“Wow.” Although somewhat inarticulate this word seems to best describe my initial feelings as I complete my Me’ah reading for the week. However, this is no ordinary week. This is the final week, the final reading of two years, four semesters, forty Thursday nights and one hundred hours of class. It’s a strange feeling, this “wow.”
There is a wonderful sense of accomplishment in this “wow.” Although, once I began the course, I had no rational doubts that I would reach this moment, it is still a great moment of success. For years (and years – and even more years) I thought about enrolling in Me’ah but the time was never right. Eventually I decided that the time was as right as it would ever get, knowing that there would always be competing forces or as Hillel said “Do not say when I have free time I will learn, lest you not have free time.” If I wanted to learn there was no time like the present. Although I loved those first few weeks studying Bible, I also could not quite believe that I had to put forty (plus a few extra for snow days) recurring Thursday 7-10 PM appointments in my Google calendar. That is a lot of time for those of us who treat time as the precious entity that it is.
My sense is that each person who participates in Me’ah does so for his or her own personal reason. For me, Judaism has always been important in my life, personally, and often professionally. However, I have always had the feeling that there were things missing in my knowledge base and my hope was that studying in Me’ah would change that. Having completed Me’ah (writing that sentence still doesn’t feel real) I now know, more than ever, that there are things missing in my knowledge base. However, I now feel positive about those gaps rather than negative. I know with certainty now that I will never know or understand everything about Jewish history and the Jewish experience but I now feel secure in my understanding that knowing everything is not the goal for me. My goal is continuing to learn with no hope of ever feeling that I know “enough.” And somehow that feels comforting and empowering in a way that I didn’t feel before.
What is most striking to me about this set of classes (Bible, Rabbinics, Medieval, Modern) is the way in which it put my own personal and family history/story into a context that is both personal and universal. As I complete the readings I am also acutely aware that the story is continuing and that each one of us, in whatever ways we are – or are not – involved in American Jewry are the next chapter of the story. Whatever ways we integrate Judaism into our lives and into the lives of our children, grandchildren and community is what future generations of Me’ah students will learn about. Learning about the beginnings, and all that has come before present day challenges, has truly helped me appreciate and feel incredibly optimistic about what’s next. Generations before us have struggled to make meaning out of Judaism all across time and space. We are no different. And we are different. We will make our mark and we don’t know yet what it will be. That is an incredibly exciting feeling. “Wow.”