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Shabbat Ki Tavo

This Shabbat started mentally on Friday morning, which is not a work day in Israel, but a day completely free to dedicate to the preparation of the holy Shabbat about to arrive.

For the Friday evening meal, my flatmates have planned to host, so when everyone was up we planned the meal and went shopping. Upon returning we started cooking. I can tell you one thing, when boys cook it's messy. However, I can tell you also that my cooking anxiety has become much better! I offered to cook rice and zucchini muffins, my favorite!

When Shabbat finally arrived, and after the usual rushing before candle lighting, my flatmate Adam and me made our way to a Minyan in a schoolyard not far. We decided to go there, because they take it slow and with a lot of Kavanah. That was exactly what I was looking for. Shortly before Shabbat I was phoning my family and my Mom said that I have to go and see as many Shuls as possible! Definitely a challenge in the face of the global pandemic, but I was up to it and told her that exactly that is the plan! The spot on the schoolyard had a few trees around only one bright light from the back which created a very otherworldly atmosphere - perfect for the welcoming of the Shabbat, meant to be an otherworldly experience in the oasis of time!

As newly moved in member of the household I was given the honor of saying Kidush, which my flatmates and guests said they liked a lot. The guests were from the friend group of my flatmates. From the conversations I caught that they are very active in left activism against the occupation, but the atmosphere didn't fit for a serious conversation, despite that I wanted to know more. On the other hand I also didn't feel prepared for that kind of conversation, so I decided to just watch and listen and think about it. At one point one of the guests mentioned in a joking manner that Israel being an apartheid state and from then on I felt a little uncomfortable. The tension was loosened, when we started singing Shabbat songs, and as many of you know I love singing! I learned some new tunes and look forward to practicing them further!

For Shul in the morning I had to wake up at 7:30. So far the earliest I have ever waken up on a Shabbat. But it was necessary! The forecast promised a blistering 38 degrees and walking in the morning was still bearable. I was invited for Shabbes lunch at a fellow Pardes student, and she said she will be going to the Shira Chadasha community. I asked Adam what this community was like, and he said they are a partnership minyan. I was very curious to see what that meant. It turned out to be an orthodox mechitza minyan, but with the exception that women are allowed to lead Pesukey D'Zimra, read from and be called to the Torah. A very interesting concept! The singing was wonderful and the Torah was read by youngsters, one girl and two boys. I was positively impressed by the reading skill! I could understand every word, almost no mistakes, and they hit the Cantilations perfectly! After the service there was a very cute welcome celebration to all the newly admitted 1st grades from the community.

Walking to Hannah's apartment in the midday heat was a real challenge. She didn't come to the service, so I had to find my way myself. Luckily I wrote down all the relevant directions to all the places I needed to get on Shabbat. I've done this a few times already when I visited foreign cites and had to navigate the unfamiliar streets on Shabbat.

When I finally found it, I was greeted warmly! She also had invited two other Pardes students. During the meal we talked about being Jewish on American campus and being Jewish in Berlin. After the meal we all sat on the couch and talked about the Jewish landscape between Yeshiva University and JTS (Jewish Theological Seminary), the rabbinical school of the Conservative Judaism. We mentioned places like Hadar, Hebrew College, Maharat and Yeshivat Chovevey Torah. I learned a lot, but I feel like there is still a lot left to understand from that world. Pardes as a pluralistic and non-coercive environment was a novelty in 1972 and I think as that Pardes is a great place for me to get out of the bubbles I was in Berlin completely and venture about the seas of global Judaism myself and hopefully find my place somewhere.

After getting lost on the way home, I finally made it and dropped for a day sleep. I woke up in time to daven Mincha looking at a magnificant sunset, and then we all sat down for a Seudat Shlishit with leftovers and a good deal of singing, my favorite thing to do on Shabbat! In that sense, I got very luck with my flatmates. All of them are deeply committed to their Judaism in their own special way and it is a different kind of empowering my own Judaism, when living together with other Jews who really mean it.

After Havdalah, I sat down to do Chazara (repetition) of my last Talmud class for tomorrow, because Sunday is the first day of the week in Israel! No break, straight back to learning Torah! Layla Tov :)

Shortly before Shabbat began


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