8th Report from Israel – 4th May
How is everyone doing back in Manchester?
It was amazing coming back and seeing you all. I really enjoyed spending time with the community over Pesach, and the highlight was definitely the Shul Seder, especially when we finished for 10.15!!
Here in Israel things have really been getting intense as we gear up for the last stretch of the year. We only have seven weeks of school left, which includes exam period as well, so everyone is taking advantage to soak up as much information as we can. This does mean that sometimes the lessons get really intense, with respectful but heated discussions: teenage girls can be very solid debaters.
As soon as we got back after the Pesach break, we dived head-first into preparations for ‘Shabbos Aryeh Leib’ – named after Rabbi Aryeh Leib Kaplan, the first Chabad Shliach to Tzfat. On this Shabbos, all the Chabad Seminaries in Israel are hosted by my Sem in Tzfat. And as hosts we are responsible for the program and activities.
It was a really amazing Shabbos. Just imagine, 400 inspired, idealistic Sem girls, all sharing the same ideals and focused on their own and the world’s spiritual betterment, all in one room singing together at the Shabbos table. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
It started on Thursday afternoon when the coaches started arriving with the Sem girls from around Israel. I was part of the committee who ran the opening program, after which we split up for various workshops. That was followed by a 4 hour long Farbrengen. There really is no English word to adequately describe a Chassidish Farbrengen, which literally translates as a “joyous gathering”. It’s the reverse of a sermon where 5 minutes can feel like 4 hours.
This was story time with friends where the vistas of your spiritual imagination are opened, where your soul soars on the wings of Hassidik melodies, and where the problems of day to day life simply melt away. For four hours, story led to song which led to story, each one with a lesson that led to the next song and story, culminating with the lessons merging together in harmony leaving us with a powerful message of hope and inspiration.
For me there was an added bonus: my teachers and most of my friends have either spoken in Ivrit or American, but the speaker at our Farbrenegen was from England and even better, had grown up in Manchester. Oh what a delight it was to once again hear the king’s English: I never realised how much I had been missing the eloquence of an English accent!!
On Friday we had a panel, led by girls from all of the seminaries. I found it really interesting to hear what girls my age had to say on a whole range of topics. One point that really resonated with me was a quote that daddy has often mentioned and which he reminded me afterwards was one he had been taught by his father: “Bechira Chofshis is a result of Hashgacha Protis – Free Choice is a result of Divine Providence” This means that what happens to us is not by chance, if we are in a certain place, it is because Hashem wants us to be there at that specific time, and we have a mission to fulfil. But what is our choice? What we choose to do once we get there. Or as my Zeideh used to say: “Where a person finds themselves is Divine Providence, what they do there is Free Choice”.
That really resonated with me; the fact that I am in seminary in Israel is because Hashem decided that this is where I need to be this year, but it is up to me to choose how I make use of my time here. I hope that I have done the best I can, and I am looking forward to my final 7 weeks here.
This Shabbos is an away one, and I have been invited back to Yerushalayim. One of the heads of the Seminary in Yerushalayim who hosted me on Sukkos, was at our Shabbaton this week and she asked me when I was going to go back and visit. I guess I behaved myself last time!
Next week is Lag B’Omer and whilst I will be missing Bowdon’s amazing fire pit BBQ, I am really excited to be going to Meron for the festivities there.
See you next time and have a Great Shabbos,
P.S. – Earlier today I had an interview for Sem in New York next year and I really can’t wait for the next stage in my education.
P.P.S. – I can’t believe I am saying this, but one of my classmates from Manchester (albeit nearly a year older than me), just got engaged!!! That’s crazy. Lovely and exciting, but crazy!!!