My Weekend Shabbaton

Warning! This is LONG!

If you want to know what the Hilton hotel looks like, go online and find some pictures. But pictures won’t describe my stay there this past weekend; words themselves hardly do the trick. But since most of the amazingness was captured in my head and not on my camera, words will have to suffice. Although I do have some pictures and videos, I cannot post them on this site. Videos are not compatible unless I upgrade, which I don’t want to pay for, and the pictures are of people, including myself. I would rather not post these publicly, so once again, I must state that words alone will have to describe my fantastic, inspiring weekend.
Well. Twelve O’clock P.M., more commonly known as midnight, found me pacing anxiously around my kitchen. I was all packed up but I had nowhere to go.
My ride would consist of a mini-van filled with my best friend, her sister and brother in law, and some other people that I knew by name, face, and not much else.
I could not handle going to the bathroom one more time, so I called my friend, who told me she had gotten sick of the nervous pacing herself, and recommended I sit down and read a book. As I was about to follow her advice, she suddenly exclaimed.
“They’re here!” and hung up the phone. All thoughts of reading flew out of my head as I nervously resumed my pacing.
Finally, finally, they pulled up, and I hugged my parents goodbye. It was 12:30, give or take a couple of minutes.
I settled down in the rather squashed van, and promptly fell asleep. Our ride there, or what I remember of it, consisted of my best friend talking, while everyone besides the driver, obviously, snored away. I woke up a couple of times for the restrooms, where I would shuffle in and out of the building, yawning and shivering, but all in all, it was pretty uneventful.
We arrived at the Hilton of New Jersey at around 11:00 am. the following morning. The place was beautiful, and I got all excited as we checked in and received our keys.
After using the bathroom- I did a lot of that over the weekend!- we went up to our room.
On the way, I met not one, but two camp friends! One from sleep-away camp three years ago and one from the bungalow last summer! I was freaking out, because I had no idea that either of them would come. I was in a state of shock.
I have been pushing off writing this for a very long time indeed. Probably because all the details are jumbled in my head; information overload!
But you don’t really care about the order of events, right? So, yeah, I’ll just finish it and get it out of the way. More for myself than anyone else. (This is gonna count as English! GRRR! LOL)
After running up and down stairs and taking countless elevators, for reasons I absolutely don’t recall, my friends and I went to the bottom floor and I worked out a bit, or tried to, and then joined them in the hotel pool and hot tub.
We dried off in a stinky sauna ( i hate those things!) and got dressed, still dripping from chlorine, and went up two floors and joined the Welcome Buffet.
The food there was not normal, in the “it tastes good” sense, I mean, not gross. πŸ™‚
They had two whole halls filled with buffets, waiters on call to make your own salad, trays and trays of awesome food…
My friends and I found a small corner table, and still wet from the pool, we loaded our plates and ate. Then it was straight upstairs in the broken elevator, which meant straight upstairs, literally. Up the stairs.
We slept on the tenth floor, did I mention? So after five flights, actually, three because we were already two floors up (maybe it was moor because i don’t think the ballroom was the first floor, ach, who cares?), well, after a lot of steps, I suggested we get out on that floor and try the elevator there. For some reason, it was working, so it was a good idea.
I smashed myself, Manhattan style, into the first elevator going up, but my friends refused to suffocate for the six- second elevator ride. I have this thing called separation anxiety, so I left just in time to miss the doors closing in my face.
Back in that G-d-forsaken hall, waiting for the elevators again. After a while, the “down” one dinged.
“Let’s go down, and then take it back up” I suggested brilliantly. Lucky for us, of course, that it broke just as we got back to the ballroom.
Ever heard of “back to square one?”
Some little kid kept trying to make it work. It was broken, and remained that way (probably from too much use in too little time) until after Shabbos.
So, we started the stairs again. To make things even more fun, I noticed a Brooklyn couple with their baby, pack ‘n’ play, carriage, dishwasher, and personal Jacuzzi (naw, I’m just kidding; no, REALLLY?). So I offered to help them out, since they were on 8 and we were on 10 and they OBVIOUSLY could use the help.
Even though I hadn’t gotten such a workout before…
We finally got to our rooms, breathless and dying for another swim, hah hah. My friends were so amazing about being volunteered to help those random strangers out…they would have looked stupid if they hadn’t, but still, I’m so proud of you guys!!!
Then we lazed around till we realized there was less than an hour to Shabbos, which induced a mad rush for showers, “cleaning up” our hotel room (four to a room, I shared a bed with my BFF, thank goodness!) and we put on our makeup.
Then we flew down those infamous stairs, to be shocked with the alarming amount of gorgeously dressed people.
After seeing yet another camp friend, who said hey and I just stared, I went into the shul to daven kabbalas Shabbos.
It was absolutely amazing, with tons of women and even more men on the other side.
The Mezamrim Choir harmonized and I don’t know who sang but it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL!
Next, some of us went into a side room to hear a lecture by Rabbi Wallersteins sister-in-law, which was surprising to find out, because they look and speak so similarly, I would have thought they were siblings.
She spoke about Matzos: Our Battle against the Yetzer Hara, but I don’t really remember much except sitting on my camp friends lap, getting squashed by the crowd and trying to hear (even though I had squeezed my way into the fifth row, it was still very inaudible with no mics).
Then we all went into Ballroom C+D+E which was actually one big room, not sure why the schedule I’m glancing at calls it that, but whatever.
Anyways, so began our noisy, catered meal. Waiters bustled back and forth, clearing our places annoyingly as soon as we left. I ate for a bit, then couldn’t sit still, so went to visit two tables with a friend from the bungalow at each. There were 981 people at the event, maybe more, so it was obviously a little loud. I yelled and screamed my conversations, and basically acted like a weirdo, which I am, so that all the people at both tables were so attracted to me that I made lots of friends. Yes, I am saying that it helps to be weird.
Also, they insulted me in French, these Canadian kids. (Yeah, I know you didn’t, that was for you, Batya, not that you would ever read this, but whatever! Comment if you do, lol)
By the time my friend and I got back to our table, the soup was cold enough to have frostbite. I ate it anyways. Or do you drink soup? This is so the type of thing for everyone to comment on. After this whole wonderful adventure that you will read, all you’re gonna say in the comments is, “BTW, you drink/eat soup”. Thanks guys. I’m just smart that way. I know. πŸ™‚
SOOOO then I met someone ELSE from camp who didn’t remember me, but I talked to her and she is SOOO amazing and she gave me my own mini-shiur, which was really cool. She’s always smiling and happy, and is absolutely inspiring. Her name….nah, I can’t say just in case….but some of you might know her, so email me!
I talked to so many people, including Rabbi Wallerstein, and I had lots of fun. I saw OHAD! and Lipa, but just for a moment. Still! It was SOOO exciting!

Now, due to Jewish time, we had to cut out half the schedule, so after the meal, the first speech started only a good hour or so after it was scheduled to.
Rabbi Ronnie Greenwald spoke first, and he cracked us up with a bunch of cute, funny stories and lessons.
Then Rabbi Wallerstein got up to speak. Basically, amongst many other things, he said that we sometimes think things are our choice, and sometimes we think we have no choice. Like, for example, on Rosh Hashana everything is decided, but due to our actions, the reason for that decision could be switched. To illustrate his point, Rabbi Wallerstein told us how he was in an ambulance with one of his students, headed to the hospital at four in the morning. He was only a little upset that his good nights sleep had been disturbed, but he got over it really quickly when he realized that it could have been him in the stretcher. It had been decreed at the beginning of the New Year that at 4 am on that night, he would be in an ambulance, but because of his good deeds, the reason he was in the ambulance may have switched.

After that enlightening speech, we all ate some more food and then listened to Miss Chevi Garfinkel speak, as Rabbi Wallerstein had recommended previously. She is absolutely amazing and she is just hilarious; she could wipe the floor in stand up comedy. I was laughing so hard…gosh! Anyways, I’m going to cut what she spoke about short, as this is turning into something of a novel. πŸ™‚

Next, skipping about five other things on the schedule, there was a Q&A with all the Ohr Naava Rabbis, at around 1 am. Some of the questions that girls asked where of no interest to me, so I left and joined a girls only group who were all talking about overcoming struggles.

I stayed there until 3 or so, and then hung around with some kids I had met. (My local friends had gone up to bed).
These kids who I was with called over someone named Rabbi Max, and we all sat around and talked to him and asked him our questions, until around 6:30 am.
At that time, the Vasikin minyan was starting, so us die-hard girls davened and then I climbed the ten flights of steps to bed.
As soon as my head hit the pillow, at around 7:45 in the morning, I was asleep.

I woke up a good four hours later; my roommates were leaving. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and slept until around one or two in the afternoon. I came downstairs (all those stairs, all by myself!) just in time to see the afternoon meal being cleared away.
Luckily, Rabbi Paysach Krohn was speaking, oh yeah, he spoke Friday night as well, and so my hunger pangs were slightly quelled. He is an amazing speaker, BTW.

My friend and I left after the speech to go steal some food for me from the kitchen.
Then there was more food, which we ate, and then a choice of speeches. I attended a wonderful speech by Rabbi Max, who remembered me from the previous night, which was rather surprising, because I hardly remembered anything!

After that, Shalsoh Seudos came along. My Shabbos day was pretty dead, compared to the night before. I ate, and then we all filed into the shul again for Havdalah.
This was the most amazing experience of my life. A man named Avrumi Spitz sang the most beautiful, chilling song ever, and then proceeded to make Havdalah. The room was completely dark, and I was standing near the front, having squeezed my way ahead, once again. A huge candle was held up, sparks igniting and dissolving into the air. This guy sang into a microphone with his guitar accompanying him; oh gosh, I was in tears.
Afterward, my friends and I sat down and got our own personal two hour performance by Mr. Spitz. Another man from the Mezamrim Choir sang with him, and it was really cool.

The Melava Malka was about to start, so I ran to the elevator which was working for once, and my friend and I went upstairs to change.
Back down again, I snagged slices of pizza and enjoyed the amazing awesome food. I even got to stand next to Lipa at the salad bar! Whoo hoo! I thought that was pretty funny πŸ™‚

A slide-show came on, and then the concert started…
There were DJ’s, lights, a stage, the whole 9 yard….uh, yeah, and the room was TINY.
Men and women were separated by a mechitza and the girls danced and yelled like they should.
Avrumi Flam, Ohad Moskowitz, Lipa and an amazing violinist all performed beautifully.
The bass was so loud I thought I would have a heart attack, and halfway through, I had to go out. (don’t worry, the music was still pretty audible even outside the concert hall!)

I talked to my friends and some other people a little more, and then went back in to watch the Rabbi’s perform.
After that, the men all left, Ohr Naava girls sang, and then there was a Kumzitz, which was really cool, singing songs we all know with people we might never know.
I was kind of put in charge of controlling who chose which song, (yeah, I was self-appointed) but whatever, it was awesome fun!
Then me and some girls helped clean up, and then we hung out in some hallway for I don’t even know how long.
All that follows is a blur, because it was so incredibly late and I wasn’t functioning properly. I basically had a ton of fun and then I went downstairs with my friend, who had hit it off with this piano teacher. They played piano in the lobby while I dozed off on a couch, vacantly watching the day clerk come and relieve the night clerk. All the waiters were coming in for work…..
My friend woke me up; it was 7:30 and we elevator-ed it up to bed, where we slept until 10:30.

There was no time for anything; we ran down, grabbed food and listened to Rabbi Wallerstein give his goodbye speech, which I recorded on my camera, yes, all nineteen minutes of it. I don’t know why but hey.
I ran upstairs, packed, and we took some last minute pictures and we were off.

I didn’t sleep for more than an hour, and we made wonderful time
The car ride home was one of the best moments, aside from Friday night and Havdalah, of course! Everyone shared their experiences and all that good stuff.

It felt so weird to come home after that crazy weekend, but writing about it some three weeks later really brings the memories back.
Hopefully, I’ll never forget the amazing things I learned there, and I’ll keep growing and changing and becoming better.
Hey, maybe one day, I’ll even learn how to write shorter blog posts!
Keep Unraveling!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. homeschooledteenwriters
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 02:38:59

    WOW! Sounds amazing!


  2. e
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 02:39:53

    Woops. That was ellbrbee. Sorry. Wrong username


  3. loser
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 04:06:26

    That sounds like tons of fun! I’m happy for you that you were able to go to such an awesome Shabbaton. I am also a bit jealous that you got to hear Rabbi Wallerstein speak in person.

    And now I shall swallow my pride and, despite the fact that you said I’d say it and so saying it would prove you right*, say it anyway: I have, in the past, carefully and extensively pondered the eat/drink dilemma, and my conclusion has been that one neither eats nor drinks soup. Soup is consumed.


    *Not that there’s anything wrong with proving you right. Just… I don’t know why, but proving people right makes me feel like I’m proving myself wrong, even in instances like this where I’m not. πŸ˜›


  4. Susan J. Flyweel
    Feb 06, 2011 @ 13:41:00

    This sounds amazing.


    *lightbulb* <— never a good sign

    I should host a weekend! It'll be great! (Or not.)


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