Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First Day of School...

...for me and all the children of Israel. As my roommates (Sarah and Naomi) and I walked to class this morning, every 5-year old in our neighborhood (which is a lot, because we live in a family neighborhood) was being walked to their first day of school by their entire family, shiny new backpacks and all. The first day of school was great, although overwhelming and exhausting - lots of people in not so much space, plus a long, long day, with new faces and new information.

Rabbi Landes, the rosh yeshiva of Pardes, taught a shiur to the whole school this morning. The piece from Talmud Yevamot that he taught opens with R. Hiyya and R. Shimon b. Rabbi arguing about which direction one should direct their eyes when praying - down to the Temple below, or up towards the heavens above. R. Ishmael bar R. Yosi comes in and says that his father's answer to this question was, "A man who offers up his prayers must direct his eyes to the Sanctuary below and his heart towards the heavens above."

The teaching off of it that I really liked was how these 2 directions represent the constraints of community and history (if you direct your eyes towards the Temple, which could alternately be interpreted as towards the community itself) and towards heaven is bringing your own self to Judaism. Both of these aspects - the community and the self - are needed for Jewish life, and they balance each other out. It reminds me of the Maya Angelou quote at the end of yesterday's post: "remember, you did not go empty-handed."

After a looong day of classes, the roommates and I braved the adventure known as an Israeli grocery store. Incredibly overstimulating, especially when faced with the task of stocking a pretty much empty pantry and refrigerator. It was crazier than MarketBasket, which I didn't know was possible. I'm pretty sure the people around us in line to pay just left their carts at the register and went on to continue shopping, then came back and nudged back into line. It was really sweet to come home (home!) to our apartment, unload the groceries, and cook dinner.

Tomorrow - first day of chumash and Talmud!

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