That’s probably the second most frequent question I’ve been asked in the past 24 hours. Now, we are into the final hours of this week of writing, learning and nourishment that has been the Beyond Walls: Spiritual Writing at Kenyon seminar.
As a rabbi, I spend a lot of time writing. The truth is, I’m pretty sure I will never view the process of writing in the same way ever again. As a result of the sharing of wisdom and guidance from incredible teachers, as well as the openness and sensitivity of my fellow students, I have been indelibly changed. I’m sanguine enough to realize that it will be some time before I will uncover what those words really mean. Only time will tell how what I have learned and experienced settles into my heart and soul. Only time will tell what might actually be different as a result of this experience.
Did it meet my expectations? I came to be nourished. I came to be pushed out of my comfort zones. I came to be open, open to new ideas, new insights, and new techniques. Beyond all of that, I came to be part of a new community. Beyond Walls not only met my expectations, which were not grandiose, it exceeded them. It’s not that I had low expectations for this week. I came without a bundle of preconceived notions of what could be. I came trying to be open. I leave with a renewed stirring in my soul. I leave with a heart that has been filled anew by the people I have met in this Holy place.
At Shabbat services, my teacher Rabbi Stephen Pearce, to whom I owe my arrival at this place, shared some words of Torah. He told a story about 4 monks, who in a desperate state were informed that one of them was the Messiah, without a concrete identification. As a result, their behaviors and words with one another change, and as a consequence, their world changes. I’ve told that story before. Rabbi Pearce used the story to explain that in the gathering of teachers and students at Beyond Walls, he had seen glimpses of the Messiah in the faces of those around him. His words immediately brought to mind a favorite selection from my teacher and friend, poet Danny Siegel:
“If you always assume
the man sitting next to you
is the Messiah
waiting for some simple human kindness–
You will soon come to weigh your words
and watch your hands.
And if he so chooses
Not to reveal himself
In your time–
It will not matter.
Danny Siegel “And God Braided Eve’s Hair” (1976) / “Unlocked Doors” (1983)
In my mind’s eye I see my fellow travelers on this journey at Beyond Walls. I see my teachers. As I imagine myself picturing them one by one, I think of Danny Siegel’s words. I don’t know what it will look like or feel like when the Messiah truly comes. I only know that like my teacher and friend, Rabbi Stephen Pearce, I too, have glimpsed sparks of the Messianic time in these days. That the Messiah was not fully revealed here truly does not matter as I prepare to leave. I have been touched by sparks of the messianic. That’s all that matters. And that truly exceeded any expectation I might have had.
Oh, you’re wondering about that other question, the one which I’ve been asked most frequently in these past 24 hours: “Will you return?”
No expectations, only a gentle prayer:
I hope so!