These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Exploring Jerusalem communities

Posted on November 3, 2011 by Suzi

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Interesting experience a couple weeks ago. As some of you know, I’m exploring Jerusalem’s various shuls and traditions. Carlebach, Sephardic, traditional, Modern Orthodox, egalitarian so far. Since I’m in a city with a minyan on every corner, why not!

A friend had told me that Kol Haneshama, a Reform kehillah, was holding Simchat Torah services at the Magen Home for challenged adults. Once, I’d seen a woman in a wheelchair given the honor of carrying the Torah. She had to be helped. I found it most touching, and thought I’d like to help others celebrate. The service at Kol Haneshama was outdoors, under the clearest cloudless blue sky I’d seen yet in Jerusalem. Birds crowded the trees, and the sukkah sat behind the Torah. How fitting. I won’t even talk about the cats, Jerusalem’s most ubiquitous feature.

I’d never before thought of a Reform service all in Hebrew (yes, Israel is taking some getting used to. Most people speak English, so one tends to forget that Hebrew is not just the language of prayer here, but the language of the streets, the media, the advertisements, even the sale flyers in the stores. But I was pleased that not only could I follow the service, I could even find my place! For me, that’s major.

When the Torahs were taken out and given to people, the glow on their faces eclipsed the noontime sunshine. I was so glad I’d come. Dancing behind them, clapping and singing, rejoicing over the sacred scrolls–that’s what Jerusalem is all about. And how wonderful that we prayed for Gilad Shalit, but no longer for his release, but giving thanks for his safe return!

Thank you Idele for alerting me to this extraordinary mitzvah.

And afterwards, home to my apartment and lunch with a dozen young women already far more Jewishly educated than I’m afraid I’ll ever be. They were and are an inspiration. And almost make me wish I were back in my early 20s. I wonder what I’d change if I could. Every positive change impacts everything else and causes unanticipated consequences.