Let us say before God a new song/V’nomar l’fanav shira chadasha.
We were to have dinner with Susan, Yossi and family last night, so Chaim and I again attended Shabbat services at Kol HaNeshama, the synagogue closest to where they live. It is a lovely service, and one of the things that Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman does during the service that I have integrated into my own Shabbat practice is having a chazarat ha-shavua/review of the week meditation, in which he invites us to remember highlights from each day since the previous Shabbat. This is a practice that I have done for many years when I light my Shabbat candles and had forgotten that I learned it from Levi! I light the candles, wave my hands over and around them three times (the first time to bring in light for myself and my nearest and dearest, the second time for the larger community of those in my life, and the third time for the world at large). Then I cover my face with my hands and do a chazarat ha-shavua, recalling the highlights of each day that passed since the last Shabbat. There are times when it is hard to distinguish Monday from Tuesday or Tuesday from Wednesday, and at those times, I could be standing over my candles for a very long time before really entering into Shabbat. (Chaim is always very patient as he waits for me to complete my meditation.) I teach this practice to my clients, as well, because it is one of many tools for creating a gratitude practice in one’s life — either to nightly offer hakarat ha-tov/gratitude for favors of the day, or to do so just before Shabbat.
Again, I ran into people I knew at Kol haNeshama — a rabbinic colleague from my Board of Rabbis in Westchester County as well as a woman who went to rabbinical school with me. I recognized her but couldn’t place her, and she told me that she lived in my neighborhood in Park Slope, Brooklyn during rabbinical school and came several mornings to help make minyan when I was sitting shiva at home for my father. I was so embarrassed that I barely remembered her and so grateful that she had been there for me in those emotionally painful days of mourning. She is in Jerusalem for a sabbatical year with her husband and three children writing a book about Israel and the religious imagination.
Two separate interfaith study groups from separate Chicago theological seminaries attended services at Kol HaNeshama last night, and Susan brought home three of the students to have dinner with us, in addition to assorted neighbors and their children. There were about 20 of us around the table, which is apparently the norm in their household every Shabbat. After singing Shalom Aleichem, the melody invoking the angels to join us for Shabbat, we were each handed an “angel card” with a word printed in both English and Hebrew. We went around the table, introduced ourselves, shared a highlight of the week, as well as the blessing on the angel card and what it meant to us. I received the angel of roch/tenderness; Chaim the angel of kavannah/purpose and intention.
Susan spoke a little more about the book she has written, which she calls “a theology of adoption.” I mentioned previously that two of their five children were adopted from Ethiopia. She ties together her love for her children, a painful midrash about Noah and the flood, and her anger at Russia’s President Putin (for his misuse/abuse of orphaned children who could be adopted) in a hard-hitting piece for the Jewish Daily Forward. You can find it at http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/169259/putin-and-the-flood/
This morning Chaim and I went to the feminist Orthodox synagogue, Shira Chadasha. I found myself crying through much of the service, the music is so incredibly beautiful and moving. (Shira Chadasha means “New Song” for a reason.) It’s as if the entire congregation sings as a choir with harmonizations that made my heart soar to heaven. (Chaim and I could not sit together there in this Orthodox synagogue, so it was only afterwards that I found out that he, too, was moved to tears by the music there.)
I was impressed by how far this Orthodox synagogue pushed the envelope on women’s participation, and the woman who led the Torah service had the voice of an angel. It surprised me, however, that I was only one of about 5 women there who wore a tallit/prayer shawl. Even women who were granted the honor of an aliyah at the Torah, and even the woman who chanted haftarah did not wear one.
There were two baby-namings there this morning. I know the grandmother of the first baby; she works for UJA in Israel and joins our spiritual care task force meetings in NY either by phone, Skype, or in the flesh, so I was delighted to be there when she and her family had a simcha. The bigger surprise was that when the mechitza (the curtain which divided the men’s and women’s sections) was moved aside at the end of the service and I looked to find Chaim, I saw him with our friend Cantor Bob Scherr from Williamstown, MA! Bob is in Jerusalem with a group of interfaith students from Williams College, where he serves as the Jewish chaplain.
Bob said he could go home fulfilled now — he was waiting to run into someone he knew in Jerusalem — that’s always part of the fun and mystery and serendipity of coming to Jerusalem. We helped him accomplish his mission, though he still has to explain why he did not tell us beforehand that our trips would overlap!
Since Shira Chadasha provides an incredible kiddush after services (including hot cholent), and after determining that Bob had other plans with his daughter who lives in Jerusalem, Chaim and I decided to skip the lunch that awaited us at home. Instead we started on our afternoon walk right after devouring the best cholent I have ever eaten (Chaim’s cholent is really good, but this one was clearly not lo-cal). Cholent, by the way, is a long-cooking meal for those religious Jews (Chaim among them) who won’t eat food cooked on Shabbat. Set to cook before Shabbat starts, the meal (usually meat, beans, and either potatoes or rice or barley, though Chaim only makes a vegetarian version) is either left in a low-temp oven, a low flame on the stove or in a crockpot until Shabbat lunch, so a hot meal can be had.
Martin Buber’s former home at 3 Chovavei Tzion (Lovers of Zion) Street
Based on one of the walks we found in Footloose in Jerusalem, our walk took us past the following places: the Sholom Hartman Institute, the old Hansen Leper Hospital, the Van Leer Foundation, The Israel Academy of Arts and Sciences (Israel’s “brain trust”), the President’s residence (the president is not the same position as the prime minister, BTW), the Jerusalem Theater (where the Begin-Sadat press conference took place in 1977), the Museum of Islamic Art, the spot where Folke Bernadotte was assassinated (he’s the Swede who Bili’s husband Mats is researching), philosopher Martin Buber’s home, homes with beautiful iron grillwork, typically done by Arab craftsmen, a rose garden, and a lot of Templer buildings. The Templers were members of a German Protestant sect who believed that living in the Holy Land would hasten the second coming of Christ. They gave the name to the German Colony of Jerusalem, the trendy neighborhood where I lived during rabbinical school and next door to the Greek Colony where Chaim and I are currently staying.
Entrance to a Templer Residence on Emek Refaim St.
The quote above the door is Isaiah 60:1 in German: “Kumi Ori/Arise, shine for your light has dawned. The presence of the Lord has shone upon you.”
Do you remember the news stories about the crazy Orthodox Jews who would stone cars that dared to drive through their neighborhoods on Shabbat? I think I started to identify with them a little today. A LOT more people seem to drive through the city streets on Shabbat than I ever remember from past visits, when Shabbat in Jerusalem was really Shabbat for almost everyone (unlike in other places in Israel which are generally more secular). I used to be able to walk in the middle of the road on Shabbat without any worries. That is impossible today. And it made me very sad, the loss of that sanctity.
By the way, if anyone plans to come to Jerusalem, start your walking practice earlier rather than later — there are a lot of hills, and you need to be in good shape!
We just got home from seeing the very moving and tragic French film Amour. A lot to think about.
9 Shevat/January 19, 2013