Follow Me: Avi-Natan, Sukkot in Jerusalem

Avi-Natan Zadeka is our newest Mayanot Men's Program participant. We asked Avi to write about his experiences coming to Mayanot, being part of the Jerusalem community, and growing with the Mayanot family. In the upcoming weeks Avi will share his experiences and provide a glimpse into the Mayanot experience both on his personal blog, and here. For regular updates follow the Mayanot Men's Program on Facebook, and Twitter


This is going to be a bit longer of a post – sorry! Instead of going into detail about each Hebrew word, I’ve made them all hyperlinks, so if you click on the word it will take you to the wiki page. Enjoy :)
This past week was spent celebrating the holiday of Sukkot. I have never sat in more Sukkahs or danced at more parties in my life! Instead of going into the nitty-gritties of each night, I’m just gonna give an overview of the crazy happenings which I attended and participated in.
Over Shabbat I went to the house of a man named Shmuel Moshe. He is a Chassid and follower of the Hornsteipler Rebbe. The way that he chanted the different brachas before Shabbat was truly an experience. Each word was said with so much Kavanah (intent) and care. He almost came to tears at each word, although as soon as he would finish saying a bracha, he would look up with a warm smile on his face. The meal was eaten in the SUkkah, and yes, it was delicious. After the meal we went to the Rebbe’s sukkah.
In Chabad the Sukkot are not decorated because it is believed that the Sukkah is beautiful in and of itself, it is not necessary to add pictures or fancy trinkets. Other sects of judaism do not hold by that though, as can be seen by the Sukkah at my parents house and by the Sukkah of the Hornsteipler Rebbe. His sukkah was decorated like a kings sukkah, bright lights, crowns, purple cloth and many pictures of other Rabbis and fruit. Being at the house of a Rebbe is very interesting. Everyone was very cautious to be doing the right thing, and not miss a word from his lips. After he finished eating, his plate was passed around and people would take a piece of his food and eat it (apparently this can give brachas). He spoke many words of Torah, more food was eaten, and heart-felt songs were sung. I didn’t get back to Mayanot until well into the night, but it was well worth it.
After davening I went with Mordie to his boss’s house. by the way, just a word about Mordie. If anyone comes to Israel and is interested in learning all about the history of different Chassidic and Litvak communities – ask Mordie. He may look semi-normal on the outside, but on the inside he is a geeky genius ;)
AAAAnyway, so we went to his boss’s house – a Belz Chassid. The meal was great (and thats an understatement) the Cholent was ALMOST as good as the cholent at Chabad UofM. Yiddish was the main language spoken at the table, although both of the parents were able to speak English to me when necessary, and Mordie was translating most things. After the meal we went to the Belz Shul. Many people call it the Belz HaMikdash because it is so huge and it resembles the Bais HaMikdash of ancient days. We went to the Bais Midrash to learn a bit. We learned from a chassidic text by Shlomo Hakohen Rabinowitz called The Tiferes Shlomo, which is a classic in chassidic literature. The chapter we learned about was drilling into the reader that we must be happy with the abilities in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom which have been given to us. We should not look at our neighbors level and say that is where we need to be. We need to work on ourselves, on our own level.
The mornings during the week were spent chilling in the Sukkah, going around town, and hanging out with Inbal and her kids. The evenings and nights were spent going to parties all around town for Simchas Bais HaShoevah! We went to parties right outside of Mayanot,KarlinToldos Aharon, and Marat Hamachpelah in Chevron. The craziest and most memorable of all the parties was a Tish with the Rebbe of Toldos Avraham Yitzchok. There were so many Chassidim dressed in golden robes and large Shtreimels dancing in unison. Everyone was trying to get a glimpse of the Rebbe. It really is powerful to be in the presence of a Tzaddik, the energy is almost palpable.
The whole week was a blur of friends, dancing, learning, great food, and morning headaches. Misha, Daniel and I went to the Kotel on Sunday . It was more packed than I had ever seen in my life. Everyone came for Birkat HaCohanim. It was a really cool experience.
I’ve only been in Israel for two and a half weeks, and classes haven’t even begun yet, but I feel like I’ve learned so much already. Thanks to Mordie and the guys in my Yeshiva for taking me around Jerusalem to see different sects of Judaism, or just by opening up a book to learn about our history. One important thing I’ve learned so far is to open up. We have so many misconceptions about distant people, and ways of life. It’s difficult to be open minded to different thoughts and morals, but it’s quite rewarding. They say ignorance is bliss, but I think bliss is knowledge. True, the more you know the less you REALLY know, but that’s whats fun with life. When you chase knowledge, you pursue an ever growing horizon of light.
I miss and love everyone back home, and a special person in Madison ;)
I’m off to Tzfat to backpack and camp under the stars for a few nights!
Much love,