Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Dream -

When we see a spider we say "eek" because it is black, but when a spider sees a dove it says "eek" because it is white.

He looks over the horizon and tries to determine the size of it's eye.

These are the two statements that I had in a dream on Shabbat, and they appeared as "Calvin and Hobbes" cartoons.

I guess I also wanted to jot down some things about the last week in Israel. A few days ago on Thursday one of the G'dolei Ha-dor, the great Rabbi's of this generation, passed away. My yeshiva had the merit to go to his levaya, the process of carrying the body to the cemetery (wrapped in sheets) and a mitzvah from the Torah. When we first got there, we were outside of a huge Orthodox soup kitchen, apparently somehow associated with the Rav (z"l), of which had a high red-brick wall surrounding it, and it was across from a synagogue with a big sun-dial. Children and young bachurim were sitting on top of the wall and then the voice of a man (whom we could not see) giving a speech in Yiddish (which I don't understand). After that somebody started saying Kaddish and then all of us said it for the Rav. The man had a yearning in his voice and at a few points it reached a tone of near-crying, which lasted shortly. At that point in time we began walking (or inching) through the street where a police woman was directing traffic (us).

There were about 10,000 people in the streets of Jerusalem, and have you ever seen 10,000 people crossing a street? In America they stop traffic with cars for a funeral, here it was people. The really amazing part of it was that we were performing the mitzvah of escorting our dead to where his body would be buried, and not only that, he and his writings affected the Jews of this generation in ways that would be difficult to trace. Think about it like the disciples carrying the body of his teacher to its grave. I got the zchut of getting near the body as they were walking briskly to grab a hold of the sheet to carry it, but instead I just put my hand on it. A guy there told me to tuck in my tzitziyot (because the dead cannot do mitzvahs), which is what I did davening at the grave site of the Rambam, his father, and other Tanna'im and Ammora'im. I and a guy from the yeshiva named "Akiva" managed to get all the way to the cemetery as the wrapped body was lowered in the ground and we each put a rock on the heap of dirt. If any of you have ever been in a concert, the amount of people and the congestion was similar, some ten thousand people performed a huge mitzvah that day.

This Shabbat was also an amazing one (as they all are for their unique reasons). We davined at a local shul, lovingly known as "The Bubble" due to its bubble-type shape, down the street from the yeshiva. Some other names for it range "The Igloo" and "The Dome," and it seats some one hundred people and has an upstairs (for the women), downstairs (for the men), and upstairs (also for the women). Behind the ark is a huge black metal menorah that spans some thirty feet from one side to the other and with bulbs in place of candles. It was an excellent start for an excellent Shabbat.

After davining Mincha, Kabbalat Shabbat, and Ma'ariv (Aravit, here), a German bachur named "Michael" and I were scheduled to have the Shabbos meal at Rav Axlebaum's and his family's house. Mike thought he knew where the house was located on "Rechov Chalutz," (Chalutz Street), but after about forty minutes of walking back and forth down that street, which was an adventure in itself, we couldn't find the house so we headed back to the yeshiva. It was empty, and we got together some food that we had (most was Mike's), some pastrami, a challah, chummus, orange juice, wine, and chocolate spread, some benchers, and we had our own Shabbos meal there in the Bet Midrash. It was fine and good; we said "Kiddush," said "Ha-motzi," ate, and sang a few songs. As we were finishing some of the other bachurim got back and we chit-chatted with them and sang some more songs and eventually called it a night.

The next morning we davined Shacharit at the Bubble and then went to Rav Schuster's house for lunch (one of the Roshei Yeshiva), which was great because his four kids are cool, and the food was great too, and the walk, and the view from the building just overlooking the hill standing in front of Har Nof to the northeast. The building is built partially underground and partially overground because Jerusalem is literally a city built on a hill. For pedestrians, there are actually sets of stairs connecting streets to other steets and so walking up and down stairs is a normal part of walking in Jerusalem, a slight deviation from the normal grid set-up. The front entrance to the building puts you at the 7th floor while floors 1-6 are downstairs and the rest are higher. The building boasts the interesting architecture of having a roof downstairs from the main entrance, and in case you thought it was a paradigm of existence for roofs to be located downstairs from anything, you look down over the balcony from the seventh floor and see a roof, the roof for the second and third floors. Whoever said that G-d's City needs to conform to the normal laws of nature or architecture or things like that?

This Shabbat was a bit surreal and I can't really explain it, partially because it's new for me, partially because its unique style, partially because being in Israel sparks certain ancient memories (childhood and earlier, probably), and partially because Shabbat is just holy. The sights and sounds here are interesting to say the least, and looking out the window from the Shabbat table at Rabbi Schuster's house at the buildings and the view was just a surreal experience that made you stare and consider things; I can't really explain it but recommend it. The way the trees grow, the off-white seemingly hand-cut stones and the way the dirt collects between them, the way the city is built on a series of hills, the style of the houses not similar to houses in Tucson but some of them striking certain similarities, and the Jewish people walking around, most of them observing Shabbat, is all a part of the experience. Again, I recommend it, especially if you're a Jew.

Just a bit ago I was told that Rabbi Karlinsky's (one of the Roshei Yeshiva) died today and we're going to his funeral at 9:40 tonight, and right now it's around 8:30.

Peace, Yaniv...

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