2010-05-28

Thinking of a sabbatical

Having taught for 19 years in the university with no break (except for summer and winter vacations), I recently feel I am worn out intellectually and need a good dose of intellectual input. Since I am finishing my sixth year at the university, where I am teaching now, and I have received tenure there, I am entitled to take my first sabbatical next year. Unfortunately, however, I cannot get it next year for some bureaucratic reason, but I really hope I will be able to take it in the following year. Although there still remains at least one whole year until then, I have started to think of things I would like to do in my first sabbatical.

My fondest dream is to spend a year at some university abroad, preferably in the United States, and especially in New York City, my most favorite city in the world outside Israel. I am sure that such an experience will broaden my intellectual horizon and give insights for new research. But I am afraid that this dream is not so practical. The biggest practical problem that confronts me is what to do with the apartment I rent and all the books I have. I do not want to leave this apartment, but on the other hand it seems rather stupid to pay a rent for an apartment where I will not live for a year. I cannot shlep all my books with me, but on the other hand I need them, or at least a large part of them, for my research; I have spent almost 30 years to build my special private library.

So the most practical alternative seems to be to remain in Jerusalem, freed from the obligation of teaching for one year. Then I would like to take some courses as an informal auditor either at the Hebrew University or at Ohr Somayach Yeshiva, which are my almae matres in Israel, or even at both of them. The mere thought of becoming a student again already excites me. At the Hebrew University I would like to take courses in sociology and improve my Yiddish and Russian; at Ohr Somaych Yeshiva or some other yeshiva in Jerusalem I would like to tackle the biggest intellectual challenge I have ever experienced - acquiring the skill to navigate the Talmud on my own.

Wherever I may be, the most important thing I would like to do in my sabbatical-to-be is to start working on my first book. I have three possible topics: the first is in the area of Modern Hebrew morphology, the second in the area of Hebrew-Yiddish contact linguistics, and the third sociolinguistic comparison of Hebrew, Yiddish and Esperanto. I will spend the next year choosing the exact topic for the book and making a detailed work plan.