Mixed Emotions


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Jerusalem, for that matter all of Israel, is not a place of half measures. The past week has been full of highs and lows and more amazing experiences. It’s now been over two weeks since I got here and, while I am having an amazing time on so many levels, I really miss home and my husband. I am also beginning to fully realize how much I need to have in place for the new school year and how hard getting that done from here is going to be. Today was not a great day – it began with Steve finding a bill on my desk that is due tomorrow which led to an unpleasant exchange and moved on towards panic about being ready for the school year and then moved into realizing that all my new friends at Pardes will be leaving in two days and I will have a week stretched out in front of me between the Curriculum Workshop ending and my husband arriving. Needless to say, not my best day here. Busying myself with laundry and then with booking tours and rooms for when Steve is here got me through the evening and allowed some mental space to actually contemplate the past week.

My week at Pardes was very busy with working on my curriculum unit and attending a variety of workshops. I have so enjoyed getting to know a variety of the other teachers at the Workshop and really hope to stay in touch with them. Pardes does an excellent job educating them and I find myself envious of their time studying there and wishing I had a couple of years to come and learn in their Educator’s Program. I had a meeting with a second mentor midweek and came up with some fabulous texts for my unit and was able to have a couple of really productive days Wednesday and Thursday. I also did a “sharing” presentation on my Inquiry unit on Rites of Passage from this past year which was well received. We also went on a tiyul (field trip) to the Israel Museum where we went through the archeology section with a guide. I also then went to see the Shrine of the Book and the model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period.

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In addition to the learning at Pardes, I also went to a shi’ur (lesson) at the Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo led by Shlomo Katz. This was “giving over” of a lesson by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach about Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av – a day of fasting and mourning of the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE as well as a host of other tragedies in Jewish history which all conveniently seem to happen on this same day). It was a beautiful teaching and one of the main points – which I was able to figure out from the very esoteric teaching – is that there are two ways to sin and one is easily forgiven and one is largely unforgiveable. The first way is through the breaking of a commandment – like the building of the Golden Calf. The Israelites sin, they plead for forgiveness (well, Moses pleads for them), they are punished and God forgives them and life goes on. This is like a servant who works for a king and makes a mistake. The second way is a breaking of a trust or a betrayal of faith or love and this is much harder to forgive for the damage is much more serious. Rabbi Carlebach says we actually shouldn’t even ask for forgiveness but rather approach the person and kiss them – acknowledging both that we have hurt them and that we have no right to ask for forgiveness. This is likened to the sin of the spies who go to see the Promised Land and come back and scare the people into believing that there is no way, even with God’s help, that they will be able to conquer the land. This sin is a betrayal of faith in God and is not forgiven. The punishment is wandering for 40 years until all the adults responsible for this betrayal have died. This is likened to the relationship between a parent and a child. Another part of this teaching was about how we, 2000 years removed from the destruction of the Temple are supposed to connect to this tragedy and mourn it. Carlebach brings down (teaches) that what we are mourning is that God is homeless and has been for 2000 years. The Temple was God’s dwelling place on Earth and without it, God has no fixed place to reside. The message is that it isn’t about us and what have lost but rather about what God lost. A fascinating way to frame this most serious and somber day in the Jewish year.

Shabbat was again an amazing adventure. Friday night we returned to Mayanot in Nahalot for another rousing Kabbalat Shabbat. I still wish I was on the other side of the mechiza but am encouraged by other women singing,clapping, stomping and swaying to give way to my own impulses while the men are pounding tables and dancing. Yiscah again arranged for dinner for us both – giving up an invite on her own with friends to instead venture out to a potluck meal recommended by a friend. What an experience it was. It is amazing to me that people here open their homes so readily to huge groups of people – some of whom they barely or not all know. This meal is a regular weekly potluck and most of the people knew each other. We recognized a couple of people from other large group meals we have been at as well as from Mayanot. The host was newly living with a new roommate who was the unofficial host of the meal and a bit of a celebrity as I was to discover. The meal was wonderful, the food plentiful and the company varied and fascinating. I am torn about what to say about the unofficial host out of respect and appreciation for the hospitality that I received. Suffice it to say that he was larger than life and quite entertaining. It is strange the “table fellows” that one can encounter when one is willing to venture out and be a guest in people’s homes. I have to say it is a most unique Jerusalem experience and continues to push my boundaries and comfort zone. The growth will do me good.

Shabbat morning we went to Shira Hadasha which is a “halachically inclusive minyan” that I had been to when I was last in Jerusalem. This minyan was founded by a group of people who were interesting in finding what were the true limits of what women could and could not do in a worship service based on Jewish law rather than customs. It has inspired similar synagogues in the US, including one in Seattle. I was honored to be asked to open the Ark for the Torah service and it was a very meaningful experience – especially after so many services where women can’t do such things. For lunch we came back to my apartment and Yiscah, Elena (from my Pardes group) and I had a delicious lunch which was followed by a long nap. In the evening we went back to Yeshivat Simcha Shlomo for Seudah Shlishi (the third Shabbat meal). There must have been 30+ people crammed into the charming house – they were down the hall and into the kitchen. There was delicious food, wonderful singing and a lovely teaching based on a teaching by Rav Soleivetchik. The evening was marred by one young woman passing out from heat exhaustion and needing an ambulance. It was particularly hot here Friday and Saturday and I felt quite awful myself on Friday after being out and about in the Old City in the heat of the day.

Tomorrow I will present on the unit of curriculum which I have been developing over the past two weeks and on Tuesday we will have a farewell lunch and my time at Pardes will end. I do look forward to returning there on Tisha B’Av for a fantastic day of learning and also to now being an alum of Pardes with all that entails. I will be meeting in person on Wednesday a “virtual” friend of a few years which will be fun. I am worried about filling the time and remaining busy between Pardes ending and Steve arriving. I am sure Yiscah will have ideas – though she is leaving me on my own this Shabbat!! There is so much to see and explore here and if all else fails I could do some of that work that I was freaking out about for school!



About nancesea

I live in Seattle with my husband Steve. I am an award winning Jewish educator, and primarily teach middle schoolers. My speciality is the Holocaust. My hobbies, when I have time, are reading, live music, and photography. I am passionate about teaching the lessons of the darkest periods history to help inspire my students to assure our future is brighter. Pre-Covid I used to travel yearly to Central and Eastern Europe to continue to learn about this history and make connections with educators there doing similar work. I hope you enjoy my writing on my travels, my learning and Jewish thought and practice. B'vrachot - with blessings - Nance

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