Sunday, November 28, 2010

teaching and kashrut...

Hey World,

So the last couple of days have been pretty crazy and all over the place. I'm going to start with the positive...

1. I'm coming home to America for part of my vacation yayayayay. I was trying not to come home, but for my sanity I think this is the best choice. Also I found cheap tickets. I'm super pumped to go home, see friends and family and also stuff my face. mmmm America.

2. For my community service project I am teaching a Talmud class to kids in a gap year program (after high school). I had my first class today, and I was super duper nervous but I think it went really well. We had some great discussions and everyone was engaged and energetic. It was funny because almost all of them were British, so I started talking a little strangely.

My lesson was about embarrassment in the Talmud. I wanted to pick something that the kids (students? they aren't so much younger than I am) could relate to. My goal (or one of them) is to make the Talmud more approachable and more relevant to these students. There is a lot of good stuff in there and I want to show them as much as I can/try and get them interested to continue to study it. We started with going around and talking about embarrassing moments which we had, it was a nice way to open people up and get them laughing. Then we looked at a text (bava metzia 58a) about how the rabbis say that shaming/embarrassing a fellow is as if you spilled his blood. Def had an interesting conversation about that.

It was a great class and really got me energized. The kids were also happy (or at least displayed emotions of being happy) that I will be coming back to teach them every week, so I think that's a good sign. I guess we will see. It's exciting because this is part of what I want to do with my life and it is cool that I get to start now. woot.

3. So I have had an interesting past couple of days in regards to some choices made about thanksgiving. Background: I am the chair of the social committee which was in charge of planning a thanksgiving meal. Since thanksgiving is so centered around Turkey HUC buys the Turkeys for the students and then the students provide all the side dishes. This makes for a difficult situation because of the presence of meat in regards to kashrut (keeping kosher, not mixing milk and meat). Usually the group HUC meals are vegetarian, so the possibility of mixing meat and milk is not an issue, but now that we had meat in this dinner we had to make a decision in regards to what we would do about the side dishes.

So as a social committee we had a meeting to decide what we were going to do about this issue. There was a possibility of having both dairy and meat side dishes on separate tables or just doing no dairy at all. As a group we ended up deciding to just have no dairy because people had said they would not come if there was dairy, and really there isn't a good way to keep the two separate if they are both present at a meal. We were trying to be inclusive, which sometimes means going with the more stringent opinion, but that is usually how compromise happens. If you have people who mix milk and meat and people who will not eat at a place that mixes the two you include the most people by only having milk or only having meat. Which is usually why events are vegetarian because you don't have to worry about it and then the vegetarians in the group are also able to have a wide variety of food.

Anyways we made the decision and then some people got upset because they felt like their right to choose (which is something we take very seriously in reform Judaism) was not respected. There were some people who did not come because we did not have dairy. While I understand the importance of choice, after all that is why I am a reform Jew, I think that in big community settings you have to make compromises. You can do whatever you want as an individual and make whatever choices you want, but sometimes in a big group that isn't possible all the time.

I struggled with the idea that people felt left out and excluded by the decision the social committee made about kashrut when we had made it to try and be the most inclusive. While it may be your preference to eat dairy and meat together (which is 100% fine), if I or anyone who keeps kosher is in a place where the food is not up to their kashrut standards that is prohibitory. I can't eat pepperoni pizza, but you can eat cheese pizza even if you prefer it with pepperoni. I know this is an extreme example, but having two tables where there would be a possibility of having stuff mixed would make me uncomfortable. I don't know what I would have done in this situation...

In addition while I think it is perfectly fine for people to make their own decisions, and have meals or shabbat meals that have both dairy and meat I think that at a Jewish institution it makes sense to have (minimal) kashrut standards. Yes even a Reform Jewish institution.

The decision making process that took place really did discuss both sides. I think the mistake was that we didn't realize how big of a deal this would become and maybe didn't handle it as carefully/delicately as we should have. As the group planning the event we felt it appropriate to make the decision on Kashrut, but it seems that maybe in regards to ritual or halachic matters we should have an official school/community policy so that people feel empowered by the decision making process and don't feel excluded.

I know I am definitely one of the most conservative (yes small c) members of my class in regards to these issues, but I will say it again: I support your right to choose, but I support HUC having a minimum level of kashrut at group events. Maybe a better way to do this is to just not have meat at these events, but at an event sponsored by HUC I don't think there should be both meat and milk. You can disagree with me and I respect your opinion, and I ask you to respect mine. (and this is just mine, it is totally separate from the social committee and that decision making process). As a Reform Jew who keeps kosher I have felt that not my choices are not being tolerated, because if people are insisting on having dairy and meat together that does not give me a space within the community.

Eat a cheeseburger while sitting next to me at lunch, eat a turkey sandwich and a yogurt, but let me also eat my turkey sandwich WITHOUT cheese, or my hummus and pita or whatever. When we bring our own food and only eat our own food we don't have this problem, but when we all eat together and share food as a community we need to ask ourselves how to do so in the best way possible that gives a place to everyone within the community.

As a community at HUC this issue definitely has gotten us talking, which I think is a positive thing, and we are working on moving on from this and learning from this situation. I think at some point there will be some kind of wider community forum to discuss all of this, and hopefully we will be able to work out a policy or something. I have learned a lot from this situation already, and I think that learning from things like this is the only way to make something positive happen out of a negative situation.

Wow that got long. This is just something I feel very strongly about...

I do pick my battles, and this is something I feel very strongly about which is why I am voicing my opinion. I also think this will be interesting to look back on later. As I said in my email to my class, I do want to have this discussion. Let's talk about it. If you disagree with me let me know. That's the great thing about Judaism, is we have this tradition based on arguments and disagreements. This is a continuation of that. People in the Talmud fought/disagreed all the time, this is nothing new...I think both sides can learn from this discussion.

If you actually got to the end of this, wow. Kol hacavod!

I guess I will see how much heat I get for this...

I should get back to homework.

Peace (and respectful differences of opinions),


ps (edit) a classmate, in light of this whole discussion, sent us an article. It appears the whole Reform movement is struggling with this idea of Kashrut...I feel tapped in to the Reform struggle, or something.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Hey World,

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy thanksgiving. In a few minutes, when my potatoes are done cooking, I am heading out to a thanksgiving with my HUC classmates. It's soooo weird here, no one knows its thanksgiving, the stores are all still open, I had SCHOOL. Thanksgiving is something America definitely does right.

Anyways I have lots to write about, and no time, so stay tuned for my next entry, but for now...

Things I am thankful for: Family (not that I really had a choice in the matter, but I think I did pretty well haha), Friends: both the friends who I have known FOREVER and have put up with my shit for years and also friends I met in hs, college, here in Israel, etc etc. I am thankful for my skyping/facebooking/gchatting with above mentioned people (really you have no idea how nice it is to hear from people from home).

I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given and my ability to be here in Rabbinical school. I am thankful for my connection to Judaism and the positive impact it has on my life. I am thankful for Israel, it's a great place and I do love it, even though I don't want to live here forever. I am thankful for my health (but seriously I really am). I am thankful for spin class/the awesome fitness instructors at the ymca who are getting me into shape.

I am thankful for the shuk here in Jerusalem, I am thankful for all my shoes (shout out to the ones I left behind in america), I am thankful for my education and def missing college and my sorority, but happy I was able to participate and get a lot out of everything before I graduated. I am thankful for my hair (I just like it), I am thankful for diet coke, and I am thankful for lots of things that I am forgetting. But I have to go.

much love and TURKAYYYY


Monday, November 22, 2010

it still feels like

Hello World,

Still not much exciting going on here...Well I guess the big picture is exciting, the whole living in Israel for the year and starting Rabbinical school, etc, is exciting...BUT when you get down to the day by day living it's not so exciting, especially after 5 months.

I've been going to class. Not too much to say about that. I have one teacher who I would like to follow around all the time and just absorb all the knowledge that he has, but unfortunately I have class and I think that it would be kind of creepy of me to do that. The Israeli talmud class is going ok, I still haven't spoken in it. I just sound so dumb in Hebrew...

What else, what else...Oh some guy tried to pick me up in the grocery store yesterday. Oh Israeli guys...No but seriously, I was in the grocery store and I was also disgusting because I had just gotten out of spin class (I am a gatoraide commercial-worthy sweater in that class, and usually I am not a sweaty person). So I'm minding my own business and this guy comes up to me and asks where I am from and I make the mistake of talking to him. After a few minutes of dumb conversation he asks me to coffee. I say no. Then he asks for my phone number, I say no. He asks again, no again...What? Do you think if you ask me repeatedly I will all the sudden change my mind? Then he asks me if I don't want to give him my phone number because I have a boyfriend. This happens a lot, its as if they think that the ONLY possible reason I would turn them down is because I am already taken. NOT because I think they are annoying or unattractive, etc etc. Jeez you people...

Over the weekend I got to see another friend I hadn't seen since high school. It's def been fun reconnecting with people. It also makes me realize how little I have changed. I mean I think I have changed a lot in terms of my maturity level etc etc, but personality-wise nothing surprising has happened over the past few years.

Next Sunday is my first day of teaching, I am teaching a Talmud class for some American and British teens who just graduated high school. I'm excited and a little nervous, but I think it will be fun. I will keep you posted.

I can't believe I am missing thanksgiving, and black friday. We are doing a thanksgiving thing at HUC which will be fun, but I think everyone is going to be depressed cause we are all away from our families and the awesome friday bargains haha. But seriously I love black friday shopping, I go to the outlets that open at midnight and stay out until about 3am. It's the best, and those are totally my peak hours...wahhh

Also to add to the things I miss about America: sunchips (esp the garden salsa flavor) if you are in America please eat some for me. mmmmmmmmmmmmm. Also if you haven't heard yet girl talk has a new album out, and you should get it, it's pretty sweet.

This blog entry is going downhill fast, so i'm gonna end it. I need to get re-inspired...suggestions welcome :-)


Sunday, November 14, 2010

assorted thoughts...

Hey World,

So being true to the title, here are some assorted thoughts/happenings from the past few days...

1. OMG shabbat starts crazy early, it starts around 4pm here, which is ridiculous. This is partially why I don't write on Fridays anymore, I just have no time. oyyy.

2. I went to Friday night services at Yakar for the second time. One thing that I LOVE about services there is how loud everyone sings. I love being able to belt it out and not feel like everyone can hear me. Everyone is singing very loudly with a lot of spirit and it is wonderful. The shaliach tsibur (prayer leader) for kabbalat shabbat was really great, he had a magnificent voice.

3. I learned something new! So I got to services earlier than usual so it was still Minchah (the afternoon service that is typically done right before kabbalat shabbat, the service that welcomes shabbat). Anyways to end the service we did the "barchu" the call to prayer which is done towards the beginning of the service, and had already been done in the appropriate place. I was very confused at first, and I thought maybe something got messed up so they had to say the barchu again for some reason. So as luck would have it the next day I was reading the Jewish law section in my Koren prayer book and it was talking about what a Jew in the Diaspora should do in Israel in regards to the different traditions, so if the Jew should do what they normally do or change their practices to fit with the way it is done in Israel. (an example of this is how in Israel they do one day of most holidays and we do two in the diaspora, or add on an additional day, ex passover). ANYWAYS one thing it mentioned was how many congregations in Israel say the barchu at the end of the weekday service...

4. Saturday morning I chanted Torah, yay. I signed up to chant at kedem (suprise, suprise), because (1) I want some practice and (2) I feel like I should contribute more to the community since I go all the time and (3) reading from the Torah is so cool, and such an honor. So I chanted the first aliyah, which was a good chunk of text for an inexperienced chanter like me. But yeah it was cool especially because I got to chant about Jacobs ladder and one of my favorite lines "Behold, God is in the place and I did not know it" that's a poor translation, but yeah I dig it. I can just hear this wonder/awe in Jacob's voice when he says it, it's a cool realization. I've definitely had some awe-inspiring moments that I can kind of tie into this, I mean certainly not the level of seeing angels and hearing God's voice, but I can still relate... (If you want to look up this weeks portion it starts Genesis 28:10-32:3)

5. I'm still obsessed with spinning. I don't know if I've mentioned it yet, but yeah it's the best thing evahhh. Def gets my endorphins going. I actually just got back from spinning. I'm also learning lots of "practical" hebrew, like the word for accelerate and resistance. haha

6. Ahh I can't believe I forgot to mention this until now...I went to an Idan Raichel Project concert on Thursday night. It was SOOOO GOOD. Everyone on the stage at that concert was SO friggin talented. It was really beautiful. They also played a lot of the songs I really like so yay. Also we did that weird Israeli synchronized clapping thing I wrote about earlier haha

7. I found Franks red hot sauce in the store the other day and got really excited and bought some. I've been eating it on everything (now I sound like the commercials, minus the swearing) because I'm just so excited about it and it reminds me of America hahaha

I think that's about it for now. Life is good/busy/frustrating, yes it is all of them at the same time.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

just a little rant

Hey World,

SO I just have to get this out...

I've gotten into going to different classes at the gym. So in certain exercise classes you have to sign up for a space on the floor. So I am pretty into my spot, it's #13, and not because it's the number 13 I actually don't really like that number (I'm more partial to 8). I like it because it is in the perfect location, it is forward but not in the front and it is all the way on the side so I can do my own thing and people don't have to watch me not be super coordinated.

So anyways I show up to class today and sign up for my spot. woot. The spots are very clearly marked on the floor. So I go stand in my spot, and the girl who signed up for spot 14 goes to her spot and everything is lovely. Then this BITCH A$$ girl comes in late and stands directly IN BETWEEN us. THERE IS NO SPOT THERE ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. To make things worse this girl is really uncoordinated so we keep almost running into each other, and same with her and the girl in spot 14. There really is not enough room to have her there, and I don't know why she was there, I have seen her in class before and I assumed that she knows what the deal is.

Anyways I refused to be pushed out of my beloved 13 spot, but dammit this girl was all up in my space and really distracting because she also managed to block my view of the instructor every so often. I know I should have said something, but JEEZ people, lets have some COURTESY here. Can't you tell we are bumping into each other?? What gives you the right to come here and disrupt my workout and just make me angry. grrrrr.

That's it, the end. I feel better, kinda. Also another class I just got into (I've been twice) is spinning. Great workout, although the second time I ended up in a class all in hebrew. So yeah I know the word for resistance but when he was yelling over the music it was hard to hear if he was saying raise the resistance or lower it, oh well haha, I still got sweaty so it was all good.

The end


Monday, November 8, 2010

Women of the wall, take 2

Hey World!

So after my fail last month at going to women of the wall, I managed to get myself up early enough to go celebrate rosh hodesh at the wall. So last night marked the new moon and the start of Kislev, which is the month that Chanukkah is in. woot. We sang a few songs in hallel (prayers that you recite on rosh hodesh and certain other holidays) to tunes of chanukkah songs. Def got me in the Kislev mood.

One more side note before I start on my thoughts about women of the wall...Since it is now kislev that means that sufganiyot are popping up around Israel. A sufganiyah is a jelly doughnut that is customary to eat on chanukkah. This is because it is customary to eat foods fried in oil to recall the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days. So today I went out with some friends and celebrated kislev by getting a sufganiyah. Mine was darn good. It kind of tasted like dunkin donuts, but also it kind of tasted better. (I got mine from roladin, I recommend it if you are in Israel. I will keep you posted about other sufganiyot that I find around Israel).

So yeah, women of the wall...This month it was much quieter than the last time I went, way back in Elul (like 2-3 months ago). There was only one or two men yelling at us and they weren't really that distracting. I think this was partially because most people don't actually care that much, women of the wall prays towards the back of the women's side and I would say are pretty respectful about it. Also there were a bunch of guys supporting us on the men's side which helped. I think the police were also doing a good job at keeping things in control.

I don't know if I explained this last time, but women of the wall has two components. The first is davening by the wall on the woman's section. We do most of the morning service (shacharit) and also sing hallel (not too loudly though). The second part is the Torah service. Since women aren't allowed to read Torah or have a Torah on their side of the wall we have to relocate to robinsons arch, which is close by and along part of the southern wall.

Anyways, I have been having some thoughts about women of the wall. While I 120% support this cause, I don' t know if it is MY cause. I (obviously) believe in gender equality in all aspects of life including religion. I think it is ridiculous that women are now allowed to wear a tallis (prayer shawl) at the wall or read Torah there. I think it is ridiculous that women need police guards while praying quietly together...At the same time I don't feel complete ownership of this cause for a couple of reasons.

1. I'm not so into the wall. Like seriously people it was an outer retaining wall of the temple, no NOT a wall of the temple it was a wall around the courtyard and the temple was in the center of this courtyard thing. So the fact that it is now given so much holiness is a bit uncomfortable for me. I do think it is a very special place, especially because of the significance it has been given and how many Jews have come to this place and also as it being an artifact from the history of the Jewish people, but really all the politics surrounding it make it a place that I don't really have so much of a desire to go to. Maybe this is partially an expression of me feeling alienated by all the restrictions and politics surrounding the wall, but it is not totally because of that.

2. Kind of connected, but...I don't live in Israel. Yeah I am here now, but I am not a citizen. Yes I am a Jew and I feel very connected to this place, but at the end of the day how much right do I have and should I have to affect change in this place. I haven't done much to help Israel, I haven't served in the army, I don't pay taxes to Israel, etc etc. This is definitely something I am struggling with, the amount of say/influence I and other Jews in the diaspora should have over Israel's politics and where lines should be drawn or not...

3. While women of the wall does not say anything about being a particular denomination, and actually after a closer look at the website it says that women of the wall is pluralistic they do daven in a very traditional way. Obviously I do like more traditional services, but some things they do in services don't quite jive with my personal ideology/theology. When whoever leads the service does so she doesn't include certain things that women aren't "supposed" to do by more orthodox standards. For example we didn't say the call to prayer (the barchu) because you need a minyan, a group of ten people, or more traditionally 10 men to do so. There were wayyyy more than 10 women, but we didn't do it. Also the kaddish was not recited, and the repetition of the amidah for similar reasons I think.

While I totally respect this decision, and can see where the people who decided this were coming from, it is not my beliefs. I feel like we are approaching this struggle from different places and while we both want more rights for women, they seem to be coming at it from a more strictly halachic viewpoint, whereas I am coming from one that can be based in halacha but is also more simply about ethics and the freedom to reinterpret halacha in a way that is more congruent with our modern sensibilities.

It was definitely obvious for me at the Torah service that there was some clash, not clash is too strong a word, maybe a slight tension, between the different factions within women of the wall. For example what to do with the men "allies" who were there. For some people it was important for them to be separate because they were not comfortable with having a mixed gender prayer environment, for others it seemed silly or even rude that the men were pushed off to the side. I guess this also just points to the difficulty of trying to be pluralistic and inclusive. It is hard. Especially when you are dealing with prayer and observance. Everyone believes in the cause, but not everyone is going to agree with the way people are carrying it out.

I want to end on a positive note because I don't want to be so negative towards women of the wall. I really don't mean to be, I think I've just been taught to be critical of everything, so I am doing that. Again I repeat that I totally support women of the wall, and I think it is a great and important thing they are doing. I am just having trouble relating to and feeling a part of the cause. I think it is important for women to fight for religious equality, but I am not so naive to think that my voice will be one that is respected in the orthodox world in this issue. I can sign as many petitions as I want for the inclusion of female rabbis in the orthodox movement etc, but I don't think they would care what I think. Maybe they would care, but my opinion wouldn't be what would convince them because the way we view Judaism and halacha is just too different. Does that make any sense, I've been up for too many hours and I am trying super hard to be articulate.

Apparently I am feeling a little angsty...I think it is because I am tired.

I would love to hear your thoughts on women of the wall, or anything. Yay for comments :-)


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Clapping and a list...

Dear World,

Hello! This is going to be a very different post from the last one, just trying to balance it all out :-) Also last night I slept 14 hours. I went to take a nap at 630pm and didn't get up until like 830 the next morning (yes I was late to school, but are you surprised?)

On clapping:

So I went to this Israeli rabbinical school ordination thing last friday and I noticed something SUPER weird...So when Israelis clap they clap like we do at first, so they start a bit slow and speed up/more people join in. So when this happens in America and people are clapping they all clap like that and on different beats, everyone is clapping as an individual. Right? So what happens in Israel is that after a little bit of this individual clapping everyone finds a beat and they all clap at the same time. It was SOOO strange because that could never happen in America, but apparently (I asked someone) this is a totally normal and good thing in Israel. It's weird because I never really thought about clapping before and that it could actually be different....

Now for a list, this was therapeutic, I AM happy here, I just miss some things about America:

Things I miss about America (in no particular order)

1. Friends and Family (duh)
2. FOOD- more specifically mexican food and morning star farms, and good cereal that isn't like 10 dollars, and tostitos chips +salsa, diet dr pepper
3. Restaurants/bars- the heights, blockheads, limeleaf, saga, SUBS CONSCIOUS, dunkin donuts (and their iced coffee), cheaper booze in general, margaritas(!!!)
4. Stores- the clothing stores that I am familiar with/that have my jeans, also DSW shoes, victoria's secret, CVS (ceeves), forever 21, discount stuff like lohmann's and nordstrom rack, etc. also the grocery stores.
5. Some of the clothes and shoes I left behind...ahhh
6. Certain elements of the weather: def missing the fall foliage
7. American Sundays (but you already know that)
8. good customer service...seriously and not having to push to get served
9. not having to turn on the hot water heater
10. having a shower with a bathtub, or at least some lip thing so that water doesn't go out
11. having allergies only a few days a year instead of months at a time

Things I don't miss about America
1. Christmas carols/christmas ads/ all that annoying stuff. It drives me nuts, I don't care about christmas itself I just don't want to have to be forced to listen to the music on all the stations I listen to and hear stupid commercials about putting stuff under a tree/in a stocking...
2. having to miss school/disrupt life for Jewish holidays, here they just happen and everything is pretty much closed anyway
3. uhhh...There are things that I love about Israel and I could make a list of those things, but there isn't a whole lot else that I don't miss. There are things I don't like about America but those are impossible to escape/have made their way over to Israel, ahhh.

Ok that's it.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Talmud...where would I be without you?

Hey World,

So today was a pretty great day. I just wanted to share. I've realized (yet again) that learning especially Talmud really just feeds my soul. Seriously, when I learn things and when I'm challenged it just puts me in such a good place. You know those "chicken soup for the soul" books that used to be super popular, and how they had ones for specific people? Chicken soup for the teenage soul (own that one) or chicken soup for the Jewish soul (I think my mom owns that one) or chicken soup get the idea. Anyways my book Chicken soup for the Becca soul would basically just be talmud. That took a while to explain that metaphor haha.

Anyways yeah I spent a while today in the library preparing for my Talmud class tomorrow. I went over the section of Talmud we did last class because it was weird and I didn't totally understand it and then I started to prepare some of the stuff we are going over tomorrow. It just felt good to go over it slowly and not feel the pressure of keeping up with all of the Hebrew speakers, and hopefully I will be able to contribute more (that is if I can stop being a wimp and getting freaked out at the idea of speaking Hebrew in front of the class).

(disclamer, the rest of this is pretty Jewy...)

So a little summary of the texts we did in class last week/what I got when I reworked it today...We started out with a text from the bible, deuteronomy 21:1-9. This passage basically talks about what you should do if you find a dead body in between two towns and you don't know what happened to this person, it describes the ceremony that needs to happen if this is the case. It's pretty weird. Here is a translation if you want to read/browse it (it's a little old school cause its the 1917 JPS translation, but I wanted to cut and paste and this is what is on the net):

1 If one be found slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath smitten him; 2 then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain. 3 And it shall be, that the city which is nearest unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take a heifer of the herd, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke. 4 And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which may neither be plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer's neck there in the valley. 5 And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near—for them the LORD thy God hath chosen to minister unto Him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and according to their word shall every controversy and every stroke be. 6 And all the elders of that city, who are nearest unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over tin heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. 7 And they shall speak and say: `Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. 8 Forgive, O LORD, Thy people Israel whom Thou hast redeemed, and suffer not innocent blood to remain in the midst of Thy people Israel.' And the blood shall be forgiven them. 9 So shalt thou put away the innocent blood from the midst of thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD.

So after that we read a Mishnah that elaborates on this ritual (Sota perek 9, 1-9) and then we went on to a story in the Gemara (talmud) that uses this concept of a body that is found in a weird way. You can find this story in tractate Yoma 23a-23b. I'm not going to do a full translation because that would be super long and crazy, but I will summarize:

So it opens up with a story that was found in the Mishnah about two priests that were running up a slope to get to the temple for the sacrifice (they both wanted to be first so they could do whatever they needed to do because only one person could do it). The Talmud goes on to introduce this story again. So as it goes there are two priests running up the slope and they are about equal, then one gets in front of the other, but not so far in front and the other guy takes a knife and stabs him in the heart. (wahhh wahhhhhh). Then Rabi Tzadok gets up on the platform in the temple (I don't really understand temple lay out, but this is a high up and very public place) and he says: We are brothers, the house of Israel, listen, and then he cites the verse about finding a slain person out in the field. Then all the people burst into cries.

This is odd because the case described in deuteronomy is not the case here. Here people know who killed the priest, whereas is deuteronomy it is describing what to do when you don't know what happened. This could either mean the priest didn't really know his halacha, or, as the gemara argues, he brought up this verse to increase the sadness of the people. Which worked I guess because they did all burst into tears...

Then the father of the child priest (yes, new detail apparently the priest was young) finds his child and he is still not dead he is kind of twitching. The father says: He is your sin offering (expatiary sacrifice) and my son still is twitching so the knife is not impure... WTFFFFFFF. Right? A father just came across his dead child and the thing he cares most about is the knife being impure? Yes this knife is an important one because it was used for sacrifices at the temple and was very hard to purify, but still, ummmm someone just got killed. Following what the father says there is a discussion about the purity of the knife, and they are still trying to figure it out, no mention of the kid.

The Talmud learns from this that the people of Jerusalem back in the day cared more about the purity of the temple objects than the spilling of blood (killing). Whaaaa?! There is more discussion of this later that (or at least how I understood it) reasoned that Israel had become desensitized to killing because one of the kinds of Israel, Menasseh, had killed so many people while he was king (they use the verse from 2 kings 21:16). So the Israelites cared less about death than they previously had, but their level of concern for the temple objects had stayed the same.

This explanation is still very problematic for me. I wonder where this story came from and what it is trying to teach its audience. Could it possibly be criticizing the temple cult? Criticizing their concern for the tools they use for sacrifice over the concern for human life? Those priorities seem awfully backwards. This seems like the most logical explanation to me.

To back up my idea I have proof (woot). So in this story in the Mishnah (yomah chapter 2), which came before the gemara so it is probably the most basic version of the story only speaks about the two priests racing and then one getting hurt and as a result a policy of casting lots is imposed for deciding who does parts of the sacrifices. So probably what happened is this story, in the gemara was added to to give a more unfavorable view of the priests in the temple. The story is elaborated on and the element of the knife being pure or impure is incorporated, which is definitely the more problematic part. The reason they wanted to criticize these priests is really anyones guess, I would argue that it is because the gemara is being composed in a time without the temple cult because the temple was destroyed, so the rabbis are trying to distance themselves from it and validate the new type of Judaism that they are developing/continuing which is one that emphasizes study and prayer, not sacrifice.

Did that make any sense??? Was that interesting at all?? I hope so, let me know if there are things I need to explain better in the future, I know I didn't explain a bunch of the technical terms, but I figured if you were still interested you would probably know a few of them. If I assumed incorrectly I apologize.

So after all my studying I went to a beit midrash (a short, casual study program). It is through the Israeli rabbinical program, but a few of us American students participated too. We are studying masechet kiddushin. This is the first masechet I actually studied, so it's funny to come back to it, but we really only got through a few pages so I won't have any advantage after like the first two weeks haha. It was a great class, very relaxed, but I got to do some text study and had a fun chevruta. Also my Talmud teacher is running the class and we were joined today by another talmud professor and the head of the Israeli rabbinic program (and there were like 8 of us) so it definitely was not too shabby. haha

Last night was halloween, and I just thought I'd mention it because I felt a weird solidarity with all the people who had costumes on. Halloween does not happen in Israel, or most countries that aren't America (I think)...It is weird to feel a connection to Americans because in America I don't. I guess it's just being away.

And with that I will end my super long (and nerdy) blog entry.

Happy 4 month anniversary to me :-)