Sunday, April 5, 2009

This year in Jerusalem

For countless generations Jews around the world have ended their Passover Seders with the words, "next year in Jerusalem!" This year I will, God willing, be spending my Seder -- for the second time in my life -- there. As I write this, I am still amidst last-minute packing and wrapping up things here in the States, but at 6pm or so tomorrow I should be above the Atlantic on my way towards Israel. I can't wait to see Minna!

May this year's Seders and Passover be Kasher -- and joyful! -- for everyone.


At the Seder, our tradition asks us to see ourselves as if we ourselves -- and not just our ancestors -- have been brought out of the bondage of Egypt into freedom. The last year has been a time when I have started to see great hope that many new freedoms and many new paths are being opened up before me.

First among these have to do with Minna. Long have I dreamed of being able to have a partner on so many levels. Our shared commitment to a Jewish life -- and our respective deep commitment to finding paths to Jewish leadership -- has deepened my own Jewish life in ways that I am deeply grateful for and in ways that make me hopeful for a continued blossoming in that part of my life in the future . . . A year ago this time, Minna and I were really just at the very beginning of getting to know each other, and were struggling to find ways to spend time together amid the challenges of a long-distance relationship. But, over the last 12 months, we were able to find a way toward having over two months together in Israel (and are planning on having more time together now).

New paths to freedom have also appeared in my professional life. Most importantly, it was just about a year ago that I passed a big hurdle in my chaplaincy educator/supervisor training process and was officially certified as a supervisor candidate. This put me on the path to writing a series of papers about my approach to chaplaincy education (getting those papers passed is the next big hurdle towards certification).

I got so excited about what I was writing (especially ideas like evaluation as blessing) that I decided I wanted to extend my research and knowledge about how people learn -- especially about understanding how the Jewish tradition has shaped its unique way of forming leaders (rabbis and not rabbis) and how empathy -- caring -- can be taught (here's a recent New York Times article on empathy training in a public school that is interesting, but I think misses the point a bit by confusing being "nice" with being empathetic). . . And that led me to applying to a great doctoral program in Jewish Studies and Education at NYU. I'll be starting there in the fall (don't worry -- I'm not giving up chaplaincy and will continue to be a part of the hospital here)! . . . . . It will be important for me in the coming year, however, to remember how easy it can be to confuse freedom with bondage. . . . The people Israel, after their liberation at God's hand, got pretty confused about this during their long wandering in the wilderness and even made a Golden Calf for themselves in the "freedom" they had when Moses left them alone to go up on the mountain for the tablets. I have taken on quite a heavy task for myself to be starting a doctoral program while still working towards my certification and while still being a contributor to the chaplaincy services at my hospital.

I believe, especially with having Minna's support, that this is the right path for me. But I also know that, for all its benefits and joys, that it may test me severely at times. I pray for God's help and support amid that -- to help me make all my life, and not just Passover, a Feast of Freedom!


I can't resist including this. . . Have a great Passover!

[X-posted to abayye]

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