Sunset this evening marked the start of Rosh Hashanah, and also the start of the Jewish year of 5768. To begin the New Year's celebrations, I went to a communal dinner this evening, organised by Beit Jabad (known to us English-speakers as Chabad House) of Buenos Aires. The event was held in the function room of a big hotel in the middle of the city, and it was set up primarily for all the Jewish travellers who happened to be in town. No surprise, then, that the dinner consisted of the Rabbi, myself, 4 other English-speakers, and around 150 long-haired hippie Israelis.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the readers of my blog a Happy and a Sweet New Year. Shana tova, and gemar chatima tova. May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life, and may you all find somewhere to celebrate the New Year, as I have, no matter where you happen to be on this planet for it.
I got to the hotel at about 7pm, after frantically buying a new shirt for the occasion, and also sprinting back to my hostel because I forgot my kippah (was completely unnecessary since, of course, they had a box of kippahs inside). I was just in time for the tail end of the Ma'ariv evening service. Once the prayer service finished, we moved into the function room proper, which was packed with tables, and which was all ready for us to invade and to begin the festive dinner in.
The Rabbi, Menachem (an Israeli also!), was nice enough to put me at "the least Israeli table" in the room. On my table were: a B'nei Akiva couple (husband English, wife Aussie — recently married, this is their "honeymoon"), now living in Israel; an older Israeli couple (here on holiday, didn't want to sit with the young hippie backpackers); a South African backpacker called Ari; and a local BA girl, and two Israeli friends of hers. Although the conversation at the table was mainly in English, and although I wasn't the only non-Israeli at the table, I was (apart from the BA girl) the only one who couldn't speak Hebrew at least semi-fluently. Man, I'm going to have to learn Hebrew properly one day: it's more important than knowing Spanish, when you travel in South America! :P
It was a nice dinner, with New Year challah and hommus for first course, chicken and rice for mains, and fruit salad for dessert. There was also a bit of that old Chassidic dinner-table singing, that I know and love so well (although the majority of the 150 Israeli backpackers declined to join in on it). The only thing that really spoiled it, was that about 2 minutes before we started the bensching (grace after meals), 95% of the Israelis packed up and ran out. They simply vanished — and before we knew what had happened, the vast and spacious room was nearly empty. Typical rude, disrespectful, dafkenik Israeli chutzpah, eh? Waiting 5 minutes for the bensching to finish wouldn't kill them — but anyway, what can you do.
Tonight was a great start to the New Year, and the next few days in BA will see a continuation of the celebrations. It's going to be a Sweet New Year, Latin style!