Live from Israel: DAVID SEES TEXANS, STILL HATES YOM KIPUR, CRIES

I don’t like Yom Kipur. I have always failed to be moved by the fast and I have never met a YK service I liked. I won’t go into too much detail about YK services, but I will say that we went to HUC for them and that they were dreadful. I am left with serious doubts about the effectiveness of HUC’s Jerusalem campus. On YK morning I attended a rather hilarious service at a small Sephardic shul, which, should there be any demand on this post’s comments page, I could write a post about.

AUSTIN MAKES BETTER JEWS

I am forced to conclude that Austin makes better Jews.

First, on some general Texas-related notes, there was a kid at the Sephardic service wearing a shirt with a cowboy on it and English writing that read “Texas Ranger.” At the HUC services I ran into D.T. Panter, a long-time GFC staffer, as well as a woman named Rebecca (whose last name escapes me) who also a GFC staffer at some point and at another point a member of my temple’s choir.

On an unrelated note, simply as a sign that if you think the Jewish world in the U.S. is small, then you’d think the Israeli Reform and Progressive world is minute, I met a guy who, at Kutz, went by the name Scooter. At Kutz, he knew my teacher from this past summer, David Singer, and he was once the boss of Erica Santiago, who was Leslie and Bear’s (two of my best friends) boss at Kutz this summer. His orange shorts were also once hung from the ceiling of the Beit Am. He did not elaborate on this fact.

As for why Austinites Jews are better, we can point to the disproportionate quanitity of Austinites in Rabbinical school. Monique Mayer is at Leo Baeck, while Anna Grey (sp?), Erin Ellis, and now, this woman Rebecca, are at various HUC campuses. David Berkman, a predeccessor of mine as President of Austin Temple Teens, is Asst. Director of Camping for the URJ. Also, I want to go to HUC eventually too. So there ha! Empirical, indisputable evidence that Austin makes better Jews.

DAVID CRIES

If you know me, you know I don’t cry often. This is problematic for me because I like to think of myself as very in touch with my emotions and I find crying to be very therapeutic. I am constantly looking for a good cry. That’s why I love Gilmore Girls. No snyde remarks at this juncture, please.

I actually cried during Yizkor today. I’ll preface this with the fact that I’m pretty sure I’ve nenver been to Yizkor. Mom or Dad, can you verify that on the comment page, please? Before Yizkor the fellow leading services read a story which you can read here (scroll down to the third heading, which is “Information Please” t0 read it). The story was so moving that it made me cry. Then, floodgates already open, we moved into the liturgy for Yizkor.

I thought of the closest relative of mine to have ever died, my Grandpa. Sol Wilensky. I cried more. I didn’t really mourn for him when he died. I was in third grade then and I’m not sure I knew how. Over the last year or so, I’ve though of him often. In the last year, I started wearing my talit to services more often, which I keep in the same velvet bag he was using for his talit at the time of his death. It is brown, though my Dad claims it was purple at some point. This has contributes in some way to my increasingly frequent thoughts about Grandpa, but the real cause was, inadvertently, my current plans on becoming a Rabbi. I was not conscious of the fact while he was alive, but my Grandpa was pretty religious fellow. Frozen in my brain is my final third grade perception of him as something special, even a Tzadik. His hypothetical approval is important to me now. When I first talked to my Dad about my plans for the Rabbinate, he told me Grandpa would have been very proud.

And so, today I mourned for my Grandfather, Sol Wilensky, who has been dead for eight years.

Coming soon: who knows? Is there anything y’all are interested in knowing about my time so far in Israel? Email me or post on the comments page.

Read full story · Comments { 1 }

Shana Tovah! Cleansing in the Desert

You’ve been waiting for it, I know. I’ve been working on this for many days now and finally, the longest post ever in the history of bloggin is here. If you don’t want to read all of it and you just want a dose of funny, I suggest skipping down to the final section. The one on meditation. Oh yeah.

Before we get to it, you’ll notice that my blog has a slightly new look. I rather like it, but let me know what you think. I’ve started using the new Blogger Beta and I just wanted to play with my new options a bit.

We spent Rosh Hashana in the south of Israel, in the Negev Desert. This is the long-winded account of our stay there.

EIN GEDI: MIKVAH IN THE DESERT

In 1972, the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve was founded by the Israeli government. It is the largest national park in Israel and considered the most naturally important. There are many neato hikes to be had. We went on a rather long one which followed to path of a mostly dry creek bed to a nice little suprise at the end.

The hike ends at a waterfall with a nice pool, which we all hung out in for a while and swam around in. As soon as we got there, I recognized this waterfall. In every brochure for a NFTY in Israel program that I have ever seen, including both summer programs and EIE brochures, there is a picture of this same waterfall, which like most pictures in these brochures, dates to the eighties! You can see it on page two of this brochure. I don’t know who that goofy kid is smiling there, but I have seen him more times than I care to.

In any case, the waterfall was quite refreshing, not to mention the ice cream bar I bought at one of the park stores when we got back. One thing I noticed was that this waterfall and its accompanying pool could have been, had we all been naked and saying whatever proper blessings, a mikvah! There were at least 40 seah of water present and the water was defnitely naturally flowing. Thus we had all the requirements for a mikvah. Although nobody present went through the ritual properly, the experience did contribute to my overall sense of cleansing during our stay in the desert.

They say that if you only go to the mikvah once a year, you should go before Yom Kippur. Last year, upon reading that, I had a rather misguided run-in with my bathtub and a garden hose stuck inside through a window. Don’t ask. This waterfall was much better.

YAM HAMELACH: PAIN IN MY FINGERNAILS, CROTCH

Rather than list for you all the places that Yam Hamelach caused me pain, I’ll let the title of this section of the post speak for itself.

Yam Hamelach, known perhaps better to my readers by its Enlish name, the Dead Sea, is the lowest point on Earth. It is located at five bazillion meters below sea level and it has more salt than God. To use proper scientific terminology, it is neato.

The high levels of salt cause pain and, paradoxically, healing. The pain comes from any open wound on your body so much as a paper cut because all the sudden you have all the salt in the world converging upon said paper cut. For reasons I don’t really understand, there is a quality to this water which causes wounds to heal as well. My acne, for instance, disappeared for 24 hours or so after we swam in Yam Hamelach. The German national health plan sends Germans with psoriasis to Yam Hamelach for two weeks for free.

Also of note is the fact that this water is so crazy dense that you float like mad. If you untense all of your muscles, you just sort of lay there on top of the water. This is very unsettling and makes it very hard to maneuver about in any way, shape, or form.

Then there is this crazy mud. They say this mud is so good for you that they package it and sell it as a sort of spa-like product. I was coerced in putting this crazy mud all over me with the promise that it would feel good. It did not. It felt like mud. I don’t know what the big deal is with this stuff.

All in all, the sea was fun and only served to add to my sense of cleansing in the desert.



Live from Mitzadah: DAVID ALMOST DIES

That’s right. I almost died. Let me explain.

Mitzadah is the name of a plateau near Yam Hamelach. This thing is 305 meters or so straight up. Over the years, a number of nuts built fortresses up there. Crazy. Among them was Herod, who was a rather paranoid puppet Roman king of Israel back in the day (which, by the way, was a tuesday). Then some nutty Jewish rebels took it over, got beseiged by Romans, and committed mass suicide. If you wanna know what I think about these guys… Whatever. I’m gonna tell you what I think of these nuts regardless of whether you want here what I think about them or not.

These guys, believing that they were the last hope for Judaism, holed up on this mountain like some damn doomsday cult (think Waco) . They intended to live up on this mountain indefinitely and they had some sustainable lifestyle worked out with agricutlure up there and livestock and everything. They even had a mikvah. Then, when confornted with certain sale into slavery by Romans who were about capture them, they all committed suicide. If these nuts really believed that Avodah Zarah (foreign worship, idolatry) would be forced upon them by the Romans along with being sold into slavery, why not go along with it? You can maintian Judaism in secret while following foreign rituals without putting your heart into them. It had been done before and it would be done again later in history. These guys however, took a more glorious, bloody, and selfish road. They believed they were the last worthwhile Jews in the world. For all they know, Judaism ended right there with their suicides. That is selfish and wrong. And crazy.

We woke at up 4-o-damn-clock in the morning to hike up Mitzadah so we could see the sunrise from the top. I didn’t see it from the top. I was still only like halfway up when the sun came up. They made us hike up this frickin Snake Path, which causally winds its way all over one side of this mountain. There are over 700 steps on this path, not to mention all the parts where it’s just plain slope. I finally staggered up, collapsed, and took a nap a good 20 minutes after everybody else. I almost died on a number of occasions on my way up, on account of the fact that my legs were falling off. God that sucked!

Up top it was cool though.

LOTAN: ROSH HASHANAH, ECOLOGY, PUKING

After Mitzadah, we made our way further south to Kibutz Lotan where we remained for the two days of Rosh Hashanah. Lotan is a realtively young Kibtuz, founded in 1983 by mostly ex-NFTYites and Netzer Olami members from all over the world. They currently have about 50 adults and 60 children. Their industries are diverse and mostly agricultural, but they also have a wildlife reserve as well as an ecological focus unlike that of any community I have ever encountered. As a community they are amazing. They are committed to Reform Judaism and ecology in ways that I don’t know that I could ever commit to. Their newer structures are made from mud bricks and hay bales. They are incredibly sturdy stuctures and modernly furnished inside. They also have some amazing levels of composting going on as well as some very unique ways of disposing of trash and sewage. You should check out their website here. The grounds are astounding. The parts they live in as well as the agricultural parts of covered respectively in grass and arable land. This type of thing does not occur in the desert on its own. These people have litteraly coaxed this stuff out of the ground. They created topsoil that was not there.

Anway, we attended services there. I have to admit that I can’t stand Rosh Hashanah. I see the point in using the time between RH and Yom Kipur to prepare for YK, but RH itself as it is observed, I can’t jive with. In normal cultures, people celebrate the new year (feel free to chastise me for that sweeping and probably untrue generalization). They don’t sit in their place of worship for hours on end obsessiong over some ridiculous Book of Life metaphor.

That being said, I appreciated the general Israeli approach to it. They celebrate this holiday as well as lament the coming of Yom Kipur. In America we just obsess about getting dressed up and wearing nice shoes for the services which go on for eight million hours and are filled with much pomp and ridiculousness. Here, people have parties, wish people they see a happy new year, and nobody gets all damn dressed up! I wore shorts and Netzer t-shirt to services and everybody thought that was fine. They have a Rabbi on Lotan, but she is just like every other kibutznik there. Having no one who serves as Rabbi of the community, the services take on a very creative, open, and cooperative feel, which I enjoyed.

Tashlich was very nice. If you don’t know about Tashlich, you can read about it by following the link at the beginning of the previous sentence. The gist, however, is that by throwing pieces of bread into a flowing body of water, you symbolically cast off your sins in preparation for YK. Back home, Tashlich is always a highlight of RH for me, perhaps because it draws a small crowd and I always prefer small services. I have vivid and fond memories from my earlier childhood of going across the street from our temple to Shoal Creek where we would conduct Tashlich under a rather sketchy bridge.

On Lotan, we found ourselves in the middle of the desert with no running bodies of water. Thus, Tashlish seemed impossible. Josh, however, one of our JHist teacher who spent the weekend with us on Lotan, conducted a rather creative Tashlich-ish service. Yisrael, a kibutznik, led us, late at night, on a walk to a sand dune in the middle of nowhere. We laid down there and stared at the most amazing night sky I have ever seen in my entire life. In keeping with my usual practice of stargazing at camp (Leslie Bass, eat your heart out), I imagined that rather than laying on the ground and looking up, that I was leaning against a wall and looking out and that the void that took over my field of vision was right in front of me. It was truly awe-inspiring! While there several people (including, grudginly, me) confessed various harmful habits that we wished to curtail in the coming year, things we wished to cast off into the stars. I experienced a moment of clarity of vision under the stars, which I suppose should have been a first sign of trouble, but instead I reveled in it.

The trouble I speak of is dehydration. I was informed that the walk to this and dune would be brief. The walk itself ended up being at least 45 minutes each way. As such, I did not bring a water bottle, though I knew by the end that I should have. That night, blissfully unaware of the danger to come, I lay down to go to sleep, but found shortly that I needed to go the bathroom. I had rather a lot of distress in there, developed a headache, and took 2 gas-x and 2 tylenol. As the danger, several rounds thereof later, seemed to have subsided, I stood up, ready to go back to bed, but instead felt suddenly weak. My torso convulsed and I lost my dinner through my mouth. It happened twice more, in rapid succession. After the final upchuck I felt incredibly good, like a high. When that subsided, I made the connection. I was dehydrated. I went across the way to the room of Josh (a different Josh), my counselor. Josh gave me a liter and a half bottle of water and two rice cakes and told me to finish them before going back to bed. The water felt great, but the rice cakes came up four times, bringing us to a grand total of seven upchucks for the evening.

This is the last incidence of note in my desert cleansing. Although I would not have voluntarily undergo the same dehydration again, I am kind of glad it happened. I ate little the following day and this particular experience only added to my overall experience of cleansing and preparation for YK. I can honsetly say that I would like to spend every RH in the desert. It is very clear to me why many cultures use the desert as a source of mystical knowledge, a rite of passage, or a way of spiritual cleansing.

MEDITATION: RIDICULOUSNESS IN THE DESERT

This final part is for fun only. It did not contribute to my overall experience. Actually, it detracted from it. If you like meditation, don’t read this. You will hate me when you are done.

Because of Lotan’s status as an environmental mecca, it has developed a group of the usual overly-spiritual neuvo-wave-o meditational types. As such, we got a free dose of the meditational exercises that normal tourists have to pay for. Yes, people pay for this. I was shocked too.

We sat down in a circle on the grass, our attention centered upon an Israeli woman whose name I have forgotten. I’ll call her Rainbow from here on out. Rainbow was young and not unattractive, with her sun-bleached hair hanging down to her hips, completely untamed. She probably doesn’t shave her legs either, now that I think of it, but I don’t recall noticing at the time.

She then explained to us where our chakras are. She told us all about them and about energy. I would like to comment for a moment on this so-called “energy.” Nuevo-wave-o types often refer to this energy, which not a single one of them has ever managed to explain to me. This energy, so far as I can tell, is invisible, undetectable, unexplainable, and has something to do with “life force” or some such thing.

She explained that there was a chakra on top of my head. In a failed attempt to connect this nonesense to Judaism, she mentioned that it was right were the kippah goes. I have found that most attempts at meditation within Judaism fall short of, well, anything and tend to grasp around in the dark for a way to validate mediation through Judaism.

We then meditated on each of our individual chakras by placing our hands over them and making various mono-syllabic intonations, such as “vaaaaaammmmmmm,” “raaaaammmmm,” and of course one can never forget “ooooohhhhhhhhmmmmmmmm.” At one point, between two meditations, Rainbow opened her eyes (they were closed most of the time, contemplating the universal life force, I’m certain) and glanced at me. I was reclining on my arms in the grass, barely containing my laughter, not meditating on anything universal whatsoever. She then glanced around and informed us all that whether we, personally, were getting anything our of this, we should engage in her various intonations because it helps the people who are trying to meditate with their vibes. There I finally saw the Jewish connection! Guilt! She was trying to guilt me into intoning various syllables!

I have determined that even if Rainbow has chakras and life energies and other such things, I do not. Anway, that sucked.

Coming soon: I don’t know. I’ll think of something good though.

Live from the Desert: DAVID HIKES, PUKES, MEDITATES


Read full story · Comments { 0 }

A Morality Tale About The Evils Of Frozen Carbonated Beverages That Explode

The following, as suggested by the title, is the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard.

I like Coke. I like frozen Coke even more. Here in Israel, they sell Coke in 1.5L plastic bottles, one of which I purchased the other day. I opened it up, drank it down to the label, and put it in the freezer. I drank it down knowing that things tend to expand when they freeze.

Today, after first period AP English, I took the bottle out of the freezer. It was a good thing that I had already has some of it because when I opened it, I discovered that it had expanded so much that is was full to the absolute top of the bottle. I was having a conversation of my roommate Eric (whom there are pictures of somewhere in the post about archaeology at Tel Maresha) and as we were talking, I set the bottle down on our kitchenette counter and began to lick, then suck on, the top of the bottle. After no more than 5 seconds of this, the bottle exploded into my face!

The bottle itself remained intact, though about half of the frozen coke inside exploded upward into my throat and out through my nose. Bewildered and in shock, I staggered backwards as the Coke continued to shoot upward of one foot into the air and all over our room. In complete shock and near-debilitating pain, I saw Eric’s jaw drop and he was just standing there with his eyes and mouth wide, shaking his head in shock. After maybe 3 seconds of shock, Eric began to laugh uncontrolably. As the Coke exploded into my face I literally thought my head was exploding or had been severed or something.

As this was all in progress, a girl, Jeri, walked in and then ran out thinking I had just projectile vomitted all over the place. I managed to go the bathroom and take my shirt off, which was covered in forzen Coke chunks. I felt like there might be Coke in my lungs or that my uvula had been removed.

In Eric’s words: “He came out of the bathroom with no shirt on and a blank expression of “What the fuck just happened to me?!” on his face with tear streaks coming down his face. I couldn’t stop laughing!”

I honestly thought I was dead for a moment.

Anyway, it took for damn ever to clean and even now there are many sticky surfaces in our room.

And the sound! As it exploded, the bottle made the most unbelievably loud roar into my face!

Before dinner, afraid I wouldn’t be able to swallow solid food because my throat hurt so unbelievable badly, I took a flashlight and shined it into my thoat and looked into the mirror to see how it looked. It looked as though some little gnome had crawled into the back of my throat with a rake and scraped the tissue raw. My front teeth hurt too, though I don’t know why. Tomorrow, I’m going to the morning clinic they have on the kibbutz to see if it is serious.

Probably tomorrow, maybe the next day, I will be posting a massive recap of Rosh Hashanah weekend.

Live from Israel: DAVID CAN’T SWALLOW SOLID FOODS!

UPDATE: As of about 10:30 this evening my good friend Charlotte has given me some honey lemon throat lozenges which are actually helpinng my throat not die.

Read full story · Comments { 3 }

Joke of the Day

I’m not sure if this joke will work in written form. I’ve only heard it verbally. You’ll have to say the punch line out loud to get it, I think. Even then, you’ll have to be quite a Jew to get the joke.

“What did the bank robber say when he robbed a bank in Mea Shearim? He said, “Gimme loot, Chasidim!”

That joke courtesy of Josh Weinberg, my JHist teacher.

You may groan now.

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Mornings, Mourning, Miscellany

MORNINGS
I have become a morning person. I’m not sure when it happenened, but I’m going to guess somewhere withing the last week and a half. I wake up every morning, often at ungodly hours, jump out of bed, let out an epic yawn, and spring into shower action. I want breakfast (the good KB, for you Jewies out there [don't worry, if you're a Jewie, you know it])! I want to go to class! My first class is Ivrit, which I think I’m pretty good at. Then there’s Jewish History, which I’m better at. It lasts three hours and it is the reason my day peaks a tad early. After that, it’s downhill. Lunch, General Studies, homework, coma.

MOURNING
Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the passing of a very close family member of one the members of our EIE community, whom I will refer to as M, for Mourner. This yartzeit is common knowledge amongst us here and we all knew it was coming. In observance of this and in support of M we davened mincha (held an afternoon service) yesterday.

When we arrived at the Mourner’s Kaddish, things got awkard. Normally, most people say the Kaddish. A few people (only two of us here that I know of) refrain from reciting Kaddish unless they are in mourning themselves. This is, however, a vast minority. Yet, this particular time, many people said Kaddish much more quietly than they ordinarily would have. Some whispered it, but many didn’t say it all. To make matters worse, M, seated in the front row, became the center of attention. M was openly stared at by most people present. M was also the only person who said the Kaddish at a normal volume.

I was greatly troubled by this. Comforting the mourner is one thing; indeed it is called, in our wonderful *ahem* outgoing North American Reform siddur, Gates of Prayer, an Obligation Without Measure. Putting undue focus on a person already in emotional turmoil, however is not. It is not comfort. It is, in point of fact, discomfort!

I was very troubled by this.

MISCELLANY
I have just learned that according to Talmud, Alexander is the only non-Jewish name that one can be called to the Torah by because of how well Jews were treated under Alexander the Great. I have decided that based on this, my Jewish name shall no longer be simply David ben Tzvi v’Gilanah, but it shall now be David Alexander ben Tzvi v’Gilanah. This incorporates my English middle name.

Coming soon there will posts here perhaps about Reuven (perhaps not), perhaps about American Jews who have made aliyah (perhaps not), and perhaps about our impending trip to Mesada and Kibutz Lotan.

For regular notice by email about new posts on this blog email me at d.profound@gmail.com

Live from Israel: DAVID WANTS TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE MOURNING SECTION AND SUGGESTS THAT YOU LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

It’s coming. I can feel it. You can shoot me if it doesn’t.

I promise with God Almighty as my witness that I will post tomorrow. It is currently very late here and I am going to bed now. If there is not a post of considerable length tomorrow, you may send me a mailbomb or something else horrid.

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

He Didn’t Walk. He Didn’t Fly.

You like that title? Think maybe it sounds poetic? It’s not. It’s a Yiddish insult. I’ll get to its meaning in a little bit.

First, if you haven’t been here in afew days, look at the previous post as well.

Second, some background on Yiddish. The Yiddish language was basically a German dialect spoken throughout the Middle Ages on until the Holocaust, when its use was severly diminished. Few people still speak Yiddish in their daily lives.

Written with Hebrew letters, this language was the language of the Jews in Europe until the Holocaust and the creation of the modern state of Israel. It is the most colorful, shall we say, language ever in the history of languages. Reading the translated transcript of a conversation which was held in Yiddish between fluent Yiddish-speakers is like reading a string of idioms, insults, sayings, and metaphors. The unique thing here with the colorful articulations is that they are so often colored by the Jewish experience these people knew. If a man went home to his wife and found that she was furious with him for whatever reason, he might go out to a bar and say to everyone there, “I went home from work this evening and my wife had the destruction of the Temple in her eyes.” If you said this in any other language, the person you were speaking to (even another non-Yiddish-speaking Jew) would not have the slightest idea what you were saying. This was and is a language informed entirely by the Jewish life and stories and ethics known by its speakers in their own times.

I have taken to sitting a lunch with Reuven, one of the Jewish History teachers here. Reuven is an older fellow, more sharply intelligent and blunt than any other person I have ever know, and he lives here on the Kibbutz. He has been a Kibbutznik here for many many years. He used to work in the fields here even. He is an expert on Jewish history like no one else I know. We disagree, all in good fun, on almost eveything concerning the American Jewish experience.

Towards the beginning of lunch today, Reuven took issue with something another Jewish History teacher said. Reuven responded, (I am quite certain I am rendering this wrong so someboby correct me if they know better) “Nisht keshtoygen. Nisht kefloygen.” The conversation at the tabel paused as we all inquired as to what he had just said. “It,” he said, “is a Yiddish expression meaning, ‘That’s bullshit!’” We inquired as to its literal meaning. “It means,” he said, “He didn’t walk. He didn’t fly.” We inquired as to why this had come to mean “That’s bullshit!”

In Europe it became common for a time for the Christian leaders in a community to force all the Jews in the area to attend a lecture on the evils of Judaism and the correctness of Christianity. These lectures often ended with the story of Jesus’ life, which of course ends with his ascension to heaven. “And then,” the lecturer, probably a preist, would say, “he ascended to heaving, flying, carried by God!” And the Jewish parents in the audience would lean down to their children and say, “Nisht keshtoygen. Nisht kefloygen.” As if to say, “He didn’t walk up to heaven and he didn’t fly up either. That’s bullshit!”

This later came to be a general expression used when confronted with something one deemed to be bullshit.

That being said, regardless of your own feelings about such a statement, you can’t help but love a language that is so consistently inflamatorily blunt about everything!

More on Reuven some day. Perhaps tomorrow. Probably not tomorrow. Maybe next week. If you haven’t yet seen it, look at the previous post as well.

Email me at d.profound@gmail.com for regular notice of updates to this site.

Leybn arayn Yisroyl: DAVID MEYNEN YIDISH IZ SHPASIK

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

And Now A Word From Our Sponsors . . .

We’ve been very busy the last few days. Hence, the lack of posting. I will return to posting as often as I can as soon as my current pile of homework recedes a tad.

Until then, I’ve been wondering about who reads this blog. I know a few of you because you get the regular email updates about new posts. And I know a few of you because you regularly post comments, but because of emails from back home, I have reason to believe that there are more of you reading this semi-regularly than there are posting comments regularly.

I would request that everybody that reads this post before September 16th (that is to say, if you read this regularly or semi-regularly) leave a comment on the comments page. Id you don’t know where that is, look down at the bottom of the post, after all that bullshit I type in grey in every post, there is some yellowish type that reads “[X number of] comments.” Click on that to comment.

Good night and good luck.

To recieve regular email notices about updates to this blog, email me at d.profound@gmail.com

Live from Israel: DAVID SAYS SOMETHING THAT’S NOT AS INTERESTING AS WHAT HE USUALLY SAYS

Read full story · Comments { 0 }

David’s Brain and Ego Are Off Life Support, Recovering Nicely

Sorry if that last post caused anyone alarm. I was not in a good way when I wrote that. I’m much better now, thanks mostly to my friends here. Mac, Narco, Tal, Noa, etc. Thanks, guys.

We had a test B’kitah Ivrit last period. It was hard, but me ego has been boosted my complete lack of wrongness on it.

Every Saturday night they like to take us to some public area with shopping and other fun things. We tried out a new one last night that none of our staff had ever been to. It seemed uncharacteristicly unplanned of them to take us somewhere none of them had been. We went to a boardwalk on the beach somehwhere. One of the side effects of seeing this whole country from a tour bus, bascially anyway, is that I never know where the hell I am. Thus, we found ourselves on this boardwalk with no idea where the boardwalk was in relation to the rest of the world. I had no money. There was no Kaspomat (ATM), which kinda sucked. When we got there I still had not had a Shabbos Coke. My buddy Tal bought me one. I think that was really the truning point in the day. Things started to look up. Too bad the day was pretty much over with by then.

As it turned out, this was a pretty lame boardwalk. There wasn’t much to do–or shop for–so most people kvetched the whole time about how much it sucked. I however, Coke in hand, enjoyed the sand under my bare feet, the wind in my almost nonexistent hair, and my friends. I felt very calmed after a desperately crappy, stressful day.

There were old Israeli men selling illegal Latina Muzika at a stand. It was funny. I’m going to class now.

Long story short, I am better now. Not good, but better.

Email me at d.profound@gmail.com for regular notice of blog updates.

Live from Israel: DAVID SUCKS LESS NOW

Read full story · Comments { 1 }

David’s Brain and Ego Have Been Chopped Into Little Pieces and Spiritually Chargrilled

This is bad. I have been hurt. I have incflicted awfulness on other people. I have not yet had a Coke. This is not a good Shabbat so far.

Last night for Shabbat Ma-ariv T’Fliah we went to Kehilat Kol Haneshama, the largest Reform anything here in Israel. If you recall my experience with the Kotel and my expectations about it (second post down on the page here), it will mean a lot to you when I say that I was a bout ten million times more excited about Kol Haneshama than I was about the wall.

I am always interested by how Reform Judaism looks in different places. Though the basic theology and the basic tenets remain the same in Progressive, Reform, and Liberal Judaism everywhere, the outward appearance that develops around that underlying structure changes from place to place. The ethics and the observance of ethical commandments and traditions don’t change too much, but the rituals and the observance of ritual commandments and traditions do change. Thus, I was really psyched for this.

We arrived at Kol Haneshama about a half hour before services began. The Kol Haneshama campus is composed of anumber of buildings and wings including a sanctuary (which I imagine doubles as a social hall), an administrative office wing, a youth center, and a nice open plaza in the front center of the whole assemblage of buildings. The architecture is all understatedly made of white Jerusalem limestone, the only flourishes being green metal Frank Lloyd Wright-esque windowsill fixture things. The structure, more than any American Reform institution screamed out a sense of stability and rootedness that impressed me and made me all the more excited. The inside of the snactuary was obviously furnished on the cheap, but nicely and elegantly so.

The first omen of things to come was when Baruch Kraus, our principal, pointed out to me that all the other men there had their heads covered. He noted that in the Israeli Progressive movement a kippah is almost expected. I told him I’d rather not put on one. (If anyone is interested, let me know and I can do a whole other post here about why I don’t like to wear a kippah). He insisted. I asked if people would be offeneded. He said he wasn’t sure. After a protracted and highly awkard conversation about the issue, he grudingly agreed I didn’t have to put one on. So I didn’t.

Then the service started. There more nigunim than I care for. There were then a copious amount of meditative moments. Then we did about half of the service silently. I couldn’t determine why. The moments felt awkward, not spiritual. I cannot express how unfulfiling this service was for me.

This comes also on the heels of an increasing sense that although I know excatly what I think about ethics and rituals and Reform, I can’t tell what anyboyd else thinks. I feel increasingly alone as the mainstream URJ maintains serious Classical Reform roots and, to a large extent, practices, yet the “Indie” or “Contemporary” or “Ultra-Modern” wings of Reform in the US become too ritualized for even me.

All of this together created an exremely quiet and conflicted mood in me last night. The most horrible realization of all being that I felt so spiritually out of it that I was unsure that I could lead services on Shabbat morning. Oh yeah, did I mention that?

Services sucked. I blew it. It cannot be sliced any other way. I led the service, my friend Sam accompanied on guitar at various points, and another friend, Rachel, served as gabbai and led the Torah service.

I am good at leading services. I do it more often than the average person and I do it well. People enjoy. This is not my ego (which is currently on life support) talking. These are fact. Thus, when we established a T’filah Committee I naturally too charge. We set up a system of rotations of leaders, songleaders, and Torah readers and we have plans to set up a D’var Torah rotation later.

The ideas I was testing in this service were minimal instructions and subdued leadership. Rachel, Sam, and I sat in the front row. I explained that I would be leading from within the congregation, rather than from without, the norm. I also announced page numbers only when absolutely neccessary and I never issued directions such as “rise” or “be seated” Being that I was in the front row and couldn’t see everybody behind me, my mind created a picture of everybody enjoy the damn thing. Apparently they didn’t. Someone was “elected” from within a large group of people who disliked services to come speak to me about the general problems that people had with services.

They were apparently boring, devoid of music (although we did use the guitar on four occasions), and confusing. This hurt a lot. I know that nobody was trying to be mean in this, but it means that I obviously know a lot less about what I’m doing than I thought. I’m in a very self-critical mood right now. I am sitting writing this on my balcony looking out at more of the hotel and the sweeping Judean hills. I am inconsolable. “Everybody has off weeks,” somebody told me a moment ago. It doesn’t matter what people say to me right now. I just feel like a moron. I have hurt the community by inflicting boring services on them.

I feel really alone right now. They say that it is normal for teenagers to always feel like nobody understands what they are going through. I have never felt that. Until now. I feel isolated. I feel like nobody trying to console me right now knows what I’m trying to tell them. It doesn’t matter if people just have off weeks sometimes. Of course they do! I know that! I also know that you can’t have this much of an off week when it comes to leading a community.

After my ordeal with Kol Haneshama and my confusion about Reform I expected to at least be able to go through the motions this morning. Apparently, I couldn’t even do that properly.

d.profound@gmail com. Etc. Etc. I write the same damn thing here in every post.

This sucks.

Live from Israel: DAVID SCREWS UP


Read full story · Comments { 6 }