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 (www.tikvatisrael.org), 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)