. It is hard to put my finger on it but maybe over the next few days I will be able to give voice (so to speak) to these thoughts. At the moment, let it suffice to say that for the VAST majority time I was quite comfortable in my new role.

We had the opportunity to eat, as I said before, at four different households over the Chag. It was so special to see how each family approached this time of year with different customs, foods, philosophy, etc. We also had the opportunity to eat at the home of the Rav of the Shul, Rav Elisha Aviner among other homes. EVERY single family with whom we ate were so gracious and so kind to us.

Now that Rosh Hashana 5770 is a memory, it is time to set our sights on the Aseret Yemai Teshuva (the Ten Days of Repentance). I have a number of things planned over the next few days but it will certainly be a different experience than the past 10 years.

That is the update from Maale Adumim (Mitzpe Nevo neighborhood) for now. I want to take this opporunity once again to wish everyone a Shana Tova!

Final note...while the davening was wonderful and the tunes beautiful, there are two noteworthy items: I was very moved in Mussaf when we all began to sing along with the chazan as he sang a piece that the word YERUSHALAYIM was the focus of the song. While we sang, I looked at the mountains surrounding the outskirts of Yerushalayim...what a feeling!! Secondly, I missed the tunes I was used to and missed the Baalei Tefilla from KJ. I will learn new tunes over the next many years (IYH) but do know that the old tunes still will continue to run through my head.