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Chanukka Thoughts 5781

Chanukka oh/r Channuka oh/r  Chanuka  oh/r  Hanuka  oh/r  Hanukka  oh/r  Hannukka  oh/r   Chanukkah? Pick your favourite! We are in the middle of the festival, which despite its recency has accumulated a wide range of – not only ways to spell it – but also halachot (laws). The Talmud opens its answer to “What is Chanukka?” with “We do not fast or eulogize on it”. A few pages further into the Tractate, the Talmud discusses more laws pertaining to Chanukka, such as when or where to light. One of my favourite laws of Chanukka is that one only fulfils the mitzvah of Lighting the Chanukka candles with lighting, rather than placing them. It seems somewhat superfluous, but the Sages were very concerned about the correct fulfilment of the commandment. A central idea that led the Sages when establishing those laws was the concept of  Publicising the Miracle . In that vein, they also established that any benefitting from the light of the candles is prohibited – the light can only be used for pub

back again

Dear friends, first of all, I want to apologize for the long hiatus. As I have already mentioned on Instagram, I have noticed that writing gives my day-to-day life some integrity, that I have been missing in the last weeks. Also, I am still getting used to the fact that here in Israel we don't have a Sunday to breathe, however, tomorrow classes start again. I am feeling more and more exhausted because of this lack of day to breath and so far, I don't know how to compensate. So much is going on so that I don't really have time during the week's evening to breath.  Nevertheless, I will tell you what has been going on in the last weeks and what my accompanying thoughts have been.  This last week has been the first week where some of the restrictions of the lockdown that started a month ago, have been released. That meant that teachers had the option to meet for class in the park, which many did take. This meant for me that I had a few classes in person in the park some day

Sukkot 5781

Dear friends and readers, I know I promised, so here it comes. All my collected Sukkot Torah for you! And for those who would rather know how I'm doing - please reach out to me! I'd love to hear your voices and or see your lovely faces :) Sooo, Sukkot, such a wonderful holy day - or rather days! And so much to cover! I'll try to keep it short and concise. Every day (except the first, because it was Shabbat), we take the 4 species and shake them. A rather peculiar practise, don't you think? So what does it have to do with the topic of the holiday? It's not straightforward. Sukkot happens during the time of the year when all the harvest is finished. Harvesting is collecting, so we collect, bring together those 4 species and move them in all the 6 directions, and bring them back in, gathering together. Sukkot is also a pilgrimage holiday, so everyone who could come to Jerusalem to the Temple. The whole people were gathered at the holiest place on earth. We also learn t

empty streets and full hearts - Yom Kippur

This Yom Kippur has been like no other. I'm sure this rings true for many of us, praying with masks on the holiest day of the year. But I don't mean this. In fact, I have already gotten so used to the mask being something so obvious of my day to day life in public, that I don't think about it anymore - same like I don't consciously think about my glasses on my nose.  I am talking about the extraordinary circumstance the whole global community is in now and the Jewish people as a global people with it. This year more than ever we are aware of how intertwined our fate is and that we all sit in the same boat. So this year I believe many have been praying not only for the atonement of the Jewish people, but also for the atonement of the whole world from this terrible virus' snare.  For Yizkor today the Rabbi of the minyan I was part of for Yom Kippur - VaAni Tfila - urged people to stay at their places and consider praying for all the souls lost to the pandemic, even if

10 days of Tshuva and Yom Kippur 5781

Dear friends and readers, I have decided to diverge for this post (and maybe further posts also) from relating to you my experiece of my first months on Jerusalem to sharing some of the Torah I am learning here in the Holy City, also to be fair to the title of this blog that I have chosen. The topic of the last days has been Tshuva. Many of you may have already learned what this concept of Tshuva is and means, and why we are focusing on this so much during this time of year. That all staying valid, I want to share some Torah around this topic with you. The literal translation of "Tshuva" in Hebrew is "return". Most of us have learned that Tshuva means repentence, but the literal meaning of the word, does not support this translation. Repentence means "feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing or sin", but this is not what Tshuva is primarily about. Tshuva means return. Return to what? you may ask, and rightfully so. The most prev

Rosh HaShana 5781

This RH started from preparing mentally for the upcoming Holy Days: Not only the slichot night at Sod Siach, but also slichot in the morning at Pardes, led by fellow students, a slichot event livestramed by the Women of the Wall with beautiful songleading and a shiur about a loving relationship with God. The takeaway being that God is like a father (or mother) desperate for our love and vulnurable to our neglect. This idea was sourced in the Talmud passage speaking about God asking the Kohen Gadol to bless Him. I connected a lot to this idea. The reason this was relevant was also because we use part of the Kohen Gadol's blessing in the Rosh HaShana service. The last day of the year, Friday, was a long day of cooking and cleaning up. That day the lockdown was due to start too, but nobody was bothered by that. In fact, the government changed how far you can walk from your house from 500 m to 1 km just a few hours before the lockdown started. Some last minute meal plans due to that ch

last days of 5780

Hey friends!  I thought I'll try something new )and maybe some of you also miss my voice ;) Enjoy! Let me know in the comments what you think of this format! I'd love to hear your feedback :) Here is a photo to what I was referring to in the episode Here another sunset photo

love thy neigbor

Sooo, all day I've been thinking it is Wednesday. So much has been happening and no moment to rest. It seems like the whole city is preparing in all the ways imaginable on A. the upcoming holidays and B. the upcoming lockdown. 3 weeks, only 500m from your door. Every day it seems the rules are changing and it has become so complcated, I have started thinking in terms of "Corona Halacha". On Sunday we had our 4th PEEP class. We talked about what Experiential Education meant for us; What we think the purpose of Judaism is; What we think the purpose of Jewish education is; What it really means to be pluralistic; How we develop character and educate character; and What an Ideal Jewish community would look like to us. We learnt that Pluralism really means  "the effective and ongoing exploration of fundamental differences among Jews. For an individual, pluralism means probing one's own views in light of other serious options. Effective pluralism promotes empathy and th

The last Shabbat of 5780

I'm watching the Morasha Havdalah with star-guest Jan Laiter and all my favourite people at Morasha while writing this, peeking into the community I left for good. The community that has been my home for 2 years, and I am eternally grateful to all the people who shaped me in those years into who I am today. I miss those people very much and I do feel a litte lonely here in Jerushalaim, but I am confident, that I will find my friend group soon.  Moving here and going to Pardes was the right decision, but I feel like I'm at the verge of something big. Every day I am discovering new things and new communities with new people and I'm just taking in and watching. On Friday evening I was at an English Modern Orthodox community in Baqa (the Dvar Torah was in Hebrew though surprisingly!). Shabbes morning I went to my first street minyan just one block away. A young lad was reading all the combined Torah Portion of Nitzavim Vayelech and he got all the Aliyot. Many of the daveners I

torah nerds

Time flies when you learn Torah. When you are so immersed into a text, into a discussion with your chavruta, you just don't notice how time passes. I had two amazing chavrutas yesterday and today, which has made my Talmud and Chumash class very enjoyable! All of the people at Pardes are Torah people. And it's not the knowledge you have of Torah, that makes you a Torah person, but rather the passion for Torah. Everyone walking into class at Pardes shares this passion. And that's one of the reasons why I feel like I am in the right place for the beginning of my personal journey. One of my colleagues from my cohort said that everyone at Pardes is somewhat of a Torah Nerd, and I agree with her completely!  Yesterday we had our second session about the principles of Informal Education. We talked about group dynamics, using the environment (meaning surroundings) as a means for education, about the importance of engaging the students with the topic and lastly the importance of bei

a new week

The week began from my first workday Sunday. A little unusual going to bed on Mozey Shabbat with the alarm for 6:15. I had to wake up early for Shacharit. One of the Pardesniks had a Yahrzeit and asked for a minyan to come together. People were eager to come! Even if that meant sacrificing an hour of sleep. The tfilah was outside in the park and the day has not become hot yet, so it was very pleasant outside. For the first class we had as usual on Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday our Talmud class. We started covering the 3rd Mishna in Rosh haShana. We were still in the chevruta rotation, so we got assigned a chevruta we didn't have yet. In retrospective I feel like I have a fair amount of Jewish knowledge, but almost no skills regarding independent reading and understanding of Talmudic text. During the chevrutas, I often feel like my hands are bound because I just don't know the correct way to read it. That's why I also sometimes ask myself, if the Advanced class for Talmud is the r

Shabbat Ki Tavo

This Shabbat started mentally on Friday morning, which is not a work day in Israel, but a day completely free to dedicate to the preparation of the holy Shabbat about to arrive. For the Friday evening meal, my flatmates have planned to host, so when everyone was up we planned the meal and went shopping. Upon returning we started cooking. I can tell you one thing, when boys cook it's messy. However, I can tell you also that my cooking anxiety has become much better! I offered to cook rice and zucchini muffins, my favorite! When Shabbat finally arrived, and after the usual rushing before candle lighting, my flatmate Adam and me made our way to a Minyan in a schoolyard not far. We decided to go there, because they take it slow and with a lot of Kavanah. That was exactly what I was looking for. Shortly before Shabbat I was phoning my family and my Mom said that I have to go and see as many Shuls as possible! Definitely a challenge in the face of the global pandemic, but I was up to it

Jerushalayim then, Jerusalem now

Today's highlight was the guided tour by Jamie Salter, who guided us around barely a square km of land, but told us so much more than possible one could imagine fitting into that piece of land. I want to share this with you. The tour started at the Mt Zion Hotel on Hebron Road. From there you have an amazing view over the walls of the old city and east Jerusalem stretching up unto the ridge and it seeming like nothingness behind it. The valley that you see is called the Valley of Henom. And then Jamie blew my mind! He literally put the puzzle pieces together. Finally I knew where that place is! Another word for Valley in (ancient) Hebrew is "Gey". So that valley is just called Gey Henom! Now I know where Gehenom is! Now I know what they all are talking about when they say "If you don't do this or if you do that then you will go to Gehenom!" Next time I'll tell them "I would love to!" Jamie told us that in the time of the 1st Temple period, shor

extrospective and introspective

So I've finally settled into my own room (after spending 2 nights on the couch, because my room would only free then - of course I didn't pay anything for those nights), unpacked all my stuff and got into a normal waking up - going to sleep schedule. I need this, a schedule. Waking up and going to sleep at different times was really exhausting for me. I always felt tired in the last months, but those last days, I've had just the perfect amount of energy for the day. The shiurim at Pardes are interesting and intriguing! The most fun part is learning in chevruta with all kind of people and getting to know their background. In the Chumash class with Judy Klitsner we looked at the first verse in the Tanach and discussed the various ways one could ask a Kushiah (a probing question) on the text. Then we looked at different commentaries and searched for what their Kushia might have been and how have they solved it (also not all Kushias can  be solved!) If you want to know more abo

the jewish bookshop

 After classes were over for the day I headed to the city center to a lovely book shop called... ... yes you (tried) to read correctly, its Pomeranz! On first view already promising an amazing experience, the moment I stepped inside, I knew this will be a place I will be returning to more often! I was there to buy Machzorim for the upcoming high holidays, and I was on the lookout for the Koren Machzor with translation and commentary by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. I found a small pocket hard cover edition. That would be not so heavy to hold during the long services of the High Holidays. Some of you know already, I very much like the typeface of the Koren AND I love Rabbi Sacks' commentary on everything!  for 200 shekel for 2 Machzorim, I knew this is a good buy and they will serve me some good years.  There were SO MANY books I immidiately wanted to buy, but I knew this had to wait, and after all, I could always come back and read them in the store ;) One thing I knew, I felt like a piece


In the third block of the day was our first PEEP class. PEEP stands for Pardes Experiential Educators Program. We got to know what specific courses the program would cover with us during the year. The topics I am most looking forward too are "Types of Experiences: meaning-making conflict as core for growth" and "Social-Emotional Learning (as opposed to intellectual/logical learning)" as well as "Character Education". We also got to know our assignments for the year that we each have to fulfill at some point during the year. In the second part of the class we had to think of 5 - 6 of our formative Jewish experiences and use tape (and only tape!) to symbolize them using our tables as a canvas.  For me that second part was very reflective and it was also very interesting to hear and see what the other participants (5) got together and what their formative Jewish experiences were. Here is what I got together: Let me know what you think those mean in the commen

Elul Blues

 After the shofar class, we headed out to join a zoom call with the Dean and some other faculty members for another session of orientation. We heard about what it meant to be in Israel and experience a totally different culture. The Dean brought the example of clouds and sunshine. In European countries sunshine was something positive and clouds something negative, whereas here in the Mediterranean area, clouds were something positive and sunshine was something negative.  At some point later that day, when I was running errands in the city this thought crossed by mind and made me a little sad: Was looking at all of the chaos and energy witch which people were going around by and I thought "Will I ever be as Israeli as all those people?" The Dean also mentioned that in the beginning things are going to be hard, the same way as babies get their baby teeth when they are small, and it hurts, but they (read "you") forget about this pain and remember only the good things.

What about the shofar?

The day started with running. Running to the bus - for which I waited 10 mins - what a waste of energy! I did not keep to my lesson of "buses are unreliable". Nevertheless I was punctual for my first "advanced" Talmud class. We were going to learn about the shofar! So Rabbi Zvi Hirschfield gave us a list of verses we should look up in the Tanach and a set of Mishnayos to look at for more details. We got assigned a random chavruta from the class and off we went to different rooms for our chavruta! Of course everything while keeping the Corona guidelines. The class was composed out of 9 people and 2 people joined on zoom. The dynamic of the in-person / zoom participation was better than I expected. People thought along - for example typed out questions asked in person in the zoom chat - and worked together to make it as pleasant of an experience as zoom can possibly make it. Some takeaways from the class: The verses mention a Shofar and trumpets and they also bring up

on the road of the forefathers

The Dean David Bernstein gave a shiur on a text in the Talmud dealing with the sanctity of books and the importance of saving those from a fire - even on a Shabbat! He compared that commandment to our work of saving the Knowledge of Jewish text in this world where there is the lowest Jewish text literacy since the giving of the Torah. After the Deans shiur I hurried to Pardes, the place where I will be studying. Its on the third floor of this building and as you see, Pardes is building a larger newer campus right next to it, to accommodate all the masses of people who share the passion of learning Torah.  After getting inside the building... and getting to the third floor, I picked up my registration packet and headed to meet with other Pardesniks to go to the Tayelet and meet with the whole Year Program participants. We had to wear masks while walking together. I didn't really see the point of it, but it was their wish and I respected that. There were also some older people walkin

first visit to the city

After breakfast I went out to exchange some Euros to Shekel and to send a package someone gave me in the mail. On the way I passed throw the Mamila mall and now I know what everyone is talking about when they say Mamila. I didn't feel like my knowledge of Jerusalem, my city of birth, was complete without this. The weather outside was very hot (there is a heatwave here in Israel right now) and I am desperately in need of a day sleep, but we are having our Opening Circle with the Pardes Year program and I am meeting all the people I will be learning Torah with this year! Here are some impressions of my visit to the city. That is a random beautiful street on the way to the post office: That's a panorama of the central post office: In the Mamila mall there were beautiful art sculptures but sadly I didn't manage to make pictures as I was in a little hurry.  Also today I learned that taking the bus in Jerusalem isn't necessarily the fastest option. Thus, I am still looking fo


I slept on a very comfortable couch, because the flatmate whose place I am taking hasn't moved out yet. I wake up I wash my face and hands and step outside on the balcony. That same familiar smell hits me, warm air that says "You're home in Israel". The apartment is a little messy. A little too messy for me. I didn't take my home shoes, so I decide to buy a pair as soon as I can. I have lived at home with my parents for the last two months so you could say that I am spoiled regarding cleanliness. I suppose I will have to lower my expectations in this regard but I will definitely address that topic.  I look through the cupboards and fridge and choose myself some Tnuva Joghurt with Cheerios and silan. I also make myself a cup of earl grey. I can't find real milk so I use the oat milk. It's better than I expected. 


Descending to the Land of Israel I was listening to Ma Vlast La Moldau, the musical father of Israels national anthem, and then to Hatikvah by even hashsiah, a rock version of the national anthem.  Arriving at the airport, we had to fill out the health declaration form, which one of the airport staff just told me to tick yes everywhere without even explaining to me the meaning of the questions. Then there were those machines that print your entry permit. Before the actual passport control there were Magen David Adom staff checking temperature. The border control didn't want to know anything about my army status. All in all, I remember arriving in Israel being connected to many more questions than have been asked of me today. When I get to the baggage cliam, my suitcases are already there and I collect them. I call the taxi driver that I have booked and he tells me to go to the exit on the 3rd floor. So I shlepp my suitcases (40kilo) up 3 stories with the esc

the next leg

The moment you realize you speak Yiddish because you're fluent in German. Then moment that random chossid approaches you and starts small talk. Why? G-d knows! He asks if I am Chabad. I say yes. He wonders if there are any Jews in Germany. I haven't told him where I'm from, so it must have spoke around already (I spoke to a youngster before that). I find out that they (who, I wonder) send groups of charedim to slaughter meat in Poland which then is imported to Israel for the charedi community.  The moment they start eating semitchki in the airplane. We take off with a delay, but that funny feeling starts getting stronger and stronger.  Look up the term Fremdsch√§men, and then you will know how I feel right now. 

a funny feeling

I hurried with my 40 kilos of luggage from the baggage claim out to the arrivals hall and up to the departures hall. I have one hour until the gate closes. When I finally get to the right check in desk I immediately know that I am correct. In a fine snake line there are more than a dozen "penguins" (thats what we lovingly call ultra-orthodox Jewish men) standing in line to check their baggage. A man runs past me, covered in tattoos and cursing in Hebrew ya ben zona.  I have to let out a laughter. The contrast is stark. It's a funny feeling, a feeling I missed. I don't know those people and the differences are great, but they are still my people. A whole departures hall full with Jews, what a holy moment. What are they doing here? I don't know, probably also a stupid two flight layover. We are all on the same journey. Looking for that something. Some claim they found it some are still looking. I believe you never stop looking. And when you think you did, the next t