Yom Kippur is a time to consider where we have not only fallen short, but to contemplate on how our vows often miss the mark. Again this year, we will proclaim that all previous vows and oaths we swore are null and void – and that the ones we make in the future will also be invalid. We are called to dance on the wire – commit to being the best person we can be, fulfill responsibilities, and recognize that since we are but human, we are to offer mercy not only to others, but to ourselves.
Just like every Jewish holiday involves a meal, so does the beginning of each Rabbinical school year! (They think if they feed us a few times, we’ll stick around!) Food does encourage us to return….but in truth it is far from the reason why we come back year after year.
Just a couple of nights ago, the Ziegler School held the annual Welcome Back Dinner. It was fun to attend the event as a returning student (cool, calm and collected) and no longer in the shoes of a newbie (overwhelmed, anxious and petrified). After a full year, I have officially sunk into my community here and I know that I am home. It was so wonderful to see familiar faces, reunite with those who had spent last year in Israel and meet all of the first-years.
The highlight of the evening was offered by Rabbi Ed Feinstein – a beloved pulpit rabbi and educator in the community whose charm, wit and knowledge are only a few of the reasons why this man is so adored. As we prepare for Yom Kippur, he shared with us a story of two pious Jews who had taken the practice of studying Torah so far out of context, that they completely alienated themselves from their community to live in a cave (literally!) . We shared the evening discussing our relationships with God, the physical and spiritual world and the value of community. What a way to start the year! I think we all left the evening reinvigorated for the coming semester and excited to be back together.
Bright and early yesterday morning was the first day of school. After a moving early morning prayer service, my first class was Halakhah (Jewish Law) with Rabbi Alexander. Wow! I left learning so much just in the one day and I am so looking forward to more. Later in the afternoon I had Mishnah (text) class with one of our esteemed professors, Janet. I can already tell you that the 2nd year of school will be way different from last year – classes will have a heavier work load, teachers expectations are higher and my personal drive has to be met to those expectations.
And….guess what? NO GRAMMAR CLASS! Hallelujah!
The work load is already piling high – and the brain is slowly kicking back into action. This semester is going to be the most intense of them all, but I am up for the challenge.
So, I’m off to prepare for Yom Kippur. I will not say that I swear to be the best student – or that I will promise to do every reading assignment – but I can affirm that this year I will continue to ask questions and turn to others when I am feeling overwhelmed. How is one to make a new years resolution when tonight, we are told all resolutions are null and void? I guess that would be my first question…
Gmar Chatima Tova!