Sunday, January 31, 2010

Shabbat after Winter Break


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.

Kol Tuv.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What I Did In Italy:


A few disclaimers to begin with:
*I wrote this mostly as we went along - I didn't start the "project" until about a week after arriving, so many things I remember at the top of my head
*I try to give an honest description of what happens - not everything was always 110% perfect, fantastic; I did have a great experience and enjoyed my break overall, that being said; more written out reflections to come out soon be'ezrat Hashem
*Hashgacha Pratit (divine providence) was big for me on this trip - being in a foreign country operating like a headless chicken, things fell almost perfectly into place and that was beyond me

Now for the good stuff....

What I did in Italy:

Fri 1/15
Did not understand the language
Learned about validating tickets on public transportation
Got lost
Ate pizza
Experienced an Italian Friday night service
Delicious Friday night dinner with Jewish Italians who speak Hebrew and tried very hard not to pass out at the table
Dealt with lots of anxiety and homesickness for Nativ

Sat 1/16
Went to a mix of an Italian-Ashkenazi schul Shabbat morning where people talked all the way through
Found ourselves hosting for Shabbat lunch with a guy who spoke no English or Hebrew but the food was good... And he said it was very close but he was actually on the other side of town
Tried not to be too nervous and not count down the days until coming home
Went to the Chabad rabbi's house for mincha and Shabbat afternoon festivities
Led maariv in the home of an Itallian Chabad rabbi - who would have ever thought?
He gave us 3 euros to take a subway, get back fast... Would have been faster if I hadn't left my hat there and gone back for it!
Got lost
15 minutes before our train left, sprinted back to the youth hostel for a forsaken pair of tallit and tefillin (the guys in the other group would have picked it up and given it to me a week later otherwise)... Not to mention we had a hard time finding the train, we did make it!
Ate pizza!

Sun 1/17
Saw the door of the baptistry by the Duomo that I learned about last year - and emailed Ms. Rosenblit out of excitement
Got my first dose of Madonna and Jesus art at the famed Uffizi gallery
Got lost
Toured the historical synagogue of Florence and had schnitzel at the kosher restaraunt around the corner
Went to Santa Croce church and saw lots of Jesus as well as the tombs of Machievelli, Michaelangelo, Galileo..
Crossed the Ponte Vicheo, over the Arno River, where they have a myriad of jewelry shops
Trekked to the Michaelangelo Gardens, got an outstanding view of Florence, and took a mock picture by one of the two copies of the David statue in Italy
Paid for a bathroom
Waited forever for a bus
Had an apple and chocolate pizza
Got gelato!
Didn't sleep and had anxiety

Mon 1/18
Relieved to see sun
Train to Pisa and saw more church, architecture
Climbed up the leaning tower that brings nostalgia for my child Olive Garden days
Took a picture pushing down the tower
It was just a really chill day! And I managed to relax for a bit! But still called home to vent a bit.
Pasta and wine for dinner
Adam and I strolled the streets to find a nightlife we later learned does not exist

Tuesday 1/19
Woke up a few hours early (literally) and could not fall back asleep!
Love sunny days
Delicious croissant for breakfast
Went to the Accademia and saw a mad cool exhibit on musical instruments from the Medici and Lorraine periods and the history/role of classical music in those periods; gazed at the David for a few minutes; other cool sculptures (and of course some Jesus paintings)
Saw Dante's house
Got lost
Went to the Marcato Nuovo - rubbed the piglet's nose and threw  in a coin (which means I'll return to Florence); bought a shirt with all four destinations of this trip, an Italia scarf, and a black cap; ate a sliced turkey sandwich
Went to the Palazzo Pitti - the palace of Medici and good 'ole Napoleon once he took over - the very beautiful yet oh so confusing Boboli Gardens; saw the royal apartments, which are beautiful
Regressive dinner - gelato then pizza
Figured out the enigma of Florence night life when we passed a bar on the way home that advertised beer pong from 8 to 9:30 - a bit different from Jerusalem!
Met up with Becca B. for wine and dessert at the only place open in the area

Wed 1/20
Once again woke up too early - even Barry Manilow couldn't put me to sleep!
Climbed up the 463-step dome of the Duomo with a beautiful view of Florence waiting at the end - decided to take my inhaler before
Saw some Etruscan & Greek and Egyptian artifacts and tombs at the archaeological museum
Went down to the Story if Science museum and paid 4.50€ intending to see some science, saw that most if the building is under renovation - so the result of paying the ticket was getting to see Debbie, Rachel, Adina, and Ariella!
Goofed off with them and went to lunch; got served treif lasagna but then got a kosher one
Train to Venezia!
Failed at finding the gelato the book recommended but had a nice sit-down dinner
Went to a bar to have a drink and read

Thursday 1/21
Took a vaporetto (water bus) to San Marco and went to the Church - after we realized we knew nothing going on, we went back to baggage to get Adam's book; it was a pretty cool Church; oh, and we saw the treasures, including part of Jesus' crown!
Had hot chocolate and cake at a fancy schmancy cafe in the square - not going to even bother sharing the price of the bill
Got lost while getting lunch
Toured La Fenice opera house
Toured the magnificent Doge's Palace
Picked up a slice of pizza and gelato
Saw some classical music by a group called Interpreti Veneziani - major nostalgia kicked in
Had dessert and a drink at Hard Rock cafe
Made it halfway through the trip!

Fri 1/22
Went to Chabad for Shacharit
Jewish museum and tour of the ghetto (and learned the difference between getto with the soft g and ghetto with the hard g)
Ate pizza at the cafe there
Toured the Peggy Guggenheim Collection - modern art is beautiful and interesting, and it's not Jesus art! Had some tea there
Scrambled to get ready for Shabbat Kodesh
Lit candles and davened at Chabad
Dinner at Gam Gam restaraunt - lots of Nativers as well as too happy Chabadniks drunk off life and singing folk Jewish songs non stop; great food, minus burning my tongue from chicken soup
Went home, read, and shluuf

Sat 1/23
Schul at Levatine Synagogue at 9 am - decided that the whole davening out loud thing is fairly tolerable, just the Torah reading is long... But it was a nice davening
Kiddush! Nuff said?
Lunch at Gam Gam - not as good as Fri Night, but challah makes up for it; sat with the girls; decided I find Chabad mashiach stuff as annoying as Jesus paintings
The girls came back to our hostel for Shabbat menucha and told us of Frum lady desiring to convert them to Mashiachkeit
Met up with the other boys and took a long walk to and from San Marco square - I had missed them
Rushed pizza and gelato to get to opera
After long vaporetto we basically couldn't find the opera
We made it to the opera and had an entertaining evening... So ready to crash when we got back

Sun 1/24
Emergency stop at an Internet cafe
Got some gooood but hard chocolate
Went out to Murano to see glass -saw the museum but disappointed to find out that glass blowing demonstrations don't happen Sunday afternoons
Bought Lainie "Hello Kitty"
Took a gondole ride up the canal with the cool dude
Went to the ghetto for Adam to get good chocolate that he could eat :)
Train to Rome - Adam talked it up with people across from him for Rome info; worked on this list, read a bit
Went out to dinner near the hostel - accordian dude serenaded the restaraunt and I got lasagna... which turned out to be meat :(
Realized I'm almost broke!

Mon 1/25
Cloudy and rainy day :(
Walked out to the colloseeum, actually called the Flavian Ampatheater, and ended up catching a tour there
Stayed in the colloseeum a bit longer to see more, thereby missing the rest if the tour that went to the Palatine and the Roman Forum
Tried our best to understand everything going on in the Palatine and Roman Forum in the midst of the rain, chilled with them
Played B.S. with people at the hostel
Free pasta dinner at the hostel
Played Kings at the hostel... I got the last king

Tues 1/26
Had a nice few peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast... no joke, I've rarely had a sit down breakfast here
Bought a 3 day metro card for 11€
Got drenched
Went to the Vatican and saw the tombs of the popes, got drenched, saw St. Peter's Basillica, climbed up the dome (and got drenched)
Had a filling lunch in Vatican City
Got drenched
Went to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel - bought a tour, which was totally worth the money, and the guide reminded us 10 times that we were lucky to be here in the low season
Ate dinner at an Irish pub with great pizza but ordered a horrible drink... this was after a few arguments about where to go
Took a very convaluted walk to see the colloseeum but it was beautiful lit up

Weds 1/27
Got frustrated when we left late
Got frustrated when we GOT LOST
Took a bus to the Pantheon - Adam almost didn't make it on
Walked to the Trevi Fountain, took pictures, saw the Dutch people from the hostel
Strolled to the ghetto - did the museum and synagogue tour
Ate a good chicken sandwich there
Walked out to Capitoline Hill - last museum of Italy!!!
Chillaxed in the Hostel - chased a few buses on the way
Went out for more fleishig (more expensive) back in the ghetto
Adam and I went to see the Spanish Steps and a night round of Trevi Fountain

Thursday 1/28
Ben was the first one ready for the first time!
It was sunny...
Found our way to the zoo - cute animals, gotta live the Japanese monkeys!
Went back to Termini to catch an open bus tour...
It started raining! But we still went all around Rome
Bought a couple of books in the Termini store
Had my last gelato
Went to the airport
Saw some guy we had Shabbat lunch with a couple of weeks ago
Had my last pizza
So long Italy!

Friday 1/29
Landed in Tel Aviv at 2:30 a.m.
Got my baggage quick; passport control fastest I've ever seen
Got on a sherut at 3:10 a.m. though it didn't leave until 4
Got home at 5 - did not go to sleep - threw in laundry, did Shacharit at 7 a.m.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Last Month in Jerusalem

I'm in Italy right now but I have unlimited internet access at this youth hostel.  I wanted to right about my Italy experiences so far, but I felt it would be improper to do so without making some sort of segway into that about the last month in Jerusalem (too bad I never got to write about those experiences in the proper times).  I think I may be too tired to go through all of that today, so be'ezrat Hashem I'll do that tomorrow night.  It is my vacation, so I feel entitled to do whatever I feel like it, even if that includes blogging.
*First Shabbat of Chanukkah we were in Yerucham (as the Yerucham track of course).  We drove down Friday and saw the lake and Hagar's well that afternoon and lots of obnoxious motorbikers.  The whole weekend, we had Yoram with us, who is our Yerucham coordinator - good guy.  We lit Chanukkah candles on our homemade chaunkkiyot (mine was problematic the whole way through) and davened and ate together.  We had two guests that night - a lady, Leah, who is very active in the Yerucham community and has lots of prominence even throughout the state (she was in a court case which she compared to a Rosa Parks situation) and then we had a Chassidic rabbi do a tisch with us, and he told the Lechoved Shabbos story that I like from camp.  Shabbat morning we got very lossed to schul and showed up at the end of Torah reading to my chagrin, had a shiur with an American immigrant to Yerucham about Tikkun Olam, and in the afternoon after lunch and rest we had a tour of Yerucham (didn't take too much to get through all of the town - we spent a lot of the weekend making jokes about the reality and existence of life in the town).  Saturday night a couple of us had already gone to check out pizza in town and were not disappointed. We saw a concert of Indian music at the brand-new concert hall at the community center - we made up half of the hall, and we enjoyed dancing to the music, mucho.  Just ask my bff Adina Allen (there's your shoutout :)).  After that we found a playground close by, and it had stuff suitable for kids our age.  Can't even describe how fun that was - ziplines, tower with slide, swings, see saws, the whole thing.  Sunday we went to Sde Boker (a bit of a different program than the usual luckily) and, despite lots of complaints beforehand, we pulled off a hike at Ein Ovdat (if I remember correctly).
*Chanukkah was nice in Jerusalem - I unfortunately did not take tremendous advantage of the chag and should have gone to Me'ah she'arim at night but did not.  But wherever we saw candles it was nice, and we lit candles in a room that has windows at the Keren Ha'Yesod/Agron intersection, and the many chanukkioyt looked beautiful.  A place on Keren Kayemet had good latkes and I went.  Classes ended early in the week in honor of the holiday.
*We had another B'yachad seminar the week of Chanukkah, which is the program for camp counselors to enhance their abilities in stuff related to Israel at camp.
*I stayed in Jerusalem for Shabbat and ate meals at Beit Nativ - nice 'n chill.
*The bittersweet moment came the week after where I ended Yeshiva.  I am very sad that I will no longer be immerssed in Torah all day the way I was in the Yeshiva, and I'm very thankful for the great experiences my teachers gave me.  I've already been back to visit and will always miss it.
*Thursday that week David and I went to IC - it was a very fun week, in short, but I was always counting down the days to going back to Jerusalem.
*When I got back, I had one more week in Jerusalem in which I packed up and just hung around.  Everyone was done with school, and Hebrew U people were writing papers.  That Shabbat was closed and we had a nice time together.  Saturday night was crazy with all of the Birthright people in Jerusalem - the entire Ben Yehuda area and bar scene around there was jam packed.
*Last but not least, we had a great week at the archaeological dig.  We spent our mornings digging, afternoons hiking and/or looking at other archaeological sites, and evenings were chill.  We dug mostly at a theater newly discovered in Tiberias, though we also did a little at a synaogogue excavated just two months ago.  At the theater, we were in groups the whole week and dug the same area, so looking at progress was great.  I was with Gabe C (haha), Gelb, and Joe, and right next to us were Seth, Seffi, Adina, and Joey, and we had a lot of fun together.  The places we saw in the afternoons were Beit She'an, Nachal Tavor, and Gamla.  And then at nights, boy, did I watch more movies this week than I ever have before!  Chill stuff.

From there comes Italy... and that will be done soon.

Kol Tuv.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

עוד ישמע בערי יהודה


I’m continuing these escapade reports actually from the United States, as I have some down time in my room at USY International Convention.  We’ll see if I get around to ever talking about that…

So the week of December 6-10:
*Sunday we had a field trip to Tel Aviv for a program called Agents of Change through the Yeshiva.  We met with different people who have effected social change in Israel, and then we did Clementine picking in Rechovot for Table to Table.  As a general principle, I find these things to be very important.  This particular program, however, didn’t necessarily do it for me.  Part of it may have been my own fault for not being in the mentality, but I also felt like I had already done this in similar capacities and didn’t feel like the overall message was new for me.  The goal of the program was to make us feel empowered to make change in our world, and this program gave me very little new.  I ended up not going to the seminar on Tuesday and instead did a lot of shopping.
*Tuesday night we made chanukiyot and had a session on Hilkhot Channukah.  It was very nice and fun – just that I trust other people’s work of art better than mine when it comes to practical things. ;) It ended up functioning well, after one mess-up.

Thursday night I attended my first wedding that I can remember – it was that of one of my yeshiva teachers, Reb Shlomo.  He invited my biblical grammar class, so I was down for the experience of an Israeli wedding, especially that of a member of a close knit community like the yeshiva.  The venue was Ma’ale HaChamisha, just outside of Jerusalem.  Busing was provided from the Kings Hotel, adjacent to Beit Nativ.

We got to the wedding fairly early, it seemed.  The guys from the yeshiva there decided to go to the chatan’s tisch, and there we first saw our teacher completely clean-shaven.  The tisch featured some singing (accompanied by a violinist) and some Divrei Torah.  One that jumped out to me was given by another teacher of mine, Rabbi Joel, in which he spoke of marriage in context of Parashat Vayeshev, in which Jacob’s sons are unable to speak to Joseph, and he blessed Reb Shlomo with a marriage of lots of fighting but with love that comes as a result, or something to that extent.  After some singing and words of Torah, we davened Ma’ariv, and then accompanied Reb Shlomo to the wedding venue.

Then came the chuppah.  I stood for most of it, since there weren’t quite enough seats for everyone (there were seats at the dinner tables, but I stood with a couple of people).  I can’t necessarily remember the particulars of what happened when, so I won’t go into much detail about the normal parts of the ceremony.  As the groom and bride circled each other, my voice teacher Ashira sang Tov L’hodot on her harp, which I believe she was just picking up, so it was very good.  Reb Shmuel, our Rosh Yeshiva, officiated.  It was hard to hear a lot of what he said because the room had an echo, plus the Hebrew… the Sheva B’rachot were recited, some by prominent Conservative rabbis in Israel, and then the bride recited the first verse and a half of “Im Eshkachech,” the groom recited the verse and a half, the glass was broken, and the festivities began.

I sat with people from Yeshiva at the meal.  One of my teachers, British, sat next to me on one side, and a British student sat next to me on the other side – love the Brits.  The food was fantastic.  The dancing was highly intense – there is a mitzvah found in the Talmud to be “mesameach” (gladden) the bride and groom and that was taken very seriously.  The yeshiva faculty was at the forefront of the dancing, and it was special to see them so enthusiastic about the simcha.

I think that’s all for me to say about this… next up is Shabbat in Yerucham!

Kol Tuv.