These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

A poem from before

Posted on September 12, 2012 by Annie Matan Gilbert

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I am a returning student this year.  I was in the Year Program in 2009-2010.  My goal that year was to attain the skills I needed to be accepted into rabbinical school.  It was an incredible, eye and heart-opening year that changed my life.  When I returned to Toronto, I found my besherte and indeed started rabbinical school with Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.  I wrote this poem at the end of my time here in 2010.

I like to think that I returned to Toronto to find my way in its Jewish community, to be grounded in home when I applied to rabbinical school and to find my life partner.  My time at home led me to Aleph, to my husband, Stuart, to an amazing, growing Jewish community and now back to Pardes and Jerusalem.  Such blessings!

I look forward to experiencing a whole new adventure this year as a kallah (my Love, Stuart, and I  were married on Rosh Hodesh Elul, just four days before arriving in Jerusalem!) as a rabbinical student, as an educator (in Pardes’ Experiential Educators’ Program) and as all of the other parts of me that will surface to dance through this holy year.

05/16/2010 – Rosh Hodesh Sivan

This year I:
Discovered I can take my red womb room on the road and recreate it wherever I go.
I stemmed the tide of my vices with cool, magical henna and 3-part-harmony chanting about a locked garden and a sealed well.
I conjured a havdalah lime.
Cast lust spells.
Revealed Shechina in her hiding place in the golden brown crevices and yellow flower petals in the wild desert where she is still waiting for us to come back to her.
My tongue learned Aramaic shapes and my eyes learned to decipher the geometric pages of a Shas.
My body felt the bass of live drummer’s hands slapping their djembes on Ben Yehuda.
And oh how I wanted to dance.
Sometimes my hips moved and I didn’t hear the drumming until I felt the swish of my skirt.
I found the perfect thumb ring – a silver kotel stamped with a fiery blue opal heart – only to lose it on a dark dance floor Purim night
leaving my right thumb naked and feeling phantom bricks for months.
My feet have slipped and slid and never quite found purchase on worn Jerusalem stone.
Walking my way alone to Shabbat lunches in Nachlaot, Rechavia, Arnona, Baka, and Katamon
I dog-eared my very own map of Jerusalem.
I spent almost all my Tuesday nights in a basement bar where everyone knows my name
and discovered family that comes in all forms.
I held people at arm’s length with whom there should have been more contact.
Eye contact.
Immodestly exposed skin.
I clung to relationships that needed room.
I climbed mountains and tasted their dusty history
and found eyes in their Gd-painted stone.
I buried myself in the sand and joined a three-and-a-half year old
to build a sandcastle with towers
and let myself be carried by salty waves.
I followed the river Jordan.
Stepped into ruined bathhouses and synagogues and churches and landscapes and photographed their mosaic floors and dripping icing rock faces.
I grew my hair into the copper curls I dreamed of in my dreams of Jerusalem.
I became the holy trinity – Kohenet, Levite and Bat Yisrael.
I created circles and sat and sang and danced in them.
For new moons.
For new mornings.
For unions, Gd, life, beginnings, endings and learning.
I learn and I learn.
My body, mind, heart and soul all learn.
And all grow.
Hold on.
And let go.