So I don't know if this will last beyond this week but who knows. I thought it might be nice to try to write a weekly email before Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) to update my friends and family about life here in Jerusalem. I was trying to blog but blogging is weird because if you don't know who you're talking to how do you know what to write?
So, this week wasn't quite the average week at my school. It was actually pretty stressful! During the week we have (by my last count) 22 classes a week-a few of which repeat two or three times a week and are only counted once. So we are in class steadily from 9 AM to anywhere from 5:45 to 9 PM depending on the day. On Thursday we are out early for our required chessed project (chessed means kindness--we choose a sort of community service project. Some girls do things like working in soup kitchens or tutoring kids with special needs.) I help out with the daughter of my Rabbi who had her first two children right away when she got married. She manages fine but going over is definitely helpful. She is just as helpful to me as I may be for her. I hang out with the babies or do dishes and she answers all sorts of questions for me about Judaism, motherhood, etc.
Anyway, this week one of my teachers was alone at home with her youngest because her husband and another son were in America to help move a family member into a nursing home. Her youngest is an eight year old with autism and it's hard for her to be there alone. So a friend of mine and I traded off nights staying over and keeping her company and helping with her son. This is theoretically a really easy one but somehow I found this chessed very stressful. I had also just moved rooms and aquired a new roommate so I was really longing to sleep in my own (new) bed! Anyway, I think we managed to be helpful so that's the important part.
This week one of the things we're learning about is anger and bearing a grudge (both of which are against Jewish law). It's really interesting to see how people react to being told that they need to give up their grudges. It reminds me of being in middle school when me and my friends all felt that what made us strong was that once we were crossed we never forgave. Now I realize that that was weakness. The lowest level is to let yourself be walked all over. The next level is to hold a grudge and defend yourself. The highest level is to realize that you can't stand in that person's shoes and that you must ultimately find a way to forgive them.
On Wednesday we had an extra fun day. We went on a tiyul (field trip) to the Neot Kedumim Biblical Nature Reserve and we saw what the land would have looked like during the days of the earlier Jewish settlers--during the time of the Maccabees and the Chanukah story. This was about the 2nd Century BCE which is actually quite far into the story of the Jews in Israel. It's amazing how long we've been here and what a miracle it was that we could come back--and within 5 years of the Holocaust. Imagine what a difference it would have been if Israel had become a state just a few years earlier. 6 Million Jews and their legacies would never have perished.
After that we had a party for two girls who finished studying one of the books of the Prophets (all in Hebrew! They also studied the commentaries in Hebrew!). One of the girls just lost her mother so it was done in her honor and we had a big meal to commemorate the end of shloshim (the first 30 days of mourning, which have the strictest restrictions).
I've also been working on proofreading/editing a book by a Rabbi in Har Nof which is GREAT but I had forgotten that I had another week to proofread and got very stressed, thinking I only had a few days. I wound up catching the MRC virus by Thursday and stayed home all day.
This morning I got to go help out around my friend Malka's house to help her prepare for Shabbos--and this is the first Shabbos that Omri and I will be going to her! We're stoked to get to spend Friday night with them. And Saturday we have a really cool Shabbat lunch that Omri lined up.
Final note: halfway through this email we got a knock on the door. The woman next door apparently just had a baby and this is her first Shabbat with the new baby. Although the entire community came to bring her food, nobody had time to help her with dishes and tidying, which she's too exhausted to do. Her friend came and knocked on our door to see if anybody was available to help. Luckily, I had time so I got to go over and meet some of her family and see the baby and do some more dishes. She felt awful for accepting help, which is too bad, because it's fun to help and she deserves it. Anyway, I love this community when I see how much people care about everyone else. Her friend was so sweet for coming over and asking for one of us to go help--she would have herself but she has her own family to cook for. Oh, and they invited me to their shalom zachor (welcome party for a new baby boy) tonight. So sweet.
Ok, time to change and do hair and makeup.
Now that I see how long this email is I feel kinda bad sending it out to some of the friends I was going to. I'll post it to the blog and just send to immediate family :)
Pictures from our field trip are on facebook!