This week's portion: becoming
May their memories be a blessing


Two amazing things have already happened to me today. One was leading shacharit with my friend Deb. We began planning the service at the Rabbis for Human Rights conference last month, and worked together over email and phone and then in person yesterday afternoon. Our service felt very deep to me, and very sweet. Because of some physical stuff that's been going on, chanting the blessing for God Who makes our bodies with their many openings and closings was a powerful experience for me. So was offering, as our word of Torah learning, this week's Torah poem. There was a lot of weekday nusach (which I love!), many rounds (in which Deb and I both revel), and a lot of beaming. Afterwards people said incredibly kind things, which has left me a little bit reeling.

Then came the celebration of liminality -- the private ceremony for incoming students and outgoing students. Our circle has grown in the years I've been here; today we were at least seventy people, maybe more, and it was extraordinary to sing the new students in, watching each of them progress beneath the chuppah held by four of our colleagues and then join us in the circle. The ceremony is private -- for students only -- and it always involves the giving of blessings to the new students and to the musmachim (those who will be receiving smicha later today). Every year, each smicha student asks a current student to come and offer a personal blessing just for them.

My first year here, when I was new to the program, this ceremony blew me away. And I remember being a little bit awed by the personalized blessings which were offered by current students to the outgoing musmachim. I didn't really know the folks who were getting smicha in 2006, and I yearned for the kind of closeness I saw between the musmachim and the friends they had asked to offer blessings on their behalf. Today I had my first chance to serve in that role: I entered the circle and gave a blessing to my dear friend Miri (soon to be Reb Miri!) and both of us wept tears of joy. She was one of my room-mates at Elat Chayyim during the summer of 2005 when I attended smicha students' week as a prospective student. It is amazing to watch her step over this threshold -- to watch all of my dear chevre crossing over, becoming who they are becoming.

The smicha ceremony will be in half an hour. I can't wait to be there -- to watch the magic of transformative language do its work as each of my friends truly becomes something new -- to cry and sing and dance and rejoice as the Jewish community gains ten extraordinary new spiritual leaders. It hasn't been an entirely easy weekend, but being here with my community is a real blessing.

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