Saturday, September 18, 2010
My Unforgettable Yom Kipur
So a little forewarning... this is not gonna be a short post. I have found that the best blog posts are short annecdotes and stories – but so much happened over Yom Kipur that it might get a bit long.
For Yom Kipur, I went with Rachel and Itay (sister and brother in law) to a service called Nafka Mina, which was about 25 minutes away by foot. As we were walking, it was stark and strange to see not a single car on the street. Traffic lights are turned off – they all just blink yellow. The only cars on the streets were police officers. I observed that walking on the streets felt like I was in a movie where everyone is off'd by some terrible virus – my sister agreed – said it looked like a dream in a movie – we were walking in middle of the busiest streets with no cars in sight. There were a lot of people on bikes, but no cars.
The service Nafka Mina was really sweet – the robust mix of Israelis, American, British and Australians made for a nice friendly atmosphere and the tunes were very familiar. The room was not overly large and was very full, making the service feel very complete as all the men and women sang melodiously together. When I got home, I set out to learn the Mishna – the oral law on which the talmud is based – tractate of Yoma (the laws of Yom Kipur) with Itay. It has been my tradition to study the 8 chapters on Yom Kipur for the past several years. I studied with Itay. The laws outline in detail the Yom Kipur service that was run by the head priest in the Temple of Jerusalem amlost 2,000 years ago.
The morning services starts at 7:30 am, and Itay and I arrived early to learn 2 more chapters of the Mishna before the services began. We prayed straight from 7:30 till 1:30 pm! It was a great service and the time flew by. At the break between the morning and afternoon services, we set out to the Old City of Jerusalem, having been advised that the services were not to be missed. The advice was true.
On the night before Yom Kipur, the three of us and my friend Lisa tried to visit the Kotel (Western Wall). We knew it would be a popular destination on the night before the Day of Judgment, so we waited till late – 1 am – to head to the Old City. When we got there, the place was swarming and hopping. The police had closed the Yafo Gate to the City, which is the most convenient, and we were directed to the Zion Gate. As we made our way to the Zion Gate, which is a 10 minute walk from the Western Wall, the crowd continued to thicken. We soon began to realize that there was no way were were going to get to the Old City, let alone the Kotel. At 1:30, we gave up and walked home. We were fearful that we would encounter similar circumstances, but were pleasantly surprised.
When we arrived in the Old City, we quickly stopped in to the Hurva Synagogue, a synagogue that had been destroyed in 1948 by the Arab Legion. The synagogue was just rebuild and completed last spring. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurva_Synagogue
Afterwards, we went to Yeshivat HaKotel, a large Israeli Yeshiva in the Old City that overlooks the Temple Mount with unparalleled views. I saw my Rabbi from YU – Rabbi Goldwicht there – it is the second time I have run into Rav Goldwicht in the Old City even though he lives in New York and until a month ago, I did too. After the afternoon service, we went down to the Western Wall to pray the Neila – final service of Yom Kipur.
As Itay and I approached a group that appeared to be about to start Neila, I ran into a YU classmate, neighbor and friend of mine, Michal Sherman, from Boston. The service was amazing – there I was praying at the wall of our ancient temple, where the service that I had studied with Itay last night was performed for hundreds of years. It was amazing to sing “Next year may we be in a rebuilt Yerushalayim” at the site of our Temple that lays in ruin. I was brought to tears several times in the very moving service. After all of the prayers, Michael, my siblings and I broke our fast on some water and pastries that were being distributed. Michael then took us to a building run by Jeff Seidel, a man who runs an organization that helps students get in touch with Judaism. He was having a breakfast as well and invited us to help ourselves to fruit, pastries, drinks and of course bagels. Afterwards, Rachel, Itay and I headed to our family friend's the Elmans, who have an apartment in the Old City. They lent us some money to grab a cab home, and I am now at Rachels and Itay's apartment drinking coffee and eating Tim Tams... of course.
What a Yom Kipur. I hope everyone else had a nice holiday as well and that everyone has a blessed, healthy and successful year.