Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hot in the Hut

One thing I must preface this with is that I love One Day Yom Tov. The point of continuing two days of yom tov in the Diaspora (and in the case of this year three straight days due to the adjacency of Shabbat for both Sukkot and Simchat Torah) is lost on me. I will continue to celebrate the second day of Yom Tov when I return to the Golus (Exile) but I'm not gonna be happy about it...

Sukkot is quite an experience in the City of God. As I mentioned in my previous post pretty much everyone seems to have one here. In fact, I read a poll in Wednesday's free Hayom newspaper that said that 48% of all Israelis will build a sukkah, in particular 62% of Jerusalemites. It also splits the total into four categories by religious observance: 31.7% of Chilonim (secular Jews), 54.7% of Masorti (Conservative-ish Jews (aka my people)), 72.6% of Dati (Orthodox), and 94.6% of Haredi (Ultra-orthodox) are building Sukkot for the holiday.

And pretty much every restaurant I pass by has its own sukkah due to the fact that all meals must be taken in there. The ones that don't have sukkot might have less patronization this week due to the mitzvah that one must eat in the sukkah. I went to a restaurant tonight in which they removed the glass roof and replaced it with schach (plant covering that must be used for the roof), a place called New Deli (tagline "Sandwich! Sandwich!"; at least it's better than Moshiko's cryptically Yakov Smirnoff-esque "יש אנשים שקונים פלאפל, כאן פלאפל קונה אנשים" which literally translates as "Some people buy falafel, here falafel buys people")

I also went to the Lulav and Etrog Shuk on Tuesday (which is much more pleasant-smelling then the Kapparot Shuk a few days earlier). I bought as set of Lulav, Etrog, and Hadas for 50 shekel and when I got home the pitam was missing from my etrog. I ran back (actually this time I took the bus, I wasn't going to take another hour walk each way from Emek Refaim to Machaneh Yehudah) and the guy immediately replaced my etrog with no questions asked. Fast forward to the first day of sukkot at the Kotel where I was at the front left corner of the outdoor section of the Wall. Let's just say that it's a bad idea to leave your etrog in a box on a shtender. I really don't like the packaging that they use in Israel which is similar to the things they use to protect Asian Pears. I miss the foam stuff... Anyway, Gamzu L'Tovah.

The humidity has returned with a vengance and that's not good considering we do a lot outside during this holiday. Though I've mulled sleeping in our sukkah it's just too hot at night. I need the AC.

Finally, I ams seriously thinking of going to Hebron sometime in the next two days with friends to go to the Cave of Machpelah which is completely open. There are only ten days during the year in which Jews have unfettered access to it and Sunday and Monday are two of them. Hopefully all of our places of worship will be completely open to us soon. I would love to be able to daven on the Temple Mount...

Plus it looks like there is going to be an amazing Simchat Beit HaShoevah there Monday with Lipa Schmelzer. Anybody know anything about this Parade of Nations in Jerusalem?

Anyway Shavuah tov and Chag Sameach

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yom Ofanayim (aka Yom Kippur)

I am currently listening to the din of hammers and nails all around me as people fulfill their first mitzvah after Yom Kippur: building the sukkah. Beginning wednesday night, Jews all over will "dwell" in sukkah huts for seven days (that number is true both in Israel and in the Diaspora; It's the holiday that follows that's either one or two days). My flatmate just put up our sukkah in about five minutes; I'm quite impressed. I'm lucky to live on the top floor of a three story building that has a balcony. This means that I can eat at home instead of having to go to restaurants at the nearby Emek Refaim strip, each of which will have their own sukkah. But anyway it is quite loud.

Contrast this with last night. Last night had a palpable silence. We stepped out of Kol Nidre services at Kedem into that very same bustling street of Emek Refaim I just mentioned was silent. There was not a single car. Instead there was a mass of people in the middle of the street milling and perambulating. I have never experienced anything like standing in the middle of the street (where any other day I play a game of Human Frogger) Rachel Imenu having a half-hour conversation with a group of people. I'm not sure whether it is illegal to drive or people just don't see the point of driving on Yom Kippur, but the only motor vehicles that we saw were police cars on patrol. Even the ramzorim (traffic lights) were disabled for the holiday, flashing yellow for 24 hours. The only thing to dodge was the ofanayim, the many bicycles that many were riding in the pedestrian-filled streets. The closest thing I can compare this phenomenon to is perhaps, l'havdil, Halloween in a gated community. A bunch of people walking around, hanging out, with no care of automobiles.

As for Yom Kippur itself, it was preceded with a trip to the Kotel where I recited Psalms for a bit before joining an afternoon service. After leaving a petek (note) in the cracks of the indoor section of the wall I witnessded a man administering 39 lashes to another man (albeit quite lightly), apparently a pre-Yom Kippur tradition. I got back to my neighborhood at around 1 PM expecting to get my first meal of the day but practically everything was already closed. Wow these places close early before Shabbat/Yom Kippur! The only places I saw open were the treif McDonalds (and I would starve rather than eat there, though they were closed on Yom Kippur along with everything else in the country) and Falafel Adir which was about to close where I struck up a conversation with a Canadian Jew who had made Aliyah for the specific purpose of joining the Israeli Army.

Yom Kippur itself was wonderful and the fast was easy. I led musaf for a service that was considerably longer than usual (2 hours from beginning of Repetition to Chassidic Kaddish, though add 15 minutes for the Hineni and the Silent Amidah) and with way more new-age melodies, though I began the Avodah Temple Service (we did the Nusach Sephard edition) with Misirlou, a Greek-Jewish melody that was popularized as the theme song of Pulp Fiction. It was off-the-hook.

I'm going to go to sleep now as Sunday is a school day here. Oh, how I miss weekends...

Shavuah Tov and Shanah Tovah!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Dawn of a New Year... in Jerusalem.

As the sun begins to descend on Jerusalem and on the year 5770 and the candlelighting sirens prepare to blare. I decided that I would resurrect this blog as an account of my year of study in the Holy City. This will act as an account of both holy (experiences at Yeshiva, emotional experiences at the Kotel, Messiah sightings...) and the mundane (what I had for lunch, fruitless attempts to decipher Arnona and Vaad Bayit payments) so friends, family, and readers can in some small part share in my experiences in the Holy and Indivisible Capital of the Jewish People™. And now, off with the computer and off to Shul.

Shanah Tovah U'Metukah,

Monday, April 12, 2010

Yom HaShoah Poem 2010

Vhi Sh'amda: Egypt and Eastern Europe

A poem for Yom HaShoah 2010 by Matt Rutta

Delivered at American Jewish University, April 12, 2010

Last week we celebrated our escape from Egypt

    Today we mourn our inability to get out of Eastern Europe in time

In Egypt Pharaoh killed our newborn baby boys and let our girls live

In Eastern Europe the Nazis and their collaborators shot and gassed men, women, and children with no mercy

From Egypt marched 600,000 men of the Army of God

    In Eastern Europe Six Million were left behind

We marched triumphantly with our heads held high from Egypt

    We were lead from the concentration camps on Death Marches

In Egypt we built the Treasure Cities of Pitom and Raamses to hold the spoil of Pharaoh's wars

In Eastern Europe we built the gas chambers and crematoria of Buchenwald and Treblinka where we would meet our own demise

In Egypt Pharaoh set Egyptian taskmasters over us

In Auschwitz the Sonderkommando were Jews forced to turn against their own people for the chance to survive a little bit longer

When we disobeyed in Egypt, we were forced to glean our own straw to make our tally of bricks

    When we disobeyed in Sobibor the SS would shoot every third Jew

In Egypt we were like an appliance

    In Eastern Europe we

In Egypt we were forced to build the pyramids, the glorious tombs of the Pharaohs in Giza

    In Eastern Europe we were forced to dig our own mass graves in Babi Yar

Of Egypt we joyously proclaimed "In every generation people rise up to utterly destroy us but but the Holy One Blessed be He saves us from their hand?

    Where was the Holy one in Eastern Europe?

When we were liberated from Egypt we left so quickly that our matzah had no time to rise

When we were liberated from the Concentration Camp we were so malnourished that even eating the Bread of Affliction would overwhelm our distended bellies, killing us.

In Egypt we went from sorrow to great joy

    In Eastern Europe we went from sorrow to more sorrow.

In Egypt we joyously sang "Who is like you God among the mighty?" as we marched across the split sea.

In Eastern Europe we joyously sang "I believe in perfect faith that the Messiah will come" as we marched into the gas chambers.

In Egypt the slaves' greatest worry was when they would be fed

    In Eastern Europe it was not "when" but "if"

They missed the fleshpots of Egypt, with the leeks, the onions, and garlic that they ate free in Egypt

In the Concentration Camp it was a small bowl of rotten onion floating in polluted water

In 210 years we increased from 70 to 600,000 men

In 6 years we were reduced from 14 million to 8 million humans

Our experiences in Egypt three millennia ago are believed by many religions and most of the world's population

Our experiences 65 years ago continue to be denied by those who seek to destroy us again, devour Jacob, and finish the job

In Egypt we cried out to God and He heard our cry and saved us with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm

    In Eastern Europe we cried out to You! Where were You?!

You who guided us through the desert and protected us with a pillar of fire

    Our flame was almost extinguished

You are our Shepherd and we are Your sheep,

    And we were sheep to the slaughter

Had they only stripped us of our citizenship and expelled us from their land,

    Dayenu, it would have been enough

Had they only destroyed our stores forbidding us to sell to gentiles

    Dayenu, it would have been enough

Had they only stolen our property to take as their spoils

    Dayenu, it would have been enough

Had they only burnt our Torah scrolls

    Dayenu, it would have been enough

Had they only forbidden the observance of Shabbat by punishment of death

    Dayenu, it would have been enough

Dayenu! Mir Hoybn Shoyn genug! We've had enough!

Protector of Israel, protect the remnant of Israel, don't let Israel be destroyed, we who proclaim "Hear O Israel!"

You have heard our outcry too late, but You have returned us to the land you Promised us, the Holy Land flowing with milk and honey,

Now fulfill your promise, save us from the hand of those who every generation wish to destroy us and let us fulfill our battle cry of "Never Again!"

Redeem us and save us and let us dwell in peace!

Oseh Shalom Bimromav, Hu Yaaseh Shalom Aleinu V'Al Kol Yisrael, V'imeru… AMEN!