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Reb Lisa's Message

January 3, 2024

Shalom Chaverim. Peaceful greetings friends.

This is my last weekly message as a rabbinical student! This coming Sunday, G-d willing, I will be ordained as rabbi, in Denver, Colorado. It’s been a spectacular seven and half year journey. Of course I am thrilled. I am also deeply humbled to receive the title and carry the mantle of rabbinic leadership. I cannot think of any more meaningful way to offer my combined skills, talents, and passions than being a rabbi. Dream job to the max! 

In Hebrew there are several different words for work in Hebrew, one of which is avodah. In modern Hebrew avodah means work, as in one’s job or completing a task. Yet in biblical Hebrew, the word avodah means service to G-d. Serving as rabbi and spiritual leader is exactly that for me. Yes, it is my “job,” the work I do as a profession. It is also my calling, my passion, my service to our community – work with deep purpose and meaning.

The conferral of rabbinic ordination is called smicha. In Hebrew smicha not only means ordination, it also means to rely on, to lean on, to authorize. Interestingly, the literal translation means to lay hands. In this laying of hands, spiritual leadership and authority is conferred. We learn that in the book of Numbers, that the Levites experienced smicha

“You shall bring the Levites forward before the Tent of Meeting. Assemble the Israelite community leadership, and bring the Levites forward before יהוה. Let the Israelites lay their hands (v’samchu) upon the Levites.” 

- Numbers 8:10

Later Joshua, Moses’ successor is also “ordained” as leader in this way:

Moses spoke to יהוה, saying: “Let יהוה, Source of the breath of all flesh, appoint someone over the community who shall go out before them and come in before them, and who shall take them out and bring them in, so that יהוה’s community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd.”

And יהוה answered Moses, “Single out Joshua son of Nun, an inspired man, and lay your hand upon him (v’samachta). Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before the whole community, and commission him in their sight. Invest him with some of your authority, so that the whole Israelite community may obey. - Numbers 27:15-21

This beautiful, inspiring ritual of passing down and transmitting rabbinic leadership is still practiced today. Like Joshua and the lineage of rabbis that have led our people, from Sinai to the present, I too will receive smicha. My holy teachers (and those of Hazzan Steve who received cantorial smicha two years ago), will gently lay their hands, as we lean back into them. As they do so, they will recite the formula for rabbinic ordination, declaring our readiness to teach Torah as rabbis and to continue the chain of spiritual leadership. 

What a blessing to receive in this way. What a blessing it will be to return to our beautiful community as Rabbi Lisa. What a blessing to serve Congregation Beth Israel. Thank you for entrusting me as your spiritual leader, as your rabbi.

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