Thursday, October 19, 2006

אחר החגים After the holidays

After a day off on Sunday, life has begun to pick up more of a normal routine as we resumed classes at the Conservative Yeshiva and my friends at Hebrew U began their regular courses. On Sunday morning we had a nice surprise as one of the Shlichot from Ramah Nyack had ran into some of my friends Saturday night and invited us over to her house for brunch the next morning. Anat was just a 20 minute walk from Beit Nativ, and in a beautiful part of Katamon. It was so nice to see a familiar face, and catch up a bit, as well as use my Hebrew. We had a very nice meal, including fresh-made tea from her garden. What a small Jewish world it is, especially in Jerusalem. It is also heartening to know that the more that I participate in programs like Ramah and USY, the more people I will have to vidit in Israel and around the world!
I've been learning a lot during my long but rewarding days at the Conservative Yeshiva, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of what I learned in my classes and share some Torah for the week. In both my Midrash course, we studied the very beginning of Midrash Rabbah, the Aggadic midrash on the book of Bereshit learned some interesting insights on this week's Parsha:

*The first midrsh we learned was a beautiful teaching about how when God began to create the world, he did so not out of the blue, but consulted with his most precious creation, the Torah, which preceded the world. Just as when a king sets out to build a palace, his workers do not just start to work but carefully plan out the building, so too did God create the Torah to be his plan for creation.
*We also learned the teaching of R’ Huna, who interprets a verse in Psalms to teach that one should be humble when approaching the subject of מעשה בראשית, the creation story. While the Torah was given to us as a gift, it is important to retain a sense of wonder in its immensity and God’s power. Since nobody can know exactly how the universe was created, R’ Huna’s midrash comes to teach that humility is essential in Torah study, and consequently in all of our actions. Abraham Joshua Heschel taught that one should look at the world with ‘Radical Wonder’; Already two thousand years ago, the Rabbis were teaching these values, which despite being confined to this single topic, are still current and relevant to our entire life. The following pasuk, from the Psalm for Rosh Chodesh and which is also recited in the daily Shacharit service, often evokes my feeling when I behold nature, and R’ Huna’s vision of one’s feeling’s when they study Bereshit:

כד מָה-רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ, יְהוָה-- כֻּלָּם, בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ;
מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ, קִנְיָנֶךָ.

24 How manifold are Your works, O LORD! In wisdom have You made them all; {N}
the earth is full of Your creatures.

While it is important to study critically as well, we must not lose sight of the majesty of creation and the potential for immense meaning in the Torah, especially in the first few lines alone.

This week, following the end of the Chagim, the structure of our program has changed a bit in that we have a bit more independence, which means that for many nof our meals we are now given a stipend instead of being served. For now I have been shopping at the grocery store an buying food more than before, and soon I hope to experiment a bit more with cooking!

With a little more time on my hands now, I have been trying to take advantage of the many events, some of them free going on In Jerusalem. By checking the Jerusalem city website, I found out about a free concert of 9 Chazzanim taking place just 1 block from Beit Nativ at Beit Knessrt Yeshurun. While the concert started late and I left about two thirds through, It was extremely enjoyable, and amazed me about what’s available right in my backyard. Some of the Chazzanim were very amazing, including Israel Rand, who sang at Adath Israel two years ago! Speaking of Adath nIsrael, it was very nice to be able to visit with the Schnurbach family, who are in Jerusalem for a few days and staying right down the street from me! It’s always nice to have a taste of home here!

שבת שלום ומבורך!


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