I have had the pleasure and privilege (as you know by now) of serving as the president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California for the past two years representing over 260 Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis in our community. This afternoon I earned the new title of “immediate past president” as Rabbi Robert Gan was installed in my place. It’s hard to convey the mixture of emotions I felt as I handed over the reigns of responsibility to Bob, but it was mostly a profound sense of gratitude to my colleagues for the honor they have afforded me these past two years.
Being a rabbi is a complex, demanding and remarkable gift in my life. I am grateful every day for the opportunities I have to interact with people on so many profound levels of meaning. I have been invited to participate in the spiritual journeys of thousands of men and women and children of all ages and religious backgrounds over the twenty-seven years since I was first ordained as a rabbi. Each soul is unique, each life is precious, and each individual I have met along the way has added something to my life even as I have been allowed to be present at so many powerful and deeply moving spiritual crossroads of theirs.
The gift of these past two years has been to add to the usual constituency of my rabbinate the many rabbis with whom I have been able to interact and serve as well. I have stood alongside colleagues from every stream of Jewish life, men and women who are deeply committed to translating the Judaism of the past into a continued vibrant Jewish future and been moved to my core by their passion, their love of the Jewish people and their search for spiritual fulfillment and the recognition of God’s presence in their lives.
As president I traveled to Germany and wept with colleagues in the middle of the Dachau Concentration Camp as we recalled the memory of the sacred 6 million Jewish souls of the Holocaust, stood with my Israeli family in Jerusalem at the ruins of cafes bombed by suicide bombers intent on driving the Jewish people into oblivion and turning back the clock to more barbaric times and danced with Israeli children in celebration of their Independence Day. Last week’s emotional mission to Buenos Aires was my last official presidential act and it epitomized the strength and tenacity of why for thousands of years we continue to sing am Yisrael Khai (“the Jewish people lives”) and why being part of the caring, passionate rabbinic community of Los Angeles has been such a blessing.
Each of us searches for our own special path to holiness in this life. Each of us must find our own way out of the darkness of existential aloneness into the sacred light that we only find within a Kehillat kodesh, the sacred community that is what the extended Jewish family is ultimately all about.
I was reminded today how blessed and fortunate I have been in my life to have discovered my spiritual mission in life and the opportunity to fulfill that mission as a rabbi. The entire Torah portion this week is really one long plea by God for the Jewish people to embrace a life of godliness, to follow the path of mitzvot, to live each day in harmony with God’s purpose for our lives and for the unfolding of the plan of the universe. The form that plea takes is to promise peace, wholeness, fulfillment, joy, tranquility, security, abundance, long life and an ever-present experience of God’s presence in our lives if we follow God’s sacred path and the opposite if we don’t.
To so many today the world is an increasingly frightening place. Bekhukotai reminds us that spiritual fulfillment, peace and holiness are ours to embrace every single day if we choose. Being privileged to be a rabbi has become my personal path to holiness and the discovery of God’s presence in my life and I believe that every single person on earth has a similar opportunity to find their own unique sacred path in the service of others as well.