Yeah, I'm back from the Havurah Institute.
I still can't describe what's so great about this week. (Though BZ can.) I keep trying and keep failing. I think the point I miss most often is that even if you ignore the learning, the singing, the praying, and the late-night discussions, what you have left is still the pinnicle of community. Everything we do is as a community, and as individuals empowered within the community. You don't know whether someone's a rabbi or not unless someone else tells you, and it tends not to come up. You don't learn from gurus; you learn from your peers. You follow people as friends, and then later you lead them. Because everyone has something to learn, and everyone has something to teach.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to learn as much as I have in past years because I was working. This was my job all summer: helping to plan and run this week. So while I was there, I couldn't take classes, attend many workshops, or hike up Mt. Monadnock. One of my failed descriptions of the Institute in the past has been that "it's like a week long Jewish summer camp for all ages, but somehow better". Whatever the "somehow" is usually, it was mostly missing for me. And I was primarily left with a damn good week of camp, with the people whom I'd rather be around more so than anyone else I know. The socialization and community, and those late-night talks, were plenty good enough to enjoy the week even without the formal learning or much spirituality. And the fact that I didn't have too many new melodies to learn was negated by the fact that I had more new melodies to teach than ever before. (Raffi, I know you're not reading this, but I finally remembered our yedid nefesh. All of it. Took me long enough.)
Yes, the week was a bit of a challenge, being in the office and having a different experience than I'm used to and than everyone else was having. (I checked my email and LJ once or twice a day, rather than once or twice in the whole week.) And there were some incredibly stressful parts. But just like any other production, this part is redeemed by all the thanks you get and all the comments you hear from people who loved the final product. Not everyone needs to look behind the curtain, you see, and we work on behalf of those who don't. And I have total faith that next year will be even better, both in an objective sense and in the sense that I won't have to see all the warts.
Our group of friends seemed less like a group this year than in my 3 previous years. Which makes sense, I guess: shoving 4 mattresses into a room and sleeping on the floor in a big pile is a bit more likely for a 17-21 year old crowd than a 21-24 year old crowd. Which isn't to say that that didn't happen. But I really connected with people more on an individual level than I usually do. And when I needed my fill of group dynamics, I just went and hung out with the teens, whose company I enjoyed much more than I thought I would. (Wonderful; more new people to miss.)
How can I be so lucky? This was already my 3rd event in 2005 that's this fun, this socially intense, and that I wish I could stay at forever. And as if the New Years reunion, AF'05, and Institute weren't enough, there's still Folk Fest in just 11 days now. How did I end up with such communities? This, these things, my people, my wonderful friends who teach me so much, are the best blessing I could ever have. My life is so full. Cosi r'vayah.
And at least I get to keep it going. Saw Beth on Monday. Seeing benjifus and Jo and djembe_boy and hopefully bloomable this weekend. Maybe seeing some Institute people at Fest. And so on, throughout the year until next summer...