Thursday, April 5, 2007

Eight crazy nights.... (plus a few more crazy days,)

Okay, okay. Before everybody starts getting nervous, I'm posting. It's been quite a while because the past two weeks have been jam packed and nuts, thank the Lord. Right now, it's motzei shabbos, the sixth night of chanuka, so I guess I better start from the beginning.....
Two shabbosim ago (not the one we just finished, and not the one before hand, that is...), a very close friend of mine from England had his aufruf here. The davening and aliyah was to take place in the big Belz beis medrash, due to the fact that he learned in the belzer yeshiva. On a regular, nice weather day, the walk is twenty minutes, half hour, tops, from where I live. Naturally, in His infinite sense of humor, God decided to make it rain shabbos morning. So, a friend and I trudged through the rain all the way to Belz. When we arrived there, it was 9:30, and we figured that they would probably be in the middle of krias hatorah. However, the rebbe, who is not well, needed to take a break, and the faithful chassidim waited a full hour for the rebbe to return. I was impressed with the devotion of the rebbe's followers, and when we got there, they were only in the middle of chazoras hashatz of shacharis.
The Belz beis medrash is beautiful, a truly glorious edifice. The beis medrash itself has nine beautifully constructed chandeliers, and I heard once that they were built with acoustics in mind. First of all, I noticed that the ball tefillah, the baal koreh, and the rebbe all wore their shtreimlach under their talleisim when performing the services. I'd never seen this before, so that was definitely interesting. Also, aside from my friend's aufruf, there were also 3 other ones, as well as two bar mitzvahs, and a bris. Each chosson got an aliyah, as well as each bar mitzvah, and when his aliyah was over, the women threw tiny packages of sweets from the women's balcony. All this, of course, I had seen numerous times. However, this time around, the women made sure not to get the pekelach anywhere near the chosson, for fear of hitting the rebbe, who sat next to the bimah. Then, the rebbe would get a pekel, examine it, and then lightly throw it at the chosson, before blessing him and wishing a mazal tov. Two of my friends threw pekelach, and we subsequently almost got thrown out of the beis medrash; luckily, they didn't give me a pekel to throw, because I have the physical savvy of a newt, and we don't even want to go there.
All in all, I had a very positive experience there....
That sunday night was my friends wedding, and let me assure you, we made it of the wall! Imagine the place is packed with chassidishe folk, and three american guys (among other 'colorful' characters...) come in and take over. Got the mental picture? Great. Now, take that, and magnify it by a hundred, and then you might get somewhat of an idea of what we did there. First of all, in yerushalayim, the shattering of the glass by the chuppah takes place before the brachos are read, at least in chassidic circles. Everything is very simple, quiet and elegant, completely devoid of the garishness and overkill of american weddings.
I went dressed in a normal, conservative suit, and after the first dance, I ducked into the bathroom to change into a truly amazing piece of tailoring. I borrowed a light beige suit from my cousin, nehru style (single breasted, and there are no lapels, the collar buttons all the way up. Think Doctor Evil....). Couple that with a small brown fedora and matching brown shoes, and viola: jewmaican20, dressed to kill! My two buddies also dressed up; one wore a light gray suit with white shoes, white muscle shirt, and white bowler hat, the other wore a bright red caftan, red fez, and sandals. We took over the place, and it was a wonderful, lively wedding.
Monday went by quickly, with only a slight hangover; I'm not a big drinker, I get high naturally. That night, I was supposed to go to Lubavitch in the old city for a farbrengen; it was Yat (19) Kislev, which, among other things, is the day that the original Lubavitcher Rebbe, Reb Shneor Zalman of Liadi, aka the Baal Hatanya, aka the Alter Rebbe, was released from prison (no, not from white collar crime, thank you very much...). Needless to say, every year, the Lubavitchers throw huge fabrengens, which are these events where they crowd around a table and tell torahs, stories, and sing beautiful, spiritual songs. And drink. A lot. Sadly, the guys I was supposed to go with canceled at the last minute, and I was left hanging.
Now, another reason I've been extremely busy in recent weeks is because I have started writing a story, so, instead of going to the farbrengen, I went back to my apartment to write a little more. Then, I got into bed for an early night. At about 1:30, I woke up with a pressing urge to go to the bathroom. While I was in the john, I heard my phone ringing in my room. My ringer is a Korn ringer, and it is extremely loud, and since I was afraid it would wake my roommate (it did,), I quickly wrapped a towel around my self and stumbled out to find the phone before I missed the call (I did...). I took the phone back into the john, hoping that whoever called would call back. They did, and it was a guy from my high school, telling me that a close friend of mine had just gotten engaged, and there was an impromptu party going on right then.
This friend who got engaged was off the derech for quite some time, and I was one of the few people who kept in touch with him the whole time. Needles to say, I had to go. I told the guy who called me not to tell my friend that I was coming, and I quickly finished up my business in the bathroom. Then, since I was already in my pajamas, I pulled on a pair of breakaway pants and a coat, and headed out. The apartment that the party was in was about a five minute uphill walk from my own place, and I arrived shortly after I spoke to the guy. The apartment was filled with guys from my high school, guys who I felt like I have nothing with, who can't relate to me, and who are extremely yeshivish. Still, I was going for this friend of mine, not them. When I walked in, the chosson saw me and his jaw dropped. He flew to me and wrappen me up in this huge bear hug, and I immediately decided that it was worth sitting with these other guys, if uit made my friend this happy.
The next day, I found out that my sister had had a baby boy, which, after six girls, was indeed a huge mazal tov.
The week went by rather quickly, and on thursday morning, I went to a funeral of someone from Cleveland, who had died of a massive heart attack. The funeral and burial was in Ramat Beit Shemesh, and it was my first time at a yerushalmi funeral. It was very interesting. They don't bury the body in any sort of casket, just wrapped in a tallis. Aside from that, when they laid the body next to the grave, the chevra kaddisha gathered around the body, and one of the men place seven brass chips on the body. Then, they joined hands, and walked around the body counter-clockwise. After each circuit, the man who had placed the chips on the body would pick one up, mutter something, and then throw it in a different direction. They did this seven times, and then buried the body.
When I asked a bunch of people about it, none knew what I was talking about, or they didn't know the answer. So, I asked my father, who came in with my mom for the bris earlier this week. He told me that it was a kabbalistic ritual meant to atone for klipot brought down to this sphere as a result of shichvas zera l'batolah (wasted semen, that is...). When he said this, he leaned over and poked me in the ribs, and made a weird face at me. Jeez.......
Friday morning, I ran around looking to buy challas and cakes for the shalom zachar which was to take place that friday night. Finally I bought some, and went over to my sister's house to help prpeare for shabbos. My brother had done most of the cooking, and he and his wife brought it over when they came for shabbos. The rest of shabbos, I helped to take care of my neices, while everybody slept. Those kids took me for such a ride....
Sunday went by without incident, and I busied myself in preparing for chanuka. Chanuks here is absolutely beautiful, let me just say. Everybody in my building lights their menorahs outside the courtyard to our building, and then we sing together, and dance. We grab the little yerushalmi kids as well, and then one of the guys goes round with a hat, and we all shell out a few agurot, and then give it to the kids for dancing with us. Really nice.
My parents came in on monday, and I must say, they're behaving themselves.
Tuesday morning was the bris. They named the baby after my grandfather a"h, who recently passed away.
Basically, I've been running around the whole week to various different chanuka parties. On Wednesday night, all the guys from my old yeshiva got together, and we made a nice chilled out party. We made a phone hook up to america, and my roshei yeshiva spoke, it was all very nice. The general vibe at the party was how much we missed our old yeshiva, and it was just very nice to get back together with all the boys.
That's basically it. Otherwise, I've been working on my story, which hopefully I'll finish soon.
Of course, I've left out the sordid details about my drunken dreidel games....
Happy Chanuka!

Originally posted Sunday, 1 January 2006

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