Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Last "First"

It is now Erev Shavuot 5770, May 18, 2010. Tonight and tomorrow, we will celebrate Shavuot with Jews around the world. While I plan to stay up all night and learn--as is the custom--daven at sunrise and then go to sleep, this year, Shavuot takes on a slightly new meaning.
Ever since our Aliya--a little less than a year ago--every chag, every holiday, be it minor or major was a "first" of sorts. It was our first Chanuka in Israel...our first Yom Kippur...our first Yom yerushalayim and on and on. As with other holidays, tonight marks the first Shavuot for us in Israel as Israeli citizens. But, it occurred to me last night that this is the "last first" as far as the Jewish calendar is concerned! We arrived 2 days prior to the Fast of 17 Tammuz last year. The next significant date after Shavuot is (no, not my sister's birthday!) the Fast of 17 Tammuz. So that means that once we celebrate Shavuot tonight/tomorrow, we will have gone through the entire Jewish calendar year.

It is so hard to believe that this is the case since on the one hand it feels like we just got here a couple of months ago and on the other, it seems like we have lived here forever! Shavuot is a time to rededicate one's self to Torah, both in terms of learning and in terms of practice. This year, it represents that and a whole lot more to me, personally. As we approach our one year Aliya anniversary (BE"H on Sunday, June 27, 2010--15 Tammuz), we have decided to mark the date in terms of the JEWISH calendar. So, instead of July 7th being the significant date, 15 Tammuz is "our" date. It is getting closer...and the feelings, emotions and anticipation are SO radically different THIS year than last year!

So, I best get ready for this "last first" before I run out of time. One last item, is my great-nephew's brit milah. And while we can not be there in person, techonology is great that it will enable us to "particpate" long distance by the computer. Exciting day...!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A "GREAT" Yom Yerushalayim

As I write this, we are in the midst of celebrating Yom Yerushalayim, the day on which after nearly 2000 years, the COMPLETE city of Jerusalem was in our hands as of June 67. It is my first as an Israeli citizen and I am looking forward to many aspects of the day.
Last night, I attended a wedding of the son of the man I work for. It was held on Kibbutz Bet Guvrin (yes, the same location as the "dig") outdoors under a beautiful sky with perfect weather. The meal, dancing, etc were all outdoors and it could not have been more gorgeous! BUT, in the middle of the chuppa, my cell phone rang, and I saw it was a call from my parents. I ran to the side to answer the phone and was given the good news: my niece and nephew, Mindy and Yaakov Samberg had a baby boy!!! Mazal tov...this meant I was GREAT uncle for the very first exciting this was! It was a particularly emotional moment, as I also realized it is the first (of MANY, BE"H) smachot I will miss in Chicago. (But we do hope to skype in for the Brit next week!).
And if that was not emotional enough, the chuppa came to a conclusion with the singing of "Im Eshkachaych Yerushalayim"...on the NIGHT of Yom meant SO much at that moment. It was followed by Tefilla Chagigit for Maariv in honor of the special day!

This afternoon, we are all going in to Yerushalayim to take part in the RIKUDGALIM, a flag dance with 75,000 of my closest friends. We will all dance in the streets of Yerushalayim to further accomplish that which it says in the Navi Zecharya:
עוד ישבו זקנים וזקנות ברחובות ירושלם
Yes, the time HAS indeed come that Rabbi Akiva referred to at the end of Masechet Makkot. We do see the streets of Jerusalem filled with young and old...dancing, singing and living as FREE Jews under JEWISH leadership (flawed, but Jewish!). We have been zoche to also say:
עקיבא, ניחמתנוִ עקיבא, ניחמתנו
(Akiva you have comforted us--with your vision of Yerushalayim).

Yes, we are indeed comforted that Jerusalem is our's. Yes, we are comforted that Jerusalem will BE"H NEVER be in the hands of an oppressor again. And yes, we are indeed comforted that people can live as free Jews in the Land of Israel. No, we do not have a Bet HaMikdash and no, the government of Israel is not Mashiach ruling over the Jews. No, it is not perfect! But...JERUSALEM IS OUR'S FOREVER, no matter what any administration of any other country may claim!

The worst part of the day? The sad fact that there are still Jews around the world who do not recognize that today, YOM YERUSHALAYIM, is a cause for celebration. That instead of Hallel, they are reciting Tachanun. It is also sad that such a significant percentage of people do not recognize the NISSIM GLUYIM (revealed miracles) of the Six Day War and are not "makir tov" (do not show gratitude) to Hashem for what He has done for us. If only R' Akiva could stand near Har HaBayit now and declare that he sees that vision of Zecharya come true with his own eyes...then we could ALL say: AKIVA NICHAMTANU, AKIVA NICHAMTANU!

Yom Yerushalayim Sameach to ALL Jews, no matter what they choose to say/not say in Tefilla. Next time you are in Israel, make sure to stop by the Old City of Jerusalem. You will recognize it by the white dome of the Churva Synagogue which has been re-built...just like Jerusalem itself!

אִֽם־אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְֽרוּשָׁלָם תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִֽי

With Greetings from Hashem's Home Town...

Israel's newest Great Uncle

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Trip Up North

As my time has been spent mostly on working with the Netivot program lately, my blog has been fairly silent. Most of my posting has beenon Facebook for the Netivot-2010 page. Below is my latest entry and I am including here on my blog as it is a record of the past few days.

As I write this, I am on the bus on the way back home from Tzfat after an amazing few days up North! Our trip began on Thursday morning with our first stop at Tzipori, an ancient village in the Galil. We learned about the assimilation of the Jews into the Roman way of life, art, culture, etc and how the Jews had internal debates as to how to deal with the threat to the Jewish people. This threat was both in terms of physical and spiritual attacks. We saw the “Mona Lisa of the Galil,” a beautiful mosaic on the floor of an ancient shul.
From there we travelled back some 2000 years to the time when our ancestors lived a very different life. We experienced this in Kedem (in Hoshaya). Here we spoke about why the students are here in Israel to study…we davened Mincha…ate a lunch similar to that of our ancient ancestors and then dressed in costume for our tour of the area…ON DONKEYS! As the saying goes: A good time was had by all!
Our last stop of the day was to take a hike down Mt Arbel. It began with a lookout over the region from the top of the mountain and was then followed by a climb down the mountain-side. (I have a severe fear of heights, but I figured, I would try it too. But we got to one point and the vision of my wife and three daughters flashed before my eyes and I turned back…not because it was unsafe but because I just couldn’t handle the heights!)
Everyone (else!) enjoyed the hike as we met them all at the bottom of the mountain, tired but happy. Then it was off to the hotel for some much needed rest!
The next day (Friday) we spent some time on top of Har Bental in the Golan Heights overlooking a large area of the Golan and also saw the Har Hermon (snow covered) in the distance. What a magnificent view! From there we went to eat lunch (a BBQ). For some reason, the local gnats felt that they were invited to the party as well! After filling up on good BBQ food, it was off to the Jordan River for kayaking. It was not a super hot day but being in the water and kayaking did bring welcome relief from the heat of the day!
And then, it was time for preparing for the best day of the week: SHABBAT! But not just any old Shabbat,,,a Shabbat in Tzfat. After candle lighting, we davened Kabbalat Shabbat in the Ar”I Shul. The significance of this is that it was the Ar”I HaKadosh who instituted Kabbalat Shabbat in Tzfat…we had the opportunity to back to the roots of this Tefilla! We opted out of the Carelbach davening nearby (two hours long…a bit much!) and were back in the hotel for our Shabbat Seudah. The meal, dvar torah and benching concluded, and it was sleep time…for SOME of us! The next morning, we were back at the same shul for tefilla followed by Kiddush and Seudat Shabbat. Before we all broke up for the afternoon, we had a group discussion revolving around making use of the special time available and the wonderful opportunity they all have being in Israel for these few weeks. Then, most decided to take a loooooong rest and some of us decided to sit around and enjoy the beautiful day. It was nice to share this Shabbat with the girls and staff of Midreshet Moriah, who also were there for Shabbat. Our girls will be in their school soon, so it was nice to see all of them as well.
Shabbat late in the late afternoon, a few of us took a walking tour of Tzfat led by Shmarya and me as we walked around and discussed some of what we were seeing. Shamrya then took us to a very high area on a mountain top where there is a memorial to fallen IDF soldiers from Tzfat and the view from up there was INCREDIBLE! We saw the Kineret, Tveria, a large area of Tzfat and the surrounding cities.
Mincha, Maariv and Havadala and a beautiful Shabbat came to a close. As we travel back to the schools and I travel back home, we look forward to yet another great week in which we will all celebrate Yom Yerushalayim and do other special things as well.
It is hard to believe that this program is already 3 ½ weeks old! It has been intense, fun, uplifting, challenging and thought provoking. I pray that it will continue to get better and better and I look forward to the next 4 weeks together.
Shavua tov from somewhere in the Galil, en route home!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lag Ba'Omer

Fire, fire, fire...everywhere I look tonight I see fires burning! I had the opportunity right after Shabbat to go into Yerushalayim. On the way, and especially once I entered the city, I saw fires EVERYWHERE I looked in celebration of Lag Ba'Omer.
Leading up to tonight, you could see kids collecting ANYTHING that would burn, for the past few weeks. Tree trunks, panelling that had been tossed out, wood, sticks, you name it...if it burned, it was being collected for tonight's bonfires all over.
But, then the weathermen used the dreaded word: RAIN...not only was it supposed to was supposed to pour! All of the dreams of staying up all night around bonfires were about to (pardon the pun) go up in smoke!
HA...they were wrong! It is a gorgeous night and the fires are a-burning! In Mitzpe Nevo there is a huge bonfire with a concert going on as I write this. So, instead of WRITING about it, I am going out right now to EXPERIENCE it!

Happy Lag Ba'Omer...or as I heard someone tell me tonight: LAG SAMEACH!!!