Guess we’ll start off where the last post left off…
During our last week of break we were told (commanded 🙂 ) by Rabbi Wichnin to go EXPLORE Israel. Therefore, me and a few guys from Mayanot took a bus to Tzfat to check out the holy air up there. We reached Tzfat in the evening, and stayed at Ascent, an amazing hostel in the heart of Tzfat.
There were 7 of us staying at Ascent, 4 guys stayed in one room, and the other three had to stay in other peoples rooms. I was one of the three who had to stay in a random room. The room I was assigned was very nice, shower, beds, nice view. There was only one drawback: the other guys staying in the room smelled like OLD TUNA AND COUCHES IN NURSING HOMES! (don’t ask me how I know what the couches one smells like). luckily, Yaakov had a cold and a stuffy nose, so he switched rooms with me, B”h.
In the morning we started our hike from Tzfat to . The terrain was very rocky, climbing up and down parts of the mountain. It was a very cool experience to walk past other people hiking to or from meron, because many people were singing niggunim on their way. You don’t really see that walking around lake Calhoun in Minneapolis!
Along the path there were streams and water deposits where many people would take a break and jump in the freezing, yet refreshing, water. I couldn’t help but think how amazing it must have felt years ago for people traveling long distances to finally see.
Once we arrived in Meron, we went to the Kever (gravesite) of the Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai), a true Kabbalist (none of the Madonna shtick). It is a known practice in Judaism to go to the grave of a Tzaddik (righteous person) and daven (pray and connect) there. But what are we connecting with? (good question!) Believe it or not, a person is much more than their body (come again?). By delving deeper under and beyond our superficial bodies and wants, we uncover an authentic, pure, and genuine piece of our inner selves (what’s that you say? a…SOUL?!). When we pass on, especially a Tzaddik, that part of our selves can still be connected to by others, even if our physical body is not here. “One cannot help but be affected, be charged with a renewed, uplifted spirit, and deep sense of renewal after visiting the Kever of a Tzadik”. (read more about this here!!)
That evening we scouted the mountain for a (semi)comfortable place to lay out our sleeping bags around a campfire. We fell asleep to the howling of (hopefully) distant coyotes, and the grand expanse of stars and unknown planets above us.
Once back in Jerusalem, I made a quick stop at Hadassah Hospital – Ein Kerem, for an undisclosed reason (but it involves a psych ward!). details of that will surely ensue in forthcoming posts.
This past monday (Oct. 7th) was not only my amazing Ema’s (that means mom in Hebrew) birthday (Happy Birthday, Ema, you’re the best mom I’ve ever had!) but it was also the start of classes here at Mayanot! I’ve been waiting quite a while to finally be in a place where I can focus almost entirely on learning and growing in my Yiddishkeit (Judaism). We’re learning Chassidus, Talmud, Tanya, Philosophy, Halacha…OY its wonderful!
We’ve already finished our first week of classes, and my head feels like it’s ready to explode. Interestingly, I say that with a giant smile plastered on my face because I’ve never been happier to have a headache brought on by the studying of Torah instead of Economics and Natural Resource Management (probably the worst class of my undergrad at the UofM).
An important message in Torah is: once you learn, teach. Therefore, since I am B”h lucky to be here at Mayanot, where the company is good (vast understatement), the food is great, and the rabbis are even better, I feel indebted to share the wealth which it has to offer.
*What I am about to write is my overview from an article from the Kehot Chumash*
Every week, we read a chapter of the Torah, this weeks chapter is Lech Lecha (literally translated to: Go, to you)
Lech Lecha is the third Parsha in the Torah. The first Chapter (Bereshit) dealt with the creation and Adam & Eve, The second chapter (Noach) told the story of the flood and the descendants of Noach and his children, Shem, Cham, and Yefet (my fathers namesake!). Now by this chapter, we talk about Avram (Avraham) the father of the Jewish people.
Avraham grew up in a time where corruption, idol worship, and crime were the norm. He was not fazed by these terrible actions, on the contrary, it gave him the inspiration and the fire to actively point out the illogic of idolatry and spread the monotheistic revival.
Despite Avrahams work, his efforts were limited because he was speaking from his own personal reasoning and views. The people who listened to him were simply told a more honest and intellectual version of understanding life.
To Avraham, g-d was still this transcendent being not bound by the laws of nature and human existence (as can be seen by g-ds intervention in Nimrods furnace). Avraham had not level of awareness. The level that this transcendent G-d can be felt in this mundane life as well. Up until now, monotheism during that time period was merely Deism! (still a good step forward!)
Everything changed when G-d spoke to Avraham for the first time, “Lech Lecha!” (Go, to you!). It was through Avraham that G-d made his initial and true descent back to earth. By G-d telling Avraham to “Go,” G-d made Avraham into a new person who could now progress beyond his own capabilities. “Go, to you” means “Go to your TRUE, higher self, the self you could never reach on your own.” the definition of a G-dly person changed from “a person who connects to g-d as much as the limits of human capacity allow” to “a person who connects to g-d by always progressing and growing BEYOND the limits of human capacity!”
Firstly, this is CRAZY! that we can understand astrophysics is one thing, that we can (attempt) to understand the female brain, fine. but the fact that we have the ability to connect to g-d in a way that is beyond the capabilities known to ourselves, is insanely awesome! In this Parsha, g-d gave us the gift of returning to our authentic selves, the self we never even knew existed, constantly uncovering new vistas and perspectives of the Divine.
For this Shabbat, I want to give a Bracha (blessing) that we all “Go, to ourselves”, that we all uncover that part of ourselves which is infineley connected to Hashem, The part of ourselves that knows no limits and boundaries, the part of us which has no fears or reservations, the part of ourselves which is our TRUE selves.
Shabbat Shalom from the Holy Land,
P.s. A kid on our hike from tzfat to meron ate a bunch of berries from a bush. BAD IDEA!