Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hope and Mysticism

Back to learning at Hartman, after a couple of days off. On Friday, Janet, Jonah and I had a nice walk to the city center, where we did a bit of shopping at the outdoor mall on Ben Yehudah street. It’s a lively place, filled with souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes, and street musicians. As I walked past a talented duo, on violin and guitar, I heard the piece they were playing and hummed along, but couldn’t quite place it. Later, after enjoying a nice lunch, I recognized it as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire.” I wonder if anyone is playing “Hava Nagillah” in Vatican City.

We had a wonderful Shabbat. On Friday night, we went to shul, as we have over the past two months, at Kol Haneshama. The singing was even better than usual, as there were scores of rabbis and cantors from Hartman in attendance, as well as the usual spirited congregants. After the service, we had a very pleasant Shabbat dinner at our apartment, with one of my Hartman cohorts, Rabbi Yitz Miller, from Santa Cruz, California.

On Saturday, we returned to Kol Haneshama. The morning included both a Bar Mitzvah and a blessing of a new bride and groom—and in keeping with congregational tradition, everyone threw candy for each of these simchas. The children then scrambled to pick up the candy, and Jonah and Rachel retrieved—and ate—more than their fair share. We worked off some of those calories, and the accompanying “sugar high” by walking to visit friends in Jerusalem—which was not so easy in the sweltering mid-day heat. It was especially nice to meet Richard Demb, the brother of CABI member Dana Zuckerman. He lives with his family in a rented apartment just a few blocks away from us, and we really enjoyed getting to know them.

During the evening, Janet and I made our way to my alma mater, the Hebrew Union College, where we met the new class of first year rabbinical students (when did they get so young?), celebrated a gorgeous havdallah, overlooking the Old City walls as a breeze cooled the night air, and listened to an inspiring talk, “On Hope” by the HUC provost, Rabbi Michael Marmur. It turns out that the Hebrew word for hope, tikvah (as in Hatikvah, the national anthem) is connected, etymologically, to two different words: kav, meaning thread or rope, and mikveh, a pool or reservoir. Rabbi Marmur challenged us to think of hope using both of these metaphors: as a lifeline, lifting us toward a better future, and as a source of nourishment and renewal that feeds our roots.

Back at Hartman today, we studied Maimonides on repentance, with an emphasis on teshuvah—self-transformation—as one very important response to crisis. And in my new elective, with Yair Furstenberg, we looked at rabbinic discussions with Roman philosophers, two thousand years ago, as pointing to the way toward dialogue as another potentially fruitful response to crisis.

After a relaxed dinner with a schoolmate, Andy Strauss, I returned to Hartman for the evening program: a session with Moshe Idel, the world’s leading scholar of kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. He was charming, down-to-earth, heimish. His scholarship is deeply respectful of the many streams that have born Jewish history, thought, and practice. I'm attaching a picture of our beit midrash/study hall from the Idel lecture.

Tomorrow is a touring day for the Hartman crew, and I will be hiking in Wadi Qelt, a cool stream outside Jerusalem. I hope to have pictures.

Shavua tov—a good new week (my last one here in Israel!) to all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ann Hetzman needs a ride to shule