As Shabbat comes to a close, a group of HUC students, have gathered together for food, music and merriment. Much reminicent of my days in summer camp, a guitar comes out and songs are sung, food is eaten and laughter is bountiful.

My best friend moved to Jerusalem 2 months ago to attend his first year of rabbinical school. My being in Istanbul was the perfect opportunity for me to pay my bestie a much needed visit. Needless to say, that summer camp was not on my list of expectations. It wasn’t even on the long list. And yet, here I sit, surrounded by future rabbis and canters of reform Judaism and the only things missing are a camp fire and some smores.

The night before, we had a much more intimate and traditional Shabbat celebration and feast. And sitting here today, among this boisterous group, I find the comparison between the two celebrations to be intriguing to say the least. Our celebration last night was held with reverence as age old traditions were honored and practiced. Prayer, ritual, food, and song were all abundant as was camaraderie. Conversely, today’s celebration felt more like a gathering of classmates (which it was).  There was an abundance of people, food, and wine. Laughter and jocularity were plentiful. Reverence, ritual and tradition had essentially been thrown out the window as this lively group gathered and cast off the bondage of the previous week’s schooling. And then the guitar came out and summer camp began. American pop radio songs were sung in unison with fervor and excitement. It was a new day and a totally different Shabbat.

My bestie and I discussed the comparison later this evening. Both celebrations, we found to be fun and endearing. I verbalized my surprise at the contrast between the two as well as my gratitude for having gotten to witness and participate in both. Chalk it up to another cultural learning experience stoking the fires of my religious (and spiritual) curiosity. This is a beautiful thing.

Peace and Love.

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