Converting (the highs)

25 01 2007

For all that I talk about converting being frustrating, there are some great benefits to it.  Mostly little things, but they’re still amazing when they happen.

Things that have been making me happy:

-I’m taking Hebrew for the second semester this year.  I’m nowhere near fluent, in fact, we havn’t even gotten past the present indicative tense (although we’re supposed to be getting to past tense this semester, and maybe future) but it’s still enough that I’m starting to understand phrases in prayers.  It’s rarely whole sentences, but it’s still exciting to be going along in text that I’ve been reading phonetically for almost a year now and to realize that I’m not sounding all of it out anymore, that some of it, little bits and pieces, I’m actually reading. 

– Maybe this is more of a linguistic thing than a Jewish thing, but I love making connections in Hebrew from the roots.  It’s just so cool how the whole language fits together.  Anyway, it makes me almost giddy every time I make some new connection.  (Ok, I’m a bit of a nerd)

– A few weeks ago on Shabbos, there were more people than expected at Chabad, and so we were sharing siddurim, and then later some people (including me!) were reading out of a different siddur than was being lead out of (meaning no page numbers, and slightly different order/selection of prayers).  After services, I was talking to one of the people there who was born Jewish, and has been reasonably involved in Judaism her whole life, and she said “I always wished I could just pick up a siddur and know what was going on rather than just following along. ” And I realized that I could pick up a siddur and understand where in the service we were, and remember what prayers we said, and which ones weren’t in the siddur that was being lead from.  I was no longer the person with the least idea what was going on, all my hard work studying, all of the time and effort I’m putting into this is paying off. 

– People who I had assumed were just sort of tolerating my presence, and who thought I was amusing at best, have actually been getting in touch with me.  I’ve wound up being a real part of the community here without even realizing it, and that’s a big deal for someone like me who has never made friends easily. 

– Nothing to do with Judaism, but this guy’s songs are excellent.  I havn’t listened to all of them but the ones I have (Mandelbrot set, Skullcrusher Mountain, I Feel Fantastic and Re your brains) are great, and I imagine the others are too.  All I have to say is “Isn’t enough that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?”.  Or perhaps “All we want to do is eat your brains.”  Seriously, these songs will be stuck in your head for days. 

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4 responses

7 02 2007
zed

I can really relate to this:

It’s just so cool how the whole language fits together. Anyway, it makes me almost giddy every time I make some new connection. (Ok, I’m a bit of a nerd)

Especially that “nerd” part! I am thus far entirely self-taught in Hebrew, which is another way of saying I have a lot to learn. But almost every week I have another “ah hah” moment at which a phrase makes grammatical sense to me, and it is really gratifying. But maybe that has more to do with my loving languages than anything else. Of course, were it not for the fact that I find both the prayers themselves and the language they are said in meaningful, I would not be picking up the Hebrew so fast.

And, related to some other threads here, I should note that I am converting Reform and while I was surprised to be told by the rabbi that learning Hebrew was not a formal requirement of conversion, I decided that at least at some level it would be a personal requirement. Besides, a large portion of our Shabbat morning minyan is in Hebrew (much of it with no translit.), so there would be little point of attending if one can’t make sense of the Hebrew.

7 02 2007
Emily

I think my favorite AHA! moment was learning numbers, when I realized that 5 (חמש / chamesh) was related to Chumash (a book copy of the 5 books of the Torah w/ commentary) I would try to take a hebrew class, since there’s really no substitute for having a real person teaching you. Good for you deciding that you needed to learn Hebrew converting, and best of luck!

13 02 2007
zed

Thanks. And no substitute for a class. I can’t disagree. My knowledge will be only partial as long as I am self-taught. But it’s a start, and every language teacher I have ever had has told me I had a gift for languages. The only reason I have not taken a class yet is simple: time. If I could make conversion learning my fulltime job, believe me I would! But with the Intro class, I just did not feel I also had time for a Hebrew class just yet. But I am determined to have a good foundation before I ever enter a class, maybe this summer.

13 02 2007
Emily

See, you just need to use my trick. I’m doing all the Jewish learning on my own time, and taking Hebrew as part of my college course load. This way I get 4 credits for it! 🙂 Now, if only I could get credit for the REST of the learning I’m doing.

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