At work we have just been through the PDE process. I have to confess that I'm not quite sure what PDE in this case stands for (and Wikipedia in this case wasn't much help
). Basically at the start of the year we sit down with our line manager and set some goals for the year. These are divided between work type goals (I will deliver this set of National Statistics on time) and development type goals (I will improve my skills in verbal presentations). The form and how we fill it in are a bit clunky but we're supposed to narrow them down into SMART
goals. Over the course of the year you review your goals every so often and they can be adjusted in response to changes in your role and circumstance. Then at the end of the year review how well you did at them and come up with a new PDE for the next year inspired by your review of the previous year.
I reflected last Yom Kippur, that Yom Kippur is rather like this process. You use Elul and the Days of Awe to review the year just gone and try to improve in the next year. It struck me that it might be useful to go through a similar process of setting myself some SMART goals for my Jewish life and even making a record of them to review every so often.
At Yom Kippur I just didn't really have the head space to do this. Settling into a new home, new job, new shul; my head was spinning too much to set myself those kinds of goals and try to achieve them. Now I'm finding that over the last few months my minds been thinking about Jewish observance in a bit more of a serious development way, so maybe it's time to have a go and setting some SMART religious goals in a mid-year PDE to be reviewed in Elul and Yom Kippur.
One thing I have been thinking more seriously about is Jewish Learning. Living in North London gives me a lot more opportunities than I'd have in most other places I might live in the next few decades. At first I started by just going to a lot of classes at my shul. Now I've started to think a bit more about what's manageable and what learning would be the most useful to me, not just what happens to be available and convenient.
Last year I decided to try to read the whole Tanach in a year. Well, I say the whole Tanach, I decided to make it easier on myself by calling the Torah done as I'd heard it all in shul. I stuck to just the Neviim and Ketuvim. I sat down, counted how many chapters there were in total and worked out how many I'd need to read a week on average to get through the whole thing in a year. I then set myself a schedule, dividing longer books into multiple weeks and grouping together shorter books into the weeks. It actually only boils down to an hour or so's reading a week, which I can do on my Monday commute. I've managed to keep to that schedule and I'll finish the Neviim in a couple of weeks.
I've started doing Talmud study. Studying Talmud is something I've always wanted to do and I've always seen as serious learning for serious Jews. Not just hearing the story of Honi the circle maker every Tu B'Shevat, but actually sitting down with a page of Talmud, with all the blocks of Mishnah, Gemara and commentaries on it, and going through it making sense of the argument. Luckily my shul has started a fortnightly evening class which does just this which I've started going to.
The Talmud class has made me realise a big area of need for Jewish development: Hebrew. I've learnt Biblical Hebrew at various places at various times but it's never been that amazing and it's certainly gotten rusty since the days a couple of years ago when I knew my pual from my piel. I can see that this is a barrier to Jewish learning and participation because I can't study texts in Hebrew and I feel a bit embarrassed about it. Answer: I'm spending half an hour to an hour a weekend working through The First Hebrew Primer
which I already had on my bookshelf from a previous set of Hebrew classes. Once I get to the end of it I'll see where my Hebrew is and reevaluate where to go next. I might move onto another textbook or I might just sit with my BDB
and some verb tables and try to translate a bit of Bible each week.
I think three ongoing Jewish learning projects at a time is probably just about right to keep things going and not get overwhelmed. If I have time I might post about ideas for goals in other areas of Jewish life.