Monday, December 10, 2007

I got some interesting feedback from that last post -- seems that folks think that they'd be interested my study projects.

So here we go, rather late in the process, but what the heck:

1. I'm working on a paper about the Vow of Jephthah (Judges 11). I think that the response of Jephthah's daughter may hold some promise for adult women who have a history as victims of child sexual abuse (putting that very carefully -- some identify as "survivors," some prefer other designations). Tradition holds up role models for obedient children, but not so much for those who have been betrayed by those they should have been able to trust. (Yes, Tamar is a wronged woman who stands up for herself, but she's an adult, and the wrong is quite different.)

2. My thesis is driving me crazy. I'm working on an ethics of personal finance, which ought to be very straightforward, but some of my own emotional responses to it, mixed up with some emotional responses to other events in my life have complicated things. It's frustrating, and approaching a crisis, frankly, because I need to produce something deliverable pretty soon.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

It's been a long time since my last post - I don't know if anyone is still reading here or not.

I enjoyed blogging during my year in Jerusalem; it seemed like a good way to reassure the people I love and make a record of the year at the same time. Then, when I got back to L.A., it was still about keeping in touch.

Trouble is, most of what I do is work and study. I love what I study, but I wasn't sure it would make for exactly interesting reading, especially when it was mostly questions. And work more and more involved things that didn't belong in a blog, so there just wasn't much to say.

I love my work. That came back to me last night, as I presided over a Chanukah potluck and Shabbat for my current congregational pulpit. I'm just a bi-monthly rabbinical intern; I officiate at a Friday night service twice a month, more or less, and when there are lifecycle events I do those. If someone is in the hospital, I visit.

Last night was my first night back after a gap, since my father died and I had to miss the late October service, and then for a variety of reasons, there was no November service. I arrived feeling tired and blue, under the weather with a bit of a cold. Once we got to the potluck part of the evening, I circulated from table to table, reconnecting with people, checking in, finding out who had had minor surgery (why didn't you let me know you were in the hospital??? Call next time!) and who was having some family troubles (let's make an appointment to talk, here's my email) and who had had a great trip to Israel and who has finals this month and ... you get the idea.

By the time I finished my rounds, something in me had shifted. I'd been feeling blue and tired because my thesis is driving me crazy and the mourning after my father's death has been difficult. After a few hours of leading prayers and listening and checking in and rabbi-ing, I was back in touch with the work I love.

This is a really peculiar job. A lot of it is just showing up: being present to the moment, looking in people's eyes, listening, tapping into the tradition and texts I have learned when that's what they need. Showing up: reading the service at the burial of a woman who has no family left to bury her. Some of it has to do with orienting a Jewish frame for people's ordinary lives and decisions. Most of it is not about great scholarship or great leadership or great anything, just calm presence and occasionally, a nudge in a new direction. God-talk is not comfortable for many liberal Jews; I'm going to accomplish more by living out the Divine Attributes than I am talking about them.

"Adonai, Adonai, El, Rachum v'Chanun erech Apayim v'Rov Chesed, v'Emet, Notzer chesed l'alafim, Nosseh avon v'feshah, v'chatta'ah, v'Nakeh." (Exodus 34:6-7)

[TheName, TheName, God, Merciful and Gracious, Slow to Anger and Abundant in Kindness and Truth, Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of iniquity, of willful sin, and of mistakes, and the One who Purifies.]

Yes, there are times and places for a prophetic voice, and I can afflict the comfortable when that is called for, but I have to admit, I find the ordinary round very satisfying. I love my work.