Some pictures of the HUC-Jerusalem campus, courtesy of my friend Julia. It's incredibly beautiful and makes these forever long days a little more bearable (most of the time!)
Since last week's post about my crazy Thursdays, some of you have written asking me what exactly it is that makes them so crazy. So, instead of writing everyone back individually, I thought I'd write about my Thursday, in hopes that I will give you a better idea of what the day is really like. Thursday is actually a great day to talk about, not only because it is so fun-filled, but because it gives a good representation of the program at HUC as a whole. Prepare yourself for the craziness!
My Thursdays always begin with a whopping dose of Hebrew. Yesterday's class was actually really fun; we celebrated Julia's birthday by making her little cards that allowed us to review our verbs in future tense. We ended class with an improvisation exercise led my my friend (and fellow St Louisian) David, where we played games normally found at Improv Comedy clubs. It was so fun and funny and we learned while we played.
After Hebrew, I have a 30-minute break before Liturgy, my next class. Normally I spend my break shmoozing and sipping a cappuccino, but yesterday we had a liturgy quiz which required me to spend my half-hour cramming. It was worth it though--I can tell you the names of all 19 prayers of the Amidah and what they mean. I feel smart :)
Liturgy itself is one of my favorite classes. We spend our time looking at the prayers and talking about how they became fixed in the Jewish rites and what they mean to the Jewish people. We're studying with the Orthodox prayerbook Rinat Yisrael, and while not all of the prayers are carried on in the Reform movement, it's incredibly interesting to see where the Reform prayers come from and the connections between the liturgies. We also talk a lot about Mishkan T'fillah, the new Reform prayerbook, which I've really fallen in love with. I can't wait to receive the finished copy (hopefully soon!) and to use it in my student pulpits next year.
After Liturgy and lunch, I head to my Bible class. OK--Bible is important, I realize, but I have to say that it is my least favorite class here. I've told y'all my woes about Bible, so I won't elaborate here, but let's just say I am looking forward to the time when I can enjoy reading Tanach again, like I do in Cantillation (see below.) Thank goodness this particular Bible class is over in January and I can wash my hands of it (the class, not the Bible.)
Jewish Music History is the next in line for my Thursday classes. Eli teaches this class, and while it's sometimes a bit boring, the class definitely has some interesting moments. Yesterday we talked about the development of Piyutim, or poems about the prayers that are read in a musical manner. The most famous Piyut is probably L'cha Dodi, a prayer/poem that welcomes in the Shabbat "bride" on Friday evenings. Piyutim were originally presented as riddles, and the congregation listened and tried to guess what the riddles were about--they were all the rage in synagogues in the 13-14th centuries and continue to be a part of Jewish liturgy until today.
My last class of the day is Cantillation. This class used to be incredibly stressful; we were never really taught the trope signs, but rather we opened to B'reshit (Genesis) and were told to start chanting. Now that I've caught up a little, the class is incredibly interesting, useful and fun. I chanted 2 lines yesterday, including a really tough one, and while I'm nowhere near perfect (or even GOOD) at cantillation, it's finally starting to stick with me. In order to put my skills to good use, I signed up to read Torah---for the first time since my Bat Mitzvah 12 years ago---at our Monday morning services on December 31st. I am scared TO DEATH to do it (and to present my own translation in front of everyone, which is required of all of us) but I know it will be good for me. I'd really like to read as often as I can while I'm here to get over my anxiety of chanting Torah and practice the skills I am so diligently studying.
So, that's my crazy day. I'm sure your eyes are as tired of reading as my body is at the end of the day! It's exhausting, and I always dread Thursdays like the plague, but at the end of the day I'm happy with my hard day's work. I hope everyone is doing well, and I can't wait to see you all so soon! Looking forward to many happy reunions (and a lot of tasty food) when I'm home.