Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Simchat Torah

An old picture of B'nai Jeshrun, without a ceiling

Last night was the beginning of Simchat Torah, the Jewish holiday where we read the last bit of the Torah before rolling it back and reading from the beginning again. It's a holiday that celebrates the Torah, celebrates Judaism, celebrates new beginnings and Jewish life and the goodness of celebration. For someone like me, who appreciates both the chance to start over and the excitement of the book of Genesis (I know, cliche, but I can't help it--I love the stories!) it's a wonderful holiday.

After spending a wonderful day in Jersey with the C-Squad and Vicky's wonderful family, we hopped the train(s) to get back to the city to celebrate Simchat Torah. A bunch of HUC'ers were going to B'nai Jeshrun, a huge "reformative" synagogue in Manhattan. I was excited to go, mostly because it's the synagogue where Keeping the Faith was filmed (one of my all-time favorite movies!) The rabbi is Sephardic, from Argentina, and led a somewhat Sephardic style service. Traditionally, there are 7 hakafot (Torah processionals) on Simchat Torah, meant to celebrate the Torah and give everyone a chance to touch, dance with, and sing to it. Well, BJ knows how to rock on Simchat Torah; they have the 7 hakafot, each about 45 minutes long, with tons of loud music, singing of niggunim (songs without words) and the passing of all of their Torah scrolls. There were SO MANY PEOPLE there, of all races and ages and shapes and sizes. It was really remarkable to see everyone celebrating the Torah and having so much fun. I even got to carry the Torah for awhile as I danced and sang with my friends and Jewish brothers and sisters.

After dancing and singing our way through the first 4 hakafot (I'm amazed--with the amount of people there and the crazy, relentless excitement there--that I lasted that long...but it sure was fun!) we decided to make a break for the closest bar to end our evening with a drink. We ended up at a bar called the Blue Donkey, where our Jewish bartender (only in NYC would you find a Jewish bartender from Detroit named Eli who wished us all a chag sameach) gave us free whiskey shots in honor of the holiday. You'll all be proud to know I knocked back the shots with the best of my male (and one female...rock on, Vicky) counterparts!

After the bar, I had my first experience with another NY speciality, Tasti De-Lite. I'm happy to know that Tasti De-Lite is neither tasty nor delightful, expensive, and full of God-knows-what chemicals that make it taste the way it does. I won't be eating it again any time soon.

So, I had a wonderful holiday, and a fantastic last hurrah before school starts up again tomorrow (ugh.) I think this break was really, really good for me. I didn't get nearly enough work done, but I was able to see some of New York City and learn to appreciate it for what it is. I'm slowly learning how to love it here, how to navigate the subways, how to act like a New Yorker without actually becoming one, and how to find my place here. I think things are starting to look up; AND my first paycheck is coming soon, which means I'll be able to replace my lost iPod, which will help even more.

I hope everyone is well...lots of love from the Big Apple!

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