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Going to yeshivah

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I'm thinking of spending three weeks this summer studying at yeshiva, probably either the Conservative Yeshiva or Pardes Yeshiva.

Any views or advice?

Any tips for finding accommodation in Jerusalem for a month this summer?

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Resources on emotional intelligence/empathy

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I'd like to improve my ability to pick up on other people's feelings and respond to them. I've heard of the book Working with Emotional Intelligence but some of the reviews say that it's lots of anecdotes about how important emotional intelligence is with very little on how you can improve your own emotional intelligence.

Any recommendations for books/websites/other on this?

Evaluating my wardrobe

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This month I discovered The Minimalist Mom Blog (I think there might have been a link to one of her posts from Unclutterer) and have been enjoying reading through her archive.

For a while I have been thinking about my wardrobe and her posts about her clothing have been resonating. On the one hand, I don't buy clothes that often and I don't spend much when I do buy things. I try to buy clothes second hand. Ebay and Oxfam are my tailors of choice. On the other hand, I'm not very good at admitting that an item of clothing has become too tatty to wear and get rid of it. I think part of the problem is that by the time something gets to the point that I won't wear it anymore, certainly no-one else will. I've also spent most of my adult life in situations where wearing scruffy almost rags are acceptable, whereas now I have a grown up job and would like to look nice. I'd also like to use my wardrobe space to store clothes I wear, rather than as a retirement sanctuary for clothes whose only possible next incarnation could be high quality paper.

Anyway, this has led to me trying to work out what clothes I actually need, so that I can make sure I have those clothes and question whether I want to continue storing clothes that don't fit into this scheme. This list is per 'season', so 2-3 work skirts translates into 4-6 work skirts: 2-3 for winter and 2-3 for summer.

Work clothes
2-3 skirts
5 shirts
2-3 jackets or cardigans
1 suit
1 pair of black shoes
1 pair of brown shoes

Shabbat
Two outfits to wear on Shabbat

Leisure
2 skirts
2 t shirts
1-2 cardigans
1 pair of comfy boots

Workout clothes
1 pair of yoga pants
1 skirt to wear over the yoga pants
2 t shirts
1 zip up hoddie

Other
One outfit to wear to a wedding
One outfit to wear to a formal dinner
One outfit to wear to a funeral
My outdoor walking gear
Headscarves to match all of these outfits

The next job is to work out how the clothes I own fit into these categories. Then I can work out what extra items I need and what items might struggle to justify their wardrobe space.

Alot HaShachar

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The dangers of entering ruins

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As I said, [personal profile] kerrypolka and I have been learning Talmud together. I thought this section was screaming out of a Venn Diagram and was surprised I couldn't find one when I Goggled, so I made it myself.

The Dangers of Entering a RuinCollapse )

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Spiritual PDE update

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My, it has been a long time since I have updated. I'm still reading my reading page every day or so, but life has been just the right combination of busy, happy and uneventful to keep me from writing posts with any regularity.

I thought I'd give you an update on my spiritual PDE efforts.

I have now read my way through the whole Tanach in translation. I think it has given me an appreciation of how the bits that pop up as haftarahs fit in with the whole. I commented to a friend that it was a bit like actually sitting down to watch the box set of a show you've previously just caught the odd repeat of when flicking through TV channels. I've found the reading on my commute method every week quite useful, so I've bought The Observant Life on Kindle and have just started reading that. In terms of Talmud, I'm continuing going to Talmud study at my rabbi's house about once a fortnight and I've also started doing chavrutah with [personal profile] kerrypolka on the alternative weeks. We're doing about one daf (page) a go in English, which means that it will take over a 100 years for us to get through the Babylonian Talmud at this rate. I don't think we're going to make it.

I have done less well with the Hebrew. I've only attempted any translation about three times in the last more than three months. I just can't seem to bring myself to get into the habit of studying it regularly. Grammar exercises are boring but translation at my current standard is a massive slog, looking up the majority of the vocabulary and trying to remind myself of the verb and noun forms. I think another obstacle is that I need a grammar book and a big dictionary to have a hope at translating anything, which means that Hebrew practice can't be done on my commute, which is a shame because I find that the easiest time to slot in learning (the Tanach was read almost exclusively on the Northern Line). I'd welcome suggestions for ways to brush up my Biblical Hebrew other than just sucking it up and getting on with doing it on a regular basis.

I'm starting to think more about children. Don't jump the gun with the 'mazel tov's, but as a happily married non-childfree woman in her thirtieth year, they're beginning to become less of a far off hypothetical. I've been thinking about the kind of Jewish upbringing and eduction I'd like to provide for my children. Now, I hate the 'Judaism as a giant intergenerational ponzi scheme' but I think that, just as 'what would you do if you had a million pounds?' can be a useful thought experiment, 'what kind of religious example do you want to give to your children?' can be a useful thought experiment to work out what you'd like your religious life to be. This has motivated me more to improve my Hebrew. It's also made me want to explore prayer. Aside from shul, I almost never engage in set prayer. I think when (G@d willing) I have children, I'd like to encourage them to start and end the day with prayer. Many times in the past I've had a go at praying regularly, but I've never kept it up. This time I'm having a go at starting small. Really small. I'm trying to get into the habit of saying Modah Ani when I wake up in the morning. I'll see how I go at that.

Standing orders

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A slightly worrying admission is that I've managed to get most of the way through my 20s without knowing what standing orders are.

Are they the same as when you set up an automatic regular monthly payment from your account or are they something more complicated than that?

Make up tips

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I rarely wear make up and haven't worn any for probably over a year. I'm going to a dinner this weekend so I cracked open my box of well past expiry date make up and started playing. I realised that I've forgotten most of what little knowledge of make up I ever had.

Can anyone recommend links to tutorials they would recommend for applying eyeshadow in a way which does not make me look like a drag queen?
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In my previous post about the idea of a spiritual PDE, I wrote about the Jewish learning I was planning to undertake in the coming months. However, learning isn't the only mitzvah, so I want to think of areas to improve and targets to set for myself for other mitzvot.

I thought I good place to start would be would be the Lubervitcher Rebbe's 10 point mitzvah campaign, not because I think he is the magical invisible Messiah, but because he and the organisation he led were pretty good at getting Jews to be a bit more observant, so the 10 mitzvot he highlighted are probably good ones for a jumping off point to more observance.

The first in his list is:

1. Light Shabbat candles
I already light Shabbat candles. I think I would like to work more of my Shabbat observance. As I see it there are two problems with my Shabbat observance. The first is that I haven't sorted myself stuff to do during Shabbat. It wasn't so bad earlier in the year, I'd go to shul, come home, have lunch, have a schluff and Shabbat was out. Now Shabbat doesn't go out until 9:30 and I find myself looking at the clock after lunch and thinking it's an awfully long time until I can can get on with things. I don't want Shabbat to become like Sunday afternoons when I was a child and nothing was open and nothing was on TV apart from sport and I'd be bored out of my mind. I want Shabbat to be a delight. I love the Shabbats when there happen to be enough shul activities that I potter from house to house eating, praying and schmoozing. I think I'd like to improve this by planning activities before Shabbat. I think I'll try to make it the norm that Alec and I play games or go for walks during Shabbat. I also want to invite people over for Shabbat lunch.

Another area I want to work on is to following Shabbat prohibitions. I'm relatively shomer Shabbat, but there are areas where my observance could be improved, in particular using electricity and using Alec and a Shabbos goy. Thinking about it, I think a big problem is that I don't really know or understand exactly what the laws are. I doubt I'll ever observe Shabbat the way some people do, but I want that to be more of a conscious decision based on an understanding of the halachic reasoning and where I think I should be, rather than the current situation, where I do some things but not others because that's just where I've got to and I break some prohibitions which rabbis to the left of Masorti Judaism would say were binding but end up doing other things which only some Charedim do because I heard about it somewhere and didn't know any better.

There'll always be times when I have to make a trade off between Shabbat and something else. I'm going to want to go to weddings on Saturdays and sometimes that will involve breaking Shabbat prohibitions, but I want to be making those trade-offs from a position of knowledge and know how to minimise the infringements.

So my two goals for Shabbat observance are:

1. Organise to do fun things on Shabbat afternoon, rather than getting bored and counting the minutes until it goes out; and

2. Learn more about Shabbat observance, particularly Shabbat prohibitions, so that I can make an informed decision about what I want to change in my current practice.

That's where you guys can help. I've read the Shabbat section of Klein and I've ordered How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household to read about the issues in there. Can you suggest any other resources to get a better idea of Shabbat observance, preferably from a Conservative/Masorti perspective?

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My following of [personal profile] liv's challenge, inspired by [personal profile] siderea's post about building community to post 10 linky posts, 3 diary posts and 1 long thoughtful posts by 15th May has resulted in precisely 0 comments. Maybe it's because the links I've been posting have been to websites rather than specific articles, or maybe it's because no one is reading this blog any more (cue violin music).

Today I move into dangerous territory by posting links to articles united by the theme of trans issues, which is particularly a bit of a mine field for unintentional FAIL. Hopefully I've avoided this by two of the articles being by trans women and the other one avoiding some of the most common sources of FAIL (correct pronouns, no pictures of the women pre-transition, no mention of their previous first names). Feel free to tell me about how wrong they are in the comments.*

First, 19 Terribly Interesting Tips On Raising A Trans Kid (From A Trans Kid) Does what it says on the tin. Offbeat Mama

Secondly, a piece on two new memoirs by transsexual Jews in Tablet Magazine** I love the way it explores the use of Jewish and other ideas and mythologies to explore ideas of gender and identity. I think something that a lot of people don't realise about religion is the richness of the metaphors and frameworks it gives you to play with in making sense of life. As so often with these things, don't read the comments.

Finally, Political Conference Background Checks – Putting Our Case to the Lib Dem Federal Conference Committee explaining some of the problems background checks can cause for trans people. I think one of key things that is involved in combating "isms" is raising awareness of the experience of minority groups and how things which seem to be relatively innocuous to members of majority/privileged groups can be a massive problem for other groups. Lots of men don't get how women experience street harrassment, lots of non-Jews don't realise how prevalent antisemitic violence is, lots of cis people aren't aware of the problems background checks can cause trans people.

*Now I have an evil urge to post incredibly offensive articles in the hope of getting comments.

**Not to be mistaken with The Tablet.

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