So I am still working on the last of my school assignments, grrrrrr. Really this is no ones fault but my own. oy.
Anyways yesterday was Sunday which means TEACHING DAY woot. I am such a fan of this group of kids, they are really great to teach and have a lot of insights into the Talmud passages we do each week.
So this week I took their suggestions from the other week to heart. Instead of just bringing in a photocopied version of a translation I worked on the translation to make it more clear, so they could understand it when they were reading through it in groups. So what I had them do was break up into four groups and read the passage, answer some questions about it and then do a skit. I told them to be creative because they all had the same story, so I encouraged them to do their own take on it.
They were great!!! So the story I brought (from m. Chagigah 14b-15a) is about the 4 rabbis who entered the "Pardeis" which basically means they were doing this crazy mysticism stuff and entered into heaven (the word pardeis is the root of the english word paradise), not because they were dead but because they were searching for truth. Like in Ezekiel when he has his crazy vision. Anyways this journey causes one of them to die because he looked at the divine light and couldn't handle it, one of them went mad because he also could not take the power/wonder. One guy it says "cut down saplings" meaning he got destructive (more on him later). And the last guy Rabbi Akiva came out fine and was at peace.
So the guy who cut down saplings, Elisha ben Abuya (who is referred to as Acher which literally means "the other"), had an interesting experience up in the heavens that is described. Basically he goes up and sees this angel Metatron sitting down. Metatron is sitting down because he has permission to do so because he is recording all the merits of the Jewish people. Acher does not know this, and is shocked to see the angel sitting because he has heard that no one sits in heaven because they all stand in honor of God. So when Acher sees this he questions EVERYTHING he has ever learned. He mistakenly thinks that metatron is equal to God because he is sitting down, he thiinks maybe there are 2 deities all along. So the angels get pissed at Metatron for not standing up when Acher came and they punish him, but in the end Acher gets the real punishment. Acher hears a heavily voice say "return o wayward sons--except for Acher". So Acher comes to the conclusion that he has been cut off from the world to come, and because of that he will stop trying to earn merit and do mitzvot and he will just lead a life of debauchery, which he does.
Weird story right!?!? Then I added another little part of it where during shabbat Acher is riding on a horse (riding a horse is transgressing shabbat) and Rabbi Meir is walking next to him learning from Acher because he was a great scholar even though he totally stopped observing any mitzvot. When the horse has gotten to a certain point Acher tells Rabbi Meir to stop walking because if he kept on walking he would walk too far and violate shabbat...
So yeah I heard lots of interesting discussions about this, but my favorite part were the skits. One group made it take place on the moon, instead of heaven, and Acher got kicked out of NASA. Then instead of making it about shabbat Acher told his fellow astronauts who were allowed to return to the moon that they should stop drinking, even though he was drinking and very intoxicated (not for real though don't worry). Another group did it with the theme of star wars and Acher thinking there were two Yodas and then going to the dark side. They had creative star-warsy names for all the rabbis.
A third group highlighted the possible use of drugs that got them to see things like this. My favorite part of their skit was the quote "Acher was up in heaven and the most shocking thing to him was someone sitting down"--hilarious!! right?! I thought so. The fourth group did it in the style of a newscast on the subway and Acher got kicked off the subway for thinking there were two sandwich makers. It was silly.
SO yeah good times. I just wanted to share.
Last night I went to a friends birthday party which was fun. It is funny going to things with people who are outside of HUC because I feel like I always see people I know from random other places...I guess the Jerusalem english speaking/student community is pretty small.
ok now I need to go work for real.