saying thank you

Being a student again after 10 years of not being a student is an odd experience. I have moments while sitting in class: “I can’t believe that this is my life now.” My responsibilities are to go to class and do homework. As hard as the transition has been in some ways, most of the time my life also feels like an incredible luxury. Perhaps even downright self-indulgent.

It is undoubtedly a huge time commitment: I’m at school most days from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (and some days later than that), with activities scheduled almost all of that time; if I’m lucky, I get two free lunch hours a week. But I spend my time at prayer, studying, and in class. I’m focused on my intellectual and spiritual development. Even at my job — staffing the school’s front desk weekday evenings and Sundays — I can do my homework, or write, or read.  The extracurricular optional and required activities are lectures, book talks, or other professional advancement or cultural opportunities.

Before I left D.C., I shadowed the rabbi at Sixth & I for an afternoon and evening, and she reflected with me on her rabbinical school experience. “I miss it,” she said. “I miss being around all of those holy folk.” I understand now what she means: I feel incredibly blessed to constantly be around such thoughtful people. I am stimulated and challenged all the time.

calling cards from Letter Writer’s Alliance

In response to this overflow of shared wisdom, I recently visited the Letter Writers’ Alliance — of which I am a proud member! — to purchase these calling cards. I’m planning to give the to my classmates and teachers with notes of appreciation. I gifted my first one on Tuesday!

Despite how much time school requires, I often feel guilty for not making time to do something for others. In D.C., I used to spend a fair amount of my time as a volunteer for various organizations, and I haven’t yet found space for that in my new life.

I am filled with gratitude for my life and the opportunities that I have. And next semester I want to challenge myself to move a little more out of the rabbinical school bubble.

open thank-you letter

Dear –,

I am writing this here because I don’t know how to write you directly — and because what I have to say deals directly with my journey to the rabbinate, which this site chronicles. I am writing on the off-chance that you have found or will find my blog. I know it is at least a possibility. And if you don’t make your way here, I’ll feel better at least putting this out there in the universe.

I’ve thought about you often in the past year as I applied to rabbinical schools and reflected on my reasons for doing so. Almost every time I answered the question, “Why do you want to be a rabbi?” (and it’s been asked quite frequently, in various contexts), I alluded to you.

Things did not end well between us, and that still does not sit well with me. But I want to tell you how much I valued your support at the beginning of my Jewish journey. I’ve had the opportunity to tell everyone else who helped me along the way.

You were the first Jewish guy that I dated, and maybe the first Jew with whom I was close. You made the fairly obvious to most — but stunningly  liberating to me — observation that I did not have to remain in the religion of my family of origin. It was a revelation. And you knew of what you spoke, because your mother is a convert.

I went to shul with you for the first time, I opened a siddur with you for the first time, I stood on the bimah with you for the first time. You encouraged me to learn about Judaism, and you helped me to realize that I have a Jewish soul. You’re who I think of when reading Anita Diamant‘s words:

[T]he fact is , many people find a home in Judaism as a result of falling in love with a Jew. As one Jew-by-choice wrote, “What better way to discover Judaism than through love? People sometimes say deprecatingly, ‘Oh, she converted for marriage.’ Or, ‘Oh, he converted for her.’  . . . The point is: in these instances, the non-Jewish lover sees the beautiful in his beloved and identifies with it. What is it but the Jewishness of the Jew that he wants? And so he chooses to become a Jew himself. This is not something to scoff at.

It’s hard for me to see how I would have gotten here, on the cusp of the beginning of rabbinical school, without you. We did not last, but what I gained from you lasts yet.

Thank you.