My Transition into the Rabbinate: The Tasks

As many know, I was honored to receive ordination last week from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. I am leaving Los Angeles and moving to Pittsburgh to start the next chapter of my life. I do not know what this will entail exactly other than that I’m excited for what is to come.

I have been reflecting on my new responsibilities and the tasks that come with them.

It is our task to take what we have learned and to share it.

I have spent a significant portion of my life, which at 28 years old is not that hard, and I have spent it studying Torah written by our ancestors, which fill rooms of books. I have been learning from teachers and rabbis both here in Los Angeles and in Israel. Why have I spent my time this way? Not because I feel like I have to or because it sounds good to say out loud. I have spent my time this way, studying Torah, and you can too, because it is our birthright, a gift passed down to us for three thousand years.

We learn Torah because it can make our lives better, more connected, and more meaningful. We accomplish this by sharing it with each other.

One piece of Torah that I learned this year was that to have a good heart means that we look upon each other with respect, that we’re a good friend and neighbor, and that we are conscious of the consequences of our actions (Mishnah Avot 2:9) . This is a piece of Torah that one of my students taught last month, when she and her classmates taught each other sections of Pirkei Avot. They spent this year studying Torah, Mishnah, and Talmud that they had never seen before and derived from it important lessons of how to treat our fellow human beings. It is our task to always share this Torah, to teach our community the right way to act, to be role models.

It is our task to take responsibility.

We live in a broken world. A world full of hate and strife, of gun violence. It is a world in need of healing. It is no single person or country’s fault, but it is on all of us to take responsibility to act. As I reflect on my time in school, I know that I could have done more. When I look back, I think of all of the people, the causes that I could have worked harder to support. Transition points are opportunities. They are turning points to do more.

When I think of the rabbinate that I want to make for myself, I think about one of my rabbis, Rav Ahud Sela. He works hard to train and to act on things that he finds important, striving to become better at community organizing so that all of us can do more to help our city and the people who live here. He shows us that it is our task to take responsibility. It means that our community looks to him, me, and all of us to stand up and say, I will do what needs to be done. I will count myself, like in a minyan, to do what I can do to make the world better.

This week’s Parasha begins with God commanding Moses, “speak to the children of Israel and say to them, when you come into the land that I am giving to you, the land will rest a Shabbat to Adonai.” We should see the command upon entering of the land as a transition point, not unlike our own. And at this transition, we shift perspective. The command could have been, “when you enter the land, leave it fallow or let it rest” but it doesn’t say that. It says, allow it ‘a Shabbat to Adonai.’ We are told that upon transition, we are to connect with the Divine.

It is our task to serve and connect. 

We are here to serve each other, our community, and to serve God. The act of Kiddush Hashem, of making God’s name holy, is an act that is so good that it serves to make not only our world better, holier, more peaceful, but that it causes others to do the same. It is our task to always be acting in the name of what is larger than ourselves and to be connecting with others. It is our task to not make a name for ourselves but to act in a way that is in service to all. It is our task not to become lost in all of the distractions. Rather, we know that when we strive to serve others and to make deep meaningful connections, then we can make God’s name holy.

I believe that change is good. Change spurs us to become better than we were before. To work harder and with greater strength. Truly it is all of our tasks to learn and share, to take responsibility, to serve, and to be in relationship with one another.