ABSTRACT: I got to participate in some rituals, discussions, and a lot of relaxation for my first Shabbat in Israel. The disclaimer/caveat that I bring up several times is that details WILL be fuzzy, since I took no notes, attempting Shomer Shabbat in addition to Zakhor Shabbat.
Shabbat Kodesh, 21 Tammuz / Friday-Saturday, July 22-23
Walking toward the commons area, Dan asked for the men in the meeting room to leave. We presented the ladies with roses—a Shorashim tradition. After the ladies met us on the porch of the south side of the building, we circled up, talked about our Shabbat traditions, and sang a few songs like L’kha Dodi and Adon Olam, among others. The camaraderie was great as we sang until the sun set. I concluded the service/session by leading Aleinu.
Then, we went inside to the commons and ate dinner upstairs. I did the full Kiddush in Hebrew, handwashing included. Dinner was beef and more, and people had enjoyed my davening. Most of the details, though, are gone by now. I did have that caveat from earlier!
We went downstairs for a group activity… a few fun games. We started with the “curtain name game,” where the room was split in two. One person from each side sat in front of the curtain, and each of those had to guess the other’s name. The first person who said the other’s name stole the person to that side. My original squad was quickly depleted, and I was the one being stolen rather than the thief when I got the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon opposite Shiran. Go figure! We played another game, “Bird and Perch,” which ended quickly when Brooke’s foot got stepped on awkwardly.
The last game we had incredible difficulty getting right, and was quick-moving. One chair was empty, and the game was a series of ten statements: “I Am.” “Sitting.” “Under.” “Fresh.” “Tree.” “And.” “Waiting.” “For.” “Number.” “n.” The person in the chair to the left of the empty chair moves into the empty chair after saying one of the statements, and after the number is mentioned, the person corresponding to that number must move to the empty seat. Then the process starts again with the newly-vacated seat. For example, if they called “21,” I would have to move to that vacant seat. All the errors we made ended up making for real comedy!
As the group broke up for the night, Nitzan showed me to the bet k’nesset (synagogue). It is a small place with separate entrances for men and women. The service will be later today, at 730h. Returning to the village involved some kvetching with Nitzan and Sara. Other people decided to go to the pub, but I chose to sleep at 0000h.
I woke up at 700h, having to deactivate my alarm (s’likha) and have a few cookies from my stash. I went to Aaron’s room, but knocking on the door resulted in no response. Thus, I just walked on toward the synagogue. It was a small room and had benches that were more like desks. Everything was obviously in Hebrew. In the Shakharit service, it was essentially all silent and mumbling. I find it really interesting how the more Orthodox a congregation is, the more silence/mumbling the services tend to have. Maybe it’s taking the Haftarah on Rosh Hashanah to heart? As we approached Barkhu, we were short of a minyan, so Binyamin approached me and accompanied me back to the guest rooms to see if I could help gather enough for a minyan.
We walked to the cabins, but naturally everyone was knocked out. So we returned with a failed minyan attempt. The Torah Service was still done, but there were no b’rakhot before and after the readings, and the Torah wasn’t opened… instead the reading was done from a Chumash. I was called to the Torah for the fifth aliyah, and simply stood guard. The Haftarah was then done, and it was Matot, the same one that I read four years ago in my first Haftarah reading since my Bar Mitzvah! They had me lead Kiddush, which was simply V’sham’ru and boray p’ri hagefen.
After I said “L’hitra’ot,” I returned to the village and heard giggling to the northwest (?) (I may have lost my bearings). Following the sounds, I saw the pool and what appeared to be a mini-golf course. Back in the room, I read an old Tribune, before waking up the roommates and heading to the dining hall. There, I had tea and pastries for breakfast. It seems that pastries with chocolate baked inside are a big thing here.
The meeting was a “Torah study” session. However, the prompt was only loosely based on Matot. In our group, the “responsibility to the country” discussion quickly degenerated into myriads of topics, particularly balking about Army service and wars in Israel. All the details of the conversation I have forgotten, but this carried into the conversation along the omnibus group.
Lunch was challah rolls, salads, and salmon. A longer conversation with Mike happened, and it was low-key but informative. Again, the details elude my mind right now, but I enjoyed it. Returning to my room, I equipped a swimsuit, sunscreen, and Crocs, before heading to the swimming pool.
From 1330h until 1700h, I hung out at the pool with the rest of the Shorashim people. I swam (i.e. frolicked) in the water two separate times, chatted randomly with my peers on the beach towels, played a few games of “palace” and gin rummy, and just had a relaxing time as Shabbat should be. With so many people, maintaining conversations was challenging. I’m going to throw the same disclaimer that I’ve put at the bottom of every paragraph today, so I’ll quit it from here on out.
Back to the dining room. The evening discussion was, “What characteristics make a person Jewish?” With several pre-prepared statements, most groups, including ours, clumped the responses into categories that make a person Jewish or not. The unanimous important ones included Jewish history and family, particularly such as raising your kids Jewish, remembering the Holocaust, and marrying someone who is Jewish. Other categories had intermittent “important” responses. The least important frequently related to Kashrut, prayer (particularly daily prayer), and literature. It sure implies to me that the idea of “culturally Jewish” is more important than “religiously Jewish.” Of course, to me, the cultural aspects I didn’t really grow up with, so the services are very important to me.
Y I K E S. I got badly sunburnt on my shoulders and back! They were red and pink. After showers, Scott and I rubbed aloe on each other’s backs, and I packed up almost all my stuff so that I don’t have to do it tomorrow morning. Heading back to the dining hall, we went outside again for Havdalah. We are not only separating sacred from mundane this time, but introductions from the bulk of the trip. The nigun (melody) for Havdalah is the one I’m most familiar with: the one we did after Yom Kippur at Tifereth Israel. With the nigun similar to Pitħu Li, the result was the same… happy tears. I can tell this trip is going to be moving on many levels. Following the last b’raħah, we had a lot of hugging and wishing of shavua tov.
>> TO BE CONTINUED…