Passing of the Mantle of Rabbinic Leadership on November 11, 2017
Rabbi David’s Words
This is the moment that has been set aside for us to formally pass the mantle of rabbinic leadership. It seems appropriate to do so at the point between the space of our private meditations and the communal experience of receiving Torah, a space where the individual and the communal meet. This is the space of community, of kehilla, composed of many unique people who gather in common purpose framed by the values we share.
Rabbi Burt and I have worked together and with other leaders and congregants for over 33 years to help form and guide a community of seekers, learners, celebrants, and troublemakers devoted to serving the interests of transforming ourselves, and the transformation and repair of our broken world.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. often cited a concept of “the beloved community” a term coined by the American philosopher Josiah Royce. Although Christian in Royce’s inspiration, this formulation brings closer together Christian and Jewish concepts of the redemption of the world — not about a rapture in heaven, but rather about a society built on compassion and justice right here on planet earth. That is something Kehilla has taken seriously as our social action mandate. And Gandhi has taught us that we ourselves need to be the change we seek. So in the same way that Shabbat is a miniature of a Messianic time, Kehilla seeks to be a miniature of the beloved community.
And a community of love is essential in being a synagogue of resistance.
Kehilla’s rabbis, spiritual leaders, musical prayer leaders and our administrative staff have been servants of this community who believe in this vision of being the change we seek even as we struggle for tikkun olam beyond the four walls of our shul. But to do so has always meant for us as spiritual leaders that as we discern what is truly needed, we often need to go beyond our job descriptions and, I am afraid, beyond our allotted hours. In this regard, Rebekah in today’s parasha is the great role model. Asked only to quench the thirst of Abraham’s servant, she goes the extra mile and waters his camels as well [Gen. 24:18-20]. And this entire beloved community is built on the extra added efforts across the entire congregation of which the rabbi is only the very first among many camel quenchers.
Basically, as rabbis of the congregation, Burt and I very much need to pass this mantle of leadership to someone who truly gets Kehilla — someone who loves Kehilla, loves its wonderful congregants, and thrills to putting our vision into action.
We want to pass this on to some someone who can help lead us into a new generation and do so far better than we alter kakkers could do it. And neither of us wants to come to shul and think, “Oh, I could do better than that!” And so we’re thrilled — as well as relieved — that it is you who are assuming the role of our Senior Rabbi.
So in those wise words I learned so long ago on the playground: “Tag, you’re it!”
Rabbi Burt’s Words
Unlike many Jewish Renewal communities, Kehilla spiritual leadership has been built around a model of collaborative leadership between rabbis and deeply knowledgeable and engaged laypeople. In this way we have built a truly communal process of spiritual leadership. And yet, our lineage is Jewish Renewal and Neo-Hasidism, and we have inherited from Hasidism the notion that the rebbe, the spiritual leader of the community, should be a channel of grace, energizing the community through their acts of love, compassion, caring, generosity, blessing and justice. In this way the rabbi becomes both a blessing to the community and a model for the community to emulate.
It is Kehilla’s good fortune that you, Rabbi Dev, embody so impeccably the vision and ideals of our congregation. You are, indeed, a channel, radiating blessing to all those whose lives you touch.
I consider you not only my friend and colleague, but also my rabbi.
My blessing to you is that you continue to deepen this power of blessing in the coming years, as Y-H-W-H said to Abraham: V’ah’va’rekh’khah v’ah’gad’lah sh’mekhah va’yeh b’rakhah. “And I will bless you and make your presence great, and you shall be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:2-3)