Saturday, November 8, 2008

Where I've Been

I'm sorry for the lack of updates as of late; it's been such a CRAZY couple of weeks around here, full of good friends, lots of work, long days, preparations, etc etc etc! I had a huge assignment due for my Bible class, which was actually really helpful and interesting. We were to create an annotated translation of any passage from the Tanach. So, not only did we have to translate our portion word for word, but we had to consult several different Bible translations, looking for and explaining inconsistencies and why we translated the way we did. I have a strange love of translating Torah; to this day, I'm still so proud to have the ability to translate these words, to decipher the text in it's original form and decide for myself what it really means. Also for my Bible class, each one of us is required to present a translation and lead a short discussion on whatever parsha we're studying for the day. We've just moved from Torah to the prophets, and I was supposed to read and translate some of the book of Joshua this past Thursday. I have to admit that I have a slight fear of leading a discussion on the Bible or any area in the Judaic realm, especially amongst the intelligent people I go to school with. It's so good for me to do this, even if it terrifies me, as leading Torah study will probably be an important part of my job once I am invested. We ran out of class time before I was able to present, so I'll present on Tuesday and let you know how it goes.

I've also been busy preparing music for both my Reform Shabbat workshop and my Traditional Shabbat workshop. For the Reform workshop, we're allowed to use music, but are expected to have our pieces prepared to performance level (as if we were going to use them in a service.) It's a tough expectation to meet, as we don't always know the background of the piece or how it's supposed to sound until after we've sung it. It takes a lot of prep work and requires us to really learn about the text of each of the pieces. I'm learning a TON of good music in this class, and it's taught by the incredible Cantor Benjie-Ellen Schiller, so I can't complain too much. For our Traditional workshop, we are usually required to sing the nusach straight from the prayerbook, which requires us to practically memorize the pieces. It's much easier said than done, but again, the class is fantastic and gives me a good sense of the traditional melodies and how they relate to the texts. Luckily, our professor is so sweet about our mistakes and will help us out whenever we need it.

I am also beginning to prepare for my practicum, which will take place on January 21. The School of Sacred Music (SSM) requires all 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students to give one or more practicum a year, where we sing a part of a service either in a traditional or Reform manner. Everyone has a theme that is assigned to them by the faculty of the SSM, adn the themes vary between Shabbat, High Holy Day, and holiday liturgies, and sometimes focus on certain periods of Jewish music that are secular. They take place on Wednesday, so part of our job is to make the listener feel as though they are actually in a real service. For example, the theme of my practicum is traditional Shabbat morning, Shochein Ad through Tzur Yisrael. Besides singing the nusach well, I also have to make the audience (SSM students and faculty) feel as though it really is Shabbat and we are really praying these prayers. It's a scary task to take on, especially when I'm not comfortable or very familiar with traditional nusach; it's a completely different style of synagogue singing than what I am used to, and I will be singing in front of a panel of faculty who all know the style so much better than I (which I guess they should.) After the practicum is over, the entire SSM gathers for lunch and the students giving the practicum are given comments and feedback by all the faculty members. Usually, many members of the faculty are very nice, though oftentimes they are very picky and tell it like it is; if they didn't like your practicum, they will not be shy about it.


Anyways, in addition to all of my school stuff going on, I am spending this weekend at my pulpit in South Bend (and actually writing this from my wonderful host Posi's computer!) This weekend, I played both cantor AND rabbi, as Eric was out of town. I always forget how much work is involved in planning and executing a service, but overall, everything went well. I led the services and gave a short d'var torah this morning, making parallels from the Torah portion to where our country is at the moment, right after the presidential election (GOBAMA!!!) Everything went over well, though not perfectly. I'm just happy my congregation was happy.

So, that is why I haven't done much posting lately. I've had a few things going on! I want to write a blog about and share pictures from Steph's visit, which was so much fun, but that will have to wait until I'm back in NY and have written my paper for Jewish history, due on Tuesday (Have I started it? What do YOU think? I have mastered the art of procrastination quite well!)

I really hope everyone is well and happy. I can't wait to see you when I'm home for winter break (Dec 25-Jan 3.) I'll post pictures soon, I promise!

Shavua tov.

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