Welcome to Majraseh, in the Galilee. Lots of Jews wading through a shallow stream, in a level 0 difficulty hike. The level of kvetching, however, was off the charts.
Relating to the Three Weeks and Tisha B’Av is both easier and harder here than in Chicago. On one hand, you can’t look at the Kosel without seeing a ruin, and we see it often. Every time we hear the muezzin calling the Muslims to prayer at Al Aqsa, it is a reminder that Har HaBayis is not what it was or will be. The deep divisions between various factions here in Israel testify that we have not yet resolved the issues that brought churban Bayis Sheni.
On the other hand, we are immersed in a vibrant Jewish lifestyle here. Torah abounds, and we live (mostly) peacefully and prosperously in our eternal home. Even a hardened opponent of secular Zionism surely can’t help but feel the thrill of Jews having returned en masse to Eretz Yisrael. From this point of view, it can be hard to feel the galus.
In Chicago, whatever other distractions there are, you have the unavoidable fact of galus – that you are there, not here.
Although I did my davening at the yeshiva, I did go down briefly to the Kosel last night. It was, indeed, a balagan, but it was inspiring to see so many different groups sitting on the ground, reciting Eicha (the Book of Lamentations). I plan to go again today, despite the heat. May this be the last time we observe Tisha B’Av as a day of mourning.
Today was Shalom Gershon’s last day of school here, and the last day of my own zman (term) in yeshiva. Although I may be able to pop in a bit when seder resumes in Elul, that will be our last week here and there will be a lot of packing, etc., keeping me from really getting back into it. So, for all intents and purposes, this marks the end of my sojourn this year as an avreich (full-time adult yeshiva student).
There’s a tefillah that we say when leaving the beis medrash (study hall) after a day of learning:
…מודה אני לפניך ה’ אלוקי ואלוקי אבותי ששמת חלקי מיושבי בית המדרש ולא שמת חלקי קרנות
“Thank you, Hashem, my G-d and G-d of my fathers, for placing my portion among those who sit in the study hall, and not placing my portion among those who hang around on corners…” (loosely translated)
Leaving the beis medrash today, I had a really hard time saying the tefillah. I have a first-rate job, and a terrific life, waiting back in Chicago. It’s not exactly hanging out on street corners. But having my portion among those in the beis medrash…
This entire year, I’ve been intending to write up some discussion of what learning in yeshiva is like. I keep putting it off because it’s easier to write about other things. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to capture its essence, and there are aspects to many of the subject matters we’ve been learning that people might find distracting and cause them to miss the point. But I do need to try, since it has been the central point of our little adventure. B’li neder, I’ll try to put something together. (I also plan to put together a post on how the boys’ year in school has been.)
But I’m feeling the pain of leaving full-time learning behind on a lot of levels. It isn’t just that I’m going to have to massively cut back on an activity that I’ve come to enjoy so viscerally. Nor is it just (“just!”) the fact that we consider Torah learning to be the pinnacle activity for personal development and reward. There’s also the fact that, as a latecomer to observant Judaism, I’m so far behind in the skills and knowledge necessary to be part of the learning community – which is to say the mainstream. After a year, on top of what I have been able to cobble together in the past few years, I feel like I’m on the entrance ramp. I have basic abilities, though my language skills are still lacking. It seems like a little more work and the world of Jewish texts would really open up to me.
I knew that, whatever progress I made this year, I wouldn’t be satisfied with it. I’m sure if I’d gotten even further, I still would feel like I just need a little more. Satisfaction is always just out of reach, and I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing. So the question now is how much I’ll be able to close the gap back in Chicago, when I’m back in the regular routine. Of course, now matter how much it is, it won’t be enough.
If a tree falls in the forest, and no one posts it on FB, did it happen? (Now that I’m not cross-posting these to Facebook, I don’t know if anyone is even going to read them anymore, but I’m going to keep going…)
We’re spending this Shabbos in Har Nof, to see our friends, the Maslins, who made aliyah from Chicago a few years ago. The funny thing is that, aside from a couple of chance bump-ins, this is the first time we’re really seeing the Maslins since we got here nearly a year ago. Other friends from the “Old Country” have fared similarly – we’ve seen the Goldblatts in nearby Ma’ale Adumim once (a great Shabbos!), the Burstyns in Ramat Bet Shemesh a couple of times, Rachel Tzipporah Avrahami a handful of times, the Doroviches once (another great Shabbos!) plus a bump-in, etc. Only the yeshiva-aged children of friends, who come to us, have we seen more regularly.
I’m not sure whether this is because we’re so busy (which we are), locked into our schedules (ditto), car-less, slowed by having small children, or what. We definitely have issues getting out & about, though. About 6 months ago, we decided we needed to establish a regular “date night.” We went out a grand total of once. And brought Mordechai. Hmmmm.
So, apologies to all of our friends. It’s not you – it’s us.