This week's portion: speaking from our soft places

A day in the life

Someone asked me recently how often I post about rabbinic school, and my answer was (predictably) "depends on what you mean." There are relatively few posts in my rabbinic school category, but I tend to feel like many of my posts implicitly relate to rabbinic school these days, in the sense that they allow me to explore what I'm reading and celebrating and learning, and those are all part and parcel of the rab school life (and, for that matter, the Jewish life, and the contemplative life, and my life.)

But perhaps some of you would enjoy getting a glimpse of what rab school is like for me at this moment? So here's a report from a fairly typical Monday at the start of 5767.

I savor Mondays in part because I get to spend them at home, working uninterrupted straight through the productive part of the day. What exactly that means -- well, it's changing, lately. Over the summer and into early fall I had tele-class on Monday afternoons, which shaped my day in distinct ways. Now that that class is over, I'm working on finding a new rhythm for my Mondays, a new way of settling in to the work-week wisely and well.

Today that meant first ensconcing myself at my desk with a cup of tea to daven a brief shacharit, giving particular time to a few of the passages that appear in Kol Haneshamah (the Reconstructionist siddur) that aren't in the siddur we use at my shul. Specifically, I got drawn-in to the declaration that follows donning tefillin but precedes the rest of prayer:

"For the sake of the union of the blessed Holy One with the Shekhinah, I stand here, ready in body and mind, to take upon myself the mitzvah, 'You shall love your fellow human being as yourself,' and by this merit may I open up my mouth."

They're words I've read many times before, but today I let them soak in for a while before moving on. When I assert my intention to take on mitzvat ha-borei, the mitzvah of the Creator, what does that mean in my daily life? How do I take on the obligation to love my fellows, my "Others," as myself, and how does that in turn empower me to pray?

Typically I catch up on email and read my blog aggregator over breakfast. After that, today, I spent an hour or two polishing my final paper for the course on Reb Zalman's work, which just ended. I started working on the paper a few weeks ago; today I edited a few final things (added a paragraph here, revised a few lines there), declared it done, and turned it in. Mmm, closure.

I spent some quality time working on my Big Blue Binder -- the pair of enormous notebooks in which I track my progress through the Aleph program. Syllabi, course descriptions, papers written: everything that needed printing and filing has been, well, printed and filed. Not very interesting grist for the blog mill, I'm afraid, but it needed to get done.

I read some Hegel (from "Early Theological Writings,") and some Hermann Cohen (from Reason and Hope), for tomorrow's Messianism class. Popped in to the discussion board for the online Bible class I'm taking at RRC and left a couple of comments. Did homework for my 'Nakh tutorial (translating chapter four of Jonah.) Read through this week's Torah portion, a first nod toward needing to write a d'var for Radical Torah, and wondered what I'll write about.

And, to close out the day, I spent a few hours drafting and polishing the notes for the next lesson I'll be doing with my niece, who will become bat mitzvah next June and who I have the honor and pleasure of tutoring toward that end. Now: a quick dinner, a stop by the library, and I'll be off to chorus rehearsal! That's my day; what were the highlights of yours?

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