MAGIC CARPET: My Thanksgiving at Ascent

by Andee Goldman


Imagine taking a magic carpet ride from your everyday mundane life to a very special place located in Tsfat, a mystical city in the North of Israel, 900 meters (3200 feet) above sea level in the mountains of the Upper Galilee. Hidden amongst the city's ancient walls is Ascent, a place to learn Jewish Mysticism, Kabbalah, Judaism, and Man's (Woman's) relationship with self and G-d.

While most of my American friends were celebrating Thanksgiving dinners, I was attending a seminar on "The Mysticism of Love". There were approximately 36 of us - married, single, young and old. Maybe it was the high altitude or the history of the area, but I felt very different in Tsfat.

Looking out at the valley from the balcony of Ascent was like seeing any valley in the world. However, I was looking where the Zohar was written! The Zohar is comprised mainly of the teachings of the foremost kabbalist, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. For thirteen years he and his son hid in a cave to escape the Romans who wanted to kill them (2nd century CE). Miraculously, they were sustained by the fruit of a carob tree and water from a spring until the emperor died and their sentence was annulled. Now Madonna and other Hollywood stars study the Zohar.

There is no way for me to share every moment of this exciting long weekend. So, here are some highlights -

PERSONAL TORAH CODES - Every Jew has a personal Torah code. It is usually in the portion of the Torah read in the week you are born. For example, I was born on a Wednesday which reflects the fourth day of the week or the 4th portion. The Torah reading during the week I was born was Bamidbar. There is no "chance" or "luck" in life. I couldn't believe what I heard because I am right where I should be.

"SPEECH - is occasionally used to signify intercourse in the Torah because communication is a means of achieving intimate contact with another human being. However, when speech is not proper, severe problems can result. Good communication is an expression of love. Numerically, the word "mouth" in Hebrew (peh) equals "love" plus "kindness" (85). The whole purpose of the mouth is to express the love that one feels in the heart."

Sounds so easy to say, but hard to practice. This world would be a better place if we would watch our SPEECH, but we are human. On the bright side, we are much better than animal because we can change our bad habits.

HOLINESS IN EVERYDAY LIFE - In order to raise the level of any relationship (marriage, children, work, and friends) we need to add G-d and G-dliness. When I used to be in the mortgage business in Las Vegas, a client once told me a story about people leaving "G-d outside" of work, home, etc. When he decided not to leave G-d in his car, his life changed for the better.

IMPOSSIBILITY is POSSIBLE - When life feels impossible, you must keep going to reveal your true self. The must keeps you going and you hit the essential of your soul. Do what you have to, accept and you will become successful. The result will be because YOU WANT, not because you MUST.

Some of us proved this theory when we went on one of the Ascent hikes the day after a very heavy rain and the hills were muddy. I am so proud of myself. I was one of the first to reach the bottom of the hill at Amuka. I passed the 20 & 30 year olds as they were slipping and sliding the hill. Below is a picture of JUST PART of the hill - the lower third. The upper two thirds was almost straight down.












Where we hiked was very close to Lebanon and Syria. In fact we could see the burned area caused by rockets during the 2nd Lebanon War. The area looked like Southern California after the recent fire. The stories of those who lived during the war were unbelievable. Most of the people who stayed experienced their windows (car & home) blown out due to the rockets. The emotions of running for cover when the sirens went off. The stress of staying or taking their family out of their home to another part of Israel. I am not talking about the military, but the average Israeli civilian. The woman who took us on our hike told us about her neighbor who was in the process of remodeling her home and had a big hole in the roof where a rocket landed AND DIDN'T BLOWUP.

One of the men in our group told us how his "Tank Unit" was one of the last Tanks to leave Lebanon. He said it felt like "getting the Hell out of Dodge". Usually a tank has room for 5 men. An Israeli will never leave another soldier behind so they had 12 men in the tank. Of course, they couldn't close the top. The driver was religious and started singing and humming songs in order to get the other men busy clapping and putting out sparks (fire ashes) as they were landing inside the tank. When they made it to safety the driver told the 12 soldiers how close the rockets were to the tank. Every direction the driver went, the rockets followed.

MUSIC - The weekend also included music and dancing. The "live soul" music played by the Chasidim made me feel like I was at a music festival. Drums, guitars, singing, humming and hand clapping. Yes, Rabbis are multi-talented.

THE WEE HOURS - The highlight of my trip was the last night when I couldn't sleep. There was so much to think about that I got up at 3a.m. and decided to go to the lounge for a cup of tea. I was surprised to find a group of 15 young men and women who were sharing their souls. They invited me to join them. Maybe it was because I beat them down the muddy hill. The reason why I was invited is not important. What is important is what they all shared with me. They wished their mother (or father) were sharing the weekend with them. They appreciated my taking the time to speak with them as an equal. The group hug was a real tear jerker. Each one of us can touch another soul without knowing.

My transportation back to my everyday mundane life was via a bus. Unfortunately the "magic carpet" likes to go up, not down. Maybe that is why ASCENT in TSFAT is very spiritual.

I wish you all the best and may G-d watch over you and your families.
With love from Israel,


Before making aliyah and moving to Netanya, Andee Goldman lived in Henderson, Nevada. She grew up in Burbank, CA. She states exuberantly that she much prefers life in Israel! She would also enjoy hearing from the friends she made at ASCENT, at or 077 767-6141. (For another seminar review by Andee, click here.)

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