There are absolutely no words to describe Rosh Hashanah in Jerusalem. The shofar, a ram’s horn used during High Holiday services as a call to G-d to hear our prayers, is sounded several times throughout services on both days of Rosh Hashanah. And in Jerusalem, if you happen to open your windows at about 11:30am on that very special holiday, you will hear blasts of the shofar coming from every direction, echoing off of the buildings made of two-thousand-year-old stone, resonating until it reaches the very heights of the Temple Mount and G-d’s own ears. As a Jew, there is nothing in the world more powerful than hearing that sound reverberate through your very soul not only when you’re in services, but even just walking around the street, sharing with the millions of Jews around you this holiday that remembers the 5771st anniversary of the beginning of humanity and our coronation of G-d as King. It gives me chills just thinking about it…
I’m sure you can already tell, Rosh Hoshanah this year was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced…
For us here at Mayanot, the holiday really started on Wednesday. We had the day off from classes to really prepare ourselves for the three day sprint (two days of Rosh Hashanah and then one day of Shabbos, during all of which no working, no electricity, and no full showers are allowed… lots of prep work for that!!). Wednesday morning as part of the holiday preparations, its customary to visit the grave of a righteous person and to pray there for a good and sweet new year. We went to Kevel Rochel, which is the grave of Rachel the Matriarch. Rachel. From the Bible. Think about it for a second…. I prayed at the grave of Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife, from the stories in the Bible that are thousands of years old. And she was right there, still on the roadside waiting for her children (the Jewish people) to return to Jerusalem with the final Redemption… crying still to this day that it hasn’t happened yet. And when you walk in, that’s all you hear… crying, sobbing, tears of joy and of sadness and of shared pain with Rachel our Mother. What a powerful and moving experience. SO SURREAL to really be there, and definitely an experience that makes you realize WOW I’m in Israel.
Wednesday started with candle-lighting at the Beis Midrash (main classroom in our seminary). After that, we had a choice of shuls to go to since in Israel, synagogues are like Starbucks in America… there’s at least one on every corner. I chose to walk with several of the girls to the Mayanot shul. It’s about 40 minutes from our seminary (it’s affiliated but not attached), and the walk is almost entirely uphill, but it was worth it. When you walk in, the first thing you notice is the light. The shul is painted all in white and the light reflects off of the walls in a way that isn’t harsh but still completely fills the space so that not even a little bit of darkness can find its way into the temple. The service itself was also beautiful and spiritual and powerful… The men that daven at Mayanot shul have so much energy that it makes the service come to life with singing and amazing melodies, it adds a whole new dimension to the prayers in the services. Definitely worth the walk. After services was dinner at a host family. We were all set up with a different host family every night if we didn’t have our own places we wanted to go, but for Wednesday night I went with Menucha (Mackenzie) to a family she knows in Nachlaot, which is a very hippy, spiritual part of of Jerusalem. It was an interesting experience (I’ve never had a dairy meal for a holiday other than Shavuot) and the family was very very nice, but as cool as it was it definitely was not for me!
Thursday was a similar day… morning services at the Mayanot shul lasted from 8:30am-2:30pm (sooooo long) but we didn’t even notice because they were (again) so beautiful and powerful and moving that no one really minded. Then we walked back to the seminary for lunch with all of the girls together and then dinner was at the Hendel house. The Hendel family runs a Chabad shul near the school and the Rabbi and his wife both teach here at Mayanot. They’re family is very sweet and it was nice to have a more traditional Chabad style dinner for the second night of Rosh Hashanah.
Friday was the second day of Rosh Hashanah and we decided to daven at the Hendel shul in the morning. It was nice, but to me nothing will compare to the Mayanot shul (which is my new favorite ever). Then lunch back at school. Shabbos started right from Yom Tov, so we did Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming in the Sabbath) here at school with an outdoors singing service for just us girls, which was nice and relaxing. Then dinner was by the Lurie family, South Africans who immigrated here years ago. They have a GORGEOUS three story mansion of a home with a huge balcony porch overlooking this gorgeous view of the entire city of Jerusalem. It’s very obvious that they are well-to-do, but its also very obvious that they do well with it. By this I mean that for Shabbat dinner they had 70, yes SEVENTY, people in their home. I think it’s also safe to say that they didn’t know at least HALF of us at all! But they invited all of us over anyways and it was a total blast! The company was great, the family was very sweet, the speeches were inspirational, and the food was out of this world 🙂 Shabbos day was a lazy day… slept in until noon, davened, and then it was already time for kiddush and lunch. Learned a little bit afterward and before you know it, it was time for a walk to the Levinger family’s home (our Rosh Yeshiva, or dean, and his family) for Havdalah.
All in all, it was an incredibly intense, spiritual, food-filled three days 🙂 I hope everyone else had a great Rosh Hashanah as well. The next several days leading up to Yom Kippur are an amazing time filled with opportunities to bring yourself closer to G-d… I hope that you all find the time and spiritual strength to use those opportunities to the max and make 5771 a year in which we are all sealed in the Book of Life for health, peace, happiness, prosperity, blessings, and only revealed good!
Miss you and love you all ❤ Gmar Chasima Tova!!