The last thing I left off with is that I stayed up when I got back to Jerusalem very early Friday morning and went to minyan at Moreshet Yisrael next door at around 7. After that I ate breakfast and took my laptop outside to catch up on stuff, start uploading pictures, etc. I showed LeeAnn and David my pictures from Italy in slideshow form (only takes a click of a button these days), and while doing that we saw many people walk by, including those who had just arrived from America. Around then, Rabbi and Cindy Lewis walked in, so I chatted with them for a few minutes and set up dinner with them for Motzaei Shabbat.
A little after that, Gelb and I went to Moshiko to grab some schwarma – it had been way too long for me. When we got to Ben Yehuda, we saw a scene that doesn't appear every day – festivities were high for Tu Bishvat. There was a stage near Kikar Tziyon, where Ben Yehuda and Yafo intersect, and a boys choir sang and a rabbi talked performed a Tu Bishvat seder there. Up the street, trees were for sale, music blasted, and entertainers were dressed in costumes (some of which were quite scary and creepy) and some of them were on stilts. Walking up the first half of the street was a huge task itself, as the street was packed from one side to the other. And the schwarma was very good!
We walked back and saw Ilana and her parents, who were about to leave Jerusalem. I continued on to the mikveh on Ha-Ari – I only went on the Yamim Nora'im, but I felt the need to be cleansed after my numerous visits to churches and exploring so much Christian art. Unlike past experiences, the mikveh was very quiet this time. On my way back, I bought some strawberries and clementines, as my fruit department had been lacking in Italy. Once I got home, I set my alarm for 3:15 and got into bed, but I woke up close to four but managed to be ready for Shabbat in time.
I decided to spend my davening time this Shabbat at the Great Synagogue. You might be able to imagine the looks I got from people when I told them of this plan – I can definitely saw I was expecting to be going alone this weekend. But I have actually enjoyed going to schul by myself a lot this year; the walks are an opportunity to have some time to myself and I'm in my own bubble as I daven, not needing to make comments or be distracted by people I know around me. This weekend, the schul had guest chazzanim, all of whom were young and in the beginning stages of their careers. Friday night was very nice – short and very sweet. The chazzan had a good voice – not always quite in tune I felt, but he did a great job. Here, simplicity showed its elegance. The choir started with a rendition of Yedid Nefesh I had never heard before, and I was surprised actually that they did not do many extensive pieces throughout Kabbalat Shabbat. The choir accompanied the chazzan at the chatimot (ends of each psalm), and they did Lecha Dodi to a well known tune to sing along, pretty fast. The only thing complicated I remember from Ma'ariv was something in the Emet Ve'emunah paragraph. Yigdal was also a nice tune I knew and could sing along to. Shabbat morning, the chazzan had a fantastic tenor voice, though he was a little hard to understand (it took me a little while to even figure out he was using Ashkenazi pronunciations). In the Torah service, in the Brikh Shmei paragraph, they did a classic Ant Hu Shalit al Kola that I really like, which made me happy. They also did Sol Zim's Avinu Shebashamayim (though not the whole thing) and an Uvnucho Yomar of which I have a Dudu Fisher recording. The chazzan for Musaf was the best of all, I felt – rich, clear tenor – he hit a high E-flat at some point. In Kedusha, he did the very classic Shema Yisrael/Hu Eloheinu and did an extraordinary job. The culmination of the morning was a soprano boy singing Ein Keloheinu with the choir; sweet, sweet voice, but hitting the high notes got a little difficult for him. Though I like singing a lot, I like listening to fantastic people as well, and I was extremely happy I spent my Shabbat at this schul.
Just backing up a bit – dinner was very nice. I had fun sitting with my friends whom I hadn't seen in a few weeks, and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. After dinner we had the tisch – fun as always, and I taught a Lev Tahor that I don't think too many people knew. Afterwards, I went on a walk with Brenna. Bed at 11.
Shabbat, after schul, I came back and read for a little while, had lunch, walked to the Kotel with LeeAnn, and read until Seudat Shlishit and Havdalah. After Shabbat I hung out in Jesse and Gabe's room for a bit and then had dinner with Sarah, Ora, and Rabbi & Cindy at Olive Café on Emek, which was delicious. Right when I came back, we had an intense rooming meeting, all Yerucham guys, and luckily that is all settled. Finally went to bed at 2:30, after talking to people for a while.
Today started Israel today Seminar, and be'ezrat Hashem I will write about that on Wednesday.