Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Fantastic Shabbat

The cantorial students a few weeks ago at our Cantor's Concert: Julia, Vicky, Elana, Michelle, and me.

For the last 3 shabbatot, I was lucky enough to be at home in St Louis, celebrating shabbat with my family and friends at Temple Israel. As wonderful as it is to be at home and with my family, shabbat is never the same anywhere in the world as it is here in Jerusalem. I've talked before about what the city is like around shabbat; quiet, warm (even with snow on the ground!), friendly, and radiating with spirit. This shabbat was particularly beautiful, as it was the first one back together as a class after winter break following our trips to the States and elsewhere, and was the conclusion to our yearly colloquium. We spent much of colloquium focusing on building communities within our congregations, and to see our HUC community celebrating shabbat together after such discussions was really nice.

Shabbat began with a Kabbalat Shabbat service that I led, along with my friends Marc, Evan, and Tami. I was incredibly nervous (just ask my roommate) to lead this service, mainly because Bruce Ruben, the head of the School of Sacred Music at HUC, was in attendance (it also didn't help that the music and Nusach I needed to learn over winter break was accidentally left in J'lem while I was in St Louis, so I learned everything this week, after travelling and schlepping through the snow and slush.) Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised when the service turned out extraordinarily well--the 4 of us worked very well together, and my service partners really helped to calm my nerves. We received many compliments from our class and all of the faculty from the various stateside campuses that were there. It was a really, really nice way to ring in Shabbat.

After services, my friend Lea and I were picked up by our Biblical grammar professor, Yossi, to join he and his wife Natti for shabbat dinner. I love when HUC faculty members open their homes to us; not only do we get to enjoy home hospitality and a home cooked meal (a real treat, honestly), but we also get to know our professors as human beings, outside of the classroom. I knew very little about Yossi before this dinner, but I am now happy to know about his lovely family and his life outside of HUC. I also made fast friends with his cat, Yoshco, who leaped on my lap when I sat down and parked himself there for the majority of dinner. I don't normally like cats, but Yoshi was sweet and gentle and it was actually kind of nice.

Saturday, we had required services at HUC, where Cantor Evan Kent from Los Angeles helped Eli lead the service. He has a beautiful voice, and is such a warm, caring, wonderful person. We were also lucky enough to witness a Bar Mitzvah, which is a rare occurrence on a Saturday at HUC (most people have their ceremonies on Mondays or Thursdays.) The boy was Israeli, and he was SO CUTE and SO GOOD. He had a gorgeous voice, and I think he chanted his Haftarah portion waaaaaaay better than I'll ever be able to.

After services, I came home for a few minutes before I went to Erin and Batya's to celebrate their daughter Carlie's 2nd birthday. They invited all of the HUC families with children, so I spent a couple of hours with the kiddos, playing with all of Carlie's new toys and laughing at the crazy things that always happen when you have four kids all under the age of 5 together in a small space. It has been so much fun watching these kids grow up the last 7 months; all of them are still young enough that they significantly change, physically and mentally, within a year. And, Carlie had a blast at her party--she totally knew it was her birthday and had a blast soaking up the loads of attention we were all giving her.

PJ (Carlie's "Uncle Be-bo") and I, along with a very squirmy and excited Carlie, playing with her new markers and coloring book.

Hanging out with Noah, Laura and Julie's adorable son. He just started walking, so watching him toddle around is quite possibly the cutest thing in the entire world.

Anyways, Shabbat ended with a beautiful Havdalah service at Julia and Elana's apartment with Elana's family and the other cantorial students. Elana's parents wanted to meet all of us, so after the Havdalah ceremony we spent some time sipping spiced cider and munching on the delicious noshes that Elana served. It was a wonderful way to end a busy and memorable Shabbat, full of friendship and spirit, just as it should be.

And now we're getting back into our routine of classes, homework, reading, tests, field trips, etc. etc. etc. I'm looking forward to this semester, as it is focused almost entirely on hebrew and music, and I am hoping to spend some time traveling outside of Jlem. There's so much left of Israel that I haven't discovered yet, and I only have 4 months left to go! Anyways, I am off to a meeting and reflection group, and then we have choir this evening. Hope everyone is well--I am thinking of you!

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