Michael Klein D14 - Day 2 Tzfat
The best word to describe our first full day in Israel is spiritual. We traveled to Tzfat, one of the four holy cities in Israel (along with Jerusalem, Tiberius, and Hebron). This ancient city dates back several thousands of years, and is quite unique. As we learned here, the city was the home of the Kabbalah, and is known for its mystical intrigue. The city and its surroundings are characterized by blue domes marking the burials of influential Rabbis, including Rashbi, the author of the Zohar, the seminal work on Jewish mysticism. The blue, as we learned, is reminiscent of the blue dye that the Shema instructs use to use the tzitzit, and is part of the Tzfat mystic culture. Once in the city, we visited three synagogues which had once been home of the great mystics of Tzfat. It was exciting to learn about the history of the city, and how it fits into the greater context of Jewish history in Israel. One of the most exciting parts of our time in Tzfat was our trip to the mikveh. The guys went with Rabbi Gray to the mikveh at the bottom of the city. This ancient mikveh is situated in a cave, and is supposedly holds a special place in Judaism. The great Rabbi, the Ari-zl, once said that anyone who uses this mikveh will not die without repenting, allowing users to live a more fulfilling life. After the steep hike to get there, we then fully undressed and waited on a line to submerge ourselves. I signed up for Birthright because I expected a great bonding experience, but hadn’t quite envisioned bonding in this way. As I entered the mikveh, I found myself able to take my mind of the freezing temperature and focus to the idea that I was joining my ancestors in this ancient ritual. After submerging myself three times and exiting, I felt not only felt much warmer but also refreshed. The full group then went to visit the kabalist painter Avraham Leventhal. As he spoke about his connection with mysticism and Kabbalah, it was apparent that he was ‘high on Judaism’ and had found something spiritually that was special and life altering that had led him to make aliyah from Michigan. He explained his different works and the symbolism behind them. Avraham also talked about the significance of names and how they shape our destiny. It was clear this his passionate lecture moved students. After a tasty lunch of Falafel and Schwarma, he got back on the bus and headed back to the hotel to get ready for shabbas. Overall a spiritual and enlighting first full day here in Israel.