Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Gemara Class and Yom Kippur Thoughts

Since I'm on a roll, might as well go with it especially when I have things to say/write. You, my friends, know I always have something to say but making time to blog is a separate affair.

I take an excellent Gemara class on Tuesday mornings with Gilla Rosen, wife of Mickey Rosen, founder of the Yakar Center in J'lem (as well as London and more recently, Tel Aviv). Gilla is a known and respected scholar in her own right, one of a generation of women making waves in Orthodo circles - that is to say, unafraid to demand their right to learn and share that learning with others, mainly women. She's originally from the US - brother Jon traveled through Europe with her brother Charlie a billion years ago - but lived for many years in London before moving to Israel. Yakar was at the forefront of the spiritual, what many might call, Carlebach style approach to tefilla/prayer and well before Shira Hadasha was ever founded, provided a place where one could sing, daven and take their time with tefilla. I remember that when I would visit Israel, I would accompany Jess and even my father sometimes on a Friday night for Kabbalat Shabbat. My mother would groan because she knew Shabbat dinner would be a late affair on such evenings.

One of my favorite Gemara teachers of all time is Debra Reed Blank, who led a group of faithful followers in various study of Mishna and some other texts, many years ago at Kane Street. Debra (here's an article of hers about liturgy) had this great way of bringing the ancient texts to life with her straightforward approach to the translation and understanding of whatever it was the Rabbi's were discussing. It had been some years since I have had the chance to delve back in but I was recommended the class by local, Linda Gradstein and I started during a quiet time, when I even had chance to prepare each week, which I needed given that it had been years since I had engaged in such a serious class, taught in Hebrew, with experienced classmates. It's a nice group of women - all quite focused and some quite talented at Gemara study as well. I confess that I don't think I'm one of the talented ones but nonetheless, enjoy the 'pilpul.' Last year, we worked on the sixth chapter of B'rachot, studying all sorts of things related to tefilla/prayer. I even gave a little presentation (we all did) at the end of the year. It's been a good thing. This year, we're moving on to the 7th chaper, which we'll start addressing after the holidays. Up until then, we're looking at some stuff in Yomah related to Yom Kippur - fasting, making t'shuva/repentence, stuff like that.

We were discussing the call to saying prayers of Vidui - things like the 'Al Cheyt/I have sinned' or Ashamnu/that long list of all those things we've done/said/thought. Why are we called to say these thing - historical references like the sin of the golden calf. We looked at source material in the Torah - Vayikra - Acharei Mot - that refer to Vidui as something important, in addition to making the appropriate sacrifices for wrongdoing. I liked one section that discussed that your issues with G-d and repentence and forgiveness are different then what you need to do to be forgiven by friends for wrongdoing. I hereby ask forgiveness at the juncture from all my friends and family, near and far, for anything I may have done (and I'm sure I did) that upset or offended or hurt you in some way this past year. I hope to do better in the year(s) to come.

I got to thinking about Akiva and Ira and I this past year. We struggle these days, trying not to feel resentment at the daily drudgery - the endless trips to the bathroom to attempt to learn toileting, the cleanup and the laundry, the morning wakeups (now at 5:15AM since when you change the clocks, it just means an hour earlier), the endless pieces of bread to toast and lunches and 'elevenses' (10:00 break meal here) to prepare, and the knowledge that it ain't changing or ending anytime soon. I talked with my mother about this very topic today with regard to my father - the drudgery is different but the fatigue, petty humiliations and grief that feels is quite real with regard to his dementia. It's hard to make your peace and not get angry and yet, you always have to remind yourself, as we do with regard to Akiva, 'what's so bad about being retarded?' It's not his fault, indeed it's how the Creator determined whom he would be. It's not our fault that we get tired but we do him a disservice in needing/wanting him to be different and yet, how can we not? No good answer here but acceptence is the overall theme that we work at on a regular basis. But - I found it hard at 5:15 this morning, when he came downstairs all bright eyed and chipper and then again at 6:00 when he arrived again for a cuddle and then eventually, prepared him french toast at 7:15 (he's off today for erev YK). He's so easy to please - I'm the harder one to please, I guess, caught up more in the existential nature of life. So, on this erev YK, I ask Akiva's slicha u'mechila/forgiveness or as Barbara said to me on the phone today as only a Boro Pk/Flatbush girl could, 'do you mochel me?'

צום קל - An easy fast to all those fasting.

1 comment:

Ira Skop said...

Amen. He does mochel us. That's the best thing he teaches us - holds no grudges, accepts unconditionally.