Reb Zalman's "All Breathing Life" - old liturgy, new poems
Poem: morning prayer


I brought my son with me to the synagogue on the evening when I was slated to sign the brit (covenant) between me and the congregation. He skipped around gleefully, found a calculator and held it up to his ear, tore up a piece of paper with great gusto, and successfully begged to hold and jingle the giant keyring which the president of the synagogue board was wearing on her belt. I fed him supper in a high chair there as I chatted with the president of the board about the year to come. When Drew started to melt down, I signed the contract and then I took him home for pyjamas, story time, and bed.

The next day, once my in-laws arrived to look after Drew, I loaded the back of my car with several boxes of Judaic books and headed for the synagogue. My intention was to begin settling in; I am the kind of person who feels discomfited until my boxes are unpacked and my work space feels like home. To my surprise, my first day on the job turned out to be deliciously full. I connected with people around two different upcoming lifecycle events. I met with the religion committee chair to begin planning the Days of Awe. I unboxed everything I had brought, and marveled that there are still more feet of bookshelves to fill.

When I left the synagogue, my mind was buzzing with everything on my to-do list. It felt good to be thinking about phone calls to congregants, pastoral care, high holiday prep, planning for summer and for fall...and then it felt good to come home, to swoop my son into my arms and listen to him babble, to lie down on his colorful play mats in the position I knew would entice him to come running over to me beaming his hugest grin and climb all over me as though I were a jungle gym.

Sometime in the early months of Drew's life, I remember talking with my sister about balancing work with parenthood. I seem to recall that she said something like, on the good days I feel like I have it all, and on the tough days I feel like I'm failing everyone -- my children, my clients, my spouse. I think about that conversation often now that I'm entering the workforce for the first time since becoming someone's mama. I pray that there will be more good days than tough days, but I know that both will inevitably arise in the months ahead.

When I went to the ALEPH Kallah a couple of weeks ago, I was first amazed by the glorious experience of being on my own for a week, and then humbled by the difficult experience of missing my son and knowing that he was missing me. I loved seeing my teachers and friends, I loved the learning and the davening...and I missed Drew desperately. (And Ethan, too! But he and I have years of practice at being apart and then coming together again; Drew is a different story.) I'm glad that I went and glad that it was wonderful -- and I'm glad too that it was so hard.

I hope I can approach the gift of this job in the same way. I'm glad to be serving as this community's rabbi, glad in anticipation of how wonderful I know it will be -- and glad that it will be difficult sometimes, too. I am blessed to have a vocation which I love and a family who I adore, and I wouldn't trade either of those for the world. 

Drew is already at-home at this synagogue; he's been going there with me since he was an infant. (I still remember the first time I brought him to Shabbat morning services, back when he was new and the experience of taking him anywhere was still faintly terrifying.) I don't know what it will be like for him to grow up with a mama who is a poet and a working rabbi. But I trust that there will be blessings in this experience: for him, for me, and hopefully also for the community-at-large which will be enriched by his laughter and his energy (even if those sometimes come hand-in-hand with his frustration and a tantrum or two.)