Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kaddish d’Rabbanan: A Modern Interpretation

Since July, I’ve been going to Torah study weekly.  Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot of Torah, from both the other participants in the group and from the rabbis and cantors who lead the minyan and teach our class.  You can read a bit about each of these folks here and here, here, here and here.

I’ve learned a lot of other useful things from rabbis too:

From this one, I learned a multitude of things:  the proper way to don a tallit, the hows and whys of cleaning under your fingernails before immersing in the waters of the mikvah, and the best toys for a brand new aunt to buy her nephew. 

From this rabbi, I learned how to play mah jongg. 

From this one—who serves as my own personal “Ask the Rabbi” in the office—I’ve learned too many things to list.  The one that sticks with me most, though, and has been reinforced repeatedly in recent weeks is the unbearable anguish and pain that go along with being a gay teen

This one introduced me to the wonders of the iPhone, and from this one I learned that my father’s not the only person who thinks that peanut butter and Swiss cheese makes a good sandwich combo. 

This rabbi taught me the value of pondering a question from multiple angles before penning a reply, and this one reminded me, yet again, just how small is our Jewish world.  In light of this fact, she followed up with this oh-so wise gem:   Never, ever talk about someone while in a public restroom.  As she says, “you just never know how people are connected!”

Three summers ago when I found myself in Prague without any luggage, this rabbi taught me the secret of rolling wet clothes in a hotel towel and twisting it tightly to get most of the water out quickly.  More recently, he shared a trick he learned during his congregational days to get wax out of carpet:  cover it with a damp towel (but not the same one you used to dry your clothes!), run a warm iron over the spot and, voila, up comes the wax and the carpet’s as good as new (or at least as good as it was before the wax mishap).  Most endearing of all, he taught a mutual friend (who then taught me) to peel a banana from the bottom—the way it’s done in the jungle—instead of from the top, providing a convenient handle for the snack.  Needless to say, I’ll never eat a banana the same way again.  Whenever I start to peel one, I’ll think most fondly of this teacher and so many others from whom I've learned so much!