Wednesday, November 30, 2011

770: A Visit to Chabad's Headquarters

In August of 2008, I took a trip to New York on my way to the west coast, and stopped over at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, a sort of headquarters of Chabad Lubavitch. I was taken on a tour by Rabbi Dov Ber Berkowitz, a Chabadnik friend of mine from my pre-aliyah days, and now the rabbi at Chabad of the Delta (back in California.)

770 Eastern Parkway, Chabad's Nerve Center
770 started out life as just another building.  Purchased by the Lubavitch (Chabad) Hassidim, it became the residence of the Rebbe, a synagogue, and eventually, the geographical center of Lubavitch's outreach movement.  Who would have thought that this insignificant-looking building would be the center for thousands of outreach centers worldwide.

At the time of my visit, it was the three weeks (a period of mourning for the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem) when we don't shave.  By the time I landed in New York, I was sporting a full beard.

Donning tefillin in 770

The basement of 770 has been completely excavated.  Later, Chabad purchased the adjascent buildings and  merged all of their basements into one giant underground synagogue.

The Beit Midrash at 770
Later, when the Rebbe passed on, the Mishichists (those who believe that the Rebbe is still alive and is the Moshiach) took over the Beit Midrash and decorated it to taste, while the above-ground portions remained under non-Mishichist auspices.

Mishichist Decorations and Declarations in 770

Immediately after the Shoah (Holocaust,) as the survivors of Europe's brutality straggled into the United States, Lubavitcher Hassidim began to regroup.  Originally, all of them could daven in this small Beit Midrash, not to be confused with the enormous Beit Midrash in the basement.

The Original Beit Midrash
It's hard to believe that the Chabad of today, with its tens of thousands of followers, could have started from such modest beginnings.

Outside of the Beit Midrash is a small plaza where weddings are held.

A Plaza at 770 where Lubavitch weddings are held

And across the street is the newly opened Chabad Children's Museum.

The Chabad Children's Museum
Entrance to the Chabad Children's Museum

This being Chabad, you can always find hard liquor, even at 9 o'clock in the morning.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Birkat HaChama

Here are some photos of Birkat HaChama (the blessing of the sun) which I took back in April of 2009.  The next one isn't for a couple of decades.

In Judaism, there are some mitzvot you do three times a day, like tefillah (prayer.) Some come once a week, like shabbat (sabbath,) some once a month, like Birkat Levanah (the blessing of the new moon) some once a year, like the fast on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement.) Some come once in a lifetime, like a wedding (well, hopefully only once.) And some come once in history, like Hashem's directive to the Jewish slaves in Egypt that they slaughter a lamb on the eve of Pesach.

At Chabad of Baka, getting ready for Birkat HaChama

One of the rarer mitzvot is Birkat HaChama (The blessing of the sun.) Once every twenty eight years, the planets and sun are aligned exactly as they were at the instant of the creation of the sun, at least according to the biblical narrative. At the sight of this unusual and wondrous occurrence, one is to recite Birkat Chama. Birkat HaChama happened to fall on Erev Pesach (Passover Eve) this year, so in addition to all the other holiday preparations, tens of thousands flocked to the Old City of Jerusalem to perform the mitzvah.

Yours truly, dragged out of bed for Birkat Chama

Reading the bracha sheet.

The sun is in position.  It's go time!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Back at Blogging

I don't know if any of my old readers still come to this website, as it's been quite some time since I posted regularly, but I'm thinking it's time to dust off the 'ol website and add some material.  Since I've been living outside of Israel, there is really nothing spectacular to write about.  But this blog, which I built with my own ten fingers over the last decade, seems to have become something of an internet resource for those interested in Land of Israel related information.  Often, friends who are searching for information about The Battle of Givon or the Temple Mount end up on this blog after a google search and are surprised to find a picture of me right there looking back at them. In fact, it gets something like 60 hits a day right now.

Well, I still have huge backlogs of photographs from tiyulim I went on which I never had the time to publish. My memory is probalby a little rusty from a couple of years ago, but I can still throw together some additional posts with my backlog of material.

I will also be visiting Israel in a month, so I'm looking forward to perhaps even adding some new material.

I also have an ulterior motive.  Those who read my posts may remember that I had started learning to paint. Back then, I only made a few paintings but it stuck in my head as something I would like to work on more some day.  A few months ago, I decided that "some day," would never come on its own, so if I wanted to start painting, I had better get going, so I did!  And what better subject could there be for painting than the Land of Israel and its people.  I started a separate website for my Paintings of Israel.  Right now, it is still in "testing" phase.  I plan to begin uploading actual posts of my artwork in January.  But I would like to update this blog with as many posts as possible, and use these posts as references for the places I paint for those who want more information.  So off we go!  Stay tuned.