Left Jersulem a little late as Scott was helping a friend remodel his photo gallery. Arrived in the little, hilltop community (yeshuv) of Ma’ale Levona 1/2 hour before Sabbath began. Was dropped off at my host’s home, but the wife wasn’t ready for Sabbath, and was not even properly dressed. The husband took my suitcase into the house (within a few minutes it would be Sabbath and the suitcase couldn’t be carried, not even into the house). Husband suggested we just walk up the hill to the Shuel (Synagogue).
We had arrived a little after 7PM and I didn’t know that the Sabbath meal only began after the men finished “bringing in the Sabbath.” This was a 2 our service, all in Hebrew.
I once asked an Orthodox Jewish High Priest, “There are only 3 ancient civilizations left in existence today: Egypt, China and Israel. Only one, Israel, maintained its existence and culture though its people were spread all over the world among hundreds of foreign cultures. Was there one thing that kept them a unified people, able to return to their land pretty much with their culture intact?” His answer was, “That’s easy. The single, unifying element that keeps us Jewish is the Sabbath.”
The Jews treat Sabbath as if it is a woman. Actually a Queen. They are elaborate in their preparations to welcome the Queen to their community, to their families, to their table. Sabbath is the closest they, as humans, can come to creating heaven during the week. Each community, each family, each individual relates to “heaven” a little differently, even though there are a lot of things they do in common.
One is eat. And, I mean eat. I realized that if I were to return to the States without having gained a lot of weight, I would have to put some discipline on my Sabbath eating. The women cook enough food to feed an army and the more friends they can get to gather around the table, the better. And, each wife is supposed to give special consideration to what she knows of each person regarding what kinds of things they like to eat. So, before me was set lots of humus and a 2 liter bottle of Fanta Orange.
“What’s wrong, you don’t like your Fanta?” Judy asked last night after I could have already drowned in orange drink.
Stayed up until nearly 1AM Saturday morning and got up around 8AM for Sabbath service at the Shuel. All in Hebrew, of course. I dragged myself out of bed and took a shower just to wake up, which is not normal for me (not showering, but having a hard time waking up). Walked the two blocks to the Shuel and walked into the “wrong” service. The Shuel has two floors and each floor has its own service: One for the Jews of eastern Europe (including Americans), and the other for Jews of western Europe. (No, I didn’t say anything about “Jewish denominations”).
I Sat down near Danny who looked at me and asked, “Do you have a kip-pa [yarmulke].” I said, “Oh, yeah,” and returned to the house for my skull cap. By the time I returned to the Shuel, I was all sweaty and realized why people don’t take showers on the Sabbath.
After Shuel, went to the Kransdorf’s for food, glorious food. More Fanta orange. Glug glug. Judy set out salads and left-overs from the previous night. By now I was pretty hungry and I ate my fill like someone who didn’t know that this was a meal with several courses, which no one had told me. Then came all the “real” food. By the time lunch was over, they could have rolled me out the door.
After lunch, everyone takes a nap. But, I had promised Yitzchak I would visit and so eventually walked to his house. I woke him up from his nap and listened while he told me about his daughter’s death only a few months before. He tried to share with me how he was dealing with how God could allow a young person to suffer. I really felt for my friend. Aviva (his wife) came home from a woman’s meeting and promptly laid on the couch and went to sleep. By now, I was pretty tired, myself, and went back to my house and crashed.
Woke up and walked around the Yeshuv for about an hour. A beautiful afternoon, cool and breezy. Ended up at Danny’s for supper. Several families came to pay their respects and some stayed for supper (more Fanta). I played backgammon with two young girls whom I have gotten to know over the years. I lost badly.
One of the most interesting things to do is listen in on a Jewish after-dinner conversation where everyone takes part–men and women–all with something to say, and no one agreeing with anyone else. Voices rise as each person competes to make his or her point and be heard above the noise. It seems as if everyone would go away angry and not ever want to see one another again (including the spouses). But, when it’s all over, the subject changes and everyone is laughing and becomes friends again.
One of the main subjects last night was the coming of Tish B’av (which is probably misspelled), meaning the 9th day of the month of Av on the Jewish calendar. This year the 9th of Av falls on August 3rd in our calendar. This particular week is one of the most stressful in the year for religious Jews and they fast and mourn. It was during this week in their history that the first Temple was destroyed. Also, this is the week the second Temple was destroyed. It was also the week that every Jew was expelled from Spain in 1492. And, during this week WWI, WWII and the Gulf War began. Not to mention it was during this week that the current war began. Jews blame all this on what happened this same week (in the story in Deuteronomy) when the men returned from spying out the Promised Land and gave a report which caused everyone to lose faith in the promise of God. God turned His people away from the Land and made them wander in the desert until all of that generation had died before allowing their offspring to enter the Land. It was lack of faith in God’s promise that has marked this week until now.
I say, “Until now,” because several of the chief Rabbis have decided that this week is the “beginning of redemption.” They have decided that this current war is going to bring about the end of the world as we know it. Hmmm.
It is now Sunday and I have returned to Jerusalem. Scott and Theresa are gone off to help someone and I am going to spend the day relaxing and reading.
Keep your comments coming. Even though I will not be able to answer most of them, I really enjoy reading them. Have a great week.
P.S. The Lord provided me a cell phone. If you need to call (or just can’t stand not hearing my voice), the number from the U.S. is 011-972-50-832-3756.