You Shall Pursue

November 29, 2012

On Wanting it all RIGHT NOW

Filed under: Choosing Life, Rabbinical School — marleyweiner @ 7:00 pm

This has been a challenging week for me, to say the least. I’m running up against an awesome fallacy I’d like to call “the myth of having it all RIGHT NOW.” I’ve always been the sort of person who feels an intense need to know everything, and since I got here. I operate under a scarcity model when it comes to learning and education, feeling like I have to cram in as much learning as I possibly can before it gets taken from me. Since I’m pretty on top of my shit, this is usually not terribly detrimental to my life (except for my sleep; I’m so bad at sleeping). But since coming here, it’s caused me to overextend myself and hit the wall.

I’ve been comparing myself to people who have been studying Talmud for five years, or to people who have been teaching for decades, and wanting to be as competent and knowledgeable as they are. Of course I’m going to fall short, and that just causes me to push harder, in the assumption that if I do extra work, that I will get to those levels even quicker. But of course, that is not how it works. I am learning a tremendous amount, and doing a tremendous amount. Malcolm Gladwell has a theory in his book “Outliers” that a person needs to put in 10,000 hours of work on something before they can feel any sort of mastery. What I really need to do is be patient and enjoy putting in my 10,000 hours instead of hoping to accomplish everything right now.

My adviser (who is brilliant) also told me something that is very true, and a very difficult truth for someone like me to hear. My life is my rabbinate. Not just the parts where I am learning Talmud or standing in front of my students of discovering truths about theology. It is also the parts where I go to the mall with my friends, or the parts where I go out dancing, or the parts where I don’t feel like doing anything and spend an entire day reading “Yo is this Racist?” and watching “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” The substance of who I am, for better and for worse, is the substance of my rabbinate. And in order to be a functional rabbi, I have to be a functional human being, who is sometimes silly, and sometimes petty, and sometimes just needs to watch some cartoon ponies on the internet.

This is a hard life truth, but one that I think that we would all do well to learn. In order to be a functional person, we must be a WHOLE person, and embrace all of the parts of ourselves, even when we think that those parts are a distraction from the parts that make us our best selves. I have learned more about human compassion from reading online advice columns that I ever thought I would. I have experienced more authentic human joy sliding down various bits of Columbia’s architecture than I have in many other situations. When we, as people, open ourselves up to the full diversity of our experience, and let life pour in, we are nothing but better for it.

November 14, 2012

Thoughts on Patrilineal Descent: On Outing Myself to my Students

Filed under: Jewish Communitty, Patrilineal Descent, Rabbinical School — marleyweiner @ 3:54 am

My high schoolers know that my mom isn’t Jewish (Or at least, some of them do. I’ve been dropping it into the conversation as it’s relevant). My 4th graders do not know. So, of course, it’s my 4th graders who are interested in talking about intermarriage and patrilineal descent (The big question: can someone with only one Jewish grandparent go to Hebrew School?).

I have my own answers to their questions, which are complicated by the fact that I teach at a Conservative synagogue which has a policy in place that patrilineal Jewish students have to undergo a conversion ceremony to have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. I’ve invited the Education Director and the rabbi to teach about their policies in what, I am sure, will be the kindest and gentlest way possible. I hope my students get something out of it, and feel affirmed by their synagogue at the end of the talk. But I’m still trying to situate myself within this conversation. How can I affirm the policies of my place of work, and affirm the Jewish identities of any students I may have who are patrilineal Jews, while still remaining true to my own beliefs about my Jewish identity?

The funny thing is that I took this job in part because our Education Director is so brilliant about interfaith and other issues of intersectionality. She knows about my heritage, and has been nothing but supportive of my working with these students. But it is still massively challenging to figure how how to work within a situation where my Jewish choices go against organizational culture. I’m kind of at a loss.

… Does anyone have any thoughts?

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