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Friday, February 22, 2008

Shabbat at the Great Synagogue!

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!

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Snow in Jerusalem, Take 2!

Really? I've learned a lot of things in my life, especially in the past 8 months. One thing I learned very young was that weather forecasters in the States were either always wrong, or sometimes right. All those times they predicted snow or other types of weather that would have cancelled school (especially the days before tests or big projects) were always wrong. Undoubtedly, I was never prepared because I expected them to be right...big mistake.

In Israel, the forecasters are right about 99% of the time. That number may be a little high, but they have successfully predicted snow, twice. And from what I've been told, this kind of snow only happens once in every seven years...we've now had it twice. We've more than doubled the amount of snow we're going to see in Cinci next year. Of course, we'll have real heat in our house, and the misery of this winter will be a distant memory.

In the past couple of weeks, we've been pretty busy. I took Batya to a great restaurant, El Gaucho (ALL STEAK), for Valentine's Day. It was nice to go on a date, and we have some great friends who have been very helpful by offering to watch Carlie from time to time to give us a night out. We also met with the Dean of the Cinci Campus, Rabbi Ken Kanter. He is a really great guy, and he brought us gifts from the States, and lots of information to get us ready and excited for the next four years, and more specifically our return to the States in May.

It was sad to say goodbye to our parents, but we are now in the midst of second semester, and we are starting to get sad for all of the wonderful things we'll miss when we leave in just a few months. This has been a great experience (at least for the most part)! Our football team finished up the playoffs, unfortunately losing in the first round. Some of the calls by the refs were quite questionable, but we had a great fun season!

The biggest thing that has happened recently was saying goodbye to a great friend and classmate and his family. They had to return to the States for very personal reasons, of which I am not so comfortable speaking about publicly. It's important to keep them in our prayers and we are sending lots of love and support to the Spinrad family from our house to theirs!

Oh, and the New York Football Giants---who would have thought, huh? I was in a room full of Patriots fans, but my love for the Giants never waivered! Let's hope for a great season next year! Now, we turn our attention to the Atlanta Braves, and what promises to be a great baseball season!

Remember to hold your families close, give them lots of hugs and love!