Religion & Beliefs

Limmud UK Aftershock

I've been asked to suffix all of my comments that address Limmud as "Limmud UK," which is a giddy curse-turned-blessing-in-disguise — Limmud NY starts in just about two weeks, and Limmud LA comes right after that. I'm going to be … Read More

By / December 31, 2007

I've been asked to suffix all of my comments that address Limmud as "Limmud UK," which is a giddy curse-turned-blessing-in-disguise — Limmud NY starts in just about two weeks, and Limmud LA comes right after that. I'm going to be otherwise occupied with being on the verge of giving birth, G*d willing, but oceans cannot contain the amount of jealousy I have for everyone who gets to carry on in the grand tradition of Limmud.

Before I went, I asked what Limmud is, exactly, and this is what I've discovered: it's the Hebrew word learning. There's a whole universe of stuff that falls under the arbitrary umbrella we've decided to call the Jewish nation, and

I wish I could be more specific. I wish I could nail down everything that I've learned. I wish I could even give you the highlights. Man — maybe next year, Jewcy'll sponsor me and buy me a PDA to do instant updates from each session. I started to make a list, and here's what I got:

  • Former Speaker of the Knesset Avrum Berg's assertion, while reading I.B. Singer's Nobel address, that Yiddish is a language without words for violence. That, he says, should be our model for building a Jewish state and a model for its future — with all the corollaries that come with that. (After our session, I pointed out to him that one of the first Yiddish phrases I learned was potch in the tuchus. He said it didn't count.)
  • Raz Hartman teaching a room full of young/old/middle-aged hippies/punks/investment-banker-lookin' people how to sing wordless Chasidic dirges. (We came late, and met someone leaving the room, jaw dropped open, who told us, "I just sang for ten minutes straight. And I didn't even know the words.") In between, he taught slices of Rebbe Nachman, who said that the prophets weren't able to give over their prophecy unless there was music playing.
  • Shalva Weil's intense sessions on Ethiopian Jewish refugees, and the halachic battle that determined where, ultimately, they landed in Israel's diaspora. The final word came, in the early 1970s, from a young Sephardic rabbi named Ovadia Yosef, who ruled that, based on a 14th-century precedent, they were not Jews — because Jew implies from the tribe of Judah — but Israelites; they were the lost children of Dan. (This probably could and will get its own article, if not its own book; but here is a very brief answer.)
  • Daniel Boyarin. The most controversial straight queer commentator on the Talmud today. I think I can say that unabashedly: he gave over a three-part lecture charting the course of Chapter 7 of Baba Metzia that started with the laws of hiring bricklayers and then proceeded into a discussion of how the size of a man's member corresponds to the size of his desire, and how all the rabbis with the biggest stomachs managed to impregnate their wives (Rav Papa, according to the Gemara, was the size of – if anyone has this in front of them, please correct me – five half-barrels of wine, and some say it was seven.)

This seems like the perfect opportunity to say that, if you don't learn this at Limmud, you will probably have to enroll in a yeshiva for multiple years of your life in order to find out. One more reason to make it to LA or NY (or one of several other Limmuds around the world, from Turkey to South Africa)….and one more reason for me to be jealous of you.