Thursday, August 16, 2012

Still online... And Ulpan!

Dear readers,

Again I failed you in neglecting to keep this blog updated.  As the Yeshiva is over for the summer, I will deliver this in a series of post over the next several days.  I decided rightly or wrongly that it was better that I actually study and enjoy my free time.

First, let me thank my new dear friend Ruth for allowing me to stay with her for several days after my friend Brent's lease was up.  I arranged to return to the apartment after the arrival of its new tenants, the Averbachs.  Ari is a year behind Jessica in Rabbinical school and took over the apartment from Brent after he left.  I must thank them as well for allowing me to stay with them so soon after arriving in Israel.  I hope I was at least helpful in giving some decent advice.  I have been in Israel for over a month now and pretty much have figured things out.  I must truly be blessed to have people share their homes with me so generously.  Thank you to all.

On to class.  Ulpan is the big reason why I have been unable to maintain the blog.  It requires almost half the time I spend in class reviewing the material afterward to keep up.  Even then, we are covering so much it is just impossible to learn all of it.  My plan is therefore to just absorb as much as possible and work in Los Angeles.  To my fellow coworker Uria, you are being recruited to help me practice.  If my goal is fluency, practice will be constant companion in my life as well as much Israeli TV as I can stream online.  I get the feeling I will be watching many Israeli children shows over the next several months as the vocabulary is closer to my level and they speak slower and give me time to process.

Shall I discuss what we covered this session?  I will start with the minimum of four verbs and 30 other words a day.  Not easy to remember and master every day.  Of course, my favorite is remembering all the annoying nouns that have irregular gender issues.  It is incredibly confusing remembering them all, especially when English is your first language and you don't think about the gender of inanimate objects.  I know historically English actually did have them, but it is does make life simpler.  My review plan just to try and keep up is to review what we cover in class each day and go back and review an older chapter.  I may have mastered the content in that chapter, but I don't want it to slip.  This is only to for the sake of reviewing vocabulary, and not even new grammar.  Now I will discuss grammar.

I will first begin with the conjugation of prepositions.  The first preposition is (...ל).  I am going to say now I am still slightly confused by it, but I think I have a reasonably good idea of what I am doing with it.  It made more sense as we did the conjugation of (...של).  I am starting to get an idea of using it as a way of doing object pronouns.  Hebrew just combines it with the preposition as well.  I imagine that Hebrew uses conjugated (..את) to refer to an object without a preposition, considering (..את) when not conjugated is used that way.  I invite my readers with superior Hebrew skills to correct me.

Now I will move onto infinitive forms of verbs.  I find the multitude of ways rather confusing at the moment.  The same verb form of course has different ways.  I appreciate that there is much less irregular forms of verbs, at least as compared to the noun gender fun.  I suppose it is just another mountain of practice.  I will work on it.  On the other hand, past tense I find much simpler.  I think it is because once you know the shoresh or root of a verb you can figure it out easily since the endings don't change from verb form to verb form.  Again, please correct me if I am in error.

On another note, Ulpan introduced a new pain in my life, the background headache caused by intense learning.  They are just brutal by around the last hour.  I am not used to this level of study anymore.  Although I admit, I love it.  One thing I will be doing upon my return is a commitment to serious learning.  I forgot how much I actually enjoyed it.  The headaches are a good thing, just like muscle pain as you workout.  The brain is a muscle, use it!  That reminds me, I still have to learn imperative form of verbs and future tense.  HOORAY!  Guess who has much more work to do when he gets back, me!  Again, I need a more than one day a week Ulpan.  I am not going to sit there a drag along forever.  We got almost three quarters of the way through the Aleph level book in 6 weeks.  It is amazing.

I am happy to report though that I found myself increasingly using Hebrew interact with the general Israeli population.  Now of course it is rather bad Hebrew and may sound terrible, but I don't care.  I always believe one should be respectful of someone trying to learn your language and help.  In fact, that was primarily the reaction I received.  For instance, I pretty much ceased pointing at stuff at the Shuk and playing stupid or speaking English and just asked for what I wanted in Hebrew.  Not too shabby.  For those of you who are my Facebook friends, you may have noticed me posting in Hebrew especially to those I know will understand it.  I say, get used to it. I find it very good practice to actually carry out conversation in Hebrew, and it is probably good practice for you as well to read it.  So there.

Allow me to close by saying a few things.  First, props to Nitza!  She is an amazing teacher and to any year students who may be in her Ulpan class, you are in for a treat.  Second, I miss my classmates a lot.  You guys were awesome to study with and made it great, especially Jimmy the Chihuahua!  Yes, you were the class mascot and you were a lot of fun.  Two of my classmates do live in Los Angeles as well, I think it would be rather productive if we met and studied together.  That is just my two cents.  Third, I will find a way to study as intensively as time and available programs allow.  This is one of my priorities in life and I think an important thing for Jewish people to know in general.  So that is Ulpan, later read on and I will discuss my other classes and what I did when I wasn't studying.  I did do other things than study you know.  Honestly.  I promise.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

End of Session 1...

Did I mention the whirlwind?  I had a nice low-key Shabbat this week.  Services, hanging out with Brent and his friends.  It was all good stuff.  I made a killer barley and rice cholent for Friday evening.  YUM!  Sorry, I forgot to take a picture before Shabbat started.  Sorry.  It can and will be made again.  I do have other variations on that theme.

I will start with a complete and total מה זה???  Take a look at the picture and tell me.  I have no clue.  I was just walking around the Shuk.

Also, I had another just odd incident.  Apparently, Israelis have decided I am the person to ask for directions.  Thankfully, we learned directions this week!  .היא לו מתברת אנגלית  Yet, I was able to assist.  I have spent less than a month in total of my life in Jerusalem and apparently I am the person to ask for directions.  Americans pick me out as American real quick, apparently I look Israeli to Israelis though since I am being asked for directions.

So this week was yet more learning.  In terms of Shacharit, I try to make it as much as possible.  I may be late on occasion, but I do try and make it there.  It is just some days I need the extra sleep since I am just so mentally exhausted and others I cannot pull myself together in time.  The intention is there though.

We did have one absolutely amazing experience.  We went down to the Masorti Kotel, also known as Robinson's Arch one morning for Shacharit.  Click here to learn more about Robinson's Arch.  There was a walking tour that I really wanted to go on that morning, of course I could not force myself to wake up by 5:30 to get down in time.  Shame.  On a spiritual level for me, I find it much more meaningful than the Kotel. I really dislike the whole separation bit.  It really bothers me on a moral and religious level.  Not to mention I am quite fond of several female Clergy and future Clergy.  I have learned so much from them and credit them for helping me find my way religiously.

That is why I went to Women at the Wall for Rosh Chodesh.  Men function as moral support, which I am happy to provide.  I was able to witness an amazing service and after had a nice morning with a cold Orange Juice with Yeshiva friends.  It was an amazing way to end the week.

Now that we discussed other things, it is now time for Ulpan.  It is a mighty struggle.  I consume hours reviewing.  It can be frustrating, but I am pushing myself through and keeping up.  I will maintain this of course.  We are getting to some really useful stuff.  I am actually understanding numbers.  It makes the aforementioned Shuk so much easier to navigate.  I will continue my learning process for three more weeks and then I don't know.  I certainly cannot replace Nitza.  She is the best!  I have friends who have graciously volunteered to help me continue my Hebrew learning, but if I wish to achieve what I want I need a class.

So I make a humble request to American Jewish University back in Los Angeles, can there be a more than one day a week Hebrew class?  As essentially the only community Ulpan in Los Angeles, I looked into your continuing education classes, but the Beginner's Level 2 class accomplished in 12 weeks what we achieved in two and a half days.  At that rate it would take over a year to get through the ulpan book and we are almost halfway through after the first session.  I truly wish to learn Hebrew and achieve fluency and I will never achieve it at the pace your classes proceed at.  Nitza, you don't want to come to LA for a while do you?

Well, Tefllah concluded with a great overview of High Holidays.  Why things are the way they are actually make sense now!  We took an overview of the Rosh Hoshanna Morning Service, and being the longest now makes sense why it is so long.  The repetition of the Musaf service is source of the bulk of the addition.  For those who know a Traditional Saturday morning service, it turns a 10-15 minute Musaf into an hour or more.  You know that one part where you sit there for an hour seemingly listening to the Hazzan/Cantor?  That's it!  Why is this that way you ask? Lets review:

  • The Amidah itself is not particularly longer, it just just different.
  • There are a large quantity of addition piyutim (poems that date to the middle ages)  Hence, this is why you hear Aleinu more than once.
  • Of course everyone's favorite, the blasting of the Shofar.
Now we move to Tanakh.  Finally, Solomon builds the temple that David was promised that he could build.  He gives his great speech and the big guy does his thing ass well.  He fills his presence into the sanctuary of his new digs and kicks out the priests.  Solomon gives his great speech and of course uses it to solidify his power.  The Israelites did want a king, be careful what you ask for.  Not that the kings made the situation any better than it was before.  Most of the Kings decide to go off and worship other things and you know who wasn't terribly pleased.  I wouldn't be either mind you.  On Tuesday, we read about one king who tries to set things straight and was successful.  Poor Hezikiah, you do so well yet your son is just a crooked as the rest.  By the time the next King who actually does what he is supposed to turns around, it is too late.  Josiah fails to head off the destruction of Jerusalem.  At least he doesn't  get to watch.  For me the big finish comes in Jeremiah Chapter 7.  Here everyone is thinking because Jerusalem has been spared repeatedly while the countryside is ravaged, it is untouchable.  Is it, is it really?  Does the big guy really need a Temple, or is it just for us?  

And there you have it, the Temple was built and always was for us.  For me, that is a lesson that is very expandable.  Is it too much to say that the whole point of the Torah, all of it is for our sake and not for his/hers sake?  I leave it to you to ask that question for yourself.  It is an important one to ask, why are things the way they are whether they be Jewish traditions or any other religion.  What is the point?

I will now get off my soapbox.  Torah study is now complete.  Am I a master Torah chanter who learn a whole Parsha in a week?  I don't think so.  Do I have the fundamentals to transition from recordings, yes.  Will I require more help from people to completely master the technique, yes.  If I am to get to the point of learning a substantial amount in a short time it will of course require much practice.

Now in terms of Nusach, I feel comfortable now with doing a Weekday Mincha.  My only problem now is that a Shaliach Tsibur has to actually do the prayers for the one's who cannot.  My problem is, I take forever to get through the prayers.  That is the only thing holding me back from leading a Mincha here at the Yeshiva.  I want to do it right.  It is important to do such things right.

So that is Session 1, Session 2 GO!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Israel Museum!

So I will detour from my usual encyclopedic posts to discuss one activity.  On Friday the 13th, I took a tour of the Israel Museum, specifically the Second Temple model.  Now this isn't just any tour that most people get.  Our guide happens to be one of the foremost experts in the Second Temple, Professor Rabbi Yisrael Levine of Hebrew University.  It is a unique opportunity to experience something rather special.  First we had a little lecture at the Yeshiva that kind of laid the background of the period.

First we learned how the Jerusalem started as a city and moved into prominence.  In Tanakh, we learned how Jerusalem was a bit of a backwater until David came establish his throne here.  As is, it was never a particularly large city.  Remember, in those days cities were not terribly big.  It did grow of course.  Now think about cities back in the ancient times.  A) They were walled to protect against invaders.  Jerusalem did have a huge advantage to start with being on the top of a hill.  So in order to grow, you had to build a new section of wall to accommodate the increasing population.  That happened in two phases.  First you had the original city, then it was expanded westward and then northward.  The city essentially quadrupled in size.  Remember, this incorporates an area not much larger than what is termed the Old City today.  Modern Jerusalem is massively larger than the area the old walls contained.

We learned why certain things are they way they are and the choices that were made when the model was built. Of course, much of what we know comes from Josephus, the great Roman historian. There are other sources of course; coins, the Christian Bible, post-Temple Jewish literature.  I invite you to look at pictures at the link. Israel Museum Pics  You can see certain things such as the towers.  Only one is not sheer guesswork.  The one in the middle is described by Josephus, the others who knows.  We only know there are three towers.  Such is the life of historians.  I must admit to feeling sorry to another group that was being given a tour.  They are getting a much less accurate description of the model without the background we received and understanding of the limitations that the model maker had.

I must admit, that was just about near the top of any museum visit I have had.  You rarely the opportunity to take a tour by an expert and it was just one opportunity I refused to miss out on.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Week 2 at the Yeshiva

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!

Thursday, July 12, 2012


So I finally have some downtime!  First I will start where I left you last time, on the cab back to the Yeshiva. I met up with Sara from home and had dinner with her and one of her fellow Cantorial students.  They are so in for an amazing year.  I cannot help but to feel a little envy of the journey they are starting.  They are in for a great ride.  I ordered my first meal in Hebrew as well!  Now I just need to learn numbers so I can feel more comfortable at the shuk.  I figure at the pace we are at in Ulpan and where it is in the book the ETA on that is Tuesday.

That means of course I have to take the bus to Tel Aviv to visit a Lawyer for family business.  First I went to the Shuk and bought kiddush wine first thing in the morning before the insane Friday crowds for Shabbat.  Hopefully I bought something decent.  I will find out.  Brent and I decided on a menu for Shabbat lunch that he will pickup and I will make.  Sounds good.  So off I go to Tel Aviv.  I always like to watch the countryside, so of course on the ride over some lady decides that she needs the shade down.  Perhaps I am insufficiently rude to not just put it back up.  I relented and tried to look out another window.

Did someone mention the weather in Tel Aviv is rather inhospitable?  The air today decided to be so humid you could cut it with a knife.  I pushed through thanking myself for dressing in cool clothing.  I had a very productive meeting with the Lawyer I think and then I decided to enjoy Tel Aviv for a little bit before heading back.  First things first.

!!אני רוצה גלידה

So I found this lovely little place around the corner.  They had Halva and pistachio ice cream.  Oh my!  Yum!  Of course you need a picture of this heaven.  What can I say?  It helped.

I found lunch after.  I decided that after eating a mountain of pita and hummus for lunch I needed a change.  So I found this place just up from the ice cream.  A massive delicious asian salad after, I was quite satisfied.  Again, the food here is ridiculous.  I strolled around Tel Aviv heading back to the bus station since I would rather not be stuck in Tel Aviv and it is rather hot.  So I stopped in this very interesting health food store and a mall I have not been too before. It was all so interesting.  I have become obsessed with strolling around Israel on foot.  I did not have the time in Tel Aviv on my previous trip as it was mostly programmed material, so I intend to make the most of it.

My stroll back to the bus involved finding the most shady path I could find.  I was getting the point of desperately needing a juice.  Why is it there are so many juice bars in Tel Aviv and I picked the one path without one?  Oh well.  I got to the bus and on my ride back I actually got a view.  As we passed by the "hill" on the way out of town, I could not help but to stop and think of my previous trip here.

That "hill" happens to be a gigantic mound of trash.  Israel seemed to think it was a good idea at its beginning to put the bulk of its trash in a mound just outside of Tel Aviv.  It of course became unmanageable.  In the meantime, they have this huge mound.  Israel still has a trash problem.  There are cages for bottles and paper everywhere, but recycling is a joke compared to home.  I generate easily 5 times the trash I do at home.  I bring my canvas bags, and yet everywhere I go they try to give me a plastic bag with my purchase.  Also, I do not understand why the same Tnuva feta cheese I buy in Los Angeles has triple the packaging here.  I just leave them and hopefully the places I visit frequently will get the hint.  I recommend reading the wikipedia article on it if you want to learn more.  Find it at  While Israel is going to rehabilitate it into a massive park, the problem of the ridiculous amount of trash this tiny country generates remains.  It is depressing to say the least.

I came back to Jerusalem and decided to take a different route home than the direct one.  Again, I got to see so much more of Jerusalem.  I so enjoy just walking.  I get to see so much of the rich flavor of the country.  I braved the shuk one last time before Shabbat.  Oh my!  There were hundreds of Birthright participants there.  I had to ask if my friend Mike was there since he runs one of the trips back in LA. It inspired me to email him to see when he is going to be in town.  I know he is coming.  I picked up a couple supplies for tonight's dinner and some fruit for the weekend.  I came home after and crashed for a bit.  I intended to find a local service, but woke up at 6:30.  Ooops!  I at least get to have Shabbat dinner with some fellow yeshiva students.  He was most generous and was made sure there was sufficient goodness for Mr. Vegetarian.  It reminds me of how wonderful Shabbat is.  It is definitely something that needs to made a regular thing in LA.  I ended up leading us in Kiddush.  There is something I definitely need to practice.  Yet more work for me.  Hooray!  Of course, the wine was again awful.  I would describe it as battery acid with sugar in it.  I never thought I was say I missed the swill we drink in America, but there it is.  I am sticking to decent Israeli moscatos from now on.  As long as it is kosher and not dry, I am happy.  What a lovely Shabbat evening.  It was just amazing just sitting there bonding with my fellow Yeshiva students.  What a lovely evening.

The next morning I dusted myself off and went to Moreshet Yisrael for services.  It was a pleasant enough service.  I did enjoy listening to Cantors from across America lead the davening.  It gives me a very interesting look at the differences between them and back at home.  It was quite interesting.  My afternoon was a nice and quiet one just hanging out with Brent.  I of course the previous day prepared a nice Shabbat lunch.  I look forward to hosting next week.  I did manage to sneak a little Ulpan review in.  In terms of Shabbat, unless someone decides to correct me I put Ulpan review in the category of Talmud Torah and therefore permitted and encouraged on Shabbat.  I did not write anything so there.  I put it out there to any Rabbi out there who may be reading this to correct me if I am wrong.  So that was my weekend.  I have a long week ahead so I went to bed early this time.  That and I had nothing planned.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Days 3-5

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!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Day 2

So I guess I had another big post left in me.  When I am in a groove, the words just leap from my head and thankfully I type fast enough to keep up.  So now on to day two...

So for day two, I decided to undertake the part two of the learner's Shacharit.  Today we are covering a great deal more of the Pzukei D'zimra.  These are the psalms that proceed the main part of the service.  I never actually considered them as a service themselves, with a lead up to the main action and a lead down to the next part.  I had always figured them as one long lead up.  Again, my new understanding has given me yet more meaning and a desire to actually be a part of the service.  As the Nusach class continues, I hope to actually get to the point of being comfortable leading a service and perhaps when I return lead services on occasion.

Now for Ulpan day 2.  I am happy to report that I am still keeping afloat.  I am glad I reviewed like crazy the night before.  It helps so much.  I just need to review every day as much as possible.  It is the only way.  I love how the textbook loves teaching Geography.  Thankfully I am really good at that.  It is just forcing myself to read it phonetically in Hebrew.  At least we have vowels to work with for now.  I know that is only going to last another day or two.  I have become convinced phonics is really a useless way to teach a language that doesn't print its vowels.  Most of the class started with at least some phonetic ability for block Hebrew and some with script.  I know my block Hebrew phonics is excellent since I practice during services on a regular basis.  It only helps in as much as when we get new vocabulary I know how it should sound immediately.

So today during lunch while I was sitting around one of my fellow classmates invited us to the shuk this evening.  On Mondays, it is converted into a bit of a night club.  I said I would come, knowing it is a bit of a mistake.  I told myself I'll only come for a bit to see what it is.  I need to get out of the Yeshiva a little bit, don't I?  I figure I can get home at an early enough hour that I can get sufficient sleep to make it through tomorrow.

This afternoon started with the first session of Rabbi Goldfarb's Tefilah class.  We are starting to cover the service, how and why it was built.  So of course, we consult the Talmud and the Mishnah.  I always love how the Talmud resolves conflicts, everyone is right!  It may take a little tortured logic, but it can be made to work.  I have to give props to Rabbi Goldfarb for teaching a bit of Talmudic thinking into the class.  Again, I feel like I want to split myself into multiple pieces to be in every class.  I don't regret my choices, I just want to learn more.  Part of this we even get a history of the Amidah and Jewish prayer in general.  I never really considered just how old some of these prayers are.  There a great many hypotheses about the origin of the Amidah and specifically the 18 that are really 19.  Why is there actually 19? Which one is the 19th?  Yes, the questions are many.  I never thought this way before about my prayer and I don't think most have either.  Again, I want to know more.

Today was the first session of Torah chanting.  You know all those funny little symbols in your Torah book at the synagogue, well they mean something!  Now I get to find out what and how to use them.  I am tired of memorizing a recording.  It gets exponentially harder the more you need to memorize.  If I know it, I can chant more and learn it quicker. One problem, I was running out of steam.  I must apologize to my instructor if I seemed a little sleepy.  IT WASN'T YOU!  I was just that exhausted.  I forced myself to learn.  Thankfully, it was mostly introduction and not too much detail so I was able to integrate that.  We did cover a few symbols.  Somehow I was actually able to remember them after class despite my fatigue.  I suppose growing up in a musical family helps.

So I came home after, and still went to the shuk tonight.  Despite my promise of not staying long, I ended up there for over an hour and a half.  I did have a great time though dancing with my fellow classmates.  It was a great evening.  It did come with a cost.  Either I cut short sleep or I miss the learner's Minyan in the morning.  I chose the latter.  It is a simple cut my losses equation here.  There would be no way for me to handle a whole day on less than a full night's sleep.  I don't regret going out and having fun.  I just regret knowing I may miss something important and I should be there the next morning for learner's Minyan.  Our instructors put a lot of effort into doing it and I should respect that.  More than anything, I fear not learning something important.