07 August, 2010

"The rhythm is gonna get you"

Gloria Estafan's song was the inspiration this week. [side note: I'm kind of really liking the song titles thing, so I'm going to continue it for now].
Yesterday was the start of the Israeli weekend, which isn't really like anything in the States. In Colorado, you had two full days to get things done. Although, arguably, it was difficult to do many things on Sundays because there were a lot of places closed. After work on Friday's it was a rush to get to Shabbat and it took a long time to really feel it. Then it ended quickly and Sunday came as just another day, but a day to do things, not shabbat and not work either. I miss Sundays. Here, in Jerusalem, the feeling is so different than that. People go out and party on Thursday nights and some on Saturday nights too (though they are hurting come Sunday morning).
Friday is all about preparation. Cleaning of the house, doing the laundry, cooking for shabbat, shopping for the coming week, making challah. What's fascinating is that it feels like the entire city is doing this too. This might be a really poor analogy and one that falls apart quickly, but I see it almost akin to Christmas the way people treat each other on Fridays. Pushy and yet courteous, short and yet kind, and when all is done, end with 'shabbat shalom.' But instead of once a year, it's once a week. I digress.

By the time services roll around on Friday night, you're already in the Shabbat mood because you've been thinking about it for hours. You've taken a shower in the afternoon and put on your temporarily-clean, white clothes. The flowers have been set out, the candles ready to go, the book of zimrot (songs) sits on the table. It is a shabbat ready for peace.

And the entire city is this way. It's crazy. For me coming from Boulder/Denver, the difference is remarkable. Walking into synagogue with others also dressed up (all to varying degrees) and ready for services and our voices harmonize, it's incredible. Last night I went to a synagogue with a mehitzah (a barrier between men and women). I've been many times before to this particular shul as well as others which have this separation. Rather than getting upset at the situation (I did go there by choice after all), I found the positives about it. The women were sitting together and I was surrounded by these voices of all generations. You could hear their stories in the way they prayed and sang. There was no competition over attention from men or insecurity over what they thought or other things which distract from prayer, it just was. We could see through the linen (it was lighter than cheese cloth) at the men's side, so hearing them wasn't an issue. It was as if they too were harmonizing on their side and our two collectives were combining to make this sound which is indescribable. Together we met the sabbath bride. After an hour and a half, services concluded and shabbat had fully arrived. The city was giddy with food and wine and friends. Nothing comes close to this experience in Colorado (and dare I even attempt to add anywhere in the world?)

This happens every week. It doesn't wait. Shabbat doesn't get put on hold for one last review of you paper or that last trip to the store. It doesn't pause for you to get ready; you have to prepare yourself for it. You have to be able to plan accordingly, because, ready or not, here it comes. And it's contagious and easy here. I actually start thinking about Shabbat on Mondays. The rhythm of each week is constructed around those 25hours. As it says in the song "No matter what you say, you know it, the rhythm is gonna get'cha" and that is certainly true for Shabbat in Jerusalem.

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