It’s been a challenging, uplifting, infuriating, and inspiring few weeks for women. We’ve had a chance to hear from a number of thinkers and politicians on “both sides of the aisle,” and we have seen each person’s true colors when it comes to his/her thoughts about women’s rights.
Spring cleaning. Summer vacation. Back to School sales. Holiday shopping. We live in a culture that often links rituals (both mundane and profound) to a particular season or time-of-year. We learn, as we grow older, to mark time in this way. Of course, living our lives along the Jewish calendar affords us a number of other opportunities to note the passing of time and to add rituals based on upcoming holidays or events.
It is not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” – Pirke Avot 2:16
I’m snuggled up in my bed, laptop on my right, and half-read novel on the left. I just returned from my two weeks as faculty at URJ’s Crane Lake Camp, and I am finally settling into my much-needed vacation. It’s become routine that the bulk of August each year is my vacation, which allows me both to recover from the year and prepare for the High Holy Days to come.
All I really need to know, I learned at camp (to borrow a phrase from Robert Fulghum). This may be a slight over-simplification, but it is greatly accurate, to say the least. Just as I did last year, I am writing my current column from Faculty Housing at URJ’s Crane Lake Camp in West Stockbridge, MA. I arrived a few days ago, though it already feels like I’ve been here for weeks. Immediately, you get sucked into camp culture, you add a bit more pep into your step, and you see the possibilities for fun in everything you do.
And so my summer ritual with my sister begins – we treasure our opportunities to go to Jones Beach each weekend. We wake up somewhat early (so we can beat those crazy crowds), pack our beach bags, pick up some bagels and coffee, and head south on Wantagh Parkway. Just as we had spent so many summer days on the beach growing up in Chicago, we now made it a special part of our adult lives on the East Coast.
There are so many amazing aspects to being a rabbi. It is a privilege to join people during their most special lifecycle moments (those of joy and of sorrow), to help draw them closer to our heritage and to the divine, and to mark the Jewish year with meaningful ritual. I truly love it, and my life is enriched because of being a rabbi. I have never once regretted taking part in this holy work, except…
Hundreds of us – Jews of all ages, nationalities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds – moved in unison. Our right arms reached backwards towards the past, then we each moved both hand, reaching forward toward the future, grasping at it, and bringing it close to our hearts. Choreographer Liz Lerman led the group in a symbolic dance that expressed many of the feelings of the group as we celebrated the installation of incoming URJ President, Rabbi Rick Jacobs.
It’s been a strange period of time. We rabbis are used to having many different types of lifecycle events throughout the month. We ride along the continuum of a human life, understanding that funerals are balanced by baby-namings, and that B’nai Mitzvah will hopefully lead to beautiful weddings under a chuppah. We visit sick congregants in the hospital, and hope to welcome just as many healed congregants back into our synagogues’ walls.