I’ve been feeling quite strange lately, and I think that I have figured at least part of it out.
I realized that my heart is not breaking every day. I realized that my heart isn’t crying in pain everyday, the truth is at times my heart is singing and is quite comfortable.
I realized that my heart is not yearning to go back to Israel – actually, it is quite fearful of the return. Worrying about what would I actually do there. Worrying about if I studied for so long, why would I go to a country that will not recognize my degree. Worrying about starting over, AGAIN. Worrying over, what if I have to move away again. Worrying about who my friends will be, because by then two years will have past, and I know that I am different, but I also know that all those who I was close with will also be different.
I realized that I am enjoying what I am doing. That the work that I am doing is good for me (although at the same time I am struggling with why I need to be a rabbi for it). I really do like the work at the hospital. I like the staff, I like meeting with the patients (even though I am not always 100% sure that I am doing the right thing).
I realize that I am trying to settle down. I feel like I’m in limbo. I want to decorate my room, I want to make friends, I want to be part of a community – but then again, this job is only for a year, and I know in a few months time I will be looking for a job, which will probably not be in New York.
I realize that this year is a stabalizer, but to be then spun out back into instability and the unknown.
I feel like I know less of what I want to do next now then I did before. There is still a part of me who wants to be in a pulpit. There is still a part of me that wants to be teaching Torah and speaking Torah on a regular basis. There is still a part of me that wants to do the thing that is said to not be able to do be done. But then there is a part of me that is enjoying just doing work that has nothing to do with politics. There is a part of me that is enjoying that quiet. There is a part of me that is enjoying the lack of pain of others (yes, I know that sounds silly as a chaplain) – but what I mean is that those who are working in the system are not in pain from the system, they are not trying to fight a system and constantly be brought down by it, even the system that says they want to help.
I feel like by being a hospital chaplain I am both rebelling and doing the thing I am “supposed to do”. The world of Orthodox female rabbis is that of creating great change in communities, and here I am just working in a hospital- I am no longer part of that fight. I can’t even attend the webinars or conference calls because they are all done at times that never work with my schedule – but they are conversations that are not for me. At the same time, I am doing a job that no one questions. It is not weird in the Orthodox world for a woman to dedicate her life to visiting the sick, it is good “woman’s work”. It is a thing that you can do and you don’t need to have ordination. You are not deciding law. You are not leading congregations. You are not speaking in front of men and teaching Torah. We nurture and we care and we hold others. I am doing the thing that I never wanted to do…I never wanted to be pigeonholed in “women’s work”, but it is what I am doing and where I am finding joy…
Before I left Israel, I mentioned something about wanting to do chaplaincy, and someone told me that I shouldn’t, that I would be letting down Orthodox women. I am told that it is a shame to let my halachic knowledge “go to waste”. It is a shame to not try and push forward in the traditional field, because I know that I can make great changes for others.
So here I am holding both this guilt of doing the easy thing, of not crying all the time, of not mourning and longing my life in Israel – with the fact that work is making me happy.