Monday, June 1, 2009

Miles, miles, miles and shiurs out my ears!

Shavuot was, in a word, excellent. In another word? Exhausting. The best way for me to relate the entire experience would probably be a timeline, so here goes. Elaborative posts shall follow!

7 p.m. Head to our dinner hosts' house to drop off five challot and a bunch of soda and some juice for the young adults' dinner after services. Then headed to our OTHER host's house (where we sleep) where we dropped our bags, dropped the car, and schlepped off to the shul. Clocked distance: 1 mile. 

8:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. After a rousing and people-filled service, not to mention a delightful shiur by a 5-year-old boy about the giving of the Torah and the varying tribes (which he named in order), all of the young adults headed next door for our big dinner. There were about 18 people and a few babies and kids in attendance. The dairy meal was outstanding, and left everyone full for the walk to our first shiur-fest location. Thus, around 11 something or other, we all headed off our OTHER host's house (where we sleep) for the first leg of our adventure. Clocked distance: 1 mile. In the rain!

11:30 p.m.-2:15 a.m. There were a ton of people at the first stop, and a truckload (not really) arrived at the house not long after our group arrived. They flooded like a clown car into the playroom adjacent to the living room where all the of the adults were listening to a shiur on a new form of minyans that have been popping up where women are granted similar aliyot as men. I'll be honest: I don't get much out of some of the victimist feminist theories that are out there. I like to think that I'm pretty darn forward thinking, but I love the mechitzah, I love that men and women are granted different "roles" within Judaism. It's not defeatist or realist, it's just that I get how things are. The second shiur was absolutely fascinating, and I'll write a whole other post on it perhaps. Or maybe I'll get the fellow who gave the shiur to write a guest post! It was an interesting look at how the rights of converts truly parallel those of Abraham, the original convert. Just as G-d gave Abraham, so G-d gives to the gerim. I'm not doing it justice, so I'll wait and deliver some more thoughts later. The final shiur was given by the rabbinical intern, who spoke about an Epistle to the Yemeni Jews by Maimonides, which was about how to discern a false prophet. Fascinating stuff! And then? With a bit of exhaustion in my step, we all headed off to the shul for the final portion of the program.

2:15 a.m.-4:15 a.m. We got soaked heading back to the shul -- the weather was miserable, yet beautiful. The streets were quiet and the street lights glistened in the puddles on our trek. I stepped in a gigantic mud puddle, but managed to laugh it off. We arrived at the shul to a group of loud and rowdy teenagers, the same who were stacked into the playroom earlier (they were a huge group of NCSY kids, about 35-40 of them). I grabbed a hot chocolate, and we regrouped when everyone arrived, settling in the main sanctuary for another interesting shiur. I'll admit that my mind was a little floaty at that point. I remember it being fascinating, about whether a stolen item can be used to complete a proper mitzvah (like eating stolen matzo on Pesach), and I think there was even another shiur after that but I forget. It was hard to stay up, but it was nice to have a group of about 10 other people who were there with me the entire night, laughing and joking, schlepping around the shul in order to keep awake. Clocked distance: 1 mile ... in the rain!
4:15 a.m. Someone announced that we could start davening at 4:20 and everyone got really excited -- we thought we couldn't start services until 4:30. A friend and I ran out into the lobby to check the sheet with all the times but, well, there was no announcing time for the service, so we ran back in and it turned out it was a false announcement! People were slowly arriving for services, and everything had been prepared for the service start. Amen. I was exhausted, my knees hurt, I needed sleep!
4:30-6:00 a.m. The service was a muddle of Hebrew, quick traditions and readings. Everyone was in a horrible hurry to get home to their beds, so there was no singing, much to the dismay of myself and one of the other women there. We tried our hardest, only to be scolded (playfully) by a friend! The entire thing started and finished in one quick action, and it disappointed me. Here we are, in this ultimate, beautiful moment of reliving the revelation at Sinai and it's zipped through as if it were a grocery list for meat loaf and mashed potatoes. I wanted to say, "Stop! Slow down! Read slowly! Feel the words, breathe them!" But alas, I was exhausted, and my energy didn't allow me to protest. So there I was, standing, listening to a speed reading of the 10 Commandments/Decalogue, and I wanted to cry. Even as the words were quickly read, I still felt them, in my own way, and it was beautiful. 
6:00-6:20 a.m. I walked home from shul, alone half of the way and half with a few friends, in the rain. The sky was gray and cloudy, and rain misted in that annoying way where it isn't enough but it's far too much. There were few cars on the street and the birds were in heaven with all the wiggly worms crawling out of the earth. I arrived back at my host's house, having realized halfway during the service that I neglected to secure a way to get back INTO the house upon my morning return. So I arrived, sat on the front stoop, waiting for Tuvia to come out on his way to work or someone to see me sitting there. I sat in silence, watching the birds pick at the ground, the rain falling from the trees, and people driving by on their way to work stuffing breakfast sandwiches in their faces. What an interesting, beautiful world. Clocked distance: 1 mile. 
Around 6:45 a.m., someone happened to walk out of the house, letting me in. The someone had fallen asleep early in the morning while studying, and had just woken up. Lucky me! I went upstairs, said hello to Tuvia who was on his way to work, and fell not so quickly asleep. 
Shabbat was like any other Shabbat. Services (with lots of Shavuot-y goodness), meals, socializing, davening, schlepping. I walked back and forth to shul twice, clocking an additional 4 miles. I ate more than any normal person should ever eat in a two-day span, that's for sure, everything from pizza to cheesecake to blintzes to lasagna to macaroni and cheese. I think every dairy food possible made its way through these lips. The entire weekend was long, filled with people and constant movement from place to place. By Saturday night I was absolutely worn out. I can't imagine what it would be like for Shavuot to fall on a Weds-Thurs followed by Shabbos. It might well be murderous to the social butterfly. Overall ...
I clocked more than 8 miles (my knees weep), 
heard about 6 shiurs + 1 d'var Torah by a 5 year old, 
ate more than 5 meals (not to mention snacks), 
and stayed up until 7 something in the morning one day. 
For my first Shavuot, in full, it was excellent, outstanding, educational, spiritual, and moving. Next year, I'll probably take a schluff on one of the leather couches between 4:30 a.m. and the full 9:30 service on Shavuot so I can get a "real" experience of the full service, not a rushed incarnation of it. But overall? Beautiful.