The weekend before last was the retreat Shabbaton for Self, Soul, and Text class at Kibbutz Hanaton, our teacher James’ home, in the Galil. The schedules Friday and Saturday were nearly identical, each day going like: 9-9:45: Sit. 9:45-10:30: Walk. 10:30-11:15: Sit. 11:15-12:30: Lunch. 12:30-1:15-Sit. It was brutal, and that’s no joke, since “Sit” didn’t mean “Lay on a couch, go on your computer, and schmooze,” it meant, “Sit upright in the big white tent like the kind we use in Pittsburgh as the Game Day Live Tent at Heinz Field for 45 minutes, focus on your breathing, or, if your nose is too stuffy to make that even remotely relaxing, then on the feeling of your butt in the cushion and try to meditate without thinking of scenes from The Simpsons.” and “Walk” didn’t mean “Go for a stroll on the beautiful grounds of the Kibbutz,” it meant “Slowly pace back-and-forth over the same 10 feet of ground, trying to focus on your steps and breathing without humming the Red Hot Chili Peppers song in your head. The hardest part of this was that we couldn’t hike: Hanaton is a gorgeous place, with birds singing everywhere, that kibbutz smell (read: cow dung) in the air, rolling green hills and farmland, a huge clear sky showing Omnimax sunrises and sunsets twice-daily, and a Druze village in the distance, and the nearest source of water was the reservoir in the distance sealed-off with barbed-wire; all we could do, however, is see everything from a distance. Meals offered no escape either, since this was a “silent” retreat, and by “silent,” they mean “lonely:” there was no talking, touching, looking, or even smiling at your friends from Thursday night until Saturday night. As I said, it was absolutely unforgiving. When we weren’t Sitting or Walking or praying, we were usually either listening to an excellent class by James, meeting with him privately, or singing niggunim with him. Friday afternoon, we all went to the mikveh.
At Pardes, all my teachers are orthodox, which means they don’t touch people of the opposite gender. This doesn’t really seem to be an issue, except, I love my teachers! And sometimes, I really want to give them a hug. They are the best!! I can’t explain to you how wonderful they are as people, mentors, teachers, (sometimes they feel like parents, in a good way) and even friends. When I returned from student teaching it was so exciting to see all of them after two months away, but can I hug them? Not the male teachers! But I could hug the female teachers. And in a way this made their hugs even more meaningful. (Because I know they don’t pass them around frivolously) And to be honest, if I could only hug the male or the female teachers, I’m glad I get to hug the female teachers!! (No offense to any of the teachers!)
Last night we went to Gush Etzion to hike Derech HaAvot (the path of our forefathers) and then go to dinner at one of our teacher’s home. Well, I had the honor of going to one of my favorite teachers’ home. (I had been there before for a Shabbat earlier in the year, so it wasn’t my first time meeting his wife and family.) And I got to hug his wife (who is amazing in her own right)!!!!!!!!!! And it was wonderful to express my gratitude and love to her. And I’m sure that my teacher knows how appreciative I am of his teaching and guidance without giving hugs, but it was still nice to be able to express it physically to her. Maybe it is more for me, that I want to express my appreciation, but whatever it is, it’s something to think about. And I was really happy to be able to hug her!