It is absolutely amazing how different time seems to pass in this country. If I thought I was busy when I lived in America, which I did, I knew nothing about what the term "busy" means. Everything in Jerusalem moves chik-chok (very fast). Along with a schedule packed full of courses (Which started last week) and homework, there is constantly an opportunity to explore this city and learn seemingly unlimited history. Some of this exploration is out of my own personal curiosity the other is guided by my program: we take weekly (this week bi-weekly) trips (si-uls) to explore Jerusalem's ruins and other historical sites. On top of all of this is the constant presence of spirituality so thick on Shabbos it seems to electrify my skin. Living here continues to take my breath away.
|Here are some pictures Tamara took of what we pass by daily on our walk to school. (Click on image to see it fully.)|
As mentioned earlier, classes started last week. For the summer term I am taking Ulpan (Intensive Hebrew) from 8:30am-1pm Sun-Wednesday, Biblical History which meets anywhere from 2-4 times a week depending on our lecture and si-ul schedule, Music Theory and Cantillation.
Cantillation, while I have only had one session of it so far, is quickly becoming a favorite subject of mine. Cantillation by the way is the study of reading Torah trope or the symbols used in the Torah and Haftorah portions to depict the chanting melody...
One might be thinking, "well, you are studying to be a Cantor! Of course Cantillation must be a favorite subject!" Well the truth is before I began my Cantorial studies week ago, I had never studied trope. Any Torah reading I had ever done was learned by rote... I was quite nervous about how far behind I might be to my fellow classmates. However, quite a few of us are on the same level... Also I am lucky that Jacob has been tutoring trope for several years so I had no need to worry.
Trope is amazing. It's like a key that all of the sudden turns a huge block of text into comprehensible chantable phrases. A week ago I would have looked at this and struggled to read the words in seemingly endless streams.
However all of the sudden with the small knowledge of of trope I gained from our first class it is transformed into sentences, questions, exclamations: Like a decoding program inserted into the text. I have to go very slow because my ability to read Hebrew quickly is not quite developed but I can now turn to a random page in my Tikkun and begin to chant it. This is quite empowering.
Our Biblical History course is quite intense but I love historical content. The professor of my section is an archaeologist so our lectures are heavily based in finding the Biblical tales in real-life archaeology. It is very interesting and poses many difficult questions about thee plausibility of some of the Patriarchal tales: when the "Biblical Author" mentions anachronistic elements of a story for example camels are mentioned in the story of Abraham when archaeological research (based on many elements and I don't wish to recreate my class notes here) has placed the time of Abraham most likely long before any biological (read: fossil) evidence of camels existed. This leads to the assumption that author of the Bible is not writing about these events as they happen, which as learned is a common assumption the mind makes when reading these parshas. All very interesting things to keep in mind.
Enough of my lecture. On Thursday our class went on our first si-ul. We traveled to Nebi Samwil (Samuel's Tomb), Haas Promenade and Ramat Rahel. We learned a great deal about the use and reuse of ancient buildings, how their purposes and architectural styles changed and how difficult this makes defining findings of modern excavations.
|The "Tomb of Samuel"|
|Panorama from Ramat Rahel|
|Ruins at Ramat Rahel|
|More ruins at Ramat Rahel|
View from Haas Promenade
Just so everyone doesn't think that ALL I'm doing is studying, I promise I am going out, having fun and bonding with my classmates.
|Here is a shot from Karaoke night last Thursday! You can tell we all got some sun of the trip that day! (Left to right: Lily, Brenner, Ross, Me, Jade and Tamara is in the middle)|
|A decent amount of the HUC YII 5774 class at Kabbalat Services at Nava Tehila (A Very cool Collaborative Music Shabbat experience)|
A bunch of us went out for brunch after Shabbos services yesterday!!
For all who are reading friends and family of the JETs as well as any strangers who might stumble upon this blog and find our adventures intriguing, please feel free to comment with questions or insight, and I will try to respond to these in my next entry. All comments should be enabled for our blog!
I look forward to hearing from you all!