407-645-5933 ext. 236 marisa.west@shalomorlando.org

One of the key tenants of the Men’s Momentum trip is to ‘Choose Awesome’.  Everybody is happy to live a good life.  A great life is even better.  But imagine living a truly awesome life!  That’s our goal – to challenge ourselves and ask what would living a truly awesome life look like, and then, what are we willing to do in order to have to an awesome life?

Today we began with a talk from my friend, Ari Shabat.  Ari is incredibly inspiring and makes me think deeply about what I am doing and what I really want to be doing.  There were a few things he talked about today that really resonated with me.  The first is how everything we do is either mental (in our head), emotional (how we deal with our feelings) or physical (what we actually do).  If I look at my life through these lenses and understand how addressing each of these areas will impact me, I can work towards living that awesome life.  As an added bonus, this comes directly from Pirkei Avot, the Lessons of our Fathers.  The second thing he talked about was how practice is really controlled failure.  I have always believed in failure – it’s how we learn.  It’s critical that we learn from our failures and make new mistakes, not the same ones.  It made me question what I am learning from my failures and what new mistakes can I make instead of repeating the old ones.  I know this isn’t Israel related, but it is very much connected to this trip.

The Momentum group in Tzfat.

We left our talk with Ari and headed to Tzfat, the home of Kabbalah.  I love Tzfat.  Ever since my first exposure and visit to the city in 1989, I have felt a spiritual connection.  High in the mountains, built on cliffs so there are tons of steps and that you are constantly going up and down, it just feels special.  Today was a cloudy day to start and it was cold yet that feeling was still there.  Our guide told us how within Kabbalah, there is a belief that everything in the world is spiritually connected.  I felt that connection today.  We walked the streets and learned about the history of the city.  We visited the synagogue of “the Ari”, Rabbi Isaac Luria, who lived in the 16th century.  There is a chair in the synagogue that if you sit in, you are supposed to be blessed with a baby.  I tried to get one of my friends to sit in it and tempt fate, but he wouldn’t.  We got to visit the Mikvah of the Ari for the ritual dip in natural waters.  It was super cold but also refreshing.  The goal is a spiritual cleansing and it felt that way.  Some of us explored the excavation under Tzfat, seeing homes from the 1500s through the 1800s that had been hidden under the current ground level.   We shopped for candles at the famous Tzfat Candle Factory and I got to buy my niece Hailey her tallis for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah.  We even went to the Kabbalah Center, sat out on their deck with an incredible view of the mountains and had a chance to talk and process.  We even got to hear from both Ari Shabat and Adrienne Gold who talked to us for an hour about intimacy.

Exploring Tzfat (see the Shalom Orlando shirt?).

Perhaps the best and most unexpected part of the day was our stop at the Yemenite man’s restaurant.  I’ve gone there since my first trip in 1989 and his signature dish (he only makes one thing) is incredibly delicious.  Since I’ve had to be gluten free, I have given up the idea of eating it again, however today he told me he had a gluten free version!  I was so excited to get one and it was as good as I remembered.  His schug (the hot spice) was incredible.  It’s worth going to Tzfat just to eat there!!

We left Tzfat to head to Dubrovin Farms for dinner.  It’s a really cool outdoor area with amazing food and a great environment.  Because of the risk of rain, we ate inside (not as nice or fun as when we get to eat outside there) but the food didn’t disappoint.  The music was loud and the dancing was intense.  We were exhausted when it finally ended.

When it ended, it was time to board the bus and drive the 2 ½ hours to Jerusalem.  Just being in Jerusalem feels special. 

I’ve felt a connection here from my first visit and each time I come back, it’s stronger. 

There is something in the air that is comforting and relaxing.  Something that is spiritually validating.  As I relax and unwind from an incredibly full day, I find myself once again in love with the beauty of this country.  With the history that goes back 4,000 years.  And I find myself thinking about what Ari talked about this morning.  How can I gain a better understanding of my mental, emotional and physical status to truly have an awesome life.