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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tzfat Tzfat Rosh Hashanah!

Have you heard that catchy tune? Uman, Uman Rosh Hashanah! Uman, Uman Rosh Hashanah! No no, it’s not actually Rosh Hashanah and I’m not actually talking about Uman. But this last Sunday was Rosh Chodesh Nissan which, while not the main Jewish new year, is a minor new year and begins the calendar for all the holidays of the Jewish year. Rosh Chodesh Nissan also marks the birthday of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. The holy city of Tzfat is a stronghold for spirituality and Chassidus in Israel today, and especially for Breslov Chassidus. As such there are few places more fitting to spend this past Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh Nissan and a several friends of mine from yeshiva and I did just that.On the bus ride up from Jerusalem we met a guy who learns at Yeshivat Derech Hamelech, also in Jerusalem, and quickly hit it off. When we arrived at the room we were renting for the weekend we found that it was also being rented out by several other guys who learn at the Mir Yeshiva and we quickly became friends with them as well. Even though we ranged from Chassidish to Litvish, “black and white” to polo or t-shirts, everyone got along perfectly as though we had all been friends for several years. What’s more, this attitude was but a reflection of the greater mood throughout Tzfat’s old city.

Tzfat is truly a magical place and for those of you who haven’t been, or haven’t spent much time, I recommend you change that ASAP. Aside from all the amazing art galleries you can browse through, it also boasts the famous Arizal mikveh as well as the graves of such tzaddikim as the Arizal and Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch. Plus the fresh mountain air can’t be beat!

I wasn’t able to find a single person in low spirits during the whole weekend. It seemed like everyone had a smile on their faces and you never knew when you would walk around a corner and all of a sudden hear some mystical insight being given over. Even the man running the coffee stand in a t-shirt and jeans with no kippa on had a large poster of the Lubavitcher Rebbe next to his Yitzchak Rabin poster and offered holiday blessings. A local bookstore was offering a sale on all Breslov books in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday.

Friday night davening was a beautiful mix. Like our makeshift chevra of yeshiva guys, so too the shul we were at was a chullent of Chassidim, Misnagdim, Carlebachers, and basically anything else you could imagine all singing and dancing together passionately. Saturday night we had seuda shlishit at the Breslov yeshiva/kollel. I was treated to things like beautiful children with long flowing peos that didn’t look a day older than ten arguing over gemeras with each other and some incredibly beautiful niggunim being belted out by several hundred shtreimel wearing Chassidim. At the table we were at you would have taken one look at the people and not expected them to know a word outside of Yiddish, yet at least three men started talking to us in perfect English with clearly American-born accents. Though it was obvious my friends and I weren’t always religious, they could care less and were so happy to have us there as they eagerly asked questions to get to know us. I don’t know what was more refreshing, seeing charedi people breaking the mold we so often stereotype them with or seeing Americans that were able to leave behind everything in the States to come live a life tuned into an entirely different and spiritual frequency.

Basically the whole weekend was a birthday celebration Rebbe Nachman would have been proud of and one that I think the people of Tzfat should be proud of as well. I think we as a country and more importantly as a Jewish people should take an example from that kind of open Ahavat Yisrael without any judgment and service of HaShem with pure happiness.

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