Each year, usually during the first full week in January, I head off to the Rabbinic Training Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary or, as I have called it for years, Rabbi Camp. Most of you probably dream of lounging on a white sand beach or schussing down a powdery mountain (not a bad dream at all). I dream of five full days of prayer, study and introspection.
The Seminary gathers extraordinary scholars and facilitators and asks them to teach only what they love. There are neither exams nor grades; the students are present for the love of learning. Minyan occurs three times a day, a luxury for many of my colleagues from less-active congregations. In the evenings we scrape away at the crust that forms over our personal lives, spending precious hours delving into the meaning of prayer, the dynamics of leadership, or an unfamiliar approach to spiritual expression.
And there are all the usual hi-jinx that occur when rabbis get together. There are discussions of kipa trends, tax strategies and PDAs. There is the annual debate over the desirability of beer, wine or single-malt scotch, a conversation eerily reminiscent of all the guys on the Metro who know what’s wrong with the Redskins this year. There’s a talent show the last night, with quotation marks around the word “talent.”
Perhaps most important of all is the ability it offers to return to the well of learning and replenish not just contents but desire. It is easy for me to forget the joy of losing myself in a text for its own sake, absent the need to create sermon or lesson plan. The immersion at Rabbi Camp is proof of the words of Psalm 19, “the instruction of the Lord is pure, restoring the soul.”
It is the Jewish Theological Seminary that provides this service to me, and by extension to you. Would you like to know more? Visit www.jtsa.edu (and check out the opportunities for your own learning on-line or on-site). Would you like to support these efforts? Let’s talk.