Archive | August, 2007

David is now Truly the Lone Star of Jersey

After my trip to Atlanta, I had one day back in Austin to pack, which I did all of in about three hours with Ana and Leslie in my living room doing some last minute chilling. On Wednesday, Dad woke me at dark:00 to go to the airport. The flight was uneventful.

We had the whole day to poke around the Madison/Morristown area in the worst car ever. My Dad, ever sensible, wanted the cheapest car possible from Hertz. They gave him a two door Chrysler sports car, a Crossfire. The central console was arranged like they asked a four-year-old where the buttons should go and we wrenched our backs every time we got in or out of the damn thing. The only thing it was good for were gut-wrenchingly tight u-turns, which came in handy because we kept getting lost and needing to turn around in odd places. Backing up required two people since the back had zero visibility. My Dad just could not get the hang of being an asshole driver enough to drive this car effectively.

A Guide to Meeting Jews During Your First Erev Shabat at College: First, get a friend with a car. Then, go to Whole Foods and buy some chalah. Share it with any Jews you have already met. Spend the rest of the evening carrying it around in a clear bag. Yids gravitate toward that stuff. I met like ten new Jews with the help of my chalah this evening.

In other news, I bought an Artscroll sidur. Don’t anyone have any heart attacks or anything. It is to be used purely as a reference material.

In other other news, an update on the target and a summary of what in God’s name the target is: While in Israel last year, I decided on a system of painting a target and shooting an arrow. What I meant is that I now how I want my ritual life to look and I am trying to get to it. I have written a sidur for use by myself and it works damn well, if I do say so myself. Next step: praying daily. I pledge to pray at least once a day during orientation. I will let y’all know how that goes later.

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Surfin’ the Gaza Strip

My hand to God, it is going to be gestures like this one that bring peace in Israel. Read here the story of a Jewish man donating surf boards to Gaza’s small surfing community.

With that, have a good week and a peacful Shabat. I’ll be in Atlanta for a few days visiting family and won’t be updating while I’m there.

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Assface and the Tzitzit

At the end of a long, balance-throwing walk down a floating and haphazardly lashed together boardwalk, a friend helped me lift my burdensome cooler onto the boat. The party boat, still tied up to this bobbing dock, was about to set out on the waves of Lake Travis, Austin’s large manmade lake. This party boat had been rented by Mosaic, Austin’s Jewish outdoors group. The people in Mosaic, well-represented at this event, are mostly in their thirties, forties, and fifties. Many are single, some are married couples, and a few bring their kids. I, at the age of eighteen, stand out from the crowd.

Shortly after coming aboard the two-story, flat-bottom, open-air boat, I was accosted by an old acquaintance. For anonymity’s sake, I shall call him Assface. The name fits: He looks and acts the part. I had not seen him in perhaps a year or so. “Hi, David,” he greeted me, unenthusiastically. “Hey, Assface! Been a long time. How’ve you been?” I greeted in return. This part is really just me grasping in the dark for some politeness on my part. I did not give a flying falafel about his wellbeing. It would not bother me too much if he were suddenly pushed over the edge of the boat and drowned right then and there. I tried not to give off this impression, though. “I been alright,” he said.

“Have you gone religious?” he inquired, glancing at my tzitzit.

I should pause here for some exposition. You can read about my first day wearing tzitzit, ten months ago, here. As an added preamble to my response to Assface’s question, I should note that I have never received an outwardly negative response to my tzitzit. Assface is not negative on the idea, just an assface about it.

“I’ve always been religious,” I respond.

He noticed my t-shirt at that moment. It said, “Everybody Loves a Reform Jew.”

“I don’ unnerstand,” he says. “Your shirt says you’re Reform.”

Jumping in, Theressa, a former President of my synagogue, says, “Are religious and reform mutually exclusive?” She and I attempt to explain to assface that Reform Jews make educated choices and that I have made an admittedly uncommon one. The conversation goes on like this for some time, Assface, eventually descending into the complaint that Reform Jews do not even wear kipot. Assface, I should note, was wearing no such thing.

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B’midbar – Ki Tetse – 21:10-14 – Marrying Women Captured from Amongst your Defeated Enemies

Yom Rishon, Elul 5, 5767

As is often the case, the Torah seems brutal on this subject. Given a moment’s thought however it seems that our law was probably rather progressive for its time with regards to this subject. Our text on this subject states that if you participate in the defeat of a people and amongst that people you find a woman you desire, there are certain rules regarding your treatment of this woman.

You have to take her into your home and allow her to tidy herself up and give her a morning period for her loss. Then, you may “possess” her and marry her. If, after a time, you decide you are no longer interested in her, you may not sell her as a slave. You must let her go totally free as though you have divorced her.

I like the implied equality of the foreign woman. She is to be treated with dignity and given a mourning period. If you no longer want her, she is to be treated as if she were any Hebrew wife.

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LIVE: David Studies Mishna

Shabat, Elul 4, 5767

I compiled a sidur this summer. For fun, y’know? That sidur will be the subject of a later blog post when its editorial process is over. While creating it, I learned quite a bit about liturgy. This morning I had a final chance to lead services at the congregation I grew up at, here in Austin, before departing for college. Before giving much thought as to what to do this morning, I decided that some of my new knowledge, gained as a result of my liturgical endeavors over the last couple of months, would be applied to this service.

Working in the frame of the rather old Mishkan T’filah draft, from which we daven at our minyan, I decided on a mostly unremarkable service. On two occasions we read silently whatever selection from the spread we wanted, reading all else together, in Hebrew. One thing, however, I decided to do in a more remarkable fashion.

I used to always wonder at the appearance of the brachah for Torah study in the midst of Birchot Hashachar, the Morning Blessings. When one pronounces a brachah for an action, it is considered wasted if one does not follow it as soon as possible with that action. The brachah for Torah study however is followed immediately by Eilu D’varim, which I always assumed to be a meditation on commandments which are immeasurably good to do. That assumption is thanks to the Gates of Prayer phrasing “These are the obligations without measure, whose reward too is without measure.”

As it turns out, Eilu D’varim is included as a piece of daily study. It is a selection of mishna, meant to be part of every man’s daily routine. The whole of Birchot Hashachar is meant to reflect the order of a person’s morning routine. The rabbis who constructed the service could not imagine a morning with no study. Thus, the morning routine they present us with includes study.

So we studied. I explained what we were doing while my father passed around copies of the selection of mishna that Eilu D’varim comes from. I had people get in pairs and study together. Then we came back together and shared our toughts.

Shabat Shalom.

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Live from the Texas: DEAR GOD! IT’S BACK!

After a good five or six month hiatus, another name change, and a move to WordPress, I am back in the blogosphere. Who knows how long it will last. I promise a real post tomorrow, after services.

All of the old posts from the three previous versions of this blog (Live from Israel: DAVID SAYS THINGS, Bein David L’makom, and From the Donkey’s Mouth) have been moved over here with me so that if I or any of you want to read an old entry, they are available here.

Coming soon: Tomorrow morning I’ll be leading services and doing something a tad odd. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

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