By a Bais Rivkah student
The Bais Rivkah High School bi-annual Shabbaton was greatly anticipated this year. As a sophomore who had never gone before, I didn’t understand the hype for Shabbaton. I didn’t get how it would be different from every other program the school makes. But I sure was in for a surprise. Because, from the moment I arrived till it was time to go back home, I was engulfed in an atmosphere I will never forget. Shabbaton is an event you must experience, and I’ll do my best to describe it for you now.
Picture five hundred high school students united for a Shabbos together. Add to that an amazing administration, staff of teachers, phenomenal 12th graders who spent weeks planning it, and the most inspirational and knowledgeable speakers, to get the Shabbos of a lifetime. The Rabbis who came to spend the weekend with us were brilliant and dedicated. Rabbi Shimmy Winebaum, Rabbi Herman, Rabbi Manis Friedman, Rabbi Pearlmutter, and Rabbi Markowitz each stayed up till late into the night farbrenging. The incredible feeling of being part of something so much greater than myself was overwhelming.
The theme of this year’s Shabbaton was trust. Trust is the basis for all interpersonal relationships, and also for our relationship with Hashem. We wake up each morning and say the words, “Rabah emunasecha–Great is Your thankfulness.” This entire world was created for one reason only; to become a dwelling place for its Creator. Hashem concealed Himself in this world only because he wants us to find Him everywhere. In the food we eat, the words we say, the people we meet, and in our daily experiences. In everything that happens to us–both good and bad–In illness and pain, in the temptations we feel, and the desires we think are our own, we have to find Hashem. Rabah emunasecha: Dear G-d, in the day I am now about to confront, You trust me! You trust me to make the right choices, to face the challenges of life with dignity, inner joy, and true strength. You believe in my ability to see beyond the reality I am facing to the future that will be. You are with me every moment of my day, cheering me on. I will strive to be deserving of it, by fulfilling the mission You sent me here to do.
The twelfth graders had gone to the hotel on Thursday and enjoyed some exclusive, fun-filled senior moments snow tubing. When the buses pulled into the Raleigh Hotel on Friday afternoon, we were greeted by enthusiastic twelfth graders singing a welcome song- “so much to discover, so much to explore, this Shabbaton’s just for you!”
Then we had a day full of electives. We enjoyed swimming, sledding, Zumba, and art, followed by a delicious Friday afternoon lunch. After bentching licht, we had an amazing program which gave us a glimpse into what was yet to come. We were addressed by Mrs. Swerdlov followed by a sister-sister game involving staff members and students. We then watched a hysterical comedy show played out by Rabbi Freidman, Rabbi Stock, Rabbi Pearlmutter, and Rabbi Herman. Then came Friday night davening. I never heard anything like it before, hundreds of girls singing aloud with one voice. We were completely in sync with the words of davening.
After the delicious Shabbos meal, the night was just beginning as teachers, Rabbis, and madrichot sat with us to farbreng, discuss, and share ideas till the wee hours of the morning. It was so inspiring to see how many people stayed up Farbrenging all night!
Despite the lack of adequate shut-eye, AM came and girls gathered for optional Chassidus before davening. “I slept for two hours, but I didn’t feel tired. I had never been so pumped in my life!” one ninth grader told me.
The Shabbos meal gave way to singing. It was followed by workshops given by our very own seniors, explaining how we can apply the theme in a practical way. Ask the rabbi, Mincha, and a scrumptious Seudah Shlishis all followed. We saw Shabbos out with a heartfelt seder negunim all together.
The Motzei Shabbos program was out of this world! In addition to the fun relay races, moon bounces, face painting, and a ventriloquist, the program had a twist to truly bring home all the inspiration we had gained–it’s called a hachlata auction. Instead of paying money to get tickets for the auction, each prize had a specific hachlata for the girls to add in for at least a week after shabbaton.
As we danced into the night I mused to myself, Is Shabbaton everything I heard about? No, I realized, absolutely not! It was more. Shabbaton is indescribable.
Is it life changing, inspiring, and long lasting? Absolutely, yes. Bais Rivkah is a different place post-Shabbaton. “The school is on a high,” related a teacher. All I can say is I can’t wait until next Shabbaton!
*Please note that pictures were chosen with care and sensitivity according to the rules of Bais Rivka High School.