One of the special aspects of TJJ is the chance to learn about prayer. How many of us are simply not aware of the simple meaning of the basic daily prayers that we recite. There are so many prayers that many of us can even recite by heart, but when pressed for a translation or explanation we would had a difficult time coming up with an answer. When it comes to our daily program, each and every day starts with an optional traditional shacharit service followed by breakfast. Following breakfast everyone participates in a teffilah workshop. This program is modeled after the popular beginner services and explanatory experiences that many synagogue offer on Shabbat. The beauty of this program is that it doesn’t take place just one a week, it takes place everyday for a half hour. The particular structure is really up to every bus on TJJ, but the way that we on bus 5 decided to do it was to start from the beginning. So for the past 3 and a half weeks we have taken one prayer a day, looked at the translation, and found a relevant message that we can apply to our personal lives.
What makes the experience even more exciting are the locations of this program. Although most of the workshops are held in a room of the hotel, a number have been held in very special locations throughout Israel. We have held them at the Kotel, the Western Wall, and on top of a mountain at sunrise. We have held them in the city of the Tzfat while overlooking the mountains of Merom. And just when you think that we couldn’t get any better than that, we went to Kiryat Arbah in Cheron. Just imagine what its like to learn about the Shema, the section that we were up to today, while sitting on the floor in the place where Abraham and Sarah are buried! The man that introduced monotheism to the world was buried in the place where we learned all about the concept of proclaiming Gods oneness in the first line of Shema. We also held a Shacharit service opposite the burial site of Jabob and Leah, who introduced the phrase “Baruch Shem Kvod Malchuto L’Olam Vaed”, the verse that follows the Shema. And finally we went to Kever Rachel, the place where Rachel is buried and a sacred place that Jews from all over the world visit to pray.
One of the challenges that we will all have when we get back to America is to feel the same emotion that we felt when we prayed at these sites. There in no question that its not the same. But the reason we bring TJJ teens to these places is so that even when they are in America, they will be able to close their eyes and be transported back to this magical place.
Israel is a very special place where our Jewish history comes alive and if you have never visited these locations I urge you to do so on your next trip.
Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem!!
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