My Rabbinic Journey

Installation Reflections

I am full of gratitude this evening, for all of you for being here tonight, for helping to create the Sinai community that we all care about so deeply.

At the risk of leaving someone out, I would like to thank a couple of people by name.

Rabbi Zinn, for coming and speaking this evening. I have been asked many times what it is like to be a Rabbi and have a brother who is also a Rabbi. I am lucky enough to not know anything else. My only experience as a Rabbi is with a brother who is a Rabbi. That is incredibly special.

My family, my mother, step-father, sister, brother, sister-in-law, aunt and nephew who are all here this weekend. The values, ethics and ideals that you embody as a family are the ones that I hope to be able to bring with me in everything I do. Thank you for all your support and encouragement.

Rabbi Limmer and Rabbi Greene, I feel very lucky to be able to work with two rabbis who I respect immensely professionally, and also truly enjoy spending time with and working with personally. Thank you for welcoming me, working with me and trusting me.

Rebecca Frazin, Fern Katz, Scott Kumer, Susan Solomon and the entire Sinai Staff. I am incredibly gratefully to work with professional who are capable and supportive. There is a lot of details and work that happens behind the scenes every day to make this community happen. Thank you for being a part of that work.

Bruce Miller, Mari Phillpsborn, Steve Myers and the entire Search committee. Thank you for saving the Winnie the Pooh chair for me in that windowless office in Los Angeles and projecting that welcoming spirit and warmth. You were able to capture so much about Sinai in the way you presented this community, which made it inviting and exciting.

Susan Lucas and the leadership of the community. As the child to two temple presidents and longtime volunteers, I know how much work goes into your unpaid, yet full time jobs here. Thank you for putting in the time and effort to help guide this community.

To everyone else who is here today, to those who are not able to be here this evening. All of you who I have had the opportunity to work with, to travel with, to learn with and to pray with. All of you who I have not yet had this opportunity but hopefully will in the near future. Thank you. Thank you for helping to create and maintain this community. Thank you for making commitments to the values we hold dear, to tolerance, to inclusion, and to justice. I am very lucky to be a part of this community and this community exists because of you. I am looking forward to being a part of this community for a long time. Thank you.

This moment, this occasion has given me cause to reflect on lot things. On my rabbinic journey. On my time here. My more than anything I have been thinking about the past year and the series of events that caused me to end up in this place at this moment.

This time last year, I spent a significant portion of my Thanksgiving weekend sitting in my Uncle’s office writing a Personal Rabbinic Statement. In writing this short statement, which every Rabbinical student writes in their final year of school; you are supposed to use a Jewish text to capture who you are, the values you embody and your vision for your future as a Rabbi. So, a pretty easy task.

Choosing a single short text was perhaps the most difficult part. I chose a text whose original context had great resonance, but whose future outlook was also significant. I chose a text that resonated with me because of the number of times and variety of contexts I had encountered it. Singing the words in Hebrew overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with a large group of young people or studying them in English sitting on a dimly lit porch with a small diverse group of Christian clergy.

The words, which we just heard sung, come from Exodus, V’Asoo Li Mikdash V’shachanti b’Tocham “Make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8)

The verse comes while God is giving the Israelites instructions to build The Tabernacle, a portable sanctuary in the desert. They are building a physical structure, but they are also building a place for them to come together in community that will long outlast the physical space.

In the weeks after I chose a text that I thought captured something about me, Rabbis Limmer, Greene and the Search committee, used a text to communicate who this community is now and who we hope to be. They did not have as much choice in their text, in many ways it was chosen for them, for it is inscribed on the outside of the building. Beiti Beit T’fillah yikarah l’kol ha’amim “My House shall be called a house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:7)

In many ways these two verses are very different.
One comes from the Torah, the book of Exodus. The other from the Prophets, the book of Isaiah.
One was uttered in the wilderness of Sinai. The other during the exile in Babylon.
One calls the space a Mikdash – a sanctuary, literally a holy space. The other a Beit T’fillah – a house of prayer.
In fact the two sentences are completely different in their Hebrew vocabulary.

However, the two verses also feel closely linked. They both speak about building sacred spaces, safe spaces, holy spaces.

We build these holy spaces in many ways. We build physical houses of prayer, like the one we are in right now. Erected with thought and care 20 years ago.

We also build temporary sanctuaries, metaphorical sanctuaries together. And our house becomes a home for all people.

We make sanctuaries wherever we are when we pray together, and God dwells among us.
Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav teaches that praying should be as comfortable as talking with a close friend. Those moments of meaning and prayer are best realized when they are open and accessible to all people for Our house shall be a house of prayer for all people.

We make sanctuaries wherever we are when we study and learn, and God dwells among us.
In the Chapel, the library or the Offices of Jenner and Block. The creation of dynamic opportunities for learning and exploration welcomes individuals into our community. Our house shall be a house of study for all people.

We make sanctuaries when we create sacred communities, and God dwells among us as we act together. Action is the language of the Jewish people; we act on our Judaism through rituals and mitzvot, the sacred tasks of our faith, rebuilding the world around us. We are able to physical welcome people into our house and into our community by reaching across divisions and building bridges. Our house shall be a house of action for all people.

We make sanctuaries when we create safe spaces, and God dwells among us in our relationships. When we care for each other, when we reach others in their times of need, when we show up for each other during joy and during grief then our house shall be a house of caring for all people.

“V’asoo li mikdash, v’shachanti b’tocham,”
“Make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”
We have the power to make sanctuaries in our physical, emotional, and spiritual spaces, as God dwells among us whenever and wherever Jews gather.
And when we are able to do that, Beiti Beit T’fillah yikarah l’kol ha’amim “Our house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”

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