Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mah Nishtanah HaShabbat Ha-zot


I woke up Friday morning, hoping to get some work done and daven before I was to leave around 10:15 for our Shabbat in Ashkelon, camping near the beach.  The people going were Tyler (T-Silvs, silversauce), Josh S., Marc J., Shira K., Hayley S., and Rachel (otherwise known as Sender).  But shortly after I lazily rolled out of bed, I called Shira to confirm a final detail that now would be fairly trivial; our conversation concluded with me looking for a new place to camp for Shabbat.  Apparently, the place we were going to camp at was not opening until 10 p.m. in the evening – when I double checked with them they actually said they weren't even open for this Shabbat.  So I spent a couple of hours finishing up last minute details, and thanks to our Nativ friend Anna, we were able to go to her uncle's beach in Huquq, along the Kinneret.  We took a bus to Tiberias, and then the plan was to take a bus going to Kiryat Shmoneh and get off at a junction 10-15 minutes from the beach.  When we got to Tiberias, though, I talked to someone at an information desk, and he said the bus for Kiryat Shmoneh had just left ten minutes beforehand and the next bus wasn't leaving for another couple of hours (which we didn't have because of Shabbat).  He did offer us two taxis directly to Huquq, however, for sixty shekels round trip, so we took him up on that offer – I was very happy to have been useful in figuring all of that out.

We got to the beach with an hour and a half to spare before Shabbat started.  After putting up the tents, we went out to the water for a while and came back to get ready for Shabbat.  We did Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma'ariv on the beach, which had an extra layer of meaning because many psalms in Kab Shab reflect on God's presence in nature and the power of water, and there we were praying in view of a beautiful lake.  At the end of Ma'ariv, we went back up to find people to make a minyan because Shira was observing the English yartzheit for her father.  I approached a few men sitting around on their chairs watching their kids playing to see if they'd make a minyan for kaddish.  They graciously said "b'kef," we'd love to!  They were compelled to put on shirts and said apollogetically that they had no kippot, but I said they were fine – they were Jews and that's all we needed.  Even in Israel, chilonim (secular Jews) have a certain foundation and understanding of Judaism that bears a certain appreciation for yiddishkeit when the opportunity arises.

Our meals for the weekend essentially consisted of pita, spreads, fruit, and marzipan.  We brought some wine to do kiddush and had our Shabbat meals.  After we finished on Friday night we sat around and told jokes, went down to the beach for a little bit, and eventually went to bed.

Sleeping at night was not a highlight of Shabbat.  I woke up several times in the night out of discomfort, and at a certain point, I had woken up so many times and had no concept of time so that I was shocked that it was still dark outside.  Many Israelis around us were loud all night, and while there was a window of time where it was quiet, kids woke up at sunrise and were loud as well.

Since I had no concept of time, when I woke up in the sunlight and couldn't fall back asleep, I decided to get started with Shacharit. I had a very nice morning of hitbodedut – seclusion – to daven in nature. It was one of very few times in my life where I have davened Shabbat Shacharit alone, never mind in nature. Esepcailly since everyone else was still asleep, I took my time in davening to enjoy God's creation, of which I was both praying and studying about (since last week's Torah portion was B'reishit). I felt fulfilled.

Otherwise, most of our day involved napping and being in the water. We had a heat wave this weekend, but it was very nice on the water. It was just hard to find shade to nap in.  I also squeezed in a minimal amount of reading. At any rate, spending time with just a few people in the peace of the Kinneret was fantastic. Paradoxically, I had many moments where I really felt the concept of Shabbat upon me. The paradox in that statement is that almost everyone around us was violating Shabbat, either by playing music or barbecuing or something or another.  Yet the true essence of Shabbat came out when we were in the peace of the Kinneret, away from the urban environment of chol (weekday), spending time with friends who were right there with me.

There's no way I could spend Shabbat like that every week. Yet for an occasional thing, this was a great way to spend Shabbat – true vacation from my use of the mundane in a peaceful environment with great friends.

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