After a crazy weekend on a shabbaton and slichot, it was time to get back to learning bright 'n early in the CY Beit Midrash. Indeed many people did not quite make it there at a quarter to 9.
As I mentioned in the last post, we left off in Talmud with a mishnah about what sort of sukkot are legitimate. So then we did the gemara. Rabban Gamliel and Rabi Akiva argue about the permissibility of a sukkah on a boat. Then the Talmud comes in to describe an incident where the two of them were SAILIN' ON A BOAT (with their swim trunks and their flippie floppies) (the only rap reference I could ever give you), and Rabi Akiva builds a sukkah which gets blown a way. Rabban Gamliel gets all up in his face and says "Akiva, where's your sukkah?" It's nice to see that the sages were jerks just like myself and my friends (of course it's always out of love). Abaye comes and explains the different opinions - David and I spent a lot of time working on that during our chavruta - and then the subject turns to using elephants tied down as sukkot - if they're dead, it's all good because they're that big, and if they're tied down, they won't run away! This is the problem found in other animals that people suggested using for sukkot. That's an experience to try out this year...
I missed the sefarim sale at the yeshiva last week when I went to Me'ah She'arim with Tyler, but Pomeranz came today to sell some books. He's also coming tomorrow night to do a mahzor sale for Nativ. I bought a Hebrew-Aramaic dictionary, two Solovetchik books (a book on Jewish prayer and "Lonley Man of Faith), and a Kook Book (no pun intended - Orot Teshuva I believer it's called). He gave me a nice discount. I was pleasantly surprised when he asked me if I had ever been to his store and explained that I hadn't but my father is a big fan - when I explained who he was, he could identify him as a Southern rabbi that comes to Israel for conferences every now and then! This was all during lunch - I bought bread last week so I could take a pack-out lunch for the shabbaton, so I used some bread and peanut butter from that to have lunch today, it was wonderful.
I had biblical grammar and Chumash this afternoon - I won't go too much into those classes, though I enjoy them. Overall, though, I'm feeling that when I'm in the zone I get a huge amount out of them, but it's very hard to keep focus for such long periods of time. My goal for the coming semester is to get adjusted to the daily schedule, get goodnight's sleep, focus well, and work on asking good questions and developing better critical thinking skills. When most of my classmates are older and smarter than myself, I gotta be on my toes a little more!
Tonight brought a unique experience. During dinner at Beit Nativ a few friends mentioned they were going to the Kotel to see the swearing-in of new soldiers into the IDF and asked me if I wanted to come. So I went. Though I had been to the Old City last week with David to make some purchases at Moriah bookstore, I had not seen the Kotel or any nearby attractions since last summer. As we approached the Kotel, though I had already been there a significant amount of times in my lifetime, it still felt surreal to be there. At first we thought we'd see better staying up high, but then we descended down to the Kotel Plaza, where many Jews of all kinds were gathered for this ceremony. I had never seen such a gathering at the Kotel, something so special. At any rate, if I have been to the Kotel at night, I don't remember it, and it's truly beautiful at this time. The ceremony was in the plaza rather than inside the prayer area, so it was still open to worshippers, and so the four boys went to daven Ma'ariv towards the end of the ceremony. We were immediately summoned by a Sephardic man to join a minyan, and we did so happily. Only in Israel do I get pulled in to join a minyan as such. It's an awesome thing.