Jerusalem Journal #3
My Dear Young Israel Family,
It's Sunday, October 8th and for the first time I find myself observing one day of Yom Tov. I anticipated feeling somewhat diminished because of the absence of this extra day of heightened kedusha, but the many Chol Moed festivities here plus the bustle of activity all around made the transition quite seamless.
On Shabbos, the first day of Sukkos, Chaim (Bracha's husband) and I davened at netz (sunrise) at the Kotel with Rav Nebentzal's minyan. Dr. Warren Jacobson (Jackie Oppenheimer's uncle) was there with warm greetings for us newcomers. Needless to say, participating in a netz minyan is quite an experience. There must have been a dozen or so minyanim concurrent with ours, each with their own melodies and nuschaos, and yet at the moment of sunrise, the entire Kotel falls silent as each minyan begins the silent amidah.
Following the davening, we were invited to Rav Nebentzal's home for kiddush at which time we were privileged to hear some of his penetrating and clever divrei Torah.
Once again, the sad mixes with the joyous. After Yom Kippur, I was privileged to eulogize Rabbi Maurice Lyons (Simcha Lyons' father). Rabbi Lyons, who was 97, passed away prior to Yom Kippur and was buried here in Yerushalayim on the day after. For the many who knew, revered and loved this man, the loss was particularly difficult. May the Lyons, Raskas and Hellman families be comforted by the warm memories and wonderful blessings their father and uncle bequeathed to them and to us all.
And then, later that week, on Erev Sukkos, I traveled to Efrat to celebrate the bris of Yocheved's nephew's sixth child, b"H. It was quite a simcha, and, wouldn't you know it, there were some old St. Louisans present. Relative to others cities in the U.S., St. Louis surely is far from the largest, but, here in Israel, I have found, to my pleasant surprise, that in any significant crowd, invariably there will be someone from our town, or, at the very least, related to someone from St. Louis.
On Yom Kippur, we were invited to daven at the Netiv Aryeh yeshiva in the Old City. Avi Rovinsky and Yaakov Zeffren are presently learning there and it was wonderful seeing them. The assemblage davened with such animated zeal that you felt spiritually inspired and charged by the experience. Neilah, however, was different. Here in Yerushalayim, the timing of Neilah must allow for the kohanim to duchan which is not the practice in the Diaspora. On a personal level, though, I must confess that I did miss my davening Neilah at Young Israel. I honestly didn't anticipate such a wistful nostalgia, but it happened nonetheless. Afterwards, it occurred to me that in davening Neilah and in listening to the Shul's swelling crescendo of religious fervor behind me, my personal davening was invariably elevated to a pitch level of spiritual intensity whose profound effect I was simply unable to replicate even here in Yerushalayim.
All the Bienenfelds are, thank G-d, fine and send their warmest wishes for a CHAG SAMEACH to one and all. Please feel free to use the special 314 number to call me if I can be of any assistance. Many have and it's been great speaking with you.
Keep well, and remember there are few joys greater than the unifying and vivifying experience of Jew dancing with Jew, Sifrei Torah held aloft, while celebrating HaShem's special relationship with each of us. What better way to embark upon a new year!
Rabbi J. Bienenfeld