When I first thought about spending some time in Israel after graduating college, I planned to go to a different program than the one I ultimately chose – not a seminary program, but a professional training program, of sorts. I was really jazzed about it, and I spent a great deal of time tracking down scholarships and grants and cost-of-living stipends from every Jewish organization under the sun. I was a finalist for a generous award from my local JCC, and they really seemed to like my application – but in the end, they gave the main award to someone else, and I received a smaller grant that wouldn’t be much help in defraying the considerable cost of the program I liked.
I moped about it for a while before deciding that, as disappointed as I was, the reason I hadn’t gotten it would reveal itself in time. Meanwhile, I turned my attention to finding another way of getting to Israel. I remembered a seminary I’d visited and liked on my last trip, and found out that I could get a Masa grant for studying there. I completed a University Jewish Experience course, and got a free voucher for a plane ticket to Israel. After spending months trying, in vain, to line up the cash for the first program, the finances for going to seminary fell into place in less than a week.
So I booked my free flight, started brushing up on my Hebrew, got some plug adapters, and packed my bags. I was all ready to leave as scheduled, on Sunday, August 28. Then a hurricane came barreling up the East Coast.
My flights were cancelled, of course, and by the time my parents (bless them) got through to someone at the airline – what with everyone in the US calling at once to rebook – they had no seats left on flights to Israel before September 5. Thwarted again.
I know, of course, that this is beyond my control. I cannot stop the hurricane. I cannot make the airline add more flights. I’m sure that many of the other students traveling from the US have had their flights canceled, as well – I won’t be the only one arriving late. I’m telling myself to let go and let God. But if I have an Achilles heel, it’s my inability to accept a last-minute change of plans. I haven’t got a spontaneous bone in my body. I like to plan far in advance, and if someone or something comes along and changes those plans, I get anxious and extremely unpleasant. I instinctively start what-ifing – what if I miss something really important in the first week? what if all the other students are friends by the time I get there? what if this flight gets cancelled, too? Setting aside my neurotic, irrational concerns, I’m still disappointed to miss an entire week of the Elul zman. I can’t get that time back.
When I was a CIT at camp one summer, our advisor gave us each a little meditation on a notecard at the beginning of the session. Mine said, “I am flexible and flowing.” She couldn’t have known yet how perfectly appropriate to me this was, but some combination of fate and providence led her to give me that card. I’ve done most of my growing up since then, and in that time I’ve begun to understand the importance of being flexible, of leaving room in my plans for God to interfere. This hurricane has been a master class in flexibility, and of course, there’s no better place than Israel to learn how to let go of the wheel and let God drive for a while. Now, if I could just get there . . .