Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shabbos and ... I'm heading to Israel now!

Well, in 24 hours I'll be sitting at the airport with dozens of other Birthright attendees, waiting patiently for our 3 something flight. Thus, I should be packing right now, but I'm blogging. Why? Because I'm a wholly devoted blogger, you know.

Over the past month, plus a little, the significant other and I have been keeping Shabbos -- both here in Connecticut and when we've stayed in the Poconos. There have been a few exceptions to the rule that I'll explain, but for the most part, we've gone all out -- cooked dinner a night or two early, warmed up in the preheated oven on Shabbos; turned off all unused lights pre-Shabbat (and taped the light switches up to keep us from turning lights off accidentally); purchased canteens to keep water hot throughout the holiday; and all other Shabbat-friendly things. The exceptions to the rule have been few, but they involve going to shul and coming back. Usually when we come back the house is all ready to go -- the SO having set everything before work in the morning. The debate continues over going to synagogue, and I know the rabbis have ruled that it is better to not go to shul than to operate a motor vehicle on the sabbath, but we live nowhere near a synagogue, as they're all in West Hartford for the most part. Barring picking up and moving, the only option right now is either no shul or driving to shul pre-Sabbath and making our best happen after synagogue.

This past week we did probably the ultimate no no -- we hit up an Orthodox shul, only to drive home afterward since we were miles and miles and miles from home. But I'd wanted to go to the synagogue for some time and there was no way *to* go without driving. Everyone was very welcoming, and although the women's section included just me and two other women, the melodies were familiar and the service was more what I had become oriented to living back in Chicago. I felt at home, and on a Shabbos like that -- right after my father's diagnosis -- I need that mechitzah and the separation and the time to pray within myself. Add to this that they didn't have the Artscroll transliterated, and, well, I was incredibly focused on the words. It was a truly excellent experience and just what I'd needed. The only dilemma now is figuring out how to make that kind of experience happen when I live so, so, so far away.

The semester ended so abruptly, and so busily, that I've been feeling quite overwhelmed and I'm feeling a bit out of sorts emotionally and Jewishly. Thus, I guess it's probably a stellar time for me to head to Eretz Yisrael, to get a dose of the homeland, to stand and walk on ages-old streets and daven with the best of them, in the places our ancestors breathed and ate and read and drank. I'm not sure what to think at this point, as I'm filled with a mixture of excitement and -- not fear -- but apprehension. I'm not sure why apprehension, but it's the best word I can come up with at this point. I'll have a friend on the trip, and I'll know plenty of others in Israel at the time, but there's still a bit of nervousness. It is, after all, my first trip out of the U.S. -- EVER.

Anyhow, enough about the trip. Hopefully I'll be doing a bit of blogging from the road because the hotels we're staying at (when we're not out in the Bedouin tents) have free WiFi. But there will be pictures (I have 12 GB worth of storage space, I hope it's enough!), and stories (a paper journal is armed for these things) and plenty of goodies for friends and bloggers alike.

So, stay tuned. I'll be around, but if you don't see much of me in the next 10 days, well, you know I'm probably scaling Masada or davening at the Western Wall or purchasing goodies with shekels or something. I'll have all of you on my mind, though, the entire time I'm away. After the drama earlier this year with Birthright, I'm so happy I'm finally on my way.

If there's anything YOU'd like while I'm in Israel, shoot me a comment or email STAT! I'll be out of communication starting around 3 p.m. tomorrow -- when our plane leaves -- until Thursday night at the earliest.