Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ayelet Montage

Montage of video clips from Ayelet's 2nd-4th weeks of life.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Chag Sameach!

A gift from my favorite Channukah singing sensation, The LeeVees:

How Do You Spell Channukkahh??

Monday, December 11, 2006


Sorry, couldn't resist:

Tis the Season

It is mid-December and 2007 is just around the corner. December for me marks the '4th Month Slump'. I have almost completed my fourth month here in Jerusalem and in addition to feeling at home and settled, the 4th month can also bring about bouts of depression. I seem to have managed to miss these by once again finding myself surrounded with multiple things to do and no down time. Both a pro and a con.

I do miss so many familiar faces and new family members but am fortunate for a slew of guests who have already begun to arrive. I am meeting up with Aaron Pratt in the next couple of days and Benji Engelhart arrives on Wednesday. I then get to see some of my favorite UW students, the Margolies entourage, Mindy Hirsch, fellow UMDers and Hillel gurus.

I have for the most part completed the majority of the logistical work I have been working on for Hillel. I have been helping coordinate the Shabbat Scholars program that places young Jews like myself who are in Israel for the year with visiting Taglit-birthright israel trips. It has consumed most of my time and energy for the last few weeks so I am glad the craziness is calming. I will be spending 3 Shabbats with groups the first of which is next weekend. Better get moving on the Torah prep...technically I've only read Torah once but having done Megillat Esther how hard can it be?? (famous last words...)

I took a mental health day today per the suggestion of my friend Jeremy. Last week was one that required a lot of hugs. I really enjoy the work, volunteering and school but it was getting to be a lot at once. It was nice to get a good night's sleep and catch up on more work/errands I needed to get done.

Last Thursday night we went out to celebrate Francine's 25th birthday, see photos on my flickr account (link to the left side of the page). It was fun to get out.

It seems like the slump is making its way around school I guess thats why the arrival of Channukah is so perfectly timed. We have all of next week off and I look forward to all the visits and a possible trip to the zoo!

Shameful Promotion of Friend's Video

A 'How To' on Channukah Candle Lighting featuring Simi Sherman:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


This morning when I left the house my electric toothbrush was working and my watch was ticking. In the span of the day both went dead. coincidence or conspiracy? you decide.

It's hard to believe that this Friday marks December. Time here seems to be racing by. With no weekends I find myself constantly in motion. I don't know where the weeks go.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ayelet Rachel

Here are some more photos as they trickle in:

for more visit: www.rosenblumfamily.com/photos/

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tarni Rosinblum

No, that isn't her real name but will be one I will call her for years to come. Here are my first sightings:

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Week In Review

It seems that each time I sit down to update my blog I have SOO much to say yet can't seem to find a way to fit it all in. Therefore I will give you the week in review:

1. Sunday Evening: Chaim, Jon and Annie stop by for what is intended to be a quick hello/picking up clothing for a wedding Annie is going to in Beer Sheva on Wednesday. But the night took an interesting turn (literally) when Jon used our bathroom sink. The knob on the sink broke and before we knew it our bathroom was flooding. Being 11pm at night and unable to find a shut off valve we opened up the phone book and located a 24 hour plumber. Trying to explain what was happening in my not wonderful Hebrew I mentioned we had a water problem with our sink. The plumber (Shravrav=plumber in Hebrew) said not to worry he would come tomorrow afternoon to which I exclaimed 'Lo! Yesh Lanu Mabul b'kiyor; Ha'Mayim lo Atzur!= No! we have a flood (biblical word used for Noah and the ark, later learned the modern day term is HaTzefah) in the sink the water isn't stopping!. So a half hour later, we are all wet from the knees down and still passing buckets and pots in a chain from the sink to the bathtub/toilet, the shravrav walks in carrying an address book. AN ADDRESS BOOK! He goes, ooohhh now I see and goes to get his tools. It takes him 3 minutes to remove the faucet and plug up the leak in the wall. It then takes me 3 minutes to turn over the 450 NIS I now owe him for the job.

2. Monday Evening: Darfur Rally. With a thoughtful and understanding Chavruta (learning buddy) from Night Seder I left early with many fellow students to attend the Darfur rally happening in Kikar Zion. Organized by many youth here in Israel it was a good showing of a couple hundred. Incredibly well done for a group that had a group of maybe 50 standing in a circle on a street corner only a few months ago. There were many speakers ranging from secular to religious, female and male, speaking in Hebrew and Engligh. What was very enlightening was the current situation in Israel with Sudaneese refugees. There are aprox. 250 Sudaneese refugees here in Israel. They crossed Africa on foot making their way across the desert to the border of Israel. When they tried to claim assylum they were thrown in prison. The reason is because Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Sudan and being mere citizens of Sudan they are percieved as a threat. On the other hand they cannot send them back either because of the terrible fates that would await them there. Since there is no other country that is opening their arms widely asking to help they are now residing in Israeli prison. There is an organization here called C.A.R.D. which is raising fund and education about the situation. They have begun an exchange program with Moshavim and Kibbutzim. They raise the money to get refugees out on bail and then place them in the exchange where they live and work on the Moshav or Kibbutz. 40 refugees have been released through such programs. The challenge at the moment is increasing the funding to allow integration into society for all of these refugees. I promise to get contact information about this group for a later post. In the meantime here is a photo of us at the rally taken by Mobius aka The Jewish Anarchist aka Dan. You can check his stuff out at www.jewschool.com

3. Tuesday Evening: Another night at Crossroads. I am finding each time I go I am connecting more with the kids. I am getting a lot out of my time there.

4. Wednesday Evening: I came home after making up my night seder chavruta and did some work. One of the challenges I have noticed is that although I love everything I am doing in my life I am still finding myself at times overwhelmed. Not a lot of downtime. As a result I think some of my interpersonal relationships with friends have suffered. So although it was already nearing the late side I decided to meet up with my friend Esty. We went to this very quaint cafe, sat and just chatted for a while. It was really nice.

5. Thursday Evening: THANKSGIVING! An incredibly nice evening full of good company and food. Although technically there was no turkey Annie made some delicious chicken that tasted just as good. Mark Nelson and friend also dropped in for a bit. A former student who made aliyah in June and will be entering the army in January, I had not seen him since my time last year in Seattle. He looks great, happy, and it was good to catch up. Here is a taste of Thanksgiving this year in my apartment:

I hope everyone's went well and took time out to mention or at least think of things you are thankful for. Above all I am thankful for the continual support of my friends and family both here and especially an ocean away. Thank you!

The entire evening was super fun and included my very first Thanksgiving sleepover party! Here are a few images from the night. Stay tuned for more photos!

6. Friday Evening: Friday day started bright and early with a meeting at Crossroads. I met with the other volunteers and the volunteer coordinator and we talked more about the center and our roles there. They do such important work. Already being downtown I went straight to the shuk and got all my shopping needs. In addition to my food supplies for the weekend I bought a microwavable pillow (to heat the muscles in my back--proving to be very theraputic already) and a couple of tunic blouses. They are the first 'uneccesary purchases' I have made here in Israel. I have really been trying to limit what I need and don't need in my consumer behavior. It has been somewhat of a process really ever since my experience in El Salvador. Actually buying the clothes gave me very mixed reactions. I am glad I am still consciously thinking about it although I also have to realize there is room for saying personal purchase is also okay. I was home by noon and my sleepover friends had cleaned up my apartment! what a great thank you present!! With all the dishes done and the beds put away all that was left was for me to climb into my own bed and grab a quick nap. I woke up with plenty of time to get ready for Shabbat. It's the first time I haven't felt frazzled in weeks! In fact I had so much time I was one of the very first people at Shira Chadasha! Bet that won't happen again! Dinner was nice, I ate with a crowd who I haven't spent a ton of time with yet this year. Good to mix things up.

7. Shabbat: I spent the morning sleeping in with a chapter shot from David Sedaris. Then the Sarahs and I went over to Grace and Irving Abramowitz's home for Shabbat lunch. I love going there, I need to do it more often. Tonight I hosted a very small get together full of interesting and thoughtful discussion. It was a nice way to cap of the week.

I miss you and am sad I cannot be there with you, but cannot wait to meet you!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Turkey Day

Those of you who know me know I love Thanksgiving. Each year differs and its been a few years now since I have been home. This is my second Thanksgiving in Israel, the first was back in 1999. I have also spent Thanksgiving in London, on Bainbridge Island, and last year in my basement apartment in Seattle (see video below). Tomorrow evening will be my first ever Thanksgiving sleep over. I am only responsible for mashed potatoes, stuffing, and providing people with places to sleep. Not a bad deal.

The great Cranberry Challenge of 2005:

Jacob, Daniel, Tal and Mike, you will be missed!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tiyul Video

Thanks to Jeremy Weintraub for creating a memorable Negev tiyul video:

more to come.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

oh LOST!

I just visited the ABC website and found this message: LOST will begin 16 straight weeks of all new episodes in February. Till then, check back for a weekly sneak peek of what's to come! FEBRUARY 7th!! Do you have any idea how far way that is?!?! For a junkie like me?? TOO LONG! Why ABC? Why?

Now totally isolated from American television I guess that the 50 minutes a week I dedicated for LOST will now have to be replaced by something else (until Feb. 7th that is).

This week has been long and my cough has decided to stick around. Maybe with enough rest this weekend it will move on.

This afternoon the Fellows took a walking tour around the area of Talpiot, Arnona, and ended at Kibbutz Ramat Rahel. We passed several notable Israeli scholar and artist homes including the home of S.Y. Agnon--the 1966 Nobel Prize winner. It seems that every corner has a rich history and story to accompany it.

Tomorrow night we are hosting a travelling Shabbat Minyan called Kol Zimrah (Voice of Melody). It's an Egal traditional/crunchy service that is always followed by a vegetarian potluck. I will spend the morning cleaning and shopping but whats nice is that I don't have to leave the apartment after noon.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Coughing Up a Storm

It's official. I have taken my first sick day of the year. With a chest cold, I am holed up in my bed, coughing, sneezing, and resting. People have called it the 'Jerusalem Chill' aparently I am not the first victim of the season...

This past week has been like all the others, gone before you know it. But it was a good week. We went on Tiyul to the Negev (trip to the desert) for 3 days. There was some incredible hiking. Each day there were 2 options a more strenuous hike and a less challenging one. I did the strenube the not so proud recipient of the Jerusalem chill. The names of the hikes were the 'Big Fin', Nachal Gov, and Nachal Zevaiim. The Big Fin was just that a mountain with a narrow, steep ascent whoes shape strongly resembles that of a fin. Once at the top we overlooked the Machtesh HaGadol (the big Machtesh). Turns out Machtesh is a term used by geologists all over the world. Similar to the appearance of a crater it is formed by immense water pressure eroding sandstone buried under limestone. There are only 5 in the world, 3 in the Negev and 2 in the Sinai. Nachal Gov I think was my favorite hike. It was full of ropes, ladders, and rock slides. Then the final day we hiked Nachal Zevaiim. A 7 hour hike where we were told to be prepared to get a little wet. About 4 hours in we were all standing waist deep in water!

We got back Thursday evening, I went to the grocery store and then headed home. after a shower and being VERY achy I got ready for my out of town guests. Rach Margolies and Josh Klemons came in from Arad where they are doing the WUJS program. I stayed up chatting with them til about 1am and then headed to bed. In the morning we went to check out a breakfast place for pancakes (its no Portage Bay, but pretty good) met up with Annie and walked to the Hebrew U. stadium for the Jerusalem Pride Rally. We bumped into Jay Rosen, Tali Golan, David Bernay, Lisa Stella, and others. It was a good way to spend the morning especially after all the controversy that had been going on about it. There was only one very minor disturbance, but it was overshadowed by the beautiful weather, friendly people and a performance by HaDag Nachash (popular Israeli hip hop/rock group). After 3 songs Rach and I headed home to cook Shabbat dinner. Shabbat was really nice, 11 people for dinner and then lunch at Jenny and Max's.

Saturday night Annie, Jenny, and Esty all came over to eat leftovers and watch Grey's Anatomy. It was the first time since Monday evening I was able to just sit. I made it to school in the morning but after 2 hours of coughing my way through the beit midrash I decided to go back to bed. So here I am. I am planning on going back tomorrow and just hope this cough begins to go away!

Monday, November 06, 2006


I was all prepared to type out my notes from this great lecture on identity I went to by Steve Cohen. But I am finding myself pressed for time. Here is the quick update on whats been going on:

1. Thursday had a really interesting panel discussion about the assasination of Rabin that happened 11 years ago yesterday. His memorial is commemorated on the Hebrew calendar date that was earlier this week. The panel was full of faculty members who were each present in Israel and affiliated with various political movements at the time. It was interesting in hearing their analysis of the build up to the assasination, the assasination itself, and the aftermath. Then a bunch of folks came over and we held a Pan-Asian Pirate Potluck Party Pre-Boogie (cause why not have an excuse to dress up like pirates??)

2. Friday night went to a Havurah called the Kagan minyan here in Jerusalem. It was really really beautiful and nice to do something out of the mainstream. After services and a potluck dinner we had teachings and song from people of various faiths. I heard a Sufi Muslim give a teaching on the story of Sarah and Hagar; a French priest sing songs in Latin and a Jewish man give a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov. Very interesting indeed.

3. I got the call back from Crossroads and will officially start volunteering next Tuesday.

4. I have officially been hired to do some freelance work for Hillel international. I am coordinating the Shabbat Scholars program for the incoming Taglit-birthright israel trips and Winter Missions.

5. I leave at 5:30am tomorrow for 3 days of hiking in the desert.

My life just got a whole lot busier!

Also a BIG BIG Mazel Tov to Talia and Simi Sherman on the birth of twin boys!!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Last night I had my trial for volunteering at an organization called Crossroads. It is a center located in the heart of 'Town' that works with at-risk teens. Most are English speakers. Some are the children of families who immigrated to Israel, but never quite acclimated to Israeli society themselves. Others are American youth who found them selves here but are struggling with being in a foreign country, a pressured environment (school) etc... I would be there just as a presence in their open center where kids come in and hang out as an alternative to the street.

I should be chatting with someone from the center in the next couple of days. If all goes well, I will be volunteering there Tuesday nights from about 6:30-10pm for the rest of the year.

I feel that it is an important thing to do.

Monday, October 23, 2006

yes, my grammar is....well lets call it awful.

This morning my brother in-law sent me an email saying that I am surely on my way to making aliyah because my grammar is strongly reflecting that of an Israeli. In my own defense, and embarrasment I have ALWAYS sucked at grammar (I'll throw spelling in as well). Just ask Mrs. Kronisch, my high-school English teacher.

In addition to apologizing for my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, grammar; I also want to apologize that my verbal rantings may not sound at all logical to you. But I figure you are all more interested in the photos anyways, so thanks for trudging along. It makes sense up top to me, and i suppose for the time being and because of the limits of my linguistic articulation, it will have to do.

This morning we celebrated our second day of Rosh Chodesh Chesvan. It truly was a day of celebration. There were long silver trumpets blown, songs sung, and bagels eaten. We also celebrated the finalization of the conversion of one of my classmates. He spoke about what the journey has meant to him and how he finally feels like he 'has come home'. All of our connections to our religions differ. It is our individuality that makes us who we are. I will forever be envious of someone who makes such a choice. I am Jewish because I was born Jewish. It is how I define myself, but it is not something I actively choice. I see beauty in it and want to continue to live my life in it, but I will never see it in the same light as one who opts into it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Another weekend has passed. And within it we read the first Torah portion-Bereishit (In the Beginning) restarting the cycle. We are also in the process of celebrating Rosh Chodesh (The new moon cycle). I am in the process of rethinking my own relationship to Judaism from it's beginning, its formalization, and where it stands today.

The air is getting brisker, almost time to pull out the orange puffer! I spent Shabbat with my friend Beth Meshel at Brigette and Jon Raven's home in Nave Daniel. They have 2 beautiful children named Boaz and Moriah. Boaz may be the cutest boy alive--until my new neice/nephew arrives, ofcourse. I thought I would share some photos (for more check out the link to the left of the page!):

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I Take It Back

The lack of quality public leaders who inspire me and make me want to subscribe to their cause is something that has been troubling me ever since my trip to El Salvador this past March. A couple of days ago I blogged about the concepts of Darcei Shalom and how wonderful I thought the Mishnas surrounding those ideas are. I still like the Mishnas, but I am deeply disturbed with the Men that wrote them. Why? Because of comments they made about the 'Am HaAretz', the non-scholarly Jews who were living during the time period. Such vulgar and descriptive stereotypes that I will not waste my time writing. How is it that such Men could also be the authors of our Halachic law, the framework on how we as Jews are suppose to live our lives?? How am I able to subscribe to such a system when I feel so disgusted with their words on relationships with those outside the Talmudic community? They are arrogant, they are pretentious--yes they are Human, I hold leaders to a higher standard. They are setting the example. The Gemara itself event mentions this in different circumstances, so how does it not apply here?? I know I have also writen about contradictory opinions and how great it is that there are a variety of voices. BUT the difference for me is that one is commentary and in this case its law. Just as I frown at the actions of Moshe Katsav, I frown at their words. And just as bad leaders make me lose faith in a system, I am losing faith in the Halachic framework.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sugar High

I left school today feeling pumped. Started the day off with Tractate Gittin, a tractate that deals with issues of divorce within Jewish law. But what is interesting is that in Chapter five the final 2 Mishnas discuss issues of Darcei Shalom, Ways of Peace. We discussed how different social laws were constructed and how they were done so for the sake of Darcei Shalom. Among them, establishing the rule that when we read the Torah there should be a set order for getting an Aliyah, or coming to read. First the Cohen, then Levi, and then any Israelite. Why was it necessary to create such laws? One can assume that such laws were created because there was not Peace and on the contrary there was much fighting going on. I won't get into all the different examples (They are Mishnas Chet and Tet for those of you who want to look it up) but what was interesting is how diverse they were and how it was necessary to create some sort of social status to remove infighting. One more example I will share is that of a wife of a scholar may lend instruments to a woman of the land who has transgressed the laws of the Shmitah year (sabbatical year- every 7 years- to restore a balance between the wealthy and poor as well as the earth) by retaining fruit she was supposed to give up to a communal pot. Although the scholarly wife may know that this other woman will use the tools to further the transgression, if asked she may lend them however she cannot partake in the act itself for the sake of Darcei Shalom. Could you imagine if this became a social standard of today?? Instead of Haredim throwing stones at cars and yelling SHABBOS!! to Chilonim on Shabbat, that if a Chiloni man was to ask a Haredi man for directions while in the front seat of his car the Haredi man will assist him?? Although we have not yet learned it we were told that this chapter is linked with a chapter on Tikun Olam (repairing the world). The interesting question is what are these two chapters: Darcei Shalom and Tikun Olam doing in the middle of a Tractate on divorce law??? Interesting indeed...

The school day ended with the concept of "Agreed Reality" and how we interpret text. Similar to a previous entry, my mind was expanded by this teacher named Daniel Roth. We continued to talk about the idea of Mediative Parshanut and study. That we as student should study the full spectrum of text and commentators. We do not have to pick a side like the Classic commentators do (i.e. Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Ramban, etc...). On the contrary, we should open our minds to the idea that multiple and contradictory truths can exist. When there are gaps that remain in a story, thats okay. When we try to fill them in we destroy the ambiguity (sp??) that exists for our minds to wonder. We should be promoting education towards complexity. For there are only 2 kinds of people who say that "x" Pashat (textual words of the Torah) is true: 1. Academics 2. Fundamentalists. If we remove the ambiguity we limit it. I asked him after class if this idea only relates to the Parshanut (the commentators) and the Rabbi's commentary. OR if it can also apply to the text itself. We got into this long conversation (that I look forward to continuing) and it ended with what I will coin as my big questions of the year: WHY MUST THE CONVERSATION END?? WHY ARE WE LIMITED TO THE THOUGHTS AND UNDERSTANDINGS OF A GENERATION NOT OUR OWNN? IS THERE ROOM FOR NEW UNDERSTANDING AND PRACTICE SET ON THE PRECEDENT OF THE PAST BUT APPLICABLE TO THE PRESENT??. I am sick of the answer because that is the way it was always done and we need to uphold it. Time, places, generations, community participants, global environment etc... is always changing and have always changed. So why aren't we?? There was no 'this was how it was done' since 'this' was evolving...

I capped off the day with a trip to the waffle bar with the roomates, Shesh Jabotinsky (i.e. Molly and Jessy ) and Eric. My maple nut butter waffle was AMAZING, but it's sugar high aftermath is why i am writing so much, so late. Lets hope one cup of coffee in the morning is enough...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Oy! Moshe Katsav...

Okay, okay it didn't rain on my walk to school this morning. In fact it was quite a lovely start to the morning. I woke up early, packed my lunch, made some breakfast and enjoyed a cup of coffee while surfing various internet news sites. What was the headline on each and every one of them (with the exception of the drudgereport)?? Israeli President Moshe Katsav to be charged with rape. What follows as you read the article? That the defense minister underwent sexual harasment charges, there are embezelment charges in half a dozen departments and that the Prime Minister is linked to numberous cases of nepatism among other things. Way to go Israel! Yes, each country has their own issues. You may ask if Israel should be held to higher standards. My opinion? In the case of our leadership, absolutely.

The first day back went well. It picked up slowly and by the afternoon I was glad to be back. More good conversations about if the halachic conversation is shut and if our generation is limited to the codification of another and what that means about our lifestyle today.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I Miss East Coast Autumns...

A week ago I was sitting on the beach, today we had the first rain in Jerusalem. Yes, its kinda cool that we just switched the words in our prayers from the prayer for dew to the prayer of rain yesterday and it rained today...blah..blah..blah. But I'm cold, and I have to walk to school in the rain. There are no beautiful trees turning red and gold, crunchy maple leaves beneath your feet...just rain. We start classes again in the morning. I am excited to get back into a groove, but could use another week of vacation - with no rain.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sukkot/Hoshana Rabba

Today is the final evening of Sukkot which not only means an end to the holiday, but an end to my vacation as well. The time was well deserved, and well spent. Well rested? I hope to use the next couple of days for that one. I went to Netanya, a coastal town north of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean Sea. The beach there is beautiful with soft sand and clear water. You can stand in the waves up to your waist and still sea the tops of your feet! It was good to get away, and it was a good group of people who came as well. In general it takes time to get to know people as more than just people but as friends. For me I think it has taken up until the last couple of weeks to get to that point. It's nice to go into this next leg of the school year with that area of my life being settled. Here are a couple of photos from the trip:

came back to Jerusalem yesterday afternoon with Tasman. We met up with Molly for dinner and then headed to a cultural fair in Bell park. There was celtic music and a drum cirlce--if you know me you know I was beyond excited.

I woke up a bit too early this morning but headed to the shuk instead of falling back asleep. It was amazing that it was so quiet at 8:30am yet only minutes later it was packed and hustling.

Tonight I went to a Hoshana Rabba evening in the Sukkah, a first for me. There was meditation, singing, and a pot luck. I was also invited to speak and so I thought I would share the words with you (these are my rough notes so I apologize if the thoughts seem scattered):

Hoshana Rabba “The Great Salvation”

--a day where the final verdict is made. It is written on RH, sealed on YK but this day is when it is made.

--Day where acc. To the Zohar, “ This is the final day of judgment for water, source of all blessings. On the seventh day of Sukkot the judgment of the world is finalized and the edicts are sent forth from the King. Zohar III, 31b-32a; II, 132a

Water is the element that sustains us. It is what will allow us to survive. For me the entire Holiday of Sukkot is one where we expose ourselves to the vulnerability of life. We create these fragile, temporary dwellings and can be subject to wind, rain, hail, lack of privacy, etc… For me this fragility reminds me of 2 things:

1.First, it’s a traditional tie to our heritage. Avraham Infeld, former president of Hillel International, has a very famous speech. It is in this speech that he asks the question what is the Hebrew word for history?? Historia? Why? Because the Jewish people don’t have a Jewish history, we have a Jewish Memory- L’zocher. In order to know who we are we must know where we came from. It is on this holiday where we remember from where we came. Not just the people, but the physical journey. A people, living tribally, being exposed to the unknown and living a life entirely based on faith. Not knowing what may happen from one day to the next, the people of Israel exposed themselves not only physically but spiritually as well.

The second thing that comes to mind is how we continue to expose ourselves, particularly in the physical sense, on this holiday. We build sukkot, some more sturdy than others, more lavish than others, etc… And each night we invite in a guest of honor. Our Ushpizin. Tonight we invite the last of the Ushpizin, David HaMelech. The greatest king of Israel. He is the last of a long line of prestigious. It is only during one other holiday of year that we call in guests to our tables. On Passover we read aloud “He who is hungry let him come and eat”. Each year you may discuss how genuine this invitation is. Do you open the door and shout it in the streets? Do you make a public declaration? Do you just read it aloud in your Hagaddah? And on this holiday we call out to our guests, in our sukkot with no sealed roofs. Our shouts are most likely overheard by neighbors or passerbys. In our fragile huts… When we are cold and wet, we may be one step closer to understanding the day to day lives of those who do not have the comforts we may take for granted. Heat, a roof, walls, etc…

I think it is food for thought of why we invite the most prestigious guests of our heritage to our table in a situation vulnerability and why we invite those in need when we are celebrating our freedom? Should they be reversed? Is it a balance that should be maintained?

There is also a custom on Hoshana Rabba to greet friends with the Aramaic saying “piska tova”, a good note. The idea is that this day of our judgments being handed down should be good notes.

On the last day of the Holiday of Sukkot I would like you each to take a few moments and think of a couple of good notes. Think about your own lives, this holiday, vulnerability of the physical, and vulnerability of the spiritual. If you could write yourself a ‘piska tova’ for this next year what would it say? If you could write one for another, who comes to mind? What would that say? I would like to take a few moments and ask that if you feel comfortable share these thoughts with the person sitting next to you. What may you wish for them?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Quick Updates

Trip Up North
I spent three days last week with 30 other Pardes students doing volunteer work and a bit of touring in the North. We cleaned bomb shelters and picked up garbage in Kiryat Shimona, saw a bombed out house and some burnt forest. We also visited the Hula valley, Katzrin, went kayaking on the Jordan river, and visited Tsfat. It was good to get out of Jerusalem and gave me an opportunity to get to know some folks better.

Marni's Party
We arrived back to town Thursday evening. A few hours later we were celebrating the birthday of a classmate. The party resulted in an after party at some sketchy Israeli club that left us dancing until 2:30 in the morning. Which then resulted in a Friday morning hangover, good times...

The festival of booths is upon us and I forgot how cool it is to spend it here in Israel. There are sukkot built everywhere. I spent the first evening at a classmate's brother's house who's sukkah was built on the roof. All 15 of us climbed a narrow fire escape, hoisted up the food and ate Bedouin style on carpets and pillows. An experience to say the least. First day lunch I was at a teacher's home with 3 other Pardesniks. AMAZING food, good company and conversation. It is nice to get to know the faculty more outside of the classroom. In the afternoon Tasman and I headed over to Gary's and were hanging out for a bit in the sukkah on the mirpeset (balcony). Lots of sukkah time. I am heading this afternoon for lunch to new friend's Jenny and Max's home. Tomorrow we are off to the beach for a few days before the weather turns cold and we are back in classes.

Apparently no matter where I go I am destined to bump into someone. I saw Aryeh Abramowitz floating down the Jordan river, a shopkeeper from the UMD Israel shuk in Tsfat, Gary and Gail Cantor and the Geller family on the streets of Jerusalem.

Monday, October 02, 2006


About three hours ago Yom Kippur ended. It got me thinking a lot about preparation. For the last month the focus of my studies has been to 'prepare' me for the Yomim Noraim (Days of Awe) Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur. I guess the question I have walking out is did it make a difference? Did all this prep work guide me in some way to have an experience I would not have had otherwise??

I think that in many ways each event we participate in prepares us in some way. Maybe the intent is not to gear us up for something big, but aren't we always preparing for what is next?

(I have included a lot of visuals, because lets be honest they make blog reading much more fun!)

Sure some are more mundane events than others. For example:
Here is Jack 'preparing' the delicious meal he made for us last week, and the Sarah's 'preparing' to pass out after being thoroughly fed well:

Others are more intentional forms of preparation. Here is Bassin sewing some final touches on the Talit (prayer shawl) she made for the High Holidays:

My friend Jeremy also held a milestone party. Marking how far he had come in a specific aspect of his life. In a way that is what the High Holidays are all about, reflection and noting where you are in life. It also makes us take time out to think about where we are going. I was really touched to be there and it made me take a moment to think if I have anything in my life that I am that proud to mark on occasion. Why is it we only leave 'special occasions' to birthdays and for some anniversaries? Maybe we should all find something we are proud of to share with others. Here is a photo of Jeremy and I:

This past weekend friends and I went to witness a preparation ritual specifically for Yom Kippur. Known as Kaparot (or Kaparos) the idea is that you swing a chicken around your head while saying a blessing transferring your sins onto the chicken. The chicken is then killed and donated to a needy family for food. The idea is not that the chicken becomes your 'scapegoat' but that if you were to be written in bad standing with God based on your judgement thus far the chicken's death should be in stead of yours and that you should gain merit by donating it to the poor. (i think...) In any case we went with the intent of participating in the ritual, got up there and after witnessing it all decided not to. Watching the birds get schechted (killed according to Jewish ritual) right in front of us was a bit to much for me. Although it was an experience I will not forget and may never see again. Here are Jay and Daniela preparing to go into Mea Shearim (an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood where the Kaparot were taking place). In order to make it appropriate for Jay to be walking with 3 girls Daniela put on a head scarf to imply they were a married couple:

When we were there I didn't think it was appropriate for me to take a photo. But I tried to find one that best represented what we saw. I couldn't really, but this one comes closest:

As a most appropriate after Kaparot event we headed over to meet friends at Egon hookah bar. Okay, not YK prep but definately needed after the chicken swinging:

Looking back on these events and then Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur I do still wonder about how much the preparation did really affect me. Overall I would say that my RH experience highly outweighed my YK experience. The only factors I can attribute to that are environment, weather and health. Its amazing how much a screaming child can ruin your silent prayer/meditation. I think overall though it was helpful to take time out and 'prepare' both intentionally through classes and meditation and unintentionally through everyday actions. I hope that you all had wonderful holidays.

Speaking of preparation, I am off tomorrow for a 3 day volunteer trip up north with MASA and I haven't yet packed... will let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Liberation through the deconstruction of Jonah

This past summer I was having a conversation with a friend over dinner. She mentioned that she had recently stopped an action that had been a part of her everyday lifestyle. Her reasoning was that 'I could no longer make sense of why I was doing it, so I decided to stop'. For a long time this has summed up my struggle with Halacha. My barrier however is actually putting it into practice. I no longer find a lot of traditional Halacha relevant to my life, but I am still unable to break it. It has been such a part of my life for so long that to now disregard it seems inherently unatural. Furthermore if I was raised under the premise that Halacha is truth (meaning the way God intended it), and I reject this to be truth then what does that say about my interpretation of the rest of the text (everything else I am told to believe because God told me so)? It is not only in Rabbinical Halacha that I take issue, but in the words of the text found in the Torah as well.

For a while now I have been trying to find some sort of reconciliation. Is there a way for me to find meaning without understanding the text to be absolute truth? What does this mean for my life as a Jew? Do I live a traditional Halachic lifestyle if I no longer by into it? What does it mean in relation to the community I want to build my life in? What does it mean for my family and the community I come from? I am far from finding the answers to these questions. But I have begun to find a feeling of liberation in how I can approach and understand the text.

Today in one of my classes we asked the question about the methodology of the text and what is understood to be true. How do we understand the text? Can an understanding be found in just the words? is it inherently linked with Midrash (stories that are commonly linked to but not found within the text themselves)? Do we take the commentaries to be the 'TRUE' understanding of text? what is TRUE?

It is comforting to learn that understandings of all commentators and readings of the text themselves are going to be subjective by the reader. It is impossible to say that social influence, context, political associations, etc... are not factors. It is also interesting how we are taught and which of the commentaries our teachers choose to present to us. At what point in history did certain players get ruled out of the forum of understanding?? Does doing so invalidate the ones thrown out? Who makes that decision? Are new players unable to enter the realm? Many questions, I know!

As we are approaching Yom Kippur (YK) we took a look at the book of Jonah. Through Chavruta study (discussion/analyzing study between partners of the text) we first did a reading of the text and discussed the meaning of the text itself. Then we looked at a series of commentators. These included early non-Rabbinic commentators like: 'The Lives of the Prophets', and Josephus; Early Rabbinic scholars like Meckilta, and Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer; Midieval scholars such as Rashi, and Ibn Ezra; and modern academic scholars such as Zakovitz, Sasson and Douglas. It was interesting to read through them all, understand all the different arguments and maybe side with one or several. In his book: Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash, D. Boyarin writes "All interpretation is filtered through consciousness, tradition, ideology and the intertext, and the opposition between subject adn object, so charachteristic of the romantic ideology, must be deconstructed." Finally I feel it is okay to open up the entire forum for conversation. If my own reading and understanding of the text is not the 'traditional' one thats okay, and thats comforting. Maybe I'm not such a heritic afterall.

Today was another day of firsts. I rode on the back of a motorcycle for the first time (don't worry Ma, I wore a helmet!); I got completely lost walking the streets of Jerusalem and after about an hour found my way without asking for directions or looking at a map, and I got to see photos of two new beautiful babies in the world. Let me introduce them to you. First is Molly Olivia Levin born on Sept. 20th to Mindy and Noam Levin.

Next is 'tiny' Friedman born to Miriam and Jon who joined us on Sept. 23rd:

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hapax Legomenon

Now that I am a bit rested I realized I completely forgot to post one of the most interesting things I learned this week: Hapax Legomenon. A Hapax Legomenon is when a word occurs only once in a text or document. Why am I telling you this?? Did you know that we base the way we do our shofar blowing on the basis of a Hapax Legomenon? its true!

In the Mishna, when it talks about what the Shofar should sound like it says it should sound like the wails of Sisrah's mother crying at the window. Sisrah was a king of an enemy nation of Israel who was assasinated by a woman named Yael by a tent peg as the two nations battled. (the whole story can be read in the book of Judges and is compiled by Deborah the judge). Anyways, Deborah writes the hebrew word Yevavot which is translated as 'wails/cries'. Turns out this is the ONLY place that the word Yevavot appears in the the Tanach (Torah, Prophets, Writings). But what interests me is that the Mishnah chose the same word. Since no-one knows what the cries of Sisrah's mother sounded like (she was not anywhere near the battle) we do a combination of blasts hoping to get it right. We know that it is not the Tekiah blast but either the Shevarim blast (representing longer sighs) or the Teruah blast that is shorter sobs, or a combination of the two.

There are multiple times when other words are used to represent crying in the Tanach. What I find so facinating is that we base it on this one word, that is found only once, by the mother of our enemy. Why didn't the Mishnah choose any other word? Why not say that the Shofar blasts sounded like the Jews crying out to God from Egypt or anything of the like? There must be something significant about it.

Here are my two cents: There is something to be said for remembering the human qualities of everyone in the world, enemy or friend. It is said that the Children of Israel were rebuked for rejoicing in the deaths of the Egyptians as they were swallowed up by the sea. The reason was that we are all created B'selem Elokim (in the image of God). The loss of any life on earth is equally upsetting in God's eyes. Maybe from our use of Yevavot we can deduce that just as in God's eyes we are all created equally, so too we must recognize that although we are a diverse world in every way when you strip us down we are all the same. We share all the same emotions of love, hate, sorrow, joy etc... Maybe as we enter into the Yomim Norahim (days of awe--10 days starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur) it should not only be one of self reflextion and introspection. We strip ourselves down to the most basic of human emotions. Maybe at the height of our own impassioned cries we will remember that our cries are no different than every other person on this earth--even the mothers of our enemies. I will not be so bold to say how this may translate into action, but it is a thought to keep in mind on how this may personally relate to you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Yes, it HAS been a while

First, Shana Tova to you all. It is hard to believe that Rosh Hashana is just a couple of days away and this year more than most there are very tangible elements of change for me and I am sure for many of you as well. May this next year bring us all laughter, meaningful experiences, opportunity, possitive challenges, health, justice and peace. May we stay active in our minds, hearts, and actions and continue to grow.

I also want to wish additional blessings today to:

MAZEL TOV TO MINDY AND NOAM LEVIN ON THE BIRTH OF A BABY GIRL!! I am so happy for your both, and cannot wait to meet the newest member of the Levin Family!!

Photo of Noam, Mindy and I at Michelle Meister's wedding:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO DARCY J. Thanks so much for your letter and may adventures east prove to be nothing ordinary.

As mentioned, I cannot believe RH is almost here. The last week and a half has been an abolute whirwind and I hope I sum it up appropriately. To begin last weeked we spent Shabbat in Arad (town in the desert of Israel) for our first official Pardes Tiyul (excursion). It was the first time all of us were together outside of school setting. It gave us all an opportunity to have downtime but still be in somewhat of a structured environment. We arrived in Arad Thursday afternoon and went through a variety of sessions. As a Pardes Fellow I took on additional responsibilities facilitating sessions and running ice breakers, good thing I spent all those years working for Hillel! But what was nice is that I worked with one of the teachers at Pardes to create an art workshop revolving around the idea that altering one detail can totally alter a picture, how much more so could altering one thing in our lives change our perceptions/actions in the world around us. But the most memorable part of the Tiyul was our 5am hike Friday morning. We left and hiked to the desert where we sat on a cliff and watched the sunrise. Ofcourse the sunrise was beautiful but that is not what it made it memorable for me. There were optional services, yoga, and learning sessions going on simultaneously. Not suprislingly I opted out of services (i struggle with them, and thats a whole other conversation for another time). Instead I went to the optional learning session led by one of the elder teachers at Pardes. I don't really know how to describe him except that he just has this energy radiating from him. Its as if just by sitting in his presence I am humbled and hope to just absorb as much as I can. Then, just as we were getting ready to go a flock/herd (what is the proper term) of camels started walking in our direction! It was incredible!

There must have been close to 40 including small ones, albino ones, you name it. I have never seen that many just out in the wild like that! In fact I don't know if I have ever seen them in more than 2-3 outside of the debatable abused ones at the touristy bedouin tents.

We jumed right back into classes Sunday which was tough, since there was really no time to catch up on the sleep we lost from waking up at 5am. I did however make it out to the Jerusalem Darfur Rally in conjunction with Darfur World Awareness Day (special thanks to Rachel Mathisen for the heads up!). It was a good effort on behalf of those who threw it together. However it was very apparent that it was put together very last minute and that I may have been the oldest person at the rally. David Bernay, Jay, and Gary all came out as well. Jay made a good point that not a word was actually spoken in Hebrew. I am unsure if any Israelies were in fact there.

Monday ran late as usual. Classes start at 8:30am and I am in night seder (additional evening study) until about 10pm. Tuesday was my 'early day' meaning that I am finished by 5pm. I got home to send off some Rosh Hashana emails and then met up with a friend for drinks. I try to make a conscious effort to have a social life outside of Pardes but what I later find is that the combinations of both are wearing me out!! I hope that I will discover a good balance soon.

Wednesday was Gary's birthday--Happy Birthday Gary! And so after a long day of classes Bassin and I capped off the night by hanging out with a bunch of folks on his mirpeset (porch). A very ecclectic group which sparked some good conversations--my type of a night.

And here I am today. As you may have noticed I have begun to dwindle in my details as the week has progressed--another sign that i am EXHAUSTED. After classes today we had our Fellows meeting. We begun a conversation about poverty in Israel and were joined by a woman who works for an organzation (on whose name I am blanking) that helps the impoverished communities in Israel. We then continued on with an interesting text study about distribution of wealth and how the Children of Israel are supposed to treat each other when one's livelihood is threatened. It mainly focused on how the Shmitah year (the 7 year sabbatical year) made all debts null and void, and that property was returned to it's original owner. What stuck out to me though were two particular sentences. Located in Deuteronomy Ch. 15 Verses 4 and 11. 15:4--"However, may there be no destitute among you; rather God will surely bless you in the Land that God, your God, will give you as an inheritance to possess it." 15:11- "For destitue people will not cease to exist within the Land; therefore I command you, saying, "You shall surely open your hand to your brother to your poor, and to your destiture in your Land". Ponder that one for a moment...

I have made two different trips to Super Sol (grocery) today and bought MUCHO food. I am hosting a meal for 14 people for the second day of Chag and it just seemes to be getting bigger...Excited for it though, good guest list, will let you know how it goes.

I did get a phone call from Shira Hadasha earlier as well and I am off the wait list! I am really looking forward to my tefillah (prayer) service there. After two years of working through the holidays I am hoping to open myself up and truely look at the liturgy and open myself up to the possibility of a spiritual experience. It will be a good environment for that.

Last but not least, How cool is Google??

Shana Tova again, and best from Jerusalem. Lets here it for 5757!

Monday, September 11, 2006

One More Thing

I cannot believe I forgot to mention this. As you all are more than aware today is September 11. If you are like me, the memory of that day is still very much alive. Some of you have heard my story of the events but specifically the memorial service I attended. At that service the Shofar was blasted. The sound pierced me to the core. It is what I think of each time I hear it. This year is the first time in 5 years I have heard it on September 11. The feeling I cannot explain. May this next year bring us all peace, tolerance, and understanding.

Beef of the Week

Nope, not pastrami. Here on out when I am referring to the Beef of the Week I am refering to one of my issues, or should I say gripes about a situation or text study I encountered. The Beef of the Week on this second week of September goes to the understanding of the Noahide laws. WHAA?? you may ask? me too.

I began a new class today called 'Ethics of Living and Dying'. The class will deal with laws pertaining to civil society. We began today from looking at the Noahide laws, or according to the Talmud the first set of laws given down to a society. As stated in Tractaite Sanhedrin (didn't bring home my notes but promise to get you the exact source)that the 7 Noahide laws (given to the children of Noah after the flood) were as follows:
1. Set up courts
2. You should bless the name of God, i.e. do not commit blasphamy
3. Do not engage in idol worship
4. Do not spill blood, i.e. do not commit murder
5. You should not engage in acts of sexual immorality
6. Do not engage in robbery
7. Do not tear a limb from a living animal

These laws were apparently commanded to everyone on earth and preceeded the idea of Judaism.

Wheres the beef?? (hope thats not copyrighted). Okay, get ready, here it is:

I have never liked the term "chosen people" I think that it implies negative connotations from both internally and externally. In fact its not that God chose us, but us who chose God. It is us who decided to take on God in the manifestation that seemed truthful on how to live our lives. But like a radio show, that is transmitted from one central location but your station may be altered to pick up the best feed depending on your location-so too, I believe that there is a higher being and a truth but that the truth is channeled differently for different people to reach understanding. I refuse to believe there is only one way to view the higher power we call God. But here we are stating that the a non-Jew must recognize God in order to say that s/he will not commit blasphamy, the Gemara is going one step further in saying that not only must s/he recognize but s/he must not commit Avodah Zarah, or idol worship, implying that s/he must believe in a mono-theistic God. Well if this is true than Paganism, many Eastern religions, and depending on who you hold by, Islam and Christianity are out the window!

How can we say that we expect others to believe what we believe? Last time I checked we weren't asking questions in the lines of 'Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your lord and saviour?' as a stipulation on how to live life (or depending if you believe in an afterlife, entry into the afterlife). Yet according to this these are the 7 simple rules that non-Jews must follow--NOT SO FREAKIN SIMPLE!!

Now I know that other schools of thought remove these two God related laws and replace them with no castration or mixing of seeds. But to even entertain the thought that we are 'right' and the rest of the world is 'wrong' does not sit well with me. Hillel International has recently changed their slogan to 'Universally Human, Distinctively Jewish'. We live in a global world and I am on the large scale part of 2 communities--the Human race and the Jewish people. On a smaller scale, there are too many to count. For me to say that not only do I believe what I do is right for me but REQUIRED of everyone else on this earth, just cannot be and I cannot take it to be true.

This is the hard stuff. Okay, I don't believe this to be true, but can I find something else useful in this source text that is? Or does one it negate everything else I come across. And this is the microchosim of my struggle.

On a lighter note here are some of the other events of my week: Signed up for membership at Shira Hadasha only to be told I am on a waitlist that is not getting any shorter for High Holidays. Looks like I am still searching for a place to go...BUT i got a free t-shirt...yay. We are going on Tiyul (outing, hike, etc..) from Thursday-Sat. night to Arad which is in the mid-south of Israel just south of the Dead Sea (which according to BBC news is in a race to save it's existence). I have also been elected to coordinate a program the school does called 'Take Five'. The idea is that for 5 minutes 2 times a week a student gets up before the entire community and answers a random question relating somehow to their Jewish identity. In doing so the community gets to know something interesting about them, and for those who do not interact regularly it gives them a chance to hear from each other. Since I am running the program, I am also introducing it and therefore going to speak for the first one. Stay tuned, I will let you know how it goes.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Cinco de Mayo in Septembre

This past Thursday evening I participated in my first ever Cinco de Mayo celebration in both Israel and September. Molly Kane, fellow Rabbinical student of the Sarahs celebrated her birthday. The exact date is September 11, but since 2001 she has chosen not to use that date as a celebratory day but rather throws a different themed party around Sept. 11 each year. This year was Cinco de Mayo. Some of you may have seen this coming based on the paper mache pin`ata in the shape of Mexico that has been hanigng in our dining room for the last 2.5 weeks. It was also a really nice way to end the week. (I will get back to the party momentarily).

I have officially completed my first week of classes at Pardes. My mind was/is racing and I can't wait to dive back into classes tomorrow morning. What was nice though was that we also had a second fellows meeting. The fellows will be meeting twice a week, once on Tuesday evenings and again on Thursday afternoon. The evening gatherings will be more informal where the Thursday afternoon ones will be text base and more of a classroom setting. We are currently in the process of deciding which topics we would like to cover over the duration of the year. They range from arts/culture/film to current events and the Jewish response. We have to ability to bring in speakers, read articles, view films, hold panels, etc... Again, its a diverse group and I am excited to be a part of it. For me there is nothing gained from nodding heads in unison, but much to learn from engaging, energetic and sometimes even frustrating conversation.

Okay, back to the fiesta. The pinata was complete and the roomates and I decided to show up to the par-tay in style, and that we did.

here is Tasman's explaination of the day:

Pin`ata set up and breaking:

Molly (birthday girl) and Jessy:

Living in a country with a 6 day work week is something I don't know if I could ever get used to. Friday is the only day od the week outside of Shabbat where we don't have class. It was also my first opportunity to sleep past 6:45 all week. Although I was up by 9am, I realized just how tired I really was. I spent the day doing a whole lot of nothing. Laundry, ironing, and watching a DVD. That night we had a Pardes student mix-up Shabbat where they paired up first year and returning students for dinner. Within a 1/2 hour of the meal I was able to figure out some kind of connection with each person at the table. The hosts were Nili (ne: Epstein) and Ezra Auerbach. Nili is a former fellow at the Hillel international center and her husband Ezra's family made aliyah from Baltimore 14 years ago. His uncle used to be my father's karate teacher. There was a guy there who shares my exact birthdate and year he went to high school with friends of mine from NY. Jewish geography connected a lot of dots but there was even a girl there who was in my bunk at camp 15 years ago and who I had not seen since! I ended up walking home with her and it turns out that we are both on similar journeys. It was good to reconnect.

Today I met Esty again at Shira Hadasha. I had another DELICIOUS meal courtesy of the Altshul fam. Always a pleasure to dine with them. Esty and I are planning on going over to the Shira Hadasha new members sign up tomorrow evening. I am hoping to secure my place there for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur--I can't believe how soon they are coming!! Shavuah Tov (Good week) to you all!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It Aint No Munich

As we have progressed in our first week of classes at Pardes, I am realizing more and more how rusty my 'school skills'are. Man, critical thinking for 10+ hours a day is exhausting! In addition to the class material, which I am very much enjoying, all of the questions I came here with are still looming. They are waiting to get out and get answered. How does this text resonate with me? How do they affect me now that my perspectives on Torah from the Divine have altered? What do I want my lifestyle to look like here? Am I going to be able to figure it all out?? As mentioned in an earlier entry, everything is inter-connected and it is constantly on my mind. Its hard to deal with these tough questions constantly. Its also hard for me to vocalize them to others. Each person here is on their own journey. To understand where I want to go I must explain where I have come from and the process I went on. Ironically though most people I encounter seem to be passing me on the road in the opposite direction. Although all open minded wonderful people, I am still looking for some folks heading my way to really work through some of these issues. I'm not ready to just turn back round and join the pack, even though it is incredibly easy and tempting to do. I just know that doing so without disecting the issues would leave me more lost than before. Additionally, I firmly believe that we shouldn't all be walking down the same road. If we did who would we intersect with, greet and learn from further down the path?? Exhausting...

What I have found out though this week is that there are 2 key interests of mine that have been sparked/rekindled. Through conversation and text study I have rediscovered that I very much enjoy looking at law and the thought process behind law. Even if i do not necessarily agree with the implementation of the end result, the process that it takes to get there is facinating. Additionally, I have a newly sparked interest in the idea of Chaplaincy. I think it combines my love for Theology and working with people. It is something I am looking forward to researching more.

BUT this week has not been all work and no play. Since I know all of you have been keeping up to date with this blog on an entry to entry basis, you are well aware that I saw and ADORED the new Roberto Benigni film. GO SEE IT! Then last night, Tasman and I went to the Jerusalem Beer festival. We met up with Esty Altchul and a couple of people I met at Pardes. Beer, Burgers Bar (among many other vendors),Beer, Bumping into old friends, Beer, Live Music, Beer--what else do you need?? There were no Um-pa-pop bands in leiderhosen, or Israeli micro-brews (although there was one from Ramallah) but it was a good time had by all non the less.

Tasman, Esty and I at Jerusalem Beerfest 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

My First Day of School

Before I left for classes this morning I had coffee and eggs in the kitchen with Tasman. As we sat there she taught me quick life saving skills off a list from her Ju-Jitsu teacher. So after learning that my elbows are the hardest part of my body and not to be to sympathetic to injured people on the street because they may just be trying to fool and then abduct me, i headed out to Pardes. With my backpack full of books, a 35 minute walk ahead and 10 minutes before I needed to be at orientation, i decided to take the bus. Luckily, I got there just in time.

Everyone walked in, grabbed their named tag and took a seat in the Beit Midrash (literal translation: House of Study, practical traslation: big room/library where people study in Chavruta or pair study). Then all 120 of us+faculty introduced themselves, yeah...it was a lot. We then did a communal text study about different types of students based on the study styles of different Talmudic scholars. We talked about being cisterns and collecting information in contrast of an outflowing spring. Although the spring flows outwards, it may dry up without a source. Where a cistern may become stale without use. We talked of students of the mind vs. the heart and the necessity to have both. I think each of us has aspeects of both, yet it is our diversity in their uses that make us unique and complimentary. Finally we ended with a Shofar blast, something that is done each day during the Hebrew month of Elul. Elul is the month leading up to the High Holidays, a time for introspection, reflection and awakening. Its fitting that this is when, and how we begin our year.

At lunch, which they provided for us, I met with the other Fellows in my program. It was the first time all of us were together, and me being the ONLY fellow who is not a returning student it was nice for me to feel 'a part' of the group. It is a really intimate group, which I think will be great. 4 Men and 4 Women, we range in Geography and ages. The oldest being close to 50 (everyone else is in their 20s) and the only non North American is from Budapest. We will be meeting 1-2 times a week outside of classes for our own seminars. In addition we play active leadership roles in Pardes programming and each will be taking on a leadership project. Unfortunatley i am too tired to lay mine out at the moment, but stay tuned.

After lunch we finally got down to business and broke into our first classes. I will be taking Talmud Bekiut (general Talmudic study) 2 afternoons a week. Leading up to the High Holidays we will apropriately be beginning with Mesechet Rosh Hashana (the tractate of Gemara that deals with Rosh Hashana). Afterwards we will be looking at Mesechet Makot (the tractate examing criminal law and punishment). The other classes I have commited to are a morning Talmud B'Iyun class (more in depth Talmudic study) where we will also be looking at Mesechet Rosh Hashana, although a different chapter, up until the holiday and then Mesechet Gittin (dealing with marriage and divorce law), this will be 3 mornings a week. I will also be taking a Chumash class (Old Testament) and a class on Women and Halacha (Jewish law). There are many others to choose from but I want to feel them out before I commit.

After a long first day I headed to the grocery store and then home. Had dinner with the roomates and then went to see this WONDERFUL film with friends. The title of the film is "The Tiger in the Snow" the new film by Roberto Benigni. So much is conveyed with so much heart and yet he is a comical genius who will make you laugh as well. I recommend it to all!!

I arrived home just after midnight to be greeted with the news that every girl wants to hear "Just in time for ice cream!". We took out the cones, and the bad israeli freezer bought ice cream, made ourselves some treats, and had a sit down. Here is a photo of Me, Tasman, and Tas's friend Lowell who was in visiting before he took off for his home in Kansas City. Much luck to you Lowell.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

For Your Enjoyment

Albi The Racist Dragon:

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Off with Their Heads!

These past few days have been really nice. Tasman returned from Rhodes, Greece just in time for Shabbat. We went together to Shira Hadasha and as many people predicted, I really really enjoyed it. There was a lot of energy and it was the first place in a long time where I felt that everyone really had their hearts in what they were doing. I also bumped into lots of people that have recently returned to Israel: Esther Abramowitz, Yoni and Talia Engelhart, and Shira (Cantor) and Aaron Katchen. After services we went to Esty Altschul's for dinner and had a really relaxing evening. Her parents who recently made aliyah, were out for dinner so it was the three of us, her younger sister and friend. Nice conversation and GREAT food!! Walking there made me realize though how many streets there are I do not know and how much more of the area I hope to become familiar with.

Today Shabbat lunch was Sarah, myself and Gary who dropped in. I am a fan of the low key Shabbat lunches that last for hours, I was hoping to get a game of scrabble in but unfortunately no takers...BUT with the introduction of a new game this evening the day wasn't a complete loss for board games. We headed over to Meno's who is house sitting for the month in Baka.
After a really nice dinner in the garden we moved indoors and enjoyed a nice game of Guillotine, the Revolutionary game where you win by the number of points you get by chopping of noble's heads. Basically there are noble cards and action cards. Nobles are worth a variety of points based on social status (1-5 points), or you could also get a Martyr card which is worth negative points. The action cards help you make strategic decisions to score the most points. I lost both hands...guess the role of the axe wielding henchmen is not in my genes...BUT i did enjoy the first card I selected: Heretic, 2 points--fitting.

Oh, and you tell me why one of these things is not like the other:
could you find the thing that did not belong??

Thats all for now, tomorrow morning is my last morning to sleep in and enjoy laziness before I begin classes on Monday. A big MAZEL TOV as well to my cousins Ben Stein and Arin Kramer who are tying the knot later today in upstate NY. I am so sorry I am unable to be there with you, but know that it will be an amazing day and I can't wait to hear all about it!!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Spatula and a Wooden Spoon

Last night I left the apartment and on my way out noticed that there was a piece of mail at the bottom of our mailbox. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a problem except our mailbox key does not work. Typically bills are propped just through the slot so they are easily accessible, but now we had a problem. I decided to get all McGuiver and grabbed a piece of cardboard. I took the cardboard, chewed up a piece of gum fixing it on the end tried to fish out the piece of mail. Unfortunately I dropped the piece of cardboard and was S.O.L. I decided to forget aboout it and just give it another go in the morning. I woke up with a mission and headed down to the mail box with a spatula, a wooden spoon and my trusty assistant Jay. We thought that if we menuevered the spatula just so we may manage to drag up the cardboard and then the piece of mail up the side. But alas we were unable to get them. Then we tried the wooden spoon, not as flexible as the spatula and worked just as poorly. In the back of the mailbox (where you are supposed to open it with the key) there was some space on the side lining the box, just enough to slide in the spatula. A little jiggle and...it opened! who needs a mailbox key when you have a spatula??

Out and about this afternoon I bumped into Zac Johnson who is in town for a couple of weeks. Have I mentioned that I love bumping into random people on the street? Have I mentioned that I like bumping into random people on the street that I actually know more?

Tonight I met up with Esty Altschul and we went to the "Soundscapes" exhibit at the Tower of David. SO FREAKIN' COOL!! The only other exhibit I have seen there was the Chihuly Exhibit with Mom in the winter of 2000. Similar to that exhibit there were many different peices but they all tied together as well. I forgot to bring my camera and was kicking myself the whole time. The following images are off the Tower of David website:

It was one of those exhibits that captures all of your senses (well maybe not smell). Visually there beautiful colors that light up each piece which themselves are independently colorful. The light is reflective of the beats and sounds the instruments included a harp, basses, drums, plucky things, chimes, and a few other undefinable instruments. Controlled by computer timers they start off slowly and individually and end up synthesizing into a symphonic sound. COOL. You can also go up and touch the 4 Basses which are located between arch ways. The exhibit runs for a couple more weeks and I hope to go back again (when I WILL take photos).

We decided to walk from the exhibit into town and maybe get a drink. As we walked on Yaffo we passed City Hall which looked like it was getting ready for a concert. We asked one of the security guards and in about 20 minutes there was going to be a free latin concert. So we went and grabbed some food and made our way back. We spent the next hour salsa dancing on the open plaza. As the concert was winding down we decided it was time to take off and began to walk back through Gan Ha'Atzmaut (Independence Park). Turns out each year before the new school year begins the Israeli government puts on a free concert for the Israeli youth. Who was playing and where was it held you may ask?? Aviv Gefen in Gan Ha'Atzmaut!

Maybe I should start each morning with a spatula and a wooden spoon!