I just wanted to share something exciting I did today. Today I wrapped (laid) teffilin for the first time and it was awesome. I was lucky to get my hands on a pair of tefillin that was lent to me by one of the rabbis at HUC, so I have them for the whole semester if I want them. I honestly might not even keep them that long because I already want to go out and buy my own pair, but they are friggin expensive :-(
There are a lot of things I enjoyed about wearing tefillin. First I like the whole process of wrapping them, there is a very specific order and way to wrap the tefillin on your arm and head, and while there are different versions of exactly how you wrap it, they are all very deliberate and it's something you need to do with care. It is a great way to get yourself focused and ready to pray. Another thing I enjoy/ed about wrapping tefillin is the way it feels, you are supposed to wrap it tightly, but not so tightly that it cuts of circulation so you can feel it the entire time you are praying. There is a constant pressure on your arm reminding you to keep your head in the game and to keep you focused on prayer. I would say I am usually pretty focused, but this was a great helper.
What else...Tefillin are considered very holy objects so I felt like I had to act in a way that was respectful to them, I had to act worthy of wearing them. I also like the way they look. I think they look a little ridiculous but in a good way. I also like the different explanations of why they are wrapped a certain way. You are supposed to wrap the strap 7 times around your arm and there are many ways to explain the 7, it could be different emotions or the numbers of the matriarchs and patriarchs (a reminder to remember your roots), the 7 days of creation, etc.
Basically I'm a big fan. I am realizing that I took the fact that I am able to do these things for granted and now that I'm in Israel I realize what a privilege it is to be able to wrap tefillin or wear a tallis and not be criticized within my Jewish community here and at home. Not everyone is so lucky. So because of this I am trying things out, and yeah it's pretty sweet.
Found this awesome (or maybe awesomely bad) wrap about tefillin, it's pretty hilarious. If you are confused as to what I was talking about it has pictures and some background information. Check it out! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9NJtJJoVIY
Also, Ulpan is awesome. I am really enjoying my class and I'm learning a lot. Yay :-)