A few days ago I started a long post about why I hated Hebrew School, but ended up depressing myself so much that I never finished. I'll get to it one day. For now, instead, I'll write about my weekend, which was full of all the enrichment, expansion, and joy that Hebrew School never even came close to.
I was at my synagogue's community retreat, once an annual event but on a break for the past few years. I'm so glad it's back. There was no agenda other than to be with one another in a beautiful, green camp by a big lake, where a few fat ducks and many tiny caterpillars joined us on the grass for prayer, study, and barbecue. We were a mix of families, non-parent adults, and lots of little kids—populations whose paths don't often cross in our community. I loved watching the next few generations put on a little play about the whiny Israelites of Parashat Beha'alotekha, more fun even than the make-your-own sundaes we had after dinner on Saturday night. (Ice cream, hot dogs—no, not together, don't worry—foods I rarely touch these days in an attempt to be healthier. But my understanding is that they have no calories when eaten on picnic tables next to a field of daffodils on Shabbat.) I even did some Israeli dancing, a pastime I've avoided most of my life because I tend to trip over my own feet, and all the Israeli dancing teachers I've ever met were really dorky. But this weekend's teacher was cool.
The best part, though, was where we had Shabbat morning services—outdoors on a little wooden platform surrounded by air so fresh that you could practically see all the mosquitoes' tiny chests expanding in deep, nourishing breaths (right before they bit me, that is. But I'm not complaining.) I chanted Torah and listened as the trop flew up into the trees, probably returning to its origins. I had an aliyah for those of us who, like the Nazirites of last week's portion, had taken a vow—but who hadn't quite been able to make it work. So I tried to rededicate myself, with witnesses of leaves, sky, and friends, to many old and new promises.
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