Monday, October 26, 2009

A Beautiful Friday Night Experience

Rena joined the staff of MMY this year, and they invited us to join the girls on their Shabbaton to Tzfat last week. We had a wonderful time - Rena gave a shiur Friday night, I spoke at Seudah shelishit. The gabbai in the Ari shul Shabbat morning reminded me of Manny Mittelman. (Simcha too!) But the highlight for me, by far, was the davening on Friday night.
We were supposed to daven in a specific shul, but I had the map upside-down and got lost. So we started following some people who seemed like they knew where to go, and ended up in an open square where some yeshiva bochurim had set up a couple of mechitzot. They were still davening minchah, so we joined. At the time there were maybe 20 young men, and about fifteen women.
Then Kabbalat Shabbat began, Carlebach style. The young men began to sway. Then they started jumping, up and down, literally bouncing around with energy. Lechu neranena ended, and we began singing shiru lashem. When we finished the words, the song just kept going, and we began dancing in a circle. Only by this time, a group of chareidi yeshiva students who were walking by joined in. About ten minutes later (the same song still going strong), an platoon of soldiers wandered into the square, and a few joined the dancing, their rifles swinging on their backs. It was such a powerful scene; how from twenty yeshiva students there were suddenly hundreds in the square, many watching, but so many singing, dancing, ushering in Shabbat. The circle was what I'd call a "Breslov-style" circle. The problem with regular circles is that when too many people join, there's just not enough room to move. So the circle slows down to a shuffle, killing the energy of the dancing. (This is now my preferred circle - the outermost circle at most weddings that I attend - the shuffling old-guy circle.) But with Breslov Chassidim, when that happens, they swing part of the circle inwards, forming an inverse petal on a flower. In this way, they can add room for more people without slowing the dance.
When I saw them do this it gave me a powerful feeling; that in this circle in which we danced, I felt an almost unlimited ability to expand. No matter how many people joined the circle, there would still be enough room, in that small square, for the dancing to continue at full speed.
The chief rabbi of Tzfat, Rav Shmuel Eliyahu was there, and during a lull they asked him to say a few words. He spoke about the power and joy that emanates from shirah - from song.
It was probably the longest Kaballat Shabbat I've ever participated in. But it doesn't feel like it was. Still over a week later, the davening that evening continues to warm my heart.