Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 4: On the road to Safed - Elvis, Kabalah and the Shulchan Aruch

The journey from the SEC’s base in Jerusalem to the mystical Sephardic city of Safed (a.k.a. Tzfat) in northern Israel was a three hour drive and full of interesting surprises along the way. On the way to Safed, our group briefly stopped by a rest stop which interestingly enough was dedicated to the late “King” of rock n’ roll Elvis Presley. While we enjoyed our own boxed lunches, I could help but noticed the face of Elvis plastered everywhere in the nearby diner, a souvenir store and complete with a gigantic bronze statute of man who had a likeness to Elvis but had Asian eyes and a Jewish “Chai” necklace around his neck! It's interested how Israelis sometimes take on American entertainment icons and put their own twists to them. Here are just a few photos from the rest stop…

Upon our arrival in Safed, our tour guide took us to a series of ancient and well known synagogues including the Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue, the Abuhav Synagogue and the Yosef Caro Synagogue. Each synagogue was unique in itself with elaborate designs but the Caro Synagogue which was very simple had plenty of significance for our group. This because in the 16th century, Caro is best known for composing the “Shulchan Aruch” (Hebrew translation for ‘set table’) which is a codification of Jewish law. Together with its commentaries, it is frequently considered the most authoritative compilation of Jewish law. We learned that Caro was a mystic of his time and believed strongly in Kabalah, Jewish mysticism.

In addition to the various synagogues in Safed, we were also enticed to shop at the countless art stores in the city. Here are just a few of the snapshots I captured from the city…

(Inside the Ashkenazi Ari Synagogue)

(Inside the Abubav Synagogue)

(Yosef Caro synagogue in Safed).

(Cave where it's believe Yosef Caro wrote the Shulchan Aruch)

(Rabbi Bouskila explaining how the Shulchan Aruch was prepared by Yosef Caro).

-- Karmel Melamed