Shabbat (the Sabbath) in the winter feels very different to Shabbat in the summer. It’s more of a struggle to get to shul in the winter, for one thing, although I somehow made it yesterday afternoon despite feeling exhausted. It was very crowded as we had a guest speaker. The singing and clapping felt like a wall of sound falling on me, but I coped. The drasha (religious talk) with a guest speaker was OK, but not amazing. I was worried there would be dancing, but there wasn’t, perhaps because the hall was full.

My parents were out for dinner so I ate alone and read my recently-purchased Doctor Who Magazine back-issue. I did some Torah study and recreational reading, probably too much of the former considering what E said. I have to shamefully admit I internalised her suggestion that I try to read more for fun instead of Torah study as another “Should” and promptly ignored it anyway. That said, I went to bed late because I was reading for fun, a story that turned out to be a ghost story with a dark ending (The Muldoon), probably not the best thing to read late at night. It was very well-written though and probably the best story so far in People of the Book (I only have one story left). There was one character, a young boy, who seemed to be high functioning autistic, although he wasn’t explicitly identified as such. The passage that resonated the most said, “‘Your brother’s only going to love a few people,’ my mother had told me once, after he’d slammed the door to his room in my face for the thousandth time so he could work on his chemistry set or read Ovid aloud to himself without me bothering him. ‘You’ll be one of them.‘” I feel like I owe my family an apology…

I slept late again today, got through lunch, then felt tired and went back to bed for a bit. Talmud shiur (religious class) restarted today and I could have finished lunch, rushed through Minchah (Afternoon Prayers) and seudah (the third Shabbat meal) and gone to it, but I just felt too drained. Instead I lay in bed (awake), davened Minchah, ate seudah and went back to bed again (again not sleeping). I did some Torah study after Shabbat finished and skyped my rabbi mentor.

***

The twenty-five year old back-issue of Doctor Who Magazine I’m reading is from July 1996, the month of my bar mitzvah. It is much better-preserved than most of my DWMs from that period or later. I suppose on some level I’ve always seen books and magazines as things to live with and wear to pieces from love, or maybe I’m just careless for a librarian.

1996 seems a lifetime ago, and also yesterday. The issue is the tribute issue for Jon Pertwee, the third Doctor (1970-74), who had died earlier in the year. It also had the first lot of letters about the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie, which was broadcast in May. I haven’t read them properly yet, but I think they’re mostly positive. I’m not sure if there was censorship. I hated the TV Movie, which set a precedent for hating a lot of new Doctor Who in subsequent years, but in recent years I’ve gown more fond of it as a weird experiment and costly folly, and I was a bit annoyed that I couldn’t find the time to watch it with E when she was here as I had wanted.

***

Suzanne wrote about her modest dreams of a quiet autistic life seeming unachievable. I commented, “I feel similarly. I don’t have very ambitious fantasies (not quite the same as yours, but similar), but the cost of housing in the UK makes it hard. I’m thinking a lot about this as E and I try to work out a possible future together, but it’s hard, particularly not being able to hold down a full-time job. And then we would want to live in a reasonably large Jewish community which, in the UK at any rate, means living in very specific (not cheap) parts of London or possibly Manchester. It is difficult.”

It is hard. I’m not really anti-capitalist, although I am opposed to both monopoly capitalism and consumerism, but I think there is some kind of major socio-political upheaval starting, partly from technological change (social media), but also from a cost of living crisis for many people, particularly in terms of affordable housing. Not that I think the woke or populist figures have a better solution than the existing neo-liberal ones; I feel that if there is a solution, it’s not one anyone’s found until now.

***

I’m slightly in two minds about posting this, but here goes. I’ve been thinking, on and off, for some time now about writing about my afterlife beliefs here. I think they’re pretty Orthodox Jewish, but it’s hard to be sure as, even in the frum world, we don’t really talk about the afterlife much, particularly compared with Christianity and Islam, especially the fundamentalist varieties of both. It’s not a superstitious thing, Judaism is just a very present-centred religion. Contrary to Karl Marx (“the opium of the masses”), Judaism sees a divine mandate to focus on ending suffering in this world rather than seeing the next world as a consolation (although it is one).

I’ve been reading the essays at the back of Divrei Hayamim II: II Chronicles: A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources, translation and commentary by Rabbi Moshe Eisemann. It’s an Artscroll book. Artscroll are a US Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) publishers noted these days for toeing the Haredi party line and avoiding anything remotely controversial, but I’ve found this book to be a bit more sophisticated than the stereotype, a bit more willing to push the boundaries a bit further than I expected Artscroll to do.

On page 361, I came across the following:

In the thought-world of the Sages, the World to Come is not a location, nor is it a time-frame. It is within every man. It is the deepest essence of his being, the spark of the Divine which defines him as an image of God, and which in normal circumstances remains inviolate and therefore indestructible in the face of sin. It is the locus of the ultimate mystery of life, where transience touches immortality. It is axiomatic in Rabbinic thought that sin my sully but never destroy that essential inner core of immortality; excepting only in the dreadful state which the Sages give the name of losing one’s portion in the World to Come.

This didn’t tell me much I didn’t already believe, but I think it sums up what I feel quite pithily and beautifully. That said, I’ve never really been sure of the boundaries of “losing one’s portion in the World to Come.” At school we were told it’s pretty much impossible to do that these days, although I’ve never been sure of how this was known and what the boundaries of “these days” is, nor whether it is only Jews who can’t lose their portion in the World to Come; I’m pretty sure none of my Jewish Studies teachers would have claimed that Saddam Hussein (to pick a prominent antisemite of my teenage years) has a portion in the World to Come. I am a little surprised to note that the Artscroll passage does at least speaks of the World to Come being within “every man” (read person; the book was published before sensitivity to gender in writing); I find frum Jews often seem to think on some level (possibly not entirely consciously) that the World to Come is primarily for Jews, even though the rabbinic sources say otherwise.

13 thoughts on ““O my prophetic soul”

  1. My kids are worried about housing costs too. I really should let them have mine since I have way more space than I need. However, it’s home to me.

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  2. Do you actually need (or even want – both you and E strike me as relatively introverted) a “relatively large Jewish community”? Or would a smaller community with the basic infrastructure (eg. available kosher groceries, synagogue you like, mikvah, and eruv) suffice?

    I can’t speak to UK communities, but I know that there are a lot of smaller, cheaper, growing communities in the USA trying to attract more people. Some offer things like financial incentives and job assistance. Of course, there are trade-offs, like if you need to be in a certain geographic area for a job or proximity to family, but looking for those smaller Jewish communities could be a good fit and potentially cheaper re: housing/cost of living.

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    1. I think there’s a bit of a cultural issue here, in that a big UK community is probably a small US community, and certainly a small UK community wouldn’t really register in the US. I know I’ve seen American Jews talk about their ‘small’ communities online, and they sound massive by UK standards. I know E says that ‘big’ UK communities like Golders Green do not register as ‘big’ in comparison with major Jewish communities in the States; she was surprised walking around Golders Green (one of the larger Jewish community in the UK) that most people were not visibly Jewish and there were lots of non-kosher ethnic restaurants and shops, unlike somewhere like Boro Park in the States.

      I grew up in a community which probably wasn’t initially considered all that small. But there was only one Orthodox shul (Ashkenazi — there was a Sephardi one at the edge of what was considered the community, geographically). There was no eruv or mikveh. There was one kosher butcher, one kosher deli and one kosher baker, but as the community began to decline the first two shut. They only existed in the first place because of careful positioning to put them equidistant between three different Jewish communities; none of those communities would have supported them alone. (The baker survived because it attracted a lot of non-Jewish customers for some reason.)

      Where I live now is a much bigger community, another one of the biggest in the UK, but I’m not sure if that would be considered large in the US. But I it would be hard to live anywhere much smaller than this because of the lack of amenities, especially as neither E nor I drive (I want to learn, but am scared that autism will make that impossible).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. I’m thinking seriously about taking lessons, but I am very worried that, the way my brain works, I’m not going to be able to drive safely. Sometimes I can’t even cross the road safely, let alone drive on it!

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      1. I hear you. I was nervous to begin driving and I didn’t get my license until a few years after I was legally permitted to. I just didn’t feel comfortable or ready before then.
        Truthfully, driving is a big responsibility and it is scary. That said, the freedom that having the ability to drive and a car grants you (assuming it makes financial sense) particularly if you live in an area with limited public transit (as I have pretty much all my life), can be life-changing. I would recommend taking professional driving lessons if you’re going to pursue, as opposed to just trying to practice with a parent. This all comes with the caveat that if it is truly unsafe for you to drive (eg. vision impairment, medication impairment, etc.) then it really is safer not to.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I was planning on having professional lessons.

          I don’t know how unsafe it would be. The main autistic issues I’m worried about are that I’m bad at assessing the distance and speed of oncoming traffic and that my mind wanders sometimes. WRT the former, as a pedestrian, I sometimes end up standing at the side of the road waiting to cross for a needlessly long time, but if I was driving the car behind could run into me. As for my mind wandering, I’m really not sure how much of an issue that should be.

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