Monday, September 28, 2009

An interesting Yom Kippur experience

This year I went back to Yeshivat Hakotel for Yom Kippur, and fully expected to join the Yeshiva davening, but it would seem that God had different plans for me.

I was more or less on schedule on Sunday at just after 2:30, and knew that if I left then I would manage to join the Yeshiva for Mincha (the afternoon prayer) at 3:00. I didn't end up leaving for another twenty minutes, though as my Grandma called from England and once I was off the phone I realised that it was now too late to get there in time and instead resolved to arrive by 3:30 -in time for the pre-fast meal.

I arrived a few minutes early, and realised that as I had quite a few things to do before the fast (including picking up stuff from my brother's yeshiva, also in the Old City,) in order to rejoin the Yeshiva on time for Kol Nidrei at 5:15. I had to leave the meal as soon as it was over, go to my brother's place, come back to wherever I would be sleeping, change, make my bed, quickly rush down to the Kotel to catch a minyan for Mincha and then finally head back up to my yeshiva. It was a lot to do, but not too much.

I ate the meal, and met with friends who I hadn't seen in long time, which was nice. During the meal, I repeatedly tried calling my brother to let him know that I wanted to pick up my bedsheets, which I had left with him the previous night, but my calls were diverted to answerphone again and again. After finishing the meal, I walked to his yeshiva but when I got there my brother wasn't there. I took a peek at the bed and the area around it but couldn't see my stuff straight away. Just then, I got a call from my mother. It was certainly nice to speak, but her call came at a really bad time. After we finished talking, I tried calling my brother again - I really did want to speak to him before the fast, but once again my call went unanswered. Moments later, I received another call from home. This time my father was on the phone, and he warned me that my sister wanted to have a word, too. Again, it was nice to hear from them, just not then!

After being delayed for 10 minutes, I got off the phone, managed to clear my head and went to look for a second time for my stuff. This time I saw it immediately, and was quickly on my way. I headed back to my bedroom, dumped my stuff, changed and made a dash down to the Kotel.

Unfortunately instead of catching a minyan immediately, as is normally the case at the Kotel, I realised after 5 minutes that I would have to whip one together. After 5-10 minutes, I corralled enough people together to proceed. By this point I was very much behind schedule, having been delayed by missing my brother and the unexpected phone calls. As Mincha started it was getting close to 5:15 - the time that my yeshiva were due to be starting Kol Nidrei . I realised that I wouldn't be able to rejoin them without missing parts of the prayers and instead would have to stay at the Kotel. I wasn't too happy at my situation, but there was nothing to be done. In any case, I told myself, it's still an incredible experience to pray on Yom Kippur next to where the Bet Hamikdash stood.

And so after Mincha, I went to look for a minyan for Kol Nidrei and Maariv. I noticed that one had started not far away from where I had been standing up until then, but when I got closer, I realised that the majority of the group were young irelligious men, save one middle-aged man standing in the middle who was wearing a Tallit. The irreligious men turned out to be visiting Israel from South America, and the gentleman wearing the Tallit was an American immigrant living in Jerusalem. Although our American-Israeli friend was more religiously observant, I judged by his appearance that he was either conservative or on the more modern end of modern orthodox and guessed that he would be much relieved if I were to volunteer to take over from him. Wearing a loud checked shirt, sporting long hair and with sunglasses perched above his head, I got the distinct impression that he wasn't too comfortable leading a Yom Kippur service and while his reading of the Hebrew text was perfectly acceptable and fluent, it was quite clear that this man wasn't exactly a regular Shaliach Tzibbur, let alone one would had ever lead a Yom Kippur service before.

After reaching the end of the Kol Nidrei prayer, I asked him if he wanted to do all of Maariv, too. He looked at me and asked me if I knew how to. I answered by saying that while I had never done it before, I'd be happy to give it a shot. After exchanging banalities ("Oh, that's so nice of you; you really don't have to" and "Ah, that's quite alright - it should be fun,") the man quite happily stepped aside. I guess all the delays were part of God's plan for me to end up here and not in the Yeshiva. The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, but I'm happy to report that it went rather well. One moment that does stand out was when I realised in the middle of my prayers that although I don't think of myself as being that well-studied or knowledgeable, we all have something to impart to others, and that I had indeed managed to provide a service for these young men.

No comments:

Post a Comment