Towards Another Beginning: “Because One Did Survive the Wreck”

In one of his final interviews, Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist Sam Shepard explained that the “most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning.” While he was discussing one of the most unpredictable of fields — the theater, I apply it to another rather unpredictable profession. The one I chose twenty-one years ago. Education.

Fourteen months ago I made the decision to jump ship. Not from teaching, but from a special little school that had been my home for the majority of my career. A home I had the privilege to help build along side my husband. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, this exodus was incredibly painful and anything but easy.

And yet, G-d.

You see, I thought I was bobbing in the open water alone, cast away, abandoned, lost. The amazing colleagues, the Christian fellowship, the beautiful students, the husband’s surprise coffee deliveries. Lost, lost, lost, lost.

Perhaps. But then again, G-d.

The creator of the universe did not just comfort me in my time of transition, nor did He merely open a door to another teaching position. No, he pulled the magic trick of the century. In the priceless words of Annie Dillard, I “finally understood that [I’m] dealing with a maniac.” G-d is that outrageously good and perfect and generous.

And to anyone who would argue that point with me, I say look at the ship that He sent to rescue me. My new beginning, my new school, the Yeshiva I now call home. Look a little closer and you’ll see the face of G-d.

His eyes sparkle with Torat Yisrael, or the commitment to learning Torah. His complexion shines with Medinat Yisrael, or the celebration of the State of Israel. His smile radiates with Chessed, or the devotion to community. And his voice rings out with Tefilah, or prayer each morning and each afternoon.

Only G-d could drop me into a place where Psalm 121 is read in Hebrew over the loudspeaker every afternoon. Not to mention the worship songs during the spontaneous school-wide Kumsitz, which literally means “come,” “sit!”

Sunday I sat listening to the sermon at my church, Journey of Faith. It was titled “Transform Together,” and was part of a larger sermon series titled Gadgets. The general idea is that through G-d, everything fits together; through G-d, all people are connected.” As a self-proclaimed tried-and-true introvert (INFJ, to be exact), the connection part of G-d’s plan causes me some social anxiety at worst and the occasional awkward handshake at best. (One of the perks of working with Orthodox men — no handshaking.)

But this time it made sense. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he urges us to be “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (12:1 NIV). I’ve never quite mastered the holy and pleasing part of Christianity (and by the way, if any of you have, please shoot me a 21-day plan, so I can get started). But I am here to say the Orthodox Jewish community gets it.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’ve never witnessed Christians living out Romans 12:1 — I certainly have. One specific example is my late mother-in-law who contributed in great part to my faith. But this time I see it in legion. And it is breathtaking.

The irony of my choosing to teach Melville’s epic novel Moby-Dick to my first class of 12th graders at this new school is not lost on me. [Spoiler alert — although, shame on you if you haven’t read it!] In the epilogue, Ishmael is left bobbing in the expanse of the Pacific Ocean while his ship and ship mates have all been drowned. Melville writes, “The drama’s done. Why then here does any one step forth? –Because one did survive the wreck.”

It was the whale ship named The Rachel that picked Ishmael up. It is the Jewish community that has invited me aboard. And I sail across this new beginning with a glorious wind on my face. Baruch Hashem and a hearty Thank G-d!

Sivan is the New June

It’s finally summer, and I could pretend I want to party like it’s… well, like it’s 5779. But I’ve decided the only chagiga fit for the ending of this beautiful school year is starting a blog.

I’ve now celebrated twenty-one Junes — seven in a secular private school, thirteen in a Christian school, and one at an Orthodox Jewish girls school. Only this time I see June of 2019 as the Hebrew month of Sivan in the year 5779.

What else do I see in a new way?

  • I see more clearly the power and beauty of G-d, and I am unable to contain my excitement.
  • I see for the first time what community and family should and can look like, and it enchants me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I consider Him my personal savior whose death was ransom for my sin. And I recognize that none of that matters where I teach. And that’s fine with me. It’s complicated — and I look forward to exploring this issue in my blog, so buckle up.

In fact, let me explain what to expect:

  • The Church today is disconnected from its Jewish brothers and sisters, and, in a sense, from the life of the Jewish man we follow. My hope is to find some connections that will enrich all of us. How can 21st Century Christians love God and each other better?
  • I will explore cultural, biblical, spiritual, philosophical, historical, culinary, traditional, literary, legal, gender, political, personal topics and more! Each Sunday evening the pastor at my church delivers a pithy sermon; I plan to use his messages as occasional spring boards for my posts. How do observant Jews see the message, experience it, live it, even disagree with it? And how does that inform our Christian walk?
  • My goal is not to reach but to honor the modern Orthodox community, of course. Realistically, I am speaking to the wider Christian community. Chief of all, however, is to reach the depths of my own heart, my own faith. Perhaps in doing so, a few readers will also find new paths toward God. And if that happens, then Nachas all around!
  • If I don’t mess this up too much, perhaps this blog can be a space where both Jews and Christians feel blessed, honored, challenged, and united. Perhaps we can all cry out to the Creator of the Universe in a unanimous Baruch Hashem & Thank God.

Each week for the past nine months, my family has listened to my observations about teaching the daughters of the Orthodox community. They’ve enjoyed hearing the many hilarious mistakes I’ve made (just wait… I will share them here eventually) as much as I’ve enjoyed teaching them how to pronounce seemingly endless Hebrew phrases.

Of course, life teaching English at a Yeshiva high school is more than misplacing the Tefilah (prayer) sheets or learning to pronounce the gravelly wet “ech” in Derech Eretz (high character). So much funnier. So much lovelier. So much more.

My life has changed in a remarkable, magical, G-d-shaped way now that I am a sometime-sort-of-bumbling non-Jewish member of this beautiful Jewish community. And that’s what I hope to share here. Baruch Hashem and Thank G-d!

#christian #englishteacher #yeshiva #losangeles #judaism #modernorthodox #journeyoffaith #zerotohero

May these blogs be to you as savory bourekas.

“For to miss the joy is to miss all.”

— Robert Louis Stevenson

Welcome to my blog. I hope to offer engaging observations, challenging questions, meaningful introspection, and endless Nachas as I explore faith, learning, and life as a Christian English teacher at an Orthodox Jewish Girls School. I invite you to subscribe and, of course, to comment on what I write. As always, Baruch Hashem & Thank God!