Monday, February 20, 2012


I am so nervous, and so excited! I am flying in two days to the US for student teaching! I am really lucky since I will be able to see my family first in Chicago before going to Philadelphia, but then it will be down to business! I am so excited to see what a Jewish Day School is like and what it is like to live in a Jewish community and to experience living with a Jewish family that keeps Jewish tradition in their home.

I am studying a lot and trying to outline my lesson plans. If I can get those things done and out of the way before I fly I feel like I will be in really good shape for when I show up at school! (The school looks AMAZING!!) All my gifts are packed and a lot of clothes too! I am trying to figure out which boots to take! The past three years I have only been home in the summer, so shoes are much smaller and lighter weight to pack! (Tough life I have, trying to decide which shoes to take! I know!)

Pardes has prepared me well! Now I just have to believe in myself!! Philly here I come!!!! 

Some short comments on studying gemara after seven months

The "process" was never something that I enjoyed. I enjoy being a teacher, I didn't enjoy the four years of pedagogy courses I had to take.  I enjoy winning, not the running and practice that it took to get to that point.  I like knowing how long I have to cut a piece a wood to hold up a beam, not the math it took to figure it out.  I enjoy traveling and being in a destination and living in a different place, I don't like the flights, trains, buses, and cars it takes to get there. I just like DOING it. In Halakah I enjoy figuring out the Halakah, the end result. I like seeing if that fits into my life and if I relate to that final "judgement." Maybe I'm vain, to want to an end product, to want to see a city, or something in it's completion. I want a pay off, and I want it now! I want to see the fruit of my labors. And in all honesty, I don't think I'm vain. I realize that the pay off is greater because I worked for it. I am very present in my life, and I don't want someone to tell me to stop and smell the roses, I do enjoy my life, immensely and I find beauty in the smallest of things. I am simply goal driven, and I really like achieving my goals.  

But Gemera isn't about the end or a goal, it is about the circle...and I hate circles. You are always back to where you started.  To state it better, it's like a never ending slinky, like after going around the circle once you are barely a tiny bit higher than where you started, and if I'm stuck in a slinky, I don't even know how many times I have to go around, or if there is an end. And like Meesh's analogy (my teacher had said that learning gemera is like knowing that there is a beach, but we're only working with 2 square meters of sand at a time.), I can't even see the beach! I am just digging in my own two meters square of sand. And what am I doing? Am I inspecting sand? Am I'm digging for water? Should I be making a sand castle?

And so for me, Gemera is about the process and the circle....and making myself do something that is so far against my nature and my being.  To trust in a process that I don't yet understand, a process that seems to have no end, and to pray that one day, not only will there be a beach...water...and waves, baruch hashem, there will even be a beautiful sunset, and I will want to come back to exactly the same place the next night and hope that the sunset was just as beautiful as the one from the evening before. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Take a load off, Moshe!

I can only imagine how excited Moshe would have been this week to be reunited with his wife and two sons! Yitro, who brought Moshe's family to him, also, like any good in-law brought advise. On the second day of Yitro's visit, (the first day he burnt an offering to G-d) he told Moshe that he was working too hard and had to delegate his responsibilities. Everyday people had been coming to Moshe with their problems and Moshe would tell them what they should do. This sounds like a very important role, and it is. But the people had so many problems, Moshe was busy with this all day!

If we were talking about modern times, we could say that Moshe was clearly overbooked. No time for the gym, no time to go catch a game and have a beer with Aaron, not so much time to have a romantic reunion with his get the idea. Yitro and Rav Kook both agree, that this is not an appropriate way of life, even if you are serving G-d and your community in every capacity, you still have to take care of yourself.  Personal well-being is just as important as public service, Rav Kook sites a story in the Talmud when two judges are working too hard and their teacher, Rabbi Chiyya, tells them they need to take it easy. Rav Kook summarizes, "That while their public service was truly a wonderful thing, it is not necessary to neglect all other aspects of is clear that personal growth will enhance one's community. Better an hour of productive activity in a fresh, relaxed state of mind and body, than many hours of constant toil in a tired and frenzied state."

This is still a hard lesson for me.  After many counseling sessions in college for anxiety for taking on two many responsibilities, for trying to help too many people and too many organizations, and being nearly worthless because I couldn't take care of the world if I wasn't taking care of myself, I finally started to realize that I couldn't live myself this way.  And this is exactly what Yitro is trying to tell Moshe.  Eventually Moshe is going to be run too thin and he will no longer be a good leader for his people if he tries to keep up this schedule.

So I hope for all you over achievers out there. Take a break, have a glass of wine, go get a pedicure, go for a walk, put yourself first...and most importantly, don't feel guilty about it! Even Moshe had to delegate!! 

Saturday, February 04, 2012

A minute with Rav Kook

One quote from my Rav Kook book this week that I really liked is, "What is the essence of prophecy? This unique gift is the ability to look at God's works and recognize in them His greatness." I'm sure there is more to being a prophet then just that, but I like to think that with practice and a good eye I could be a prophetess. =)

On a tad more serious note. In Beshalach (this weeks Torah portion), we finally leave Egypt and cross the Sea of Reeds!!!!!!!!!!  Then Miriam sings a song, and at the end there is a line, (Ex. 15:16):

Until Your people have crossed, O God;
Until the people that You acquired have crossed over.

The Rabbis ask why this is repeated, the "crossing". Some say that it is referring to the Jews crossing the Jordan River, and Jews have had to do this twice in our history. Once with Joshua after 40 years in the desert and G-d giving us the land of Israel at the beginning of the First Temple Period. G-d was very visible at this time, there were prophets and miracles. This is why the first line says, "Your people," because G-d was so present. We were His whether we wanted it or not, G-d was with us.  The other is with Ezra and returning to start the Second Temple Period. This time, it was our choice to return. G-d wasn't visible, prophecies had ended, the Torah had been written, we couldn't see G-d's miracles. But the Jewish people were very active and were reaching out to G-d and grappling with Jewish law and Jewish way of life. The Mishnah was written at this time and the rabbis were very active in the discussion of Jewish law. This is why the Jews are referred to as the people who G-d had acquired, because now we are seeking him.

This is compared to Kook's theory of innate holiness, and willed-holiness. Innate holiness is naturally in our souls. We are born with it, it was passed down through the generations. Willed-holiness on the other hand is based on our merits, efforts, actions, and choices.  Kook said that innate holiness is actually greater than willed-holiness. Just as G-d was with us crossing the Jordan River, G-d is innately with us all the time and we are holy because we are holy. But I feel that without willed-holiness, innate holiness seems empty.  If we aren't striving to be good people, if we haven't trying to help others, if we aren't living in a way that is making the world a better place, what does innate holiness matter? Maybe that it is always there and it's never to late to cultivate?

This is something that I struggle with in Judaism, the concept of a chosen people. Because I believe that all people have the ability to be holy. G-d created all of us, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhist, Hindus, etc. But maybe Kook was referring to all people. And that we can all search for G-d and our actions can be for G-d.  I'm not sure which he means exactly. I do know that he was very liberal for his time and he was criticized by other Rabbis for being so open to secular Jews and Kibbutzniks. 

I would love to hear your opinions or some other sources to help me gain some clarity on these thoughts! 

A "love" Shabbat!

At Pardes, Shabbat is the topic of many discussions and the focus of a lot of study. Last semester I took Halakah (Jewish Law) and the class focused on Shabbat. I have written about Shabbat on the blog in the past as well. I have been trying to create a Shabbat "space." One thing I've done for two weeks now, is not using Facebook on Shabbat. I feel like this has really enhanced my feeling for Shabbat. I love Facebook, I am fairly addicted. But nothing on Facebook is necessary, except for the pictures of Jack, of course. And most of the things on Facebook are complaints. So to help keep my in this holy space and time, I haven't been logging on. 

The other thing I've done for Shabbat is to surround myself by people I really love and want to be with. People who are positive and warm and have open hearts.  Last night I went to a beautiful Shabbat dinner at my best friends, they were great hosts, the food was delicious, we talked about Torah, and laughed a lot. It was a wonderful separation from our usual hard intense week of studying. 

On Shabbat, Yishai and I hosted at our home! Yishai made hummus from scratch!!! It was AMAZING!! One of our guests was gluten free so I made stuffed peppers with lentils, wild rice, and beans. I was nervous, but Roi and his mom helped me and they turned out great! 

I also made green beans with garlic and onion and soy sauce. They are coming into season here and it reminds me of home. In the summer we pick green beans fresh from the garden and this is how my mom makes them! They were great, not as good as when you pick them yourself, (or when Roi or my mom picks them and I stand and watch them) but they were still great! 

Anddddddddd...I had a "love" Shabbat! Because to be honest, Shabbat is really about love and being with people that you love. It was also appropriate because it's a week before Valentine's Day! Plus, my parents had just sent me a big box of candy! So we had Sweet Hearts and Peanut M&Ms. 

 Who doesn't love Valentine's Day candy??? =)
This Shabbat was a beacon of sunshine after a lot of rain last week. It felt so nice to be outside and in Jerusalem. I hope everyone had a wonderful Shabbat with family and friends. In a couple of weeks I will be home with my family and hopefully we'll have a wonderful Shabbat together!