Thursday, September 26, 2013

Simchat Torah - Dancing with the Torah!

Tonight marks another victory for experiencing Israel at the expense of homework. I got a good chunk of it done, anyway :P Ever since we arrived in Israel three weeks ago, there has always been some holiday either going on, or coming right around the corner.

  • On our second day, we celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, right as we arrived. 
  • Then for the next ten days, the Jews will make an effort to fix relationships with each other, so that they can be ready for Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. This is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. On this day, after restoring their relationships with each other, we got to watch hundreds of Jews will gather to the Western Wall (inaccurately known as the Wailing Wall) and pray for forgiveness from God. Sounds familiar at all? We shouldn't approach the temple with unkind feelings toward each other. "If ye shall come unto me... and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee... first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you." (3 Nephi 13:24) Funny how similar we are to the Jews...
  • Just a few days after Yom Kippur, the Feast of Tabernacles (sukkot) began. This is the week-long festival when the Jews build booths in the street and on their porches to commemorate the booths the children of Israel lived in during their wandering in the wilderness. Everyone eats their meals outside in these booths, and some even sleep in them. I'll add a picture later, but bandwidth is being a bum tonight.
  • So then there's today. Sukkot just ended, so people celebrated Simchat Torah... the uh... day of celebrating the Torah. To show their close relationship with the Lord, the Jews get together to dance with the scrolls of the Torah. Yesterday night was when they did it in a spirit of religious reverence, but today is when they throw together a live band and dance like a real Israeli! And let me tell you, I am quite envious of the way Israeli people dance. It's just like you see in the movies! A simple, catchy tune with the one word lyric "lie" to which everyone claps and holds hands and goes around in circles. We JC students watched from a distance, but the high energy and expanding circles eventually enveloped us until the whole room was dancing together to celebrate the word of God! It's way better than Mormon stake dances. But here's the surprising part: boys and girls are separated during this whole thing. So while the girls were dancing in circles in one room of the building, we were dancing with all the boys in another. But no one had any quams about grasping hands with their brother and joyously dancing in the middle of a circle, almost like a country dance. It was one of the most remarkable, worthwhile experiences I've had here yet!

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