It was May 2006 and I was in Jerusalem – the Old City, to be exact – for the holiday of Shavuot. I had plans to stay with friends who were dorming at Hebrew University’s Mt. Scopus campus for the semester. We took a cab down to the Old City to meet up with friends for the holiday where the Jews celebrate receiving of the Torah. It’s customary to stay up all night studying Torah in anticipation of the gift we are about to receive…and that’s just what I did.
It was the only time that I stayed up all night. I was with someone who became one of my best friends that year I was in Israel and he and I were always prepared to take on new experiences. Of all the classes available in Jerusalem, we decided we would stick to an organization called Isralight that had a special Shavuot program. It was perfect for us as we hadn’t really had an advanced Jewish education. The topics of the lectures that night slip my mind, but the memories of walking from the Old City to the Kotel – the Wailing Wall – for 5:00am prayers will never escape me.
Seeing hundreds (thousands?) of Jews walking to the Kotel – some walked 1 or 2 hours to get there! – was one of the most overwhelmingly beautiful things I have seen in my life. I highly recommend it for anyone who has the opportunity to be in Israel during this holiday.
My Brooklyn Shavuot experience won’t be the same, but I think it will be pretty awesome anyway. I’m having a delicious dairy dinner (it’s a custom to eat dairy foods this holiday) with my congregation and will stay up as long as I can learning Torah from members of the synagogue. While nothing can beat staying up for the sunrise in the Old City, something tells me tonight might be a close 2nd. I’m looking forward to whatever inspiration tonight will bring.