Summer Escape: Nurturing the Spirit

by S. Olidort - SAFED, ISRAEL

August 28, 2003

How do the Divine attributes of kindness, beauty and royalty translate into our physical world? What does G-d really want from us? How can we become attuned to the yearnings of the soul?

These were some of the questions Racheli Bimbad pondered on a hot summer’s day in Safed, as a soft breeze blew through the windows overlooking the sea and the mountains of the Galilee.

Bimbad, 19, of Los Angeles, had spent the last year working in Moscow as a dorm mother at a Chabad-run orphanage, a position that demanded a tremendous amount of giving on a multitude of levels. Transposed from the busy Russian metropolis to this warren of cobblestone streets and spiritual landmarks, Racheli was one of forty young women, many of them teachers and outreach coordinators, who had traveled from around the globe to participate at Yeshivacation, a three-week summer program of intensive Jewish learning based in Safed.

Swept up in the mystical thrust of this ancient city, the women participated in illuminating sessions covering difficult Chassidic discourses, delving into the esoteric teachings of the Tanya, and applying the Chassidic perspective to Biblical texts. “Our goal is to provide participants with a serious Jewish learning experience,” says Mrs. Rivky Kaplan who founded the program five years ago in memory of her father-in-law, the late Rabbi Aryeh Leib Kaplan, founder and director of Chabad activities in Safed.

“After two years of teaching, I was thirsting for an opportunity to really learn,” says Chanie Telsner, 21, an educator in London. The program, says Chaya Thaler, an educator in Brooklyn, provided “a refreshing boost,” and a welcome opportunity to sit on the other side of the classroom.

“With all the demands on a Chabad woman, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the hectic schedule of Chabad House activity,” Kaplan observes. Yeshivacation strives to give participants a chance to regenerate, intellectually and spiritually. “These women are constantly on the giving end so the three weeks they spend here, gaining and learning, really suffuses them with new energy, and a greater ability to continue giving of themselves.”

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