Friday, October 29, 2004

Yom shishi -- it's Friday. I've been rushing around since 6am, clearing the decks for Shabbat. This coming week is going to be something else: we've got the end of the quad, which means the equivalent of midterms, papers due, change in schedules, plus "interquad" classes, which means we'll be in class on Friday, too. Add all that disruption to the drama of the national elections and it does look like an interesting week ahead.

Lots going on internally of late. I began keeping kosher two years ago in Jerusalem. Publicly, I wanted to learn about it, and there's no learning like doing. Privately, I knew that the biggest holiness deficit in my life had to do with eating. While I did learn how to keep a kosher home (separate meat and milk, have only kosher food in my kitchen) the holiness issue continued to be nagging. It's no secret that I'm a fat woman, and have struggled with eating all my life. The boundaries of kashrut (keeping kosher) served to highlight my difficulties around eating.

That's not a bad thing: nothing like shining a bright light on something in order to get a good look at it. But I felt particularly helpless: the scales rang in with scary numbers, my joints are failing, and other health issues loomed.

Then I heard a sermon from one of the fifth year students that really got my attention. Gersh talked to us kindly and sincerely about his own journey with kashrut. He reminded us of the mitzvot involved: not just the halakha (Jewish law) about kashrut per se, but also the commandments to take care of our bodies, to refrain from waste, to be kind to animals, to pursue justice, to feed the hungry of the world. He explained why each of those were tied to his own decision to keep a vegan diet, completely free from all animal produce. He buttressed his own opinions with the words of rabbis I respect.

Since September, I've changed my practice of kashrut. My kitchen is a dairy kitchen. But I've also been taking steps to move "bad for me" foods out of my life: sugar and some other foods that do not add to the holiness in my life are now as traife, as not-to-eat as a pork chop. I'm trying to make eating the holy activity that it should be, for sustaining life. I bless before and after meals, to make it "kadosh" -- set apart, holy. I don't eat between meals.

Frankly, it isn't easy and it hasn't been pretty. Sugar is a nasty addiction. I had no idea how much it dulled my senses: now I'm restless, and my joints are all screeching at me. (Ironic, isn't it, that one of the things I was doing with sugar was dulling arthritis pain -- the same arthritis that is aggravated by excess weight?) The trouble is, there's no "enough" for me with the sugar.

On the plus side, prayer has acquired a new edge for me. I am exquisitely awake in prayer in a way I haven't been before.

I have debated posting this on my blog, but it's what's going on with me right now; it's most of what's going on with me right now. It is directly tied to my journey through rabbinical school, and the journey I began when I entered the Jewish covenant. Dunno where it will lead, but it will surely be interesting.

Shabbat shalom.

Monday, October 25, 2004

I can't tell whether I'm ahead of my assignments, or just hopelessly lost. So many new facts are jumbling around inside my head right now that I hardly know which way is up.

Handed in the draft for my translation of Isaiah 6 (the passage I've chosen for exegesis this term.) Susan and I turned in our History paper. There are still many other papers and tests (and plain old things to learn) but I seem to be making progress.

Actually, "where" I am is not nearly as important as the fact that I'm learning, and that there is a nearly infinite amount to learn. Whatever it was, it wouldn't be enough. So probably I'm doing just fine!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Last spring, when the brochures came out for the various Los Angeles Philharmonic concert series, a classmate and I agreed to (1) buy tickets together and (2) drag each other there, if necessary, "no matter what studying 'needs' to be done."

All I can say is, excellent plan. Just as we feared, we were both "too busy" but we already had tickets. My knee was acting up, we have a Talmud quiz on Wednesday, we have umpteen things to prepare, and we just went to the concert anyway.

Oh, GOOD plan.

We sat in the new Walt Disney Concert Hall and filled our heads with beautiful music. Sitting in the WDCH is a bit like sitting in the middle of a Cubist painting; if you haven't seen pictures, click this link and take a look. We were sitting high against the wall -- perhaps a little too high to see well, but the sound was wonderful. I think I'd have been happy to swing on a rope from the ceiling, to hear that music.

It was a piano concert by Peter Serkin, and he just seemed to get better and better as the evening wore on. He played a wild variety of music: Josquin, Webern, Bach, Mozart, Bull, Dowland; about the only era he didn't touch was Romantic music.

I have been so deep into the left side of my brain -- doing translations, deciphering Talmud, writing lesson plans -- that I think I was getting a little lopsided, like a weightlifter who only works on the left side of his body. I felt my mind expand and relax, listening to the music: I feel wonderful.

Friday, October 15, 2004

My car's in the shop, my internet connection at home isn't working right, but life is pretty darn good. Linda's visiting down here this week, and while I am not studying as much as usual, it is lovely to spend time with a good friend. I am better at seeing complications than at seeing solutions; Linda's just the opposite, and all sorts of things have become simple during her visit.

We called Aaron one night from Canter's Deli, and demanded to know where he was -- why was he late for dinner? He was taken aback for a moment, and then remembered she and I are in L.A. He said, well, gimme six hours, and we all laughed.

We've moved in Prophets class from Hosea to Amos, and I'm much happier. I like the poetry better, and I much prefer this spokesman for God. I can deal with the idea that God gets really angry if we don't keep our covenants. I can't handle the idea of a crazy God, which is how the deity in Hosea feels to me. I know, I know, it's a canonical book, and I'll do my best with it!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

I have lots to do tonight: I'm on my way to Merced tomorrow morning for Simchat Torah and a weekend of work at Congregation Etz Chaim. But the news is pressing on me, and I thought I'd write about it a little and see if it will help my heavy heart.

Bombings at a resort in Egypt just over the border from Israel have killed at least 30 people. Three explosions took place, right at the conclusion of the Sukkot holiday, when the resorts were full of Israelis. The Egyptian public line is that they are not sure that it is terrorism. To that, all I know to say is, they must be kidding.

The world is bomb-crazy. Little children and their families are dead under holiday hotels in Egypt. Terrorists shoot missiles from Gaza over the border into Israel, killing children, which draws the Israeli army into Gaza, to try to stop the murderers, in the process killing more children. (For details of that convoluted sentence, check out the story in Haaretz.)

In Afghanistan, they are going to try to hold elections, but there are bombs going off there, too. And of course, there are the constant bombings and violence in Iraq -- I am mystified that anyone thinks that anything there is "going well."

Meantime, I'm studying. The prophets are shaking me to my bones, not that that is a bad thing, but neither is it a pleasant thing. Talmud is an intricate mental exercise. I can feel my mind becoming more limber and strong. In my other classes, I am learning wonderful things and in a constant state of frustration about the limits of time and my abilities. There is so much to learn, all of it important.

Time to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer.