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Learning in Unconventional Ways

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Sara Schatz, Current MMY Student

The scene was comical at best: around ninety seminary students, exhausted from a jam-packed Shabbat of spirit and inspiration, dispersed across the stone-paved streets of Tzefat, selichot books in hand. As I shivered in the cool midnight air and stared drowsily into the tinted windows of the local Hesder Yeshiva, I couldn’t help but ponder MMY’s reasoning behind sending us to such an impractical, tiring event that we could have easily accomplished back in local Baka Shuls. Attempting to keep my eyes open, my frustration grew as I pictured my cozy bed back at the MMY dorms.

All those thoughts of irritation left in an instant as symphonic voices begin to rise from the yeshiva windows.

Sitting there in awe, I inched closer as I listened to harmonious call for G-d’s forgiveness in the most uplifting, impassioned tone I’ve ever heard. The sheer kavanah in their voices was implacable.

It was at that moment that I suddenly felt what everyone had been reiterating all Shabbat long: sometimes G-dly connection can come from the most unanticipated places.

On Friday, September 23rd, I, together with the students of MMY, headed towards the spiritual city of Tzfat, oblivious to the uniquely mystical journey on which we were all about to embark. We began on Har Carmel, an “impermeable forest” that the navi Amos (9:3) uses as a metaphior for G-d, and ended it with a tour of the Old City of Tzefat, a place where generations have shared kabbalistic and Chassidic ideas.

As an admitted cynic with a strong Litvish background, I haven’t exactly been raised based on the transcendental ideologies of the Tzefat community. But despite my different background, I was moved. We all were. Whether it was witnessing the diverse, eclectic group of Jews walking the streets in unity, or singing in harmony with a group of culturally divergent Israeli girls in Tzefat’s famed “Sound Cave”, or simply observing the genuine enthusiasm in the eyes of locals at the Friday night Carlebach minyan, it was definitely clear by the end of Shabbat that we were somewhere special.

Which is perhaps what made this Shabbat so impactful. Sure, few among us actually eventually become Breslovers in Tzefat. But the mere opportunity to recognize and acknowledge the distinctive beauty behind their culture was an experience that we will cherish. As it says in Mishna Avot (4:1): “Who is wise? He who learns from all people.”

We thank you, Tzefat, for allowing us to have the privilege to learn from you.