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a Letter from Rabbi burt from Jerusalem

04/09/2014 03:25:54 PM


What an extraordinary experience I'm having in the holy city.

It really is a holy city in many ways. The holy places of Jews, Christians and Muslims. And so many people I have met, especially young people, are here to look for a way to bring the holy into their lives. These young people are like all the young people we see on the streets of New York. But here, in a truly sincere way, they want to make God a real presence in their lives. Just sitting in a park or a cafe they sit near me, and of course they have no idea I'm a Rabbi, but in the course of a conversation between two strangers they soon start to talk about God, about Torah, about how much they need God to fulfill their lives.
They come from all over the world looking for a Jewish connection to to Holy One. It's really a mystery to me. I've never heard so many people talk about God in such a personal and beautiful way.  It's part of the holy city -- these holy people. I have gotten to know a few "black hat" Orthodox Jews and they seem holy and very happy, too. Their religion is so sincere. 
Mea Shearim, the Orthodox neighborhood, is not what I thought. I don't know any of the people who live here, but they are friendly, happy- seeming and despite their different attire, seem to be like the people we know. Of course, there are about a dozen synagogues on every block.  All of them filled with people praying and studying Torah.  Looking at them, praying with them, they seem to be sincere in the God that is part of their lives.  Another holiness in the holy city.
I am studying at two yeshivas and have a private tutor in Talmud. It's not quite a vacation, but I'm doing what I love most, so there is no tiredness in my more formal studies and studying on my own in the apartment I rented.  All my learning is in an old neighborhood called Nachlaot. It was one of the first areas where Jews lived outside the gates of the Old City in the 1870s. Streets that wind around in a maze so complex one could get lost and wander for years. So far I have not gotten that lost.
I'm studying Talmud, which although ancient and not part of the way we are Jewish today, is so interesting. More and more as you get into it. It's like the streets of Nachlaot -- a winding maze of complexity, but interesting as the source of our culture.  I'm studying Torah with illuminating commentaries. I study Jewish philosophy with a young Rabbi, about 25 years old, whose brilliance is beyond almost any brilliance I have ever been in the presence of.  His mind is like the streets of Nachlaot, winding in every direction. Complex, and a-maze-ing.  I don't know how he doesn't get lost.  I'm sure he will soon be be affirmed as one of the philosophers of Jewish history.  What a transporting experience to be in the presence of such a mind.  And as you can imagine, he talks about holiness in such a surprising, unconventional way.
Every teacher I have is so wonderful.  Really, every single one. Their knowledge of what is holy is a great part of the holy city of Jerusalem.
So, here I am, steeped in a wonderful experience.
I look forward to continuing to tell you more in future blog entries.
From the holy city I offer my prayers for your wellbeing.
Thu, July 16 2020 24 Tammuz 5780