Today was a very interesting day upon which I expect to reflect for a very long time.
To begin with, I received a phone call from a congregant reacting to something I had placed on this website that really sparked some thoughts and some fascinating shared parallelisms between his thinking in recent days and my own. We shared a wonderful conversation that I expect will be continued when we return to San Diego.
I have been thinking a good bit lately about the connections between Ohr Shalom and us while we are here. Since this is the first of what will, please God, be seven trips as part of this program, it is important not only that this month goes well, but that we learn from it to help ensure all future trips go well, too.
I have very much enjoyed writing these webpages and looking at, if not always responding to, the email messages many of you have sent. I have especially enjoyed those (relatively few) of you who have called to share important thoughts or just to say hello.
Part of us very much remains in San Diego, even when we are so far away, and the contact nourishes us and help us to celebrate our loving community and home in San Diego, even while we are soaring in a very different place.
Anyway, it was a ½ day at Hartman in recognition of the 9th of Av, and the two shiurim (lessons) were both specifically apropos of the day.
They both were staggeringly brilliant readings of the tradition!
The first was a piece by Moshe Halbertal, focused on a discussion in the Babylonian Talmud (Moed Katan 14b) listing the traditions concerning avelut (mourning) alongside the traditions concerning a menudeh (some one cut off from the community) and a leper. It is a sugiyah (piece of Talmud) that is looked at often, as one of the clearest Talmudic statements on the traditions and restrictions placed upon a Mourner – though we do not observe exactly as the Talmud describes it here.
So we read a passage that I and many of the cohort had read on more than one occasion, though Moshe’s reading radically altered the text for all of us.
Moshe read the traditions of Mourning not to be about allowing the Mourner room to mourn. Based on his reading, the issue is not about the need for catharsis, to get it all out. Instead, he reads the traditions as relating to persons who have lost their place within the social network and the observances are designed to reintegrate them back into the warp and weave of their community.
Brilliant and material that we will return to together in the coming months.
The second shiur was a wonderful lesson with Marc Hirshman, another Hebrew University professor. Together with him, we read through sections of Pesikta de Rav Cahana a 4th or 5th century Midrash, that follows the cycle of the holidays throughout the year. It is a wonderful book and his close reading of the sections related to the 9th of Av was fascinating. Pesikta de Rav Cahana is a classic text that I hope we will have the opportunity to study together as well.
Our studies ended at 1:30 PM, so people could take care of themselves vis-à-vis the fast.
I grabbed a cab, swung by the apartment to pick up Jennifer and the kids and we headed for Kanyan Malchah – the big modern mall in Jerusalem.
Walking around the mall in Jerusalem it was clear that this is not a city destroyed; but rather, it is a city filled with life and promise and blessings, and real struggles to try and determine its nature, composition and future.
I couldn’t fast. Not because I was hungry, I wasn’t that hungry, but it felt like a mockery and an absurdity to be mourning the destruction of Jerusalem amid such signs of great life and joy.
At the same time, it would be disingenuous to imply that I had to “force” myself to eat schwarma!
So the 9th of Av passed as a wonderful intellectual topic of study, joyful family time, and an opportunity to celebrate the blossoming of what was once destroyed.
At the mall, in order to make it possible for Jennifer to try to accomplish all that she had set for herself to accomplish, I agreed to take Shayna and Nadiv to see “Shrek the Third.” The book in Hebrew has become one of their favorites in the past weeks, and what kind of dad would I be if I wasn’t willing to do this for them?
The movie was cute, not as good as the first two. If you have never seen a movie in Israel, add it to the itinerary of your next trip – Hebrew subtitles, running commentary from the Israelis seated all around, intermission. Can the intermission really be for a cigarette break, when it is a kids’ movie? Hmmm, I’ll have to think about that one some more. For us, it was a chance to get more chocolate since we clearly we did not plan well before the movie!
After the movie, we met up with Jen and headed home. For whatever it’s worth, Jen’s hour and a half of shopping did not yield the desired results – no new baby shoes for Maital, no new denim skirt for Jen, no surprise wonderful gifts for me, but she did manage to get a new hat. Wait till you see her cool hats! (Jen is reading over my shoulder trying to convince me that these cute Salt N’ Pepper shakers she bought were really a “surprise wonderful gift for me.” I am willing to let this be decided by a popular vote, if you would like to weigh in on whether or not the Salt N’ Pepper shakers get the thumbs up or thumbs down as a “surprise wonderful gift” for Scott, shoot me an email.)
Fed the kids dinner, put them to bed.
At that point Jen and I ordered in from “Ginger,” a cool new Asian restaurant and had another nice, quiet evening.
Not the 9th of Av the traditions prescribes. Not what I expected. But it certainly was a day that ran counter to the common wisdom: “you don’t know what you’ve got till it is gone.”
For Jennifer, my babies, for the State of Israel and its capital the holy city of Jerusalem, I give thanks.