Journal entries from Israel - a wedding, Jerusalem and Masada


November 4, 2015  


This journal entry is directly following my honeymoon to Israel. This week I have been trying to keep up with prayer in several new ways.

           First and foremost, I have noticed two major things since I have returned from Israel. One, a longing to return. Two, a longing to connect back to my experiences overseas in the Land of Israel.

I have found that since my departure from the Land of Israel, I have tried to use prayer as a method to return back to the Land of Israel. I miss being at the Kotel praying in Jerusalem. However, I noticed this week especially that my prayers have helped connect me back to that special place.

Also, since my return, I have taken it upon myself to find a new pair of tefillin. The ones I have been using are from my bar mitzvah. I am really uncertain if they are even still kosher. They may be ready to fall apart.

Something about laying tefillin reminds me of being at the Kotel. Maybe it’s the Haredim, always eager to lay tefillin on every Jewish visitor, or maybe it is nostalgia. I am unsure.

           I also purchased a new atarah for my tallis in the Land of Israel. This week I sent it to be applied unto my tallis. To my dismay, it was attached on my tallis upside down. This week I hope to fix this, maybe before this Wednesday (first week in November).


October 27, 2015

                 Included below are my journal entries ranging from our previous journal entry to the entry for the 27th. This journal entry covers my honeymoon, which I spent in the Land of Israel. I reflect here on some of my own prayers and practice and find new approaches and opportunities to grow.

Only two days after my last journal entry, I packed up my belongings and my wife and I headed to the airport in Philadelphia for a 10-day honeymoon in Israel. In these few days I was able to apply my prayer practices in the Land of Israel.

Upon reflection, the first prayer I experienced on this journey was the Tefilat HaDerech. My wife comes from a former Soviet Union Jewish heritage and has little experience with most prayers. Our journey was also an opportunity for me to share this prayer with her. She also read it for the journey.

After landing in Israel, we really did not have a lot of time until Shabbat. We landed only a few hours before sundown. In the short period of time between our landing and Shabbos, we drove to the Dead Sea. We spent the entire Shabbos at the Dead Sea. It was extremely peaceful. Upon reflection, I specifically chose going to the Dead Sea with my wife for Shabbat because I wanted us to experience our first Shabbat in the land of Israel together full of menucha. To me, no place on Earth can compare to the tranquility and menucha found at the Dead Sea. It was extremely peaceful, tranquil and beautiful.

The hotel at the Dead Sea was Israeli owned. We spent Shabbos with other Israeli families. It was nice to be back in the Land of Israel. This was the first time I had been there in several years, and of course it was my wife’s first time there.

After Shabbat we left for Masada. At Masada I did not really find enough time to pray. I was really exhausted from climbing up the mountain. I instead visited the Beis Knesset where I had my bar mitzvah atop Masada.

After Masada we went to Eilat for a few days. Eilat being a resort town and a very secular city, we did not have a lot of prayer in these few days. We instead spent most of our time swimming. However, I did still find time for the Shema.

After Eilat we returned to Tel Aviv (where we landed). We spent the remainder of our honeymoon in Tel Aviv. We originally had expected to spend a few days in Jerusalem; however, there were violent attacks and stabbings frequently going on in the city so we decided to stay in Tel Aviv. We only spent half a day in Jerusalem. We visited the Kotel. I had to get a taxi cab/bodyguard driver to take us to the Kotel. I lived in Israel for several years and experienced wartime in the country. I never felt scared to be in the country ever, until after being married. I felt I owed it to my wife and our families to be as safe as possible in Israel.

           At the Kotel I of course laid tefillin as I had been regularly doing in the morning along with the Shema. I ran into someone who actually knew the rabbi at my shul in Newtown. After the Kotel, we visited David Melech’s tomb, where I gave some tzedaka.

After our visit to Jerusalem, it was almost Shabbos again. Our last Shabbos in Israel was spent with Rabbi Michael Boyden. Rabbi Boyden leads a small liberal congregation in Ranana. He bar mitzvahed me at Masada over a decade ago. He had us over for dinner afterward. The service was phenomenal. It felt very similar to most services I am familiar with in the States. Most of the congregant members are Anglo-speaking liberal-affiliated Jews.


September 8th, 2015,


I usually have an extremely busy week condensed heavily with tefilah and prayer.  This week was perhaps the most important week of my life.  My wedding!

On September 6th, 2015, I was married to my wife at the shul I currently teach at.  It was a joyous occasion.  I am normally extremely active with prayer.  I lead services at Greenwood House,  I also leyn at the shul I teach at.  This week, I was limited by the constraints of last minute wedding plans.  Unfortunately, I was unable to pray with a minyan outside of the wedding date this week.  I found time to pray Shema here and there.  I also was, of course, able to pray on my wedding date. However, I did feel like prayer was missing this week.  However, I do think that if I spent more of my time this week either at Shul or at Greenwood House my wedding may have missed some essential elements.  I worried this would upset my bride, as well as my family.  The last minute details included arranging parking, bathrooms, and tents.  My wedding was a discovery for myself.  I never knew the amount of time that went into one of these simchas until my own wedding.  It was a tremendous amount of work.  I have a newfound appreciation for the wedding experience.  My father in law said something valuable to me on my wedding day that has rung true. “The wedding party is for your guests, go to another wedding if you want to enjoy a party.”  We did not eat anything; our guests all wanted to speak with us and ask us questions and celebrate with us.  I think when we retired to a hotel by the end of the evening of our wedding date we ate more food than in the prior 48 hours.

I did fast as is traditional for my wedding.  I also did not see the bride for a full week prior to the wedding date, also per tradition.  I was really excited to finally see her on the wedding date.  

I expect in the future, I will have much more to express in my journal per my experiences with prayer.  This week was not a typical week for myself.  I look forward to a happy, healthy life with my wife.