Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shalom L'hitraot

Some of you who do not know me may have wondered what happened to my posts. It is now five months since the last time I wrote and much has occurred. This will be the last post for this blog but, even though it will be an ending, there are new beginnings as well. I must thank my sister for suggesting that I bring closure with this final post.

In my last post, I wrote about my excitement over the upcoming visit of Danny Siegel, one of my all-time heroes. He is a tzedakah activist who I have admired for over 30 years. He inspires me to be a better person and to do things that will make a difference in the world. Danny came to school and, even after all these years, he got under my skin and made me question so many things. He told us that he was once in rabbinical school but there came a time when he realized that he didn't need to be a rabbi to do the kind of work he wanted to do. This certainly hit a chord with me and became very important in the weeks that would follow.

I hadn't been feeling well since soon after my arrival in Jerusalem and things got worse towards the end of July. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a parasite and a bleeding ulcer. I was treated for these conditions but I wasn't feeling any better. In fact, my health began to deteriorate and I had trouble getting out of bed. I wasn't able to go to school at all. The heat was still oppressive and, as usual, my refrigerator went on the fritz leaving me with little food and no cold beverages.

I spoke with my husband the first week of August and we decided that I should return home to see my doctors here. I have some medical issues that really necessitated my seeing a doctor who is familiar with my medical history. It was an incredibly hard decision to make because I felt like such a failure. I could take a Leave of Absence and return to HUC next year, but I knew that once I left Israel, I wouldn't return. I didn't want to do it because I felt like I would be letting down all of the people who were supporting me at home but there was no other choice. I was too sick to go to school.

It took almost a month for me to pull myself together to return home. I had a wonderful classmate who would stop by almost daily and bring me things to eat and drink. She also helped me when it came time to get all of my luggage together to go to the airport. Sheldons Jerusalem cousins opened their home to me and made me feel part of their family for my last month in Jerusalem. The airline was wonderful as well and made sure that I had escorts at each airport to help me with my luggage and through customs. All I could think about was being with Sheldon and the kids and how much I had missed them. It was what kept me going until I got home.

I can't say that it has been easy since I got home. I am still unwell and spend much of my time with doctor visits and tests. I had some surgery a couple of weeks ago to, hopefully, fix some problems but things remain the same. I have also been very depressed (what a short sentence to describe the depths of despair I have been feeling). I took such a leap of faith to follow this dream and, suddenly, it came crashing down around me. Now what? What will I do? What will be my purpose? How will I make sense out of this whole experience and figure out meaning for the rest of my life?

The words of Danny Siegel have gone through my mind many times. I want to be a Rabbi so much but do I HAVE to be a Rabbi to do the kind of work I want to do? And what do I want to do? I know that I want to feed people - that is what I have always loved to do. It would be wonderful to be able to bring food to people in their homes or have a small place where people could come to eat without paying - where they could feel good about themselves while enjoying a meal with friends. It won't happen today or tomorrow but it gives me a purpose and I am looking into putting this plan into action.

I also know that I want to go back to school, even if it is not rabbinical school. I am looking into MSW programs close to home and I think some clinical training will help me on the new journey I will be undertaking.

I want to have some fun as well. To that end, Sheldon and I have come up with an idea which will involve the start of a new blog and, what I hope will be many new adventures. Whenever he is off school, Sheldon and I plan to take road trips around the country. We want to ask people why we should get off the interstate and visit their town. Is there a unique store, an unusual festival or market night, a delicious dish at a local restaurant? I will be writing to radio and television stations as well as newspapers, synagogues, churches and other groups to see if I can get input from people. I know that there are lots of incredible people and places in the United States and I plan to look for them and write about it. It is something completely different and new and something that I'm excited about. I hope that those of you who have enjoyed reading this blog will follow me to the new one: My first trip will probably be to the Pacific Northwest in April.

So if anyone asks me if anything good has come out of this experience, I would have to answer "yes." I was accepted into rabbinic school at the age of 55 - what a wonderful thing! I spent three months in Israel, starting to learn Hebrew and experience life in Jerusalem. I studied and prayed with very special teachers and met many young men and women who will become the future leaders of Reform Judaism. I wouldn't take back one of these experiences and treasure them. And had I not come home, I would not have been able to see my beloved San Francisco Giants win the World Series. Maybe this is how it was meant to be all along.

One last thing that I have learned through this entire experience. I love my family and my friends and I don't want to be far away from any of them ever again. I didn't need to feel embarrassment over this experience because everyone has been incredibly supportive through it all. I am lucky to have them and I am thankful every single day for their encouragement and love.