Categories
knitting Rabbinic

Back in the Swing

I am beginning to be recovered from last weekend. I feel significantly more functional than I had been, which is good because tomorrow begins another full weekend. This time, a bar mitzvah Friday night and Saturday, followed by religious school and adult education on Sunday. But it’s not nearly as draining as it was.

Things are adequately back to normal that I’ve had some time to do some knitting. My primary project at the moment is working on Eva’s socks, which  are good, but a little bit fussy. I’m working from the toe up, and the top of the foot as a k6p3 ribbing pattern that I’m going to turn into a spiral once I hit the leg. At this point I’m about half way up the foot or a little more.

These socks have taken a while because I had to rip them  out the first time once I was about 3″ in because I didn’t like the fabric: it was a bit too tight, and thought it might stand up on its own without a foot in it. That seemed bad.  So I upped my needle size from 00 to 0, and I like this fabric much better.

This pattern is basically my own, and once I have it a bit better established, I will probably go ahead and post it (assuming I like it once it’s done).

In other news, I’m distinctly pleased to be feeling human again, to have a little bit of time for knitting again, and to have the brain power to be knitting something other than straight stockinette.  I’m even back to using polysyllabic words.

Categories
Rabbinic

I'm Toast

I’ve been running too hard the last week. Over the course of the weekend I led 2 shabbat services for the congregation, performed a marriage, taught Sunday school, had a ritual practices committee meeting, tutored folks for a bar mitzvah next week, conducted a funeral, led a shiva minyan and drove about 400 miles in the process. I’m tired.

On the other hand, I feel very fulfilled as a rabbi. This isn’t a pace I can keep up, but I feel like I’m really making a difference in people’s lives, which is why I became a rabbi.

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A photo of the driving this weekend, which for the most part was pretty bad. Lots of rain, some incredibly thick fog, lots of darkness. Have I mentioned I’m tired?

Categories
Rabbinic

Too Much to Write, So I'm Blogging Instead

So far this morning I have written:

  • A wedding service, including my talk to the couple.
  • About 1/2 of  a eulogy.

The bad news is that the things I have not yet written this morning include:

  • about 1/2 of a eulogy.
  • A sermon for this evening.
  • A brief Torah discussion for tomorrow morning.

You may note, that nowhere on that list does there exist the entry, “A blog post.” Yet I seem to be writing a blog post.  I’m sure you are as curious as I am to know why.

I don’t tend to experience writer’s block in the classic sense. One of the good things about rabbinic writing in general is that there tends to be a fairly deadline by which you simply must have your piece written. You cannot simply ask for an extension on a funeral. Couples tend to be singularly displeased when you inform them you’d like to postpone the wedding because your talk isn’t written yet. And Shabbat will arrive this evening whether I’ve written a sermon or not.

The sermon for this evening is actually not a problem at all. I do trust myself to be able to improvise a sermon, especially if I give it a little thought while driving down to Salem this afternoon. One of the great things about the Jewish tradition is that there is a lot of literature associated with it, and I can always find something in that massive library of text I studied in rabbinical school which will resolve itself into a sermon.

The other two types of writing are harder. They require a structure. Often I know, more or less, everything I want to say, but figuring out a way to say everything without creating a disjointed narrative (using narrative in the loosest possible sense) is the challenge. Figuring out how to structure what I want to say in way that will make sense to my listeners can be difficult. I know what I want to say about the couple or about the deceased, but how to do I  say it in ways which don’t sound trite, and which manage to describe a cohesive whole?

Often, blog posts are much simpler, not least because I tend towards the stream of thought school of blogging. So I guess I’m hoping by setting all this down on paper (or screen, as the case may be), I will clear my mind enough to figure out how to tie everything together in the rest of writing which needs to happen.

This weekend will be a busy weekend. There are shabbat services, a wedding and a funeral. In between all that I am teaching Sunday school, putting up a memorial plaque, having a meeting with the ritual committee. And to do all of these pieces well, I need to bring all of myself to each event. These are not things which work well when I hold myself back.  I need to be fully present. And I will be. But Monday, I think I will be tired.

Oh, did I happen to mention that we have a friend from Australia moving into our house for the foreseeable future? She arrives today. I’m really excited that she’ll be here, but was kind of expecting to get to see a little more of her this weekend than it looks like I will.

Life: Never boring.

Categories
Rabbinic spirituality

A Whirlwind Tour Through Life

There are weeks when my attention is more on CubeSpace, and there are weeks when my attention is more on the congregation (there are also weeks when my focus is more on knitting, but we won’t talk about that now). This is very much a “rabbinic week.” I am simultaneously preparing for the death of a congregant, a bar mitzvah and a wedding (the wedding isn’t actually members of the congregation, but definitely falls into the category of rabbinic work).

Moving between these three lifecycle events is a bit of a challenge. They, needless to say (and yet I’m going to say it anyway), have three very different moods, and the rabbinic role is different in all three. For a family awaiting a death, the rabbi is present to offer solace and comfort. For boys becoming bar mitzvah (it would also be true for girls, but in this case it happens to be boys), my role is more that of coach and teacher. For a couple about to be married, I serve as counselor and master of ceremonies, helping ensure that the wedding comes off as they want it to and that they are able to be focused on what matters when the day arrives.

Each of these three events are enormously important occasions in the history of their respective families. These are, literally, once in a lifetime events. It is vital that I bring an awareness of that to my conversations with families. At the same time, part of my role is to be able to say, “what you are feeling is normal,” based on the fact that I am in close contact with each of these events several times a year. I attend 5 – 10 weddings a year. Perhaps half as many funerals, and a far more variable number of bar or bat mitzvah celebrations. My role at these events is not that of the mourner, or the bride or groom, nor the young adult entering the Jewish community, but to be deeply empathetic with those people, and to lead them through it.

Which brings me back to this week. Trying to shift gears so quickly between joy and sadness is confusing. The one constant between events is that they are stressful. But I feel like I’m beginning to experience some emotional disjuntion. Not necessarily in a bad way, but in a way that highlights the emotions of each events.

Being present at lifecyle events is one of the reasons I became a rabbi. It is one of the most rewarding parts of what I do. When multiple events coincide, as they have this week, the rewards are highlighted, but I’m also much more aware of the potential for becoming emotionally drained. I am not yet running on empty. I cannot imagine officiating at a funeral without grieving with the family, or a wedding without celebrating. The real question is, what do I look like the day after. I guess we’ll find out next week.