Reform Rabbi Frume Sarah has done a lovely job of Havail Havalim #285 called Back to the Beginning.
And yes, this has been a week of so many beginnings that I had to pick a few to begin this week and few will have to wait till next week. Oh well, happy 'after the chagim' to everyone!
My 5771 beginnings:
Monday evening we returned to our regular women's gemara class at my synagogue led by our amazing teacher Nahum who demystifies (did I just invent that word?) the world of the Talmud and helps us as we slowly but hopefully steadily improve our Aramaic and learn to analyze the gemara's logic.We are learning Brachot. (This dvar Torah is from the siyyum of the first chapter.)
Tuesday morning I went to the first class of the year at the new women's beit midrash (literally: study house) appropriately named Bina Yetaira (literally: greater wisdom*). The class is given by Rabbanit Malka Piotrkovsky is entitled "The wisdom of the sages - selected studies of educational philosophical halachic issues taken from oral Torah sources". The first topic was women and Rosh Chodesh (the new month). Rosh Chodesh is considered a special day for women and we followed the discussion about how the women marked this day and why. We read from the Talmud, midrash and halachic sources. Her teaching style is very interactive and there was never a dull moment. There were about 50 women there from many different cultural backgrounds and some of them shared the special Rosh Chodesh customs of their mothers and grandmothers. There are many women in Rehovot who are interested in expanding their knowledge of Jewish sources and it is gratifying to see that the demand is being taken seriously. Kudos to the Amit women's organization and the Rehovot municipality for sponsoring this program. It was an amazing learning experience and I look forward to participating in this class.
Tuesday evening (in between I did go to work) I went to see the first play in this year's series subscription that I share with my friend Yael (6 plays that are fixed and 1 which you get to chose out of 4 possibilities). I like the subscription idea for several reasons. One is that it's cheaper than buying individual tickets. The second is that it exposes you to plays you might not choose yourself either because they are by new or obscure writers or because you just are not familiar with them and besides I would never be organized enough to find out about and buy tickets to seven plays in one year. The play was Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge. I will write more about that soon.
Wednesday morning found me at orientation for the transcription and digitization of Sir Moses Montifiore's censuses of Jewish communities in the land of Israel and Egypt and Sidon. I already participated in this project for the censuses of 1855 and 1849 and we are now doing 1866 and 1875. I find it exciting to deal with these real life lists of people who returned to Zion and see where they came from and what they were doing. On Sunday night I missed a celebration of the launch of the online census searchable database in which we volunteers were given certificates honoring our part in the project. I was given my certificate this morning. And here is my name in the credits on the site (my 15 minutes of fame?).
*The Torah says (Braishis 2:22) that G-d created Eve from the body of Adam. The term used is "vayiven", from the verb bonoh, "and He built". The rabbis had an oral tradition that this verb "vayiven" has an additional level of interpretation, from the root "binah". "Binah yeseirah" was given to women more so than to men. Women mature intellectually at an earlier age than men; therefore girls should become bat mitzvah at age twelve, while boys only attain their intellectual maturity at age thirteen (Talmud Niddah 45b) (from here).