Returning to, once again.

Somehow another month has gone by. I actually can’t believe it. I know, I know, so cliche to speak of time passing quickly. But there are times where it must be noted.
My life has once again changed drastically since I last wrote. Going from seminary life to being a Madricha (coordinator/counselor) for the program I went on 2 years ago (Livnot U’Lehibanot) has been quite a shift. Full of ups and downs, hardships and accomplishments. My experiences continue to be rich, complex, fulfilling, and challenging, somehow in a whole new way than I had expected. Going from student to teacher, from living in my own cloud of learning and reflecting and processing to serving as a mirror for others to grow and question. Teaching, listening, and questioning for others has been a whole new teacher for me!

Some things I’ve done in the last month:

Gave an hour long presentation on Kabbalistic concepts of Masculine and Feminine
Danced at a friend’s wedding
Sat under a few waterfalls admiring rainbows in water droplets
Stayed up until 3am talking under the stars
Been called someone’s spiritual guru (ha!)
Completed a 3 day hike (somewhere near 30 miles) ending in the Mediterranean Sea
Seen a full lunar eclipse
Sang to the Prime Minister’s wife
Eaten way too much hummus
Cried at the most beautiful Shabbat sunsets
Been proposed to
Walked through a banana field
Cooked/done dishes for 35+ people
Napped on the side of the road with a group of 30 people

Here are some excerpts from emails and conversations I’ve had in the last month:
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i wanted to share something i’m learning about today (in preparation for my final project that will be an hour long presentation on sunday!) this is from the book about kabbalah of masculine and feminine (by sarah yehudite schnieder).

“one of the features of paradox that makes it uniquely suited to this task is its capacity to generate a kind of electric current between its two poles. this happens automatically when the mind focuses in and discovers that it cannot make peace with either side. at the very moment the intellect savors the truth of one statement, the stink of heresy spoils its repose. jolted, the mind scrambles for a solution, which it does find in the other side. but that statement, too, is also no safe haven, for its truth has problems of its own.
back and forth, a reluctant nomad, the mind seeks peace to no avail until…a wonder happens. its oscillation triggers a kind of electric current that adds motion to the system. and once there is motion, there is time. and if the motion is perfectly symmetrical between truth and counter-truth, then there is above-time. now in addition to its static and opposing truths a dynamic element appears that fuses the system into a single coordinated whole that is greater than the sum of its parts and possesses the capacity to hold infinite truth.”

it was written in reference to the paradox that god is perfection and yet also perfecting. (the sun and moon, relatively speaking). this reminds me of the israel/nationalism/person of the world dilemma. and religion and god. you and i. in my best moments, i truly believe in the necessity of this ‘dance’ between truth and counter truth, to find the where they can both be true.

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i had this great conversation this morning with the couple i’ve been staying with, hillel and chaya. they’re an amazing couple, totally after my own heart. their values and partnership and the vision they have in raising a family is beautiful. we started talking about physics and god and me going home and relating to the rest of the world. hillel has a shiur/class that he gives called “i don’t believe in god, i’m not a monotheist, and i’m an orthodox rabbi.” i think thats a good summary of our conversation and his orientation. (he’s a rabbi, in yeshiva, and teaches meditation in the old city). we talked about the necessity of breaking away from all the empty shells religion has created. how transformation can only happen after a fall. he said he finds that spiritual people (especially scientists) who distance themselves from religion are totally coming from the right place, and a necessary place. seeing through the bullshit and the emptiness and challenging the status quo of big groups of people. this is so much of what i’ve been experiencing, that i find so hard to give over when i talk to people from home. that the concepts we were taught about what religion and god are need to be shattered before we can make any real progress. that i don’t believe in that god either, or that religion that fosters blind faith or empty ritual. but it is so possible to find something greater, once we leave those shattered pieces behind. to realize that the way that we relate to the world, in awe of creation and physics, can be what religion is. then we talked about all these physicists who talk about light and how they concepts are exactly what kabbalah talks about, just slightly different language. and how amazing and transformative that realization is. that science and spirituality aren’t separate or contradictory, but only reinforce each other. that oneness. it goes so far beyond god. and even YHVH, because the second we try to name it, we lose some of its essence.

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the last few days have been such a whirlwind, whoa. going from being the ever questioning student to this new role of madricha/teacher to people on their own journeys is mind blowing. i started getting challenged the second i got here! “why are you wearing long sleeves when its hot out?” “oh, so you’re religious?” “well, why?” “wait, you don’t TOUCH boys!?!?!” its been crazy. i feel like in a few days i’ve had to solidify where i stand, sometimes in ways that i’m not even ready to do yet. overall, i feel good. i feel so happy and grateful about where i’m at in my own journey, and also nostalgic for this place that the participants/chevre here are in. i don’t think i realized how far i’d come, truly, until i got to see the mirror of others experiences. but it’s lonely too. i miss being around my classmates and teachers, to really focus on this journey and process which is still so new for me! i miss being the one who’s experience is central in the learning environment. i need to find a way to be here for the participants here (some of whom are having crazy intense existential experiences so similar to mine and asking so many amazing, difficult, questions), but also continue my own growth and learning. so so weird to be back at this place that for 2 years i held in such a high place, as a place that had the key to unlock my spiritually, only to realize that i’ve outgrown it in a sense. that i now hold my own key more than this place holds it for me.

i had a moment on shavuot (a word on shavuot: one of the major 3 holidays. we’ve been counting the days between passover and this day (called counting the omer) and it celebrated the day the jews received the torah on mt sinai. a big deal, to say the least. but very lightly celebrated here so as not to freak out the participants or turn them off to religiousness). so, on shavuot, i had this moment by myself where i so distinctly felt god (which is impossible to articulate, but a distinct feeling for me). this feeling i remembered having here 2 years ago that i’ve had so few times. my time of seeing the “light” (as a teacher of mine would say). i had that same feeling, and instead of being in awe and somewhat scared of it like i was a few years ago, i welcomed it with open arms. i felt like, ‘ah i knew you’d come back. and i’m ready for you. for this feeling to come and go, and not be scared by that. to accept god and torah as important in my life, no matter how scary that seems sometimes.’ its so undeniably a part of me. so, i had my own mt sinai experience. of feeling god and saying “yes.”

the coordinator who i was so close to on my trip, adam, led our first hike the other day. fitting, i thought. he was so interested in where i’m at, how my questions have changed in the last two years. as i was telling him somewhat about where i’m at and shavuot and my process he smiled and was like ‘you should see yourself jenna.’ i said ‘i bet you never thought we’d be having this conversation, huh? after seeing me so angry and confused for those two weeks.’ and he said, ‘you know, i’m not actually surprised. the people who have the biggest fire, the most burning questions, are often the ones that will go to the farthest lengths to get them answered. and that is exactly what you’re doing.’ whoa. so true. how special to be able to be here, 2 years later, reflecting on progress and growth, and playing a role to now help others through their own journeys, wherever they might end up.
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There you have it. A less than perfect summary, but better than nothing. As for right now, I am trying to regain walking abilities after this insane hike. So ready for a restful weekend. And will hopefully be seeing Matisyahu in Jerusalem next week with some wonderful people! I’m. So. Excited.

Also, I’ll be home in less than a month! So crazy.

Love to you all and see you soon 🙂