First Day of School: Here We GO!

Ziegler School Dean Rabbi Artson presents the Welcoming Speech to all students

At long last, the day has arrived; my official first day of Rabbinical school.  Now for those of you who are new to following along in the journey – this has been a much-anticipated moment of my life for many many years.  I first seriously considered this path while teaching at my home synagogue in Scottsdale over 7 years ago.  Saying that seems like a long time….keeping in mind it will take me 6 years to receive ordination!

I’ve come to a place in my life where I’m not interested in rushing.  I’m not interesting in going through this process just to hurry up and become a rabbi.  More so I’m here on this path to experience it, learn text and wrestle with some of our people’s biggest questions and thoughts.  I have never studied some of the things I will be focusing most of my time on  – such as Talmud, Mishna, Humash…. and at this point, consider it a blessing that I feel like such a clean slate.  I’m proud to say that I’m here to take my time, learn the material and create a space in which to process it all – while continuing to cultivate a healthy relationship with my husband.

As for the first day of school goes – if it shows you how truly pumped I am to be here, I didn’t actually have class until 11 today – but decided to show up at 7:15 for morning minyan (prayers).  This was the first morning I was going to meet the rest of my fellow colleagues.  It didn’t take long before my entire (new) class felt completely loved and embraced by all returning students.  I can honestly say….we are family.

After a morning of classes, we were all called together to have lunch in our Beit Midrash (where we pray and study) to receive this years first dose of inspiration from our Dean Rabbi Artson. In a lecture which will be a podcast soon-to-be-posted, he shared with us the key principles we should keep in our hearts and minds as we move forward this year. A lot was shared – and I hope I am getting these correctly ….Rabbi if I’ve misquoted you, please let me know – or comment below – because I know you’re reading this! 🙂

1. Curiosity & Inwardness – We all must find and cultivate what comes before us as interesting.  It is said that each person that stands before you is there to deliver a message.  Are we listening?  

2.  Cultivate a healthy and resilient skepticism  & Trust the Sages – Don’t believe everything you hear – however the sages and prophets are offering great wisdom and depth. We must find a balance between these two worlds.

3. Depth & Breadth – Study broadly – recognize that there is no wisdom that holds monopoly.  Find that area that makes your soul sing!  However, studying a little bit of everything and never diving deep into any one does not allow for one to give back in any great way.

4. Joy & Reflection –  There have to be moments when you turn the page [of Torah] and have to stand up and exclaim, “This was written for me!  Truly for me!” And there must be moments when we simply need to sit with the text for a little longer than usual.

5. Love & Judgement – Expression & reception of LOVE.  Love is marked by its boundaries – much like the Torah would be [useless] without laws.  

After our inspiring lunch, we participated in our first of six all Ziegler students discussions.  3 guest speakers presented on today’s topic of Commandedness – as we were then divided into chevrutah (discussion groups) to share our thoughts/feelings/questions/frustrations with what we heard and what we believe.  What is commandedness exactly? And how does it play out in our practice as Jews?

This particular program is essential to the well-being and brother/sisterhood of our school by that all students, no matter which year of study, are able to learn together.  As you can see in the photo, this is an enthralling and engaging time for everyone.

Our day was concluded by an entire American Jewish University convocation. It was special to share an hour with the entire student body (undergrads, grad students and Ziegler).  I can honestly say….this is one very special place – and I have a feeling its going to be quite a powerful year.  

And a little good news? I get to sleep in tomorrow! Those days are cherished around here FOR SURE!

More to come…as always….
Love,
Aviva

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