Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hibba VI: Day of rest for all but the workers

Friday night at the Kosel is, according to most sources, the greatest experience known to man. The Kosel is also the holiest spot on this green/blue (turquoise?) earth of ours, at least at this point. Aharon made the point that the Western Wall is nothing when compared with what once lay beyond, the holy temple. The Kosel may be the closest place to the divine presence, but that's it. It's a poor second. We got through the metal detectors and may our way to the wall itself. Everyone is always surprised that it's so small. They're also all surprised that they feel so much holiness emanating from it. Well, I certainly found the first to be true. As for the second? I touched it, sure, felt the smooth stones and tried to feel them communicating with me. It didn't quite work. Maybe I'm just too cynical. There's a line from an Abie Rottenberg song that goes, "Where else in this world can you find a wall, whenever you touch it, it touches you? Reach for its stones, they're moist with the tears, of our hopes and our dreams, that we know will soon come true." I didn't feel too touched. Not that I didn't try, mind you. I certainly tried to convince myself that this was the proverbial It. Nothing.
Still, I got to participate in a Carlebach-type Minyan with a bunch of Mayanot Birthright college kids, which was pretty cool, and also contributed to my losing my voice. Used to be, back in the day, that I could sing (scream) for hours on end with no ill effects. Nowadays though, I'm gone in half an hour.
I didn't actually Daven Maariv at the wall, because one of our members had Yahrtzeit, and wanted to Daven after Tzeis. Also, we Davened Mincha a little late to Daven Maariv early, not that this fact stopped too many of my compatriots. Still, who am I to criticize? So all was well. We walked up Jaffa Street and back to the hotel, where we followed a quick Maariv with a more leisurely Shabbos meal. One of the great things about being Frum is that you know that one is supposed to eat the fish and salad course before the meal, skipping the large line which immediately gravitated toward the fowl and meat section. The fish was jarred gefilte fish, which normally I like, but tasted kind of old. And the chrein, that most glorious of accompaniments, was sweet. I recalled a story from my childhood when I first tasted this pathetic substitute for horseradish. A family friend (or maybe it was a cousin, I can never remember these things) came to visit in Mequon, and he loaded his gefilte fish with chrein. We warned him that it was likely to prove hot, but he disregarded our kindly intentioned intervention (ooh, how alliterative) by saying that he liked chrein. Ten minutes later, once he had overcome the coughing, spluttering, water drinking, challah eating, and invective-laced speech that followed (Ok, I made that part up. And maybe some more parts. Whatever)we all agreed that it would make for a great joke in the years to come. All right, so the rest of us were already laughing uproariously, but we were too kind to tell him that then.
That night we came into our rooms and discovered that the AC was off, an event which I already covered a couple days ago, so why bother now? Suffer it to say that not all Arabs are the spawn of the devil.
That week it was Shabbos Mevorchim, and like a good boy I got up early and said Tehillim. Later on we went to Shikun Chabad for the Minyan, which my aforementioned friend lead in commemoration of the Yahrtzeit. This was preceded by a quick dip in the Mikve. Or, might I say, one of several Mikves. Yes, there were three, hot, hotter, and chicken soup temperature. The Minyan itself was pretty regular. As in, we Davened. What joy.
Once it was all over we walked back to the hotel, ate lunch, and had a Farbrengen with a couple other Birthright groups in the lobby. Sholom Mendelson talked about the difference between a civilian and a soldier. A civilian is a someone, a person with an identity, but ultimately he's a no one, because no one cares about him or for him. A soldier, on the other foot, is a no one. His identity is sublimated; he wears the same clothes as the other soldiers, does the same activitys, and even has his name changed to a number. Nevertheless, he's the ultimate someone, because he accomplishes what no civilian does; protecting the country and perhaps even paying the ultimate sacrifice. Sholom elaborated on this theme for a while, and on the general purpose of a Farbrengen. The other groups were very impressed, though this may have had as much to do with the availability of vodka as with the concept. Yossi, the leader of Hibba, also loved it.
Later on he said, and as usual I paraphrase, "You Lubavitchers are incredible! I want to have a group of you with every group of regular people that come." When he said this Aharon's face dropped, and it looked like he was saying "Just don't ask me to participate, thank you very much." Not that he didn't like us; we were just a bit trying for a yekke.
Following the Farbie we walked down to the Knesset, sight of which brought to mind a cute story that everyone's heard and will therefore fit nicely into this blog.

So everyone knows the story of two brothers who loved on either side of a mountain. One was quite poor, and had lots of children. Maybe that was why he was poor. The other brother was richer than Donald Trump on a good day, but he had no children. Both were farmers, because that's just what they did back in the day. The rich brother thought, "My poor brother, so many mouths to feed, so little shtuff to shtuff in them; I'll take some of my abundant wheat and deposit it into his storehouse. I don't need it, and it'll mean a great deal to him. That night he followed through on his plan, and retired to bed feeling quite good. The poor brother had similar thoughts that day, "My dear brother has no children to comfort him in his old age. Let me give him some of my wheat; food is always a good comforter." He too made the journey over the mountain and put the wheat in his brother's granary. This went on for a while, until one night they encountered each other on top of the mountain, and, realizing what each was doing, they fell on each other's necks and began to cry. They decided to move in together, and then everyone would be happy. G-d saw this touching scene from on high, and said, "This is really beautiful. Let me have my eternal home on this spot. Well friends, this spot was Mount Moriah, sight of the Holy Temple.

At the same time as this beautiful story was happening there were another two brothers who also lived on either side of a mountain. One was rich, with no kids, and one was poor, with many progeny. The poor brother thought, "My brother is so rich, and he doesn't really need his wheat. I'll take some, he'll never know. Besides, I really need it to feed my kiddies." The rich brother thought, "You know, I have no kids, and I'm really depressed. Maybe if I had more food I'd be happier. I'll go steal from my brother, he has so many children and is so busy, he'll never know." This went on for a couple nights, and one night they met at the top of the mountain. They realized what each was doing, and began to fight. After a while they both lay dead on top of the mountain. And on this very site was built the Knesset.

Once we finished up at the famous Menorah outside the Knesset we retreated to a park and sat down for a good chat about all sorts of shtuff related to Medinat Israel. We walked back to the hotel, retreated to our rooms for some more bourekas, and later met downstairs for prayers, Havdala, and King David's meal.
Later on I went to the Central Bus Station and hung out for a while with Eliezer and Zalmen (I have no idea how to spell his last name). And that, folks, is the slightly abbreviated version of my Jerusalem Shabbos experience.


YochananG Aust said...

on the way to the Knesset we passed the supreme court and on top is the pyramid with the eye of zenith classical symbol of the Renaissance also seen on the one dollar bill from the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. (were conspiracy theorists believe the one world order was started.)
so obversely the high court of Israel also believes in the one world order

Nemo said...

The Supreme Court of Israel IS the One World Order!

The Real Shliach said...

What is this one world order of which you fellows speak?

yochanan said...

ask the conspiracy theorists
but Israeli Supreme Court is one of them (not the conspiracy theorists)