It’s about time I got the Pesach recap in order. Just a quick head’s up on the bandwith that there is lots of pictorial goodness below and I’m splitting up some of the pics to ease up on the load times.
Note: All pictures were taken with Canon’s new Powershot A700. It took some getting used to on the fly – the camera came in just a few days before I left – but overall I found it fairly easy to figure out. I was very impressed with the performance and battery life. The camera takes 2 AA batteries and I took all my shots without needing to switch batteries. I’ll let you judge the image quality for yourself, but remember that I’m hardly a professional photographer.
I’ll pick up where the Erev Pesach Dispatch left off with the actual seder. In addition to the niblings, Esther and Avi invited another familly with four kids of their own. Yes, it was a little crazy with all the kids, but like I told Esther, I can take kids acting like kids a whole lot more than adults acting like kids which happens a lot more frequently.
Of course we had our share of shticky moments. The kids put on a very nice performance of yetziat mitzraim despite several changes in direction and casting. And like a classic Yuter seder, debate as to the correct verbal form of “hayo” prompted the busting out of Lambdin at the seder.1 Avi added a nice minhag he picked up from and Israeli. To solve the korech folding problem of our matzot, Avi soaked the matzah which turned its consistency (and taste) from cardboard to rubber.
And despite the debate as to the second seder being better, I have to take the side of one and done. It’s much easier in terms of not having additional preperation and keeping everyone interested, easier to enjoy the moment, and most importantly it’s the way Hashem intended.
Good Friday, Easterfest
I can’t really get into the backstory of why this happened, but on Good Friday I found myself in the Christian quarter. More specifically I found myself on Via Dolorosa passing several of the Stations of the Cross in reverse order. Although I missed the big shindig, there were still plenty of colorful clerics and tourists bustling about in random prayer groups and processionals.
Oddly enough, I was back there again on the Sunday of Hol Hamoed which was not only Birkar Kohanim Day at the kotel (next section), but also Easter. I met up with a friend from Chicago who happened to be in Israel at the time, as well as some of her friends. Aside from the even more colorful clerical processions, the highlights were definately having foreign newspeople interview the Jews for Easter. At least the guy was a good sport about it.
Actually this is a good time for a halakhic interlude. Some of the group wanted to enter the Church of the Holy Seplucher to view the architecture. However, this is forbidded according to Jewish law since it is assur to enter a place which is designated for avoda zara (M. A.Z. 1:4, B. A.Z. 11b). There does not seem to be a legitmate exemption to enter a church for aesthetic reasons either. In a comically emphatic teshuva, R. Ovadia Yosef trashes the practice of a Rabbi Ariash who would enter churches to pick up niggunim for the yamim noraim. R. Yosef’s response: “woe is to the generation which permits such a practice, and certainly they need a great repentance” (Yabia Omer II Yored Deah 11:7).
Normally the law is that entering an area is permitted if it is not a designated place for avoda zara, otherwise it is prohibited. Based on this reasonsing, I was hypothesizing later that perhaps the Christian Quarter would be prohibited. Since the stations of the cross is obviously a religious ritual, and it is one which uses the very makom of the streets, then perhaps it would turn the path itself into a makom avoda zara. When I inquired, the answer I received was that since under normal circumstances, the pathway is mostly a passageway lined with shops, then it is not an area exclusively designated for ritual. However, on Good Friday when the ritual is performed, then Via Dolorosa would in fact be such a designated area and thus prohibited on that day.
Interesting stuff, no?
Shabbat At Gush
Obviously no pics here. Aside from the obvious pleasure of catching up with the usual gang of incredible people there were two notable highlights: 1. Following B. Brachot 48a, Rambam Brachot 5:7, and Shulhan Aruch O.C. 199:10 we did a zimmun with a katan. 2. Menachem Leibtag actually remembered my name. This never happens.
Birkat Kohanim and Easterfest!
Believe it or not there was also time for Jewish things, including my first attending of the massive Birkat Kohanim at the kotel.
Nothing terribly special here, but I did notice a few changes to the kotel. First, there were seperate entrances to enter the area. I encounted actual kohein Shaya who gave an interesting sevara:
- Me: What’s the deal with the separate entrances?
Shaya: I think it’s because there was so much pushing by the metal detectors that it wasn’t tznius.
Me: So how about trying not pushing?
Shaya: Well, it is Israel….
Indeed. However, there was no explanation for the new water slide in the women’s section.
Monday of hol ha-moed was a family picnic, and I had hoped to catch up with most of the family, but many were with their respective “other sides.” Still I did get a chance to meet author Yocheved Golani and take some of the cutest pictures ever:
Esther made the observation that whatever you can find in America you can find in Israel only smaller2 and more expensive.3 Case in point: intead of having a Six Flags, Israel has a Superland, home of the world’s freakiest mascot.
Avi found a 1/2 price special on the internet which made it a huge bargain especially for Israel. Basically they had everything you’d expect including the giant swings, a log flume, and bumper cars.4 Naturally the niblings enjoyed it thoroughly:
One thing that was cheapter than the America was their version of the Skycoaster. The niblings were very excited to see Uncle Josh plummet and swing, but were also somewhat concerned. “Does savta let Uncle Josh do this?” “What savta doesn’t know…”
When I was in Gruss, I needed to clear my head every now and again and I usually did so by walking around Yerushalayim. Since I had a free day, I figured I’d retrace some of my steps. Through a wonderful sense of hasgacha, I saw the sign which hypnotizes all religious intellectuals:
Yep, the annual Pesach book sale at Mossad Harav Kook! Since I was traveling and blew my sefarim budget on the Bar Ilan CD, I painfully restrained myself, but realized I need to come up with a guide for how to buy sefarim.
I also found that Israel doesn’t exactly run spell check on their traffic signs
I also have some pictures from the rose garden which I’ll put in the next post.
I’m blanking on lots of things from the trip, but here are some details I can remember:
- Hadassa lost her first tooth (no good pic)
- Eli corrects Esther’s layning without looking at the text
- I had the pleasure of experiencing Esther and Avi’s two longest traffic jams in the country
- Among the advantages of living in a small country densely populated with cool people is living a few doors down from one of the Kol Achai brothers
- In one of my random picture taking sprees I inadvertently captured this image which I happen to find very intriguing:
Overall, the vacation was amazing and much needed. I was able to thoroughly recharge and take a break from the usual routine. The only downer of the trip came toward the end. I hadn’t been sleeping well for about a week, which was fine, but made me very sensitive to the drastic changes in temperature. The last days I was there I was coughing something fierce and wound up with an incredibly sore throat. Then between sitting funny on the plane ride home and schlepping the bags, I had an unusually sore shoulder which numbed up my entire arm.
The point being, by the time I got back to my apartment I had difficulty speaking and somewhat decreased use of my right hand. If that’s not a sign about leaving Israel, I don’t know what is.
1. Feel free to guess in the comments. Fun Fact: Did you know the “O” in “Thomas O Lambdin” stands for Oden?
2. With the possible exception of corruption.
3. Proportional to income of course.
4. Nah, too easy.