Shabbat at Ascent


My name is Mark Chess, I am a student at the University of Texas in Austin, and have had the wonderful opportunity to spend a summer in Israel. After a month in Jerusalem learning the rationale and logic of Judaism, I was mentally convinced to pursue a life of a pious Jew. I proceeded to pray three times a day and learn Torah during every spare moment, but something was missing. I had an internal battle between my soul and my intellect. To know G-d exists is a mental decision. But to truly know Him, as a man knows his wife, is a spiritual connection that each person must find and continue to develop. I reached the climax of my battle after praying at the Kotel; yet even at the holiest place in the world, my soul felt deprived. I recognized my discomfort and could only say, "This does not feel right."

The next day I left for a few days in SAFED, including Shabbat, and lodged at ASCENT, as various friends had recommended the place to me. I soon found that Ascent is much more than a building with beds and showers; it supplies the real living necessity of spiritual growth. As I sat in the class on the deck, watching the sunset over Mount Meron with resplendent rays shining through the mist of the Kinneret, I breathed in the fresh breeze of the City of Air and knew it felt right.

Havdalah ceremony in the Ascent courtyard after Shabbat

Ascent has provided me with inspiring learning, warm hospitality, and the perfect environment for my Jewish growth. Every staff member has been a friend and teacher. Classes that start off on a perplexing tenet of Judaism often evolve into heartfelt conversation that leaves everyone with a better understanding. The media center is stacked with audio and visual tapes and computer software on any topic I may desire, Jewish law, philosophy, science and even Torah Codes with my name. We greeted the Shabbat on the Ascent balcony singing Lecha Dodi in the city where it originated and danced outside in the twilight sky. Each of us was placed in a home in the community for Shabbat dinner to experience an authentic family dinner. Shabbat culminated with the third meal at Ascent, where we all gathered for eating and singing. Ascent is the perfect environment for any traveler on his spiritual journey.

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