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Adding Fuel to Our Spiritual Fire: Our Tiyul to Tzfat and the Galil






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Click here for more pictures from this amazing Tiyul!

A 5 am wakeup is worth it for very few things in life, but the girls of MMY learned that a three day tiyul to the Galil and Tzfat is most definitely one of them.
As we boarded the bus, sleep still in our eyes, the excitement was palpable. Three hours later we stepped off the bus for Shacharit and breakfast, surrounded by the desert hills that can be described only as breathtaking. The day held the promise of excitement and exercise as we re-boarded the bus for the short trip up Har Meron.

Rabbi Eliyahu Migdal, our dynamic and didactic tour guide, explained both the religious, as well as tfat pic for  articlehistorical, significances of the ground on which we stood. Following our rock and twig filled odyssey we splished and splashed our way through one of the tributaries of the Kinneret, complete with the requisite water fight.  As one of the MMYers tweeted, "Ma Rabu Maasecha Hashem"!

Mincha at the kever of Rabbi Meir Ba’al Hanes was next. We got what we expected—an opportunity to daven an inspirational Mincha and say tehillim. But, what we did not expect was a chance to attend a chuppah where we were the only "guests" and to fulfill the Mitzva of being mesameach chatan v’kallah, bringing joy to the new groom and bride, in a very real way. Our supposed fifteen-minute stop turned into an hour, as the joy in the Kallah's face was evident and no one was prepared to leave her until the celebration was complete.  It was only once we got back on the bus that one of the girls shared what she had overheard and we realized what we had just done- that the bride’s friend whispered to her while dancing, “See? Hashem answered your tefilot—you had people to dance with at your wedding.” The simcha shel mitzvah made our day complete.

We arose early (though not quite as early as the morning before) Friday morning and set out on a walking tour of the Old City of Tzfat. The aura of Tzfat, the architecture, the artwork, the natives, is like nowhere else. Before we even made it down the block we were stopped by a resident who assured us, with full confidence, that if we “don’t worry, be happy, everything will be alright.” Like I said- like nowhere else.

Our walking tour featured an overall glance at what life in Tzfat really entails. We heard the story of a falafel shop owner and his miraculous experience in the Second Lebanon War. We visited the shul named for the famous "Ari" and learned the history behind the architecture and culture. And to conclude the first segment of our tour, we were pleasantly surprised with pre-Shabbat music by a traveling musician and his instruments modeled after those from the time of ancient Tzefat.

pic for zvat articleAs the historical piece came to a close our second tour guide, Adam Bodenstein, met us. Adam is a native Californian who, while following a secular education and lifestyle at the University of Californina, Berkeley, found Chassidut and his connection to Hashem. He led us through the archeological sites of Livnot u’Lebanot, an organization in Tzfat that focuses on connecting unaffiliated Jews to their roots through digging and rebuilding ancient Tzefat.  We toured a recently excavated bakery from the time of the "Ari". There Adam told us his story—where he is from, how he came to Israel and then specifically Tzfat, how he chose this lifestyle— and welcomed any and all questions we had. What many girls found most interesting is that Adam, unlike the original view that we had of Chassidim in general, found Hashem via an intellectual pursuit. He does not limit his study of Judaism to Chassidut; but is very committed to the learning of Gemara and other halachic texts. He reiterated the integral point that the teachers at MMY often stress: that Judaism is not about finding one path and sticking to it—it is about taking from many different lifestyles, views of Halacha and a Jew’s role of the world at large, and piecing together a hashkafa that truly fits who you are. His parting words to us were that we should strive to make sure that every moment of our lives is one in which we can connect to our Creator, and that when that becomes our reality, everything else will be okay. With that we concluded our tour, returned back to the hostel and got ready for Shabbat.

Given the array and range of shuls and minyanim offered in the Old City of Tzfat we were given the very “Tzfat-like” opportunity to wander and find which minyan spoke to us. Davening Kabalat Shabbat in the city in which it was originally composed and compiled was an experience like no other—we sang, we danced, and we connected.

Following a yummy dinner we were privileged to hear the story of yet another incredible religious journey from Sarah, a woman who currently lives in Tzfat with her husband. She shared with us her background, her “ah-ha” moment, and how she currently finds Hashem in every aspect of her life. She joined us for a ruach-filled tisch featuring many beautifully harmonized zemirot.

The next morning the “shul rule” was the same—giving us an opportunity to explore and experience Tzfat in a more organic way. Lunch was yet another opportunity for conversation, zemirot, and oneg Shabbat. We then had some time to rest followed by an additional tour of Tfzat. We visited a handful of sites around the city which played a major role in the War of Independence in 1948 and learned of each of their significances. We were even privileged to visit inside the "Yeshiva of Shem and Ever" for a few minutes.

The sun set over the hills of the Galil as we headed back for Mincha, seudah shlishit, and an incredible sicha by our very own Rabbi Katz in which he explained that just as our first patriarch Avraham perhaps had doubts (as featured in that week’s parsha) so too should we should not be scared when we have doubts. Rabbi Katz explained that growth cannot happen in a vacuum—only through self-examination, self-evaluation, and self-actualization can one implement the changes they wish to see in their lives.
And with that Shabbat came to a close. We escorted Shabbat away with a beautiful hadvala, packed up, and loaded the bus for our trek back home to Baka.

But the beauty of Tzfat is such that it is in no way a place that you can ever truly leave; or rather, a place that never really leaves you. The lessons each and every one of us learned on the tiyul—about ourselves, about each other, about the way each of us connect to our Judaism and to Hashem, is something that will, without a doubt, fuel the rest of our year here at MMY.


Click here for more pictures from this amazing Tiyul!