These and Those

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

Doodling Torah

Posted on December 1, 2013 by Tani Cohen-Fraade

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954761_10200665169175173_2087612689_nI’ve always been a Doodler. Friends, classmates and teachers would all be able to tell you how many countless hours I have spent in and out of class with a pen or pencil in my hand drawing all sorts of shapes connected with lines, tubes, arrows etc… as well as a wide assortment of trees, mountains, cars and sailboats. I remember once when I was a kid my mom was on the phone with someone and I saw her sitting in the kitchen scribbling on a pad. When the conversation was over she went to do something in another part of the house and I went to look and see what she had been drawing. What I found was a drawing of marbles falling off a ledge or shelf and into a pile. When I asked her what it was, she replied, “well Tan, it’s a doodle, it’s what I do to focus my mind when I can’t concentrate.” Pretty soon after that I started to doodle and I’m happy to say I’ve never stopped.

I remember that in high school I had a Spanish teacher who once came up to me after class. “I see you’re an avid doodler” she said. “Is this because you’re not interested in my class?” I replied that No, I was interested in class and that the doodling helped me to focus. That sometimes my hand got tired from taking so many notes and that drawing shapes in the margins kept my hand loose and kept my mind focused at the same time. My response satisfied her, and as I continued in my studies in high school and college I continued to doodle and draw and my drawings evolved from being awkward shapes and lines to mazes and extensive arrays of designs.

When I began at Pardes a year and a half ago in my first year of the Pardes Educators Program, my doodling began to take on another mode. Around this time I began taking scribal arts courses at Pardes and very quickly my doodles began to utilize this. All of a sudden, what had previously just been designs were now intertwined with the letters I was learning to scribe as well as relevant Jewish symbols and objects. When asked about what I was working on in and out of classes, I started to refer to this as constructive doodling, that is doodling with a purpose. These doodles are inspired by words of my teachers, classmates, colleagues, and the rich and inspiring tradition that we continue to learn and apply to our lives. Now, as I prepare to leave Israel and go back to Teach in a Jewish day school in the States, I am attempting to showcase some of these drawings in an attempt to start bringing my doodling out of the classroom, into the world and then hopefully back into the classroom again.

imag04Recently around the Holiday of Sukkot, while attending the Pardes annual Yom Iyun shel Sukkot I attended a session with my advisor, Rabbi Michael Hattin. Michael spoke about the Arba Minim, where each of them grow and what they represent. As I listened, the shapes of these four objects began to form in on the page of my notebook. When the day was over, I went home and added a sukkah to the drawing. Eventually I colored it in, posted it on the Pardes Facebook page and put it on my refrigerator.

What I would like to do for the remainder of this school year is a doodle for each holiday, commemoration, tiyul, etc.. and post them here with a short post about the related event.

While this post will serve as an introduction, I couldn’t help but add something about the holiday that we are celebrating now.

imag03As I doodled, drew and filled in the Hannukiah which I had chosen as my point of inspiration, I thought a lot about the material nature of a Holiday like Hannukah, particularly in the shadow of other holidays which fall at this time of year. The last few days have been filled with Hannukiot lights, latkes, sufganiyot, dreidels and gelt. Sometimes with a holiday like Hannukah, it is easy to get lost in the material and to not think about what the actual significance of a holiday is. As I lit the candles and chanted the blessings last night in my apartment with my new Hannukah doodle on the fridge I tried to get past these material aspects and focus more on what I am looking to get out of this week and the rest of this year and how I will ultimately be able to bring it to my teaching settings in the future. My Blessing (and challenge) to us all is to find that point of inspiration, let our minds go a little and then share it with those around us.

For those that are interested , please see the accompanying TED talk on Doodling: