Torah Thinkers Forum

Magical Shabbat in Tzfat

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Every year, the yeshiva I attend, Toras Moshe (Tomo), takes the first and second year students on a post-Succot 4 day trip (Tiyul)  to the Galil. This year my wife and I joined in and we enjoyed a wonderful time in beautiful Northern Israel, with the Tiyul being ably led by Reb Avi Lowenstein, a Kollel member of Tomo. My wife, Iris, deserves extra credit for braving 4 days as the only female in the company of 50+ young men (and also for putting up with me). 

We participated with the guys in activities such as a extremely difficult water hike at Zaki, a scary jeep tour up and down the mountains around Tzfat, and I (without Iris this time) joined them in a midnight hike through a forest trail from Tzfat to Amuka. And to finish the trip, Iris and I spent Sunday on our own experiencing the wonders of the Golan, such as the Banias waterfall, the city of Katzrin and the nearby Hula Valley, where millions of birds spend time in their migration to Africa from the chilling winters of Europe.

But the part of the trip that stands out in my mind was the uplifting Shabbat we all spent together. Each meal was accompanied by exuberant singing of Zemirot and a Torah thought by one or more of the young men. I had the privilege to speak at a Friday night oneg, in which I tried to impart some of the lessons of my 40+ years of experience beyond which the young men had already lived.

The highlight of Shabbat was the way that we greeted Shabbat at its beginning and said goodbye to it at its end. It reminded me that the Rambam taught that Kiddush at its start and Havdala and its conclusion are two parts of one the Mitzvah of honoring Shabbat. We began Shabbat with an outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat that we prayed on a promenade (Tayelet) overlooking Tzfat. Like the Kabbalists of old, we went out to greet the Shabbat queen, and as we sang and danced, we saw the sun slowly dip behind Mount Meron. The service was led by the mellifluous voice of Yaacov Spiro, and we all joined in with spirited chants of the chapters of Tehillim that comprise the davening, as well as with lively dances. (Iris had her own personal Ezrat Nashim on the summit above the Tayelet.)

When we sang Lecha Dodi, composed by Rabbi Shlom Alkabetz, a 16th century Tzfat Kabbalist,  it took me back to the days of yore when it was typical of the holy people of Tzfat to celebrate the entrance of Shabbat that way every week. After davening, I mentioned to one of the young men that if the Kabbalists prayed every Friday night the way we had, it was no wonder they reached such lofty spiritual heights.

At the conclusion of Shabbat we stood entranced by the slow, moving rendition of Havdala by Aryeh Schwartz. It reminded us of that our souls had been uplifted by Shabbat, and that we would longingly look forward to the next Shabbat to come.

Too often, we just go through the motions of performing Mitzvot, especially the one of observing the Holy Shabbat. Every once in a while, we need to re-energize our souls to try to capture the essence of Shabbat. I know of no better way of doing that than to experience it with young men like the Tomo students who are striving to become better Jews with each Mitzva that they lovingly perform

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COM_EASYBLOG_GUEST Friday, 20 October 2017
Last updated on: 10/20/2017
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