Friday, July 26, 2013

Tzfat Journal 3 July

So, last night (Tues) we had a lovely dinner of salad, hamburgers (I of course did not partake) and something else I cannot even remember. I was pretty tired from the good but heavy classes. There are now 4 of us learning to read/write/speak Hebrew, so the Yeshiva style class is getting more intense, but at the same time helping me to better my understanding of the language here. 
Our last class of the night was a Farbregen where we spent the first two hours discussing the meaning of this week's double Parsha (the readings that happen weekly on Shabbos) about Journey and 'Stick/Solidity' and how they can relate to each other, and to us from a character perspective. After the lively discussion there was some singing and lots of dessert/foods: 3 types of melon (watermelon, cantaloupe, and a yellow fleshed melon that had an almost sour taste, but was very rich) chocolate biscuits, more peanut butter macaroons, grapes, cinnamon sugar bread, and a challah type bread with peas and corn baked into it! Also a bread similar to pain au chocolat, but served cold. Thinly sliced but not made with philo dough. Plenty of it. It was delicious and different from rugeleh. 
I managed to get to bed at an actual decent hour last night; I was in bed by 11:30 and asleep just after midnight. I did wake up at 4am with a horrid headache, but I might have just been dehydrated from the exercise and hiking on Tues. I slept in today a bit, and ended up getting about 7 hours of sleep, at least a small consolation. It was fairly cold last night, but mostly due to the winds. I can see the low clouds and fog rolling in over the hills around sunset and it is still amazing to me. I think I have been in our dry desert too long! The water is mostly from the Galilee Sea, as best as I can tell. They say there is not much *rain* here, but it is to a degree humid and moist in the air. My skin is already freaking out over that. It is used to a very arid location.
Wed I tried some new things for breakfast: they always have tomatoes, cucumbers (the Israeli/Arab kind that are small but you can eat the skins.) Also eggs and oatmeal. Today I added on my plate some of the goat's milk soft cheese they have that is spread on rice-toast, and a drop of jam on top. It is not as sour as it smelled, but not really close to our cream or cottage cheese. Somewhere in the middle of those perhaps. 
Our first class today was on the role of women in Judaism, how important we (women) are, and what Mitzvahs are unique that only women can perform. It was a lively discussion and next class there we will be speaking on why there are misconceptions that women are 'not equals' in Judaism. The teacher is a woman and seems to be a very cool feminist. There are also mitzvots that are not *required* of women, but they can do if they please; for example, putting on Tfillin. The teacher said there were about 14 total, but we will go over them in the next week's class. It was an interesting take on things that I really did not know, but is utterly fascinating to me. It is a different way to look at being "empowered" in this religious setting/culture. 
My next class was on the specifics of how women have certain responsibilities in the Jewish world and home, and today specifically on Shabbos and lighting the candles. There was also mention (not in too much detail) about how women are technically seen as above/more spiritual than the men, thus why women's mitzvot carry more "weight". The men have to *work* to reach the level women are already at. Next class we will go over some issues of 'modesty' which is far more than just clothes. I am interested in hearing about that topic. I believe there is also a "Tznius" (Modesty) code for men, but I will have to ask about it in class. There is a distinct 'separation' of the genders here and I am still to a degree getting used to this. Some things here are just *not* equal, and it takes a lot for me to really process that; I am still working on finding a way to accept it when I am here as more than just a concession to the culture. Having so many men in my life being such influences on me (and many doing "women's work") has perhaps given me a different perspective on things than for example someone here who was raised in an Orthodox environment, and grew up accepting all the cultural gender norms, as it were. 
 I also had a class by a nice Rabbi on the importance of health and activity in Jewish life, and how we need to start to try to always think in a positive way, even under negative circumstances. Obviously mostly easier said than done. However, there were some nice readings to go along with the lesson that help to frame the mind and specific thoughts, and speaking of taking care of the body we have; while not getting obsessed with our physical looks or needs. There is a balance everyone needs to find, and it is different for each person.
One of the things I have noticed and really enjoy is that so far all the teachers; the Rabbis and the females tend to use both genders when reading or quoting from sources; such as "our forefathers & mothers" or the "Patriarch and Matriarch"  and will insert a "she" after "he" when reading from the Mishna, Torah, or Siddur. I am quite impressed with that. In our Tanya class yesterday we ended up getting into a bit of astrophysics and discussions, which just made me so so so so happy. I have another Tanya class this afternoon, and then a voluntary class tonight after dinner that I can attend down the street at the synagogue by one of the boy's Yeshiva schools. We also have after dinner our last class is an open Q & A with the head (elder) Rabbi here. I am not sure if I have anything to ask, but I know it will be interesting to listen. 
Also, the fruit market across the street is amazing and for about $0.25USD I can get a serving of just about any fruit in season. They also have a large selection of dried fruits and local nuts. Plenty of good things for my brain and body.
I have offered to help bake challah tomorrow with one of the Rabbi's wives, as we are all going in small groups to different local homes for Fri Shabbos, so we will be bringing or baking some bread for the school here for Sat eating. 
I miss everyone, but am less homesick specifically, as I am getting the schedule down and it is starting to feel like a nice routine, which I tend to thrive with. 
No real photos to share today, but if I get the chance, I am going to try and time it so I can go up on the roof at sundown and get some photos.  
I am enjoying myself here on many levels, and learning so much. I am also getting a bit of time to be able to just think without many distractions, which is a welcome change. I am really only regretting not taking with me more photographs of Wash, however, as I am missing him so acutely and being able to be near "him" and our home. 
I believe we have a slight chance of rain here this weekend, and if we do I will of course share as much as I can with you all. 
It has been a most interesting almost full first week here, and I am trying so hard to just do as much as I can, see as much as I can, and try all sorts of new things. I want to come back from this time here with something more tangible than just memories, a way to help my own self, and to really be able to hold onto some positive internal changes. I think I am on my way to doing just that. 


  1. Excellent to read about all the growing and learning and stretching you are doing within your soul. You brought a smile to me when you spoke of your skin and the humidity-I remember moving from very humid to quite dry and my skin wondering some of the same things yours is now.

  2. I loved reading this. I am so happy that you have been able to enjoy life. You are amazing.

  3. Tashi, I don't comment as much as I should, but it doesn't mean that I (and probably a zillion faceless people) aren't still thinking of you & cheering you on from our various corners of the world! I feel like I'm on this journey with you. I am so thrilled that you made it there & that you're making the most of it! Please continue to soak up every moment & nourish your soul. You deserve such good things in life! I hope that this step is the first of many amazing experiences yet to come.
    A Regretsian/ThinkGeeker from way back in the day,
    Jacquie @jezziebezzie in Burlington, ON, Canada

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