Thursday, September 30, 2010


Hey World,

So I'm really excited to write to you about my trip to Sinai (woot). I got back yesterday, but then we had another holiday (more about that later) so I didn't have time to write it then. And you know I mean business because I have a big bottle of diet coke by my side and a finished bag of shoko (mmm chocolate milk in a bag).

Anyways the way you get to Sinai from Israel is you take the bus down to Eilat, then take a cab (about 10 minutes) to the border with Egypt, then you walk across the border and you get your passports checked and all that good stuff and then viola you are in Taba a city in Sinai. Then we took a 2 hour ride to Dahab where we stayed for the 4 nights.

So the first thing we experienced in Sinai was coming outof the border we were basically swamped by cab drivers trying to get us to ride with them. We were walking to the bus station and all I can say is WOW, I was not expecting them to be so aggressive. I thought Israeli people (at least the ones trying to sell you stuff) were aggressive, and these Egyptians put them to shame. Anyways things ended up working out and we got a cab to take us (for super cheap!) to Dahab.

Second thing I experienced in Sinai was the beauty and magnificence of the landscape there. There were many tall rocky mountains and since we were in the desert it was pretty hazy which gave it a very mystical quality. In the Torah it speaks about the Jews wandering in the desert for 40 years, which is (at least partially) referring to Sinai, so it was kind of cool to be there. I'm not talking about the historicity of the bible, that is something for another time, but to be in a place where the Israelites "got the Torah" and really developed as a people in critical ways that makes up a decent amount of material within those first 5 books, was certainly a trip. I can really see why people would feel close to God in this place. It was awe inspiring.

So after the rough ride to Dahab we settled in at our hostel/hotel (the penguin hotel, thanks Senna for the recommendation...). Dahab is a pretty touristy city but it's cute and the tourists were from around the world so that was cool to experience. We definitely were not in
Israel anymore.

The first full day there we went to the beach, I think it was called Lagoon or maybe Lagouna. It was about a 40 minute walk away from where we were staying. The thing about Dahab is that is has reefs all over the place, so even though we were staying right on the water it was not a good place to just go swimming. When we got to the beach is was lovely. The water is soooo blue there and it's also nice and cold which was important since it was so friggin hot there (ughhh even hotter than Israel). Here is a picture I took at the beach. It doesn't quite capture the beauty of the scene, but it gives you a little taste.

The next day we went on a snorkling trip. As I said, Dahab is known for it's snorkling/scuba diving. So we ended up going on this day trip to two different snorkling places with a bunch of other people who were visiting Dahab. The second destination was called "blue hole" and if you are ever in Sinai you gotta go. It was unbelievable! There were these coral reefs that came up to about 3 feet or 2 feet below the surface of the water and then then went down so far that you couldn't see where they ended. It was incredible, there were all these beautiful, colorful fish (yes I found nemo), and fascinating things to look at. It was crazy how there were these rich reefs and then right next to it a blue abyss. I feel like I'm describing it strangely, but yeah go. I wish I had an underwater camera to take some pictures, but I guess you will just have to see for yourself.

One of my favorite parts of the snorkeling day was the HUGE schools of tiny fish, minnows maybe, or sardines (I don't know my fish types)? Anyways they were these small, small silverish/whitish, shiny fish that swam all over the place and often got pretty close to the surface. So what I did was dive down and got in the middle of the huge school and ugh it was SOOO cool, the fish didn't want to touch me at all so they formed a perfect wall and swam around me and I was just surrounded by this aura of little fishies. It was awesome. I was speaking with someone else on our snorkeling trip and they agreed with me, so even if it doesn't sound cool, trust me :-)

We got back from our snorkling trip at 5pm and went to nap because we had to be ready by 11pm to go climb Mt. Sinai!! While it is impossible to know what mountain is actually mt. Sinai/if there actually ever was anything significant that really happened there, we thought it would be cool to climb the mountain that people thought was mt. Sinai. I think it was decided in like the 4th century or so CE that this was THE mountain, so regardless of the truth of the statement there is a lot of history at this mountain.

So what you do is you leave around 11pm and you get there at 1am and start the climb. You climb at night because it is WAY too hot during the day, and people go to watch the sunrise. The one thing I didn't expect, but I shouldn't have been surprised by, was the number of people climbing. The night we were there, there was probably about 300 to 500 people climbing with us. It was quite a hike, but I had some interesting conversations with people in our hiking group, and it was cool to just look out into the desert at night and up at the stars. I felt a lot of sympathy for Moses haha.

So we got to the top at 4something in the morning and we picked out a good spot to chill before the sunrise. Little did we know we were partially sitting in a beduin coffee shop/stand thing. After arguing for a little about our right to stay in the area my friend paid him off by getting a cup of coffee. It was funny, I think it's the same in Israel, but arguing is something that happens more often here, and it's nothing personal, people are just more ok with fighting back and getting their way.

So after a few minutes we made friends with the guy in the coffee shop thing (it was basically a flame with some hot water and a little counter thingy but not really), and we "helped" him sell stuff. He was yelling "coffee, tea, hot chocolate, mattress blanket" and then at random times we would yell it too, but also add random stuff in like "camel!" or taxi. It was a funny interaction, we were all laughing a lot, even the Bedouin guy (I'm forgetting his name...). The guy sitting next to me asked if we were high (no, we were just high off the endorphans from climbing the mountain).

Before you get to mt. Sinai they tell you it will be cold so bring warm things. I didn't believe them, so I brought a sweater. I mean it was soooo friggin hot, I couldn't imagine being cold. But let me tell you, it was freezing up there while we waited for the sun to rise. So if you do the hike, trust me, bring some sweatpants and a blanket (or you could rent a blanket up at the top). The bedouin guy actually gave us a blanket for free which was super nice.

To be honest the sunrise was pretty lame. Everyone was taking a million pictures, but yeah it was nothing special. I overheard one guy saying the sunrises are better in the winter. Whatevs. My favorite part of the whole this was when the sun was up and you could fully see the scenery around you. It was breathtaking. The mountains were this gorgeous red-ish color, and the shapes of the rock formations on the mountains were really cool. Here is one picture of it, or well it and me at the top of mt. Sinai (I think I look super Israeli in this pic and tired haha).

There were some other cool parts I didn't take pictures of because they were on the climb down and I was afraid I was going to fall and die if I tried to take my camera out. There are two ways to go up mt. Sinai, one is a path and the other is ALL STAIRS. We climbed up the path, but then somehow by accident we ended up going down the stairs route (I think it is called the stairs of attrition). It was worth it because the views were amazing, and there were so many interesting rock formations, not to mention we escaped the crowd and the smelly camels. BUT it did hurt a lot after a while. We climbed for like 2 hours down rock steps without any breaks in the steps. By the end my knees were all wobbly and I am still having issues climbing down steps, but we made it. woot

We got back to our hostel at around noon and passed out. We just chilled for the rest of the day and went to a small beach that was closer to the hostel. We also went shopping, there was a market place thing that basically sold stuff to tourists and ripped everyone off haha. I got a cute scarf and some board shorts though, and while I probably got ripped off, I think I bargained them down pretty well, and everything was cheap anyways so it wasn't horrible.

I forgot to mention another highlight of the trip...At the hostel there were these 4 adorable kittens that were tiny and super cute and ahh OMG. I spent a good amount of time making friends with them/petting them. Here is a pic:

The cats around where we were staying were more socialized, I think because they are used to being around people trying to get food so they put up with being pet which was great for me, so I finally got the whole petting cats thing out of my system for a little, but I still want a pet cat sooo bad. Some day... The guy at the hostel actually offered me a kitten to take home, and I was sad that I couldn't, I hope they find a good home.

So as fun as Sinai was, the time came to go back to Israel. The weird thing about it was how friggin excited I was to go back to Israel, we all were. I was so happy to hear hebrew again, which I did at the border because many Israelis were crossing over too. It made me realize how much Israel has become home for me this year. I was grinning as I passed into Israel. I really do love it here, and I think it is easy to get hung up on the things that bother me about this place, but Israel is soo much more than that, and being in Egypt helped me realize that.

First thing I did back in Israel was have shwarma, mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. After having been vegetarian for the whole time in Egypt it was wonderful, gosh I love shwarma.

So last funny story: On the bus back to j'lem from Eilat I was sitting next to this girl who I recognized from the bus on the way down to Eilat. We started talking and it turned out she worked at camp Eisner last summer so we knew some of the same people. It was really crazy, ohh Jewish geography, and it was crazy it worked with an Israeli who grew up in Jerusalem. Good times.

So we got back on Wednesday night right before simchat torah started. It's good to be home :-) (more on simchat torah to come, I'm gonna make it a separate blog entry because this one is crazy long).

So to sum up: Go to Sinai if you can, it is fun, super cheap, and a beautiful place. yay


Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm leavin'

Hey world,

So today's entry will be short because I have a lot to do before I leave tomorrow. Yes I am leaving to go to Sinai tomorrow morning. Please don't tell me it's dangerous, I've heard it already, and I'm still going. Anyways I'm super pumped to go relax on the beach, and hopefully climb mt. Sinai (yeah and maybe even get the torah ahaha I'm so funny).

I'm happy to be on vacation and also to get out of Israel for a little. I'm coming up on the 3 month mark being here, which is CRAZAY. I'm a little sad that I'm leaving during sukkot because I would love to eat in some restaurants outside in their sukkot, but oh well I do need a break.

So yeah look for an update from me sometime next week when I get back :-)

Hope you are enjoying your sukkot...also I went to this sukkot party yesterday and we were thinking of sukkot pickup likes and I came up with one that I think is pretty funny:
If you were a sukkah I would want to be the schach so I can be on top of you...heh heh.

And I'm out


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Hey World,

SO tonight, continuing on in the marathon holiday season, is sukkot. Wooo. Sukkot is usually translated into english as the "festival of booths" or something like that, which I think sounds a little ridiculous. When I hear the word booth I think of those things you sit in at a restaurant that are wayyy superior to the tables and chairs.

Anyways during sukkot you build a sukkah, and it is a mitzvah to sit in it and eat in it and sleep in it. What is a sukkah? It is a temporary structure that needs to have 3 (well actually 2.5 walls, a roof that allows more shade than sun, but you still need to see the starts through it, and the roof is covered with schach, here that means leaves from a palm tree mostly). Unfortunately this year I do not have a sukkah because 1. our mirpeset (porch) is covered and we can't build a sukkah on it because you need to be able to see the stars from the roof of the sukkah. 2. I didn't want to buy a sukkah to have for just a few days this year.

The great thing about Israel is there are sukkot (plural of sukkah) EVERYWHERE. It's awesome, this is what I love about having a Jewish country. Many restaurants have built sukkot and put their outdoor seating underneath the sukkah so you can fulfill the mitzvah of eating in the sukkah even while at a restaurant. How cool is that?!? I think it's cool.

I have also been playing "spot the sukkah" from my balcony. There are A LOT of them on the mirpesets or on the roof. There is even one in the park by my apt, I wonder who that one belongs to...

HUC also has a sukkah, so I will be having a few meals there tonight and tomorrow.

I really love sukkot. It is one of my favorite holidays, my top one is passover and I also like purim, but sukkot is def up there. Now that I think about it I really like the majority of the Jewish holidays, but regardless, sukkot is awesome! Sukkot is a holiday where you are commanded to be happy, we are commanded 3 times in the torah (in deuteronomy 16:14, 16:25 and Leviticus 23:10)!! In the Torah it is referred to as "zman simchatenu" the time of our happiness. It's all about chilling in the sukkah with friends and family and guests, celebrating the harvest/being thankful for what you have, shaking the lulav and etrog (which looks awkwardly like certain reproductive organs), and just having fun/being happy.

In the talmud in masechet sukkah 109a there is a funny discussion about how to fulfill the mitzvah of being happy (translation and explanation to follow):
"חייב אדם לְשַׂמֵחַ את אשתו ובני ביתו ברגל (=בחג) שנאמר:
"וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְּחַגֶּךָ... וְהָיִיתָ אַךְ שָׂמֵחַ" (דברים טז 14 - 15).
במה משמחים? ביין.
רבי יהודה אומר: משמחים אנשים (=גברים) במה שֶׁרָאוּי (=מתאים) להם,
ונשים - במה שֶׁרָאוּי להן.
אנשים משמחים במה שֶׁרָאוּי להם - ביין.
ונשים - במה משמחים?…
בבבל - בבגדים צבעוניים,
ובארץ ישראל - בבגדי פשתן מגוהצים."

Man is obligated to make his wife and the members of his household happy on sukkot as it is said: and you will be happy on your holiday...and you will be happy" (deut 16:14,15). With what (or how) should you be happy (rejoice)? With wine. Rabi Yehuda says: men are made happy with what is appropriate to them, and women with what is appropriate to them. Men are made happy with what is appropriate to them (is referring to) wine. And women, what makes them happy? In Babylonia (aka the diaspora) with colorful garments and in the land of Israel with pressed linen...

hahahaha. Men are made happy by wine and women by new clothes... not sure how I feel about the gender stereotyping going on here. I do love new clothes but wine is fun too. I'm pretty sure it goes on to say that kids are made happy by almonds and nuts, but I mean when I was a kid I hated nuts, so clearly the rabbis were not spending enough time with their kiddies.

I just really like this passage because I think it is funny, but it's also cool. We are being told we need to be happy and this is how you do it. I'm sure you could derive some sociological lesson from this also...

Anyways this post is getting long and I have to go finish cooking/prepping for the holiday.

חג שמח


Monday, September 20, 2010


Hey World,

So for those of you who use blogger to blog, you probably know this already, but recently this blogging service added a "stats" section. This nifty little section fascinates me. You can see how many people visit your blog each day, month, etc. You can also see where the people who read your blog are from and even what site leads them to your blog (google, facebook, etc.).

I've gotten really into looking at the stats. One of my favorite parts is it will tell you what words people searched on google to find your blog. Today someone found my blog because they searched for "best part of becoming a rabbi." I feel kind of bad because the answer to that question is not in my blog, and I would answer it for this person, but I don't know because I'm not a rabbi yet. I wonder why that person was searching for the answer to that s/he thinking about becoming a rabbi or maybe s/he is a rabbi and trying to get reinspired. Who knows.

Also I don't know how people from other countries find me...shout out to the netherlands, I've had a few of you pop by my blog...

On a totally different subject, I just want to talk about the cats here in Jerusalem. I think I have mentioned them before, but yeah there are stray/wild cats all over the place here. I really like cats a lot, and someday when I stop moving around all the time and find a more permanent place I definitely hope to have a cat or two (not in the cat lady sense though). Anyway, I know that the cats here are dirty and not so domesticated, but that doesn't mean that every time I see them I don't want to pet them. I've been holding out for a really long time, but it's been almost 3 months and my self control is slowly wearing down.

I have started talking to the cats more, you know in that idiot voice that people use to talk to cats, and have def been embarrassed when I realized other people were around. I gave in a pet a cat the other day, and it was great, but it only made me want to take it home with me. (don't worry I washed my hands after). Also there have been a bunch of kittens around lately and GAH they make me act like an idiot.

Ok that's my confession. The end...


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yom Kippur

Hey World,

All I can say is whoa. If you can get yourself to Jerusalem for Yom Kippur you should TOTALLY do it. It was really an incredible experience, both on a religious level but also on a sociological level. I will explain, but first I must start at the beginning...

So the night before Yom Kippur started I went out with most of my classmates. Was it the smartest thing to do before YK? Probably not, but it was fun, and hey you need to have something to atone for on yom kippur (because obviously I'd been perfect up til then haha). We went to this bar in the old city and it was super fun. BUT probably the most cool thing was after we left and being in the old city the night before yom kipur.

Let me tell you, it was crazy!! At like 1-2am it was packed. There were swarms of people everywhere. My one regret is that I didn't make it all the way to the kotel to see the scene there, but I heard that it was crazy crowded. Even where I was it was crowded and there were lots of chickens. Yes, live chickens...

Why? Well there is this custom called capparot where before yom kippur you put all your sins into a chicken and swing it around your head, and then they kill the chicken and give the meat to poor people. It's pretty weird, and it's not all that common (it's mostly the ultra orthodox who do it). There is also a custom that is more common which is to donate money instead, about the amount equivalent to a chicken and then wave that around your head. A little more pro animal rights.

So when I was walking back from the bar with a friend we stopped by some guys who had two chickens and if you paid them money they would do capparot for you. I figured why not, it was an experience...The guys who did it for me didn't swing the chicked by its legs or anything, they just held the chicken and waved it in a circle 3 times.

I was talking to the guy (in Hebrew too), and I asked him why we used a chicken. He told me we use it because it's kosher. When I asked him why we can't use another kosher animal he said something like: can you imagine swinging a sheep around in the air. funny image. For some reason (heh), I thought the chickens were super cute, so the guy let me pet them. It was the best. I contemplated vegetarianism for a few seconds, but yeah it was a fleeting thought.

So a little background about my relationship with yom kipur. In high school I had this teacher at a hebrew hs program I went to who was very Orthodox. In one of our classes we spoke about yom kippur and he freaked me out. He spoke about how bad it was to eat on the holiday, etc, and it really sunk in (almost in an irrational way). So anyways after that every year around yom kippur I would start to have nightmares/anxiety dreams about accidentally eating, or not getting to eat before the fast starts and then being miserable, etc.

So yeah basically a week before yom kippur I usually start freaking out, BUT that didn't happen this year, so that was really exciting. At the end of the day, if you eat something by accident it is OK, and if you think you are going to die or be sick or whatever it is ok to eat.

Anyways, the first night I went to services at kedem again (I went there for rosh hashana also). They were good services, but I would have to say the highlight of my night came after services walking around emek refaim (a street with lots of stores and restaurants on it, a pretty hip place). SO on Yom kippur it is illegal to drive in jerusalem. So there were absolutely no cars in the streets. NONE starting last night around 7 or so until 6 or 7pm today.

So what happens is that EVERYONE is out and about after services. It's "the thing to do" to go wander around emek after services are over. I think I saw everyone I ever knew there. But seriously I ran into people who I hadn't seen in YEARS, people who I knew from nfty stuff, from jts, from random places, it was the best.

Since there are no cars lots of kids get out their bikes/scooters/roller blades and go around riding them. It was quite a picture, you should def check it out if you can!

So after spending a good deal of time on emek I walked back home, which was pretty fun because I could walk in the middle of all the busy streets. I live right next to a really busy intersection so it was super cool to just be able to stand in the middle of it all. There was a large group of kids (well I think it was just kids on Nativ) standing in the intersection singing songs.

I decided to take a walk around j'lem, so I went to all the busy streets and just walked in the middle. It was such a trip. It really helped set the mood for the holiday. It was serious and contemplative, but at the same time there was some joy and hope. I don't think yom kipur should just be all about being sad and serious, yes we are asking for repenence but we are also asking to be written and sealed in the book of life, and I mean if I were God I would want to seal happy people in that book...

The next day I got up and went back to Kedem for services. I was noticing a lot today how powerful some of the Yom Kippur liturgy is. I don't really have the energy to fully explain it now, but I urge you to take a look in the machzor and read the english. Some interesting parts are during the musaf service when we do seder avodah where we read through the sacrifice. So much detail went into it. There are a lot of piyutim in there that have great imagery about how powerless we are.

Also I really like the part in the concluding service where we say the 13 attributes of God a bunch of times. So basically these 13 attributes come from Moses in the Torah. At one point (exodus 34) God passes before Moses (this is all in the liturgy) and Moses proclaims these 13 attributes (which basically say that God is merciful and compassionate and forgiving, I'm not really doing it justice, but if you are curious look it up or ask me). When I say this I get this great mental image in my mind of Moses (because I have NO idea what God would look like). So Moses just saw the most amazing/awe-inspiring thing EVER, and I see him here as spontaneously erupting into the praise because he is just so struck with amazement, but also love and gratitude.

Ok enough liturgy talk. Sorry. I'm gonna be a rabbi though, so I can't help it :-)

Yeah so I was in services all day except for 2 hours when I napped at a friends. She saved me from having to walk the 25 mins back to my apartment to nap (shout out!).

I broke my fast at a friends house. It was actually people I knew from my days in nfty, but they were the advisors haha. The thing is, it that when you are in middle school/high school 6 or 7 years is a HUGE age difference, but now, not so much. The break fast was lovely and there was lots of delicious food, and fun people.

And now I am here, whoa. I just wanted to share my yom kippur experience. I would have to say it was one of the best, if not the best yom kippur I've had yet. It was spiritual and all that, but it was also pleasant; the fast was not too bad, and I had a lot of nice social interactions throughout the day. Also I forgot to mention, the weather was BEAUTIFUL. It was absolutely magnificent. Definitely the nicest day of weather I have experienced yet while being here. It was probably in the 70s and there was this lovely breeze. It really added to the whole yom kippur experience.

I hope sometime in the (not too distant) future I can return to Israel for yom kippur.

sending good vibes your way...


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

swiffers are sweeping the nation (literally)

Hey world!

See my witty title? Yeah so swiffer products have finally come to Israel in the past few weeks, so everyone (well mainly the Americans here who like swiffers) are pretty excited. It's funny the things that you miss when you are away from home/out of the country.

Anyways not much exciting has been going on recently. I think it is because things are starting to become routine. I am getting used to my classes and life here. So I don't really have much to say right now, lame.

So funny story, kinda, but last night I was over at a friend's house who is in rab school with me. So we used to do nfty together in high school, and at one point I was writing a service for an event (aka being a P.C for those of you who know the nfty ne terminology), and my friend, Liz, was helping me because she was on regional board (rcvp). So thankfully Liz keeps everything and last night we found both my service AND my d'var torah (speech thing) from this event from my JUNIOR year of HS haha.

It was funny to have a little glimpse back at me as a high schooler, not that it's been such a long time, but on the other hand I do feel like I have grown and changed quite a bit since high school. My d'var was kind of awkward, but actually not too bad. The weird coincidence that came out of this is that for school I also have to write a d'var torah and it turns out I signed up (totally by accident) for the SAME portion. Crazy. I was thinking it could be cool to work in part of my old d'var into my new one, but I think that would probably be too self indulgent...

Anyways, I will try and do something interesting/crazy soon to talk about it. Well Yom kippur is coming up so I'm excited to experience that in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem. I've heard it is quite the day here.

Happy hump day!


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Prayed out

Hey World,

So I hope everyone had a lovely Rosh hashana and shabbat (for those who celebrate those holidays) and everyone else I hope you had a lovely end of your week :-) So for all the stressing a worrying I did about the holidays everything went well and I really had a great holiday. Throughout the past 3 days I had many I-need-to-blog-about-this moments, so I'm hoping that I remember all of them.

Wednesday night rosh hashana started. I spent all Wednesday running around and cooking stuff for hag. I had forgotten a few things at the grocery store so I had to go and MAN was it crowded. Someone made the observation, and I have to agree, it was like Y2k. Everyone was there and buying tons of stuff. I mean the were closed for 3 days, so everyone had to stock up.

Wednesday night I ended up at services at HUC. Originally I was going to go somewhere else, but then I just really wanted the company of my classmates/friends and I knew they would all be there. The holidays are a hard time to be away from home because they are the times when many people go home to their families. Throughout the weekend at certain parts of services I would hear my Cantor and Rabbi's voices in my head singing the prayers, because that is the way I heard them for most of the years of my life.

I had a lovely brisket dinner at a friends. mmm brisket. I've been thinking about getting a crock pot so I can make that, but buying it only for a year seems silly. hmm.

For both days of Rosh hashana I went to services at Kedem. I don't know exactly how to describe it, but Kedem is an independent, egalitarian, lay-lead minyan. They use traditional liturgy, but there is mixed seating and both women and men lead all parts of the service. I really really like it there. They have a lot of singing and a great prayer atmosphere. In some ways I like it better than shira hadasha, because while s.h. has great praying and I appreciate how much they involve women they are still not egalitarian. Kedem is. I also have developed a LOVE of wearing my tallit, so when I go to places where I don't feel comfortable wearing it it makes me sad, well not really, but I definitely miss it when I pray without it in the morning.

But yeah Kedem had some GREAT singing. I will definitely have rosh hashana melodies stuck in my head for a while. One of my favorite songs we did was called "keter melucha" I'd never heard it before, but everyone got really into it and there was clapping and just lost of ruach (spirit). It is stuck in my head now...

While I am talking about Kedem, I will mention I was blown away by the Torah chanting on the second day of rosh hashana. So traditionally the portion you read on the second day (although it is different in many reform congregations) is about the binding of Isaac. Very powerful/disturbing portion. At least for me...Anyways the woman chanting it did a great job of using the trope to give life/drama to what was happening in the portion. She sang beautifully, but not in a "I'm showing off" way. I got chills. Abraham is there and there is a fire burning, and Isaac asks him "uhh so I see the wood and the fire but where is the sacrifice?" and Abraham says "God will provide" and then he BINDS UP ISAAC. If Isaac believed his father's answer and convinced himself he wasn't going to be sacrificed fine, but then once Abraham bound him up it was obvious what Abraham's intentions were. I really sympathized with Isaac this time that I heard it, imagine how scary/devasting that must have been for Isaac. Everyone always talks about Abraham's test but darn Isaac totally had a hard if not harder time. His father was about to KILL him. whaaaa

Anyways Thursday was a nice day. I had lunch at a classmates house. He had a big barbeque which was fun. Also shoutout for the sesame noodles, they were friggin awesome.

Oooh oohh ok good story: So I had an Israel moment when I was walking back from lunch with a classmate. I live on a corner of this large intersection that basically joins 5 streets together. On one side of the intersection there is a fountain plaza thingy (here is a picture ). So as I walked past it I saw a HUGE crowd of religious looking Jews crowded around the fountain...and I was like uhh wtf?! I realized they were doing Tashlich.

So Tashlich is this service (?) that you need to do by a body of water. I'm not sure exactly what the laws are about what kind of water it has to be, but usually I have done it by a lake or river. Anyways there aren't really any lakes or rivers around Jerusalem, so all of these people came to this fountain to do tashlich. I went and got my machzor and did tashlich with them in front of the fountain. It was a cool experience, and it was really interesting how this random fountain became a religious space.

Thursday night we had a HUGE class dinner at HUC. It originally was going to be at someone's house but then it got wayyyy too big to fit everyone there, so it was moved to HUC. That was fun to have dinner with most of my classmates and some other visitors. I like that we can be together as a class and celebrate.

Friday night for services I ended up at the great synagogue. This is a HUGE synagogue that is practically across the street from me. It is a very orthodox synagogue so my friend and I got pretty dressed up/covered up for the occasion. I know it is not really my type of place but I thought it was important that I go check it out. It is a beautiful building and they have this awesome stained glass window in the sanctuary. I felt very limited there, I didn't want to sing very loudly because no one else in the woman's section was (I think because it is immodest to sing loudly and have the men hear your voice). The service was also super fast. The hazan (cantor) did have a lovely voice and the acoustics really did him justice. I'm glad I went, I probably won't go back, but yeah...if I had a choice between there or a Reform service in Israel I would totally go to the Reform service (see I don't hate them that much).

I had a shabbat dinner at my place which was super nice. I really like hosting, and I haven't done it that much this year, so I'm excited to continue that. Part of the reason I wanted to have a dinner was because I really wanted to sing zemirot (traditional songs that are sung on shabbat), so I figured if I had a dinner I could make people sing haha. I thought it was nice, we did a mix of traditional zemirot and other Jewey songs. I dunno I liked it, I'm all about singing. We also had fun-fetti cake which was amazing, mmm a taste of America.

For Saturday morning services (I know I prayed A LOT oy) I went to shira hadasha. It was actually a really nice service and there was a bat mitzvah! Even though shira hadasha is modern orthodox, women can still get called up to the torah. So she did, and she rocked it. When she was chanting all of her family and friends gathered around her to support her which was cute. Then we got to throw candy!! There is a custom of throwing candy at the bar/bat mitzvah child and also at other happy times like a wedding, the candy is thrown because you are wishing them sweetness in their future endeavors. We used to do this at my synagogue back in the day when I was like 6 and I remember loving it because all the little kids get to run and pick up the candy (so obviously when I was 6 I got tons of candy). We stopped, I don't know why, maybe because someone got hurt, but yeah that's lame, we should totally start it up again.

Then I had lunch with some friends from college who are here. It was fun to see them, and it was a little reminiscent of college because I made the salad I always made when I went to their place for dinner, and they made cholent. Yeah good times.

Then I came home and took and 3 hour nap, read some and then before I knew it I had made it through the 3 day chag. It was nice. I also still have a bunch of food because I was so worried about not having enough. So yay I don't have to cook dinner for the next few nights.

There is quite a traffic jam outside my window...ohhh the post shabbat traffic jam. I hear the symphony of car horns. But now after 2+ months it isn't so annoying, it is just something that I have come to appreciate/find funny. Just another thing that happens when people run on Jewish time.

Oh and tonight in Israel we change our clocks, so yay extra hour of sleep. I will only be 6 hours ahead of home now until America changes their clocks. weird.

lyla tov...and congrats if you got through this long post :-)


Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I just wanted to wish everyone a shana tova (good year, one of the customary things to say for rosh hashana).

Or the video version: (this video has been all over my HUC classmates facebook pages, and I dig)

To a year of health and happiness, and adventure :-)


Monday, September 6, 2010

3 day hag ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Hello World,

I'm all over this blog lately haha, but I had some thoughts/anxieties that I want to share/maybe writing about them will help me get it out of my system. Who knows...

So as you know Rosh Hashana is coming up, and yeah I am slowly going crazy. Why?

1. These are my last high holidays for (probably) a very very very very long time that I will NOT be leading. I'm pretty positive that next year in L.A everyone has a high holiday pulpit. It's a weird thought for me. So I feel all this pressure to really enjoy the holidays this year and experience things that I won't be able to leading services next year (waddup section about sacrifice on Yom Kippur). I dunno it's just a little reminder that I'm growing up. Maybe that sounds weird, but it's a scary prospect and I can't do anything about it...unless anyone knows where never never land is. No I mean I do want to grow up and get on with my life and I'm excited about the work I will be doing in the future, but it doesn't make it less scary. (Ok enough, I feel like that was very teen angst right there haha)

2. Rosh hashana is 2 days long and then right when it ends shabbat starts, thus making it a 3 day hag. So as I've discussed a little here I am trying to keep shabbat, and also yom tov (yom tov literally means good day, and it is the days of a holiday where there are additional restrictions like on shabbat, but you can cook, or more technically transfer flame, on a yom tov which you can't on shabbat). So basically that means 3 days without my cellphone and without internet, which means I have to have everything planned out wayyy in advance. Like I have to have my thurs, friday and saturday plans worked out basically by Tuesday. It's also been stressful making sure I have meals and stuff like that. It's just a lot. MARATHON holiday... So yeah we will see if I survive. haha. Anyone have any tips???

I also just bought out the shufersal (the supermarket by me), I'm so worried about running out of food, and all the stores are closed for 3 days.

Yeah that's it. I've been obsessively planning ahead, which (as some of you know) is not at all like me. I'm actually using my planner which is a new thing for me.

I'm hoping that all the planning I'm doing will help me have a good holiday. I will keep you all posted (after the 3 days).

Ok homework time


ps today I got a free Jastrow talmud dictionary. As my friend said "It gives a whole new meaning to Jastrow Jackpot" hahahaha I love dorky talmud humor.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

classy class class

Hey World,

So after my ranty post I want to have something positive, and truth be told I'm in a much better mood today than yesterday. Things look like they are going to work out for rosh hashana in terms of meals and coordinating everything, so I think it will be a-ok. I just need to make sure I get enough food before the stores close for 3 whole days!!! That is the crazy thing about living in Jerusalem/Israel, but with adequate preparation I think I'll be ok :-)

Anyways today I had class, and I have to say I LOVE my classes. Sometimes I have my doubts whether or not I'm in the right place, but when I'm in class I know I'm in the right place. It is really lovely, and I really enjoy the subjects I have had thus far. Today I had 3 classes I hadn't had yet. First was Jewish Though taught all in Hebrew. My teacher seems awesome. He was very clear and he wasn't intimidating which is nice when we are all speaking in a language we haven't quite mastered. He made it clear that if we had trouble understanding we should ask, and if we need to speak in english sometimes it's ok. Then we studied some mishnah, and I felt at home haha (If I haven't mentioned already I majored in Talmud for part of my undergrad degree, so I know my way around rabbinic literature).

After that we had a liturgy class. This class is about the weekday and shabbat prayers, what they mean and how prayer and the services have evolved over time. I am excited to learn more about the evolution of prayer and also more about how the Reform movement's prayer specifically has evolved. So for the first part of liturgy we have a big lecture class because there is one professor, Rabbi Dalia Marx, who is an expert and a great teacher so the administration wanted everyone to have her, so we all have her in lecture. Then for the second hour we split up into four classes for smaller discussion. My class def got lucky because we are in the smaller class with Rabbi Marx also. It was a nice class today, and she is teaching it in hebrew which I really enjoyed.

It's really exciting for me to be in Hebrew classes, it is (to be a little dramatic) the culmination of all my Hebrew study up to this point. To be able to study the texts in their original language and also talk about them in that language is really great. It's exciting that I understand enough to learn these concepts in Hebrew, I might have trouble understanding Hebrew on the streets, but Hebrew in the classroom without all the crazy slang I can do pretty well.

After that I had a biblical history class...that stuff is crazay, I'm sure I will share with you some interesting stuff I learn throughout this semester.

After class I went to a Jewish bookstore to get some books for class/life. Being in the Jewish bookstore helped me realize I am definitely heading into the right profession. I get so excited in there, I just want to buy everything. I went with my friend who was also wandering around looking at everything. In the end I got a book for class, a machzor (prayer book for the high holidays), a koren sidur with english translation (I'm super excited about that purchase, it is a great siddur with halacha/rules about prayer in the back of the book), and I got some cheap benchers to have in the apartment which I am super excited to use. Yay zmirot! If I was rich I would have bought out the whole store, there were so many interesting books there, ohhh man.

So I am in the middle of working on a Talmud curriculum for my community service project. I think it's pretty good and I'm really excited about it. I have a meeting tomorrow to discuss it, so I hope my boss likes it! ahhhh

Ok back to work then bed. Woooo.

lyla tov


Slichot and stuff

Hey World,

So I come to you after a shabbat filled with thinking (for better or for worse). This time of year in the Jewish calendar is really about looking inside and doing some internal reflection. We call it heshbon nefesh (or checking the soul). I definitely think this is important, but it is difficult. There are things I have done in the past year that I am very proud of, and I really think I have accomplished a lot...BUT I definitely tripped up a few times, or to use the Jewish metaphor I missed the mark. I don't want to get too dramatic on this blog so I'll stop there, but I will tell you my brain is very full from all the events of the past year/past few months here in Israel.

Ok, back to chronological order, kinda. Friday night I went to services at navah tehillah, a renewal minyan. I had gone once before right after I arrived in Israel, so it was interesting to go again now. The one major difference was that the services were outside this friday, and I actually didn't enjoy them as much because of that. Why? I think it was the microphones. The service felt more like a performance this time than a participatory experience. When it was inside we were all in a circle and there were still instruments but no microphones, so everyone could be heard. I am very much into prayer that encourages participation. When I go to pray I want to pray, not sit and watch other people pray/ have other people pray for me.

This issue is something I run into a lot. Especially around the high holidays. At my home synagogue during the high holidays they hire a quartet to sing. Yeah they sound nice, but I really dislike when they do these long solo pieces, or rather make the prayers into long solo pieces. If I want to go to a concert, I will go to a concert NOT to synagogue. Also while I'm at it, I do not dig the organ at services. We are not a church. I said it.

Anyways I had a great conversation last night about services with a classmate (shout out). I was basically talking about why I don't like Reform services and I came to a good conclusion that I think is important to say here. I DO NOT have a problem with choosing which prayers you want to say and shortening the prayers. While I would not (at least not now) personally choose this option if it is more meaningful for others I FULLY support this decision. I am all about the whole choice through knowledge, but that means there must be knowledge so that people can make an informed choice.

So here is where my annoyance comes in. Reform services bug me because I feel like generally, although not all the time,( I have on occasion enjoyed reform services, and I had my first really meaningful prayer experience during a reform service), these services cut out things and the choice has been made in a haphazard way, or at least the reason for these choices are not revealed. It bothers me that many times there is no recognition that a choice was made to change some wording or to cut something out. I think it's important to know what is traditionally there, acknowledge it in some way and move on. At least give a few seconds of pause in certain places where you skip things so people know things are being skipped and at least start to say these prayers or parts of prayers if they want to.

On a personal level I choose to say more prayers and use the more traditional liturgy because that is what is more meaningful to me. I do not think it is better or more right than other ways of praying, but for ME right now it is the best way. Some people don't connect that way, and I understand that. I just think it is important that everyone knows what is out there, and I feel like at many reform services/reform synagogues this is not the case and it drives me crazy. This is part of the reason why I want to be a reform rabbi. I could go on forever, this is one of my issues I am very passionate about, but I will end here and sum it up. I just want people to have the knowledge and the varied experience to make their own informed choices (and as a rab student/future rabbi I want to figure out how to help others accomplish this in a productive and meaningful way).

This morning I went to services at shira hadasha. They were great, I'm still a fan. Then I basically hung out all day. Did some reading, took a nap. I didn't really make plans before shabbat started so I got pretty bored, but it was still very restful and I enjoyed it. I just need to start having shabbat lunches every now and then to get some people over to the apartment and some company to celebrate shabbat with.

So the saturday night before Rosh hashana there is a custom (? tradition?) of doing slichot at around midnight. This is kind of starting off the whole repentance/asking for forgiveness process, and by kind of I mean I'm not sure because you are supposed to be getting ready all of the month before rosh hashanah. Whatever, slichot...SO last year I went to slichot for the first time and I had an amazing experience. I went to this minyan called hadar in NYC and it was so lovely. There was just lots of beautiful singing and it was a powerful prayer experience. So this year I was psyched for slichot, but unfortunately the services I went to (even at shira hadasha) did not live up to the expectations. So lame. I hope everyone who went to hadar enjoyed it, and if you are in NYC you should def check them out.

I think that is enough reflection/ranting for one blog entry. Rosh hashana is so soon ahhhh


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

2 months

Hey World!

So today, September 1st, marks my 2 month anniversary of arriving in Israel. Yup I have been here since July 1st, and I have not been in the USA since June 29th. I made it!!! Crazy...

So I wanted to write this blog because I forgot to write about kitah hey (my hebrew class') awesome end of the year skit thing. Every class did one and we decided to translate the "Single Ladies" song by Beyonce into Hebrew and sing it. It was definitely a hit. One of my classmates figured out the chords to the song and he played along on acoustic guitar, I must say it was a nic
e reinvention of the song. We even did a modified version of the dance. Here is a picture:

But yeah I really enjoyed my class this summer, and most people are staying the same, but I will def miss the people moving down a level (come backkkkk). So shout out to everyone in hey and especially the "pinah feministit" (the feminist corner). It's a good time. We will see how our new Hebrew teacher holds up tomorrow.

So today was the first day of class but not really. On Wednesdays we have "Israel Seminar" which is a day every week to learn about Israel and go on trips etc etc. So we had that today, I'm really glad we have a class like this. I think it is important to experience Israel and learn about all the subtleties and issues surrounding us, because it would be easy to ignore them.

So yeah tomorrow class for real. Woot

Also it's almost rosh hashana whaaaaaaaa?!