Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A day of learning in Jerusalem - different voices

Walking around Jerusalem can be amazing. The stone is so white that one is literally blinded by the light. It can take a few minutes for one's eyes to adjust upon entering a building. Then there is the cacophony of languages that is heard on the street. This morning,  as I walked to the yeshiva, I heard Hebrew, English, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, French, something that sounded Slavic but am not sure, several variations of dog and cat languages, birdsong and lots of honking horns. Couldn't understand most of what I heard but things were said quite forcefully.

Had a good day of learning. Rabbi Joel Levy led a shiur on Co-existence. Coming from my world I automatically assumed it would be about interfaith relations but it was actually about intrafaith pluralism focussing on Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. We learned texts about Machloket L'shem Shamayim - arguments for the sake of Heaven. In other words, arguments or disagreements that are undertaken where both parties are going at it for a good cause, with good intent, not trying to one-up each other, not having base political reasons for this argument. The argument/discussion/exercise itself becomes a true act of Torah. The thing is - can these arguments just go on forever or do they need to be resolved at some point? or, put differently, Do communities, true pluralistic communities, need basic rules and standards by which to live or can they just flounder about forever "in process?" In one text, the Bat Kol (basically a heavenly voice) intercedes and provides a ruling thereby providing us with an answer.  There is much more to it than that, of course, but that's enough for now.

The basic question in Talmud and today is: How are those with different strands of Jewish practice and belief expected to get along? Can they? Who makes the rules and who determines who will go along with them? Equally importantly, when do these rules get to be changed and by what process is change made? Do these questions sound familiar? They should. These are the questions that define the age in which we live. The answers define our current Judaism, will determine the Judaism that our children see and will determine the Judaism that our grandchildren will live.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What if? by Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Jun 27, 2011

(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

What if...

...books only answered
questions actually asked?

...people listened intently
for those real needs?

...time's passage affirmed
decisions already made? allowed for
its own peaceful unfolding?

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Monday, June 27, 2011

Into the Second Week

So, I finally landed in Israel this past Thursday at 5:30ish a.m. Zari lovingly picked me up at the airport then took me to Aroma in Jerusalem for breakfast. Am staying in a great apartment with Marissa and Barbara off Aza right in the center of Jerusalem, a very short walk from the Conservative Yeshiva (CY),  my home away from home in Israel.

Turns out most of my friends in J'slem live nearby. Quite convenient. My routine is quite simple. I wake up whenever I feel like getting up. At some point in the day Barbara insists on giving me a coffee and then serenading me with the lovely tones of the Contrabassoon as she practices for her concert with the Israeli Philharmonic. One can truly get spoiled by all this love going around!

BTW, mazal tov to Marissa and Barbara on their somewhat secret but not actually secret wedding in CT before they left for Israel! Many blessings and wishes for years of love and happiness and lots of laughter!

Coming soon: picture of Barbara playing the contrabassoon
After coffee I head to CY for studying. Have the ever present incompletes to make up so that I can enter my final year at RRC and be ordained next June. Yes, folks, you heard me, I, Arlene, plan to be ordained a year from now. Come the-hell-that-we-don't-believe-in or high water. Wish me luck. The luck is for finishing all the work that I have yet to finish. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not so good with deadlines when it comes to school related matters. All efficiency related vibes are gratefully accepted.
Me finishing up homework summer of 2009 in Israel. Funny how somethings never change. And no, it is NOT the same work that needs to be finished now.

The problem is,  my phone keeps ringing, my contact book on the phone is full with over 20 phone numbers in it and I've spoken multiple times in multiple languages to each person and I've only been here 5 days - and one of those was Shabbos!  Oh, to always have such problems! Shabbos was spent watching the sunset over the Mediterranean Ocean while sitting on the beach in Tel Aviv with Zari. I am truly blessed. Lilah tov y'all.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My summer of R&R&R - Day 1

Welcome to My Summer of R (Rest) & R (Relaxation) & R (Reflection)

Day 1 – Wednesday June 22, 2011  London Town Musings

    There is something so uniquely British feeling about a rainy day – especially a cold, grey rainy day in summer.  People should be shivering and staying indoors, instead there is a riot of colour out on the street as people go about their business under a canopy of umbrellas – solid colored, striped, patchwork, polka dotted, plaid, paneled, bannered, with or without words or medallions, with decorative edging, extremely large or so small one cannot figure out why they are being used at all. It’s totally cool!

I spent a period of time in a pub off Tottenham Court Road as I finished up a strange lunch that included minty mushy peas. As much as I enjoy peas, I deeply regret that I cannot recommend minty mushy peas to anyone. Even to people that I do not like. Enough said.  The waiter at the restaurant was very nice to me, noticed how exhausted I was from traveling so many hours (nearly 20 at that point), brought me countless refills of Coke and encouraged me to stay for as long as I wanted. So I did. I stared out the window, sipped my Coke, stared at the rain, and watched the parade of umbrellas pass by.

I also occupied myself with interesting reading – articles on the concept of devekut in Hassidut.
The readings don’t necessarily match the surroundings except that devekut (clinging or cleaving to Gd) is all about determination  and if going about in this chilly, icky, wet weather in not all about determination, then I do not know what is!

 Of course, I’m hard put to find a parallel between the plethora of umbrellas and ecstatic elevation of spirituality and devotion to the Kudsha Brich Hu – unless one really wants to stretch and reference Mary Poppins and her flights into the air of the Supernal Realm with her umbrella. I am in England, after all!
Interfaith Experience #1
    I did manage to daven (pray) Ma’ariv as we waited to take off last night and Shacharit this morning. Davened in the back of the plane (British Air) after having a chat with the 2 Irish flight attendants and explained what tefillin were. One of them had seen tefillin before, one hadn’t - both knew they were not bombs, B"H. They both had many questions including what are they for, what is in the boxes, what do the straps represent, why do you wear them, and of course the biggie – (no, not are they used for S&M but) we didn’t  know women could be rabbis.  Both were Irish Catholic and didn’t know of any female Catholic priests, so a woman clergy figure was outside of their experience. They were quite pleased.  I got out my handy dandy Tanach, showed them where in Deuteronomy the Shma can be found, showed the passages from Hosea 2:20-21 that we say as we wrap the straps around the middle finger and what that symbolizes. Discussed the marriage metaphor of Gd/Israel and man/woman and all in-between. Was fascinating. Only got a few strange looks from other passengers on their way to the bathroom (asher yatzar…).  Interesting way to pass the time before breakfast.


Interfaith Experience #2
    At British Museum, while waiting to meet my wonderful friends Sara Bucciarelli and her adorable son Dov (3 yrs, 4 mos old), I was asked to take the picture of a couple that was sitting on the steps of the museum. As we began to talk (because of course we had to begin to talk) I learned that the woman had just been ordained from the Fuller Theological Seminary in California and was about to being a Hospital Chaplaincy Program (yea CPE).  We seminarians are all over the place. She and I exchanged stories and email addresses and plan to keep in touch. Mazal tov to Karen Bolte! I wish you blessings and much luck as you find your way through your calling and do Gd’s work in the world. 

The day ended with a wonderful conversation with Sara about head versus hair coverings for liberal Jewish women – how we make these decisions and how other people view the decisions we make. 
    We also talked about how people with different religious practices interface. Life is different for those of us who live in the grey spaces as opposed to those who are able to see things quite concretely or are comfortable with black and white. I am very happy to have Sara back in my life
    I land in Israel at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday) morning. Zari will pick me up and take me to Marissa and Barbara’s apartment. Where would be without friends in our lives?

Wall in Tube station at Tottingham Court Road Station. Cool, huh?

Look! They still have phone booths. And ones with style!

Okay, so maybe there not too much style or class on the inside but the outside looks good.

The British Museum. It was pouring!

Don't think I'll get to Afghanistan in real life so....

Jennie, this shoe is for you!

Soho - Gotta love it!

I love London! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Two wonderful quotes

"Live in the present, and make it so beautiful.
That it will be worth remembering." 

"What I was is unimportant, what I am now is important."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Psalm 27 - Interpreted

Psalm 27 Interpreted

A Psalm of David
Hashem is the light and salvation of my soul - who could possibly be more awesome? 
Hashem is my life's protector - just let anyone try to lay a finger on me!
My enemies want to get close? To taste my flesh?
Oh how they stumble and fall!
If a horde should suddenly appear on top of me I won't freak out,
If a battle breaks out in front of me, even then I’ll stay sure. 
Hashem, I ask only this one thing of you -That I can continue to hang out in Your house all the days of my life, to experience your awesomeness and to visit your palace. 
In times of trouble Hashem will hide me in his lair; he hides me in the depths of his tent, he sets me high up on a rock where no one can reach me.
And now, my head is raised high above my enemies who surround me; therefore I will offer in his tent offerings of Joy and music and song!
Hear my voice, O God, Be gracious to me and Answer me.
While to you my heart reports "They seek my face," it is your face God that I am seeking.
Don't your dare hide your face from me! Don't turn your servant away in anger, you have always been there for me before!
Do not forsake me, Do not abandon me, O God who has always before been my Savior.
For my father and my mother left me and Hashem, you are the one who has gathered me up - and then pasted me back together with super glue.
Show me the path, Hashem -- guide me on an even path (a well trodden one so I don't trip) for the sake of my insidious watchers (because they won't stop watching, waiting for me to trip up...).
Do not deliver me to the desires of my enemies, they tell lies about me, they exhale violence with every breath.
It's only because I know that I will see the goodness of Hashem in the land of the living... 
Have hope in Hashem, be strong and have courage, have hope in Hashem.

October 2010

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Poem: Words and Silence

I've been writing poems, short stories and some just generally pithy and funny statements throughout the past year. Thought I'd start sharing some of them. 

Words and Silence

Baruch She’amer V’Haya Ha’Olam
Blessed is the One who Speaks and the World Becomes

We recognize the power of words
−Their ability to build up
        And to tear down
−Their ability to create
        And to destroy
−Their ability to give birth
        And to kill

We recognize the nuances of silence
−What is said without words
−What is un-said

Because we did not give
    the Words
a chance to be expressed

Because we were too busy
for someone else’s words to be heard

We recognize
    −the Power of Silence
    −the Strength of Silence
    −the Din of Silence

Baruch s’maksheevh v’mamsheech liv’roh et ha’olam
Blessed is the one who listens and
    Continues in the creation of the world

student rabbah arlene berger  
march 2011