Sunday, August 10, 2008

Shabbat and Tisha B'av

Shabbat was lovely. My classmate Brian stayed with me and shabbos included a full complement of services, meals, and rest. Friday evening we went to davenning at Yakar (an Orthodox shul right down the street from me) and then dinner at Shira and Ken's (delicious!). I went to Saturday morning services at Kol HaNeshama (the Reform shul a 15 minute walk from here) and then several of us (including Brian on his new bike!) converged on Aaron and Debra's place for lunch (also delicious!). Then, after fitful napping, we went to Daniel's aunt and uncle's for seudah shlishit. After shabbat was over, we went to the Tayelet/Promenade which overlooks Jerusalem for the south and began our observance of Tisha B'av.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed being at Yakar. In the States I almost never choose to go to a minyan with a mehitza (which divides men and women into different seating sections). What I liked best were the melodies, many of which were new to me and some of which were obviously chosen because they matched the mood of the approaching Tisha B'av. One thing that might have helped (and which I want to keep in mind for the future) is that at a Friday evening service, there is no Torah reading and no one is wearing a tallis (except maybe the person leading). Not being able to wear my tallit and feeling cut off from the Torah are perhaps the two most painful aspects of Orthodox worship for me, so it may be that sidestepping those contributed to my high comfort level. Another thing I realized is that I was actually more comfortable in this setting than I am in settings where women have only recently been allowed to lead some aspects of the service. Having grown up in settings where women were rabbis and participated equally in all aspects of the service, the practice of allowing women to lead some but not all parts of the service (which to many is new and innovative and powerful) feels to me like being thrown a bone (and being told to enjoy it). In any case, it feels good to have found a place I like very much (at least for Kabbalat Shabbat) right around the corner. Great singing in both the men's and women's sections!

I spent today fasting and went to Yakar for the reading of Eicha/Lamentations and then reciting aloud a very moving set of texts --some old and some new. I'm still not sure what to make of the experience of mourning a destroyed Jerusalem in this Jerusalem. What I do know is that I don't feel there is any lack of brokenness in this world --much less in Jerusalem itself-- and I deeply appreciate being part of a tradition that makes sacred space for communal grief. As Brian reminded me, there are also strong and strongly moving connections between Tisha B'av and the High Holy Days, as we mark the beginning of a seven-week period of ascent from the low point of Tisha B'av to the high point of the concluding prayers on Yom Kippur. I do feel blessed to be here for this cycle.

And now, I have to write an essay for my ulpan.

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