After my third Institute, and my 5th NHC event if you count the HavuratEsrei Winter Gatherings, it's finally sinking in that (1) it's really different every time, and (2) as Spice put it, Institute is still part of this world, not heaven. Which is okay, because really, it would be kind of exhausting to have a complete life-changing transformative experience every six months. Raffi helped me realize this week that, as wonderful as Institute is, it's hard for it to be transformative unless lots of it is a new experience for you. He had similar spiritual, philosophical, musical, powerful Jewish experiences at Brown, and now I've had them at past Institutes. So it's no more than a great week. And again, that's okay.
It was a great week. My theme for the week seems to have been people, more than all else. I spent lots of time earlier in the week with Bergey, Charley, and Laura; lots of time later in the week with Beth, Beth, and Sophia, two of whom were new; and lots of time all week with the Actual Teens (because it seems silly at this point to call them the Younger Teens, since we as the Older Teens are now almost entirely no longer teenaged). I got to know Mosh rather well. I got to talk to Ben and Elizabeth some. Reconnected with Raffi, and also with Doc and Natalie. And of course, back to the family where it all started, I had a great ride up with Shira, I got to spend some quality time with Jo before he went off to KC, and I got to see Benj after his 2+ months of exile at Ramah. And more, of course. This is the hardest part to let go of, by far. The music in my head is starting to fade already, but I can still close my eyes and see Ben dancing as vividly as if he were in my room right now.
Which isn't to say that nothing good happened other than hanging out. I took two great classes, with two great teachers. Mosh is a wonderful and natural teacher. He is a rabbi when at Institute, possibly the only sometimes-rabbi in the world, and it's not hard to see why we gave him that honor. And shul choreography? Who wouldn't want to learn about that?! He even taught us about the pinkie-during-hagbah thing. Ask me about it somewhere else if you know what I'm talking about and are curious, but I won't ruin the mystery by talking about it here. Everyone in that class does at least something differently at services now, and everyone will remember Institute when they do. And Ben's class? Well, it was about Quantum Physics, Indeterminacy, and the Talmud. How do you think it was? On Wednesday, I uttered the phrase "Collapse the wave function of the eruv" in class, in front of a roomful of people, almost none of whom (including me) had studied both physics and talmud before. And everyone knew what I meant.
Not much new about the davenning. I cried during Ben's Kol Zimrah Shacharit on Friday again. The same prayer service that you're supposed to do every morning of the year, which is virtually identical 6 days of the week almost every week. And he strums and sings Psalm 146 to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", and I just can't hold the tears back. Also the outdoor praying at the Cathedral of the Pines. Then the first of several aufrufs for M and M-S before they get married in 3 weeks, and sadly I can't go to the wedding, but I was glad to be able to celebrate anyway. Musical prayer all week, and I can just feel that it's more meaningful that way.
They wanted me to run the Institute next year. Mark asked me to co-chair it with someone. I was so flattered, even though co-chair seems to be less of a tough job than in past years. People on the NHC board kept coming up to me to try to convince me to do it, and each time I almost said yes. But in the end, I asked advice from 4 past co-chairs and a couple other people, processed it all, and decided that I have too much going on in the coming year to do it. That's the only reason, really; I'd have loved to otherwise. But in the mental clarity that only comes for me when I'm among these people, I decided, and as much as it was a hard decision, I know it was the right one.
Had a fun 8 hour ride home with Emily, essentially the NHC office intern for the summer, while I was driving the NHC truck. That was the transition I needed; someone who understood how great the week was, but also really wasn't part of it. And I wasn't tired on the road once. Magic spiritual fruity-Jew adrenaline, I guess. And still other stuff that I'm still processing and thinking about, and that won't end for awhile. and then I'll have my pictures to post and remember.
I had to go back to work today. I slept last night from midnight until 9:30. Didn't get to help unload the truck this morning; needed the sleep too much because I had work at The Evening Job from 1:30 until 9:30. Tomorrow I have work at The New Job from 9-5, and then back to The Evening Job 5:30-9:30. Such a sudden shift back to the real world, and a hectic couple of days of it at that, but this year I think I can handle it.
Yeah, no slice of heaven, but damn good for this planet.
Next up, (with as many as 7 people from Institute planning to be there,) Fest.