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JWRP Trip to Israel: Don’t Get Me Started

Shabbat Saturday group with Pamela

Celebrating Shabbat at the Claman’s home in Jerusalem.

Not a day goes by that I haven’t talked to somebody about last month’s JWRP trip, whether they ask me or not.

Anyway, today I was at the home of Rabbi Yosef David, of Aish St. Louis, doing a photo shoot for a story I’m writing for the St. Louis Jewish Light. The topic is: “Ask a Rabbi, What’s your favorite room of your house?”

Turns out this question is deeper than it seems because Judaism is the only religion that is home-based and is practiced under your own roof with your family more than it is in a church like other faiths. How we raise our children, speak to them, keep Shabbat, celebrate the holidays, and study together at the dining room table is what being Jewish is all about, not going to temple once or twice a year for the high holidays.

So, I wanted to interview someone from Aish because, well, if it wasn’t for this Jewish educational organization, I wouldn’t have experienced my journey of a lifetime. That means I wouldn’t know what it’s like to almost slide off a stubborn camel or smear mud all over my body before I dipped into the Dead Sea that reminded me of the salty rim of the world’s largest margarita. Or how about taking photos of each other jumping in the desert, now that was a riot!

Camel group jumping

Anyway, back to my story assignment. We talked about how the Rabbi’s dining room is his favorite place because it’s the focal point of his gatherings, celebrations, and teachings. I admired how the table was set pretty for Shabbat, the fancy plates, silver candlestick holders, the Kiddish cup designed with the pattern of the Kotel, and fresh yellow and red flowers in a vase. I took notes and the freelance photographer Lisa did her thing, while his wife Mimi fed their newborn baby in the bedroom.

At one point he asked me how I enjoyed Shabbat in Israel. Well, that’s all I need to hear to get me started. This time I got a little teary eyed because he was a Rabbi, and I knew he would relate to what I was saying. I started thinking about the Friday morning of Shabbat in Jerusalem and how we learned about the inner beauty of the Jewish women (more on that in a later blog), including the demystification of why observant Jews choose to dress modestly. I told the Rabbi about how we made challahs, lit candles, and got so rowdy that we knocked over chairs when we danced around the room and sang like nobody else was watching. Then, of course, I got to thinking about when we ventured outside and sang and swayed some more at the Kotel. We watched the holy place fill up with enthusiastic people like we were groupies at a sold-out rock concert, and the headliner was God instead of Justin Timberlake.

And then, I started reliving in my mind how on Saturday we enjoyed the third meal of Shabbat, Seudat Shlishit, with the Israeli soldiers at the Clamans’ breathtaking home that overlooked Temple Mount. (More on that, too, in another blog). I can’t help but smile when I remember how we belted out Havanu Shalom Alechaim on the crowded rooftop in the middle of the Old City that was lit up at night like no other place in the world. And the best part—when Pamela sat in a circle with the “St. Louis Soul Sisters” after everyone else left her house, and we talked about our hometown and her wedding day in Israel and about being Jewish and, of course, the Israel soldiers, who are so near and dear to her heart like they are her own children.

Obviously, the Rabbi and I had plenty to talk about, especially when it comes to my JWRP adventure. Of course, we couldn’t leave his house without a Jewish lesson, and this time we talked about how women are closer to perfection in God’s image than men are, and this is why men typically pray more and are required to do more mitzvot than us. We are given a special gift, a spiritual intuition, which is why in many Orthodox Jewish homes the wife is the “boss” and typically runs the home, while the dad is an active caregiver as well, but also spends a great deal of time learning and teaching at temple. That’s a very simplified explanation; I’m sure many of you can elaborate on that for me. Meanwhile, I told my husband that I was perfect; now I have proof.

When it was finally time to leave the Rabbi’s house, we said our Jewish goodbye that went on forever. Finally, we parted with “Good Shabbos,” and I left their house with my notebook and two beautiful challahs that the Rabbi pulled out of the freezer. Bless him.

Shabbat Shalom everyone!