With the chagim over, and the moadon completely empty, I finally have a bit of time to describe the chagim in Israel. There are many other things I also wish to blog: the trip to Yad Vashem, life in the Love Shack, and today marking six months since Liz passed away being at the top of that list. I'll just start with the chagim, and see what kind of time I have before dinner.
This was my first year not being with my family for any of the chagim. Spending Rosh Hashana with the Aaronsons in Bet Shemesh was the closest thing to a Chicago-style Rosh Hashana that I could manage, and it was wonderful. I can't remember ever being in a shul where everyone davened and sang with such kavana. The walls seemed to shake with their voices. It really was beautiful.
Yom Kippur on the kibbutz was everything I needed it to be. I spent most of my time in shul, and my free time on my own, thinking about this, that and the other. Forgive me for not sharing my private Yom Kippur thoughts, but they're really just between me and the Big Guy Upstairs.
Sukkot was both wonderful and disappointing at the same time. It went by really, really quickly. I spent the first yontiv in Tel Aviv with Eli and Miryam, and had a phenomenal time. They have some crazy British friends, and we all know how much I like crazy British people. The only downside is that I somehow managed not to make it to shul in the morning, and so missed Torah and Hallel for all of yontiv. It doesn't feel like yontiv when I don't go to shul. Shabbat Chol Hamoed was a very unique and special one for me. I went to my Yemenite ulpan teacher in Rehovot and spent shabbos with her family. Not only did I speak Hebrew for 90% of shabbos, but I also experienced Yemenite davening for the first time. It takes getting used to, to be honest, but it sounds really cool.
Simchas Torah was in Yerushalayim. Like the rest of Sukkot, it was both wonderful and disappointing at the same time. Not having a shul of my own meant that I didn't really know where to go for hakafos in the evening. My ulpan friends and I all went to Bukharia for dinner, to a meal hosted by the same Gerer chasidische couple that I had two shabbos meals by last August. The meal was lovely: close to a hundred people in a room, and the men were singing the entire time. The only downside is that we had to leave the Kotel before the singing and dancing really got underway in order to get to Bukharia on time, and got back to the Old City after everything had died down. Simchas Torah night for me felt more like a particularly fanstastic shabbos. The morning was a different story. We were directed to a tiny Carlebach shul (sorry, Daddy) in the Old City, and danced three hakafos there, until they broke for kiddush. The women's side was tiny, but we used whatever space we had for dancing. I loved it. Then we went down to the Chabad of the Cardo, where the boys had a great time. Unfortnately for your truly, the Chabad women didn't do anything but sit there and eat. The funniest moment was probably when an old rabbinic-looking person came to the women's side and announced, "We're looking for a wife for David Stern. Any eligible young lady should step forward!" Since he didn't bother pointing out which one was David Stern, though, none of us stepped forward. I spent my afternoon sitting in a park wit Jacque, talking about life, Judaism, my grandmother and Liz. It's probably the first time I've ever cried on Simchas Torah, but somehow it didn't seem inappropriate. All in all, it was a good yontiv...but I found myself missing Bais Abe.
Looking back, I think that what I've really missed is the familiarity of my Tishrei routine in America. I like knowing where I'm going and what I'm doing and where I'm davening. Everything this year was just so different from what I've known. It seems strange to me that I should find anything negative in spending my chagim in the Holy Land. I've wanted this for so long. I think I would have enjoyed it far more if I'd had an apartment in Yerushalayim, and didn't feel like I'd been wandering aimlessly looking for somewhere to go to shul.