“Leturn to your loots”

[Note: this rumination is from Rabbi Gluskin’s omer journal, an informal journal he is writing in observance of the command in Leviticus to count the days between Passover and Shavuot. Read here for Shai’s explanation of counting the omer. – Ed.]

Part of my graduation ritual from UC Berkeley in 1981 was taking my family to the Tai Chi studio where I had studied intensively for two years. Some time into my study I came to realize that Tai Chi was satisfying a spiritual longing that I had.

When Sifu (teacher) Tsuei Wei took us around the studio, he stopped at some potted plants and told me, with my parents and sisters as witnesses, “You need leturn to your loots.” (That was the highest level English I had ever heard him speak. He spoke in gestures and one-word sentences that were powerful.)

Two years later I was off to the far east, with no plan. I was fulfilling the injunction of my geography professor at Berkeley, Robert Reed, to avoid the destiny of becoming an “armchair geographer.”

My first stop was Taiwan, where I visited the Tai Chi school that Tsuei Wei had come from. After attending only one class there, where I could have trained to become a Tai Chi instructor, the words of Tsuei Wei came back to me.

I had been a committed Jew, Zionist, Hebraist, etc. without ever having given Jewish practice a chance. I decided not to continue at the Tai Chi school. And I began my Jewish practice right then and there, deciding not to photograph or go on significant journeys on Shabbat and to light candles, and make kiddush/motzi no matter where I was.

Though that was in Fall of 1983 it wouldn’t be until the Fall of 1990 that I began rabbinical school at RRC. But something was set in motion then that was irreversible.

Yesod, Foundation/Structure in Hod, glory/resonance/echo/reflection invites a turning back to one’s core. What parts of me have I hidden away? Can I let go of the artifices I’ve created and see myself reflected in my life? Do I recognize myself when I look in the mirror?

I had to go all the way to China in order to come home. I feel blessed for having been on the journey.
Copyright © 2006 Rabbi Shai Gluskin. Used by permission.