Why I Love My Job

15 February 2007

As with any job, especially any teaching job, sometimes it gets on my nerves. I am thankful for it, I enjoy it, it is a good job for me and for my family. But from time to time the boys are unruly, campus seems far from home, or there feels like there’s too much work.

But most of the time, I am quite thankful for it.  Last night, after my night class, my key wouldn’t work for my car.  I could get into the trunk, but not into the passenger or driver side doors.

One of my students, Tzvi, lent me his cell phone (I also managed to lock my Faculty Lounge key in the Faculty Lounge) and walked with me to Jewel.  When it was clear that the LockEase spray I bought wasn’t working, Yisroel, another student, rolled up in his car and told Tzvi to get to the Beis Medrash and daven Maariv (pray evening prayers).  Yisroel then offered to drive me home.  This was truly kind of both these students.

Yisroel, who is kohen, or Jewish priest, must keep certain stringent levels of purity.  As we were driving home, I said, “Just so you know, we have to drive by a cemetery on the way.”

“It’s okay.  Driving by is not a problem.”

“But at one point there is a cemetery on both side of the street.”  We were on Peterson, and for a stretch of Peterson between Western and Ravenswood, Rosehill Cemetery occupies land both north and south of the street.

“It’s not a Jewish cemetery, is it?”

“I know there are Jews buried in both sections.  I know for a fact.  I don’t know if they were observant or not, though.”

“Whether they were observant or not doesn’t matter.”  A worried look came over Yisroel’s face.  “Are there trees overhanging the street?”  He asked this because of the concept of tuma ohel, or “tent impurity.”  In Jewish law, a source of tuma, or impurity, located under a tent, canopy, or any other covering, including a tree,  renders all things under that covering tamei, or ritually unclean.  Yisroel, as a kohen, couldn’t let himself become tamei.

“I’m not sure,” I replied.  “There are pretty tall trees in the cemetery, so probably.”

“Uh oh,” he said, slowing the car.  “We might have to go around.”

“Well, I said, we’ll have time to figure out if we need to go around before we get there.”

Yisroel had a moment of clarity, “Oh, I know the cemetery you’re talking about.  I’ve been by it before.  It’s not a problem if we stay in the left lane.”

And this is what I love about my job: how often do you get to sit in a car with a descendent of Aaron, Moses’ brother, and discuss whether or not one might become ritually impure while driving down Peterson?


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