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Smicha from Reb Steve

A Wonderful Simcha for CBI – Our Cantor Is Receiving Smicha

Please do me the honor of attending as I receive smicha (ordination) as hazzan (cantor) in the Ordination Program of ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal. The ceremony and smicha rituals will be livestreamed from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Pacific Time, on Sunday, January 10, 2021. You can find the link to the livestream at www.musmachimot-2021.org/watch . More information about the ordination, the ordinees, and Aleph can be found at www.musmachimot-2021.org . Smicha (סְמִיכָה in Hebrew) comes from a root that means to lay hands on or lean on. It is the tradition in the Aleph Ordination Program to take this literally. As the “legal” formula of ordination is proclaimed aloud, the masmichim / masmichot (those conferring smicha) put their hands on the shoulders of the musmachimot (a made up all gender plural term for the ones being ordained). The ten of us being ordained (three cantors, six rabbis and a rabbinic pastor) have creatively reworked this tradition for the online experience, and we will see our masmichimot reach their hands out to us from their zoomicles. I have invited Rabbi Julie Danan and Rabbi David Zaslow to be among my masmichimot, so you will see them taking part in this ritual. The formula of cantorial smicha and my teudah (essentially a diploma memorializing my ordination) will proclaim that I am from that moment a hazzan (cantor) and sheliach tzibur l’tefilah (emissary of the community in prayer) among the people Yisrael. But of course, I already am a cantor, CBI’s cantor to be exact. What is changing? In some ways, not much. In other ways, everything. What is not changing? I am not going anywhere. My goal from the beginning of this journey has been to serve as CBI’s cantor. (You can read more about this at https://www.musmachimot-2021.org/ordinees/hazzan-steve-margolin .) I will continue to lead or co-lead the CBI community in prayer for Shabbat, the Festivals and the Holidays. I will continue to be available to the community for pastoral counseling. I will continue to teach bnei mitzvah students and adults. I will continue to be an officiant at life cycle events. I will continue to work side by side (in 3D again as soon as that can be so safely) with Reb Lisa, as Reb Lisa continues to be CBI’s Spiritual Leader. I am delighted to be able to tell you all of that. What is changing? The moment I am ordained my title changes to “Hazzan”. I will ask that, from then on, you call me “Hazzan Steve” in place of Reb Steve. Of course I will answer to “Reb Steve” as it may take a while for all of us (including me) to make the transition. The change in my title reflects the very profound nature of the recognition from my teachers and mentors of all that I have studied and mastered, that I have risen to their and my expectations and that I am worthy of inclusion among the hazzanim of our people. Another profound aspect of my ordination is the immense depth of the lineage and tradition in which I am embedded. The teacher of most of my teachers in the AOP (Aleph Ordination Program) is Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l, a founder of the Jewish Renewal movement. Rabbi David received his smicha from Reb Zalman, and Rabbi Julie received her smicha from the rabbis of the Aleph Rabbinic Program, including Reb Zalman. Reb Zalman traced his own family lineage of rabbis back ten generations to the Baal Shem Tov (Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer), the 18th century founder of Chassidism. Reb Zalman received his rabbinic smicha in the lineage of the Chabad/Lubavitch rabbis. Rabbis and cantors in Reb Zalman’s lineages will give me smicha, and I will become part of that lineage. This is a matter of historical interest and pride, certainly, but in ways that are difficult to articulate with left-brain words, I feel the flow of energy and blessing coming down to me through these generations. I look forward to sharing the simcha (joy) of my smicha on Sunday, January 10th at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time. It will mean so much to me to know that you are there. With blessings for a happy and healthy week, Reb Steve


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