On Sunday I made my way to Newton to meet with one of my DLTI buddies, with whom I'll be co-leading kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday. We settled in her study with a pile of siddurim, tuned up my guitar, and talked our way through the Friday night service, offering different melodies each of us knows for the various psalms and prayers and taking notes on which tunes we both liked and which prayers we would each be most comfortable leading. It was a fun way to spend an hour, and it ramped up my excitement about returning to DLTI this week.
I can't wait to see everyone, my colleagues and teachers alike. After a year and a half of learning together, including three very emotionally and spiritually intensive weeks, this feels kind of like a family reunion! I'm eager to find out what we'll be learning this time around; I'm guessing it will be at least as intense as the previous weeks have been. And I know that spending five days davening and learning and immersing in the whole-body experience of DLTI will be restorative for me. But there's also part of me that's saddened to think that our final week of DLTI is rolling around, because that means the program is almost over; after these last few days, DLTI Four will be finished, and we'll never come together in this way again.
Of course, we'll still have our email list, for questions and conversation. Many of us are in one ALEPH ordination program or another, so we'll see each other in a continued way at ALEPH gatherings (like smicha students' week this coming summer, though I probably won't be there, since I'm hoping to be studying abroad -- more about that in another post sometime soon.) And we've formed connections that will far outlast the formal program; we've become mishpacha, family, for one another in some deep ways.
Still, some part of me is already anticipating the loss I will feel when the program is over. Mourning the reality that this chevre will never exist again in quite this way. One of my challenges this week will be to keep that anticipatory sadness at bay: not to stifle it, but to acknowledge it and then let it go, so I can experience the week as it unfolds instead of getting caught up in telling myself stories about how I think I'm going to feel later on.
I brought some of this up in conversation with my spiritual director last week, and he noted that I'll likely struggle with some of these same issues when I reach "senior status" within ALEPH (the last year or two of the program, at which point we'll know when I'm likely to be done.) That was a useful reminder for me not to borrow trouble -- that even though my DLTI experience is on the verge of ending, thankfully my ALEPH experience is not, and I'll have the blessing of being a student of these teachers (and a colleague of these wonderful people) for a good while to come.
Meanwhile, I have a service to co-lead on Friday night, a Torah study to co-lead on Shabbat morning, a d'var to offer in class sometime during the week, and days' worth of classes, communal meals, prayers, songs, and conversations to look forward to. Yeah, when the week is done, it will be time for a new crop of students to begin the incredible journey of DLTI. But fortunately I have a few friends who are in the fifth cohort, which makes it easier to anticipate our teachers turning their attention to a new set of talmidim. I get to revel in anticipation of how fun and broadening this will be for them, as it has been for me! But for now, at least, this wild and wonderful ride isn't over... and that makes me glad.