There's something a little bit surreal about going from the relative peace and quiet of our small household (well, as peaceful and quiet as a house containing a rambunctious toddler ever gets) to the energy of the ALEPH Kallah. Kallah is just...not like ordinary life. Certainly not like mine, anyway.
Take this past Friday night, for instance. It was one of the Friday evenings when Ethan was making the long drive home from Boston, having attended a conference at MIT (where his new job was announced -- go congratulate him if you're so inclined!) So I listened to my Nava Tehila kabbalat Shabbat cd with Drew and danced him around the room a little bit, laughing with him when he cackled as I spun and dipped him, waltzing during Lecha Dodi. (And we played with blocks and remote controls and board books and the ipad and the cat, because he is almost 19 months old and these are a few of his favorite things.) It was lovely, but solitary.
Next erev Shabbat I'll be surrounded by hundreds of other people who will have spent all day -- all week -- eagerly anticipating Shabbat. Most of us will be wearing all-white as did the kabbalists of Tzfat. I'll be adorned with glitter. I will probably have immersed in a mikvah before the holiday begins, and will bear the invisible but palpable imprint of that sweet and holy experience. And there will be several different Shabbat services to choose between. Maybe Nava Tehila will lead a service again and I'll get to dip into my favorite davenen experience from Jerusalem once more. And then there will be dinner, each table making the blessings together, and probably drumming and dancing late into the night.
In the early years of my involvement with the Jewish Renewal community, I always used to weep at havdalah (the ritual separating between Shabbat and workweek) because havdalah meant the retreat was ending and we were all going to have to say farewell. I love my home; I love my family and my life; but there is something in me which is uniquely sustained by the experience of being surrounded by my Jewish Renewal chevre, and I used to feel as though, if I left that Brigadoon, it might never open up for me again.
These days I know better. These days I have grown accustomed to the ratzo v'shov, the ebb and flow of retreat-time and ordinary time, of life with my wonderful spouse and friends and life with my wonderful community of spiritual seekers scattered around the globe. To balance Shabbat there must be weekday; to balance retreat-time there must be ordinary time. But being apart doesn't sever the connections we've formed -- any more than spending a week apart from my beloved husband and son could sever what binds us to one another -- and though we always have to say goodbye at the end of the gathering, there's always a next gathering to look forward to. And now that next gathering is upon us.
Today I'm off to the 2011 ALEPH Kallah in Redlands, California. I wish safe travels to everyone who is on their way to join me there -- and to everyone, a sweet and holy week, wherever you may be!