Saturday, December 1, 2007

MHSeattle, Joel Rothschild, 12-01-2007

When Summer Shapiro visited us at Moishe House Seattle this past month, she told me one thing we should take special care to avoid is burn-out. It's possible to have too much of even such a good thing as Moishe House! This concern was well-placed. Setting up this house and all of the programs we're doing here together was a rush and a joy, but it coincided with a crazy time at my work and left me exhausted. So for the last month or so, whenever someone me asks how I am, I've been saying, "I'm ready for my vacation."

Finally last week someone asked me back, "so are you actually going to take a vacation?" The sad punchline is that, no, I was going to chill out for a week in Boulder this month but it fell through, and now I'm actually not going on any kind of vacation. I'm just ready for one should it happen to take me by surprise.

Tamar, on the other hand, has hit the jackpot. She starts nursing school in January and just wrapped up her job last week -- which leaves the entire month of December to (what else?) hang out in Israel and India! I'm not jealous, exactly. In fact, just to show how not jealous I am, I offered to take her passport and visa application to Kinko's to FedEx them to the Indian consulate in San Francisco. And so I did. So I thought.

Tamar was nervous that several days after the application had been received in San Francisco there was still no sign of it being in process. It turns out the office that processes these things is badly understaffed, so it took me an hour of dialing and redialing and being put on hold for 30 minutes and dialing and dialing and redialing again, just to get through to someone there who could finally tell me the reason why Tamar's visa application wasn't in process: no passport!

The panic wasn't too bad. The bag I had taken the application to Kinko's in was right there with me, and it didn't take long to find Tamar's passport, hiding under some papers, having fallen out of the application envelope while I took it to be sent. I signed out of work immediately and ran to the nearest FedEx. This was the day before Thanksgiving.

Every business day since then, I have struggled my way though the consulate phone system in order to harass a very nice woman named Teresa, who took it upon herself to get Tamar's visa application rammed through the consulate's process in time for her to leave the country on the date of her ticket, December 2. That's tomorrow. Every day the situation had incrementally evolved somehow, with the possibility that the passport could be FedExed back that evening. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday afternoon, I'm baking challah for our Shabbat guests soon to come, and I call Teresa one last time, hanging on to faint hopes for a miracle. It's the same story as before: there is a batch of passports coming from the consulate today, Tamar's passport should be in it, if it is Teresa will make sure it is in FedEx's hands in time for next-day delivery. And that's it. Shabbat comes, we have a lovely time, our Russian friends sing us Russian songs into the night, we sleep and try not to think about how expensive it will be to change Tamar's ticket come Saturday night.

Normally on a Saturday morning I like to go with Tamar to this tiny synagogue full of the sweetest people my grandparents' age. But with the Russians last night and a crowd of folks from the "Floating Minyan" coming by in the afternoon, I just needed to sleep in and relax with a book and be alone, so I stayed home. (Remember how I'm ready for that vacation?) But there was one visitor to the house I truly hadn't expected. Eliyahu, dressed as a FedEx deliveryman, came to our door this morning, exactly 24 hours before Tamar needs to leave. And he had her passport.

To emphasize the magic of this Shabbat miracle, when I picked up the envelope, and shook it to be sure that her passport really as in there, it began to snow. I felt enchanted sitting in my comfy chair, reading my book, waiting for my guests, watching the snow fall. Perhaps I can say I even felt calm and at peace. I'm still ready for my vacation, though.

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