Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shabbat HaGadol in Mitzpe Ramon

Yesterday was Shabbat HaGadol. I went to Chabad, and the little shul was chock-a-block with people, almost standing room only. This was in addition to the large crowd of guests who had packed into the Chabad House for Shabbat.

Rabbi Slonim gave the Shabbat HaGadol drush during Shacharit. He spoke mostly in Hebrew, so I didn't follow it very well, but part of it had to do with why the Talmudic tractate that deals with the laws of Pesach is in the plural ("Pesachim") while all of the other Talmudic tractates dealing with holidays are singular (Rosh Hashanah, Megillah, Shabbat, Succoth, etc.). I gather from my sketchy Hebrew that this has something to do with the collective nature of the redemption from Egypt and the fact that the Pesach sacrifice was brought only by groups of people.

After shul, walking the short distance back in the cold and rain, we had lunch with Chavie and Donny and their friends Asael, his wife Channah, and their children. Asael is an ecology student at Ben Gurion University in Sede Boquer, where he is doing research on desert bats. His research deals with studying bat drinking behavior in the desert.

There is an invasive species of Mediterranean bat that has gained a foot hold by hop scotching from one small settlement to another. It needs to drink water to survive in the desert. This it does by swooping down while dragging its tongue through pools of water, while the native desert bats receive all the water they need through eating insects alone, an amazing evolutionary adaptation to desert life.

 The Giant Mediterranean Bat -- about the size of a pigeon

Asael uses a special bat voice recorder to determine which species is at a watering hole. The invasive species has a tone at around 10 Khz, while the native bats cheep at a much higher frequency, around 200 Khz, far beyond human hearing. He has discovered that the invasive species can be kept out by placing strips of plastic on a watering hole, which prevents them from swooping down to drink, and may be used to control their numbers.

After a lovely Shabbat meal prepared by Chavie, we waited for a break in the rain and all ran home.

A Happy and Kosher Pesach to all!

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