Hi guys, sorry for the delays in posting this week. It's been a very busy week, as we've officially begun our studies as cantors/rabbis/educators. While I know the content of my classes a bit better now, I've discovered one thing for sure: We will be BUSY this year...very, very busy.
My days begin with a heaping dose of hebrew, though it's much more challenging now that I'm in the higher kitah. Our teacher is wonderful, and while I love her the class itself is a lot more difficult than my class this summer was. Our teacher speaks all in hebrew, which takes a great deal of concentration to understand. I'm hoping that I can stay in the class and it will get a bit easier as the year progresses, but right now I'm struggling to fully comprehend both what Chen, our teacher, is saying and also the pages she assigns us for homework. We also have a Biblical Grammar class once a week, where we concentrate specifically on the hebrew found in the Bible.
I also have a Bible class 3x's a week, where we read and discuss the Tanach, an acronym for the Torah, Nevi'im (prophets) and K'tuvim (writings) that make up the hebrew bible. So far we've analyzed the beginning of the Creation story, and I am having a lot of fun with it. I've never taken many opportunities to study and discuss Torah this way, and though I'm not totally comfortable sharing my thoughts and opinions yet, I really enjoy reading and translating the hebrew itself and finding a much deeper meaning of the words than I've ever known.
Yesterday we had our first Liturgy class, where we'll learn to become comfortable with the liturgies of Shabbat, morning services, and some of the holidays. The goal is to help us understand the various prayers, how they're placed where they are in the service, and how/why certain Jewish groups have chosen to remove some of the prayers from their worship services. We're also going to be tested over our ability to read out loud and translate some of the the prayers used in the newest Reform siddur (prayer book.) Our professor for this class is great; he was my leader for our Jerusalem Days series, so we've established a good relationship. I feel very comfortable with him and he is incredibly supportive of all of us (not to mention an excellent rabbi/professor) so I'm excited to be taking his class.
The above classes are our 'core' classes, the classes that every student takes regardless of which program they're studying in. I also have cantorial classes, meant for just the cantorial students (though some rabbinic/education students also take them because Eli Schliefer, our professor/director of the program is an incredible teacher.) However, in lieu of most of our cantorial classes this week, we've had choir rehearsals for and lectures on the High Holy Day music. We did have our History of Jewish Music class this week, in which we had to define what Jewish Music really is. This was interesting and tricky, since every Jewish community throughout the world has a different style and use for Jewish music. I'm excited to figure out how Jewish Music has evolved throughout time and in the various movements of Judaism, and even more excited to be taking the class with Eli, who is THE expert in this subject.
After the holidays, we'll begin our Traditional Nusach and Cantillation classes, also with Eli.
I've begun to see why so many people have been warning me about the obscene workload I'll be facing this year. The workload is heavy but bearable right now, and it's only going to get more intense as the year progresses (and as the years progress in the program.) Cantorial students spend a lot more time on campus than the other students, either in classes or coachings, or just practicing the gigantic amount of music we've already received. We also have a lot more information and activity being thrown at us at all times, which requires extreme concentration and organization skills (neither of which are my strong suits...) Our schedule is stressful and exhausting and overwhelming at times, but we love every minute of it.
Please remind me that I said that during the times when I'm pulling my hair out from too much work this year...:)
Oh, and take some time to tell your Rabbis, Cantors, and Jewish Educators how much you appreciate them. I can now tell you from experience, it ain't easy studying to be or actually being a Cantor! It requires a lot of work, study, prayer, and heart, and while it isn't always easy, it's certainly always meaningful and completely worthwhile.
Much love from the J'lem, and if I'm not able to post again before Wednesday night, I wish a Shana Tovah (Happy New Year) to everyone, and best wishes for a happy, healthy and meaningful 5768.
ל'שנה טובה ומטוקה!