Thursday, April 20, 2006

At the Jerusalem campus, they say that the spring routine is "Purim, Passover, and Packing." Purim and Passover are past, and in L.A. I don't have to pack, but my fourth year is nearly over.

I have one week of classes, and finals. Then, b'ezrat Hashem [God willing] I will put on a black gown and "march" on May 15 to receive the degree of Master of Arts of Hebrew Letters. Some of you may be saying, "oh, good, she's done!" to which I reply, with a sigh, well, no.

We get the degree at this point in the program. There are two more years for me before ordination. At the moment, I can't think past May 10, the day of my last final exam.

Before then, I will lead a service at school, chant Torah at school, give a presentation, take four finals, (two in-class, two take-home), prepare two candidates for the culmination of their conversion process, and, um, I forget.

This week I was sad to hear about the death of Rabbi Gerald Raiskin. I worked with Rabbi Raiskin several years ago, and knew him as a kind man and a gifted teacher. He served Peninsula Temple Sholom in the Bay Area from its foundation, and I know the congregation will miss him very much. The Jewish world is poorer without him.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pesach sameach! (Happy Passover!) (in a few hours!)

I'm "off" for two weeks of the holiday, if having multiple papers and other things to prepare is "off" -- at least I'm with family, and the work is all interesting. Northern California is like "Seattle with palm trees" -- rain, rain, and more rain -- I've never seen it rain like this in April, and neither has anyone else.

One bit of lovely news is that the congregation I serve as student rabbi, Congregation Etz Chaim in Merced, now has their website online.

Hard to believe I've already been there three years. My final weekend there will be May 19-22.

Meanwhile, I'm taking a break from Pesach preparation to check in here, since it has been a month since last I posted. This has been an intense term in a different way: I've studied a lot of text, seen my skills improve dramatically, and learned a lot walking the floors of UCLA Hospital with Father Tom Clerkin, one of the chaplains.

The farther I get into the practical training part of my studies, the less I can say about them, which means less to write about here. I take confidentiality very seriously, of course, and if it seems that I say "almost nothing" about what goes on at the congregation or, this term, at the hospital, it's because it is better to say nothing than to get too close to something confidential. What I can say is that I love this work, love it more than words can say anyway.

It is a privilege to be invited into people's lives at moments of stress and crisis, as well as at the ordinary moments. It is a special trust to accompany someone on a journey of sickness, or to traverse a bar mitzvah with a family. I have had the pleasure of working with several people studying for conversion, whose earnest searching has been a special inspiration.

Meanwhile, at school, there are the texts, the sinews of the tradition, tying one generation to another. This term those have included Talmud 4 and the Shulhan Aruch and its commentaries (with a few side trips into the Mishnah Torah to satisfy my own curiosity.) I know more about what the sages say about sick people, and dead people, and mourners, and the marriageable, than I did a few short months ago. And I'm almost done: two weeks of Pesach, one week of classes, one week of finals. Then graduation (Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters -- very cool.)

Then two more years of study. I can't think about that now.