This week's portion: prophetic (comedic) speech
Homily for Michael and Emily

"So, Rachel, how's school?"

Yesterday at brunch a friend asked me, "so where are you in your studies, and how are you enjoying them?" I realized, after the fact, that I answered the first question in some detail, but gave short shrift to the second. (Fortunately, I have a blog, so I can rectify that now.)

The answer to the first question is, I'm in my second year. My program consists of 60 courses, requiring a minimum of five years of full-time learning; I'm not sure when I'll be done. I often offer the analogy of the dojo where Ethan and I used to train. Each person would move through the ranks at the appropriate speed, some faster and some slower (depending on all kinds of factors, both physical and emotional.) Just so, I don't know how long the journey to my "black belt in Judaism" will be. I can control how quickly and how well I master the things I know I need to learn, but ultimately the decision to give me "senior status" (which effectively sets the date of smicha, ordination) will depend on the members of the Va'ad (board of directors of study -- they're listed at the top of this page, if you're curious) and their sense that I'm ready for that year and for what follows.

But that doesn't begin to answer the second half of her question, does it? My answer to that part of the query is, I'm loving it.

The picture of my rabbinic school life changes every few months. During the recent spring semester I studied mishnah with my rabbi (which I'm still doing; we're about to finish Brakhot, maybe even this week!), took a Hasidism class jointly offered by ALEPH and the Tiferet Institute (which was fantastic), and took ALEPH's "Breaking the Sefer Barrier" course (about which I've blogged a few times.) Starting in April, I picked up two little mini-courses in kabbalah and Zohar; they're not substantial enough to earn much credit, but I'm doing some independent study work now with Reb Yakov which will hopefully earn me credits in time.

Now I'm preparing for smicha students' week, which begins this coming Sunday. Each year the ALEPH rabbinic, cantorial, rabbinic pastor, and hashpa'ah (spiritual direction) ordination students gather with our teachers to spend a week in intensive learning. (It's not unlike a Bennington residency, except that instead of eating, sleeping, and breathing creative writing, we're eating, sleeping, and breathing Judaism.) I'll be taking two intensives during smicha students' week. One is a class in Middot (loosely translated, virtues or values or personal qualities) taught by Rabbi Elliot Ginsberg and Rabbi Shohama Wiener; the other is a class in Theodicy (reconciling the existence of suffering in the world with the existence of a just God) taught by Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan. So this week I have piles of reading to do, and presentations to prepare...and I'm also working with two of my fellow students on a morning service we'll co-lead together, for the assembled students and faculty, midway through next week.

I'm looking forward to the third week of DLTI, the two-year liturgical leadership training program I began last summer (which I've written about before, most recently here and here) -- that'll be in early August. And I've just started studying Mekhilta with one of my classmates, which will ultimately become a formalized independent study. And at some point I should figure out what courses I'm taking in the fall... fortunately, I'm meeting with my director of studies next week, which should help me get a handle on what I need to be doing next.

In a nutshell? I love the learning, and I also love the thoughtful, compassionate, inspired community of people with and from whom I'm privileged to learn. I continue to feel deep in my bones that this is the work I'm supposed to be doing -- that I'm getting better at it, which is exciting -- and that these are the teachers I want to emulate in my own rabbinate, when I get there.

Do I occasionally get hung-up on the question of my progress and the speed thereof? Yep. I'd like to be so grounded and serene that I just never worry about stuff like that, but I'm not quite that person yet. But I'm working on it -- and the best part is, the deeper I get into the program, the easier it is for me to remember that the journey matters at least as much as the destination. And that's the answer to how rabbinic school is treating me: it's overwhelming, it's daunting, it's incredibly fun, and it's a journey I'm glad to be on.

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