In a few days, I'll be heading south for a two-week rabbinic school residency at the Pearlstone conference and retreat center, and I'm taking Drew and Ethan with me. Over the first few days of the retreat, Ethan will look after Drew while I'm in class, and during the second week while Ethan's on the road my mother will tag in and watch Drew during my class hours. The days will be pretty packed: early morning prayer, class all day, afternoon prayer, study hall in the evenings, evening prayer before bed. I'll be spending my time with the hundred or so students in the ALEPH ordination programs, plus a handful of prospective students who are in the application process. I can't wait.
The two weeks are made up of two different retreats, Smicha Students' Week and Ruach ha'Aretz. I'll be taking three classes. During week one, I'll be in a class on Sefer Iyov (The Book of Job) taught by Reb Leila Gal Berner and a class on Interfaith Issues in Hashpa'ah (Spiritual Direction) taught by Reb Nadya Gross and Reb Shohama Wiener. During week two, I'm taking an all-day intensive in Lifecycle rituals taught by Reb Marcia Prager (which I've been referring to, among my role-playing friends, as a chance for me to "level up" in lifecycle -- I've been doing lifecycle events for years, but I know I'm going to learn a lot from Reb Marcia, Rabbinic Pastor Shulamit Fagan, and the other teachers who will be dropping in to lend their expertise.)
As I anticipate the retreat, I'm realizing that I have some complicated feelings. I'm eager to be there, and to see my amazing community of teachers and friends, most of whom I haven't seen since last summer. I'm looking forward to hugging them, talking with them, praying with them. Last time most of them saw me in person, I was pregnant, so I can't wait to introduce them to Drew. I'm looking forward to introducing Ethan and my mom to my community, too. It will be amazing to have the chance to share a community that I love with three of the most important people in my life.
Then again, there's something bittersweet about knowing that this will be my last summer residency. As excited as I am about approaching the end of my formal rabbinic training, and about moving on to what's next, I know I'm going to miss this program tremendously. This will also be my first time attempting to balance this kind of academic immersion with parenting. I know what it's like to spend two weeks in intensive prayer and study, and I know what it's like to spend two weeks engaging with Drew. I don't have any idea what it's going to feel like to try to do both at once. Even with substantive help from my sweetie and my mom, I can imagine that I might feel pulled in two directions at once.
So the residency's going to be an adventure. And this week, I'm doing my best to get ready: reading a few books (Archibald MacLeish's play J. B., Norvene Vest's Tending the Holy: Spiritual Direction Across Traditions), writing a paper about the last six months of spiritual direction work, digging up an article to teach to my Job classmates. Making lists of what I need to pack in the car: tallit and tefillin, Tanakh and rabbi's manual, diapers and baby food, the bouncy seat and its batteries... Preparing for the trip feels like a microcosm of the work I'm doing now in my life writ large -- figuring out how to balance rabbinic work and poetry with motherhood, the needs of my community and my vocation with the needs of my spouse and son.
I don't know whether I'll manage to write weekly mother poems while I'm away, or whether I'll manage to blog about the learning I'm doing. I hope that I will, but it's hard to be sure! There's a lot that's not known to me; I'm just going to have to play things by ear. Despite my small anxiety about how the two weeks are going to play out, I'm also really looking forward to them. My last big rabbinic school trip. In general, I try to enjoy every moment as it unfolds -- that's pretty much my modus operandi, right there -- but this trip is something I want to try to particularly savor.