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A week of thinking about theodicy

A whole week of Shabbat

On the first morning of smicha students' week, the first thing I saw when I stepped outside the Madonna Center was a huge rainbowed hot air balloon. It drifted slowly over the the vista spread before us: the sleepy Rio Grande, the adobe-styled houses and the sagebrush, and the bustle of downtown Albuquerque, all in front of the mountains that book-end the view. Actually there were ten balloons, ranged across the sky -- one for each of the sefirot. I didn't rush inside to fetch my camera so I could snap a picture; I just marveled.

The next morning I again went outside before shacharit, and discovered balloons in the vast southwestern sky again. These floating rainbows are an everyday miracle, it turns out. Every morning they grace the amazing world. All we have to do is step outside and open our eyes.

There's so much I want to say about smicha students' week. Over the next several days, as I transfer my notes from paper to laptop, I hope to blog about some of what I learned, both in and out of class. But much of what's really incredible about this experience isn't easily translatable.

How can I describe what it feels like to spend a week with fifty colleagues and a dozen teachers, every one of them remarkable and most of them already beloved to me? How can I describe the experience of thrice-daily prayer led by dear friends, the way our shared repertoires of nusach and melody let us break into impromptu multi-part harmony again and again? (I blogged about that at the end of Ohalah, the annual meeting of the Renewal rabbinic association -- and the feeling is even stronger this time around.)

The best parts are ineffable, and are already fading into memory. Our week together was like one long Shabbat; we put aside mundane tasks and concerns, savoring music and Torah and togetherness like the proverbial taste of the World to Come. And now we've returned to the weekday consciousness of ordinary time -- sweetened, I hope, by the memory of our learning and our interconnection, like the lingering fragrance of spices after havdalah, sustaining us until we meet again.

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