I went to the Progressive service Saturday morning. It was a really nice service, which for once I wasn't running. I did lead a discussion about the week's Torah portion afterwards, but that was mainly fun rather than work, since the story of the Exodus has plenty of drama and interest. But yes, well-attended, good atmosphere, everything went smoothly. And there was the special treat of HB chanting the Torah using the traditional cantillation, but in Swedish, which is a very impressive talent.
Then I taught my bar mitzvah class Monday evening. I did the 20th century, which I'd been putting off for a while, because it involves millions of people dying in unpleasant ways as well as the whole thorny issue of Zionism. I should probably do Shoah-related followup next week, if I'm good, but there's a very fine line between giving the kids some tools to deal with that stuff, and emotional manipulation. Does anyone have any experience with this or good ideas? Also introduced them to a copy of a tikkun, which is to say text written the way it is in a real Torah. And I managed to avoid the panic reaction that I normally get the first time I work from a tikkun, but indeed got them all enthused about it. I'm not sure how much that is that I have cracked the problem of Torah-is-scary, and how much I just have an unusually enthusiastic class right now.
Tuesday I went out to the international researchers group. They were running a talk on Afghanistan (I have a really hard time spelling that) which I'd signed up for before I realized I would be out of sorts and not really up for going out. I forced myself to go anyway, knowing it's better to overcome that activation energy, and indeed I'm glad I went. The speaker, Tim Foxley, was interesting; he is studying Afghanistan as an analyst, and he was talking about the problems of researching such a situation, as well as the actual facts that he and his team have discovered.
Since I knew little about Afghanistan, anything he said was going to be novel. Foxley mentioned that the ethnic and political situation there made Bosnia look simple! Being bad at geography, I hadn't fully grasped that Afghanistan has borders with China, Pakistan and Iran as well as the unpronounceable countries from the eastern part of the FSU. And he gave a brief overview of the history, the long history of political and military interference by Britain and Russia during the Great Game, the Soviet occupation and the origins of the Taliban.
smhwpf turned up, as the speaker is a colleague of his. We wandered into the Old City for coffee and chat after the talk, along with another colleague and her partner. We had some very nice hot chocolate (there's something comforting about being given a huge cup and having the server forget to leave room for the whipped cream). And some very good conversation; we came round to the view that the glaring omission from Foxley's talk was that he was totally assuming that the presence of the coalition forces in Afghanistan is a good thing. That led on to some good political discussion and generally it was a very successful evening.
Oh, and thank you to all the people who were brave enough to come and cheer me up in spite of dire warnings, in between writing this. You guys are really wonderful.