I was right, going the night before did cost me. I am kind of disappointed in myself a little, but I have been constantly reminded that I do need to get out socially as well. All I do know, is I find myself crashing at around 9 each night from sheer exhaustion. The mental strain of all this learning is hard. It has been way too long since I have done this much intense learning. I must admit though, I am loving it.
So lets talk Ulpan. Everyday there is more. We are all struggling, but we keep trying. I believe the whole point is that even if you feel you are getting behind, you will learn it later. The point isn't to learn everything at the time you learn it. The point is to build the foundation. I suppose this should be noted ahead of time, but there you are. I feel that I am keeping my head above water so far. I spend an awful lot of time reviewing, but that is good in my mind. I am learning and hoping to start thinking in Hebrew. Then I can be constantly reviewing it. I was once told, you know you are learning the language when you think in it and not translate on the fly. Well, that is the goal.
My lunches have been a wide variety. One day I went to this Yemeni place off of Ben Yehuda. Yum! That was a good call. On Thursday, all the younger crowd at the Yeshiva grouped together to discuss the barriers we face as young Jews today. You cannot help but to notice the sense of isolation common especially among my fellow Americans. It is a sad state in my mind that you have to feel like isolated even within the Jewish community for wanting to actually express your Judaism in a religious sense. What has happened to us as a community? I was talking to one of my British classmates and he is telling me how vibrant the Masorti/Conservative movement is in Britain. All I can think to myself is while there are pockets of vibrancy, the movement as a whole is struggling terribly. The whole non-Orthodox enterprise in the US is struggling. I think the meeting was so useful just to know that we are not alone despite it feeling that way sometimes. I think we should have more meetings, it helps just to be around other young people who are committed.
The afternoon classes continue to be a source of wonder for me. In Tanakh, we are beginning to see just how much place affects things and how the same themes and places permeate throughout the Torah and how things change over time. It really is quite amazing. On Tuesday, we discussed altars and the laws regarding them. Here it is in Exodus and later on right there with emergence of Gideon following the law. On Thursday, we are moving from the laws regarding meat and how the flexibility shrinks through the Torah. First we can eat all the animals, then we cannot consume blood. Then we have to bring the animal to the Mishkan for the sacrifice, cannot eat animals that are not slaughtered properly or were killed by predators, again with blood, and if you hunt an animal you must drain its blood on the ground and cover it with dirt. There are issues of course and stay tuned for more on this front. This is a weighty topic, although kind of pointless for me. There is no temple to make sacrifices at and as a vegetarian, I am eating animals any time soon. In all my readings, I never have been able to see the connections, now why certain things are the way they are are starting to make much more sense. We were starting to have a discussion about some of the issues that arise. I made a basic argument about how in the world do you bring animals for a population of 600k to a Mishkan the size of Super Sol across the street? Our teacher says argues how many animals do they really have? We are going to discuss this further next week, stay tuned. Allow me to discuss my Tefilah class now.
I only had one day of Tefilah on Wednesday. We started to delve in detail into the middle of the Amidah. First we dealt with the Weekday Amidah, specifically the 13 berakhot in the middle. There are distinct transitions between the prayers on multiple levels. Firstly, the first six are more personal prayers and the balance are much more a Zionistic theme about gathering all of the diaspora in Israel and bringing the return of the Davidic line. Even within each two groups, there seems to be a purpose in the order. The first group is about moving from knowledge to repetance to forgiveness to blessing of the years. The second group is a line from gathering the diaspora and smiting our enemies and again rebuilding the Davidic monarchy.
My workshops are continuing to improve my skills. I am finally being able to segregate the different nusach for Amidah weekday vs Shabbat. I am still catching myself drop into Shabbat mode, but I will conquer this problem. In Torah chanting, it is going to become a matter of just practicing and practicing. If I do not perfect it, I will seek out help within Los Angeles until I perfect it. It is a skill I very much want to have.
I had one last experience. On Thursdays, instead of a workshop to finish the day I participate in Gemilut Hesed projects. I selected visiting a nursing home. We take cabs to a local home and visit with the people there. Unfortunately, only one person spoke English and one of my cohorts was enjoying practicing her Arabic with him. He did have a really interesting story coming from Iraq though. That I did get to hear. We did a variety of singing and I got spend a substantial part of my time just standing listening to one of my classmates talk to one person in French. Many many moons ago, I studied French. I thought I had forgotten most of it. It started flooding back to me. I guess I do remember it. I just hope it didn't push out the Hebrew. I wouldn't mind being trilingual. That would be an awesome skill to possess.
So that is the end of the first week. I am so glad to have a couple days off. Now I have to worry about loosing a week of Ulpan in my head over the weekend. It terrifies me. I worry greatly about returning to LA where I am not exposed to Hebrew every day. I will find something I hope... Shabbat Shalom!