Rachel Gray `15
A Day in Montreal
This past weekend a group of us from the Sinai Scholars class went to Montreal to visit a girl’s seminary school, see a mikvah, and of course go to a kosher pizza and falafel restaurant appropriately named Pita Pizza. I spent a grand total of 7 hours in car, squished in the middle between two upperclassmen (I am a freshman and therefore have no say in where I sit), to do about 4 hours worth of activities (2 of those activities revolved around eating). After 7 hours in that car, I still had no complaints.
The day in Montreal was truly awesome for a variety of reasons. I think my favorite part was seeing Rabbi Gray with his family. During class Rabbi is not necessarily serious, but he is first and foremost a teacher. He engages us in discussion about the 10 commandments and shares his extensive knowledge of the Torah with the class. In Montreal, however, I saw Rabbi Gray as a father and husband, revealing him in a different light. His kids are adorable and seeing Rabbi and Chani interact with them really just made appreciate the beauty of a family. Rabbi Gray also seemed totally in his element with his family, and because of that I felt more at ease than when I am in the classroom (that isn’t to say that I am a mess in class – class is actually quite enjoyable).
I also really enjoyed learning about the mikvah and listening to Rabbi New discuss the act of not touching other women. When Rabbi Nu told us that by not touching women other than his wife, he was able to engage in purely intellectual relationships with other women, I thought, “He is so right!” I find that touch between sexes always complicates matters and blurs the lines between being friends and more than friends. His take on reasons for not touching other women was refreshing and gave an explanation to a cultural practice I never quite understood. With regards to the mikvah, although I do not know whether I would or could even be able to take part in the practice of using a mikvah and leaving my husband for a period of days, it definitely made sense. What I found inspiring about Rabbi New’s talk was learning how important marriage is to the Jewish faith.
A lot of the trip also consisted of me learning reasons for and clarifying misconceptions I had regarding certain cultural practices. I appreciated learning about the kosher laws and the reasons behind them. I also really enjoyed talking with the girls at the seminary about marriage. I was relieved to learn that being set up on a date did not necessarily mean you had to marry each other and that an “arranged marriage” did not imply an “against your will” marriage. It was also interesting to compare my experience with boys with the seminary girls’ experience with boys. I do not think I would enjoy being in a seminary, but to a certain extent I found myself thinking that these girls knew how to date. In my experience, girls generally date for marriage while boys (at least in college) do not. People in college and I think throughout life enter relationships with aspirations different from their partner’s. I feel that the partnerships of these girls could be more successful because there is an explicit and intended goal for dating each other that we do not necessarily acknowledge when dating in our society.
Overall, the trip to Montreal was a really fun. Spending that much time in a confined space with people lends itself to making friends. After having gone to Montreal, I feel more comfortable in the classroom because I now consider most of the students as friends in addition to peers.