Before I get into the Jules weekend, I thought I’d touch on a couple of things:
*Wednesday we had Shiur Klali, which means that the yeshiva learned Talmud together with the Rosh Yeshiva teaching the shiur. I spent an hour in chevruta with my friend Ariella, and then we joined Shaiya (who learns in the kollel in addition to teaching) and Reb Shmuel’s son. We studied the sugya that we had already done in class, but Reb Shmuel added some interesting layers in terms of context and philosophy through sources in the Torah. The conversation was fantastic in chevruta. The most amazing part of shiur k’lali was watching the Talmud teachers ask questions and then they engaged in their own debate. Elkana recounted the same thing when he was in yeshiva, that during shiur k’lali students would look at their teachers in awe, in hopes that they would one day reach that level of understanding, to get that deep into the text.
*Thursday I took a trip to Me’ah Sh’arim to buy a shtender. It cost me 40 shekel, and she did the entire art on the spot, including the quote of my choice (ki hem chayeinu v’orech yameinu) and my Hebrew name. I also bought a one-volume, travel size of Mirkaot G’dolot while I was in the hood.
So Jules got to Jerusalem Thursday afternoon. That night David and I went with him to Rimon off of Ben Yehuda and had a fantastic fleishig meal. Because of the expense, we don’t usually dine out for nice fleishig very often, so we had trouble coming up with a good idea. But it was a nice dinner and we had great conversation – definitely a fun evening.
Friday morning, I chose to go to the Great Synagogue to catch a minyan, since I needed to be up fairly early anyway. A little fast for my taste but what can you do. There were also people going around all througout the davening collecting tzedaka, which I find to be slightly inappropriate. We’re studying Hilkhot Tzedaka (laws of Tzedaka) in my poskim class, so I’ll ask Reb Shmuel about that.
Our first session with Jules was at 9:45 a.m. (I’ll outline all of the sessions at once, since I don’t have too much to say about each individual session.) The first session, on Friday, consisted of a discussion of a survey we had taken at Erev Nativ on the preceding Tuesday night, which asked if we define ourselves as Conservative Jews, why or why not, and what we believe Conservative Judaism is. People asked solid questions, and it was interesting to see the realities of perception among Conservative Jews. Nothing said in that session was too earth shattering for me. One of my friends wasn’t such a fan of that session because there wasn’t so much tachlis, or a nafka mina (what you get out of it) of the session. On Shabbat after lunch our session addressed the topic of revelation and God’s role in our understanding of Torah – the ongoing nature of revelation, the rabbis’ need to interpret, and the binding nature of a mitzvah, since a commandment must have a commander (we discussed what would happen if we were to prove that there was no God behind Torah). The text used here was Tanuro shel Ochnai – Ochnai’s oven - found in the Talmud (Bava Metzia). My issue with that text is that the person at fault, Rabbi Eliezer, went against the majority opinion, and many Conservative rabbis pasken halakha that, while they may have some proof, doesn’t align with conventional practice today! A rabbinical student at the yeshiva pointed out to me that it’s fair to say, though, that t’shuvot that go against conventional practice have some backing from colleagues, while R’ Eliezer had no backing whatsoever. Then Sunday night’s session addressed the Conservative understanding of the halakhic process. It was fairly late at night, so many people had a hard time focusing, which was legitimate. One thing established was that a difference between Conservative Judaism and Orthodoxy is Torah Mi-Sinai – the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. We went into the subject of Imahot, adding the matriarchs to the first paragraph of the Amidah, and looked at the Rembaum, Golinkin, and Diamond papers. Rembaum’s paper allowing it was proven weak; however, Diamond, who approved Imahot, had the message that was the thrust of the session – that it is imperative that we respect differences, and at the end of the day we may respectfully disagree.
In the end, I didn’t come out of the weekend feeling more passionate about Conservative Judaism. If anything, I feel less compelled. Last night I started to address this issue in a separate essay that will be more comprehensive of my current relationship to Judaism as I currently see it, but I feel little incentive to stay a Conservative Jew if the few things that keep me affiliated that way can be compromised in order to join a community where people take Jewish observance more seriously. It’s factual that Conservative Judaism has little followers that abide by its tennents, and that does not resonate will with me.
But here’s regarding the rest of the weekend: Friday night, we welcomed Shabbat together as Nativ at Kehilat Moreshet Yisrael (part of the Fuchsberg Center), and I led Kabbalat Shabbat. It was a definitely a spirited service, and people expressed compliments. We had Shabbat dinner together; I sat next to Jordana and mostly talked to her - I think about something related to Judaism. After dinner I had a fantastic heart-to-heart with my friend Razie about things on our mind about Nativ experiences and beyond. We’re both going to Maryland next year and are excited about that. Afterwards I went to the Nativ tisch, which was mamash sababa. People picked some awesome and very high-spirited songs, and it was great to see everyone go crazy for V’yitnu L’cha Keter M’lucha. Then I went to Beit Shmuel, the kivinum building, to hang out with Brenna. We ended up going on a walk that looped around King David and back down Agron, and then we walked through Mamila and then went back to Beit Shmuel and chatted some more. Love Shabbat walks. On Shabbat I went to Yakar and loved it. I got there at Nishmat, which was an inspiring point. Nishmat is a beautiful poem and is often done silently, and they sang almost the whole thing outloud, which I appreciated. They were good at preserving nusach while singing beautiful niggunim in the tefillah. Also, between Shacharit and Torah they do kiddush and shiur, and the shiur was sweet – the woman gave a brilliant discussion on Chizkuni and his understanding of other commentators and difficulties in the chumash. The rest of my day consisted of food, nap, reading, and talking to Yossi.
Motza’ei Shabbat I went to a concert dedicated to the 15th yartzheit of Shlomo Carlebach. It tooks us a long, long time to get our tickets – some confusion with the order. We got in, and basically the concert was a Shabbat in Carlebach world – starting with Kabbalat Shabbat, z’mirot, D’var Torah (R’ Yisrael Meir Lau), and we left during “Shacharit.” Some of the performers weren’t so good; their claim to fame was their connection to Shlomo Carlebach. Aharon Razel and Shlomo Katz, however, were fantastic and got me stirred up. It was fun to watch the drunk people around us, a little too high on Carlebach.
I think that’s all I have to say about my Shabbat weekend.