Friday, April 18, 2014

What Do Rabbi Moses Isserles, Pope John Paul II and a Spiritual Vortex Have In Common?

I'm told most people like Krakow better than Warsaw but I liked Warsaw more. While nice and filled with more old world charm the sights in Krakow lacked the power I felt in Warsaw. In Krakow I also noticed a chauvinism I hadn't in Warsaw. The Poles were the best at this... This is the most beautiful in all of Europe...

For me the main highlight was the synagogue and grave of the RaMA (or as the Poles say ReMU) Rabbi Moshe Isserles who authored the Mapa (table cloth) a commentary on the ultimate code of Jewish law, the Shulchan Arukh (set table). The Shulchan Arukh was written by Rabbi Joseph Caro in Sefat (Safed) as a guide to all Jewish law and practice. Written in easily understood Hebrew for those who could not study the Talmud itself, the Shulchan becomes the definitive list of Jewish law. However, since it was written in Safed and Caro came from the Sefardic world, the Shulchan Arukh delineates Jewish law as practiced by the remnants of the Sefardic (Spanish) Jewish community. In the Mapa, Isserles
RaMa's grave
notes the differences in practice as found in the Ashkananic (European) Jewish communities. Together, the Shulchan Arukh and the Mapa become the central repository of Jewish law. I felt Isserles' presence in these sacred spaces.

In addition to its long history and beautiful old buildings most Americans only know about Krakow because it was the site of Oscar Schindler's factory. The factory still stands today and is a powerful museum dedicated to the power of a human being to do good in the face of ultimate evil. I think I felt the strength it must have taken this ethically challenged man to change his inner being and find his compassion and courage.

In the old Krakow Ghetto

Krakow's favorite son is Pope John Paul II. He was born and raised near the city. Attended a secret seminary there when the Nazi's banned the training of Catholic Priests. He served there as a priest and ultimately as Bishop and Cardinal of the city. Growing up here his closest childhood friend was a Jew and he never forgot that connection until his death. There are statues, plaques and pictures of him everywhere.

Of all the non-Jewish sites we saw in Krakow the most "unusual" was in the center of Wawel Castle. It is said that there is a spiritual vortex there and if you lean back against the wall in the right spot you can feel the vibrations. I tried it and could feel the vibration! Our guide then told us that under that spot is a confluence of 2 rivers which is what cause the vibration. 

I wonder - is the vibration just from the rivers or do the rivers that cause a vibration that becomes a vortex?

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