There is a term, bittul torah, which literally means ‘negation of Torah’—a term that I long did not understand. By some people it can be thrown around anywhere to refer to time spent doing anything apart from learning from the corpus of Jewish text and thought. The assumption is that if you’re not learning Torah (or possibly otherwise doing God’s Will), you are destroying it merely by wasting time.
I failed to understand this assumption until I decided to spend a bit of time in a yeshiva. Although maybe the feeling has decreased a little since then, the atmosphere here is one of immersion and little distraction, and so the first time I tried to leave the yeshiva, I felt somewhat guilty for not studying for a few hours. Learning of course doesn’t preclude enjoying (through studying or apart from it), but you really begin to notice when you have left it for something else. (more…)
On one of my first few days in Israel, the idea came up between me and Ilana of going to visit some Palestinian area in the West Bank, partially because she would soon be becoming an Israeli citizen, and so legally forbidden from going there (without a uniform). In fact it would be my first time visiting anywhere in the West Bank (including Jewish areas). She had already been to Bethlehem in a group, so Ramallah was the prime option. We set it for Friday (1 June), when she wouldn’t have any work. Raf decided he would join us too… Although the day before he claimed that he would be too hungover from Thursday night’s parties to be able to join us, Ilana managed to convince him to take it back. (more…)
I noted a few months ago that I had a difficult experience when my family informed me that Poppy, my grandfather, was in hospital, followed starkly by the happy news of my brother’s engagement. When I saw that the phonecall coming in on my phone this Saturday night was from home, I was nearly sure Poppy had passed away. While in 2002, my family usually called me, on this trip it has been very rare, and I spoke to them only a few days ago, so their irregular calls mean news. And for months I’ve been updated roughly
on Poppy’s situation—revived after a few strokes, usually debilitated and irritable—and hearing Nanna, his wife, wishing I will be able to return to him each time we speak. Again and again it is difficult knowing that so far away I am helpless.
And now with the family mourning, but no one around me crying, it is hard to feel the emotion I think I should have. Although for a while it has only been a matter of time; only a matter of whether or not I would get back to see Poppy in the high-attention ward of the nursing home. The last few months have been altogether difficult for the family. Hopefully after the next one, things will start to ease, but even so, this is a tension I have been distanced from completely. (more…)
I thought I should give the world a few updates, now that I have the time and internet connection to do so. Firstly and most importantly, I have a phone number in Israel, where I’ve been since the 25th of May, thanks to Brucey’s generosity (it was her number previously):
+972 547 981 703
Secondly, my main goals in coming to Israel for 7-or-so weeks were to: (a) see friends and family, such as my cousin Harry and his wife of nearly four years, and my brother’s fiancée, both women I had not met before; (b) travel a little and see different sights, along with an Israel different from the one I saw in 2002; and (c) find somewhere to do some focussed traditional Jewish study, to improve my skills and knowledge in the area and have had some experience. (more…)