Last week I met one of my neighbors, an Orthodox Jewish woman. She asked what I do for a living, and I said I’m a rabbi. She hesitated for a moment, digesting the information, as other Orthodox neighbors have done when they first hear this (my family moved recently, so we’re still meeting our new neighbors). Then she asked where, and whether it is a Reform synagogue (it is).
Rabbis are rabbis in no small part by the work they do, pastoral, ritual, social justice, organizational, all informed by a sense of responsibility to the community and to tradition. But at the moment of ordination, that moment before the work of the rabbinate begins, in earnest, what makes a rabbi a rabbi is the education that she has acquired and her commitment to bring the values and vision of that education into the work she will do in her rabbinate.
I officiate at a lot of weddings. Many of those ceremonies are between a Jewish partner and a partner of a different background. Some ceremonies are more traditional, more religious, and some are less. I always tell couples that the ceremony we create together should be a reflection of who they are, and it should feel authentic to them.
It’s pretty clear that Judaism doesn’t like the idea of gossip. In fact, the Hebrew phrase for gossip is “lashon hara,” “the evil tongue.” “The evil tongue kills three people,” the Talmud teaches us. “The gossiper, the person who listens to it, and the person about whom it is said.” (Arachin 15b) As the Rabbis further remind us, in many ways, gossip is worse than stealing, because while you can repay what you’ve stolen, once you harm someone’s reputation, that harm can never be undone.
The story is told about a family gathered around the dinner table. There are many guests who have been invited for the evening. The father is very proud of his daughter and wants to give her a role in the festive meal, so he asks her, “Would you say the blessing before we eat?”
This is the season of goodbyes. I hold my breath while listening to my son say goodbye, with humor and grace, to the school he has attended for “more than two-thirds of his life.” As he recognizes the teachers who influenced him, I remember Mrs. Ivirio, Mrs. Peters, and Mrs. Wilson.
Israel’s legendary Foreign Minister Abba Eban once stood at the podium of the United Nations general assembly with a Bible in his hand, declaring before the whole world that the Jewish people’s title deed to the Land of Israel is over 3,000 years old.
This is a guest post by Zahara Zahav, Rabbis Without Borders Program Manager
Although it might be awkward to articulate the breadth and depth of human qualities we aspire to, it is not difficult to speak our high dreams for our children – that they be loving and compassionate, serene, joyful, full of wonder… And wanting these admirable and sustaining qualities for our children, we know that to imbue them we must emulate them. In other words, we must exemplify the facets of self we wish to promote.
The first time I officiated at a bar mitzvah was when I was the visiting rabbi at a young congregation in Virginia during my senior year of rabbinical school. I was a 27-year-old without children and not quite sure what to say to a 13-year-old Jewish teen. My wife was pregnant with our first child, and I was tirelessly trying to determine what advice I’d have for this yet-to-be-born child, let alone come up with some meaningful words of a wisdom for a teenager. I tried to channel what my own rabbi had said to countless bar mitzvah boys and bat mitzvah girls over the years as I sat in that congregation.