However, when you are in J'salem on Friday -- watching as everyone around you scurries to prepare for Shabbat -- it's as if the rest of the world doesn't exist. Once you visit J'salem, you come to understand and appreciate the fact that there REALLY IS such a thing as "Jewish Time." And the clock starts ticking at sun-up on the morning before Shabbat. It's as if a starter-pistol is fired to begin the "frantic" before the "calm." More about this in a moment...
We began our day with the same traditional Israel breakfast buffet. I still haven't taken any pictures of this...but I will. It's really a sight to behold. If you've never seen it, and you think I only talk about food -- you'll appreciate what I'm talking about once I post a few pictures of the endless amount of choices available at breakfast.
After breakfast we boarded our bus and drove to Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial/museum. We arrived prior to our schedule entrance time, so we took advantage of the available time by walking through the deeply emotional Children's Memorial in memory of the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust. One can not help but be moved by the endless reflections of candlelight in the surrounding mirrors, and the continuous recitation of the names, ages, and countries of origin of these young souls.
We then walked to the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles and stopped by the trees planted in honor of Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenburg.
|Oskar Schindler's tree|
The group then spent nearly 2 hours walking through the museum exhibits, learning about and becoming witnesses to the atrocities of humanity's most evil of spirits in our darkest of days.
The experience of visiting Yad Vashem concluded with a brief stop at the Valley of the Lost Communities, a remarkable maze-like monument to all those communities throughout Europe which once knew Jewish life. While visiting this site, the group spent time praying a brief memorial service led by various trip participants.
|The Valley of the Lost Communities|
Perhaps the very best way to change one's mood from the dark emotions associated with Yad Vashem is to move to a place of great life-affirming chaos. And so we boarded our bus and headed off to Machane Yehuda -- the incredible outdoor Jewish marketplace (shuk) to watch the real locals prepare for Shabbat. I've attached a few photos and videos to TRY to help you grasp the feelings of intense passion and joy associated with this experience. This wasn't just about shopping for food. This was about preparing to welcome the Sabbath like you welcome the greatest love of your life. This is a ritual as sacred as any, and it is repeated EVERY Friday.
Notice in one of the videos below, the warning cries of the Rabbi's shofar (not me!) as he runs through the market shouting at the merchants to close in time for Shabbat. It is a fantastic element to this place that -- in so many ways -- it seems that time forgot... But I can assure you that everyone there knows exactly what time it is. As Shabbat approached, the crowds quickly began to disperse in order to make it home just in time to set their gorgeous fresh flowers on their Shabbos tables, and to eat the freshly baked challah, to cook their freshly prepared fish and meats, and to celebrate with magnificent fresh fruits, veggies, and of course sweets purchased just for this one weekly event. This is TRULY the epitome of the commandment to "remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy."
Sorry the video is sideways... forgot I can't shoot the video vertically.
Following the day's excursion we arrived back to the hotel just in time to join about 100 Orthodox Jews in the lobby for the lighting of the 3rd night's Chanukah candles. We (and many others) arrived after the head rabbi had declared sundown, so we had to light our chanukiyot off to the side, away from "their" section of the lobby. It's quite remarkable how the caste/class system seems to be alive-and-well here in the Land.
We walked across the street to enjoy the concluding prayers at the Orthodox "Great Synagogue." A magnificent men's choir led the singing. At the end of the service, the packed-house all stood together and exited the sanctuary ready to return home for Shabbat dinner.
We did the same. Back across the street we walked. Our Shabbat dinner buffet was lovely, and the diversity of people throughout the dining room made the experience truly special for us. We had two tables of what we believe were Morrocan Jews to one side, and three tables of Christian pilgrims to the other side. And in between them was our small group... and a magnificent and ENORMOUS chocolate & halva birthday cake. What a great way to usher in another year of life!!!
I am grateful to my group for their outpouring of love in celebration of my birthday. It was especially meaningful, since the last time I celebrated a birthday in Israel, I turned 10! I am sure I will remember this one as vividly and as warmly as I remember the previous one. Thanks to the group for this nice surprise celebration...
Well, that's about it for today's activities. Off to bed in preparation for another full day tomorrow: Massada, the Dead Sea, Ahava factory, and a night on Ben Yehuda street!!!
Shabbat Shalom to all... and to all a good night!!!
Rabbi Jeffrey Astrachan