May 17, 2012

-Witnessing Magic-

Witnessing Magic
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor
in honor of Rabbi Yonina Creditor

I witnessed magic today. 

Today's Commencement and Ordination Ceremony at the Jewish Theological Seminary were simply magical. Tinged with the Divine. Better. Deeper than that: permeated with God. A school where once mysticism was de-emphasized at best began today's ceremonies with a mystical text by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. Speaker after speaker spoke from their souls about the urgent needs of the world they dreamt these emerging Jewish Leaders could answer. Today was pervaded by a sense of calling. 

It was, as Rabbi Danny Nevins, Dean of JTS' Division of Religious Leadership, pointed out, the fortieth day of the Omer, forty days of waiting for the Sinai revelation, "a day of anticipation and of completion—a day when our students become our teachers and begin their journey of sacred leadership." Chancellor Arnold Eisen reminded us that the morning's festivities occurred during the week in which we close the Book of vaYikra/Leviticus and take our first step "into the wilderness," into an unsown land, a journey of discovery and covenant where sacred leadership is the key to survival. Better. Deeper than that: Today was a charge to us all to remember that holy leaders are called to unlock the vast potential of God's Promise.

The afternoon continued an integrated journey of academic degree and sacred calling.  Each new rabbi and cantor stood before a Beit Din who conferred upon them their sacred title, followed by the blessing and loving embrace of a personal mentor. The special JTS tallit with which each new Kli Kodesh (holy vessel) adorned is the same one I received at my ordination ten years ago. Ten years ago, when commencement ended, I held my 6-week old baby. But today she stood (shoulder-to-shoulder!) with her role model, her aunt, the new rabbi. And as I watched my daughter watch my sister, I saw over my shoulder that my father was watching me watch. And when I looked into my father's eyes, I saw through the window of his soul the eyes of his father, my Sabbah z"l, watching our family continue building its generational story. Every lost ancestor of every person in the room was present once more, interceding with Heaven on behalf of their descendant's future. The room pulsed with this intensity.

My hand trembled, trying to hold the camcorder steady as my sister received smicha (rabbinic ordination). Suddenly, as our father blessed her with his innermost blessing, it hit me. I was overwhelmed not only by the majesty of the rabbinic world I share now with my father and my sister, may they be blessed with life, but also by the calling she answers with her rabbinate. My sister is a chaplain in the US Navy, touching the lives of women and men with God's Grace in dangerous situations. Our father blessed her path with safety, one rabbi to another, and the entire audience in JTS' Feinberg Auditorium held their collective breath. I wept openly, holding and being held by my family, in this miraculous moment of completion and commencement.

And I looked around at those gathered. There were 5 new cantors and 26 new rabbis being surrounded by all the love and hope and fear and blessing of an assemblage that need them so badly. Veteran clergy and faculty stood in support of our newest leaders, among which I count more than a few friends and teachers, and more than a handful of second generation rabbis (PK's). Today is a good day - a great day - for the Jewish People.. My sister is a hero among heroes. A servant of the Holy One along with all of us. A role model to young Jews looking for a fulfilling, purposeful life. 

My sister and all of our newly-minted Holy Vessels pledged themselves today to leading on the best, most important, journey of all, one that reaches toward redemption with one hand and holds every human being in the world with the other. These leaders are our very best treasures. We love them. We need them. The world is blessed by the gift of their callings.

May their every breath be filled with God's Spirit, for the sake of our vulnerable, beautiful, holy world.

Amen.

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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