A bat mitzvah, two surgeries, three hospital stays, no more diet coke, 65 pounds, too much press, one move and another coming up, and a new job. What a year it's been.
I had heard about midlife crises but didn't think I would have one nor did I think it would come in my 45th year. 5776 has been tumultuous to say the least. Thank God, it began with a Simcha, the joyous celebration of my third daughter’s bat mitzvah. Ayelet is a driven, passionate, serious and determined young lady. She would not settle for anything less than perfection from her Torah reading to the tune she chose for Adon Olam to the red carpet Yelliwood party later that night - she wanted everything to be just right and because of her it was. Surrounded by family and friends Ayelet took to the Bimah and led, sang, chanted and spoke beautifully. I was so proud. We all were. She had her celebration just in time for me to be able to dance.
I have had knee problems for many years. After four minor surgeries over the past 20 years I decided it was finally time to realize my childhood dream of becoming Steve Austin, the 6 million dollar man. I don't know how much the surgery actually cost but I'm at least a 6,000 dollar man with my new titanium knee. The surgery went well but the recovery was rough landing me back in the hospital over Thanksgiving weekend. It's astonishing how the level of care declines when there's turkey and gravy waiting at home.
The night before my knee replacement surgery was the last time I drank a Diet Coke. I had been drinking about a two liter bottle each day for years. I was, it's fair to say, obsessed and addicted to diet coke. Giving up Diet Coke was not a choice at first. I had to fast from midnight until my surgery so at around 11:30pm I enjoyed my last can and then looked forward to my next after waking up in the recovery room. I even packed some in my overnight bag just in case the hospital served Pepsi. But then, because of a number of factors that complicated my recovery I just didn't have the desire anymore. I've had this from time to time when I've been sick in the past but this time it stuck. And now, seven months later, I am dc free. My new obsession is black tea (decaffeinated).
Along with my newfound distaste for diet coke came a lot of weight loss. I don't know if the two are related but I lost about 30 pounds in a the first month of my recovery. Not the healthiest way to slim down but I'll take it. In January I decided to capitalize on being able to see my feet and I went on the “Stop Eating You Fat Bastard” diet. 65 pounds later I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Unfortunately that didn’t stop me from ending up back in the hospital.
After many injections and lots of therapy it was time to really treat my long-time back problems. A quick surgery and hospital stay later I was ready to start my recovery - again. This time would be much easier and now, I’m happy to say I’m pain free and ready for my next adventure. I never could have could have imagined what this new adventure would be.
Like many, I had been watching Donald Trump’s rise to political fame over the course of this year. He broke every record and every expectation. When it was announced that he would be coming to “our house” at AIPAC, I joined hundreds of other rabbis, cantors and Jewish leaders in a protest. For reasons I still don’t understand, I received a tremendous amount of press coverage and became the face of this protest. And this is where my year really got crazy. I stood up for what I believed in. I took a stand for Jewish and human values and it was received, by many, as an inappropriate political statement. I never imagined that so many people in the Jewish community would be blind to the hatred and ugliness that Donald Trump had embodied. I am still stunned by that. I am deeply saddened that so many people can so quickly dismiss a fight against bigotry and xenophobia for the sake of political neutrality.
Which brings me to this summer, a new job, a new community and potentially a new move (still to be determined as of this writing.) For many years I have dreamed of building a new kind of Jewish community: A community that is built from the ground up based on Jewish values and that learns and lives Judaism in every moment. I believe that young Jewish families are looking for progressive, authentic, Jewish, spiritual experiences and community and that mainstream synagogues and temples have struggled to reach these Jews. The journey over this past year has brought me to a place where I’m finally going to begin to realize this dream.
I’m not sure if what I’ve experienced this past year counts as a mid-life crisis but it has sure felt like one and I’ve come through it, thus far, in one piece - with a little help from my surgeons.
What a year it’s been.