The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I start my new job tomorrow

Work starts tomorrow. There's no place to park, so I have to take public transport. They have a shuttle that picks up their employees at a subway stop and drops them off at their building, and vice versa, so hopefully I'll find that shuttle tomorrow morning.

I'm an extra in the 6th Degree the Lodge of Perfection is doing for the all-day class at Scottish Rite next Saturday. We have a full dress rehearsal on Wednesday beforehand. I've notified my work that I have to leave work a bit early for the dress rehearsal, and they're okay with it. I'm excited about being part of the work, and I know two brothers who will be doing their Scottish Rite degrees for the first time.

I bought a 32° pocket jewel on eBay that is the 1890s version of the pocket jewel they use today. It's from the Massachusetts Consistory, which is my consistory, and it denotes my level, so I can wear it next Saturday. It's beautiful, and it will be fun to wear. I'll bring the one I was given as a back-up in case anyone gets tetchy about me wearing the antique version.

I also plan to visit another lodge in my district on Thursday if my work schedule allows me to. I've met a few brothers there whom I've befriended, and they have invited me. Five lodges meet in their building, but I've never been inside it, even though I drive by it all the time.

I'm excited about starting my new job. I will report how it went.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I have a job

I agreed to start work for a hospital network as a contract employee. I have a 6-8 month contract, but the other people from my staffing agency who work there have all had their contracts renewed, or have been subsequently hired permanently by the company. The pay is hourly, and is very generous. I start work at the end of the month. The position is primarily project management, with some QA testing thrown in for good measure. I am very pleased.

Last night my lodge conducted some serious business, about which I am obligated to keep silent. After it was concluded, we all went to an Italian restaurant for pizza and beer. I submitted to the lodge secretary the paperwork for the Master Mason Rookie award, and I gave the Worshipful Master of the local Lodge of Instruction a rough draft of a paper I will submit along with the talk I give in May at the Lodge of Instruction on the 47th Problem of Euclid. It's fun to spend time with the brothers in a more festive setting. While the festive boards at my lodge are very enjoyable, it was a real treat to meet outside of lodge for food and drink. I had to leave early because I had a job interview this morning for three hours, from 9 AM until noon. While I ended up choosing another position, I enjoyed the interview very much. The job I interviewed for today would have been my fall-back plan had the job I chose not come through for me. For the rest of the weekend, I intend to relax and celebrate my new job.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lodge of Perfection is not hyperbole

Update since my last post: The Monday job interview had five people show up at the recruiter's office to meet the hiring manager. I believe I was the second person to interview. When I got home, the recruiter called me, and told me that they wanted me to come back for a second interview. The Tuesday job interview had five people at the company interviewing me in a conference room for an hour. The next day, the woman at the staffing office handling my case called me and told me that they really liked me, they felt that my skill set really matched the skill set needed for the job, and arranged a half-hour third interview for next Tuesday with the person who is the boss of the person who would be my boss if I got the job. It's a very positive step, and I'm very excited.

The quarterly Grand Communication was tremendously exciting for me. It's funny because a lot of senior brothers warned me that Grand Communication is just a big business meeting, and not to project too much expectation upon it, but my personal experience was richly rewarding. How can I explain this to people for whom this is totally outside of their experience? Every masonic lodge in Massachusetts is asked to send at least one representative, but the Worshipful Master, the Junior and Senior Wardens are requested to attend, and if they cannot, the Worshipful Master may assign a Proxy to attend instead of any of these brothers. There are between 200 and 300 masonic lodges in Massachusetts, 30+ districts each with their own District Deputy Grand Master, and a Grand Lodge with all the officers a Blue Lodge has, and a bunch of extra officers, like the Grand Pursuivant and the Grand Sword Bearer. There are four Grand Chaplains, two Grand Musicians, and all the living Past Grand Masters attend. The Active Members of the Scottish Rite, the leader of the York Rite bodies, and Grand Representatives of a myriad of other Grand Lodges are all there. The Grand Lodge room is an enormous lodge room, with a large balcony for extended seating. The ritual is crisp and flawless, and the Grand Master was an exquisite host who held the room the entire time he sat in the East. For little old me to sit among these distinguished gentlemen was tremendously exciting.

One man earned a 50-year medal for being a mason for 50 years. Another man won an award for having been made the Worshipful Master of his lodge 50 years ago. The Grand Organist, who happens to be the organist for my lodge (although ours is not his mother lodge) won the Joseph Warren medal for a lifetime of service to blue lodges, the Grand Lodge, and Scottish Rite. He is a wonderful man, and a friend, and I was delighted to congratulate him. The District Deputy Grand Master of my district, whom I've blogged about before, is also the Worshipful Master of a lodge in my district, and many of their brothers were there, and I sat with them, not finding anyone from my lodge. Incidentally, it was the mother lodge of the Grand Organist. Afterwards, I got to shake hands with the Grand Master, and, with the brothers I sat with, we met in a conference room for snacks and refreshments. It turns out that one of the brothers I met there I had met eleven years ago on tour with a rock band back when I used to be a roadie. He's now a luthier. These brothers were very hospitable to me, and it will be my great pleasure to visit their lodge at the next opportunity.

Tonight was a delight. The Boston-Lafayette Lodge of Perfection, in the Valley of Boston, hosted a dinner before their rehearsal for the upcoming one-day class the Scottish Rite is holding in April. While this was, in some sense, a sales pitch for the Lodge of Perfection, they were so delightful about it, and so brotherly, that it was an unmitigated pleasure to attend. There was a three-course meal, and it was my fortune to sit at the same table as the Thrice-Potent Master. The Chicken Cordon Bleu looked delicious, but as it wasn't kosher, I ate the filet of sole instead. There was a salad, baked potatoes, and an exquisite chocolate ganache cake. Then we toured the various places where the rehearsal for degree work was taking place: the makeup and costume area, the lighting board, the sound board, and finally, we were invited onstage to participate with the actors in the rehearsal. Afterwards, we were invited upstairs to the lounge area of the Lodge of Perfection for refreshments and conversation. The brothers of the Lodge of Perfection have been so friendly and genial that I cannot help but feel great affection not only towards them, but towards the Lodge of Perfection as a body. It is a wrench for me that they meet on Thursdays, and both my blue lodge and Lodge of Instruction both meet on Thursdays. That will mitigate how much I can contribute to this body, which is a shame. I would love to contribute to their endeavors to whatever extent I can, without sacrificing my commitment to my blue lodge, and without weakening my contribution to Lodge of Instruction.

I would be equally delighted if the other bodies of Scottish Rite in the Valley of Boston extended the same hospitality to me, and I await any future gestures of friendship and hospitality on their parts.

It is important to remind my readers that a mason's central commitment is to his blue lodge, and whatever he can contribute to the appendant bodies should be after he has exhausted his basic obligations to his blue lodge.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My business suit is getting a workout

I had another job interview today at a recruiter's office. This was a new experience for me. Five candidates were interviewed by the employer in the recruiter's office. I was second or third. When I got home, they called me and told me that the employer wanted to give me a second interview. They also told me that at least one other candidate was also called back for another interview.

Tomorrow, I have a second interview with a health care company for a contract position. While it's only for 6-8 months, there's opportunity for the contract to be extended, or to get a permanent position with the company. The office is the next town over from mine, the pay will probably be very generous, and the corporate culture seems very livable and pleasant.

Wednesday is the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts' Grand Communication. I'm going by special permission of the leadership of my lodge. A disclaimer: any masonic awards I'm working on I will earn at the will of the Worshipful Master of my lodge, and at the will of the Grand Lodge. Even if I complete every requirement, it is up to the Worshipful Master of my lodge as to whether or not he will approve me for the award, and then up to Grand Lodge as to whether they will award me the award.

That said, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts has a new award this year called the Master Mason Rookie Award (warning: link is a PDF file). I've completed every item on the list except two (#7 and #12), and the item I will discuss is an optional substitute for any one item on the list.

The Master Mason Rookie Award is only available to a mason for the first year after he is raised. I was raised in June, 2008, so I have until June, 2009 to complete the items on the list. I like this award, and think it's an excellent idea. The candidate for the award must complete a list of tasks:

  1. Attend each of the blue lodge degrees at least once.
  2. Attend at least one visit of the lodge’s District Deputy Grand Master to another lodge in the district OR attend a communication of another lodge in the district.
  3. Attend at least seven stated lodge communications over the course of the one year.
  4. Work on at least one lodge social activity OR lodge charitable event.
  5. Sponsor at least one candidate into the lodge.
  6. Attend one Masonic Funeral.
  7. Serve on one investigation committee.
  8. Assist at least once with the preparation of candidates.
  9. Assist at least once with the officers setting up of the lodge room.
  10. Attend at least three additional Lodge of Instruction communications beyond what is required.
  11. Attend one meeting of the Building/Temple Association.
  12. (Alternate requirement that can be done in lieu of not completing one of the first 11) Attend at least 1 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge or the Feast of Saint John.
I've wanted to see a Grand Communication since I first visited the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts building, but my lodge has allowed me to be a proxy for my lodge at the Grand Communication to help me complete the Master Mason Rookie Award requirements. After Wednesday, I can submit the paperwork for the award. I've learned an enormous amount about masonry in completing the tasks. I found out about the award months after I was raised, and it turned out that I had already completed a few of the items on the list, so it just seemed natural to continue to complete them all.

I think this award is a brilliant way to revitalize Freemasonry. While it's not a panacea, it inspires new masons, in their first year, to participate in so many different aspects of being a mason that they might otherwise not know about. The kind of mason who would earn this award is the kind of mason who would do these things anyway, with or without the award, but the award gives some structure, and lets a new mason know that such experiences exist. One would hope that this journey would inspire them to participate more in their lodge, to become good officer material someday, and to be well-educated masons who have depth and range in their Freemasonry.

And finally, on Thursday, Boston Lafayette Lodge of Perfection, in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Valley of Boston, is having a dinner, and I am attending. There will be another Scottish Rite one-day class on April 4th, and I want to take the degrees I haven't yet taken, and participate in ritual. Unfortunately, Lodge of Perfection rehearses the same day that my blue lodge meets, so for now, I'll have to settle for just attending the dinner this week.

That means my business suit will be worn four days in a row without time to dry clean it in the middle. Here's hoping it holds up, and here's holding that I hold up, too.

Oh, and tonight is Purim. Chag sameach, everyone. I drove my friend to synagogue, and they read the megillah out loud in Hebrew, and it was very raucous and fun. I found a wolf mask in my trunk that my students gave me when I taught at a boarding school a few years ago. The kids were all jacked up on white sugar, and the adults were drunk, but a good time was had by all. My friend is a widow in an assisted living facility, and she sometimes has trouble getting to synagogue, so I drive her whenever I can. I really enjoy her company, and it's no trouble to help her out. It would not be appropriate to dress in costume for my job interview, but I'd like to perform the mitzvah of mishloach manot if I can (the only Purim mitzvah I haven't done yet). Maybe I'll bring Dunkin' Donuts to my girlfriend's work tomorrow.

Monday, March 2, 2009

An explanation of the title of this blog

This blog is entitled "Corn, Wine and Oil." The Sh'ma prayer, which religious Jews recite twice daily, includes the following line from Deuteronomy 11:14:

וְנָתַתִּי מְטַר־אַרְצְכֶם בְּעִתּוֹ יוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ וְאָסַפְתָּ דְגָנֶךָ וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ׃

Which the King James Bible translates as: "that I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil."

The Sh'ma prayer is the cornerstone of the Jewish religion. The initial line, Deuteronomy 6:4, is the fundamental testament of faith. The King James Bible translates it as "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:". Traditionally, it is supposed to be the last sentence a Jew utters before he dies. Rabbi Akiva was tortured to death by the Romans, and uttered the line just before he expired. It's not unusual for religious Jews in immediate mortal peril to recite the line.

In operative masonry, the wages of a mason were, in antiquity, given in corn (actually grain), wine and oil. When Freemasonry came into being, and masonry went from being operative to speculative, corn, wine and oil became symbolic wages.
Albert Mackey, 33°, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, suggests that corn represents the Staff of Life: " In processions, the corn alone is carried in a golden pitcher, the wine and oil are placed in silver vessels, and this is to remind us that the first, as a necessity and the "staff of life" is of more importance and more worthy of honor than the others, which are but comforts.", the grain flour that becomes our daily bread.
Wine is "a symbol of the inward refreshment of a good conscience is intended, under the name of the Wine of Refreshment, to remind us of the eternal refreshments which the good are to receive in the future life for the faithful performance of duty in the present."
Oil is the Oil of Anointment. "The Hebrews anointed their Kings, Prophets and High Priests with oil mingled with the richest spices. They also anointed themselves with oil on all festive occasions, whence the expression in Psalm xlv, 7: 'God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness.'".

Also, because both Jews and Freemasons appeal to God to provide them with corn, wine and oil, as their wages, it seems especially appropriate to invoke them when job-hunting. I am currently seeking a new source for my corn, wine and oil, and hence this blog to journal my efforts in that regard.