I really have to get to bed. But wanted to at least say hello, as this first week or actual real classes unfolds. So far so good.

Looks like I’ll be in the higher level, which is cool. Everything’s in Hebrew (except once class, more on that in a sec.) Mostly it’s in regular Hebrew, one with the Israeli rab students, though there’s one class that’s really an M.A. class with Israeli students that’s so fast it’s blurry–I think I got about 30% of the first lecture, but that 30% was pretty amazing, inspired, beautiful stuff, so it’s worth it for me to tough it out. (The class is on images of the wilderness–המדבּר–in the Bible, and already my mind is getting blown. May write up some of what she’s suggesting after I’ve had more than one class.) In pretty much all of my other classes the teachers are also speaking at their normal pace and level (I think), and it’s pretty cool that I can hang. I’m sure my skills will improve like crazy this year–at the beginning of ulpan I had a really difficult time understanding one of my teachers, and by the end it felt like somebody had pushed a button to make her talk more slowly and clearly, and everything was crystal. Of course, she hadn’t changed at all, but my comprehension had, tremendously. I’m sure that will happen here, too–at yesterday’s end I was just totally wiped from the effort of having to pay so much attention, both with regards to the learning (plain old, new semester, new material) and, of course, the language. I think Mondays are going to be hard. I’m there from 7:30 AM (minyan) ’till 6:30 PM.

Another cool thing is that I’m able to see my relationship to text finally really changing. All the work I’ve done the last couple of years has really begun to give me some traction–everything feels so much more open and accessible than it ever did. Had my first bekiyut class today–that’s a lot of Talmud, going very quickly–and I was surprised at how comfortable I was just motoring my way through the sugyia. It would have helped if either my hevruta (study partner) or I had had a decent night’s sleep (I was going on 4 hours, she on 3) but even so! I love bekiyut. Teacher is great, and it really suits my personality, just barrelling my way through the text and trying to get the major issues instead of picking apart every tiny move. I mean, that can be fun too–going deep–but I think this’ll be a good way for me to learn.

So, uh, this is what I’m taking this year:

Talmud Iyyun –Talmud focusing on depth and slow, deliberate readings
Talmud Bekkiyut–Talmud focusing on getting the major stuff and burning through the material
Advanced Midrash–more midrash, natch.
Poskim/Codes–focusing on kind of the history and process of halakha (Jewish law). How halakha gets made. So we look at the Talmud, and then people interpreting the Talmud, and then people interpreting them, and so forth.
Halakha HaMaaseh–practical halakha, looking at one of the major codes (Mishnah Brura). Which, surprisingly, so far I like better than Codes, which is not what I would have expected. But we’ll see. I’ve only had one class of everything, so opinions are likely to switch around as the semester moves on.
Mikra, aka the class on the wilderness in the Bible with the fast fast talking smart teacher
Hebrew–focusing on vocab, reading the newspaper, etc.
Israel Seminar–the “processey” class in English where we talk about issues around being here. Had the first one today, and it was surprisingly really quite good. It has the potential to become a parade of personalities, but it also has the potential to be thought-provoking and force me to think through some issues. So we’ll see.
(maybe) Israeli Society–I applied for an exemption, which I may or may not get, based on previous work I’ve done. So dunno.

It’s a lot of text classes. Which is kind of cool, I’m sort of into immersing myself into this right now. There’s time yet for more practical rabbinics later. One of the other good things they do here is build in beit midrash (text prep) time into the class–so a class will be 3 hours long, half seder (beit midrash) and half shiur (“regular” class). Which means that, though there is still some homework, it’s a lot less than I’m used to. That don’t stink. That’s deliberate on their part, to give us the chance to have a life and make use of being here. But I ain’t complaining.

Oh, man. It is SO time for bed!

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