What can I say, it has been a bit of a whirlwind this week.
I enjoyed the last of my learner's minyan. Although I know the service, I do appreciate the refresher. I am not terribly regular at weekday services. I suppose I should as I live across the street from a rather large Conservative synagogue. I graduated to the regular minyan downstairs and I appreciate the service a great deal more now. I find I just enjoy davening more. It does have a steep learning curve I will admit. I just need to force my way through it like I am doing with Ulpan.
Speaking of Ulpan, we are learning so much so fast. It started slow, now I have almost 20 verbs I know. It is just so much to process. I have two messages to two audiences To the Hebrew speakers in LA who are reading this, you may be contacted to practice with. It is as good for you as it is for me. Therefore, cooperation is not optional. To my fellow classmates who feel frustrated. Imagine two weeks ago some of you knew absolutely nothing. I think we have learned about as much in two weeks as I learned in an entire year of French in High School. My recommendation is to trust the process. It builds on itself and if you don't get it in the first try, it will return very shortly to help you master it. It is just mind boggling how much we have learned over the past two weeks.
Lunch time this week was filled with talks. First we had a very enlightening talk on fasting in Jewish tradition by Rabbi Goldfarb. It really puts the fasts in a new light seeing where their origins belong. I have been taught what happened, but not how fasting became part of the tradition for the day. Fascinating. We also had talks showing how Maimonides was not a cold rationalist and his ideas mesh with Gaia Theory. I didn't quite follow it quite perfectly to make a judgment on the idea one way or the other, sorry. I also had the opportunity to hear Danny Siegel speak on the Mitzvah power and how easy it is to do. I have heard him before and again he was quite excellent and makes a very good point. There is no reason why you cannot perform acts of loving kindness without any significant effort.
My afternoon classes continue to keep me enraptured. In Tefillah we covered the Kriat Sh'ma and Pzukei D'Zimra. My understanding of WHY prayers are in the service and why they are there continue to improve. Why is Sh'ma before the Amidah? Why is the Sh'ma said twice and Ashrei thrice? I know why. Here's a hint, the Sh'ma says why it is twice. Ashrei, well of course you need consult the shelf called Talmud. And I do mean shelf. Some of you know what I mean. Why do we go through the specific Psalms we do? Of course, your Talmud again. We went through an entire class to discuss this, so any explanation I would give you would be woefully insufficient so I shall refrain to. Suffice it to say there is a good reason.
Now on our journey through the Tanakh. Our stops this week include Deuteronomy where we are back to Shechem. Why you ask? When the Israelites cross the Jordan river into the land of Israel the heads of each tribe are to stand at the top of one of two mountains depending on tribe and call out the curses and the blessings of the people of Israel. We are taught where sacrifices are to be made once in the land. Since of course it is impossible for everyone to come to one place to make sacrifices once everyone spreads out, each tribe in instructed to go to one place within their territories. We also get to see how the Samaritan bible has slight variations that fit their different ideas of place. It is rather interesting to see the differences. We now come to David and him wanting to build the first Temple. He is settled in Jerusalem, now why am I in a house and you know who (being respectful here so bear with me) is in a tent? Well, David gets told sorry you don't get to build it. Your son will. Find out more in week 3!
My workshops continue to help. I feel I am starting to gain not mastery, but competence in the nusach of Weekday Mincha. Mastery will only come after much more practice and actual leading of services. That will come. I will make the same remark of Torah chanting. It is like learning anything that involves singing or chanting, a ridiculous amount of practice. Think of Torah chanting like learning a song from the music. It is the same sort of thing. You just have to learn how to read the music and then practice the particular piece over and over.
There have been requests to discuss my social life. Yes, I do have one. This week I went out several times after class. I was able to see a talk about a book discussing the halacha of Homosexuality and how it really isn't as cut and dry as some would have you believe. I will refrain from commenting since I wish to avoid turning this blog into something it isn't. I spent an evening at Sara's just hanging out and setting up her Wifi. It works! One of my classmates, Edward had to return home to London unexpectedly so we had a lovely evening with a group from Ulpan just sitting and chatting. Who comes and joins us? Our fabulous Ulpan teacher of course! That just made the evening. We have a great little group going. I am so glad to have met them all. It is quite wondeful.
So that was week two. It has been a busy busy time. Only four more to go until I return to my life. I find I am not terribly looking forward to that transition. I find I am rather enjoying myself a great deal thank you very much!