Sunday, January 24, 2010

Shabbat Bris

This was an eventful Shabbos in Mitzpe Ramon. There was a Shabbaton at the boys' high school and Rabbi Slonim, the Chabad shaliach, made a Bris for his new born son. I joined the boys yeshiva for Kaballat Shabbos at the crater's rim. There was a magnificent sunset and much singing and dancing. It was a transcendent time. Tzfat has nothing on Mitzpe Ramon when it comes to the supernal, transcendent light of the Shabbos.

Rabbi Slonim, the Chabad shaliach in Mitzpe Ramon

In addition to Rabbi Slonim's Bris, it was the Shabbos before Yud Shevat, an important date in the Chabad calendar, which is the Yahrzeit of the previous Rebbe, Yosef Yitzchok, and the commemoration of the the ascent of the current Rebbe, if I can use that expression, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. The Chabad shul in Mitzpe Ramon is small, an L-shaped room with a room behind for women. But we took a second Torah outdoors so everyone could have an aliyah, it being a custom that all Chasidim be called up to the Torah on the Shabbos before Yud Shevat. When the Rebbe was still alive I used to go with Rabbi Levin, the Chabad shaliach in Palo Alto, to 770 for the Fabringen that commemorated the event. There were many thousands of Chasidim and supporters there from all over the world. Sadly, it is just a memory now.

After davening, we proceeded to the new Chabad House where the Bris was to be held. A large community of people packed into the room for the Bris, which was accompanied by singing and dancing by the yeshiva boys, divrei Torah, followed by the Bris itself. The boy was named "Yosef", after the previous Rebbe, but not "Yosef Yitzchok", since one of Rabbi Slonim's sons is already named "Levi Yitzchok".

We had kiddush and a meal after the Bris. Rabbi Slonim speaks in Hebrew, Russian and English. For my benefit he made some of his remarks in English, saying on the first day that we arrived in Mitzpe Ramon I was present for a Bris at the Chabad House, and now I was present for a second soon after.

I was the Sandek for this Bris on the day we arrived in Mitzpe Ramon. Just call me "Godfather".

The desert is a place for miracles. It is where the Torah was given, and the spies, who didn't want the Jewish people to enter the Land of Israel, wanted to stay in the desert. There was another miraculous connection between us and Rabbi Slonim. We had lived in Palo Alto, where Rabbi Slonim had been just a year before for medical treatment for his daughter, and were most recently members at Lubavitch of the Palisades, whose shaliach, Rabbi Shain, was one of the supporters of the new Chabad House in Mitzpe Ramon.

The mohel (ritual circumsciser) was a young Chabad chosid who had three lovely daughters. I guess you could say this was an extreme case of the shoemaker's children not having any shoes. I sat next to him and his oldest daughter in shul. This daughter, about 6 I think, was learning Mishnayot during davening, more assiduously than anyone I had ever seen, slowly going over each word for several pages. Occasionally she would stop and ask her father about a word. It was wonderful to see this little girl learning with her father.

Gut Voch. Shavuah Tov. Have a Good Week.


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