February 2016


Shabbos in Tzefas is from another world. Serene, scenic, peaceful, and inspirational. My cousin and I walked up to the Old City late Friday afternoon…or more correctly, we climbed the mountain! We meandered through the cobblestone streets and came to a plateau where we viewed the valley. The sunset was gorgeous pinks, blues, and purples.

“Should we daven here, just overlooking the valley?” my cousin asked.

“Sure; this is beautiful!”

“Hmmm…let’s go a little bit further. I think the small shul at the top will be perfect.”

We headed further up. I was grateful to have a good guide because the scenery mesmerized me, and I could have easily lost my way…and my footing on the cobblestones!

When we reached the unassuming stone building, we maneuvered our way to the back terrace. The only lights were the long tapers lit inside the shul. I couldn’t decide which scene fascinated me—the swaying and singing inside the shul or the dark blue-purple sky over the valley behind me. I kept turning from one view to the other. Ultimately, the singing and then dancing inside the shul won! The pure peace and joy in welcoming Shabbos.

I wanted to hold onto these moments. How can I take this feeling with me?

On my first Friday night back in the States, I daydreamed about welcoming Shabbos overlooking that terrace in Tzefas. I wanted to be there in that moment. But how?

I walked onto my porch and looked around. To the west, I saw the orangey-red sunset. In front of me, there was no valley; rather a basketball court and telephone wires.

To the east were trees and the blue-purple sky. No Tzefas. I closed my eyes, sadly wondering how I could capture that peace and joy.

Slowly, I opened my eyes, faced east and looked above the treetops to the sky.

Then I closed my eyes and saw myself standing on the terrace in Tzefas, overlooking the deep green valley. I smiled and began softly singing, welcoming the Shabbos Queen.

**

Glossary

Shabbos: the Sabbath, Shabbat

Tzefas, also known as Safed

daven: pray

shul: small synagogue

**

Photographs by Leah Henkin, 2015

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The midnight blue-black sky darkens my thinking. I may not be sure how to order my activities for the next day. I cannot edit a complex paragraph; the grammar rules and ideas have run off to another head! Or perhaps I need to write a difficult email or make a call and give challenging news and I don’t know how to phrase the message.

What I’m clear about is that I’m unclear!

In the morning, I open the blinds and see the bright yellow sun surrounded by a cloudless azure sky. And the blackness in my brain clears.

Ah! That’s the answer!

In a New York Minute, I know what words to use for that edit or message; the grammar rules return to roost in my head. And I smile with gratitude for the Morning Clarity!

sunrise photo