Wednesday, July 25 – The Last Day at the Institute

Day started early. (My word processing software automatically places that at the beginning of all documents now. Hmmm, go and figure.)

It was Jen’s turn to not feel well. So back to the Wolfson Medical Center – much better than the Hadassah Emergency Room. It is literally two buildings away, and they know our family on sight.

In the lobby, I was reading Shayna and Nadiv a wonderful new Israeli children’s book – Hareyeh She’ahav Toot – The Lion that Loved Strawberries. They especially get a kick out of it because Toot has become one of our favorite nicknames for Maital. So when I read the book in running translation, I am not allowed to say “strawberries” and instead must do everything in English, except Toot.

So as we were checking in, one of the two receptionists commented that it was one of her favorite books as a child (she was not very old). Her compatriot had never heard of it. So, when they called Jen’s name, she asked if she could borrow the book to read to her friend – Shayna and Nadiv thought it was a perfectly normal request, and I was more than happy to oblige.

The doctor did not struggle too long with the diagnosis: “Two weeks ago your sister was diagnosed with strep throat, last week your husband. You have a very sore throat, can’t swallow and haven’t slept well in two nights?”

So we were waiting for the pharmacy to open at 8:30 AM, and it was very important to Jen that I not be late for my last day of school. (Can I just comment that Abraham twice introduces Sarah his wife as his sister, and the Song of Songs introduces its lover as Achoti Kalah – my sister-bride. I find myself thinking that my mom-bride is probably a more correct appellation.)

So Jen sent me to school even though she was with the three kids, in the shopping center, waiting for the pharmacy to open, and sick with strep throat. But she certainly was not going to have me be late for my last day. (That cracks me up!)

The best part of it all: the cab dropped me off at Hartman right at 8:28 AM, so I made it in to the room by 8:30 AM, only to be reminded by the other G’onim (geniuses) who were already there that Donniel was not starting until 9:00 AM that morning. At moments like that, I find myself wondering if full disclosure is really the best marital policy?!?

Donniel was again brilliant and brought the first conference of the Religious Leadership Initiative to a close with a reading of some of the elements of the tradition that really lays open the possibility of allowing ethics, derived from a source other than the tradition, to inform our interpretation of the tradition. An excellent sendoff.

As Hillel concluded with the non-Jew who wanted to learn the whole Torah on one foot, after teaching him – “That which is hateful to you do not do to another person: -- he said, “Zeel gamur,” now go and learn.

The talk throughout the morning was about the pending Histadrut strike in Israel, that was supposed to close the airport down beginning early Thursday morning. Everybody was frantic about their flights, alternate arrangements and just general anxiety. Knowing that we have confirmed seats a few days later, made me pretty relaxed and enjoying everyone else’s anxiety.

We wrapped up with a fancy lunch: they even put out tablecloths! We said our goodbyes and justify.

Rabbi Menashe East and I headed over to Mossad HaRav Kook, a wonderful publishing house of modernized editions of Holy Books, for a few more souvenirs. We had originally planned a fancier book shopping outing, but with Jennifer under the weather, a quick trip to one store was all I could do. When I got home, I took the kids out for ice cream to give Jen a break (and I wanted ice cream!).

I should mention that Jennifer, though sick, was really excited for the conclusion of my program. As much as she has been excited by the learning, and quizzed me every night about what I learned and who were the teachers and so forth, it has certainly not been an easy adventure for her.

My hours have been similar to my work hours in San Diego, with three important differences.

1) We are in Israel – which is absolutely incredible, but comes with its own set of challenges.

2) We are not set up with all of the amenities of home – toys, car, child safety, etc.

3) I get two full days off every week, including Shabbat!

I have written it before, but I will say it again, this summer would not be possible were it not for my incredible wife. If she wasn’t willing to come, I would not have come, and it was not easy for her.

But it has been an incredible thing for all of us.

After ice cream, fed the kids dinner (can ice cream be considered an appetizer?) and put them to bed.

Over the past month we have become especially close with Rabbi Menashe and Donna East, of Kehillat Ahavat Yisrael in Carmel Valley. They were friends before this summer, but we have grown even closer here in Israel.

So since they were leaving on Thursday, we decided to go out for their last supper together, and boy did we pick a doozy of a restaurant – Vaquieros.

(If you do not believe what you are about to read, you should check out the description of Vaquieros at before passing final judgment.)

Have you ever had a ten course meal before? Count them, ten courses. That does not include the salads (yes that is plural) or the dessert.

We were seated on their lovely front patio, and they started bringing meat dishes, and they kept on bringing meat dishes – ten different ones! The meats are predominantly off the grill, and from either South American or South African traditions.

In fairness, it is not like ordering ten things off a regular menu. Each course is roughly equivalent to a “Ladies portion” or a “Seniors portion,” and in fairness to the absurd, there are only ten of them!

As best as I can figure it, our dinner went something like this: 1. Amazing Lamb Kebab
2. Chorizo
3. Roast Beef
4. Grilled Chicken Breast
5. Grilled Chicken Wing
6. Potjie (beef stew)
7. Grilled Steak
8. Odd Lamb Dish
9. Corned Beef
10. Babootie (South African dish of lamb, chicken, dried fruits and nuts)

Did I mention it was a lot of food? Actually, by the third course it was more than enough, by the fifth a whole heckuva lot, by the seventh absurd, and by the time we were done my eyes were so glazed over I couldn’t even be sure what I was eating.

I have a lovely series of ten photos, one of each course, if you would like the full photo experience of the night!

It was a very special evening with dear friends and a memorable way to mark the end of our first Hartman summer together!

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