En route to my third Ohalah, I finally feel like I know where I'm going. Yes, the grand old Boulderado, obviously, a few easy blocks from the pedestrian mall, in the glorious shadow of the Front Range (even with my deep Berkshire pride, I can admit that the Berkshires are gentle rolling hummocks beside the wrinkled grandeur of the Rockies.) But I mean more than that.
My first year at Ohalah everything was new and unfamiliar. I knew some people, sure; no one starts an ALEPH ordination program without already being a part of the community, and I'd met fellow students and teachers at assorted Elat Chayyim retreats. But I felt like a newcomer. The celebration of liminality -- welcoming new students; bidding farewell to those who were about to be ordained -- brought me to tears of joy. So did witnessing my first smicha ceremony. I had a conversation with one of my teachers one night at dinner about how merely saying the words "I'm a rabbinic student" lit me up like a flame.
My second year at Ohalah I was newly out of the hospital, and everything was colored by that lens. The backs of my hands were still marked from the IV ports I had worn at the hospital. At the Shabbaton and the conference my consciousness was alternately fogged-in and weirdly sharp, like some part of me was in another world. I had a panic attack one day, sparked by a high BP reading. But I felt cushioned by the love and prayers of my community, and on my last morning Reb Zalman placed his hands on my shoulders and offered a prayer for my healing that left me luminous.
And this year, my third Ohalah? I finally feel rooted here, in this community and in these rhythms. Almost everyone at the student Shabbaton will be not only known to me, but dear to me; even once we become a crowd of 200+ on Sunday I think I'll feel at-home. Of course, there's a voice in the back of my mind that cautions me against the hubris of imagining I know what's coming; surely these days will hold unexpected blessings and surprises, challenges and even disappointments. But I'm excited about entering into this experience. About seeing, hugging, singing with, praying with, and learning from teachers and colleagues alike.
As usual, blogging will be light while I'm at the conference, though I'll try to post from time to time with tidbits that seem appropriate for sharing. For now, I'm checking in to say that it feels really good to be on this journey, and that makes me happy indeed.