Monday, September 24, 2007

Yom Kippur, Rav Kook, and Sukkah Building

The first semester is over for both of us now, we've got a few weeks off until the next (and much longer) semester begins. Now for story times: A few posts ago we mentioned the Selichot services which between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur become especially important. This past Wednesday night Naomi's school took a trip to Hebron to visit Marat HaMachepela (The Tomb of the Patriarchs). This is the cave (the building's built on top of it) that Abraham bought to bury Sarah. Here too are the graves of Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah.

Naomi's school hired a bus to take us there - I'm pretty sure I've never been there myself before - and it was quite an experience. Hebron is a major Arab town, there is a large Jewish town next door (Kiriat Arba) but for the most part Hebron is completely Arab. Anyway, it's one of the oldest towns in the country - that's saying a lot for Israel - and it showed. Lots of windy narrow streets that a tour bus is navigating only to show up in a large parking lot where thousands of other people have assembled trying to make their way into the building.

I took some rather poor (due to the lighting) pictures inside, but the link above will give you a great idea of what it looks like. It really was very cool, Hebron reminded me a lot like across between Madaba (a city in Jordan) and Istanbul (Turkey); because it's a very large city but has a distinctly Arab flavor. I think we will be going back there in the day time sometime this coming week to get a real tour of the Cave.

Maybe then I'll have some better pictures to show you guys of the inside.

For Yom Kippur we were here at my Yeshiva. Naomi cooked a feast for the holiday beforehand - since it's a fast day we traditionally have a major meal ahead of time - she went all out for this one, we had a bunch of friends over for it; including Adam R. The davening (prayers) on the holiday itself were just outstanding. We spent all day there, a totaling close to 15 hours there in total over the 25 hour day.

The Rosh Yeshiva (Head of School) gave a very interesting class about how there are two types of Tshuva (usually translated as "Repentance"). The one we normally think about is atoning for our sins - a major theme of the day to be sure - but there is another type. Tshuva for being a good person. He read us a Talmudic tale about two people one called a righteous man and the other called and evil one. What was the difference between them? In fact they are both righteous just one only went over his religious studies 100 times and the other one 101 times. The point being is that most of us - deservedly I think - consider ourselves to be descent human beings, but even we are required to do tshuva because we aren't progressing. If we stay as the same decent person we always were it's basically a waste of talent, we need to find more ways to continue to grow or else we're considered to be evil.

I found the class to be very interesting and is very similar to a class I'm taking this year on the philosophy of Rav Kook who was the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine nearly 80 years ago. He is very well rooted in the Kabbalistic school of thought meaning that for him tshuva is progressive process. When we do tshuva we are progressing towards the divine ideal. He explicitly states that social revolutions are progressive - a worldly tshuva that will eventually bring us into harmony with perfection.

The four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot are very hectic days. So far we've gone into Jerusalem to buy me a Lulav and Etrog set; and we bought items necessary for our Sukka. Just behind our apartment is an abandoned Sukka structure so today we spent a long time cleaning it up, adding a new pole, putting up the walls, making ceiling beams - quite fun. Again Adam R. helped us and we're still not quite done yet but it's coming along quite well. Sukkot doesn't start until Wednesday night so we have some time before we really have to get things together.

Here's a slide show of our Sukka fun.


Bethany said...

the green and white "walls" are very israeli of you... i like it

Dan said...

It is great to see you using your scout skills. You never know when they are going to come in useful.

Nate said...

I forgot to write in the post that I taught Naomi how to tie a few standard Boy Scout knots and Adam and I dubbed her a real Tenderfoot.