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5.11.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 6:52 pm
by RabbiMark
For the last seven years, I have had a certain type of conversation over and over again, every time I meet new people and explain to them my path of study:

“You’re in medical school?!”
“No, I’m in rabbinical school. I’m studying to be a rabbi.”
“Ohhhhhh. How long does that take?”
“It depends. For me, it’ll take seven years.”
“Seven years?!?! Wow.....”

Over and over again, I’ve presented a story that people don’t expect. Few, not many, people understand that rabbinic study is a long journey. We study Bible, Talmud, and Midrash; history, philosophy, and politics; pastoral counseling, chaplaincy, and life-cycle events - and still it seems like we can, and should, add more to our curriculum.

This week, these conversations became part of my past. I have concluded my course of study. I am no longer in rabbinical school; instead, I am a rabbi.

During the events that marked the end of this journey, I was grateful for the chance to honor and thank Rabbi Mark Borovitz. I met him at a time when I was struggling profoundly. In my journey through rabbinic education, I had hit rock bottom. Thankfully, as I began to connect to the Beit T’Shuvah community, I learned that I could quit digging. And start healing.

Rabbinical school began full of promise. I began to learn Biblical Hebrew. I studied the Siddur - the Jewish prayer book - and learned to appreciate the rhythm of Jewish prayer in a new way. I was introduced to Mussar, a Jewish spiritual practice of self-reflection, and began a deep exploration of my inner life. And I was introduced to the study of Talmud - a Jewish sacred text so vast, that if you read one page a day, it takes over seven years from start to finish. My mind was expanded, my heart was opened, my soul was changed. I was sure I was in the right place.

As my studies progressed, my love for Talmud grew. I decided to transfer to a different school with more Talmud in its curriculum. Most of my teachers and colleagues were thrilled for me as I embarked upon this new opportunity.

This new school was a perfect opportunity for Talmud study - but everything else was a struggle. My mind was active and challenged, but my heart and soul were yearning. I couldn’t seem to do what was expected, and I couldn’t find others who understood what I was going through. I was miserable, yet I kept going. Three and a half years after I started school - halfway through my journey - I heard about the Beit T’Shuvah Immersion program. I had heard about the Twelve Steps and was curious about addiction recovery, but as a ‘normie,’ had never experienced it firsthand. I signed up for the Immersion having no idea what to expect.

Just hours after I began learning with Rabbi Mark during the Immersion, my heart and soul finally felt at home. Beit T’Shuvah’s message “YOU MATTER!” was one I desperately needed to hear. I realized that my drive to learn Talmud began as a spiritual calling and became a rat race - I had lost my way. As I continued learning, I began to understand that I was not merely a victim of my school’s curriculum. I had actively made choices to sit in my resentment, ignore my part, and make things worse. But I could change - and in doing so, my life could change, and my experience of becoming a rabbi could change.

As I began to serve the Beit T’Shuvah community as a spiritual counselor, my learning continued. I started to live Harriet Rossetto’s teaching that you don’t need to be an addict to be in recovery - and I learned from the people that came through this house that the work of recovery is ongoing. The learning never ends.

In this week’s parashah, Behar-Behukkotai, we read about the shmita, the commandment to let the land rest every seventh year, to mark the end of a cycle, to take a pause from the rat race, to step back and appreciate what is. As I come to the end of this seven-year journey through rabbinical school, I remind myself to take the opportunity to pause from the rat race, to appreciate what I have been through, to appreciate the people who have helped me along the way, to appreciate what is, and to appreciate that I matter.

May we all be blessed this week to remember the commandment to rest, to step back from the rat race, and to always remember: YOU MATTER!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Miriam Green
Rabbinic Intern