Have you every been driving in the car, in a foreign country, or just listening to your grandmother speak and said to yourself, "Man, I wish I would have my camera right now."
Welp. That's what happened to me these past few days. But it wasn't my grandma or a spectacular view that caught my eye (although there were many). It was the culture. Yet, I did have my camera.
If you don't already know, Jewish people celebrate "Shabat" (Sabbath as we know in America). This weekend I got a big whif of exactly what that means. The first thing being... no taking pictures, or more specifically not using electronics. Nope. No cell phones. No computers. No microwaves. No cameras. No cars.... nothing.
Shabat was created by God in the beginning of time. You know, "And on the 7th day, God rested." Well, the Jews continue to carry that out every Friday from 6:00 p.m. (more or less) until Saturday at 6:00 p.m (more or less). Yet the Shabbat can take up to all week to prepare for because on Friday the women must cook enough food for not only their family, but extended family, to last throughout dinner on Friday and the three meals on Saturday. So incredible. Rest even includes NO WASHING DISHES!
Best idea ever!;-) haha
I guess the craziest thing I have experienced would be going to my first Jewish synagogue... ALONE! Haha My cousin was going to meet me there, but he slept in. So as I arrived at the synagogue at 8, already there were many people there to stare at the strange "gringo" coming there way. Even my kippa (jewish head covering) didn't fool them. But it got worse. I walked into the mens half of the synagogue and as I walked in, it was then that I realized that I had made a very big mistake. I was the only man in the room who wasn't wearing a prayer shawl;-0 whooops. I basically stopped the whole ceremony as people erupted saying who knows what for about 3 minutes. By the end I somehow ended up with a prayer shawl over my back, a Torah book (the first 5 book of the Bible) in my hands, standing next to an old man who just wouldn't believe that I didn't know Hebrew. In the end it was actually a blessing, every 2 minutes he would flip the pages for me that I didn't know how to read, and gently nudge me right before everyone was about to stand up.
From what I gather/know, heres the break down of the synagogue...
1) When you pray, you pray towards Jerusalem. If you are in Jerusalem, you pray towards the Western Wall (the closest remaining part of the city wall where the House of God used to stand, and someday will stand again... currently occupied by the Dome of the Rock.) It is very simple in a synagogue to know which direction that is because 1) Synagogues are built to face in that direction and 2) The Giant Torahs are kept behind a curtain in that direction as well.
2) Men are always separated from women. In the Jewish society, there are very specific roles that men and women carry out. One being, men must attend synagogue 3 times a day. Morning, Noon, and Evening. Women are only required to attend once a day. And as expressed by a few Jewish family members, sometimes "not all the men go three times, they just go twice but stay longer the second time" haha;-) Going to synagogue is your blessing.
3) The leaders of the synagogue (those singing and speaking) are chosen only from the men with the last name Levi or last name Kohan. Levi = one of the 12 sons of Jacob in the Bible where the tribes of Israel are derived, responsible for the work in the Tabernacle (Numbers 1:49-50). Cohen (Cohanim) = of the Levites, Aaron and descendants were chosen to be Priests of the Tabernacle (Exodus 28:1). You may remember them as the two tribes who received no land yet were provided for by the other 10 tribes.
4) There are Mezuzahs on every doorpost (in reality even the Jewish homes have them on every doorpost. They are basically a container (usually made of rock) that holds a parchment with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 on them. The appropriate gesture is to touch them upon entrance and then kiss your hand. It is a sign of blessing and protection upon the home/synagogue/ect.
5) Jewish people do not eat anything from a pig. It isn't even considered a food. You should have seen the look of disgust when I told my 12 year old cousin about a bacon cheeseburger. I've never seen that reaction before haha. The Jewish also don't eat milk with meat. They are not allowed to have milk and meat prepared with the same utensils. For this reason, many have two sinks, two set of silverware, two sets of plates... you get the picture. They must wait at least 6 hours after eating meat to have milk (in any form).
Just a few things I learned in my experience today. Who knows what more will come out later. (If you have questions about these topics, please write. I would love to answer any questions you may have.)
The intention of this blog, now that I am in Israel is not to confuse you. My intentions here in Israel are not to confuse myself either. My intention is this...
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." -Jeremiah 29:13
The me in this statement is God. Isn't that what life is all about? Seeking Him. Wanting more of Him. And if God is the Way, Truth, and the Life he is saying that if you seek the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE with your whole heart, you will find it.
Many people have asked me if I'm worried about getting confused while I am here in Israel. I guess the only thing I can say to them is this... To say that I am worried would be ridiculous because I know God always has me where He wants me. He has me placed in His hand. To be worried would be to say that I am afraid of what I might find. I am not afraid. I am here in Israel for Truth. I am here to show that an "analytical person" like myself can find Truth, if he/she seeks it with there whole heart.
Please, if you can, pray for my journey... and your's as well. These six months should be the most revealing time of my entire life, and I hope some of that will pour itself out on you.