Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Fast

The 25 hours of fasting (from Friday at 18 p.m. till Saturday 19 p.m.) are over. 
As I advance in age, the anual fast of Yom Kippur (the jewish day of atonement), becomes a bit easier for me. I suppose it's a matter of experience - making the right food choices for the day prior to fasting  that will ease the Fast, or, as some will say 'make the fast go faster.'

Especially important is the 'aruha mafseket' (the meal preceding the Fast). No big secret here: a light meal based on whole grain and lean protein with nothing too salty or spicy, to avoid hunger and thirst. I find it essential to seal the meal with a glass or two of water.

Somehow, I've come to look forward to this day.  I'm pleased to take a break from the major factor that dominates our life and determines our health, - food - and spend some hours on spiritual thoughts and prayers.. This day should be about introspection, repentance, asking forgiveness. 

 And then, at the end of the day , the 'break-the-fast' meal. It starts slowly with a sweetened drink and a slice of cake followed again by a light meal.

Here's to the Next Year!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Summer Treat

Summer is over, and with it are its various treats we've become used to.
Every year, in summer , the big municipalities of many places in the world ,tend to organize open-air cultural events for the whole family, in parks and/or central squares. These events include: book fairs, art exhibitions, flower shows, folk dances, various competitions.

art display

In the municipal City Garden of Sofia , I've incidentally come upon  a performance of a stand-up comic.. Everyone was laughing, but me. Because of language barrier I left the spot, and decided to tour the beautiful garden,  which lies in front of the imposing Ivan Vazov National Theater.

Ivan Vazov National Theater

It's a small, lovely garden in the city center, to which the residents of Sofia come for recreation and entertainment. It has fountains, statues, benches, grass, flowerbeds, childrens' playground, a newspaper kiosk, and even a tourist information office.

family stroll in the City Garden

People sit on the edge of the fountain, or on benches and have a chat, or listen to street musicians, engage in a game of chess with other amateur players, or watch a concert.

people on edge of fountai - female dancer statue in the middle

 elderly chess players

The next day, near the Nedelya orthodox church which is geographically the very center of the city, I had the chance to see dance groups from all over the world in traditional costumes. A stunning sight! 

Nedelya Church in the background

At first, I thought they were going to perform there, but it took me some time to understand that the place was too small and that it only served as their gathering point. The groups were headed to some other place to give their performance. I couldn't follow them as I was on my way to some appointment. My loss!

Friday, September 8, 2017

May Our Wish Come True !

In Israel, when visiting the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem, people insert a wish note addressed to God, in the cracks between the stones of the wall.  (Haven't been there for a long while, and I miss the site and all that goes along with it).

Western Wall - Jerusalem

women's  prayer section at the Wall (older photo)

women's  prayer section (a more recent photo)

Once a year, prior to the High Holidays (which start towards the end of this month), I visit the tombs of two spiritual figures, two righteous rabbis ;  one buried in the cemetery of the mystical city of Zfat (Safed), and the other in a cemetery of a town adjacent to Tel Aviv.

I'm not a religious person, but I do believe in God and in the power of prayer. People pray at the grave of the righteous (tzadik) asking him to intercede in heaven on their behalf. Before leaving the spot I place a slip of paper by the tombstone asking, as is the tradition, for a good, successful upcoming new year.

At Zfat (Safed) cemetery; rabbi's covered tomb in the background

Men and women praying on opposite sides of the rabbi's tomb (Givatayim cemetery)

Slip of paper?! Well, I've seen people at the charming russian church of St. Nicolai in Sofia, placing.....whole letters in a wooden box by the tomb of Bishop  Seraphim Sobolev, believed to be a miracle maker.

 the russian church of St. Nicolai in Sofia

The marble sarcophagus of bishop Seraphim is in a crypt by the side of the church. The crypt is equipped with tables , chairs, pens and paper. People write their wish on paper, place the letter in the box by the tomb, light candles, and pray.  Quite a sight!  (Photography inside - not allowed). If you happen to be in Sofia, don't miss it!