Yom Kippur In
It has been an extremely strange ride.
In all fairness, I would have to make this into three post, and therefore three chapters: Getting there, Being There and Getting Out.
Already on the tuk-tuk I was befriended by an English teacher from
The Thai railway system is amazing. In fact, the entire country is pretty amazing. You cannot help but wonder how a country can function with almost European standard efficiency at such a low cost. And yet it does. Service on the train is fast and quiet, meals are brought and served hot, fresh linen are placed on the sleepers which are folded out by uniformed workers. Policemen patrol the cars and distribute pamphlets warning of the dangers of accepting food or drink from strangers.
But it was here that I met the champion of boredom! An American who looked kind of groovy caught me in his web and spoke non-stop about his life for almost an hour. I finally had to pretend I had to use the toilets just to escape him. An hour of my life I will never get back.
The billboards are everywhere and they sell everything you could expect in a modern industrial society, everything that will make the consumer look nice and smell good and happy and clean and well-fed with clever children smiling white smiles. How the two societies co-exist is a mystery to me and this may explain the Red Shirt movement.
The day after Yom Kippur I had to cross
At one point I just stopped the taxi and walked. I stumbled onto a popular market with real people and real food and real garbage and real pig snouts.
On the train I also met some Israelis who had been tubing up in Vang Vieng but who were heading back to
The modern Hebrew traveler never ceases to amaze me. They may dress like rebels and have nose rings and tribal tattoos on their arms, but come a Jewish holiday or even a Shabbat and they rush to find a Chabad House.
I guess not everybody knows about Chabad, so here is a crash course – Chasidism for Modern Man, to plagiarize Martin Buber.
Many years ago a Jew named the Ba’al Shem Tov created a movement within Judaism called Chasidism, roughly translated as The Righteous. The emphasis in this movement was joy, dancing and ecstasy, as opposed to the more serious bent of Judaism up till that point. Those opposed to the Chasidim were the Misnagdim (also called the Litvaks), a group my family was part of.
OK, to make a long story short, over there in Russia and the Ukraine and other miserable places in Eastern Europe, over time every little village and town and shtetl had its own Chasidish Rebbi, a wonder-working charismatic figure to whom the Chasidic community would turn for spiritual guidance. These Rebbis formed courts and dynasties; their sons or sons-in-law would inherit the title of Rebbi for that community.
But over time,
At any rate, if you are still with me, this thing mushroomed and sent shock waves around the world. Secular Jews started converting to Chasidism on mass, and then the thing hit Israel and Rebbi Shneerson formed a team of emissaries to found Chabad Houses all around the world wherever a Jew might need another Jew. Some Chabadniks even thought Shneerson was the Messiah at one point, but that is another, even longer, story.
The Chabad house in
To non-Jewish friends of mine who were surprised that I’d be going to
For more information about Chabad, you can check out http://www.chabad.org
For another, less generous view of the organization: http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/chabad.html