Friday, March 10, 2006

In which an "am ha-aretz" goes to rabbinical school, so to speak


(To the tune of "Barbara Ann." Yeah, I know I'm showing my age. :) )

we think you're swell,
You got me yearning for the learning, reaching for the teaching, 'barbanel
ba ba ba ba banel.

Went to a shiur
Thought it would be queer
Saw Abarbanel, now I'm learning for a year,
You got me yearning for the learning, reaching for the teaching, 'barbanel
ba ba ba ba banel."

(Courtesy of Lenny Solomon and his Shlock Rock Band.)

I haven't gone to a shiur (study session) since M. was transferred to another office and was no longer available to give a weekly shiur during my lunch hour. So when I read the ad in the New York Jewish Week about a shiur being given at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School --which I've been dying to find out about, anyway--I just had to go, even though, as an am ha-aretz, a Jewishly-illiterate person, I feared that I wouldn't be able to understand most of what was being said.

YCT Rabbinical School's Pre-Purim Shiur
Wednesday, March 8, 2006 at 7:45 p.m.
Given by: Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, Chair, Department of Bible & Jewish Thought
Topic: Hide and Seek - Uncovering the Central Characters of Megillat Esther
YCT Beit Midrash
606 West 115th Street
New York, NY 10025
Telephone: 212.666.0036

The shiur, standing on one foot:

Rabbi Helfgot spoke of knowledge and command. In the early parts of Megillat Esther (the Scroll [Book] of Esther), Mordechai had all the knowledge, and told Esther what to do. But, after two years in the palace, Esther was the one with the inside scoop. She understood that the king lived in constant fear of a palace coup (and rightfully so, as we see from the book's account of a plot foiled by Mordechai), which accounted for what Rabbi Helfgot described as Achashverosh's "shoot first, ask questions later" policy concerning visitors. So she played on his insecurities, flattering him and making him wonder what there was about that Haman fellow that the Queen kept singling him out . . . In the end, it was Esther who had the knowledge and was doing the commanding, first ordering her cousin to have the Jews of Shushan fast, then giving orders to the king himself, who seems to have been almost completely dependent on the advice of others, letting his advisors, then his Queen, dictate his behavior.

Apparently, I've been spending too much time among the "black-hats" (right-wing Orthodox Jews)--I was pretty surprised to see that not only was there no mechitzah (divider separating men and women), women and men were sitting next to one another. Then I remembered going to lectures at the Modern Orthodox Lincoln Square Synagogue (so long ago that Rabbi Riskin was still the rabbi there--this was long before "Stevie Wonder," a magnet for ba'alei t'shuvah/returnees to Orthodox Jewish practice, moved to Efrat and become Shlomo) where the women and men sat "mixed". Mind you, this was only for lectures, not for davvening (praying). Same at YCT. We moved down one flight to the fifth floor for maariv (evening service) in the synagogue, which had an opaque mechitzah about five feet high, topped with a curtain about six inches high . The amud (?) ("leader's" stand) was right next to the mechitzah, the Torah-reading table actually in front of it (still in the men's section, but visible to the women). Maariv, I knew, was going to be a major challenge. Oy, was I right! I think I mangled or accidentally skipped over quite a few words in my attempt to keep up with the baal tefillah (prayer leader). I skipped Elokai N'tzor altogether--I had barely finished the preceeding brachah (blessing) when the baal tefillah began kaddish. Speaking of kaddish, that was my biggest surprise--Kaddish Yatom/Mourner's Kaddish was recited by one of the women, alone, and the men responded Amen and Y'hei Sh'mei. Verdict re YCT: Mixed shiurim, high and opaque mechitzah where I thought I might see a lower or translucent one (I had thought that a sheer curtain or smoked-glass divider sufficed for a mechitzah, but perhaps I was wrong), male minyan (hey, it's an Orthodox rabbinical school, so of course they counted only the men) but one that responded en masse to a woman saying kaddish by herself--an interesting mixed bag. Personal verdict: My davvening speed is still "not ready for prime time."

Next shiur:

YCT Rabbinical School's Pre-Pesach Shiur
Wednesday, March 22, 2006 at 7:45 p.m.
Given by: Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh HaYeshiva
Topic: The Kitniyot Controversy in History and Halakha
YCT Beit Midrash
606 West 115th Street
New York, NY 10025
Telephone: 212.666.0036

Frankly, I'm nervous about this one--the only reason why I was able to follow most of the untranslated Hebrew at this past shiur was that I have a reasonable knowledge of Megillat Esther--but I'm game to go anyway, and hope for the best.

For those in the New York City area, here's the hyperlink to sign up for YCT's mailing list.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to mention that if you moved down to the 5th floor, that probably means that you were using the Columbia Hillel minyan area, and just used their Mechitzah. When I have had the opportunity to pray at YCT itself, they just had a cloth mechitzah that was probably about 4 1/2 feet guess is that when they buy/build their very own location, mechitzahs will change too

Thu Mar 16, 07:19:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Actually, we moved downstairs because they couldn't find the cloth mechitzah. (Lemme get this straight--they lost the mechitzah??!!) But that does account for the mechitzah's height.

Sat Mar 18, 10:40:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean, I know they take down the mechitzah except for davening and usually just put it on a table in the back and probably misplaced it when rearranging for alot of people coming...

Mon Mar 20, 12:23:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

That's a more probable explanation.

Mon Mar 20, 07:17:00 AM 2006  

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