We greeted the Shabbat bride beautifully. In Jerusalemite tradition, we meandered through the crowded noisy alleyways of Machane Yehuda, witnessing the cacophony of Jewish communal life: sellers hawking their brightly colored fruits and varieties of nuts and spices, fish salesmen showing their still-flopping catches, bakeries offering the most delicious still-hot challot and burekas.
After changing, we gathered in a top-floor room in a nearby hotel for Kabbalat Shabbat, our Friday evening prayers. Looking through huge windows at the expanse of Jerusalem at night, we lit our last night of Chanukah candles and then Shabbat candles. With Rachel Isaacson serving as Shaliach Tzibur (literally “representative of the community,” but more colloquial the “musical prayer leader” – another of her many talents that we keep enjoying to discover), we sang songs of praise and thanksgiving.
Reflecting on the connections we made that morning with our ancestors (at the Wall, in the alleyways of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum), we davened the Avot v’Imahot prayer, reminding the Holy One of Blessing that we are the descendants of those ancestors with which God had such close relations. Watching a youngster peacefully sleeping on the lap of one of our teens, and recognizing that all anyone really wants is to know that his/her children can sleep soundly each night like this little one, we prayed for Shalom Rav, a great peace for Jerusalem, Israel, the Middle East and the whole world. We reflected on the lessons learned from the juxtaposition of two tiulim (trips) in one day: the somberness of Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and the cacophony of the Machane Yehuda open air market. Participants offer so many meaningful drashot (interpretations) on this juxtaposition: that it teaches we moved from an attempt to destroy us to witnessing our survival. That the rich variety of Jewish life in pre-Holocaust Europe and North Africa lives on in the wide varieties of Jews shopping shoulder to shoulder. That since you cannot escape the reality that being even only ¼ Jewish would have put you in Hitler’s crematoria, you should embrace this wonderfully creative people called the Jews. That like good wines, the reason for survival must be based on an appreciation for a mixture of the rich varietals of Judaism.
[Incidentally, I found Yad Vashem overwhelming and Machane Yehuda reinvigorating. The one left a bad taste in my mouth (how could people do this to each other? Why does it continue in Darfur, through the words of Iran’s president, elsewhere in the world?). The other left my stomach aching joyously from the many tastes (including baker Marzipan’s world-famous chocolate rugulach).]
Standing in the middle of marketplace, I felt at peace; I could have stood in the middle of the crowds for hours. Celebrating Shabbat, I felt at peace; Congregation Or Ami’s light shined from one end of the world to the other that Shabbat eve. Looking down at the clock on my computer, I realize that Or Ami in Calabasas is just finishing up its services right now. Time for breakfast here… Shabbat Shalom.