Live from Israel: THE NEWS FROM TZUBA

I have not written in quite some time and I hope to God that you have not all deserted me. Since I last wrote, I spent Sukot with a family of Israelis in Jerusalem, antagonized the Dean of HUC Jerusalem, hiked for five days from the Kineret to the Mediterranean, died twice, my Mom visited, my Dad and his girlfriend Lauren visited (during which we had no less than two taxi-related escapades), I went to an Hadag Nachash (Israeli rap/pop concert), went to Tel Aviv for a weekend, and ran into an Israeli friend of mine from Kutz two years ago (Ariel) in Yafo.

However, none of that is as important as what I shall now attempt to describe to you.



I think that we can all agree that the goal of a serious Reform Jew should be to constantly make conscious decisions about the way they want to practice Judaism. I have decided that to facilitate this I need some sort of system. And by system, I mean elaborate metaphor. That's right. Elaborate metaphor.

They say that when an Orthodox Rabbi makes a ruling on an issue of halachah, he shoots an arrow and then paints the target on around the arrow. That is to say that the Rabbi knows the answer he wants to give and causes/picks and chooses the halachah to support the answer.

I want to do the opposite. I want to be constantly painting targets and then trying over and over again to shoot an arrow right into the middle of the latest target. That is to say that I need to be constantly deciding what my ideal practice of Judaism looks like and then trying to do that.


Live from Israel: THE TARGET

So where does the target stand now?

Everything I think of tends to fall into 4 categories: Torah, Ritual, Social Justice, and Israel.

Torah—I generally feel that I am more in touch with the details of the stories of the Jewish People than most, but I want to be more familiar. I want to be able to translate Tanach and I want for biblical references to jump out at me the way they do at my JHist teachers here.

Ritual—I want to wear tzitzit. There. I said it. It looks meaningful to me and I want to buy tzitzit and try it. As I once told David Singer, they seem like anti-asshole fringes. Constantly there, reminding the wearer how to behave. I need that. Also, prayer has become more important in my life in the last year or so and I would like to aim for the full three times a day.

Social Justice—Why don't I volunteer more of my time for charitable causes in my community at home? Why don't I just give that poor fellow a buck when he asks for one? Will tzitzit help on this front?

Israel—I know that this must be an important part of the target, but for now it must remain a question. Do I want to make Aliyah? Probably not. In that case, how do I recognize the growing importance of the Jewish State in my life? The Israel component of my target must, for now, remain an unanswered question.


It may be another two weeks until the next real post. Next week we will be in Poland and the week after that we will be in the Gadna, an Israeli army preparatory program that all Israeli teens go through.


Sarah N. said...

About tzitzit:
So I don't know if you knew this about me, but I often wish I were a guy. Because although we've made a lot of progress in egalitarianism, I can't quite put on a tallis katan and yarmulke and walk in public without being slightly more awkward than the typical yeshiva boy.
Anyway, last night was Halloween. It's nearly 6:00 and I know I want to be Mordechai Jefferson Carver, Certified Circumcised Dick. So I put on my brother's dress pants, my dad's white button-up shirt, my mom's black jacket, my own black boots, three huge Jew bling necklaces, a random yarmulke I found, and a velvet-coated plastic top hat from my sister's Bat Mitzvah party centerpieces. And of course, as I don't have the Hammer's scarf that resembles a tallis, I used a tallis to resemble a scarf. My mom gave me a beard, I grabbed her Shul School bag that says "Shlep," and off I went. Did I mention that I tied my hair back except for two tendrils that dangled in front of my ears as paos??
It was amazing I tell you, and I can't wait until I can wear a tallis katan in public with looks no stranger than those given to Chasidim.

Leslie said...

I can't believe you got to see Ariel! Very exciting.

Anyway... I think knowing what you want out of your own religious practice is a huge part of understanding what it is and why you "need" it. The beautiful thing is that we all look for different things within our religious context - for instance, I would have added community to my "categories" - but that's what makes it personal. I'm glad you're able to pinpoint what you are looking for in your Judaism right now and I'm glad you know that that target will be ever-changing. It's all about the struggle.

In other news, I miss you and hope you're getting a lot of your experiences in Israel as of late. Talk to you soon...

Sarah said...

Exciting. Have a meaningful trip to Europe, have fun at Gadna, don't die too much. (I died a lot there).

gam, anachnu tzrichim ldaber al ha daat, aval lo achshav. it's hard being back, because i still don't know where my targets are in a lot of ways (love the metaphor)- but my life isn't as centered around them as it was on EIE. say hi to reuvs and jwein.

Brandon said...

ha u missed out second session we made our own tallit katan (IN david singers class of course)... and being NFTY/Kutz most of the people where girls and by most i mean i was the only one i believe... so tallit girls are out there... i put t'chelit in my (sorta considering it donest really exist)... anyway... sounds like your haveing a great time...

Gilanah Shoshanah said...

I understand tallit katan better than prayer shawls. Wearing fringes on four-cornered garments all the time is a much defense against being stoned to death.

On a semi-related note (typically Orthodox things that some Reform Jews do), I saw this way cool Greek 200BCE bronze in some museum or the other in Italy (maybe on the Capitoline Hill, which was actually two hills when the Forum was in use) (Can you tell I've just come from breakfast with Bruce?) called the Pugilist. It reminded me of seeing one of your classmates wrap tefillin, as this seated boxer has leather thongs wrapped around his arms in a similar way; I can't find a pic on-line that conveys the texture and detail adequately. It made me wonder if the way that the first wrappers bound these words to their arms like that in order to recall the way that boxers protected and strengthened themselves.

Not that I'm advocating being either too literal or metaphorical about any particular practice, writes the woman who inscribed "hadeverim ha'eleh..." on her gate. Finding your way is the best way. And, hey, doing this blog is pretty much 'speaking of them... on your way,' so blogging like this must be a mitsvah.

By the way, looking at pics on the EIE Bunk One is soooo much more fun now that I've met the people who are in them!

Anonymous said...

actually you can get t'chelit
They found the snails with the ink a number of years ago and you can now get the true t'chelit