Wednesday, July 2 – Touring Biblical History & All of Israel

Well, I think we have found a routine – if you can call it a routine when we are only on our second “regular” day.

Now please don’t misunderstand the connotations of the word routine – I mean it in the sense of a pattern from day to day, not to imply “commonplace or ordinary” by any stretch of the imagination.

First, one couldn’t be so blasé about nights that involve so little sleep. From the day before, being out late, enjoying a concert “stag,” returning home to see my wife who I hadn’t seen all day. After catching up for about an hour, we went off to sleep well past 11:00 PM.

Six hours of sleep and I am in good shape. The overall frame looks promising – asleep before midnight and up at six, the math works.

However, that is ignoring the four-year old who needs a cup of water at 2:00, the six-year old who just thought of a funny story from camp that day, and what isn’t perfect about 3:00 to share it. (By the way, daddy, can we snuggle in your bed for a little while? Is it possible to say no to such an invitation?) And finally, the 2 year old who decides that 4:00 is the perfect time to begin shouting: “Daddy, com’mere daddy. Daddy I neeeeeeeeed you.”

The nights have become a tiring (in the physical not in the emotional sense) celebration of the love of a father who can’t keep his eyes for three of the most wonderful children G-d has placed on this earth (tfu, tfu, tfu). For those who sometimes worry that the summer program does not allow me to spend enough time with my children forget that there really are twenty-four hours in a day.

So for all of you mathematician readers of this diary, professional and lay, midnight to 6:00 AM figures to be a whole lot less than six hours.

(Authorial Sidebar: As I write this, it is 4:30 AM on July 11, I am sitting in our living room, Shayna just emerged from my bedroom, and laid down on the couch. I turned off the light and am now writing in the dark while trying to coax her back to sleep. My mind is foggy, it is hard to remember if this is the third or fourth time that we have met together on this dark night [morning?]. A couple of days ago, while in a shiur [lesson] with an amazing teacher studying contemporary Israeli literature, we read a passage about an older gentleman who would use and reuse his tea bag, making sure to get every less smidgen of pleasure out of it. I feel that way. There really are twenty-four hours in a day. As a family we are only here for five weeks. I want to be certain that when we board that El Al jet in a couple of weeks we have soaked, strained and cajoled every last micron of pleasure out of the tea bag of this trip. Obsessive? Probably. Worth it? Absolutely! Though, did I mention that I spent yesterday with a 101 degree fever and a splitting headache? One last thought, for those who are concerned or frustrated at my inability to be caught up with this diary, I hope this gives you some insight into the challenges I face to write every day. Did I mention that it is 4:30 AM? But I digress. One last thought: Good news, I think Shayna just dropped off to sleep on the couch, in the dark next to me!)

The morning are wonderful (no sarcasm there, I mean it.) We are all up by 6:00 and have our cereal together, talk about our day. There may be some rough spots, but the morning really are great.

Then Jennifer and Shayna leave, walking, to camp. We really are bipedal and outdoor creatures! Walking here and there is fantastic!

Nadiv, Maital and I have about a half-an-hour to clean up and then hit the road. Just like in San Diego it is a fifteen minute drive to get to anywhere from where you are, here this summer, it is a 10-15 minute walk.

Sorry to sound redundant, but my day of learning was brilliant! The large Beit Midrash was taught by a professor of TaNaKh (Hebrew Bible) – Israel Knohl.

“How Do the Biblical Narratives Create a People?”

We explored, through Biblical text, how the TaNaKh itself tells the story of our people. From where do we come? (The title of Professor Knohl’s soon to be released book.) The Biblical narrative of who we are is not consistent throughout. Also, because of this the nature of our community and our obligation to God, etc., varies depending on where one looks – not a complicated insight. Critical to this lesson, however, Professor Knohl showed how the TaNaKh tells the history/story of our people – that is how the narrative creates us a people and creates our self-understanding(s).

The most radical, challenging and brilliant part of the shiur involved a close analysis of Joshua 24. Read it. How is this text possible for the generation after the Exodus and after Sinai? What is our history as represented here? What is glaringly missing? Want to study some of the historical research at Shechem, the place mentioned, and gain new insights into this amazing chapter? Keep an eye on the schedule for upcoming Adult Education classes!

After the shiur, there was no lunch, so I met up with Jen, and together with Rabbi Menashe and Donna East, their daughter Ayala and Donna’s father Shimon, we went to a little place that Menashe and I ate at last year. Wonderful little restaurant, the Israeli equivalent of a little greasy spoon, lunch counter, hamburger joint – I love eating in Israel! (Rabbi East is the Rabbi of the Orthodox shul in Carmel Valley.)

After lunch, we headed back to the Institute (Does that “Institute” sound sinister to you? Or is my lack of sleep and fever making me a little paranoid? Who said that?) Jen grabbed the two little ones and I returned to my week long course in the Idra Rabba with Melila Hellner-Eshed.

So this is what mind blowing feels like! Amongst the most complicated texts upon which I have ever broken my teeth. Wonderful chevre (group of colleagues) or in the language of the Idra – Chevraya.

It is not possible to recreate the content of these classes through this medium, but again, we will find the right way to sit and learn from the Idra together.

Day ended early (3:30 PM). Ran home, grabbed the two eldest kids and we were picked up by Hudi and Tina-Marie Eshel and their two kids. For those of you who don’t know Hudi and Tina-Marie but have been in my office, you probably have seen the photographs of an outdoor wedding, in the mountains, in December, in the snow – that’s Hudi and Tina-Marie! (I once mentioned to Sid Wapner that those photographs are how a picture the weddings from his childhood in Bialystok. Sid, wrinkling his brow, responded to me: “Nobody got married OUTSIDE!”)

Anyway Hudi is from Israel so this was a chance to visit his parents and siblings, and to show off their new baby!

They picked us up in a rented van, and we headed off to a special place called “Mini-Israel.” Jennifer was feeling pretty tired so she stayed home with Toots. Jen and the kids had pizza with Huda and Tina the night before while I was at school, so she figured it was better to get some rest.

Off we went. Mini-Israel is a recreation of the State of Israel with buildings in miniature.

We met up with Gita and Daniel, Hudi’s parents, with whom we had fallen in love at their wedding, and also got to meet the rest of Hudi’s family. Some of his siblings weren’t able to come to their wedding from Israel – because they were very pregnant! In the past year or so, Gita and Daniel have seen their son married and the birth of three grandchildren – certainly a year filled with simchas to be celebrated!

Mini-Israel is filled with these miniaturizations of building throughout Israel – one hundred or more. The irony is that this is clearly a place for tourists but probably 90% of the buildings are places I had never seen or even heard of!

Yet, it is not a place that Israelis seem to frequent (Hudi and ALL of his family had never been there), but it is a common stop for tour groups at the end of their trip, on the way to the airport to review where they have been.

It is really cool to see the mini-Shrine of the Book . . .

and the other famous sites.

Israel has many famous shrines and centers of prayer, perhaps none containing deeper prayers than . . .

Go Maccabi Tel Aviv!

By far the most beautiful parts of the whole afternoon was getting to spend time with Hudi and Tina and the kids in Israel, meeting all of Hudi’s family, and especially watching my children adopt new grandparents – Saba Daniel and Savta Gita.

Mini-Israel was nice. To spend the afternoon and evening with loving family was a real treat!

Daniel and Gita gave us a ride back to our apartment, and we called it a night!

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