Monday, February 21, 2011

I get Chai with a Little Help From My Friends

(Here's a wiki explanation of the Hebrew letter Chai, for those who are unfamiliar)

I've just returned to Clark today; I spent the weekend at home in lovely Portland, Maine, celebrating my Dad's birthday. We drove back early this morning, and then I had time for a quick nap before attending my three Monday classes in a row (Astronomy002 followed by Human Sexuality, then topped off with Intro to the Hebrew Bible II). My classes were interesting, but I feel a bit over-tired/too busy. The last verse of the "Monday, Monday" lyrics feel oh-too-applicable today.

I would like to spend some time writing about Hebrew Bible II for this entry, because it is an indication of the continuation of my growing interest in Judaism. But it wasn't always this way! Before taking any Jewish studies courses at Clark, I felt somewhat averse to the whole concept of religion, finding it absurd and unnecessary (plus, I was a teenager). I was raised Jewish, but rebelled against religion following my Bat Mitzvah and confirmation. At Clark I took my first Jewish studies courses since religious school, and I found the university courses all rather enjoyable. The topic matter was familiar, but I was instead seeing the aspects of religious study as a spring-board to help me understand certain concepts that are somewhat prevalent in religion: why is there evil, and why do people suffer (examined in JS130: Evil & Suffering in Jewish Tradition)? How are our identities shaped by our histories, and which histories do we choose to identify with (examined in JS174: The Jewish Experience & Hist175: Holocaust Agency & Action)? And, how can writing communicate ideas (examined in JS123: Midrashic Tradition & JS118: Hebrew Bible II)?

These questions are somewhat prevalent in my mind, considering my interests in both psychology and writing. I no longer see religion as simply an institution of sorts, but rather an accomplice to the human condition, and an important agent in maintaining hope, faith, and community. The nitty-gritty rules and regulations of organized religion interest me less than the way that biblical texts and interpretations (midrash) are easily applicable to modern situations, and relevant to most lives. During JS123: Midrashic Tradition, Everett Fox was fond of saying that "the bible is a tool". Religion itself is tool that can be used to find meaning and comfort in modern situations. And, being someone who maintains compassionate interest in people, I find it a necessary and enjoyable topic to study.

Though it is small, Clark has excellent Jewish Studies courses; I have so far enjoyed all of the classes I've taken in that department. And, I honestly do not think I would have found a suitable and comfortable major/concentration combination had I not decided to attend Clark.

Anyway, that's all for now! Happy Monday/Presidents Day everyone! More updates to come soon on my  Qualitative Methods in Psychology project.

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