Pardes and Facebook

We were supposed to hang out with some Pardes friends tonight, but Eric crashed at about 7pm tonight. When I tried to wake him up, he didn’t seem like he could put two sentences together. The exhaustion is a combination of staying up to late on Wednesday and the intense pace of Pardes. I’m astounded by the many folks who stay from Pardes for evening activities in addition to a full day of learning. I guess my brain has rusted over a bit since college days so I have less mental endurance than my days of youth.

I’m guilty of staying up late because of my blogging as well as my new distraction: Facebook. Yes it’s a distraction, but I feel oh so connected. Everyone from my Rabbi to my college friends seems to have an account with them. I’ve come across people that I haven’t spoken to or seen for a long time.

I’ve joined several interesting groups including the “Ben Folds can rock my suburb any time he feels compelled to do so“(well hey, he does rock, doesn’t he?!) I came across some other silly groups such as the “Hummus” group that focuses on anything related to hummus (surprisingly) or the “So You Think You Can Sing Out Loud” group. Even Pardes has it’s own group, and I think some former Pardes students set up a fan club for one of my amazing teachers, Yaffa Epstein. Of course, I joined some serious groups like a global warming and Geneva Initiative group and another one focusing on labor standards at Israeli restaurants.

Here’s an update on learning at Pardes: I’m not sure if I’ll incorporate specific passages that I’ve learned from my Talmud class, since I wonder if it might be a bit difficult to follow and it might exhaust you has much as it has exhausted me. For now, I’ll just say that we are learning chapter two in the section of the Talmud that focuses on Shabbat. This chapter addresses the topic of lighting candles on Shabbat.

Our teacher, Leah, skillfully steers us along all of the varied topography of this chapter, through Mishnas, Beraitas and disputations among Rabbis, calling our attention to particular landmarks and nuances in the text. She is shows us how Aramaic phrases provide hints about whether the next sentence will introduce a machloket (dispute/argument) or kushiya (difficulty) or raise a possible solution (that the Gemara will then reject) and teaches us how we can figure out how a block of text is punctuated. Oh yes, did I tell you that Gemara has no modern day punctuations? Actually I’m getting used to it.

I came across an English translation of the text that we’re focusing on althought it doesn’t incorporate all of the rabbinic discussions

Here’s another cool link that provides you a guided tour of a page of Talmud

This page actually provides a good look at how Talmud reflects a span of commentary across centuries: That’s one cool thing to remember–that these are conversations happening between Rabbis across different time periods.

Each day we probably do an average of 10 lines in chevruta and this takes us between one to two hours. We look at Rashi commentary to help us figure out the text and sometimes our teacher gives us commentary from the Tosefot. Then we go back into class and go back over the text with our teacher who makes clears up all of the fog and confusion that we encounter when going through the text for the first time.

The first chunk of text that we learned dealt with what types of wicks and oils are permissible for lighting Shabbat candles. Now we are going off for a few pages and talking about Channukah candles. Even though this section is explicitly about Shabbat candles, the Talmud is not shy about delving into other subject matter and also quoting from other sections of the itself. Remember that this was before the Internet! These people were superbrainy! 

Okay, so you might be asking what a Beraita is and what Rashi commentary is (Rashi rocks as well). So I’ll have to provide a few definitions–or if I’m lazy, a link to definitions, so we can all be on the same page (get it? I made a bad pun!) More on that soon…

Off to catch up on my sleep. Maybe I’ll have some new friends on Facebook tomorrow or maybe I’ll better spend my time on Hebrew homework…Hey, I wonder what would have happened if the rabbis of the Talmud had Internet access or Facebook accounts? Would they form Facebook groups like “Talmud Rocks” ? I wouldn’t be surprised if one existed now…


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