We graduated dog school today, my puppy and me. We attended four out of five sessions, did our homework most weeks, and got pretty good at "Sit!" and sometimes even "Lie down!". Today was the last session, so certificates and gifts were handed out. The squeaky tennis ball we brought home; the pretty certificate, with Waan's name written under the word "Diploma," is in a trashcan two blocks from the dog school.

Why give graduation certificates, I mused on the way home. For five weeks we had the right to come to class where, if we paid attention and practiced on our own time, we would learn tools for making obedient dogs. There were no tests, no required displays of competence, no hoops to jump through (figuratively or literally) - so why make a fuss? Beyond the obvious, that is. Dogs do not need graduation certificates. But apparently the teacher is responding to some cultural current that says, if you paid the fee and turned up a few times, you do this thing called Graduation, and you get a certificate.

Is this a cultural current I should be responding to for my own students, then? In my mind, graduation is something you do after years of mind-bendingly hard work in an academic context, and it signifies that you have earned a certain standing in the hallowed halls of academic achievement. It never crossed my mind that "graduating" might be something you do for anyone who paid the fee and showed up. But perhaps I should be doing that? Perhaps that is why I have fewer students this semester than last?

I would like to be able to test my students, yes. If it were not so time-consuming to do well, I would have already written a comprehensive test paper that my students could use to gauge the extent of their knowledge. But I haven't, since I can get a sense of how well they know the material by working with them and that works for me. Perhaps they don't have that sense, some of them; to that end, having them sit tests would serve them well. Graduation would then signify that they'd achieved a certain level of competence.

My students have the right to come to scribe school where, if they pay attention and practice on their own time, they learn tools for making competent scribes. An end-of-semester summary check-in is probably a good idea: "you have these tools in your toolset now, these are your strong points, these are the things to practice if you want to make progress." But graduation certificates for simply paying the fee and showing up? About as meaningful as the dog's certificate is to her, I rather think.

Okay, so from the dog's graduation certificate I have learned that my students would probably benefit from testing as a way to measure their own competence, even if I myself don't really need to administer tests to do that. Further, that progress check-ins and summaries are probably a good idea, as are plans for further study with their particular goals in mind.

But no toy diplomas. Or squeaky tennis balls.
hatam_soferet: Fractal zayins (zayin)
( Nov. 29th, 2009 09:13 pm)
I did a quick photo-series explaining how to make toy tefillin.

Toy tefillin

Originally I made them because Chum said that his Kid got fascinated by his tefillin when he was davening in the mornings, and he thought that Kid would be well-served by having some kiddy tefillin, so as to be able to join in.

So I made him some. Kid loves them, I hear, and Chum can daven in peace.

Apparently the grandson of the Alter Rebbe used to make toy tefillin out of potatoes (scroll to section 26), so for those who say toy tefillin teaches sacrilege, go take it up with the Alter Rebbe, and also with the fluffy sifrei Torah people.

I'm posting instructions because ChumsKid isn't the only one out there, they're awfully easy to do, and we're all about resources here. If they're so rough-and-ready as to be incomprehensible, I can make more detailed instructions, but I should think they're okay for most.

That said, for those who aren't artistically inclined, I can probably knock up a few pairs in time for Hanukah, if anyone's interested, profits split between Yeshivat Hadar and Project Renewal. Comment below or email if interested.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( May. 5th, 2009 10:52 pm)
Nice day writing at Drisha. "Writing at Drisha" usually means helping out one or two people with the odd thing - quill-cutting and so on - and a chunk of hardcore book-larnin with hardcore book-larnin-type student - as well as my own writing.

My writing's coming along nicely - having nice klaf makes SUCH a difference. Take a pen, if you will, and write on some paper. Now write on some sandpaper. Nasty, isn't it? And plays hell with your nib. This is the difference between good klaf and bad klaf with quills. Good klaf makes for a happy soferet.

Squee moment of the day: JW has been working away every single Tuesday this year most diligently, making rows and rows of letters, the sort of hard work that most people skip cos it's boring (like scales for musicians. You really ought to). And she was saying how she'd gone to do a piece of artwork and just found letters pouring out of her pen all fluent and easy, in a CRUMBS I DIDN'T KNOW I COULD DO THAT sort of way. Yay. I do love when my students notice themselves making strides.

We discovered an error in [our] Sefer Torah this Shabbat. The error...involves a Tav that should be a Hay.

There are two aspects to dealing with this; the theoretical and the practical.

The theoretical side represents hours and hours of study. Before you go anywhere near fixing a Torah, you've got to know why this is a total disaster, for instance:

and you have to learn the several thousand other potential disasters that a sofer has to know how to avoid.

However, the practical side of a fix like this is actually very easy. It's a tiny bit of knife work and a tiny bit of ink work.

I've put in the hours and hours of study, and we live in a digital world. Suppose Esther lives hundreds of miles away from any sofer, and her Torah has this problem. She takes a picture of the problem in the Torah and emails it to me. I can look at it, and chances are I'll know how to fix it. If she knows how to use a knife and ink, I can send her something like this:*

and she can fix the problem. She can be my hands over hundreds of miles. If necessary, we could use a webcam, so that I can see exactly what she's doing.

Of course ideally Esther's community would have a fully-trained sofer. But in the real world, I think this could be the next best thing. It's better than reading from a non-kosher Torah, and it's better than having the Torah languish unused until a sofer happens to come to town.

I think this could happen. I could take a day and teach people how to use these:

and how NOT to use them (can you identify the things there that you must NEVER NEVER use on a Torah?).

In a day, someone is not going to learn all the rules about how to fix letters (what do you do with something like that thing to the right? do you need to do anything?), but I believe they can learn enough that they can make basic repairs under remote supervision.

One might say that letting half-trained people loose on Torahs is a dreadful idea, with unlimited potential for havoc to be unleashed. However, of course one would teach boundaries. Fences around tricky areas. When not to attempt something. The importance of not overestimating one's ability. And it might very well be better than the present state of affairs, where entirely untrained people attempt repairs that are quite horrifying.

* NOTE: Don't try this at home. This is not Torah writing. This is Times New Roman. It would not look quite like this on a Torah.


That's my vision. I reckon I can teach someone to do this in a day, if they've got some arts-and-crafts background. Anyone want to have a bit of a Manhattan guinea-pig day?
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Nov. 26th, 2008 10:02 pm)
Picture a room with a couple of soferim in it, writing Torah. A proto-sofer is practising letter samekh. The sound of a lecture on the weekly Torah portion floats in from down the hallway. Another proto-sofer takes a deep breath; she's about to start writing her first mezuzah. Her teacher is there, keeping an eye on her as she turns months of hard study into a real scroll.

A rabbinical student drops in with a megillah; he can't quite work out what he's doing wrong, but someone with more experience can get him back on track. Bolstered with good advice, he goes on his way, passing on his way out another proto-soferet who is coming from her Talmud class. Letter samekh is set aside and the two pull out books and tackle halakha. Mezuzah girl, taking a lunch break, helps them out when they get stuck.

They leave - they have Bible class now - and another student arrives. She's an expert on the Ancient Near East, a university professor and rabbi. She lives in the next state and studies on her own, and comes in every few weeks for an hour's lesson, after which someone is bound to get her into a discussion about texts from antiquity, and everyone will get very excited. After she's gone, work resumes, perhaps punctuated by occasional exchanges of advice or the sharing of a thought on the text. Someone will fetch some tea, someone will take a minute to look up a halakhic ruling. Letter by letter, their scrolls grow.

In the late afternoon, a round-eyed eleven-year-old comes in with her bat mitzvah teacher. They're taking a break from a Torah reading lesson, and coming to see the Torah being written. A Torah scholar spends an hour working on her own calligraphy; she doesn't want to be a sofer, but she likes practising here with the scribes. Her Seeing Eye dog sleeps under the table; she's practically blind, but she finds calligraphy inspiring. Everyone else finds her inspiring.

Around suppertime, a sofer and a proto-sofer arrive from their day jobs. Over supper, they catch up, talk shop a bit, and then set to reviewing some of the basics. They'll almost certainly end up chasing a tangent through the rabbinic literature. Someone will bring an academic perspective, someone will share a midrash; they may finish the evening discussing practical concerns, or philosophy, or awed speechless by some particularly astounding idea.

Sounds nice, doesn't it? And the great thing is, it's not just a pretty dream. It happened last week, and the week before, and the week before, and God willing it will happen next week and the week after and the week after. Baby scribes and proto-scribes and getting-better scribes, people sharing what they know and what they've learned, writing and studying and listening together, and all the while the Torah grows and grows. It's very beautiful.

(I can be emailed for more info.)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 30th, 2008 09:32 pm)
I visited a Hebrew school today, to talk to the children about how a Torah scroll is made. We unrolled a Torah and looked at it carefully, I passed out materials so they could have something to touch, and we talked about what, and about why.

Children in Hebrew schools often have excellent questions about the Torah. Sometimes they make me think pretty hard. Often the answers are on several levels,* and I have to think fast and decide which level of answer is most appropriate for the age group, the level of Jewish literacy, and the denominational setting. I don't know how formative an experience it is to meet the Torah scribe, but there's always the chance something I say is going to colour some kid's religious experience, so I'd better get the right colour. It means working with Hebrew schools is always different, always a challenge, and always interesting.

This group had some unusually intense thinkers. In addition to some particularly sharp Torah questions, I was particularly charmed by one child who nobbled me afterwards while I was packing up my bag of toys. I'd mentioned (tangentially) how kosher slaughter is effected with a very sharp knife, and this kid wanted to know why sharp was important, and what would happen if you used a blunt one. So we talked about helping in the kitchen, and how it's easier to use a sharp knife on a tomato than e.g. a plastic knife, and went from there to how the same would apply for a goat, and what effect that might be supposed to have on the goat's experience of it. Kids don't usually stay focused enough to ask me stuff afterwards, and particularly not about things like that. That was a nice experience.

* Anything starting with "why," for starters.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 20th, 2008 09:36 pm)
I'm so evil sometimes.

Student S has been learning with me since the beginning of the year. We spend three and a half hours together on Wednesdays, practical and theory, and she works in her free time as well so she's making awesome progress.

And looking at her latest work this Wednesday, I reckon she's about ready to start a proper mezuzah. I know this will come as something of a surprise to her, because she tends to underestimate herself, so I just drop it in, ever so casually, over her shoulder while she's working - Okay, this is looking really nice now...I'd say you could start that mezuzah whenever you feel like it - knowing perfectly well that she's going to be entirely gobsmacked (Huh? Me? Mezuzah? Yikes!), and anticipating amusement.

Which was rather evil, imo. But it was funny.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jan. 23rd, 2008 12:12 am)
The book "21 Truths About Heaven" doesn't have any customer reviews on Amazon. I find this simultaneously amusing and reassuring.

Scribes' class last night (the unoffical hardcore class for serious fledgling scribes). We're doing the laws of hak tokhot at the moment, the concept that you can't turn something into a valid letter by scraping at it. It's pure formalism, in a way - it doesn't look any different, whether you make it by scraping or inking; you can't tell the difference - but it's also a sort of homiletical point: you can't form Torah from destructive acts. The letters have to be made with additive processes, not subtractive processes. The creation has to go in one direction, adding to the body of the letter, not taking away from an existing body. Me, I like the formalism better, I'm very much one for abstract concepts, but it's nice that there are both aspects.

Relatedly, Calligraphy for Fun (i.e. official Wednesday night class at Drisha) is looking at erasing God's Names. That too is a formalism, in a way: you mayn't destroy certain combinations of letters which represent God. Formally, the problem is basically with letters which were written to indicate God. Printing, for instance, isn't necessarily a problem here, because the letters weren't written with specific, verbalised intent and hence don't technically have the status of a Name Which May Not Be Destroyed. But it's not just the formalism. The formalism is an articulation of a broader value, namely how do we want to treat these things? A printed Bible doesn't, perhaps, technically have the status of a Torah vis-a-vis disposal, but disposal makes a statement about the item, which is what's really being addressed. If we toss printed Bibles into the trash along with newspapers, that's basically saying a Bible is just like a newspaper. Saying that printed matter also requires respectful disposal is formalising the idea that Bibles ought to be treated differently from newspapers.

What I like about this is how there's the kernel of formalism, the ruling that one may not destroy the items in a small category. Then there's the broader application of the formalism, the idea that all sacred texts should be disposed of respectfully. Then there's the unarticulated underlying values expressed through the formalism - that disposal affects status and that one ought to treat certain types of content in a different way. And this reflects an even more fundamental human tendency to sanctify things.

I want to say it's a bit like matrices, although I'd have a lot of trouble expressing just exactly why. They feel the same. Lots of layers which do different things depending what the other layers are doing.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jan. 16th, 2008 08:28 pm)
My Drisha calligraphy class features both calligraphy and learning classical sources relevant to calligraphy. This week we started looking at sources dealing with erasing God's Name and why you shouldn't. Here's the sourcesheet, for those of you who couldn't make it but are interested anyway. PDF, Hebrew and English. I'm planning to post the calligraphy worksheets once I get round to scanning them.

Fun teaching, incidentally. I adore, absolutely adore, when someone suddenly gets something and a sheet of scratchy scribblings turns into lines and lines of lovely flowing curves. I love being able to make that happen for people. I hope everyone comes back next week.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jan. 1st, 2008 09:15 pm)
I'm teaching a Hebrew calligraphy course at Drisha (in midtown Manhattan) this semester, on Wednesday evenings.

Each class will be in two parts - a bit of text, and a good deal of practical.

Texts: some of the basic texts about women being (or not being, rather) Torah scribes, some of the rules for scribes, and some of the fun pieces of Talmud dealing with writing.

Practical: I teach practical very one-on-one. Thus, people can use the course to achieve different things. One person may want to acquire a full set of variable calligraphy skills. Someone else may want to learn enough technique to do a wedding invitation but not a great deal beyond that. Someone else may want to learn how to use quills. The only thing I will not be teaching is the sofer's craft; that I teach privately (on Tuesday evenings).

You don't have to be female or Orthodox to participate (both popular Drisha misconceptions), and they have tuition discounts for those who need them. Register here.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Dec. 24th, 2007 10:34 am)
Calligraphy: two years ago I limited my Limmud class to twelve because I wanted to be sure of being able to work with everyone, and I had to turn away several people. This year I didn't limit the numbers, because I'm a better teacher now and figured I could give more than twelve people a good experience. I wasn't expecting thirty people, though. I had to start turning people away when I ran out of pens.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Dec. 5th, 2006 08:41 pm)
Bat mitzvah student: Wow. You write TORAHS? You're a SCRIBE?! I thought you were just a bat mitzvah teacher!
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Nov. 20th, 2006 12:49 pm)
Fourth-graders, yay!

I like starting sessions with a visual, just to make sure we all know what we're talking about. So we unrolled a Torah down a long table, and everybody looked, and then the session went with the children's questions. You never can tell what they're going to be interested in, but with the fourth grade it's a pretty fair bet they're going to enjoy the gross bits. So that was a fun session; some of them had really interesting questions, and they were all tremendously well-behaved, no grabbing at the Torah or any of that.

I met with about a zillion other groups, three-year-olds from the preschool going up in age more or less indefinitely. One of the functions of this week was to introduce the congregation to their new Torah while it was in the genesis state, as it were, and I certainly got to introduce the Torah to a lot of people. It's pretty cool when you think about it - these tiny people are going to be bar mitzvah in ten years, and they'll be reading from this Torah, and they might still remember that they saw it being written. And they might be able to tell their children, when they have bar mitzvah age children, that the Torah they're reading from was the one Mom saw being written when she was in preschool.

And on the subject of pretty cool, this came from the day school:

cute pic by kids

We saw the Torah scribe my favrit paet was seeying all her writing.

Is that not the cutest thing ever? I'm the one in the middle with the Artistic Beret. And look at the sheet of Torah with the wee crowns on the letters. I remember writing similar compositions when we met the doctor and the nurse and the fishmonger - now I'm the Torah Scribe! I mean gosh - me! In kiddies' notebooks!
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Oct. 31st, 2006 08:39 pm)
My bat mitzvah student is a lovely, thoughtful child, and working with her is a pleasure. BUT - did I mention that she has a puppy? She has a lovely puppy! A PUPPY! How good does it get?!

In other news, the Torah has had a very long, unbroken, run of Good Quill Days. I modified my quill-cutting technique very slightly a little while ago, and I think that perhaps I have finally Got It - the ability to cut a highly satisfactory quill almost every time. This makes me feel good - especially when I can rattle off a column in four hours and still have time for teabreaks. Bad Quill - ten hours for one column. Good Quill - just glides over the klaf and letters pour out of it, and four hours later there's a lovely column.

hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 27th, 2006 09:28 pm)
I got up at 5am today to catch a bus to Philadelphia. The 5am part wasn't so great, but the Philadelphia part was fun. I was assessing the Torahs in a shul, which means taking a whole lot of notes regarding the conditions of the sefer with an eye to estimating how much it'll cost to restore them.

They had six Torahs - three bad, three good.

One was in basically good condition but for the seams, which someone had stuck together with duct tape. People, please - if your sefer's seam breaks, either use artist's or archivist's tape, or don't tape it. The duct tape had not only dried up but had left hideous, hideous stains, which probably contain elements of non-kosher animals as well as being a ghastly orange-yellow - and the seams still need to be fixed. Overall gain negative.

Two were hugely satisfying, because the text and klaf were in lovely condition, really fine quality, and nicely written - but very, very, very dirty. So dirty that they looked to be in awful condition and perhaps beyond restoration, but hurrah! the dirt will almost all come off, and they'll look like new Torahs by the time I'm done with them. I was very happy about this, because it was such a nice surprise for the shul! Instead of two Torahs headed for retirement, two high-quality sefarim which won't cost too much to repair...nice!

One was in a terrible condition, but it was a Czech Memorial Scroll, so you'd sort of expect that. It would be fiendishly expensive to repair - it had extensive flaking, which I'd guess came from being stored in a damp warehouse by the Nazis - but those scrolls are terrific educational tools, there's all kinds of history/geneaology/shul-twinning things that can go on. Sometimes they have enough sentimental/historical value that repairing them is worth the expense. After all, these were scrolls that the Nazis collected up to put in their museum of Jewish stuff - they were supposed to be the last things that were left after the Jews had all been killed. So restoring them to use carries a pretty powerful message.

Two were in truly terrible condition, really beyond repair from a financial perspective. They had been designated Junior Scrolls, which meant they were hanging out in the Hebrew school area. It's not clear what they're used for; they can't be being read from since they're largely illegible. One of them had crumbs and sesame seeds in it. I'm a little bit concerned by this; it seems to me that these scrolls ought to be retired, because it doesn't seem to me that the educational benefit outweighs the indignity. What do you think - am I over-reacting?

There was a collection of Russian cantors visiting the shul - mostly Russians who got here and became cantors (some of them had been opera singers in Russia) - they were doing choral stuff for fun. I listened to them for a bit; they were very nice to listen to indeed. Unusually for a choir of cantors, they had excellent blend. Every other cantorial chorus I've heard has had simply awful blend - prima donnas all trying to out-prima-donna the rest. So to hear a choir of cantors singing like a choir was a treat and a half!

Philadelphia seemed very pleasant, the bits of it I saw. Another nice city to add to the list of Nice Places I've Seen. My favourite bit was the statue of Mr Penn on top of the city hall, because it used to be against planning laws to build higher than his hat (this was revoked twenty years ago to encourage business growth). I found this charming.

Journey back marred by the movie - the screens were not showing anything, but the soundtrack was playing: a mixture of very loud music, indistinct speech, screams, and gunshots. At 5pm! It doesn't seem appropriate to be showing people getting killed for fun on public transport, especially during the day. This is basically why I prefer taking the Chinatown buses when I can - no nasty movies.

But when I got home, my W had made supper and it was ready and yummy. A good day.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 6th, 2006 09:31 pm)
Friday: worked on flaky torah
Saturday: in Forest Hills seeing various nice people
Sunday: didn't do any work! except teaching. We bought vegetables and put up blinds in the sitting room, and had lunch at Judaica Treasures on 72nd (fantastic menu). Mar Gavriel came round and worked on mezuzah skills. He's coming along nicely. Getting started is always tricky, because there are so many skills to master simultaneously, so it's good when people get past making random letters and into making respectable paragraphs.
Monday: finished working on flaky torah!!!!!!!! yay!!!! And taught leyning, and picked up megillah from Eichlers, where it had been getting a computer check. There were quite a lot of errors; I like to think that I would have picked most of them up had I gone through and checked by hand before sending it to the computer checker. The logistics didn't work out that way, though.

Busy weekends coming up: this Sunday I'm presenting a megillah at Ansche Chesed and then going out to Brooklyn to do writing with people at a Purim Carnival, and then the week after I'm doing a similar meet-the-soferet event at a Purim Carnival in Scarsdale. Need to think of something vaguely profound relating the Story of Esther to the Hebrew School. It's tricky; I can think of fewer stories less suited to a Hebrew school than Esther. Something about salvation of peoples, I suspect.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 2nd, 2006 09:25 pm)
Took Ansche Chesed's megillah down to Eichlers (Judaica place) in the city, to get it spell-checked by computer. They were sufficiently impressed that I am feeling rather good. Even the ultra-Orthodox-looking chappie, whom I would have expected to be disapproving, was very nice and said I had talent.

Thence to Ansche Chesed's Hebrew school (like Sunday school, a place where kids go after school to have religion drummed into them) to talk to them about How We Make Torahs. Learning from the tefillin wrap talk, I started by rolling out a Torah and letting them all come up close and look (but no touching!). Then they started asking questions which led nicely into the show-and-tell sofrut-materials part.

The rabbi thought he'd have a little joke with the kids. I'd explained about spellchecking by computer...

Rabbi: How can we tell that all the names of God are spelled correctly even without using a computer?*

Bright Kid: Because God would smite her?

good kid!

The rabbi also said it was nice to meet a sofer with a sense of humour. Which was nice.

And my grown-up student did her whole piece bang in tune today for the first time, which is such terrific progress.

* the Megillah does not contain any of the names of God
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Feb. 27th, 2006 09:52 pm)
This morning was wicked cold, so much so that when someone dropped her coffee on the platform this morning, it had turned into a streak of iced coffee by the time her train had pulled out. In this kind of weather I read accounts of Antarctic explorations; those chaps went around without scarves in negative Farenheit and complained that it was too hot when the temperature approached freezing-point.* I survived the walk to Sinai Free by tying my coat collar up around my ears using my scarf (ahah!), and hung over the heater in the studio thawing before starting work. Fraid I'll never be a polar explorer.

Work: more lettering this poor flaky Torah. Exodus had several columns which were nothing but flakes (a healthy high-fibre way to start the day, no?), and they took about an hour apiece to fix. Only Genesis left to do, though, and it's not quite as bad as Exodus. The scroll didn't like the heater, it started to complain and curl up at the edges. Tough cookies, I was freezing without the heater, so I kept it flat by viciously rolling it up.

Thence to teaching: my grown-up student is coming along nicely. She mentioned that she would like to read at her son's bar mitzvah, but didn't think she could do a whole aliyah. She showed me the shortest aliyah, and insisted that it was beyond her, so I made her go through it, and she discovered that actually she probably could do it after all. I get rather a lot of pleasure when my students grow wings like that. Worth staying late for.

Home - to carpets! in all directions!

* South - Shackleton's abortive expedition to cross the Antarctic, which turned into a camping-trip on ice floes, pitching tents on the ice and going about in minimal amounts of clothing. Yet to come is the incredible bit where they all get home safely.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Feb. 17th, 2006 12:26 am)
Gevalt...fixing lettering really takes it out of you. I fixed the Book of Numbers today, and about half of Leviticus, and I was wiped out even before I'd started my evening's teaching. Which, I'm pleased to say, is coming along very nicely. It's so weird to be being a singing teacher - I thought I was just teaching Torah reading, but she needs some singing technique before she can do it respectably, so we're learning singing technique as well. I haven't had a singing lesson for years.

I didn't make it to supper at the T-Ws, but got there in time to hang out, which was nice anyway. On the way home some people got into a fight in the front of the train, so we had to wait for simply ages at 207th st waiting for the police to arrive and extract the participants. It sounded as though the worst weapon featured was a stick - not nearly as alarming as some of the things you hear.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Feb. 13th, 2006 10:02 pm)
When I'm at home in the warm, working on writing, and thinking about how immensely boring the subway ride to the Upper West is, I forget just how tremendously satisfying teaching is. So I think poo, I'm teaching tonight, don't wanna go out, poo, but of course I have to, this is life when you have jobs, and once we get started I remember oh right, I like teaching.

My Monday-Thursday grown-up student is coming along nicely. We're working more on singing technique than trop; her problem is not so much figuring out how to use trop, but how to sing it in tune. A long long time ago, when I was young enough that singing lessons came into the parental budget,* my singing teacher used a lot of physical metaphors to get me singing properly - things like miming throwing a ball or stretching elastic, ha-mevin yavin - and I'm finding that they work a treat with this student. I tried them with my Sunday-Wednesday bat mitzvah student, and she didn't really take to them, which makes me think that possibly one needs to be grown-up before the benefits overcome the embarrassing dorky feeling.

It's way way cool how you can sing a phrase that goes E-D-E way out of tune if you think about it as three separate notes, but completely in tune by picturing it as a long straight thing with a wiggle in it. Same with merkha tevir, which in my mind is like nothing so much as someone slipping on a banana skin, it leaps up and then falls into a descending legato curve which finishes by righting itself to its starting position.


* Thank you, parents.