Wednesday, February 28, 2007

iPod Revival

There were skeptics, many skeptics. But it pulled through! You may recall from an earlier post that my ipod has been on it's last legs for a while. Most mornings I would be greated by one of two symbols: a folder with a warning symbol containing an exclaimation point or a battery with a similar exclaimation point. The latter symbol is not even featured on the ipod support site.

Through toggling the hold button and reseting the ipod I was able to make it last for a few more weeks. Most songs would not play all the way through and it would make a humming noise but I took what I could. Then, last left us. Like other days I was greeted by the same symbols but this time the music options would never come on. After an hour of trying to reset it, the machine wiped itself clean. I was partly frustrated since all my music is on my computer which is still out of commission. But I was more relieved because I thought I had solved the problem once and for all and could now return home and fill up on my roommate's playlists. WRONG! each time I hooked up the ipod it was said to be corrupted. I kept getting one of 2 error messages: 1418 and 1429. If you google 1418 you find a website dedicated to those fortunate souls like myself. Turns out many people have had similar problems due to itunes 7. They gave possible solutions, but again no go. 1429 took me a little longer to find. Not listed on the support site I came accross it obscurely. The course of action listed: GET A NEW iPOD.

I refused to give up. 10 tries later it came back to life. In the spirit of this past week's Oscars I would like to thank the people that helped make this possible: Sarah Tasman, Elie Rosen, and Aaron Katchen.

My battery life is still low, and I am unable to switch around songs without overloading. But its music and it will last me til I get home.

Hartman Lectures 2 and 3

Covenential Consciousness is an empowering experience that calls the individual to responsibility and free choices. These choices are independent of authority and authoritative guidance.

Halacha is the translation of Mitzvot (commandments) into an everyday reality. It is only a framework to guide us not an overarching authoritative structure.

We look as an example to Maimonidies in his understanding of the role of the convert within Judaism. In his letter to Ovadiah the convert (translated by Lorberman) Maimonidies wrote that there is no difference between the tribal ethnic Jew and the convert Jew. What makes someone Jewish? Is the covenant of Judaism able to supercede birth? Historically, no. Ideology on the choice to live a Jewish live was not the winning voice.

For Maimonidies the way ofthe Lord is natural morality. This is the way to God that Abraham taught. The unity of God and the aceptance of this as well as the morality was the way to enter into the Abrahamic mosaic.

Halacha is independent mosaic that followed the Abrahamic mode. For Hartman this is problematic for those who dictate their lives purely according to the Halachic model.

The Abrahamic comunity could not exist in a Pagan world. In Egypt they witnessed that you can't build your life purely on a philosophy/ideology. You need materialistic/tangible realitites to seperate you from the larger society to survive. This was the beginning of the Mitzvah/Halacha as a diciplined framework. What keeps people Jewish is the fabric in which they live by. People are not moved by ideas, but by behavior.

Abraham's belief was the rejection of idolotry and the unity of God. A religion of faith, not of rules. Therefore one who chooses faith shoudl be accepted as one who was born a Jew. "No difference exists between us and you" "Let not your geneology be a light in your eyes"-Maimonidies letter to Ovadiah the Convert.

What does this mean? The light in your eyes goes directly back to God. This covenant that the convert takes on shoudl be the overpowering strength of identity, feeling a part of the people. Unfortunately this is not the reality of today.

Genetic Jewishness can be first seen in the Mishna regarding the bringing of the first fruits to the Temple. Bikuim 1:4--When one who is born to a Jewish mother brings the first fruits he makes a decleration that 'My Father was a wandering Aramean'. When a convert brings the first fruits he states 'His Father was a wandering Aramean'. In the Talmud Yerushalmi it is stated that we hold according to R. Yehuda who believed that the convert too states 'My' since Abraham was the father of many nations. Maimonidies also holds like R. Yehuda.

There is a later tractate of Gemara (Babylonian Talmud) in Kidushin that states "Don't elect a King who is not of your bretheren by birth". Can we use the Aggadic motif of Maimonidies to challange this? Challenge Halacha? The Gemara? How can one say that a convert is not one of your brothers??

Do morality and deeper theological principles trump halachic tradition? Does it have weight in interpreting the law? For Maimonidies the law is what the Talmud and the tradition has enabled him to state it is. Even though he has an enormous amount of moral and deeply theological literature, he is unable to combat Halacha.

Can we challenge halacha? Ask the question of why it exists? Can I ask is this how God intended me to live? Do I have legitimacy to do so? Can my religious vision/weight or the choice of my relationship to God be the ground of my decision making process?Do I have the freedom of decision making based on my own moral basis? To what degree do theological and moral impulses play a role/have ground to determine Halachic practice?

No book can decide for me in crucial situations.


Halacha should not be self sufficient but a mirror of religious impulse. There is the need to confront tradition where the tradition itself violates moral and deeply religious impulses.

Individualistic thrust with Maimonidies is morality. Collectivity is the halacha. It is out of the community where his spirituality begins. Choosing Halacha is choosing the Jewish way.

If so, am I completely claimed by the community?? Sinai was the where sole individuals came to merge and mold into a collective. This collectivity can thrust out individuality, but how do you navigate this? How does one allow for individual choice in the face of authority?

Halacha spins in it's own orbit. It no longer takes into consideration of where the individual is.

WHAT DO YOU FEEL??? THIS should be THE question. Can another tell you how to feel? How do you know th trust yourself?

Hartman is trying to find the person within Judaism. What do you feel when you stand before God? What do you feel about your religion?

There is a responsibility for Scholarship-educating onesself. Asking how you feel and then seeing if that music contains within it the tunes found with the framework of halacha. How does it play out?

Deep religous subjegation today comes in relationship to the State of Israel. For example: Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). Does one recite Hallel or not? With or without a blessing? OR does one lament and mourn at the Kotel HaMaravi (Western Wall)?? All are realities. How do you feel?

The greatest Halacha for validity is personal feeling. Without it Halacha is producing drones. This cannot function within a living Judaism. It is only contributing to the death of Judaism.

Maimonidies would disagree. In the Guide to the Perplexed Ch. 3 he tries to offer an explaination to animal sacrifice within Judaism. For him there must be a need. For him there is no room for the possibility that anything that God asks is arbitrary. He deeply wants to translate will into wisdom. He explains that sacrifice either develops moral growth, communication, or social health. To say there is a law without meaning would make God arbitrary. Maimonidies wanted to merge God of nature (god of wisdom) with God of revelation (god of will).

His goal ws to protect God from the possibility of being arbitrary.

Torah cannot be seperated from te deep religious impulse to ween the Jewish people away from Paganism. Whatever the Pagans did, the Jews did the opposite. The Pagans worshiped the sun, the Jews worshiped the moon. Pagans exhalted animals, the Jews sacrificed them. As a weening process, the Jews were also used to sacrafice--it had been used in Egypt. It was the only expression of praise to God they were familiar with.

The nature of the people could not have been changed. God doesn't change human nature. Sacrifice became a restricted practice. It could only be done by the priests within the temple.

For Maimonidies there are 3 types of prayer:
1. Sacrifice: Pagan forms were restricted however sacrifice became included within Temple worship
2. Prayer as we know it today
3. Silent Contemplation

Sacrifice is the lowest form. Prayer can be done by everyone. How do we elevate people to silent contemplation?

Law of revelation was also given in a response to a historical reality. One must to listen to a people to hear what their needs are. For Hartman this is what Orthodoxy cannot accept.

The Torah became eternal not because of revelation but because it was re-interpreted. We make the Torah eternal--always taking it into context.

You can't have anything without relating it to the situation from where it comes.

Why does God allow the world to go in a way that is not perfection? He prefers to make us choose, to give us the opportunity to choose. The prophets made change through education and patience. God doesn't change nature, God doesn't legislate behavior.

In another text, the Mishna Torah Maimonidies seems to contradict himself in regard to sacrifice. Although it is the lowest form of prayer and a response for a specific time and people he still beleives that when the 3rd temple is rebuilt there will be the reinstatement of sacrifice. Why? Because for Maimonidies the only way to change law is through the Sanhedrin (the old high court) a centralized body that organized Halachic change. For Maimonidies there is no room for the individual to make these choics alone doing so would undermine the validity of Halacha. If the Sanhedrin had abolished it, it would be a non-issue.

Hartman: Man should move to a higher form of worship. why don't we use that as our guiding principle?

There may be reasons the necessity of the law. But once the law is created it functions in it's own orbit. It is seperated fom those reasons of creation (Solevechik).

Hartman: THIS IS CRAZY! Halacha is alive! You can't remove it from the reasons of why it was created, the moral impulses. Halacha is always anchored in both the reality in which it was created and the people who live it. Halacha is not an independent system. Rules are not a substitution for lived reality. The Torah is the first moment of the system, not the end. What makes the Torah so interesting is it's imperfections. We have to challenge humans to reinterpret and fix these imperfections. Just as future generations will reflect on us.

Holy is shaped by deep deep imperfections.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I should have been asleep an hour ago, I need to be up before 6am. But thanks to procrastination and Sarah Tasman's love of Pirates I did this:

My pirate name is:
Captain Charity Rackham

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Heading to the Jordan Valley for a little hiking and Shabbat. A good weekend to all!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

New Freckles

I have noticed more recently the development of small constellations popping up in various parts of my body. Not as bad as a game of connect the dots, but more like a graceful stream. Today I noticed one that popped up just under my eye and another just under my nose. They seem to like the right side of my face more than my left but have no bias when it comes to my neck.

Other things are new in my life as well. And like the freckles they seem to just be faint ideas until they materialize into something real. I have started part time work at Nesiya doing recruiting for their summer program. The goal right now is that I will now only be working with them up until the summer, but through the summer and perhaps next year. I also have a meeting tomorrow with someone for a potential fellowship at a think tank. Hopefully that will work out as well. I will keep you posted.

As far as other good things go--my luck seems to run out with technology. As mentioned there is touble with laptop land, and my ipod is on it's last legs almost making it to 3 years (not bad for ipods from what I hear). The technology kick seems to even include the simple yet advanced zipper-the zipper on my wallet broke Friday afternoon. I am using the trusty pocket/keychain steve's pack until I find a replacement. I figure I'll keep using it til I find something artsy yet practical.

I hopped a Sherut (shuttle service) to Tel-Aviv last Friday. It is pathetic to say but it was the first time I was there since I landed! They have a great outdoor arts fair on a strip called Nachalat Binyamin. I walked around there with friends, grabbed lunch and had a glass of red wine on the beach. GREAT DAY. I need to do it more often, this time I will have my eyes open for a new wallet!

In short: I have been continuing with the Hartman lectures which I am VERY much enjoying. I will post my notes when I get the chance. I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with Esty (E-note shout out) which was delicious as always. Will be starting a new initiative with Crossroads-the teen center I volunteer with-that is called coloring the streets. I along with another volunteer and social worker will once a month be walking the downtown streets of Jerusalem where our kids tend to hang out and in addition to being there to talk to we are going to have art programs available for them to participate in. I will put more info in about this as it plays out in time. Planning a trip to Greece the first week of June with friends before we spread again to all corners of the earth. 6 weeks until I meet baby Tarni!!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

sad shirah

months and months ago I had a series of people who started making comments to me regarding bizarre sightings. They all started with 'I thought I saw you the other day' had various middle parts and ended with 'you looked so sad, and then I realized it wasn't you after all'. We started calling them sad shirah sightings. A girl who apparently looks strikingly similar to me who walks around Jerusalem with a frown on her face. Once the weather began to get cold the sightings stopped. Until today...

This morning someone approached me and asked if I ever visit the post office on Emek Refaim. My response was no. Turns out that sad shirah is a teller at the bank and she was taken by the resemblance. When I mentioned earlier sightings and the alias we had given her, Joanne mentioned that it was right on. With a location determined I will have to go seek this girl out myself and maybe convince her not to be so sad.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

apparently the third time is not the charm....

I bought my ibook in the summer of 2004. The packaged stayed complete until my second week here in Israel when my charger died. After reading online this was not uncommon of a charger that was 2 years old or more. So I replaced the charger with another Apple charger I bought off ebay. This too worked until it's plastic covering cracked leaving exposed wires that eventually broke. With international shipping charges high and the ebay distributor no longer listed I shared my roomate's charger for a couple of months. In early December I purchased a third charger from another distributer on ebay. This time it was not an Apple made product but one that was designed to be compatible. That it was. It was brought by friends and I used it happily until 2 days ago. This time through unknown circumstances a piece of the charger got stuck in the computer while it was being removed. As a result the charger no longer works nor am I able to remove the piece. So my computer lies on my desk, unused and dead. I will take it home with me when I return for Passover and I am hoping that my trusty friends at the Genius desk in the Apple store will be able to fix the problem in a jiffy. Until then my computer access will be limited so I will apologize if my posts begin to become sporatic.

Shabbat Shalom and a good weekend to all!