It's fun to read back through a year's worth of posts, looking for my ten favorites. Themes and subconscious fixations are often clearer in hindsight, and you may be able to spot a few of mine in these posts. Thanks for reading Velveteen Rabbi in 2007, folks; here's to 2008!
Worth the work. "I get stuck a lot. I falter, and have to start over. It's frustrating to feel so inept, to lose my stride so easily. I'm used to being good at things -- and, as a corollary, to doing things I'm already good at. Sure, my working life poses challenges all the time -- it wouldn't be interesting, otherwise -- but on the whole, these days, I tend to stretch by aiming to do better at things I already do reasonably well. Neither knitting nor leyning falls into that category, and it's humbling to see how easily I can be reduced to abject frustration."
Message in a bottle. "I have many metaphors for the months since my December stroke. At times I've felt like a sailor in a tiny craft, skating across the surface of the unfathomed deep. I'm content, even singing a sea chanty or two -- until I realize how vast the waters below me are, and how a storm would swamp me. At times I've felt I'm on a rollercoaster, wheels ticking slowly as the cart ascends so gradually I forget I'm even moving -- until with a whoosh and a plummet I'm in freefall."
Worship through corporeality. "The obsession with dividing everything into clean and unclean, good and evil, may seem unduly dualistic. And the assumption that the physical world cloaks sparks of God in four levels of shell or peel may be strange. But what appeals to me here is the understanding that physical acts like eating aren't inherently good or bad -- and that the moral valance arises through our mindfulness and our intention to serve."
Through a stereoscope, darkly. "As a kid, I had what we called a lazy eye: one eye wandered, without volition. Eventually a pair of surgeries were required to correct it. As a result, I spent a lot of time at opthalmologists' offices with an opaque plastic circle over first one eye, then the other, trying to explain and understand what I saw. My eyes offer different pictures of the world even now -- color tones vary slightly from one eye to the next. (When I'm using both eyes in concert, the dominant eye chooses the color palette.) That turns out to be a good metaphor for how I'm relating to the ongoing investigation of my health."
Prayer at Panim. "Probably the most remarkable part of the Panim rabbinic student retreat, for me, was the davenen (a.k.a. tefilah -- loosely, if inadequately, translatable as 'prayer.') A tefilah committee, comprised of one student from each of the participating seminaries, met several times over the phone before the retreat to determine how we would pray together. They tackled major issues, including the length and style of our Torah readings and whether we would have any kind of mechitza. (Short answer: no, although the reality was...complicated.)"