chronic pain/fibromyalgia · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · New York · rabbi

Learning & the Rabbi’s wife

Aish rules! One of the best things about living in Los Angeles is that Aish is only a couple of blocks away. Because I’ve been taking classes at Santa Monica College though, I haven’t had a chance to take advantage of this little miracle. In New York, going to Aish means a long subway ride down (and then back up from) the Upper West Side. It’s a journey I’ve only made once because treks don’t generally mix well with fibromyalgia. But just a little walk from the duplex where I’m staying, Aish LA beckons with its weeknight programming.

I’ve been beating myself up lately about my Jewish knowledge. When I tell a friend that I use my (rabbinical student) husband as my own personal Jewish encyclopedia, she assures me that she does the same. But she’s the one who makes time out to learn with hers. Learning with my husband isn’t half as fun as it might sound. We have very different learning styles and very different things that we’re interested in. Plus, it makes me feel stupid. Like, okay, he knows that I don’t know this stuff but I mean, do we have to talk about it? Yes, he says, because you keep bringing it up. Real mature.

As if I could ever know enough about Judaism. But that’s not the problem. I think the problem is what lies ahead. Knowing that I’m going to be a “Rebbetzin” in two years! Even though at that point, I’ll only have been Jewish for…four years. And it’s not like my Jewish learning has increased since I became Jewish. Fibromyalgia has interfered with many things, including my favorite way to learn, attending classes, and my second favorite, reading books with my little “arthritic” hands. My friends have offered to learn with me one-on-one but though I forced my students to work in pairs, I was never a big fan of this “chavruta” style of learning.

So that leads me to Aish. Where I feel like I’m learning something new while reviewing something old. Where a barrage of Hebrew doesn’t make my eyes cross. Where my classmates know about as much as I do or less. And even where I stick out like a sore thumb in my head scarf, long-sleeved shirts and skirt, which seem to confuse people who think that I must be an all-knowing Orthodox girl. I confuse people even more when I announce my husband is a rabbinical student. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know everything?”

Where do I get a t-shirt that says that even though my husband’s a rabbinical student, would-be rabbi, I don’t actually know anymore than I actually would if he was a doctor, a zookeeper or a stockbroker? If I was the doctor’s wife, would anyone really expect me to advise them on their bowel movements? I think not. But boy, it would be sweet if I could plug a USB port into my husband’s brain and then download all the information he’s accumulating on Judaism. Sigh.

3 thoughts on “Learning & the Rabbi’s wife

  1. I'm a fibro patient too, and I've found a couple of tricks helpful for me when studying. At least, they're helping me make it through college.-Using pens that require no force to push them down. I use black ultra fine sharpies, and I write on yellow legal pads to reduce contrast.-I have a couple of different stands I use so I don't have to hold books. This is a wooden stand like mine, which I use when I'm reading at a desk. (Which I rarely do, because studying in bed is easier on me). Muslims use them when they study from the Koran, but they hold other books quite nicely too.This is an example, though I know plainer ones can be had for cheaper. I'm reading in bed, I use one of these book peeramids. They're soft, like a pillow and great for reading in bed. My mother got one as a free sample; she passed it on to me, and I've been very happy with it. don't know how typing is for you, but I find it easier than writing. I have a tiny laptop (weighs <2 pounds) that I carry to my classes to type on and which is small enough to comfortably use for taking notes while in bed. It was also relatively inexpensive.


  2. I had no idea you were here in LA. For some reason, i thought you were in New York City. Maybe we(including our spouses of course)could get together on Shabbat afternoon for lunch. Maybe a picknick in the park or something. We attend Beth Am and I am pretty sure thats near the Aish building. What do you think?


  3. Those are some useful tips. And it’s good to hear that I’m not imagining things. I also find that using gel pens and sharpies are easier for me. I use these book stands: They come in a whole bunch of sizes. They’re not as easy to use in bed as I like so I am really interested in this peeramid.I type faster than I write and both hurt different placesin my body. I’d also rather type than write. I have carpal tunnel and repetitive stress injury on top of the fibromyalgia, though. Kudos on your ingenuity!


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