Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Worldly matters around romatic feelings


On January 22, Israel is going to vote a new parliament into the Knesset. I have to admit that, while reading the paper, I ignore most articles dealing with Knesset parties and their intrigues and affairs. Just like me, many Israelis are sick of politics and the corruption in our country. Nevertheless, politics are also a subject in the rather sleepy town of Zfat.:-)

Here, everything seems to be so far away but, in contrast to many American Jews living in Zfat, the secular Israeli population has its feet much more on the ground. Despite all dirty politics, here are another few rather romantic pictures from Tiberias and Zfat:  


Photos from Zfat

Yesterday: 28 degrees Celsius in Zfat. Some local shopkeepers asked an American tourist group where they are from in the States: "From Pennsylvania", was the response. "So you are probably happy to be here", said the shopkeepers referring to hurricane Sandy. "Oh, yes, !" - so the Americans.

Copyright / Photos: Miriam Woelke

The Ashkenazi ARI Synagogue in Zfat and the Mezuza


Last week I wrote a small article on the Ashkenazi ARI Synagogue located in the old city of Zfat. One of the readers asked me whether there is a Mezuza on the entrance door. 

Today, I went again and had a look. The answer is that I didn't see any Mezuza on the doorpost. 

Later on, I went to the Sephardi ARI Synagogue which I liked much more. An elderly man sitting inside showed me the small room inside the Synagogue where Rabbi Yitzchak Luria used to pray and talk to an angel. I asked the man how we know that this was the room and the statement is based on Masoret (tradition). Furthermore, there is a long story behind it where the Baba Sali also plays a role. 

I will find out more and let you know.

The Kever of Rabbi Yosef Karo in Zfat


Visiting the famous cemetery in Zfat (Safed) / northern Israel is always a very special event. I was walking around at the cemetery for more than two hours today and took quite a few pictures and filmed a couple of videos. 

The first video of the short "Cemetery Series" shows the Kever of Rabbi Yosef Karo (Kabbalist and author of the "Shulchan Aruch"). 

The grave of Rabbi Yosef Karo.


 Copyright / Photos: Miriam Woelke

Not every grave in the cemetery is painted blue; however, the colour BLUE has special meanings in Judaism as well as in Islam. I once heard that Muslims paint parts of their homes blue because they want to keep away anything evil. In Judaism, the colour BLUE stands for the Glory of G - d but, in addition to that, evil should also remain far away.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Nikolsburger Rebbe on Parashat LECH LECHA

Seen in Zfat / Northern Israel

Photo: Miriam Woelke


Never mind that we read Parashat LECH LECHA last Shabbat; the Nikolsburger Rebbe brings up a brilliant Parasha commentary I would like to share:

Different Ways of Serving Hashem 

ויאמר ה' אל אברם לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך אל הארץ
 אשר אראך. 

"And Hashem said to Avrom: 'Go for yourself from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you." (Bereishis 12:1) 

Rashi asks what the meaning is of the word lecha - for yourself, and explains that this means: "For your benefit and for your own good." Hashem's command that Avrohom should leave his birthplace and his family was for his own good. 

Why did Hashem say this to Avrohom? If Hashem would not have said explicitly that it is all for his own good, would Avrohom not have complied? Of course he would have! So why was it necessary to tell him? 

There is another difficulty with these words. Hashem's command for Avrohom to leave his country and family is counted as one of the Ten Tests that he was tested with. But if Hashem promised Avrohom that it would all be for his benefit, then why is it considered a test? If Avrohom would have listened to Hashem without being promised anything as a reward, then it would have indicated his great love for Hashem. The assurance that it is for his own good seems to detract from the difficulty of the test. 

The verse concludes: "To the land that I will show you." Hashem told Avrohom to leave his land, so it is self-understood that he would be going to a different land. It would have been enough for the verse to say: "To where I will show you." What is the significance of the word "land" which appears twice in the verse? 

Zfat by Night


One shouldn't expect too much of a wild nightlife in Zfat (northern Israel) but, down here in the old city, in Rehov Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Street), you can find quite a few restaurants. From Pizza to Bagel and from meat and fish to lasagne. 

The new restaurant ARELE (meat and fish) seems to be an attraction to all kinds of Haredim. Personally, I recommend the Italian style restaurant MILANO. Choose the lasagne (tasty and inexpensive) which comes together with a nice salad. The staff is nice and you can sit either upstairs or downstairs. 

The ARELE on the right

The Kotel painting at the MILANO made me feel right home :-)

Rehov Yerushalayim at night

Photos: Miriam Woelke

The Cave of Shem and Ever in Zfat


I am back in Zfat (Northern Israel) until Wednesday and while I was walking around after my arrival today, I found the door to the famous cave of Shem and Ever open. I was able to take a glimpse inside. The following video came out a bit dark but the photos may provide you a better impression.

Shem used to be the youngest son of Noach (Noah) and Ever was Shem's grandson. Jewish tradition says that the two were studying Torah in this particular cave. 

When we say that our ancestors studied Torah although the Torah wasn't then officially given, well, there are different opinions on that concept. They surely didn't study Torah as we do today but it is explained that the ancestors, in particular Avraham, had the principle in mind. 

However, I do not yet have the historical knowledge of how and why it was stipulated that this cave used to be Shem and Ever's cave. 

Copyright / Photos: Miriam Woelke

Sunday, October 28, 2012

International Shluchim Meeting 2012


Time goes by fast and here we are again: The Chabad Shluchim are going to meet from 7 - 11 November 2012. In Crown Heights, as usual and those of you who are interested in further details can click below !!!


Chanukkah has already arrived

The traditional Chanukkah Sufganiyot are already available at the Machane Yehudah Market in Jerusalem.

Photos: Miriam Woelke

Tehillim YES, Household NO


A national religious Israeli woman from Zfat told me the following story last week:

There are quite a few Taliban women living in the southern part of Zfat. There, where rents are still affordable but many people are still on the dole. 

The women like to sit outside in front of their houses. Almost every afternoon, if the weather is nice, those women sit together for a chat. 

They try to be so terribly holy but when it comes to their household and children, they are suddenly not that ambitious anymore. 

Once a certain well - respected Rabbi came to Zfat. He wanted to give a Shiur to religious women and all those women, including the Taliban, were anxiously waiting him. While they were waiting in a big hall, the Rabbi passed a house on his way to the hall. He heard children screaming and asked where their mother was. The children answered that their mother had gone to the Shiur of a famous Rabbi who was supposed to come. 

The entire time until this particular woman came home, the Rabbi took care of the kids. The women were waiting and waiting for the Rabbi and when he didn't show up, they decided to go home.

Also the woman came home and found the Rabbi watching her kids. He told her that taking care of children is more important than coming to his Shiur. 

Some of the religious woman who want to be so holy are not that holy when it comes to Be'in Adam le'Chavero or even their own children. Pushing oneself a little less right into the front in order to be the first in line before the Kadosh Baruch Hu couldn't hurt and the children of those women would be much happier.

American Olim going to Zfat


Many American immigrants (Olim Chadashim) come to Zfat and start their own art gallery. I think that it is a kind of fashion calling the art "Kabbalistic Idea". Some may think that this is the case but I consider it also as a way of public relation. 

Zfat is still a great mystical place. Not everything is mystical though but is definitely a place every Jew should visit once in a while. Most visitors come in the summer but now, after Sukkot is over, tourism is slow. 

Zfat is the highest city in Israel and it can be freezing cold in the winter. Much cooler than Jerusalem ! I know this from my own experience, as I spent most of the winter in town two years ago.

I will be back in Zfat this coming Monday. Definitely for two days but I may be adding a third day and only come back home to Jerusalem on Thursday. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

The poor side of Zfat (Safed)

This is how tourists know the romantic town of Zfat (Safed). Approximately 30,000 inhabitants and located about 30km north of Tiberias. 

Photos: Miriam Woelke


Tourist usually get to know Zfat on a fast food trip: Tour buses are rolling in and parking near the art galleries in the old city. The guides say a few words and the tourists start strolling around and maybe buying a souvenirs. Afterwards they are heading back to the bus and this was it. 

This is basically how it works with Taglit (Birthright) as well as with Gentile tourists. I am not sure if Taglit does it, as I only see them walking around the art galleries; however, other Jewish tourists like to visit the old famous synagogues in the old city and take a trip to the famous cheese producers Kadosh and Me'iri. I can really recommend the fresh KADOSH CHEESE. When you walk into their little branch near the Zfat cemetery, the Kadosh family lets you taste all different kinds of cheese and they even serve you a small cup of coffee (for free). KADOSH and ME'IRI are family businesses and huge competitors. Both are located very close to the cemetery. Just ask the locals for the way !

Within the past years, more and more American Olim have settled in Zfat. I was told by locals that many came and many have left. The famous town of medieval Kabbalah may be cheaper than Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh or Modi'in but life is still not that easy at all. One cannot live alone from spirituality but also needs an income. Once your Nefesh be'Nefesh money is gone, you will be forced to look for another income. Jobs are extremely rare and most of them are not well paid. People make it hardly over the month and probably half of the town in on the dole.

The Israeli locals don't mind the Americans coming but what they are hoping for is Americans coming with money and who are thus able to set up businesses in order to create jobs. However, most Olim arriving are coming because of the low rent in town. 

I am going to write a separate article on "Aliyah to Zfat" and in this post I am only giving you a slight idea about the town which is not only romantic and cozy but has a poor side too. The southern part located in the new city still offers relatively cheap rents but it is also not the best place. 

Here are a few impressions from the other side of Zfat.  

The small shopping mall in the center of the new city

One of the few factories in town: A branch of the Israeli food empire STRAUSS. This factory is roasting coffee

Copyright / Photos: Miriam Woelke

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rachel's Yahrzeit


This Shabbat, Parashat Lech Lecha, is the Yahrzeit of our foremother Rachel and Kever Rachel offers some great information and a LIVE CAM:



You can watch a Live Video here:

A Pizza from Rabbi Shimon

The Rashbi Pizza in Zfat.

Photo: Miriam Woelke

Photos from the Ashkenazi ARI Synagogue in Zfat


After publishing a short video from the inside of the Ashkenazi ARI Synagogue in Zfat, here are also a few photos. 

The Sefirot

The Synagogue from the outside. Someone asked if the Mezuza is still missing. The truth is that I didn't pay attention when I walked in and my photos don't really show anything. Nevertheless, I will go again next week and check out whether there is a Mezuza.

The Ashkenazi ARI Synagogue from the inside.

As a matter of fact, almost every famous Synagogue in the old city of Zfat has a guard sitting at the entrance. Usually an elderly Chassid who is watching the guests. It is up to him who can come in. However, when leaving, he expects a donation. 

I gave quite a donation to the ARI Synagogue and when I went further down to the Abuhav Synagogue a little later, the same old Chassid was sitting there then. I admit that I didn't want to give another high amount of money and decided not to go inside the Abuhav Synagogue this time but next week. 

I recommend you to arrange some Shekel coins in advance. I forgot doing so and after donating once, I didn't feel like handing out any further bills.:-)

The outer yard.

Photos: Miriam Woelke