I Suck at Praying, Alan Nadler Probably Agrees

I had two more of my classes for the first time yesterday. One is Intro to Islam, taught by Professor Chris Taylor, a rather reserved, ordinary sort of fellow. The other is Modern Jewish History, taught by Professor Alan Nadler.

Nadler is quite a character. I met him first in April, during my overnight visit. He described himself to me then as an Orthodox Rabbi (a rather impressive one, I was later told) who woke up one morning and said, “Well, this probably all bullshit.” Sadly his only marketable skills are his knowledge of Judaism and Jewish History. So here he is teaching those subjects at Drew University.

During that first meeting he also berated me for wanting to go to HUC. “No, no, no,” he said. “You go to Yeshiva University first. Learn how to do it right. Then, go rebel with those crazy guys.”

Yesterday morning he appeared in class about ten minutes late. Shocking. He entered, announcing “I’ve got your syllabi here, but I forgot to staple them. I’m not feeling very Jewish today. I’m feeling quite Christian today, actually, so I’m going to staple these for you.” Everyone laughed. Then he said, much to the delight of the students who have had Nadler before, “I’m starting with this stuff already!” Later on in class he pleaded with us not to use the term Diaspora. “Oh, come on! Everyone has a diaspora these days. Every town in New Jersery has twelve diasporas. Go to Newark, you get like forty-seven diasporas!” At one point during class, we brainstormed a list of things that seventeenth century Catholic Poles probably thought about Jews. It looked like this:
Horns and Tails, Men Menstruate

Nadler announced that he would be leaving it on the blackboard for the next professor.

In other news, I suck at praying daily. Since I said that I was going to do that, I have done three out of six days. Two times I did shacharit and one time I did minchah. I’m going to go pray now.

6 Responses to I Suck at Praying, Alan Nadler Probably Agrees

  1. lauren September 5, 2007 at 8:35 am #

    Does daily prayer have to follow a set service? Even if it’s one you design yourself? Even Minyans (with the guys at YU) are usually only scheduled twice a week. If 3 out of 6 days is comfortable for you, why not just schedule a daily “time for reflection?” Pray/meditate/recite the shema for 5 minutes at bedtime if you haven’t prayed formally yet that day (or even if you have). I actually recommend this practice to anyone in my practice who is trying to lead a more healthful life. (Although, I don’t usually mention the shema, given the dearth of listeners who share my personal diaspora….) Scheduled times of self examination are conducive to consistent sleep habits, which are key to health and well being.

    In the meantime, thank you for your blog! It’s bringing back all the things I loved about college.


  2. gsmckinney September 5, 2007 at 9:35 am #

    Fixed habits are hard to develop. It takes about 6- 8 weeks before something becomes regular, so don’t give up just yet.

    Be careful, though, as fixed habits are almost impossible to break, too!

  3. davidamwilensky September 5, 2007 at 10:40 am #

    Daily prayer, in the Jewish context, must follow a set service. In my opinion, one could go so far as to replace prayer with yoga, but for me to consider it Jewish prayer, the moves you’re doing and things on your mind had better be associated with the order laid out for our services.

  4. richards1052 October 19, 2007 at 12:40 am #

    Nadler may’ve been a great rabbi & teacher, but I don’t agree about YU. YU is only good if you want to get a fully grounded ORTHODOX rabbinic education. As for my money, I’d choose Reconstructionist since it will give you the Judaic underpinning along w. a political & progressive perspective. I also LOVE Elliot Dorff at the University of Judaism (which I think has some newfangled name) & would study w. him in a heartbeat.


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