(I've been all about the song/post titles recently. This one should be sung to the tune of "Welcome Welcome Sabbath Morning...")
I actually started this post a few weeks ago, but since it has been an action-packed few weeks, I never got around to finishing it. Now, I have more to add though so I will do that now :)
On Friday January 20th, we had the opportunity to go to the Western Wall to welcome in the Sabbath (Shabbat) with our Jewish friends.
I absolutely loved it.
We all walked over together in a group (yes..all 83 of us) and then when we got there the guys split off and went to the left while the women went to the right.
Overall, it was an absolutely incredible experience. I really loved it. I loved how excited they were to be welcoming in the Sabbath---a day where many of them do not work, drive, use electricity, or electronics---instead they spend the day worshiping and being with their families.
A day they welcome in each week with lighting candles, singing songs and even dancing.
The whole evening caused some serious self reflection.
I love the Sabbath, and I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to take a great from the rest of the week but the whole idea of rejoicing when the sabbath starts is a new concept to me and one that I would love to adopt in my own life.
I especially loved how friendly and welcoming everyone was. It didn't matter if you weren't Jewish. It didn't matter if you spoke Hebrew. It didn't matter where you were from or how long you were there, everyone was just so happy and inviting, they really made you feel special.
I made my way through the crowds and was able to touch the western wall for the first time.
I reached my hand out, over the heads of a few other women and closed my eyes and said a prayer.
Even though it was not a way of worship I have ever experienced before, and surrounded by people of a religion I know little about, I was filled with peace and it was definitely a spiritual experience for me. When I was done, I walked backwards away from the wall as I had seen others do. I really liked this concept of not turning your back on the wall (which I assumed to represent God).
I soon found a group of woman singing and dancing, who encouraged all around to join in. It was great! We stood in a circle and jumped around singing songs in Hebrew (I faked my way through a few of them) then right as it was approaching time for us to go home, they sang one I learned in my Hebrew class a few days previous! It was pretty exciting to actually be singing a song I had heard before.
It really was a fantastic evening.
I wish I could go every week.
(Sadly, we are restricted from going into the city after dark when it's not a formal field trip with the entire group, so I probably won't have the opportunity to go again.)
Tonight I had a new experience of welcoming in Shabbat by attending a Reform Jewish Synagogue.
("Reform" is to distinguish from the more common Jews in Israel being the Orthodox Jews.)
Our Israel/Judaism Professor (Who is a Jewish man himself) takes a group of 15-20 students each week to a synagogue service so we can all see what it's like.
It was really neat!
Right before the service he explained a little bit about it because most of the service is in Hebrew.
He also told this little story:
One day God was in his "office" and Sabbath knocked on the door.
God invited him in and asked him what was wrong.
He said, "Sunday has Monday. Tuesday has Wednesday. Thursday has Friday...but I don't have anyone! I'm lonely!"
So God said, "I will give you The Children of Israel."
So, the Children of Israel are to be "the companion" for the sabbath.
Interestingly enough, their "welcoming of the Sabbath" service is symbolic of a wedding!
After singing a few songs (all in Hebrew) everyone stands and faces one corner of the room
as if the personified sabbath is walking down the isle.
Isn't that fascinating?!
I really enjoyed the service,
I just wish...
I actually spoke Hebrew.
I still enjoyed singing the songs (we had little song books that had Hebrew on the left with English transliteration on the right) however, they didn't always sing the songs in order, so I usually found the song they were singing about two lines before the song was over.
I was again struck with the devotion and friendliness of the congregation.
I would love to be able to go again and maybe learn a little more about what was going on.
It was definitely a neat experience.
Now it's time for bed!