Friday, September 17, 2010

Master Your Fears

Yomim Noraim (the days of awe). That's what these past 10 days here in Jerusalem have been. Rosh Hashana: the Jewish new year...this is where we will begin. Rosh Hashana began on a Wednesday so everything around the city closed for Wednesday night, all of Thursday, all of Friday, and all of Saturday, since the holiday coincided with Shabbat. Nothing was really exciting about Rosh Hashana. It didn't feel any different than being in the states, other than the fact that nothing was open. It was a hard holiday to go through especially since I got sick on Erev Rosh Hashana and for the obvious reason of not being able to be there with my family. Two days before Erev Rosh Hashana I found out that Karla Ember, a woman I worked with in Arizona with the youth choir my junior year, was brutally attacked and stabbed in her home. After a long fight for her life Karla passed away the day before Erev Rosh Hashana. Of all the times I wish I could be in Arizona, this ranks the highest. While Rosh Hashana is a day of mixed emotions since it is a new year but at the same time is when you begin to atone for this sins over the past year my Rosh Hashana was even more grief stricken due to this sad news. Karla, I am thinking about you always, and you will always be in my heart. For those of you that may not be familiar with the Jewish faith, the following prayer is one that is said when someone passes away and is said on each following year during the week of their passing. This is for Karla and Edith Metzner. (Edith is Julia's one of my closest friends grandmother who also passed away during this month):


Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba. B’alma di vra chir’utei v’yamlich malchutei, b’chayeichon uvyomeichon uvchayei d’chol beit Yisraeil, ba’agala uvizman kariv, v’im’ru: Amein. Y’hei shmei raba m’vorach l’olam ulolmei almaya. Yitbarach v’yishtabach v’yitpa’ar v’yitromam v’yitnasei, v’yit’hadar v’yit’aleh, v’yit’halal, sh’mei d’kudsha, b’rich Hu. L’eila min kol birchata v’shirata, tushb’chata v’nechemata, da’amiran b’alma, v’im’ru: Amein. Y’hei shlama raba min sh’maya v’chayim aleinu v’al kol Yisraeil, v’im’ru: Amein. Oseh shalom bimromav, Hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu, v’al kol Yisraeil, v’im’ru: Amein.

Yom Kippur: Yom Kippur was a whole other experience. The morning of Kol Nidre I went to the Shuk to get some fruit for the break fast I was having. Surprisingly the shuk wasn't very busy. Some may say well obviously! I say, not obviously! People still have to make a meal before the fast begins and need to have food for the break fast. Anyhoo...I know that's not why everyone is reading right now (since according to my mother everyone has been desperately waiting for this update!) So i returned home from the shuk and immediately began getting reading for the holiday. Since the time zone already changed here in Israel everything closed around 3pm. So i made pasta and a beef marinara sauce (I know there is a real name for it but I don't know how to spell it) and the sped out the door to make it to Kol Nidre on time. What is really interesting about Yom Kippur is that after 5:15pm it is illegal for any cars to be on the road. Since services started at 5 I didn't see the stillness of the city until after services were over. Services were amazing...not in the sense that they were any different that how services would be back home but the view we had was something I will never forget. We were fortunate enough to have a location where in front of our faces were the walls of the old city and we got to watch the sun go down during Kol Nidre over the old city. It was quite magical.

Now, I have never been one to enjoy sermons. Whenever I hear one I can never seem to pay attention the entire time. Sermons usually start off with an interesting story then somehow lose my attention when they begin to reference liturgical connections. This Kol Nidre was 100% different. Rabbi Yoshi Zweibeck...also the director of the Year in Israel Program gave a sermon that has changed my life. The sermons main point was about mastering our fears, because if we don't we won't be able to become the people that we are praying about on Yom Kippur. There are three components of fear: Balance, Truth, and Faith. How fear can cause us to stop breathing - bringing many people to their ultimate fear of death. How knowing something terrible is going to happen may make a person more fearful. How it is not coincidental that Sukkot is immediately following Yom Kippur because Yom Kippur is a time for vulnerability and fear; fear about whether or not we as Jews will be written into the book of life and how Sukkot / Z'man simchoteinu (time of happiness in Hebrew) immediately follows. Only 10 days out of the entire year are we allowed to be fearful and the rest are supposed to be days of happiness.

There was a story Yoshi told during his sermon about a close family to him and his family, also members of his congregants of his family. This family adopted a beautiful girl from china 6 months before that Yoshi had officiated at her conversion and named. 6 months after receiving this girl she had a massive caesurae and the impact of the cesurae was too great that she became brain dead. He related this to the greatest fear that any parent has and responded with the idea that sometimes when fear gets the best of you that is what can actually kill you.

Not to worry, I am asked Yoshi to send me a copy of his sermon. Most of the people sitting in the room were in tears by the end of the sermon, and I think once everyone reads it, they too will begin the task on conquering their fears. According to Yoshi, "today can be the last day of un-mastered fear".

After services I was excited to see what the empty streets of Jerusalem were like. No more crazy drivers and no more honking...silence. It was amazing. Many of us students walked down to Emek Refaim (the street I lived on) in the middle of the street. Once we reached Emek it was a vision you would have to see to believe. The street was flooded with a sea of people all in white. Everyone wishing each other a Shana Tova and smiling at one another. Kids were riding around on their bikes and people were laughing together. I have never seen anything like is I guess kind of similar to all the people on the road in Danville on the 4th of July...but the atmosphere was so much different.

The next morning I woke up and went to HUC again for services. As many of you know, it has become a "tradition" of mine to chant during the high holy days and this year that tradition didn't falter. I chanted the Haftarah, and of course...after learning the last two verses the night before, chanted rather successfully. While there wasn't as many people there as their are at services at Isaiah the feeling was equally amazing especially since I was in Jerusalem. From services I went home and took a nap (of course talked to the family) and then headed back to temple. Services ended at 6:30 and afterward about 10 of us went over to my friend Ryan's house to break the fast. It was amazing. Around 7:30 I found myself getting tired so headed home to do all the homework I didn't do over the holiday and found myself tired as usual for school this morning.

During the 10 days of the holiday I found myself somewhat struggling with my Jewish identity. I have noticed that many of my fellow classmates are more "religious" than I am. Meaning they keep Shabbat at the holidays and know many more prayers and traditions than I do. While in the beginning I found this to be frustrating about my Jewish education I realized that it is not how I was brought up that is frustrating, it's that we are all starting off on such different levels and I feel like there hasn't been much to integrate and bring us all up to the same level. I have also become more confident and satisfied with the Jew that I am. I am proud to be Jewish, but at the same time Judaism is something that is able to fit into my life. I love my life the way it is, and mainly because Judaism is in it, but I am not going to alter the person that I am (such as talking on the phone on shabbat, and not keeping kosher ect...) because of this religion. Judaism is something that makes me happy because the kind of Judaism that I practice fits to perfectly into the life i love and want to continue living, I shouldn't have to change who I am for Judaism. If I had to do that, Judaism would no longer be such a essential part of who I am.

This week we only have 3 days of school since we have a 10 day break for Sukkot. Unfortunately I won't be doing anything fun J.K.!!!!!!!!! I am going on a 6 day 5 night cruise to greece! woohoo!!!! so of course I will update you all about how that trip is.

This weeks funny:

my friends sam and leah and I were walking home from school one day and there was this little boy (probably 3 years old) peeing onto a tree. Now, of course peeing on a tree in public on a busy sidewalk isn't no no...this little boy thought the best option would be to twist his body left and right so that his pee would spray from end of the tree to another. yes...this really happened....

that's it for now!!! please keep your eyes open for the blog with Yoshi's sermon on it. I strongly encourage everyone to read it!!!!!!! all my love!


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