Seconds Please: Shabbat and Ulpan

So sue me, it was the most witty title I could think of. And for those who know me, you know I am not very witty. In any event, this week marks both my second Shabbat in Jerusalem and the beginning of my second week of ulpan. 

Friday night, I went with a few of my roommates and classmates to a nearby synagogue in Givat HaTzorfatit for mincha and ma’ariv. For anyone whose been in the neighborhood before, you might have noticed the synagogue complex. It consists of two nearly identical, very modern looking shuls, one for Ashkenazim and one for Sefardim, surrounded by a well-kept garden. The courtyard between the two is a shared space where everyone meets (or at least passes one another) when davening concludes. See the picture above. Tefilah at the Ashkenaz shul was efficient but not rushed. The regulars were fairly welcoming and gave me ample opportunity to try out my latest language skills.

After shul, we made our way back to Kfar HaStudentim where we met for dinner at our neighbors’ apartment. The rooms are not terribly large, but we managed to cram 14 or 15 people into the space seated around two tables built for 6 each. Not too shabby. The meal was a potluck and given everyone’s limited resources, the pot was lucky indeed. My roommate’s shakshuka was great as was just about everything else. We finished up very late, eating, talking, and singing. Really a very wonderful time.

In the morning, I got up and made my way back to shul in time for the Torah reading and musaf, arriving at around 9:30. They don’t waste any time here: davening begins at 8:15 sharp and I just couldn’t wake up that early after a long night. I returned to the dorms by around 10:30 with a few classmates who also made it to shul, and read a book in the sunshine.

At noon, a lunch was held on the lawn here for all new Rothberg students where we ate hummus and pita and did a few introductions. Afterward, a number of us that had met for dinner the night before, gathered again to do kiddush and eat our leftovers. Again, lots of great conversation and zmirot late into the afternoon. At seven, I returned to the shul for mincha and seudat shlishit. One of the older gentlemen at the shul took it upon himself to ensure that I had a seat at the table, food on my plate, and a full glass of quite foul Israeli brandy. At the meal, I also met a couple who are studying at Hebrew University and who will be moving to the States soon for a post-doc and to take up a rabbinical position at an eastern seaboard university Hillel.

After Shabbat, I grabbed a bus down to Nahlaot to watch the US-Ghana World Cup match at the apartment of some friends of mine from Chicago. It was great to catch up with them, see another couple of friends who are here for a month from Chicago as well and to meet lots of new people. It is really nice to have so many friends in town. The game wasn’t bad either, even though we lost. It was a good run. After a long night, I caught the last 4 bus home and got back around 1ish.

I got up first thing this morning at 7:30 to take advantage of our extra hour before class to do a pile of homework I was not able to get to on Friday afternoon. In class, we reviewed how to identify the genders of nouns, the use of the impersonal verb form, learned a huge number of idioms relating to animals (all of which I will promptly forget), learned a song, and read a recipe to make chocolate mousse. One of our assignments for Wednesday: to write up a recipe of our own using our new vocabulary and impersonal verb forms. It’s nice to see our lessons creeping into practical applications.

The afternoon has been largely spent doing homework and studying, as per usual. One small point of excitement. I took a trip to the nearby Mr. Zol. While I was picking out my groceries, the store started to smell a lot like smoke. It turned out they were having an electrical fire and had to evacuate the building. Here’s hoping that it’s still standing. Otherwise we’ll have to travel out of the neighborhood for groceries. 😛 I’m planning an early evening and it’s already 8:30, so that’s all for now folks. Thanks for reading.

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