Havel Havelim #36 is here!

First day of school

September: yellow goldenrod and yellow schoolbuses, crisp falling leaves and crisp new notebooks. It's always made sense to me that autumn is when the Jewish New Year falls, because the academic calendar starts in the autumn too. Together those two seasonal cycles shaped my growing-up, and though I haven't partaken in the academic calendar for a while now, I still feel a change when the school year begins.

I've promised a post about why I chose the Aleph rabbinic studies program, and that post is in the works, but I haven't had time to polish it yet, and I might not have much time in the next week or two, because tomorrow -- for the first time since I finished my creative writing program six years ago -- I go back to school!

What does that mean? Well, it means something different for each student in the program. The program of study in the Aleph Rabbinic Program is simultaneously structured and highly individualized. Though there's a dauntingly comprehensive academic grid we each have to master, we each come to the program with different competencies and masteries (and lacks thereof), so we all begin in different ways.

The matriculation process is still in-progress; I don't yet have a Director of Studies (chief advisor/mentor), and I've got some paperwork waiting for me, so I won't be settled-in for another few weeks at least. But I'm diving in anyway; that seems to be the thing to do. I'll be doing four things towards my rabbinic degree this fall:

  • Clinical Pastoral Education (which I've blogged about here, here, and here), which starts tomorrow;

  • An ALEPH telecourse in Deep Ecumenism (the semester-long follow-up to the class I took on retreat at Elat Chayyim earlier this summer, which I blogged about here), which starts on Thursday;

  • An online Hebrew class (Hebrew III, through Hebrew College), designed to help me break the "sefer barrier," which starts tomorrow;

  • Working with my rabbi on reading Torah, leading services, and generally learning the trade at his side -- I've started thinking of this as an apprenticeship in practical rabbinics. This one's ongoing.

The Hebrew study is a given for a first-year rabbinic student (Jeff describes his first year of rabbinic school as "Hebrew, Hebrew, and more Hebrew") -- I'll need to be fluent, or a lot closer to it than I am now, in order to begin the text study that awaits me. But other than that, the way I'm beginning this program differs from what my friends in the Reform and Conservative rabbinic schools describe...though it sounds pretty typical for a first semester of Aleph. One online course, one telecourse, one in-person course, and an in-person apprenticeship: it's a good balance, and one I hope I can maintain over the next several years.

I chose to do CPE in my first year because next winter when Jeff goes on sabbatical I'll be filling in for him, and I want to be comfortable with pastoral counseling when that need arises. I chose the telecourse because I wanted to continue the study I started over the summer -- plus it doesn't require Hebrew fluency, which means it's a class I can take while I learn enough Hebrew to really get moving. And the apprenticeship with Jeff is already an important part of my life, and will continue to be a major learning experience for me; it looks like I'll be tutoring a couple of b'nai mitzvah kids, and taking on one adult Hebrew student, to lighten his load.

I'll also continue to spend two afternoons a week at Inkberry, where I'm the executive director, and I intend to continue writing. It's a tall order, and it's a little bit intimidating to consider all of the balls I'll be juggling! I'm hoping that within the next few weeks I'll settle into a schedule: hospital time, work time, study time, writing time. For now? I'm enjoying my last day before the semester begins by blogging, baking (pizza dough is rising in the kitchen even now), and watching football (even though my beloved Packers had a rough first game, I'm still jazzed about the start of the NFL season.)

I'm a little bit nervous, and a lot excited. I figure that's the right proportion. My goal is to enjoy the journey, even though there's a lot to balance as I get accustomed to this new rhythm. I'm still awed and delighted that I have the opportunity to study towards eventually becoming a rabbi, and I know how fortunate I am to be able to do work that I love.

At Elat Chayyim this summer my friend Zoe and I held hands and inched our way across mossy rocks, through fast-running water, to the edge of a waterfall. Once we made it there we spoke our intentions of taking leaps in our lives (and asked for help in knowing, and remembering, that the places we're leaping to will be filled with blessings), counted to three, and then jumped over the edge. Right now I feel like I'm hovering in mid-air; tomorrow I'll splash into the waters. May they be welcoming.

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