Thursday, June 7, 2012

Jerusalem's Light

Tonight we walked around the Old City to take in the Jerusalem Light Festival. It is the fourth year of this celebration but my first time going. All around the Old City there were light installations- artistic designs, performance artists who use light as a medium, booths with light-related objects, etc. It was a beautiful evening and the Old City was packed with people.

Light Festival Cupola at the entrance to Jaffa Gate

As we left the festival and headed home I thought to myself, “it’s only a shame that “Shavuah Hasefer” (“Book Week”) is happening the same time as the Light Festival. Surely, the sparkly lights are taking away business from the book fair.” But when I got to Gan Hapa'amon (Liberty Bell Park) at 11:00pm and saw it packed with shoppers, I realized how wrong I was.

Shavua Hasefer is a huge book fair.  Imagine Beth El’s parking lot filled with the booths of hundreds of publishing houses. Thousands of people were browsing everything from Talmud commentaries to children’s books. The fair seemed to confirm what I read somewhere, that Israel published more books per capita than any other country.

If the Light Festival is magical, Shavua Hasefer is mystical. It reminded me that for Jews, learning is also about light. That’s what we sing- “Torah Ora. The Torah is light.”

On Shavu’ot a few weeks ago, I got up at 4:00am to walk to the Kotel with the kids for shaharit sunrise services. We read from the Torah about the revelation at Sinai just as the sun broke across the eastern horizon. My kids may remember the chocolate milk bags being handed out at King David’s tomb more than the sunrise. Still, I hope that as they hear me and Esther talk about the classes we attend (this morning, parashat hashavua with Aviva Zornberg), they internalize the message:  Torah ora, halleluya!

Shavuah HaSefer

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