Out of all the cities we visited, Tzfat gave me the best feeling inside. Of course, I loved the excitement and history of Jerusalem, and the beauty of the Golan Heights, but there was something about the calmness of Tzfat that really drew me in. We walked through narrow alleyways, spent time in ancient synagogues and visited with local artists. Everyone and everything had a very laidback nature. We had a small amount of time to go out on our own and do some shopping. It's nothing like New York, where you drive to a strip mall, stopping at various stores along the way. Here, there are dozens of open-door shops along one of the ancient cobblestone roads, owners standing right at the door, or sitting at a desk in the entryway. From paintings and jewelry made by local artists, to beautifully decorated mezuzahs and menorahs, to cheesy tourist gifts, there was a little touch of everything there. I think another reason I really fell in love with Tzfat was because I finally found the mezuzah I've been searching for there. It's just perfect for me, and it matches my room at home spot on. I also found a really beautiful oil painting of a Tzfat scene that I bought, probably for way too much money. But as I said the entire trip, "Just do it! We're in Israel!"
Tzfat was also where Roni met her husband, Rabbi Sneiderman. She told us a truly touching story about how they met, being set up not once, but twice, and by two completely different matchmakers in two different regions of the world. This is all part of the idea of "bashert" or soulmates. I had no idea that this idea was written about in the Talmud and is a part of Jewish tradition, yet it's something I've always felt strongly about. Roni explained that according to the Talmud, "Forty days prior to the formation of a child, a Heavenly Voice cries out saying 'the daughter of so and so is destined for so and so.'" She explained that essentially, you and your soulmate are two halves to the same original whole. According to chabad.org, "Every body is occupied by half a soul, and both body and soul only reach a state of completion when they are reunited with their bashert, their long-lost other half." What a beautiful, amazing, huge concept. I can't even wrap my brain around it completely, it's so huge.
Because of this idea, dating is not to be taken lightly in the least. Instead, it is a very serious and careful matter - you're trying to find your soulmate, afterall! This is an idea and feeling I think has been lost in Western society over the years, which is terribly sad to me. Listening to Roni talk so passionately about being so careful who you choose to date, I felt the tears well up in my eyes. "This is me," I thought to myself. This is how I've always felt about dating and guys and my life. All these years, I felt like no one could relate or understand how I felt, and finally I had an answer, a basis, for all of it.
Well, needless to say, after Roni finished her story, I completely lost it and starting pouring my eyes out, hugging Rachel as tight as I could and trying to pull myself together. I had many emotional experiences in Israel, but this was by far the most emotional, yet the most amazing, I felt the entire trip. Years from now, I may forget little things about my Birthright trip, but Roni's story, the story of soulmates and finding her soulmate, and the overwhelming connection and feelings I experienced, will stay with me forever. Like most wonderful things, it was unexpected, but it was more than I could have ever asked for or imagined.