Saturday, September 29, 2007

Blog E-Mail Problems

I've found out that some people have not been receiving the pictures in the e-mail updates that are sent around every time we write something new for the blog. I'm not sure how (or even if I can) fix this. If you haven't actually seen the website in a while, you probably should since I've been posting pictures and slide shows of our recent adventures.

If I need to change the e-mail subscription forms either I'll take care of it automatically or you might have to re-subscribe; but I'll keep you updated.

Oh and by the way, my finger is healing nicely and we're hopeful that it won't even leave a scar.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Yom Kippur, Rav Kook, and Sukkah Building

The first semester is over for both of us now, we've got a few weeks off until the next (and much longer) semester begins. Now for story times: A few posts ago we mentioned the Selichot services which between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur become especially important. This past Wednesday night Naomi's school took a trip to Hebron to visit Marat HaMachepela (The Tomb of the Patriarchs). This is the cave (the building's built on top of it) that Abraham bought to bury Sarah. Here too are the graves of Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah.

Naomi's school hired a bus to take us there - I'm pretty sure I've never been there myself before - and it was quite an experience. Hebron is a major Arab town, there is a large Jewish town next door (Kiriat Arba) but for the most part Hebron is completely Arab. Anyway, it's one of the oldest towns in the country - that's saying a lot for Israel - and it showed. Lots of windy narrow streets that a tour bus is navigating only to show up in a large parking lot where thousands of other people have assembled trying to make their way into the building.

I took some rather poor (due to the lighting) pictures inside, but the link above will give you a great idea of what it looks like. It really was very cool, Hebron reminded me a lot like across between Madaba (a city in Jordan) and Istanbul (Turkey); because it's a very large city but has a distinctly Arab flavor. I think we will be going back there in the day time sometime this coming week to get a real tour of the Cave.

Maybe then I'll have some better pictures to show you guys of the inside.

For Yom Kippur we were here at my Yeshiva. Naomi cooked a feast for the holiday beforehand - since it's a fast day we traditionally have a major meal ahead of time - she went all out for this one, we had a bunch of friends over for it; including Adam R. The davening (prayers) on the holiday itself were just outstanding. We spent all day there, a totaling close to 15 hours there in total over the 25 hour day.

The Rosh Yeshiva (Head of School) gave a very interesting class about how there are two types of Tshuva (usually translated as "Repentance"). The one we normally think about is atoning for our sins - a major theme of the day to be sure - but there is another type. Tshuva for being a good person. He read us a Talmudic tale about two people one called a righteous man and the other called and evil one. What was the difference between them? In fact they are both righteous just one only went over his religious studies 100 times and the other one 101 times. The point being is that most of us - deservedly I think - consider ourselves to be descent human beings, but even we are required to do tshuva because we aren't progressing. If we stay as the same decent person we always were it's basically a waste of talent, we need to find more ways to continue to grow or else we're considered to be evil.

I found the class to be very interesting and is very similar to a class I'm taking this year on the philosophy of Rav Kook who was the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine nearly 80 years ago. He is very well rooted in the Kabbalistic school of thought meaning that for him tshuva is progressive process. When we do tshuva we are progressing towards the divine ideal. He explicitly states that social revolutions are progressive - a worldly tshuva that will eventually bring us into harmony with perfection.

The four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot are very hectic days. So far we've gone into Jerusalem to buy me a Lulav and Etrog set; and we bought items necessary for our Sukka. Just behind our apartment is an abandoned Sukka structure so today we spent a long time cleaning it up, adding a new pole, putting up the walls, making ceiling beams - quite fun. Again Adam R. helped us and we're still not quite done yet but it's coming along quite well. Sukkot doesn't start until Wednesday night so we have some time before we really have to get things together.

Here's a slide show of our Sukka fun.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rosh Hashana

So we just finished our three day Holiday (two days of Rosh Hashana followed immediately by Shabbat) and it truly was a great experience. We stayed at the Yeshiva for the holiday and my cousin Jay-Jay came to join us. Rav Sperling, one of the Rabbis at Nishmat, told our class the day before we left for Rosh Hashana, that if you have the ability to go to a Yeshiva for Services on Rosh Hashana do! He said it would be an experience you would never forget. He was absolutely right. The Cavanah (focus) of the prayers coming from each person was amazing. When we would sing certain parts outloud I often felt that the hole building was being lifted with each lift of our voices. I did, however often find myself starting to sing the tunes of Mr. Sigman (the leader at my parents synagogue) and getting very confused when the leader at the yeshiva would do something different. The first day I was not in the service for the repetition of musaf and therefore did not hear all 100 blasts of the shofar (but I did here 30). I was helping out with the babysitting and joining in by taking an hour out of davening, as every other wife at the service did, to help watch everyone's kids. The second day I did it during Shacharit and did not miss very much at all, since it ran into the time for kiddush (the yeshiva takes a break at 9am for kiddush which is home baked by all the wives) which the kids went in to take part in. I have to say this Rosh Hashana was one of the most meaningful experiences I have ever had. Of course tears were shed, when we were thinking of our families, but only wishing they could be here with us and not us there with them.

We hosted three meals throughout the weekend, and ate at the yeshiva for three, and we were invited out for one. I have to say as amazing as shabbat food always comes out, there is something added to the taste of Rosh Hashana food- oh right honey! Nate, being the one who likes spice food, was not as excited as I was to have honey in just about everything we ate. I went through three very large containers of honey in my cooking and for our dunking of apples and challah into at the table. It was amazing! There are many other customs here at the Yeshiva that many people have and we were able to take part in many. On the first night, when we ate at the Yeshiva on the table were fish heads (I know mom, you would have been freaked out), eggs, pomegranates (they have 613 seeds equaling the number of commandments in the bible), apples, honey, and round challahs. One of our friends, the Hassans made cookies that had different fruits in it each having some symbolizing some custom for the holiday. They were very good. On the second night, our custom is to have a new fruit, so we had a cactus fruit. It was interesting, a bit bitter, but it definitely looked very nice.

Having my cousin here was very nice. Jay made me realize how hard it is to not have too much family here in Israel that we can spend holidays with and how important it is that we spend with with who ever we can when we can. On that note, we will most likely be spending part of sukkot up north with our cousins the Chai's (on Nate's side). I hope Jay enjoyed being here as much as we enjoyed having him.

So for those of you who are wondering, (if you read the last post) over the holiday we still at tomatoes, in fact we ate the tomatoes Nate had sliced previous to his accident (it was for my rattatoi dish that I was making) and as he said "It was very good, but it had a taste I just couldn't put my finger on..." Anyway, we saw the doctor yesterday and he said everything looks good, Nate will continue his pain killers and I learned how to dress the wound which I will have to do daily. Overall, despite the downer before the holiday, it truly was a great weekend. We miss you all and love you! We hope you all have a meaningful ten days of repentance, including Yom Kipur. Shana Tova and G'mar Chatima Tova!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Our midnight adventure

Late last night while helping Naomi prepare for Rosh Hashana, I cut myself pretty badly on my left index finger. The emergency medical facility here in Efrat closes at 12am so we struck out there and ended up having to go to this medical center in Jerusalem near the central bus station. The doctor there was pretty funny after telling me that it would be three weeks until I'm back to normal he told Naomi that I shouldn't wash dishes for six months. For a minute he had her.

Today I got my prescribed meds and a sling costing me only 47 shekels - about $10. I expect that it would have cost me 10 times that in the states. Naomi was so worried, but I'll be fine it just bled a lot and I'm sure that I'll be in pain for awhile.

I need to publicly thank Michael who drove us last night at 12:30 and didn't get home until 3:30 without complaining in the least. What a mentsch.

(Typing with one hand is much harder than it looks)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

New Pics

We finally finished arranging our caravan. Everything has a place and it doesn't seem too crowded (we are still waiting on a box, however, to arrive from the states). We put a lot of our style into it and it really is a fun place. We used lots of color where ever we could, and, not that you can see them so well in the pictures, we hung every family photo up that we had with us. It really feels like a home now. We look forward to having you all coming to visit but in the meantime here are the pics of it!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Rosh HaShana is coming

So, Wednesday night starts Rosh HaShana (the New Year) and that means that the holiday season is starting here. For the next month there are three major Jewish holidays, a week of festivities, and two lesser known holidays. When we're talking holiday season we mean it.

Last night, that is Saturday night, we started an early morning service called Selichot. Basically they are supplications that are read to prepare us for Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. There are a couple parts to the service; in one, we are asking God for forgiveness and another part we are going through the 13 Godly attributes and reminding ourself that if we are to live lives as Godly people we should try to emulate these attributes. It's a custom in our Ashkenaz community to start it the week leading to Rosh HaShana, while for Sephardim they tend to do it for the entire month before.

Last night's selichot were held at 12:30 am but for the rest of the week we will say them at 6:30am. The first day's prayers are usually considered the most important which is why we say them at midnight - its assumed from the time of the Talmud that midnight is a good time to ask God for forgiveness.

We are having Naomi's cousin Jay for Rosh HaShana and the Shabbat following. He's on Year Course and we're quite excited to have him. For those of you who don't remember - or need some mind jogging - Bethany did Year Course two years ago. Seems like a long time doesn't it B?

Anyway, we'll have some more updates soon with some new pictures.

Friday, September 7, 2007

So, unfortunately with the business of school it has been very hard for us to post this past week or so. I leave the house at 7:10am by which time Nate has already left (at 6:55am). I do not get home, until at the earliest 6:30, which often turns into 7pm. Nate plays sports after class which mean he gets home around 7:30 and then has to leave for Maariv (evening service) and then more class at 8-10pm. Usually I go to some class here at the Yeshiva for the wives at night while he is in class, and sometimes I even go to Nate's class at night. So basically we are totally booked, but because we are totally booked there is so much to fill you in on!

So this past week I finally came to the conclusion that Midreshet Rachel was really not the right place for me. The classes, often, were not text based, which is what I had wanted; the classes had teachers who seemed to know one way and that that one way was the only way to understand anything, which I disagreed with; and worst of all for me, it had classes that I saw as not what I wanted to spend my time in, but that made me want to skip school because of. To explain the last one a bit further, the day before I finally gave up at Midreshet Rachel we had a class called Midot (positive characteristics). I assumed (yes, Dad I know that stands for I made an ASS out of U and Me) this class was to learn about what different Rabbis say should be the positive characteristic that we should all have. To my amazement that was not at all what this class was about, but rather it was about "how to tell your parents you are becoming frum!" Oh, and if they don't like it well then "you will just have to re-examine whether your relationship is worth having or not." Anyway, basically what it comes down to is Midreshet Rachel is not for me. (But as a side note I have to say it still is a great place to go to Learn and there are some amazing people at that school and for many other people it will be a great place).

So, starting Tuesday I went on an exploration for a new school. I started at Nishmat. After spending three days there I have decided to transfer (three days was all it took). The teachers at Nishmat are world renown scholars and they just has so many interesting things to teach. I am learning G'mara there, women 's commandments, the Halacha (laws) of Shabbat, some Chassidic texts (thats really deep stuff), Torah and Prophets. I feel like in every class I am on the edge of my seat. Plus I will definitely improve my hebrew speaking skills, considering that majority of the girls there either are Israeli or just speak hebrew so well that they use it more often then not. The seminary actually looks more like a guys Yeshiva (well except for all the pretty art) and, as Nate said when he looked at my schedule, it seems to teach like one too. The Beit Midrash (study room) is huge (like twice the size of Nate's) and every girl has their own Makom (desk, basically). This school is well known for its Yoetzet Halacha program- a program that educates women in women's Jewish law (as I explained it to my mother in law, it is as close to a woman becoming a Rabbi as possible in the Orthodox community at this time). Anyway, so as soon as I work out all the financials I will officially be a student there.

Anyway, also coming up is Rosh Hashana. We are really excited to spend it in Israel with the Yeshiva, because I have been told that if you ever want an amazing Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipur experience that you will find it at a Yeshiva. I am starting to get teary though each day as I think about how I will not be sitting next to my mom this year. It will be my first Rosh Hashana away from her ever. I know though, that Mrs. Millen and all the other amazing women at Shomrai will take care of her well!

Last but not least, this weekend is my little brother's 18th birthday! I am so excited, welcome to adulthood Ari. Ari just started University and from what I hear seems to be enjoying it (although he is a bit bored with not having school all the time). Congrats Bro! I am so happy for you!