Choppy Waves

Sometimes on the ark things get wet.

I was trying to be responsible. I was trying to pack the night before so that I would have less to do in the morning. The Conservative Yeshiva was heading off to a shabbaton first thing Friday, and the packing list was complicated to cram into my backpack. I managed to fit a dress for services, a swim suit, a towel, a hat, toiletries, a siddur, a tallis, and a book. I also filled my 3-liter camelback, because the desert is hot and dehydration was not on my list of shabbat goals.  All I left for the morning was putting together a lunch and fitting my PJs somewhere. Then morning came. I worked on my last minute packing pieces and then went off to make coffee. Clearly, that was the wrong order of operations.


Qumran- aka Dead Sea Scrolls land! We went on our way to the shabbaton.

When I came back into my room, coffee in hand, I noticed that something was not right. Not at all. My bag was wet.

I moved fast, moving the tube for my camelback from beneath the bag, where there had been enough pressure to cause the leak. I got everything out as quickly as I could, checking to see what was going to be too wet to bring. I griped as I realized I’d need to bring a different dress that would take up more space. I sighed as I set my hat out to dry. Then I opened up my tallis bag, saw the water stains, and almost burst into tears.


See, my tallis is special. My best friend and her mom made it for me right before I started rabbinical school. The atarah, the band around the neck, is inscribed with a verse from Esther, because I found out that I was accepted to rabbinical school on Purim. The four corners nod to my study of Mandarin and my time in China and are embroidered with the Chinese characters for love, faith, courage, and wisdom. I learned to tie tzitzit, the fringes hanging from each of the four corners, the day I arrived in Philadelphia, and I tied them myself. The prayer for putting on a tallis is as follows:

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu l’heetataf batzitzit.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has sanctified us with commandments and commanded us to wrap ourselves in fringes.

When I put on any tallis, I feel wrapped in the faith that I hold and the history that I inherit. When I put on my tallis, kitchy as this may sound, I also feel wrapped in love, held by the many people who have supported me on my journey towards the rabbinate.


I don’t know if I’ll be able to fix my tallis. Maybe I’ll manage to get the stains out. Maybe they’ll become, as my best friend’s mom said, a part of my tallis’s story. Either way, I’m glad I got to it as quickly as I did, and that the tzitzit remained untouched. A shabbos miracle, perhaps.


I found this donkey in the lowest nature preserve in the world, right by the dead sea. I’d have taken him on the ark, but I don’t know where his mate is. I’ll have to keep looking. 

Sometimes on the ark, people get sea sick.

I have gotten food poisoning exactly twice in my life. The first time was in rural China, (chronicled here) and was understandably miserable. That was 6 years ago, and I hadn’t thrown up since. The second time was yesterday. I’ll spare y’all the details, but suffice it to say that it’s been pretty awful. I’m not in class today, opting instead to sit on my couch, drinking the sprite that I managed to very slowly and meekly acquire from the nearest corner store. I tried to find gatorade, but there wasn’t any. Getting food poisoning sucks, and getting it in a different country where you don’t have your normal resources available sucks more. On the other hand, at least I’m not trying to take care of a bunch of animals who may, themselves, be sea sick. Props to you, Noah.