What better way to regroup after the Sukkot break and prepare for the long Zman Choref (Winter Session) about to begin, then to spend a day hiking in the beautiful Carmel mountain range, and then spend Shabbat Bereishit in the holy city of Tzfat?
Our tiyul began on Thursday morning, the day after Isru Chag/Yom Tov Sheni of Simchat Torah. We travelled North to the Carmel mountains, which are in the Western Galil, near the Mediterranean Sea and South of Haifa. Walking through the natural forests, our tour guide Moshe explained to us the unique topography and climate conditions which give this area the only forests of this type in Israel. Opening a Tanach to Amos 9:3, he explained how the Navi used these seemingly impenetrable forests as a metaphor for a powerful message. At the edge of the forest, we saw the remains of a Jewish village from the time of the Mishnah, and ended our hike near the site where Eliyahu HaNavi had his fateful showdown with the prophets of the Baal. We read those psukim as well (I Melachim, Perek 18), and recalled reciting one of them just a few weeks ago during the dramatic end of Tefillat Ne'ila on Yom Kippur.
From there we travelled to Tzfat, and were entertained after dinner with an uplifting and inspiring concert by "Simply Tzfat" - three local musicians.
In the morning, Rabbi Haber gave us a shiur about Tzfat, Kabbalah and the special custom of Kabbalat Shabbat, which was invented in Tzfat just over 400 years ago. We also read through and learned the poem Lecha Dodi, which was written by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, in Tzfat, during that same period. Following this Rabbi Haber led us through the Old City of Tzfat (stopping at the spot where Kabbalat Shabbat began), down to the ancient cemetery, where many great people are buried including the Ari, Rabbi Yosef Karo, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, and others.
We also had some free time during which we visited Tzfat's art galleries, restaurants, cheese factory and other such locations.
For Shabbat we were joined by Mrs. Elsant and her family, and by Rabbi Felberman and his family. For Maariv and Shacharit we spread out to the various Synagogues in the Old City, including the "Ari Ashkenazi", "Berav" and the Bet Midrash in the new Kiryat Breslov. On Shabbat afternoon we had a walking tour to additional sites in the Old City of Tzfat. A shiur by Mrs. Elsant and an inspiring talk at Seuda Shlishit by Rabbi Felberman rounded out the weekend.
We arrived back in Yerushalayim late on Saturday night, exhausted but uplifted, and in fact very excited to begin Zman Choref!!