Thursday, October 18, 2012


Work days can be long with many necessary tasks, some immediate, some not, filling the allotted time and spilling over most days.  Immediate stuff like patient care and phone calls get done faithfully.  Less urgent stuff like signing charts or billing eventually gets done, though not always in the timely way that it should.  And then there are things that I should do that lack negative consequences if I don't so too often I don't.  And amid this task clutter lurk things that I want to do so badly that I will assign specific time.

One of them approaches this shabbat, my periodic outing to worship at Beth Tfiloh in Baltimore, partaking of Rabbi Wohlberg's comments in person, though tend to keep up with the transcripts of his sermons on the web.  Something about being in that particular sanctuary engages me.  Part of it is my intellect but a substantial part transcends that.  They have separate seating for men and women with a discrete transparent mechitza which I accept readily, even though my own tradition is to sit with my family, to get something else in return.  What I get in return may be immersion with a few hundred other people who also want to be there when they could have been doing something else.  I get a sense of sitting among experts who chant well, reason well, and show sensitivity to women when others of that OU stripe are often callous.  Is it the friendliest place I have been?  No.  Do they have macher swoops as part of their governance?  Haven't a clue but I suspect that the Rabbi has sufficient authority and temperament to resist it if they did.  Yet a morning there captures the AKSE logo of Embracing/Engaging/Enriching more that most experiences that I have.

The week after, I have an appointment to donate platelets.  That is another destination for me, an experience that I will seek out.  While I function as an individual donor there, anonymous to the other donors and to the platelet recipients, being part of that project keeps me in a community even if I never interact with other members of the community.  Since breakfast is mandatory before donating, I have a large leisurely meal.  For two hours I have peace and quiet with the beeper turned off and nothing else to do but watch Create TV while whole blood flows from one antecubital vein into a machine, then returned minus a few components into the other arm.  Usually there are some perioral paresthesias from the calcium chelating agent causing me to have transient hypocalcemia which reminds me that I am doing something to benefit somebody else.  Eventually the session concludes, they offer me a souvenir which adds to my sense of community, and I have some Keurig coffee before proceeding to my next destination, which is usually an appropriate expression that this is part of my personal leisure time.

I agreed to do a long Torah portion Thanksgiving weekend.  While I do not generally regard a two hour block in my own sanctuary as particularly inspirational, the challenge of learning a new and difficult piece of Torah usually is.  It takes preparation which in itself forces a respite for a half-hour or so every night for a few weeks when TV or Facebook or other usual activities get set aside for this special activity.  In order to do this well, I also have to review what the portion is about, so I learn a little more Torah than I otherwise might as a byproduct of the effort.  And it is usually performed well in the end, so people who attend more out of obligation than desire derive some benefit with enhancement of their usual shabbat morning experience.

And finally I have my work.  Much of it is work but infused among the tasks are challenges and interactions with people who rise to the occasion, whether they be patients who return to the office better than they were, patients in the hospital whose lab work looks a lot better on day 3 than on arrival, residents who thought a problem through before seeking the answer from me, collaboration with other experts.  I do not often recognize this as inspirational while I am doing it, but on reflection it often is.

So amid much of the ordinary of the waking hours comes a few moments of mostly planned investment in time that generates psychic dollars of ample return.

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