In 2 weeks at this time, barring delays or whatnot, I’ll be on a plane from Paris to Iceland, a little less than halfway through my very long journey from Tel Aviv to San Francisco.
I wish I could say that the proximity of that departure date, that very, very long Friday in 4 countries, has brought me to a place of pre-emptive nostalgia– of urgency to do all the things I haven’t yet done here or to repeat the experiences that I’ve most enjoyed. That’s kinda what I anticipated when I imagined hitting the 2-week mark a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I’m not there yet. I wish my departure was 1 week away. I wish it was 3 days. I have had a multitude of experiences this year, and I am ready for it to end, and it keeps going.
To be fair, I know that much of the academic world is in its “Oh God, why isn’t it over yet?” state of being. That’s what May brings. I’m used to it. And this is such an incredibly chill May compared to most that I can remember. There are no finals. There is no crazy summer job to prep for. I’m teaching a class on Tuesday evening that I need to put more time into, but generally speaking I have more spaciousness in the next few weeks than I’m likely to have at any point… maybe ever… once I get back to school next fall.
This week was significant, as I said goodbye to a number of my classmates from other institutions whom I’ve studied with this year. We had our final Rabbinical School Consortium gathering yesterday. Many students will leave before next shabbat, and I don’t anticipate making it back down to Jerusalem again before they go. It felt very strange to give hugs and talk of future potential visits to Philly and LA and NYC. And, unlike with many other sorts of goodbyes, none of these felt permanent. We’re all going to be rabbinic colleagues one day, and even if we don’t see one another often, the connections will remain. It felt different than graduation from high school or college, when lives can diverge into such vastly different directions. There’s a comfort there, even as it’s sad to say goodbye for now.
Spaciousness for me means time for creative projects. I decided when I hit the 18-days-left-in-Israel mark that it would be a great idea to set one verse from a psalm (using psalms 18-1, just for fun) to music every day. This was pretty easy for psalms 18, 17, and 16. Then, yesterday, I gave the guitar I’ve been using all year back to RRC. I feel confident that I can write without a guitar, but it does complicate things slightly.
I’m also going to be working on a creative midrash project. Some folks think that you can’t write new midrash today, and maybe they’re correct. But reading last week’s Torah portion, and then discussing it with my spiritual director, brought me to a place of realization: I gotta talk to some folks in these texts, and, as a writer, I wanna do it through writing. So, aptly or not, I’m gonna call it midrash and see what I get.
Finally, I’m going to begin preparations for the project I’ll be embarking upon this summer. I got lucky enough to be given a micro-grant for a podcast focusing upon the positive influences of non-Jewish family members and loved ones in Jews’ lives. I’ll be crafting 4 episodes as a pilot and I really can’t wait. While I’m eager to have this summer as a time to relax and process this year, it’s, well, me. I’m not very good at doing nothing.
This week’s blessing comes from a Jesuit mentor. He saw my post expressing similar wistfulness for home a couple of weeks ago and sent along this poem, along with an explanation of its author:
“Chardin was a Jesuit paleontologist, philosopher and theologian. His thinking got him in trouble. But now he is revered.”
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”
― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I need those words this week. It does feel as though there’s something of a new spirit forming within me. I feel ready to begin my final year of rabbinical school. I feel ready to put myself into the world more fully than I ever have since childhood. For now, I am impatient of being on the way to something. This shabbat, I wish patience for myself and, really, considering the week the world has had, for us all.