Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Raining in Jerusalem!! (and eruvs)

תודה רבה! Thank you to all of you who took seriously my request to send rain to Jerusalem. It's quarter to eight on a Thursday evening and there is a lovely, steady drizzle outside. The air is cool (only around 70 F but feels much cooler), people are carrying umbrellas, the sidewalks and streets are sparkling, the leaves have little droplets on them ... okay, so I am waxing on a bit much, but my sinuses are just so happy that it's raining! We allergy sufferers have been pretty miserable lately. Of course, that's not why I wanted it to rain - you know, all those crops and little things like drinking water - but the cleared air is a blessing. It's supposed to rain all through Shabbos - fairly heavy rain too.

So the question I have now is, can one carry an umbrella within the Jerusalem eruv on Shabbat? 

There are plenty of people who tell me that one can, however I distinctly remember learning that once cannot carry an umbrella on Shabbat. In fact, I remember arguing with my mom (the Great Nana Harri) about this when I was in high school. I would walk to shul in the pouring rain without an umbrella b/c it was forbiden to carry one on Shabbos.  I'd be dressed in a raincoat and rain hat and make pretend that these things would actually keep me dry on my mile plus walk to shul. Oh well.

Back to umbrella facts: One cannot carry an umbrella on Shabbat, even in an eruv, because (and here I quote Chabad b/c they are so much more into this than I): "Opening or closing an umbrella is akin to assembling or dismantling a tent—an act forbidden on Shabbat." (for more info on eruvim go to I'll keep an eye out this Shabbos and let you know what I see.

What is a good reconservadox gal like me doing worrying about an eruv? Good question. It's just that living in Jerusalem makes me think about these things;  Shabbat observance is so much easier here than when living in America. For example, at home I live within an eruv that is maintained by an orthodox day school about 1/2 mile from my house. However, the eruv only covers 1/2 the distance to my Conservative shul, so theoretically I could carry my tallis and siddur halfway to shul, leave them at the edge of Rock Creek Park, and then head on to shul without them. I could then retrieve them on my way home for Shabbos lunch and schluff. Not a very effective way of managing one's Sabbath.

Ranted enough this evening, am going to enjoy the rain (which is getting a bit heavier) and see if Yerushalmis know how to drive in the rain. As a former transportation specialist, I know for a fact that too many people do not know how to drive in the rain which usually results in them slowing to a crawl and causing traffic jams (פקקים or P'kakim in hebrew).  Strangely enough, here the drivers just seem to speed up! 

Keep dry!

Next time:  The Conservative Yeshiva (, where I spend the majority of my time.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I'm Back in Israel...

So I discovered with a blog that once you begin one, and people actually read it, it's good etiquette to keep it updated. I've been away from the computer for a while, my apologies, but I figured I'd take time this pre-Shabbat afternoon to catch up a bit. It's beautiful here in Jerusalem - sunny, warm, 81 degrees F when it should be cooler and, Gd Willing, rainy. We had an incredible heat spell for a week, one day or so of truly cool weather and now we are back to beautiful, uninterrupted sun. What happened to our prayers for rain on Shemini Atzeret? I hear they were answered by tons of rain and some snow in New England. Well, that's nice - but please send all that moisture our way.

I was in the States for the High Holidays. It was lovely being home after being away for nearly 3 months - so good to see my husband and kids and all the extended friends and family. But it was a bit strange too. I tend to totally absorb myself in the culture of where ever I am at the moment. Makes transitions difficult but truly enhances my day to day experience. So here in Israel I'm used to walking most places and taking cabs others with the occasional bus ride thrown in for good measure; I grocery shop  every other day because I can't fit as much in my backpack or in our shopping cart thingie as I can in my car trunk. It also turns into an adventure nearly every time I shop, don't know who I'll end up in conversation with, what arguments I'll witness, or what crazy whims of human nature will be on exhibit. People are either rushing or strolling and are always on their cell phones - even the babies in the carriages. Okay, so maybe I exaggerate a bit, but not much.  And somehow you are always running into people that you know, either from current day Israel or the States, or from 20 years ago.

What I found Stateside is that I drove most places, hardly ever walked and no cabs or buses.  I went to the grocery store once or twice and bought LOTS of stuff so I wouldn't have to go back again anytime soon. There were rarely ever any displays of interesting human behavior in the shops,  we Americans are so polite! I still saw people I knew when I went out but not nearly as often. People went places with a purpose - those who walked were generally kids going to and from school or people of other ages "taking exercise." The kids had the cell phones, the people taking exercise had iPods. The biggest difference of course was that everyone was speaking English instead of only half the people speaking English and the rest speaking Hebrew.

I've been back two weeks now and except for being sick for a while have gotten back into the swing of living in the center of Jerusalem. I am taking a gizzilion courses in order to take advantage of every possible Jerusalem opportunity. These include Talmud (Baba Kama), Kabbalah (mainly Zohar), Parahanut (Joseph Stories so far), Women in Halacha (always a hoot!), Hassidism, a study of the prayer Ana BeKoach, a bissle of Theology, some background and modern day stuff on Conservative Judaism and a few other things. Will also be engaging in weekly dialogue with students from other Rabbinical schools and will be visiting a Palestinian community next month. These classes take place in addition to just hanging out in Jerusalem, going to concerts (Idan Raichel this Sunday, yea!) and lecture series. Thank GD for Shabbat!

I'll sign off with a few observations from the High Holidays:
--Based on my interactions with the 3rd-7th graders at Tikvat Israel Congregation in Rockville, MD (, the future of American Judaism is on much sounder footing than all those who are sounding the doom and death of American Judaism think.  I witnessed a wonderful conversation on what the day the dinosaurs were created that involved the concepts of metaphor and Biblical vs Real time and does Gd have a human form or what.... It was amazing.
-- They also wanted to know what the relationship is between Teshuva and sports like football, soccer, boxing etc., where you inevitably and sometimes on purpose hurt people.
--My Rabbi ended his 2nd day Rosh Hashanah schmooze asking everyone to sing with him: "slow down, you move too fast.... Feeling Groovy." A good message I thought to begin the new year with.  (BTW, I learned that the difference between a shmooze and a dvar is about 10 minutes).
--After so many years working on the Hihos, it was very hard to just be a "Jew in the Pew." But it was nice not to have to write a Yom Kippur sermon.

Sukkot was a great break from the solemnity of RH and YK. Had lots of guests both for dinner and an open house. I'll close with some pics of our Sukkah.
Shabbat Shalom u'M'vorach - (Shabbat blessings)