Where does the journey begin? Where will it go?
For me, my journey begins with this week’s parasha, Naso. Or at least, a major part of it does.
I digress. The Haftarah describes the very beginning of one of the Bible’s, and stage and screen’s, most colorful characters. There is a man name Manoah whose wife is barren. (Once again, shockingly, there is a woman in the Bible without a name.) An angel comes to her and tells her that she will conceive a boy who will deliver Israel from the Philistines. But the boy will be a Nazirite to God. He will not drink wine or eat anything impure or cut his hair. This boy is Samson. The reading only goes up to the time of his birth, but we know, as with most extreme vows, temptation is hard to resist.
The Nazirite is discussed in the Torah portion, hence the connection, thin as it is, to the Haftarah. For me, my connection is that I read this Haftarah on the Shabbat before leaving for a year of study in Israel. This year was the beginning of studies towards my MA in Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Almost 20 years had passed since my BS. In that time, I had taken the Jewish education of my childhood, ten years through confirmation at Free Synagogue of Flushing, years of Camp Cejwin and other Jewish camps and kicked it up a notch. I spent a year in a weekly learner’s minyan, studied Talmud and Bible at the Drisha Institute, attended Imun, and made Torah study and mitzvot a part of my life. I spent a year and a half learning to read Torah and Haftarah for an adult Bat Mitzvah.
And so I became a Jewish educator, which I will always be. I thought that this would be the final stop on my professional journey. I love teaching young people and their parents. I marvel at the mystery Torah can hold for them. And I love to see them dance and sing. But it seems, much to my surprise, that this was just another stop along the way. After years of workshops, seminars, more Torah study, chaplaincy, leading services for children, families, adults, and the aged, the next stop seems to be the rabbinate, an idea that would have seemed impossible at an earlier stage of my journey. But, entrenched in study for some time now, the rabbinate is a few short months away, closer than I ever would have thought possible. So it seems that this year in particular has been the culmination of years of preparation. As Douglas Adams said, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”
So what do Samson and I have to do with each other? Not much. Except we are both in the Torah, and in the Torah, our journeys will continue.
STOPS ON MY JOURNEY
- Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute
- Davidson School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary
- Drisha Institute for Jewish Education
- The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rothberg International School, Graduate Program
- Leadership Institute: Shaping Congregational Leaders and Learner’s
- Hava Nashira
- Shoah Teaching Alternatives in Jewish Education, Museum of Jewish Heritage
Pesach photo credit: Marlaine Glicksman