Thursday, May 10, 2012

School's Out Forever....

Last night we took our second semester Hebrew final, which we both failed badly, I am sure. It was unexpectedly long, complex and beyond my learning ability at 73. No matter how hard I studied, it went in one head and out the other. Two and three week gaps between classes added to the problem. I couldn't retain it. It just wouldn't stick, no matter how hard I pounded the books!  I have rarely been so happy to have something end as I was with that class.  I learned a lot in it and some of the lessons were totally unexpected.

I started studying Hebrew for two basic reasons: I wanted to be able to understand the prayers at services, and I wanted to be able to read Torah in its original language. Most of my life I've had to live with bad translations, and I thought it would be great to be able to know what it really says. After two semesters of studying Hebrew, I realize two things. One, I do better not knowing what the prayers mean. Some of them express theology that doesn't fit my belief system at all. I can enjoy them liturgically if I don't really know what they mean; if I do understand them, I reject the theology and battle with myself over it, losing the ability to enjoy the moment. Sometimes it's easier to pray in a language you don't understand!

The second thing I realized is that I will never in this lifetime learn enough Hebrew to even begin to read the Torah. I will leave that to the rabbis. I will enjoy the stories and let that idea die as it should. Done deal.

There was one very positive thing that happened as a result of taking that class. I began to learn a new creative medium, Jewish Paper Cutting. The Hebrew instructor is an artist who uses that medium and I also took a class in that from her. I was wanting to rekindle my creative fire and that proved to be an excellent medium for me to explore that. My fine motor skills have been compromised by arthritis, making drawing difficult, and using a tool, like an X-acto knife, seems to work better at focusing my hand movements. I like the feeling of the knife connecting with the paper, much as I like the feeling of a paintbrush connecting with a canvas. It's alive and connected to me in a partnership that produces more than I might create alone. I think I have discovered a new outlet for my art.

So, while my original motivation for taking the class didn't work out, I gained something entirely unexpected and creative from it. I now know some rudimentary Hebrew and have the beginnings of a new artistic skill. Thanks, Kim.

No more classes for me, I think.

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