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Shalom shalom, everyone.

I wanted to follow up a prior post regarding the Beit Madrash sessions that are held every Monday night, a sort of dinner followed by Jewish theological discussion/learning period. This past Monday night, the topic of discussion for the small group for Rosh Chodesh. The small group is put into place for those students who are looking for a deeper understanding of the Jewish tradition, yet don’t necessarily know where to start. The group is led by Rabbi Ian Pear, who, as the title of this post suggests, is my favorite rabbi.

Rabbi Pear is a native of Arizona, who went to Georgetown as a non-practicing Jew. Surprisingly, his Jesuit-shaped education there helped him make the decision to practice his faith more strongly, and eventually to become a rabbi.

Rosh Chodesh, to give the quick explanation, is a monthly holiday that is drawn from a madrash (rabbinic story) drawn from a passage in Exodus. At the height of the drama of Moses confronting the Egyptians, it is said that God called Aaron and Moses aside to tell them “be sure to mark the beginning of a new month and bless it.” This is interesting, because as we discussed, the layers of meaning taken out from this are that the new month must be officially validated by a High Court of Jewish leaders drawing on witnesses from the common citizen, thus making it so that the calender is based on layperson participation in religious rites. Specifically, the first two witnesses were those whose accounts made or broke the new month, and all witnesses who came were invited to a huge feast.

Upon considering the meaning of this action, Rabbi Pear sat quietly for a moment and then gave us the most brief rendition of Jewish history I have ever heard. I quote him directly: ” Isn’t that how all of Jewish history has been, though? Someone tries to kill the Jews, some of us survive, and then we eat.” Certainly a specific take on the history of the Jewish people – everyone there was first really uncomfortable, but then he grinned and we all laughed as well (both to release tension and because it was kind of funny).

At the end of the evening, one of the people present began to ask some very rude and pointed questions, and everyone was very uncomfortable. That is, except for Rabbi Pear, who politely and knowledgeably answered questions such as “do you REALLY believe in God,” “why aren’t you a Christian,” and other such things. As it turns out, that guy is the son of a couple who made ‘aliyah,’ which is a Jewish term for moving permanently to Israel as citizens. The guy had not at all settled into or become comfortable with the culture, and generally seemed to deeply resent being here at all. I truly pity him, for his position is not desirable in any sense.

On a lighter note, after two weeks of harried searching and inquiries, I have my…. laundry card. That’s right, the machines here function somewhat similar to those of AU, except instead of having the money to operate them come from your student ID, you must purchase and then load money onto a separate card entirely (using a machine that is only labeled in Hebrew, and was broken until this past Tuesday). Yay clean clothes 🙂

Finally, as a follow-up to my previous mention of learning/singing Hebrew songs with a very talented Hebrew music teacher, I have finally figured out who she reminds me of. Having been abroad with groups of Americans, and having encountered other groups of Americans while abroad, she fits into their familiar pattern: just as a tourist from the US has the tendency to simply speak louder in English in the hopes that the local person they are speaking to will understand, she does the same. She speaks in rapid Hebrew, and then when noticing the lack of comprehension on the faces of many people in the auditorium, she speaks louder in Hebrew with the page number (mind you, we have sang with her for 40 minutes each week, and only began to learn numbers the day after the second singing session). Its a good time, though – all the lively clapping and harmonies from the people in the room who know what they are singing make it a good time.

Sorry for the long post – I was very interested in what the good Rabbi had to say and so forth, and wanted to fully share it with you. To those of you in many parts of the US, know that I am jealous of all your unseasonably heavy snowfall.

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One Comment

  1. Michael,
    Thanks for the interesting blog. Keep up the good work. As usual, you are in my thoughts and prayers.
    Mrs Meister


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