April 12, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 12, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I Spent Shabbat Parshat Chayei Sarah in Chevron

On Shabbat Parshat Chayei Sarah, I had the incredible experience of spending Shabbat with 35,000 other Jews in Chevron, Israel. In the week leading up to that weekend, I was somewhat conflicted as to whether or not I should go. In the end, I’m really glad I went. When my madricha first told me about this Shabbat event, I immediately said I wanted to attend. I knew this would be an unbelievable experience that I just could not pass up. As the week went on, however, I wasn’t sure if I could/should go, because of transportation and safety issues, etc. At literally the very last minute, I decided to go with a few of my friends from other seminaries.

My program required special parental permission to go to Chevron, so I called my mother to ask her to send an email to the school director. She was not immediately sold on the prospect, but promised to look into it. After seeing information about extra security and the expected number of attendees (including many members of Knesset), she agreed to give me permission to go.

So, at about 4 a.m. on Friday, I packed a bag full of Shabbat clothes, a sleeping bag and anything else I thought I might need. I took the first bus I could to Jerusalem, where I met up with my friends, and eventually we made our way to the bus stop that would take us to Chevron. This was the first point in my weekend where I saw how many people would be at this “shabbaton.” There were probably around 400 people trying to get on the bus, and it was definitely complicated trying to squeeze our way through the crowd to get on. This was just a sneak peek into what I would be seeing over Shabbat.

Once we got to Chevron, we checked in right away and got the tickets that would allow us to get our meals. Then we went to the school in Kiryat Arba, the next town over, where we picked a classroom and set up our sleeping bags and made our home for the night. Once Shabbat started, some friends and I walked back to Chevron, to the Me’arat Hamachpela. This was the first time I actually saw all the people who were in Chevron for Shabbat. Thousands upon thousands of people were gathered in and around Me’arat Hamachpela to daven Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, and there was probably a minyan every 10 feet or so.

There were a couple of massive white tents set up for the people who had a ticket for meals. The group you registered with determined who you would sit with during the meal and just generally be with for Shabbat. The whole weekend went that way. People davened as close as they could get to the cave, and then ate at their assigned table, and then just hung out a bit in Chevron. For an hour or so on Shabbat day there was even a walking tour in Chevron, where I was able to see the kever of Rut and Yishai, something that I never thought I would be able to visit. We explored the Jewish community of Chevron, and just walked around and explored. The day flew by so quickly. After Shabbat ended and I heard Havdala, I walked back to where I was staying and hopped on the first bus back to Jerusalem that I was able to get on, a task almost as difficult as getting to Chevron the day before.

There were two parts of this amazing Shabbat that I would list as being my favorites. The first was that I was able to daven at the kever of Yitzchak and Rivkah during Mincha, a place that is only open to the Jews a few times during the year. The davening gave me so much inspiration. It let me fully think about how incredibly lucky we are to have everything we have, even if it’s only at a few times during the year. The second was that I was able to smell the direct path toward Gan Eden, which is something I never imagined myself doing, but for which I am so grateful to have experienced. It is said that the Me’arat Hamachpela is a direct gateway to Gan Eden, and there is a place on the floor of the cave where you can smell the air of Gan Eden from a vent placed on the cave’s floor. I actually got to smell that air!

Looking at the tremendous crowd of people (I heard later that it was around 35,000) and seeing that many Jews from all different sects of Judaism in one place let me fully realize the beauty of this special Shabbat. Whether they were Modern Orthodox, Chassidish, Conservative or Reform, whether people brought tents to sleep in at night, stayed in a hotel or slept in the school in Kiryat Arba, we as Jews all commemorated the yahrtzeit of Sarah Imeinu together, and it was one of the most incredible and memorable Shabbatot I have ever experienced.

By Reva Lewitter

 Reva Lewitter is spending her gap year in Israel visiting as many cities as she can. She plans to return to her home in Highland Park, NJ sometime next summer and attend college.

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles