Thursday, October 22, 2009


So tomorrow I will be installed in the job I've been doing the last several months.

Installation is a funny thing. For one, it's a funny word to use for the employment (or I suppose, authorization) of a rabbi for a community. I suppose it's less pretentious than "ascension" or "we do whatever he says now" (which would, of course, be a patent lie), but it does sound like the installing rabbi should be bringing a hammer and nails or something.

There's an interesting commentary here about the nature of the installation. The short version: we put a lot of emphasis on celebrating a rabbi who hasn't really done anything yet and who's relationship with the congregation is still nascent. I don't go with the author's thesis that it somehow is supposed to 'put the congregation in their place' or otherwise assuage the leadership of their guilt when they undermine the rabbi's authority. I do think we spend a lot of effort on the transitional moments, and that's a good thing.

Mind you, I'm not personally comfortable with this kind of stuff--as I've said a few times, I'm interested in the work and doing the work and don't expect or look for recognition. But for a congregation--especially one that has had very consistent and long lasting leadership--acknowledging these moments becomes critical, in the same way any life cycle event is critical to the life of the individual.

So tomorrow will be a good and, hopefully, joyous day. With the Emeritus installing, my father leading the service, and people from Shir Ami and CBE present, it should be a really lovely moment. I'm especially looking forward to seeing people from so many different parts of my rabbinate, who have shaped me and continue to inspire me. And I'll be missing those who can't make it: coworkers, teachers, friends.

Below is the congregational charge the past and current president will be reciting, along with the congregation, which better speaks to this moment than any other blather I could share. Hopefully we'll all live up to each others' expectations...

As a rabbi in Israel
As a teacher of Torah to our congregation
Our hope for you is holiness;
Our prayer for you a sacred reflection
of the purpose towards which we all strive.

Be among those who cherish the truth,
Who banish falsehood with their faith.

Be a teacher of sacred words with your deeds.
Guide our children that they may grow
to appreciate the timeless legacy of Jewish living.

Be the same, within and without –
searching with your heart,
and strengthening us with your hands.

Aspire always to be loving, compassionate, humane and hopeful.
Become the prayer for goodness that is ever upon your lips.

Be Yisrael – a model of the sacred struggle we all must embrace.

Be Yisrael – a bearer of God’s goodness;
A blessing to all whose lives you touch.

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