I continued celebrating Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) today, with first day shul services and communal meals. I spent the day at "Chabad La Metayel" (run by my mate Menachem), which is conveniently located about 3 blocks from Hostel Clan, just a 10-minute walk down the street for me. Unfortunately, when I got there (at 11am) the service still hadn't started; and we had to sit and wait until 1pm, when we finally got a minyan and could start doing shacharit. This forced the rabbi to jam the service into a mere 2 hours, at the expense of all singing, and through some serious (true Chabad-style) rapid-fire prayer. However, we still managed to fit in all the soundings of the shofar, which ushered in the New Year with a bang.
Menachem is the Rabbi in charge of the tiny "Chabad La Metayel" ("Chabad for the traveller") synagogue, here in downtown Buenos Aires. Originally from Israel, he's now living down here, along with his wife and his new-born son. He's a very friendly guy, and he's also fluent in English, Spanish, and of course Hebrew (he prefers the latter two). He's been very welcoming and very hospitable to me, during my stay here for the New Year.
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've known about the Beit Jabad (that's Chabad house, for us English-speakers) in Cusco since my first week here, but I haven't had the time or the motivation to pay it a visit, until tonight. When I finished my three-day Apurímac rafting trip this afternoon, some of the Israelis on the trip suggested that I pop in tonight, for an Erev Shabbat shul service and dinner. So, tonight I had my first proper Friday night Jewish experience here in Cusco. The service was beautiful, the food was (kosher yet) delicious, and the company was (all-Israeli yet) friendly.
Tonight was an experience like none I've ever had before: a seder night in Peru. With the help of my dad, and of my rabbi back home in Sydney, I had organised to go to the Chabad House here in Lima. In fact I ended up going to the rabbi's house, which was probably even better. Seder in Peru is in many ways the same as it is anywhere else in the world — except, not quite.
In the two hours that I spent in Miami Intl Airport this afternoon, on my way from San Francisco to Lima, I observed that there are only three groups of people here. Group one: African-Americans. Group two: Hispanics. Group three: orthodox Jews. I half-fit into the last of these three groups (Jewish, but not terribly religious), which was kinda good. I think I ran into the Pesach crowd when I got here, because I saw literally hundreds of religious Jewish families, in the 15 minutes or so that I was walking through the airport. Looks like the entire Jewish population of New York (and related cities) has flown down to see the grandparents for Pesach!
Tonight was my first family Shabbos dinner since leaving home, almost six weeks ago. I have to say, it's more than nice to do this once in a while: it's actually very important. All the Cohens were home for Erev Shabbat, except for Andy, who was orchestrating an inter-school dance that happened at his school this evening. Beautiful dinner, beautiful atmosphere.