By Jordan Soffer, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
This past Shabbat Pardes had a tiyul and Shabbaton to the Galil. Prior to the tiyul, while briefly skimming the itinerary, I imagined that this Shabbaton would be the same as every Shabbaton I have been on since middle school. Hike, daven, eat, daven, eat, eat, daven.
Though I was excited, I certainly did not expect anything extraordinary. In retrospect, suggesting that the weekend surpassed all of my expectations would be an egregious understatement.
What made this Shabbaton so unique was not its itinerary; on paper it indeed looked like any other itinerary. What made it so meaningful, however, was the way that each program offered a sense of both seriousness and approachability; Pardes meticulously planned each aspect of the trip to be both challenging and welcoming.
On the hike, Nahal Kziv, I was reminded of this land’s eclectic landscape and diverse scenery. Rabbi A. J. Heschel’s call to cultivate Radical Amazement seemed simple and so natural. This experience set a strong tone for the rest of the weekend.
I fast forward to Kabbalat Shabbat. Though I wish I could describe the ruach that ascended from the roof top, no words will suffice. Everyone brought all of themselves - our learning, the hike, the beach, our entire year in Israel—it was all there, it was all in our tefilah on that small roof top.
Like the overflowing glass of wine we used to say Kiddush, the kavana spilled over to the rest of Shabbat. Dinner and an amazing tisch, beautiful Shabbat morning services, and a communal lunch all wereinfused with this holiness.
Following lunch we had some free time, after which I attended to two thought-provoking classes: one comparing a Talmudic story to a popular Israeli song, and theother looking at the spiritual significance of the Shmitah year. My complaint about these classes is that their conclusion meant that the departure of Shabbat was imminent.
After Mincha, dinner, Maariv and a beautiful havdalah it was time to leave the new world that we had built over the past several hours and to re-enter the "real world."
Yet, like the hike and the Kabbalat Shabbat before it, I am confident that the essence of this weekend will remain with me, and I will carry it with me wherever I go.