Shalom family and friends! Since we arrived here, I have been trying to find great Shabbat experiences and develop my own Shabbat practices and family Shabbat practices. In my Liturgy class, during the first semester, we were asked to write journal entries every few weeks discussing our unique Shabbat experiences, and what we observed in the Synagogues around town. I have had quite a few uniquely special Shabbat experiences throughout Jerusalem from Carlebach services at Yakar and Shirah Chadasha to Reform services at Har-El and Kol Haneshamah!
I had decided at the beginning of the year that I would go at least to one Shabbat service a week, whether it was Friday night or Shabbat morning. And, in some instances, I attended services on Friday and Saturday. There have only been a few Shabbatot where I have missed services. Tonight, I had an extraordinarily amazing Shabbat experience! I went with my friend PJ to the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. This Synagogue looks like what "The Temple" would look like if it were around today. Or, at least it's pretty close, and pretty amazing from the outside. When we walked inside, it just got bigger. We had to go upstairs to enter the Sanctuary, and it was huge and incredibly beautiful. The Ark was amazing.
Then, Mincha (afternoon services) began. It was a pretty normal Orthodox service. It was enjoyable, especially since I could follow along. Then Kabbalat Shabbat (just before Maariv-Evening Services) began. There was an all male choir that sounded like an orchestra of instruments on the Bima (raised platform). They were amazingly good. And, when the Chazan (Cantor/Soloist) began, it was like a voice from God. The Synagogue was filled with all types of people from Yeshiva students to the most Orthodox to non-Jews. The services were very spiritual and enjoyable. It was the most amazing Shabbat service I have experienced in Israel. I certainly plan on returning there again!
This week, we are headed south for our southern tiyul. We are going to a couple of Kibbutzim, camping out in a Bedouin tent, and even going snorkeling in Eilat. I think the best part of the Tiyul for me will be the hiking. I haven't been hiking in a long time, and I love to hike, so I am looking forward to this week! I'll post some pictures when we return!