Reflections Upon Arriving for Summer at Ascent

by Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz, Ascent's Summer Scholar-in-Residence


Dear Friends stuck back there in California,

Tomorrow will be one week since we landed.

Thanks to the Almighty, Olivia & I R "scholars in residence" @ the Ascent Institute of Safed, for the last 17 years, every summer.

Safed is one of the 4 Holy Cities in the Holyland . It s the City of KABALA . Except for one , all the greatest Kabalists in Jewish history lived in Safed, at the same time. So this city is International Kabala H Q . Anyone can feel it.

The most fascinating "commodity" to work with, most ppl will agree, is People. They are all dfrnt and sometimes you get to see them CHANGE. That's called having a "LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE". Those are quite rare but secretly longed for by most. Here, in the Holy City of Tzfat, you can watch ppl have those within 3 days after arrival.

There's an inside joke among the staffers here: when we see some1 who's been here for more than a week, with their bags on the way to the bus station to leave, we take bets on whether we will see them bk in 1/2 hr bcz they just cdnt leave.

It's the best drug G-d ever made. It's really hard to detox & go bk to- wherever. You really wana take it with you. You wana say the Shma in LA like you said it in Tzfat.

Tzfat is in the mountains & is the highest elevation in the country. Ascent is located on the North end of the city . So there's nothing after the bldng except forests, rolling hills that grow into a mountain range, and two kinds of sky . It depends on the day. It never rains in the summer but some times there are incredible Blue skies filled with humongous, picturesque, white fluffy cloud formations; & sometimes the Blue Sky is even more incredible bcz there's nary even a wisp of a cloud in the sky. From the 4th floor upper outdoor porch, where i have my classroom, this awesome BLUE is breathtaking.

Shlomo in action
Olivia leading a challah-baking

Excluding the recent Birthright program, out of almost 6 million American Jews, a full 90% have never had their soles (souls) touch the soil of Israel. But of the the 10% that do visit, more than 90% come back again. Some of the organized groups that come here are the Birthright alumni and they are open to New & dfrnt ideas, including making Aliya. Aliya is the Hebrew word for going up or Ascending. But it means - "moving to Israel ".

Others decide to dump the non Jewish "significant other" & look for some more understanding of the "feeling" that neither their own family nor friends yet understand but have the capability for. Yet ppl who have been, kinda 'get' each other more.

The speakers/teachers in Israel are charismatic, if not spellbinding. Many are knowledgable & deep on a level very dfrnt than the motivational spkrs in the US. They are from a tremendous variety of backgrounds.

From a Christian deaconess, the daughter of a pastor, who converted & became a Rebitzen & sought after teacher, etc, to ppl who have lived in ashrams in India for Years & became teachers of Advanced Yoga; then came to Tzfat & got bit by the bug & had That " LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE".

I hope to bring some of the magic home with me and share it at Rosh Hashanah. See you then.




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