Ordination and Academic Convocation
March 11, 1999 / 23 Adar 5759
Give thanks to God who is good, whose love is everlasting.
(Psalm 118, verse 1)
Lord God of our Fathers and Mothers,
We thank you for the privilege of standing here, before this holy congregation, and for being ordained to serve as rabbis in Israel. This gratitude is expressed by Miri Gold and myself, and also on behalf of our friend Andrew Davids. We thank the teachers who prepared us for this day, the College and the Movement, and our families -- thanks to whose help and patience we are here today.
We know that the task we take upon ourselves is not a simple one: it is not easy to be a rabbi, still less a Reform rabbi. And it is most certainly not easy to be a female Reform rabbi in the State of Israel where, to our sadness and regret, the winds of inequality and intolerance still blow on occasion. Yet with all due understanding of the difficulties -- we rejoice in our vocation and see in it a great privilege. We believe that our careers as women rabbis reflect God's will: inVayakhel, one of this week's portions, we read that women were full partners in bringing contributions to the sanctuary during its construction.
Men and women alike came and freely brought clasps, earrings, finger-rings and pendants, gold ornaments of every kind . . .
Rashi explains that the words "men and women alike" mean "men alongside women," and Ibn Ezra adds that the termnadiv lev -- freely, generously -- refers to both men and women.
Further in the Biblical text we read:
every Israelite man and woman who was minded to bring offerings . . All the women whose skill moved them spun the goats' hair.
(Exodus 35, verses 29 and 26)
We see ourselves as the heirs of these women who toiled and contributed in the work of the sanctuary. Like them, we take an equal part in the sacred service of our day -- in the life of the synagogue.
We believe that our approach -- that of the Reform Movement -- reflects God's will:
-- To treat all human beings with respect, in the spirit of Rabbi Akiva's dictum that "beloved is each person, for each person was created in the image of God."
-- To beseech God to bring peace "upon us and upon all Israel," adding the words: "and upon all humanity."
-- To stress the enormous significance of mitzvotin the human domain, in the spirit of the prophet Micah:
God has told you what is good; and what is it that the Lord asks of you?
Only to act justly, to love loyalty, to walk wisely before your God.
May it be God's will that we may fulfill our task and vocation in good faith; that we may serve our congregations with dedication; that we may continue to learn and to teach, to bring young and old alike closer to the treasures of a tolerant, humane and enlightened Judaism; that we continue to stand firm in our struggle for a better Israel, a society in which there will be equality for all streams of Judaism, a society in which all movements and philosophies will be as the twelve stones which adorned the breast-piece of the High Priest, mentioned in the other of this week's portions,Pikkudei:
Jasper, chrysolite and carbuncle; emerald, sapphire and diamond; turquoise, agate and amethyst; topaz, carnelian and onyx.
-- to each stone a name, and all equal in the sight of God:
And the stones were according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve according to their names . . . for the twelve tribes.
May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable before You.
Please join us as we say:
Barukh Atta Adonai Eloheinu Melekh Haolam, Sheheheyanu Vekiyemanu Vehigiyanu Lazman Haze.
Blessed are You, our living God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has kept us alive and supported us and brought us to this season.
Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu