Moving towards my future

This domain scares me. I want to be clear that I am still in the process of becoming a rabbi. My fifth year of rabbinical school started in August. With the help of HaShem, I am working towards May, 2023 ordination.

Yet, I claim the title in my domain

I did check with my advisor at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California before moving my blog. Our seminary is very clear about not referring to yourself by a title you have not earned. Nevertheless, the journey is a process. Some people use the title “student rabbi.” Others, “Rabbi-in-training.” And sometimes, community members will use “rabbi” regardless of your ordination status. This is true across religions — people confer the title they need you to assume in the moment.

I take this process very seriously. It took me six years from feeling the call to attending rabbinical school full-time. At times, I still have trouble believing I am actually doing this. As a person in mid-career transition, I am very aware how privileged I am to be able to spend these years sinking into the depths of Jewish wisdom, hoping to become a better version of myself, and helping others along their journeys.

Fundamentally, this domain helps me live into the person I am becoming.

What kind of Judaism?

Trans-denominational, rabbinic Judaism. Movements are a relatively new phenomena, and unlikely to remain stable for many generations to come. I learn the tradition on its own terms. Reading texts from original intent. Exploring their influence on later generations of Jews.

Simultaneously, I draw from my wider understanding of the human condition. I graduated from Wellesley College with a bachelor’s degree in Peace and Justice Studies. Perennial interest in how people interact on a communal, national, and global scale.

My influences

I grew up at Temple Ramat Zion, where I was a Bar Mitzvah tutor and adult choir member as a teenager. As an adult, I returned to Judaism through Rabbi Mordechai Finley’s teaching at Ohr HaTorah. Rabbi Finley was a co-founder of the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, where I am studying to become a rabbi.

I graduated from the Davennen Leadership Training Institute, a two-year program sponsored by ALEPH: alliance for Jewish Renewal. Attended two trans-denominational rabbinical student retreats hosted by Rabbi Sid Schwarz. I earned a unit of clinical pastoral education, doing most of my clinical hours at a local community hospital. This provided me the opportunity to work alongside Christian chaplains and provide spiritual care to a wide breadth of individuals. I volunteered with Ruach, a Jewish emotional and spiritual support service.

Conservative, Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructing, Renewal, and secular humanist Judaism have all contributed to my appreciation and understanding of Jewishness.

Previously, I worked in community organizing, advertising and marketing, and at a software company.

I do not speak for any organization or institution.

My vision: ethical mysticism

I am a work in progress. In particular, this website is part of the process of refining my vision and explaining myself more concretely and more simply. My partner believes my words are still too complex to attract readers. Nevertheless, they are the only ones I have at the moment to describe my vision.

Ethical mysticism: honoring my soul and the souls around me. Understanding myself in order to become a better version of myself. Using my higher self to observe my ego-self. Communicating with my Inclination towards Destructiveness, my Yetzer HaRa. Recognizing the difference between my ego and my soul. Creating space for my soul to flow into the soul of the universe.

My path in ethical mysticism is firmly rooted within the Jewish tradition. Reading and dissecting the ideas of this civilization is a deep honor. Yet, Jewishness does not exist in a vacuum. From neo-Platonic philosophy to neuroscience, I attempt to incorporate all of my learning into my life’s journey.

Rabbi Max Kedushin, z”l, in Rabbinic Mind described Judaism as an intellectual organism. I love this metaphor. We are all part of the process of keeping this organism alive and helping it to evolve.

Picture by Johannes Plenio via Pixabay.

Reclaiming my voice

In 2001, I became a blogger. It was a core aspect of my identity until life got in the way. I wasn’t particularly successful. Like most folks, I didn’t think branding or audience size were the reasons to write. I wrote because I have to. My soul thinks in paragraphs, speaks in poetry, moves with music. Somewhere along the way, I forgot how soul nourishing it is to blog. And now I’m back.

While I am the first to acknowledge my brokenness, I do not intend to write solely about the Dark. I named my blog what I did because I have a deep belief in Lurianic Kabbalah. The material world exists because the Divine made space for the other. The vessels holding in the Light shattered. Each of us is uniquely broken and our life’s work is to acknowledge the brokenness within and work to repair it. By repairing ourselves, we repair the world.

I am a forty year-old full-time student. Sometimes, the weight of my age, the weight of my curved turns in life, the non-existent through-line of my life, my over-dependence on hyphenating nouns, all of it weighs me down. It is far too easy to look in the rear view mirror. So yes, I’m in my third year of school, studying to become a rabbi. I’ve hesitated to start writing because I want a complete message to share with the world. As an incredible movie reminded me, the journey is more interesting than the destination.

My soul’s first language is Judaism. A dozen years ago, I found the human words to articulate why this ancient wisdom clings to me. My Uncle Paul introduced me to Rabbi Mordecai Finley and Ohr HaTorah. Rabbi Finley taught me the deep mystical and ethical undercurrent of Jewish life. He co-founded a seminary designed especially for mid-career transitions. And now, I am a student at Academy for Jewish Religion, California. I have the incredible opportunity to swim in the seas of depth.

To be clear: Judaism is the site of my deepest love and my deepest hurt. I was rejected because of my family’s precarious financial situation as a teenager. I was cast out in college for expressing Palestinian solidarity. My rabbi committed suicide. I spent a decade in the wilderness. And then, I got thyroid cancer. A year after my treatment ended, I decided to ignore the voice in my head telling me I’d never be accepted at a Zionist synagogue and joined my uncle for Shabbat services. Over the last dozen years, I’ve reclaimed my Jewish identity, developed a personal connection to the need for the Jewish state, a love for the existence of Israel, and a deep pain at the divisions in the American Jewish community.

Mussar and Kabbalah, ethics and mysticism, are my roadmap. Judaism allows me to grow into a better version of myself each day. I’ll never be a saint. I might never fully conquer my anger, resentment, and loneliness. HaShem willing, my days will honor the souls around me and the soul within me. I strive to be a vessel of holiness and I invite you to join me on the journey.