Of all the things I was looking forward to seeing on my first day in Israel, the naked ass of half a dozen Orthodox Men was not one of them.
It had been 30 hours since anyone in the group had slept, and while I’m sure our guide, Raz, was saying fascinating things about Tzfat, all I heard was, “Blah blah blah Maron. Blah blah blah Judaism…etc…Kabbalah.” I couldn’t quite keep the words straight as he took us from one seemingly random location to another in the city. I figured there was some significance to the places we stopped at until two strangers walked through our group to get to a door we were blocking and one of them muttered, ‘Why would anyone spend time in this alley?’
Everything was shut down because it was Friday afternoon. Instead, we walked past closed store after closed store as packs of ultra orthodox children kept running past us.
Eventually we reached Yoni, our personal guide into the world of Kabbalah. The guys in the group went with him and his cousin, as the girls went their separate way. Like most of the men in this city, he had a long beard, black hat and long black coat despite it being 90 degrees outside. It’s a brand of Judaism that I’m so far away from, I have a hard time even calling the same religion. He led us to a room slightly less interesting than most dining halls. We all sat down and he rambled for a while about his path to Judaism.
“I was like you. I grew up in Brooklyn. When I took off for Israel my parents told me one thing – don’t come back religious. So…I never came back. Now, some of you might have noticed a lot of others dressed like me, walking around carrying towels. Before Shabbat it is our tradition to head to the Mikveh. Now this is a wonderful, holy place. Before Shabbat we go there to immerse ourselves in water and make ourselves completely pure.”
After going on about the history of the Mikveh, he led us towards one. I talked with his cousin on the way there.
“So what do you do for a living?” I asked.
“I work at an anti-terrorist shooting range,” he said.
“Seriously?” I said, because that’s hilarious. Yoni quieted the group as we came to a stop.
“Now this door leads to a Mikveh. Not the main one, as that’s packed right now,” he said.
The place wreaked of spoiled fish and looked like a locker room with a small still pool at the end of it. The smell was so strong, I did all I could to not throw up as he talked. It was as if they’d never changed the water.
“This water was never touched by man in coming here,” Yoni said, “It came directly from rain to this pool by pipes. And not normal pipes, but special holy pipes that were built into the building,” he said.
“Does it circulate much?” Cory asked.
“I’m sure it does,” he said and then kept going about its holiness. “How about we go to the holiest Mikveh in Tzvat? I wasn’t going to because it’s full of people, but we should be all right. You don’t have to go in, but it’s truly an amazing experience.”
He led us another quarter mile until we passed through some arch that indicated the start of the locker room. It was outdoors and held dozens of Ultra Orthodox men either giving us dirty stares or consciously ignoring us. Only a couple were naked. An orthodox man sat at a folding table against one wall, offering towels for a 5 shekel suggested donation and lemonade for 1 shekel. The showers were in the next area. I peaked in and saw a line of 5 rather fat and completely naked men waiting at the far door.
Four of the people in our group stripped down as the rest of us stood around uncomfortably feeling a locker room is a terrible place to take a bunch of tourists.
After seven minutes watching ultra orthodox men give us dirty stares as they got naked, we took off. Just after leaving, I heard one of them call out, “Jeremy?”
I turned around. He was wearing all black. A black hat. A full beard.
“Mende?” I said. I’d known him back when he was 14, the son of the Chabad Rabbi at Syracuse. I hadn’t seen him in five years. We talked for a bit and traded numbers.
As I walked away, I thought, ‘Perhaps I’m closer to this world then I realized.’
For a year I prayed every morning. Laid tefillin. The whole deal. I can point to the exact conversation that convinced me to do it.
I was on USY on Wheels, at a spiritually high place in my life. We were staying at some hotel four weeks in and it was Shabbat. A group of people were talking in the Lobby at a table with one of the staff, Danny.
Someone had asked, “Why do we pray the same service every morning?”
I’d heard the same question plenty of times before, and never heard a satisfying answer. Most answers were along the line of “The regularity anchors you,” or “These are what Rabbis over a two thousand years gathered. Who are we to argue?” or even worse,
“Because God said so,” which to a degree is what any religious debate amounts to when you get right down to it.
Danny went for a more historical context. “Back in the temple times no one prayed at all. Instead they did sacrifices. The only reason praying started is because the temple was destroyed, and it was a way to maintain Judaism in a post temple period. It was a major departure, and not mentioned in the Torah.
“The idea of the service is to mimic the sacrifice. A lot of people think of sacrifices and associate it with some barbaric ritual that would never fly in this day and age. But what was it? A single animal slaughtered. The food got eaten, and the waste products were given up to God.
“The question, however, is why bother doing it? What did it signify? Some animalistic urge? In a way. The point of the sacrifice was to create a separation between the animal soul and the human one. To create a defining visceral experience that said this is where the animal side of myself ends. I’m cutting that loose and what’s left isn’t just the human side, but actually the Godly one.”
He then probably went on to talk about the range of souls, the Kabbalistic traditions of going through the various levels, and why it was considered and still is considered so important.
“When I pray,” he said (which is a far cry from the phrase – ‘the reason to pray is’) “it’s with this idea of the sacrifice in mind. The Shemonah Essrai is going through the blessings of the sacrifice. It’s there to create that distinction of the souls.”
He put it far more eloquently than I’m paraphrasing here, but it was this conversation that in many ways put me over the edge, and convinced me to pray every morning from my Junior Year of of High School through half way into my Freshman Year of College. If I had been at a school that fostered Judaism differently, there’s no telling what direction I might have gone. I have two orthodox sisters now, and I’m by far the most left leaning of the three of us. In high school I was easily the most religious.
On Birthright during Kabbalat Shabbat on the second day of the trip, I tried imparting this lesson I’d learned over a decade ago, tying it in to L’chah Dodi, the major prayer welcoming in the Sabbath Queen, and bringing the final curtain in to the transition into Shabbat. It was the first time in a while I’d thought about it.
I’m not planning to go back to daily prayers any time soon. Despite the fact that I always left praying inspired, with some hanging thread of an idea fully formed into an actionable project. It was a meditation. These days I have other channels to express that. Writing. Drawing. Painting. Improvising. To name a few.
But the lesson remains the same. Creating that transition to the Godly spirit. Others call it by a different name. Entering a Flow State. Fighting past Resistance. Reaching a level of Nirvana. We’re all saying the same thing. Whatever gets you there. While my channel is different these days, the direction of the path remains the same.
I hope I came close on my trip to having the same impact on some of the participants that Danny had on me. Helped on their path. Because for a year, as I prayed every morning, I understood in a very clear sense, exactly what my purpose was. Why I was set here.
What all of this means.
These days I’m more lost then ever, but once upon a time I knew. There’s a good chance I’ll rediscover that sense of passion. It gives me hope.
Image Source of Tefillin Barbies unknown sadly
I’m trying to get some take away from the whole Birthright thing. I’m just not sure where to begin. Did it change me?
Did it have some lasting effect?
It’s the first time I’ve had a fulfilling religious experience in a while. Possibly since High School, if I’m to be honest with myself.
I’ve been drifting away for a while. A long while. The whole notion of services and Rabbis and just about everything else associated with established religions bothers me. I go to a Synagogue, look at the list of events in an average Shabbat flyer and gag a little in my mouth. Oh, a middle school production of Fiddler on the Roof? A discussion on Medical Ethics from a Biblical perspective? Getting together to assemble Mishloach Manot? A weekly study on the importance of the Mishanaic tractate of Shabbat? My immediate thoughts go somewhere to, “Oh, this is what boring people do when they have no clue what they want. I get it.” I understand it’s a way to socialize with like minded boring as shit individuals, and it doesn’t really sell it for me. The charity work is nice, but seems more like an after thought than a focus.
Every trip, camp, and weekend getaway I’d staffed until this point left a bit of a sour religious taste in my mouth. The taste came from being forced to secretly brain wash and force feed the participants with religious messages they didn’t want. This includes staffing Ramah, a USY on Wheels trip, and a variety of religious school weekends.
‘Now’s the point where we’re all required to go to services,’ I’d say.
‘Now we need to say the after prayer meals.’
‘Let’s have a discussion on why it’s so important to be religious.’
‘God. God. God.’
‘Yes – this is also required.’
On all of these programs I saw the participants squirming in their seats watching us staff go through the service. It wasn’t resonating.They were so far detached from the service that rather than bringing them closer to Judaism, it pushed them away.
There was a collective thought, easy to hear: “Judaism? You mean that boring thing old people do because they don’t have any real hobbies? How about they grow a set? I have, and the moment I’m no longer under my parent’s wing don’t expect me to ever show my face in a Synagogue again.”
Despite that, it was also clear everyone involved was looking for a spiritual outlet. The version of Judaism we showed them was not it. They always had fun, but that’s a far cry from spiritually growing.
It was with that in mind that I signed up to staff a Birthright trip. Israel Outdoors seemed liked it was the least brain-washy.
When it started, I was surprised by how many inspiring religious stories the tour guide told. It was the first time I’d been inspired by a group leader on a trip I’d staffed. It takes a lot to make me care, but I love the feeling when it happens. I love the feeling of a connection with God, a spiritual reason for being, and a greater sense of purpose. It’s a rare feeling.
There was a subtle, but important difference in the way the group leader, Phil, presented everything. Rather than forcing the participants to do religious activities, he shared why others loved doing them. They weren’t forced to go to Kabbalat Sabbat services. They got the option to listen and experience it. They weren’t forced to sit through a lecture. They got the chance to hear stories on how past leaders dealt with their own spirituality. He made everyone care.
Watching people care was such a stark difference from past trips I’d staffed. I was used to dragging people through service after service, trying to say, “No, Judaism has some good things. I swear it does. It really does. Now let’s force feed you a bunch of crappy services.” This was the first time I watched a group of people actually transform and care about all of the different spiritual bits we threw at them.
Many wondered what was behind all of the different crazy traditions. I got so many amazing questions.
“Why do we light two candles on Shabbat?”
“What’s the deal with the Havdalah candle?”
“What is Havdalah?”
These were actual questions I got. That has literally never happened before. I’m used to questions like,
“Why are we saying the same boring service every morning?” and
“Why are you forcing me to go to services?”
They’re a very different breed of questions.
One participant said, “I went to Hebrew School for years growing up, and this is really the first time I connected with Judaism. I get it.”
A couple of people are planning to stay in Israel for a few more months.
A few of them had never done Shabbat before and wanted to do it again.
I’ve been in charge of plenty of potentially religiously uplifting moments (Staffing Hebrew High weekends a half dozen times, leading a group of high schoolers for six weeks across the US, staffing Ramah. I was once even offered a year’s position as an assistant Rabbi, which I turned down) This was the first one that resonated.
I’m forced to ask why.
Part of it was Phil. There’s no doubt about that. He told stories in a way that made everyone interested. Everyone hung on his words for each ten minute story he told. It wasn’t just a collection of random facts at each location. It was one man’s journey at a certain point in time. How Neberkenezer faced off with the Jews. How David brought together Jerusalem. How an alternative Temple was cooked up in the North. Some of the stories were historical. Others were biblical. All of them were fascinating. For all of his apparent Shaggy Rogers-ness (I dare anyone to find a picture of him where he doesn’t seem to be half yawning) he brought the group together in a way I’d never seen before.
On the bus ride to the airport at the end of the trip I said, “Many Rabbis live their whole life hoping to inspire others in the way Phil does on a daily basis with these tours.” I can’t speak for all of the tours he’s staffed, but I can absolutely speak for the one we were on.
Beyond Phil, the trip didn’t try to pander in a way that was unrelatable. It saw where the participants were and gave them something they cared for. Specifically, a connection to their roots.
“Here’s the place that you’ve read about for decades and why it’s important,” was what every stop screamed.
In the cities it was a matter of, “Here’s how us Jews live life in a place made for us. This is just simply the way things are.”
Spirituality resounded in everything.
It was also partially the group. They cared. They came in with the mindset of, “I want to make this meaningful. I get the fact that someone paid for a free trip for me, and I’m ready to take advantage of it.”
Did they drink and smoke hookah until 3am every night? Of course. Did that stop them from appreciating the hikes? Absolutely not.
It was an amazing group, and while I can’t say exactly what it did for any of the others, it had a profound impact on me. For the first time in a long time, my Judaism is stronger.
I’ve been drifting away for a while, and while I’m not going back to keeping strict Kosher or strict Shabbat, I did rediscover the spiritual path that I used to see in Judaism. That spark that gives me a deeper sense of meaning. It’s hard for me to understate that.
And that seems like a pretty good take away.
It’s hard for outsiders to realize how seriously improvisors take their craft. That for many, improv is their religion. I don’t mean that in some hyperbolic way. I mean the way that I see Rabbinical students speaking about Judaism (I live with one, so it’s a pretty common occurrence) I see Improvisors speak about Improv. There are 1,000’s of people who have given up having a decent job in exchange for the ability to spend four hours a night, every night of the week, praying at the altar of the stage.
Amy Poehler said, “If the stage is my church, improv is my religion.”
Here’s Poehler’s full quote:
Treat the stage with respect. Treat it with total and complete reverence. The stage is my church. There is no place that I feel more alive, more myself, more truthful, more satisfied and happy.
Some people go to church to feel in touch with that creative force that some people call God. Well, I get that on stage. I have learned more about the person I want to be and can be from the lessons I have learned in improv classes and performing in shows. That is why I am here today. So if the stage is my church, improv is my religion.
Now, two people up for a scene and just rock out with your cocks out.
Matt Walsh phrased it as “God is quite simply, the present moment”
So it’s not surprising that a couple of years back Matt Stillman wrote a series of blog posts for the Improvoker matching each of the commandments with a core tenant of improv.
Commandment 1 : I am the Lord your God
The God of improv is simply this — the present moment
Commandment 2 : You shall have no other Gods before me
So some may say that interesting choices or finding your where or establishing relationship are all critical the second commandment says before that you have to be fully there. You cant have an idol that represents your full attention and presence — you need the real thing.
Then he stopped, as by series of blog posts, I mean three posts, and then decided to turn it into a book called: A Funny Thing Happened at Mount Sinai.
As someone with a passion for both Judaism and Improv, I am not at all surprised this exists. And as someone who blogs on both Judaism and Improv, I’m glad to be able to highlight it here.
Sermon I delivered last week:
This week’s parsha dares to pause us, and and ask what is the bigger picture? I forget that the majority of the torah, at least after we leave Egypt, isn’t at all the telling of what happened in the 40 year span, but rather a focus on a day here, and day there – the episode with Bilaam or Korach or with the Golden Calf. Then there’s an endless relaying of laws and instructions.
What we don’t read about in the majority of the torah is the political struggles, the in fighting of other nations, the socio-political situations, and for me, that’s what makes this week’s parsha, D’varim, so interesting.
It’s basically a retelling of all of the boring bits from the last three books. But here’s the rub: Instead of focusing on the parts that we actually read about from parsha to parsha, it focuses on a lot of the issues that took place over the course of years. What was really filling people’s minds on a day to day basis, and not just those 20 crazy events. There’s 40 years between the crazy events. Not everyone was involved in building the temple. There was a whole nation traveling and interacting during that time, and I was fascinated about the interactions talked about.
Which got me thinking how my own view of Judaism throughout history is distorted in the same way. I know recent history going back to the Holocaust or so of who’s where when, but most of the rest of my knowledge is a stitching together of what I know from when great Rabbis lived, and historical events pulled from holidays. Especially with T’sha B’av right around the corner – the memorialization of the destruction of the temples, the Spanish Inquisition starting, all that. These are lynchpins around the real moments of growth – the majority of the timescape of Judaism that takes place.
Everyone studies the Holocaust, but those 400 years of culture leading up to it? It’s not examined as much, and it’s the real story, so if you’ll allow – I wanted to D’varimisize a brief section of Jewish history, breaking it down to the boring events that filled the majority of time, frankly – because I love this idea of recontextualizing a past I’ve been looking at my whole life.
A macrohistorical view if you may.
This will be review for many – a mass simplification for some, and possibly inaccurate to most - but there’s a nice feeling when it all gets jammed together like it was in this week’s parsha. So let’s jump ahead a little after D’varim drops off.
Moses dies. The Jews settle in. Skip ahead.
Despite constant battles, there was a certain level of stability post David in Canaan. It all kind of broke apart starting around the 8th century BCE when because of a bunch of infighting the Israelites (a combination of 10 of the tribes) got conquered by the Assyrians, and then assimilated or lost or…well- that’s a longer conversation. The tribe of Judah – which had absorbed Benjamin a while back is really all we follow when we think Judaism today.
They were conquered 300ish years later by the Babylonians and because of that the whole religion stopped revolving around the temple. The Babylonians were destroyed by the Persians, who mostly didn’t really think about the Jews – which let the Jews rebuild the temple. Some were for it, which is why the second temple came about. Some were not – which led to a division but let’s just follow a single strand – I only have three minutes to do it.
Now, the Persians were taken over by the Greeks 300ish years later, and another split happened within Judaism where a large part of Jews wanted to integrate more with the Greek culture. The Orthodox Jews didn’t want that so they became militant to destroy the people who liked change and that’s why we have Hanukkah.
All this fighting let the Jews rule themselves for the first time in a while – the Hasmonean kingdom, that is – which lasted until the Romans decided to take them over. We’ve reached year 70 CE now with the destruction of Temple #2 when the Jews tried and failed to revolt against the Romans. It really wasn’t until then or a little later after than -think Bar Kokhba revolt when the Jews were completely banished from Jerusalem.
Many Jews were lost then thinking of themselves as homeless. Basically – no temple, no Judaism.
I’m going to stop right there – could talk about the rebels who stuck around Jerusalem, the seeding of the Jerusalem Talmud or the pocket communities that then spread. Where the Mishnah got started and how other cultures dug that – started thinking of the Jews as bookworms because it was 300 years since they were last fighting, said they could go rebuild that crazy temple of theirs if they wanted, but how the Jews didn’t because they’d moved on. Temple building wasn’t really the ‘in’ thing anymore. But I need to stop – no time to contexualize the Roman empire getting defeated by the Byzantines, in turn by the Muslims, in turn by the Crusades at about a 300 year clip for each. You know, the story continues, but I’m out of time.
On Tuesday we’ll all be fasting for T’sha B’av – Reading Eicha – literally translated into ‘How’ – and looking again at the big events that define us, but I think it’s crucial to spend an equal amount of time on the events between them. Because what a nation is, is what it does when it’s on it’s own, when not being tested, just as much as how it handles those great moments of conflict and destruction. Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and see this bigger picture, so the specific moments can have that much more of an impact. So with this week’s parsha of D’varim, with T’sha B’av and in our own lives it’s good to take a step back at times and ask how does this all fit in? What is the bigger picture? Because it’s easy to forget – to lose track or to never know in the first place. May you all have meaningful fasts on Tuesday, and Shabbat Shalom.
Previous D’var Torah on Did the Jews Create Shabbat: http://jeremyshuback.com/origins-of-shabbat/
If you’re a Jewish artistic improvisor living on the west side of LA, here’s a guide to some of the best events going on around town.
The best places to draw are:
Dr. Sketchy’s (every other Sunday night)
Drink and Draw (Thursday night)
YWCA in Santa Monica (Tuesday night)
The Gallery Openings worth attending are:
The best places for improv are:
iO West (Groups to catch: USS Rock n Roll, Sweetness, King Ten, Dasariski, and Beer Shark Mice and many others)
UCB (Groups to catch: Convoy, Last day of School, Shitty Jobs, Facebook, Assscats or just about anything else.)
Westside (Specifically Monday & Thursday nights at 10, partially due to the fact that I perform on Monday nights, but also because it’s a good show.)
For the Conservadox Jews, your best bets are:
BDJ (modern orthodoxyier)
Beth Am (conservative learned-er)
To find concerts use SonicLiving. It scans your iTunes library and sends you emails or creates a calendar based on what artists you like.
While it’s possible I’m the only person this list helps, I’d like to believe there’s 100’s of Jewish artistic improvisors out there who were waiting for a list just like this.
For more events, I suggest my old roommates site: http://www.rentfoodbroke.com.
Featured Image Source
Congratulation to all the New Rabbis out of AJU. Here’s my sketch from the ceremony last night.
Adaption of Sermon I gave last Saturday
As a Jew, I’ve lived my entire life with Shabbat. It means not working from Friday to Saturday night. Growing up it meant not writing, drawing, using electricity, or any other task that might cause a permanent change. It shaped a large part of who I am, but I’d never given its origin a second thought. How did we, the Jewish people, come up with this? Were there any cultures that had it before us? In what form? I put on my scholar’s hat, and got to work.
It’s believed the Israelites didn’t start using the Jewish Calendar until King Solomon’s time. Before that we used the Pentecontad calendar -big in Mesopotamia at the time. It consisted of 7- 7 week cycles -7 days in each week. 7 weeks is 49 days so they threw in a bonus day each period for a grand total of 50. That 7 times in a year made for 350 standard days. To round out the year, there was a 15 day harvesting time called the Shappatum. Some believe that Shappatum turned into Shabbat. It was the same principle of having a separated time.
Or perhaps it was the Babylonian calendar that inspired it. The 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th of their months were days when officials were prohibited from various activities and common men were forbidden to “make a wish.” (Wikipedia) These were days of repentance, and once a month they had a day called Sabattum which is argued to come from the Sumerian Sa-bat meaning ‘mid-rest.’
Even if I discovered the origin of who was the first to have a seven day week ending in a Sabbath, we’re still left with where did Shabbat originally come from? Saying there was other cultures with Shabbat built into their calendar is really just pushing the source back in history, not going to the origin.
This is not an easy question to answer. In pre-Judaic Mesopotamia mythology there is only a single example of someone resting on the seventh day. It’s tenuous, but fascinating enough to share.
In the Epic of Atra-Hasis, a story predating the Epic of Gilgamesh, the following is told. For those who took the time read the original (well worth it), I apologize for any artistic license I might be taking.
The lower gods were sick of working. All they did all day was work, and it was getting to them. They filed a complaint and the 7 great Anunna gods listened to them, deciding the best course of action was to kill whoever complained.
Now when Ea heard about this, she said “Whoah -let’s not kill them – how about we just get humans to do the work for us? I mean Belet-ili can create man – she has a woom.” This was a good solution for the Igigi gods, the lower gods, as it didn’t involve them dying. Belet-ili passed the buck over to Enki and man was created to do the dirty work for the gods.
However, there was a problem. These humans were loud. So loud, in fact, that the gods decided that while it was a decent idea, the humans would have to go. It was time to go back to the old system. They decided to wipe out man with a flood. Only one man survived, a man by the name of Atra-Hasis. He built an ark and I quote, “on the seventh day the flood ended and that on this day silence or stillness reigned the earth, man was gone except those on Atra-Hasis’s boat”
The Epic of Gilgamesh, based off of this, is phrased thusly:
When the seventh day arrived, the flood (-carrying) south-storm subsided in the battle, which it had fought like an army. The sea grew quiet, the tempest was still, the flood ceased. I looked at the weather: stillness had set in, and all of mankind had returned to clay.
While I doubt that’s the origin of Shabbat, a tenuous relation at best, there were some convincing arguments to the contrary.
The dead end quote I came to was
In spite of extensive efforts of more than a century of study into extra-Israelite Sabbath origins, it is still shrouded in mystery. No hypothesis whether astrological, menological, sociological, etymological, or cultic commands the respect of a scholarly consensus. Each hypothesis or combination of hypotheses has insurmountable problems. The quest for the origin of the Sabbath outside of the Old Testament cannot be pronounced to have been successful. It is, therefore, not surprising that this quest has been pushed into the background of studies on the Sabbath in recent years. (David Noel Freedman 1992)
So after a long search into the history of where Shabbis comes from, I found there were no definitive answers. If we’re to answer the question of why does Shabbis exist, trying to answer it from a biblical or scholarly perspective will take us places, but won’t give us the answer. However, Shabbis does exists for a very specific reason. Mark Bittmen wrote the following a year ago on what he called a secular sabbath. It’s one of the best defenses I’ve heard to convince a less observant camper, congrargent or friend on the value of Shabbat. Here’s a snippet:
I took a real day off this weekend: computers shut down, cellphone left in my work bag, land-line ringer off. I was fully disconnected for 24 hours….
On my first weekend last fall, I eagerly shut it all down on Friday night, then went to bed to read. (I chose Saturday because my rules include no television, and I had to watch the Giants on Sunday). I woke up nervous, eager for my laptop. That forbidden, I reached for the phone. No, not that either. Send a text message? No. I quickly realized that I was feeling the same way I do when the electricity goes out and, finding one appliance nonfunctional, I go immediately to the next. I was jumpy, twitchy, uneven….I managed.
Then later it finishes up with:
I would no more make a new-agey call to find inner peace than I would encourage a return to the mimeograph. But I do believe that there has to be a way to regularly impose some thoughtfulness, or at least calm, into modern life — or at least my version. Once I moved beyond the fear of being unavailable and what it might cost me, I experienced what, if I wasn’t such a skeptic, I would call a lightness of being. I felt connected to myself rather than my computer. I had time to think, and distance from normal demands. I got to stop.
So I came in with the question “What is the origin of Shabbis?” and leave with the answer to “What does it mean today?” I’d still love to know the former, but I’m glad there continues to be a relevant answer to the latter.
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So after offering to do the invitation cover for Marissa, the plan to incorporate a monogram was added into the mix. I’d never done a monogram before, so my gut reaction was heading to my roommate Hillel, who’s bread and butter is print design. He ended up doing a couple sketches that really expanded my mind as far as what was possible. He inter-weaved letter forms, overlapping elements in ways I would never have thought of. He also went from a place of thinking of the letters as forming a greater image. I didn’t take any of the sketches directly, but more had them as inspiration.
I then went online and saw what was out there in terms of Hebrew typography, monograms, letter forms, and the ilk. I wish I could tell you where these images are from, but this is a while ago so you’ll just have to google ‘Hebrew monograms’ yourself. Here are a few of the images that helped me:
In the next step I penciled out half a dozen designs, and brought two of them close to a finish by inking them with a nib. After that, I scanned them in and traced the inking out in vector. Then it was a matter of adjusting the corners, the space between the letters and lines, the curves, the lengths, and just about everything else. Final result:
I don’t know if my attempt at a flower completely came across, but I liked it, and more importantly, so did Marissa. I’d love at some point to take another stab at monograms, even if there is quite a long way before I’d ever go for creating a full font.