Busy – But in a Good Way(?)

Dr. Gail Labovitz
January 18, 2013
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Most of us are familiar with the dictum attributed to Rabbi Tarfon in Avot 2:16: It is not upon you to finish the labor, but nor are you free to desist from it.  But, of course, in real life we all know that often we are not a liberty only to start a task – we are expected to finish many or most of the tasks we take on.

All semester people have been asking me how things are going, and I’ve been answering, “Busy – but in a good way.”  And I mean that, or at least think that if I keep repeating it I will maybe be able to believe it.

And truth be told, if you are an academic and people are asking you to participate in projects, write for them, come to conferences – that is in fact good; it means your colleagues are taking (positive) notice of your work and your scholarship.  But it also occurs to me, in light of being asked to write about “work-in-progress,” that I have gotten caught up in an endless procession of works-in-progress:

Journal X wants me to review proofs of my article within a week of receipt of their e-mail, please.  It’s my week to write a commentary on the Torah portion for the school’s e-mail list and web-site.  The paper has to be ready to present on the day of the conference.  The editors expect the chapters I am submitting to their book to be ready by the end of the year.  Would I be willing to review a new book in my field for Journal Y?  Oh, and your next blog post for Sh’ma is due on the 28th of the month.

Writing.  Teaching.  Presenting.  Translating.  Reading.  Annotating.  Grading.  Phew!

No sooner do I finish one thing then I must turn my attention to the next.  What has been missing has been even a moment to slow down enough to appreciate works completed, to stop long enough to see just how much I’ve accomplished and produced in the last few months.  And I bet I’m hardly alone in this.

Maybe I’ll get to it someday.  But right now, if you’ll pardon me, I have a blog post to turn in…

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Dr. Gail Labovitz is Associate Professor of Rabbinic Literature at the American Jewish University, where she teaches primarily for the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, and is also an ordained Conservative rabbi. She is the author of a number of scholarly articles, and the book Marriage and Metaphor: Constructions of Gender in Rabbinic Literature. She has also worked as a Senior Research Analyst for the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project at Brandeis University, and the coordinator of the Jewish Feminist Research Group for the Women's Studies Program at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

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